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How is it possible that you and I can come together, find resonance with each other, understand each other, even love each other, when we are each separate individuals that possess our own unique perspectives, our own diverse interpretations of reality, and our own unseen landscapes of interior consciousness? How on earth do you get in my mind, and I get in your mind, enough that we are in each other to the point that we both agree that we can each see what the other sees? However this happens, it is a miracle, an absolute, stunning, staggering miracle.
It’s not a stretch to see something miraculous in our evolution—our dizzying trajectory—since matter was scattered into space 14 billion years ago. Along the way, matter emerged, seemingly from nothing; then, life emerged from matter; then, life became conscious of itself. But beyond these, perhaps the deepest miracle is that we have found one another.
The relationship of individual holons to social holons has been the source of no end of confusion, one of a dozen or so major, recalcitrant issues that thinkers have been grappling with for millennia. The notion that reality is composed of holonic sequences is appealing; there is, for example, a self-evident quality to the sequence: atoms to molecules to cells to organs to organisms.
But if we attempt to posit a single, grand holarchy that is central to the universe, we begin to run into problems. Consider what happens, for instance, if we add—as is done in a popular version—families, communities, nations, species, ecosystems, biosphere, and universe to the above holarchy. The implications is that ecosystems cannot emerge until nations have! Initially, the sequence holds, but the problem occurs as soon as we attempt to jump from an individual holon (e.g. organism) to a social holon (e.g. families) in the same sequence.
So important is this distinction that Ken Wilber recognizes it as one of the most fundamental of all (together with the interior/exterior distinction), thus resulting in the four quadrants. Wilber contends that you can’t have singular without plural; nor can you have exterior without interior. The quadrants are correlative dimensions of the same thing; in the Lower-Left quadrant, we approach the interior, collective dimension of reality.
This allows us to make some important conclusions. Once we allow that societies are not made from organisms in the same way that organisms are made from cells, once we understand that the “we” is not a “Super-I,” we can observe that, while an individual holon has a dominant monad, a social holon has a dominant mode of discourse. Where individuals go through mandatory stages, social holons do not.
We can further examine the “we” by looking from the outside (3rd-person) and the inside (1st-person). This provides us with the “look” and the “feel” of the We. The look of a we is described by zone-#4 methodologies such as semiotics, and the feel of a we is described by zone-#3 methodologies such as hermeneutics.
Listen as Ken introduces the “Miracle Called ‘We'” conference call. The Great Chain of Being, thought to be the core of the world’s religious traditions, posits a holarchical view which starts to break down when jumping from “I” to “super-I.” But AQAL, which makes the crucial distinction between the individual and the collective, demonstrates that everything in reality has four aspects, including the interior of the collective, the mysterious and miraculous “We” space in which we come into mutual resonance with one another.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.