"One of the primary points of difference between our common conception of science and that of religion is their claims about external reality. On the one hand, the scientific view of the world has long been dominated by a materialistic philosophy which takes matter as the fundamental reality and regards inner phenomena as mere epiphenomenon. The religious traditions, on the other hand, generally embrace an idealistic philosophy which takes God or spirit as fundamental and regards matter as derivative. In spite of the long history of this polar opposition, however, neither science nor religion can ultimately maintain either of these extremes."
Thomas J. McFarlane, Integral Science , 1996
"During the act of knowledge itself, the objective and subjective are so instantly united, that we cannot determine to which of the two the priority belongs."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, 1817, Ch. 12
Over the last two millennia, there has been general agreement that two perspectives are key to our view of reality. These are the first-person (subjective) and the third-person (objective) perspectives. In an attempt to relate these to collective beliefs, a second-person perspective is sometimes considered but this has been neglected considerably in favour of the earlier two. Yet in our look at scientific values we saw that the idea that there is an 'objective' set of facts is quite wrong, and our beliefs in such concepts are simply intersubjective phenomena. Thus, in that essay, we reduced objective third-person accounts to probabilistic second-person accounts. In this essay we shall do the same for first-person accounts, showing that the idea that we have an isolated and culturally free 'subjectivity' is also quite wrong and that once again only a 'we' perspective or intersubjectivity is valid.
Taking this further, we will then consider our collective behaviours from an integral viewpoint, looking at how different streams or types of mental activity develop and at how they relate to each other. In this investigation we will take a multi-level, multi-line, multi-dimensional perspective in order to better understand the whole of which we are a part and the possibilities for change. This relates to understanding how different interpretative frameworks affect our ability to assimilate different streams of consciousness, and at how more integral frameworks, based upon processes and allowing evolutionary change, can better ground both science and spirit within their social and cultural environment.
"Ontogenesis, or the development of the individual, is a short and quick recapitulation of phylogenesis, or the development of the tribe to which it belongs, determined by the laws of inheritance and adaptation."
Ernst Heinrich Haeckel, The History of Creation, 1868
When we consider ourselves, taking what is usually called a first-person perspective, just what do we see ? We describe ourselves with words, with concepts, identifying our ideas. But where do these come from, what is the source of all the descriptive categorization we thus employ in, say, our phenomenlogical approach ? At birth no such abilities exist, so these must arise by experience, and for humans such experiences are always highly social - our entire 'human' mind is almost created culturally, in other words from a second-person 'we' perspective, even our view of the material or animal worlds are formed from the prior beliefs of the society that teaches us about such 'things' and their 'labels'. Thus when we abstract a separate 'I' all we are doing is breaking out from the collective whole a delusion. The 'I' still contains the essence of 'we', our very thought processes are 'we' processes. We think as our culture taught us to think, our thoughts suffer from the very same limitations and possibilities as the culture that incubated us. We often think that we escape such pressures in our 'I' perspective, but we only can challenge our upbringing to the extent that our culturation permits.
"I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts,
talents and strengths of my family, tribe and ancestors."
Luckily we do today live in a multi-cultural world, so generally we are exposed to aspects of many cultures (on TV, in books, by personal contact and travel, etc.). This widens our mind, and allows us to better understand the narrowness of any one fixed view. Just as we get a better understanding by discussing ideas with a second-person, we can see that adding a 3rd, 4th, 5th, and Nth will get a better consensus, a more probable 'truth'. This 'intersubjectivity' comes to the fore within culture, for here 'N' is the total population and their collective ideas, and this is what we internalise as we grow. Our freedom to think for ourselves is thus dependent upon being part of a culture that permits deviation, that encourages difference and diversity, that values 'creativity' and this is a relatively rare, fragile and late developing phenomenon, often subject to status-quo repression even today (despite our 'right' to, say, 'freedom of speech'). Our long human history augments the cultural ideas that we have today, giving greater options (many forgotten lessons from the past), but this 'time-binding trust' (as Korzybski put it) is still an intersubjective or 'we' perspective, 'we' are 'I' only so far as we can escape our indoctrination - and true individuality (not dependent upon historical possibility) requires a genius level of ability, along with a tolerant culture, if it is to thrive or even survive.
In complexity science the consideration of all emergent levels is vital. It is not valid to consider the 'whole' versus 'the part', the 'in' versus the 'out'. In each case the many parts form an essential aspect of the whole and the whole defines the essence of each part. Thus trying to force specific perspectives into one of four quadrants (e.g. Wilber's I, we, it and its - each with their 1st person 'interior' and 3rd person 'exterior' approaches) is an invalid form of dualist reduction, which discards the essential connectivity between levels. Since we have seen that 'I' is really one end of the 'we' continuum, and 'it/its' is simply the other end, then we can say that there are no exclusive quadrant techniques, all the eight views shown are (potentially) applicable to any aspect of our whole 'we' continuum. This does not mean however that these different perspectives are not more useful in some ways than in others, depending upon what we are trying to achieve (nor that the quadrants cannot be useful perspectives in their own right). In considering the 'I' (the interior of the mind) complexity thinking (modern evolutionary oriented systems theory) looks to how the various attractors within the mind arise, how they are perturbed (both internally and externally) and how they change over time, it adds a more scientific approach to studying the connectivity and evolution of our internal ideas and (in our metascience) values. The very same approach is taken to 'we' behaviours (the interior of society), since the social world is simply another level of the same sort of connectivity also with perturbations, ideas and attractors.
In the world of the 'it' (the interior of the object) again the same applies, we simply are looking here at systems that have more stable attractors (which we label as 'things') but the very same processes will still apply. The world of 'its' (the interior of, say, an ecosystem) is again simply an extension to multiple interconnected 'it's (but remember animals and plants have values and intentionality too...). In all these cases we have a 'system' of a certain size, operating with processes of different types, embedded in an 'environment' of a certain (arbitrary) size operating with the same or similar processes. Obtaining the data to better understand these system/environmental coevolutions requires many different techniques, many different tools (e.g. introspection, hermeneutics, phenomenology, structuralism, systems analysis, etc.) but we should not confuse a tool with a 'reality'. Realities are wholes and taking quadrants in isolation, or looking at levels in isolation, is forcing a 'flatland' approach onto each quadrant in turn. All 'quadrants' are ultimately interpretative and 'intersubjective' (since that is our only human 'reality') and all human techniques can apply therefore to any whole. For any adequate system/environment understanding at least 3 emergent levels need to be considered, the level of interest, the level below (which upwardly causes it) and the level above (which downwardly constrains it) - for humans this relates to a biopsychosocial perspective.
"Human consciousness is not located in the head, but is immanent in the living body and the interpersonal social world. One’s consciousness of oneself as an embodied individual embedded in the world emerges through empathic cognition of others. Consciousness is not some peculiar qualitative aspect of private mental states, nor a property of the brain inside the skull; it is a relational mode of being of the whole person embedded in the natural environment and the human social world."
Evan Thompson, Human Consciousness: From Intersubjectivity to Interbeing , 1999
Given that all that we are is ultimately socially constructed (the constructivist viewpoint), but nethertheless is grounded in empirical discovery and trial-and-error testing (science), then what status should we give to our 'self' ? In each culture there are many different ideas, subjects and perspectives. Today we are brought up as specialists, whether as artist, businessman, scientist or tramp, we play roles determined by our place in history. These roles are evolved partly by personal daily experience (our nurture history - derived from our senses), partly from genetic development and animal instincts (our nature history - subconscious or unconscious) and partly from specific ethnic backgrounds (our culture history - linguistic or ritual). All these are dynamical elements (even instincts are now known to be environmentally dependent, so alter our behaviour as our culture/reality changes around them). Understanding this mix leads us to the view that any fixed 'self' is a delusion (as the Buddha and philosophers like Parfitt agree). So what does this mean in practice ?
We emphasised earlier the role of culture in creating and maintaining mind, the social aspect, but now we can see that we must also add body, the biological aspect. Our genetic inheritance is again a form of intersubjectivity, arising from the interactions of many lifeforms over many aeons. This form of causality both enables the development of brain and mind and restrains it - we cannot do what we are biologically incapable of doing. But we can overcome these restrictions, and that is what our culture adds to the mix. Humans cannot fly, but cultures can. The 'aeroplane' is a cultural creation, a new 'lifeform' (in memetic space) that can evolve, grow, replicate and die - in common with all our artefacts and fashions. Mind possibility then is extended into the cultural artefacts that augment it. Consciousness then is a three-way intersubjective coevolution, between mind and body, between mind and culture and between ideas or concepts. In other words consciousness isn't located just in the 'brain' but exists in the world, in the society and in the body also - we cannot then meaningfully isolate any 'mind' in a 'first-person' sense at all, it is an environmentally driven 'active externalism' also, the artefacts we use (as mind creations) whether artificial or natural are also intersubjective - we integrate all our available resources (e.g. a calculator) when we think. The mind is embedded in and structurally coupled to our environment.
"A good deal of social theory, especially that associated with structural sociology, has treated agents as much less knowledgeable than they really are. The results of this can be very easily discerned in empirical work, in respect of a failure to gain information that allows access to the full range of agents' knowledgeability in at least two ways. What actors are able to say about the conditions of their action and that of others is foreshortened if researchers do not recognize the possible significance of a range of discursive phenomena to which, as social actors themselves, they would certainly pay close attention but which in social research are often simply discounted. These are aspects of discourse which in form are refractory to being rendered as statements of propositional belief or which, like humour or irony, derive their meaning not so much from the content of what is said but from the style, mode of expression or context of utterance. But to this we must add a second factor of greater importance: the need to acknowledge the significance of practical consciousness. Where what agents know about what they do is restricted to what they can say about it, in whatever discursive style, a very wide area of knowledgeability is simply occluded from view."
Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society , 1984, Preface, p. xxx
We learn all the time, so over a lifetime a tremendous amount of 'experience' accumulates in our mind. Most of this is simply not conscious, we have limited access by 'rational' consciousness to everything we know. Yet we respond to our environment all the time, without 'thinking', but we cannot be said to do this unconsciously since we are fully 'aware' of where we are and what we are doing. Thus our responses are subconscious and are based upon our 'indoctrination' in the three ways we saw above. This 'canalization' of our options by social context has two main effects, firstly we respond to what people say about us, and that includes the theories of academics - the objective (3rd person) assertions change the subjective (1st person) behaviour, this is a nonlinear effect - the reported 'facts' change just because they are reported. And secondly this works in reverse, the changed behaviour of the studied 'subjects' changes the behaviour and views of the 'observer', again nonlinearly. Again we see that the whole is a coevolutionary 'we' whole, there is no static duality possible.
Despite what we have said about the social nature of our individuality, this does not mean that we do not have autonomy, simply that the ways that we can employ it are socially constrained. Our individual values (however derived) are what drive our every action, and since these are generally taken without 'thought' they will have many unforeseen consequences - knock-on effects that may prove to be either positive or negative sum overall. This applies even more so when the 'actor' is one in a socially powerful position, since in those circumstances actions (e.g. making a new ill-though-out 'law') can impinge negatively upon millions of individuals. There is an inherent conflict here between social and individual fitness, in that social fitness is often decided by just one 'boss' individual, who take into account nobody's goals or views except their own. We need better ways of determining what is a social 'good' than the limited ability of one individual (however well-meaning they may be, the disasters caused by such blinkered behaviours are all around us).
"Learning is a dynamic interaction between a changing, structured environment and neural mechanisms. The neural machinery is extensively shaped by activity stemming from the environment, while its intrinsic properties also constrain this modulation and play an indispensable role in shaping the resulting structures. This interaction, however, is sufficient to determine the mature representational properties of cortex with no need for domain-specific predispositions somehow embedded a priori in the recipient cortex. As a consequence, this makes the relation between environmental changes - whether natural or cultural - and brain structure a direct one. This suggests an evolutionary perspective as a progression to more flexible representations, in contrast to evolutionary psychology."
Steven Quartz & Terrence J. Sejnowski, The Neural Basis of Cognitive Development , 1997
Neural networks are a subject of considerable study within the complex system sciences. Complexity Theory, unlike much traditional systems theory, is very much a dynamical perspective. It deals with the evolution of systems over time, the succession of attractors entered, the creation and dissolution of attractors, and the whole of possible state space. Under such an holistic perspective a focus upon development and sets of systems comes to the fore. If we are to understand possibility we must move away from a view of a single individual situated at an historical point in state space and evaluate many individuals, seeking to discover all the possibilities available to such systems. This is a similar perspective to that adopted by the structuralists, but concentrates more upon processes than upon structures, upon temporal patterns and evolutionary trajectories rather than spatial ones.
"What experience and history teach is this - that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Philosophy of History, 1832, Introduction
In intersubjective terms this means a much greater emphasis upon history, not in the sense of static past happenings, but in understanding how 'society' develops and changes over time and what drives the very different mix of views and behaviours (i.e. possibilities or niches) that we see in every society - despite the attempts of the status-quo few to 'standardise' behaviours. In other words we look to understand the dynamics of 'deviation', which is after all the only way any society can evolve (either positively or negatively). The complexity science technique of genetic algorithms helps here, especially in its multiobjective form, since this explicitly and quantitatively models collections of diverse individuals and the historically changing mix of their populations. By applying such techniques to social areas we can investigate the attractor structures that different 'beliefs' generate and better link this knowledge to more empirical studies of real human behaviour.
Many writers have noted that there is not just one type of consciousness or intelligence but several (intelligence here does not mean mere I.Q. scores, which are largely irrelevant). These lines are separate but interlinked and form different streams which can each develop separately - in a similar way to those we identified for Spiral Dynamics. The number of "intelligences" actually included varies widely with the different authors, going from as few as three to more than twenty. For our purposes we will give eight as typical examples, including vMemes (the Spiral Dynamics' adult value systems focus), Needs (Maslow's individual goal focus), Cognitive (Piaget's child development focus), Emotional (Goleman's empathy focus), plus four of Gardner's: Interpersonal (linguistic or social focus); Intrapersonal (self-improvement focus); Kinaesthetic (physical skills focus) and Spiritual (abstract or existential focus), but bear in mind that other categorisations are possible and many have been left out here for clarity. For each of these streams, several different stages can be reached, equivalent to the levels we saw in our vMeme analysis, and we have coded the stages using the same colours for ease of visualisation of the various levels. Note however that these stages or modes are not equivalent between the streams, e.g. a value system focus of, say, blue (level 4), may occur with a cognitive focus still at purple (level 2, i.e. a person may have a good order orientation whilst still being logically naive), in other words, if we say 'orange' cognition we refer level 5 of the cognition stream and not to level 5 of the vMeme stream (which is restricted to talking about value systems). These contours of relative development are similar to those we saw depicted within our general subject knowledge maps, but act in different dimensions, i.e. we may know arts with a purple vMeme (magical) focus, and mathematics with a blue cognitive (formop) focus, yet be unable to apply this blue cognitive focus to art or to understand mathematics from a purple focus.
Subject areas; consciousness types or streams; and levels or stages, are all orthogonal concepts (thus the 'contour' will in practice be a misshapen sphere), so given a mere 8 of each, all 512 combinations of perspectives are possible (each with multiple attributes). Additionally, following the vMeme lead, we find that the number of options (attractors) within a stream increases with level (those 'alternatives') and since each level 'transcends and includes' all earlier levels, then the total number of possible alternatives rapidly escalates with increasing maximum level. This is a very 'complex' psychological system ! This general stream idea means that we must distinguish levels of consciousness (undifferentiated awareness) from the contents of consciousness (thoughts about something). In our holarchic meta-ethics we identified several levels for 4 streams: valuation (axiology), alternative logic types, Coulter's modes of thought, and approaches to science. In a similar manner, each of the eight additional streams above have their own set of levels, and given interdisciplinary systems thinking, we can speculate that, in similar ways, all these levels will be in some way related. But just as logic is not the same as manual skill, so each stream will have its own contribution to make to that undivided whole which we abstract and call a person. The contour dynamic (a 'structure of consciousness') of a person will be wave-like, ebbing and flowing around the levels and streams as they react to the fluctuating environmental dynamics in which they are embedded, occasionally soaring to a new insight or level within a stream, but often regressing to a lower level of understanding when stressed. This relates to an oscillation or alternation between open and closed modes of thoughts, between chaos and order, and maintains the far-from-equilibrium current dynamical state called 'edge-of-chaos' in complexity thought. Ideally we would wish to reach the highest possible level in all streams, but that is an impossible task for any mortal human (requiring us to be wise 'experts' in every area), our best compromise is perhaps to know someone at the highest state in each stream and to pool our expertise synergically.
"Let us attempt to put some order on to the vast range of experiences of which the human mind is capable... recall the distinction between states and structures of consciousness... a structure of consciousness is an entire framework for experiencing reality.. A state of consciousness, on the other hand, is a more of less fluid inflection on a structure... Another way to look at all this is to regard each structure as a very complex attractor basin in which states are particular regions, or wings."
Allan Combs, The Radiance of Being, 1995, p.190/1
Whilst we often have a tendency to view consciousness as a single process, we must also realise that overall it can take different forms or states. Waking consciousness is different from the type we experience in dreams for example (which usually have limited or missing logical abilities). There are several other known altered states of consciousness, e.g. hypnotic, mystical, hallucinatory, paranormal, near-death and so on. In general we will occupy only one of these states at any one time, but can flip between them rapidly (we alternate between REM and Deep Sleep several times a night and often wake in between dreaming cycles). Each of these states can have a different set of stream foci or attractors (the set comprises that 'structure of consciousness'), and each such stream may be at a different level or stage for each state (in a similar way to the variation seen between the personalities in Multiple Personality Disorder). This implies that a separate and different 'wave map' or contour may exist for each of these forms of consciousness - they are all relatively disjoint modes of human behaviour, sub-sets of the totality available.
"Holotropic states of consciousness are characterised by a profound change in perception in some or all sensory areas usually associated with the intrusion of other dimensions. Typically the experience is very intense, even overwhelming and 'real' yet a person usually does not completely lose touch with everyday reality. A holotropic experience is often accompanied by extraordinary changes in day-to-day sensory perception with profound changes in colour, shapes, sounds, smells and tastes as well as profound perceptions that have no counterpart in this realm. With eyes closed a person is often flooded with visions drawn from personal history and the collective subconscious involving various aspects of the cosmos and mythological realms."
Stanislav Grof, The Cosmic Game, 1992, p.6
If we allow that these different states of consciousness have different scopes, some being fairly limited, some more encompassing, then this raises the possibility that as we develop along all these streams that new higher modes of consciousness itself can be activated, new forms of awareness or (holotropic) integration can come into being (new 'emergent levels' in complexity science terms). Along the lines of 'deep ecology' we can perhaps call this possibility 'deep consciousness' and suggest that it will take us from our current 'intersubjective' state of consciousness to an 'interbeing' form where we relate to others in inseparable ways, i.e. we 'rationally' recognise (in non-superficial ways) the importance of inter-connectedness, inter-dependence and inter-relatedness.
"After separating the methods of essential science from the more particularized methods of paradigmatic fields, often confused with science per se, I propose that the methods of essential science (observation, theorizing, prediction, communication/consensual validation) can be applied from within various ASCs, using the state-specific perceptions and logics of these states to form a variety of state-specific, complementary sciences which will expand our understanding of both consciousness and world."
Charles T. Tart, Investigating Altered States of Consciousness on Their Own Terms , 1998
Given that altered states of consciousness (ASCs) are common (even babies have waking, dreaming and deep sleep states), it is rather odd that science concentrates almost exclusively on viewing human behaviour from only one (over-rationalized) 'normal' waking perspective. In Tart's view, many of our more mundane states (e.g. rage, ecstasy) can also be regarded as altered states and this relates well to viewing ASCs as equivalent to Kuhn's paradigms. In other words, we should realise that 'ordinary' consciousness is only one of many possible scientific takes on reality - and may not be the best ! Just as we can look at the outside world through a zoom lens in different directions and at different magnifications, so we can do the same to mental reality. We often do this without realising, the one-dimensional paradox is when we 'zoom-in' so far as to see only one aspect of reality, the 'New Age' perspective often 'zooms-out' so far as to see only a vague psychedelic fog... In our look at science via the intersubjective 'we' perspective, we noted that "the interests of a single highly specialist scientist are in this sense just as objective or subject to error as those of a group of specialists or the entire scientific (or human) population." and this is especially true if the individual is using a perspective so different than the group that they cannot even evaluate the results 'objectively'. Adopting a new state-specific scientific perspective is just as problematical as adopting a later vMeme - and is just as incomprehensible to earlier paradigm 'believers' it seems, but of course that is true of most observations by 'untrained' laymen (and training for genuine ASC observers is often just as difficult as gaining a physics PhD - some 5000 hours are needed !). Yet we know the benefits of 2nd tier vMemes, in that they can free us from over-dogmatic exclusive worldviews, and just the same is applicable here.
Complexity science (which we would suggest relates better to 'essential science') allows us to consider other approaches, and thus encourages us to develop a set of contextual 'state-specific sciences' (SSSs) which (as Tart suggests) can apply also to the non-materialist quadrants (since we saw that observations are always in the 'we' mind and thus labels of 'physical' or 'non-physical' are irrelevant). One ASC amenable to this approach is 'lucid dreaming' where we have knowledge that we are dreaming (i.e. we inhabit a 'virtual reality') yet can employ what seems to be our ordinary perceptive and logical abilities - even to the extent of trying desperately to 'wake up' ! Like most ASCs, this state has to be experienced to appreciate how real it actually is and it demonstrates clearly the capacity of our mind to construct a fully detailed (if imaginary) world from memory alone. One 'science' that we already may be able to label an SSS is mathematics - which occurs entirely within the mind, comprising only abstract immaterial concepts, yet is recognised as real and communicable (it could be regarded as a form of 'lucid dreaming'). Breakthroughs in science have often been made when scientists inhabit such an ASC (e.g. a dream state), so it is clear that these can have properties superior to those of our ordinary consciousness. It may be the case that additional dimensions become available linking streams or paradigms, in a similar way that 4th dimensional 'wormholes' or 'stargates' are thought to bridge disjoint 3 dimensional realities.
"We need to pursue a 'science of interbeing' that integrates the methods of cognitive science, phenomenology, and the contemplative and meditative psychologies of the world’s wisdom traditions."
Francisco Varela, Steps to a Science of Interbeing, 2000
The idea that we link paradigms brings us back to deep consciousness and interbeing, along with complexity science. These all emphasise relationships, the essence of the 'we' perspective - rather a novel idea in today's selfish, intolerant and decaying world. When we are personally stressed however, and believe that we must cope alone, then we will react automatically (instinctively), and often aggressively. Many people when approached with new ideas will do just the same. This is quite understandable (given human nature), but it is not the best response available to such 'novelty'. Living in the past may well seem so 'safe', but that 'past' no longer exists (it died a moment ago...), so past behaviours, as a basis for current actions, can be somewhat dubious, if applied to the 'now'. We do need to adopt new ideas, and understanding the interdependence of mind, society and world is certainly one of them (the inner, collective and outer aspects of our passage through life). This is a much more holistic and empathetic perspective than we usually take, but one which incorporates the scientific notion of falsifiability - it is no good pontificating about what we should do, if we cannot demonstrate why it will work (when so many other historical 'master plans' have simply made things worst).
"The hour when man leaves the path of mere natural being marks the difference between him, a self-conscious agent, and the natural world. But this schism, though it forms a necessary element in the very notion of spirit, is not the final goal of man. It is to this state of inward breach that the whole finite action of thought and will belongs. In that finite sphere man pursues ends of his own and draws from himself the material of his conduct. While he pursues these aims to the uttermost, while his knowledge and his will seek himself, his own narrow self apart from the universal, he is evil; and his evil is to be subjective."
G.W.F. Hegel, Encyclopedia, 1830, Preliminary, II
The 'we' perspective is a middle ground viewpoint. Whereas a 1st-person perspective is essentially selfish (it marginalises other people and the wider natural world), and a 3rd-person perspective is isolated (it marginalises social and individual values) a science of interbeing does neither. The middle ground can see both ends of the 'we continuum', in other words it includes all levels of reality - inorganic, organic, biological, psychological, sociological and ecological. As we saw from our look at synergy, the greatest human achievements arise when we work together, in other words when we take a synergic or 'we' perspective and when we adopt a common set of interests, i.e. behave empathetically. Thus by considering group fitness we can show scientifically that interbeing is an optimum or 'wise' strategy by which to organize our collective lives. Materialism neglects most human values and thus maximises something of little existential value, we do not gain 'happiness' by wealth. Likewise selfishness loses out on all the social benefits that come from trust and synergy, those higher level possibilities that cannot be gained by isolated humans or by 'bullying'. Putting the two together gains us the worst of both worlds ! But we must not take a purely 'we' perspective either, such a 'society as God' perspective neglects the very purpose of society (individual human value satisfaction and enhancement) and also any social effects upon the wider environment. A society is not a person or an organism, so has no inherent values, what interbeing means in this context is looking at the whole, as a collection of valuable parts, which is a somewhat spiritual perspective.
"Matter is not lower with consciousness higher, but matter and consciousness are the exterior and interior of every occasion... As we will see, there are some aspects of the higher dimensions that might indeed be truly meta-physical; but the first thing we should note is that a great deal of what premodernity took to be meta-physical is in fact intra-physical, not above nature but within nature.
The postmodern contribution to the discussion can be summarized by saying that every individual is nestled in systems of cultural and social networks, networks that have a profound influence on the knowing and being of individuals themselves... Systems theory in its many forms emphasizes the fact that every individual organism is inseparably interconnected with its environment in dynamic webs of relationships and ecosystems...
#1 Increasing evolution brings increasing complexity of gross form
#2. Increasing complexity of form...is correlated with increasing interior consciousness
#3. Further - this is the connecting hypothesis - increasing complexity of gross form is correlated with increasingly subtlety of energies. As evolution proceeds to more and more complex gross forms, the increasing degree of gross complexity is accompanied by subtler and subtler corresponding (or signature) energy patterns"
Ken Wilber, Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies , 2003
Whilst our site takes, generally, a rather down-to-earth approach to life, i.e. a scientific approach that emphasises the question "What difference does it make ?", we still need to position our science within a wider picture. Metaphysical views, of the type proposed by pre-20th Century philosophers were soundly condemned by the 20th Century post-modernists. But we must recognise that their chant of "no more metanarratives" was itself a negative 'metanarrative' ! The discoveries of science in the last century have enhanced considerably the links between science and spirit, and whilst these links are not to the taste of many of the more dogmatic 'believers' on either side, they do post interesting new perspectives, well outlined by the recent quote by Wilber. Whether we accept the details or not, we do see extra levels of processes occurring as complexity increases, which (as a process needs energy) we can relate to extra 'harmonics' in the energy pattern - more subtle communication structures and a richer fractal structure of the Universe (or at least our local region of it).
In his post-metaphysic, here illustrated (nomenclature seems very confused and vague about these terms, so this is our best guess at a scientifically plausible scheme), we have initially an 'involution', which is the descent of spirit into matter, followed by an 'evolution' which is the ascent of matter back to 'God' or 'The Absolute'. Both are said to go through the same stages, on the descent each state is less spiritual than the last, and on the ascent vice-versa. Everything in the Universe is then said to have 4 associated aspects: its physical form, its internal consciousness, its physical connections to other physical forms and its mental connectedness to other consciousnesses - these echoing the '4 quadrants' central to Wilber's thought (which are valid as long as we regard them as simply consensus human simplifications of the world). As evolution progresses, new energy levels are said to arise based upon the living, emotional, rational thought (the two tiers are related to the Spiral Dynamics approach) and spirit states that progressively emerge. There is, surprisingly, some evidence for this, of which the best known is the research by Harold Saxon Burr detecting and measuring several holarchic layers of human energy-fields (illustrated) which can be detected reliably by many psychics and are found to correlate with different electro-magnetic frequencies (which suggests that they are neither inherently meta-physical nor radically different forms of energy). A more recent new field is associated with the DNA Phantom effect which suggests that life communicates and coordinates at the DNA level and can leave imprints upon the material world. There is some suggestion that collective 'we' or 'its' phenomena (LL/LR quadrants) have extra energy fields, but sadly this is not elaborated in any way, nor is it clear how it would fit into the individual scheme he outlined (we presume they would fit between either 'Psychic' and 'Causal', or 'Causal' and 'The Absolute'). If we take the 'we continuum' view however, the same general pattern for 'I' energy may also be applicable for 'we' energy at all levels of process (Gross to Causal - although the spatial size differences may require a different spectrum to be sought).
"1. Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology
2. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth
3. Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views
4. Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering
5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry
6. Do not maintain anger or hatred
7. Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings
8. Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break
9. Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people
10. Do not use the community for personal gain or profit
11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature
12. Do not kill, do not let others kill
13. Possess nothing that should belong to others
14. Do not mistreat your body, learn to handle it with respect"
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Fourteen Precepts from Interbeing , 2003
Understanding that human behaviour, of any sort, is heavily influenced by our collective beliefs and history, whilst being motivated by personal values and needs, can help us to realise that we must dissolve the many dualisms that keep us apart (as supposed 'disjoint units'), both from each other and from nature. The planet is a whole, and humanity covers every significant area of it. We are embedded creatures whose every action impinges upon our environment and who are in turn both influenced and dependent upon what happens around us. Matter and Spirit are twin elements in our reality, which we can relate to energy and consciousness - neither of which are 'solid' or 'objective' entities. Thus we must consider instead a process approach, and here complexity science (by stressing connections and nonlinear dynamics) can help relate all these ideas together. Attractors can take many forms, and being emergent entities avoid the blindness of one-dimensional reductionism in any of its many forms (scientific, humanistic or religious).
Integral (which is becoming somewhat of a buzzword) means considering all aspects of our reality and particularly their nonlinear interactions, but we must stress an aspect so often neglected within the postmodernist 'equality' hype. Children are all born at level 0. They need to mentally grow considerably (in all streams) before they become basic balanced adults (up to levels 4-6 at best - and most will only reach these levels in limited streams, our unscientific delusions notwithstanding). Getting beyond that, to a 'systemic' form of integration is hard, few adults will even attempt it (due to more mundane pressures and lack of inclination), so most persons in the world will always have a limited early-level understanding (which will nethertheless be 'integral' within its own level). In other words the 'human family', as a whole, will always be likely to remain (on average) in what has been called 'their adolescent years'. There is no 'glib' solution to Earth's problems therefore, since even the best solutions (however they arise) will usually be resisted or ignored by the majority - unconcerned with the long-term spatial or temporal effects of their actions - just like adolescents !
Whilst understanding based upon deep consciousness of our togetherness, which we can call 'interbeing', helps us to see how the neglect of the 2nd-person perspective has skewed our collective behaviours towards the two extremes, in negative-sum ways, and has contributed to the destruction of our planetary resources, it cannot in itself solve those problems. We the people matter, but (as we have seen) we do not exist in isolation, either from other people or from the physical planet and its many animals and plants - many of which are essential to our survival. To the fourteen precepts listed above (and other similar optimistic spiritual schemes) we would add a good dose of complexity science, since science is our best means of determining and demonstrating whether a suggested action is valid or not, whether it gives positive-sum or negative-sum results, i.e. in evaluating its 'wisdom'. Modern metascience is perfectly capable of dealing with values, and thus treating both 1st-person and 2nd-person perspectives, so in this way we can effectively evaluate our proposed 'integral intersubjectivity' as applied to a complex world.