Guest Blog: Does Involution Have a Telos? (Joe Perez)
May 12, 2007 16:29

(The following is being posted according to Ken's generous offer. The posting of a submission doesn't imply that Ken or the editors of this site necessarily agree with any or all of it. Thanks, -Eds)


Does Involution Have a Telos?
by Joe Perez


More than one writer in the blogosphere has criticized Wilber's Integral Spirituality for the sin of talking a lot about integral theory and little about religion. Sound familiar? I think they missed a huge point. Wilber has (re-)stated a clean, crisp, tight narrative within which metaphysical arguments may be validated or refuted. Wilber never claims to have no metaphysical assumptions. Within his narrative, Wilber argues that his account is valuable because it involves very, very few metaphysical (unproven) assumptions--namely, that there is a telos to evolution. The result is a narrative that is arguably not only internally consistent, but also can be judged on its merits comparable to other narratives. How do you judge Wilber's narrative compared say, to Wittgenstein, Hambermas, or Tillich? I suggest that there are at least three major routes available to Wilber's critics and all those who would write successor narratives. First, one may compose a narrative that makes fewer metaphysical assumptions than Wilber while accepting Wilber's assumption that the fewer the assumptions the better. I haven't seen critics do this yet and it's entirely possible Wilber may win the simplicity prize for fewest metaphysical assumptions. Second, one may compose a narrative that only claims to be an alternative which works with vastly different assumptions that cannot or should not be translated or judged relative to Wilber's. This is the postmodern pluralist ("green") approach. Third, one could add additional assumptions to Wilber's own single assumption. This is the work of building figurative conveyor belts of culture and religion up the mountain by translating, reforming, and reconstructing religious and cultural traditions. This third approach is the focus of my own research and attempts-in-progress to formulate new integral perspectives.

What concerns me, therefore, is a response to Wilber that's like lite beer. It accepts both his basic assumption that "less filling" is good, but it also "tastes great" (builds on his core arguments). There's no need to argue which is more important: faithfulness to Wilber's core arguments or the metaphysical assumptions of my cultural or religious tradition. We can bring them all together seamlessly, though it does take a bit of work. To Wilber's 20 tenets of all holons (from Sex, Ecology, Spirituality), I add a few assumptions. The result is a prose poem that identifies the 30 tenets of all holons. In my work, you might say, I use Wilber's 20 tenets plus an additional 10.

Wilber's 20 tenets of all holons are an example of what it means to flesh out the notion that evolution has a telos. To put it simply, I believe that evolution has a telos; and, necessarily, involution also has a telos. I haven't argued this point at length, but I do believe that I can eventually compose a coherent narrative in which the 30 holonic tenets are given an honored place ... a story that may inspire other post-metaphysical poets and artists and religionists into greater and more expansive expressions.

Until I'm able to flesh out the 30 tenets of holons more systematically, here's a prose poem called "Trinity" (so named because it explicates a few bits of Christian symbolism). Most of the words are Wilber’s (and all of the first 20 tenets). My additions are tenets 21-30 plus a few notes in brackets. By way of background, simply note that a holon is anything that is simultaneously both a part and a whole. For example, an electron is part of an atom, an atom is part of a molecule, and a molecule is part of a cell. Electrons, atoms, and cells are all holons.

This prose poem is a response to Wilber's narrative which accepts the fundamental integral project while adding additional, harmonious elements. Doctrine not as decorations of integral post-metaphysics, but doctrine as a minimal supplement to the 20 tenets. The result may not be simpler, better, or worse than can be found in Wilber's writings. But I think the result can add value by showing how small additions to Wilber's basic assumption of a telos to evolution can result in significant and potential-filled changes.


A prose poem

1. Reality as a whole is not composed of things or processes, but of holons. (Wholes that are part of other wholes.)

2. Holons display four fundamental capacities: self-preservation, self-adaptation, self-transcendence, and self-dissolution. Self-preservation (Agency), Self-adaptation (Communion), Self-transcendence (Eros), and Self-dissolution (Agape).

3. Holons emerge.

4. Holons emerge holarchically.

5. Each emergent holon transcends but includes its predecessor(s).

6. The lower sets the possibilities of the higher; the higher sets the probabilities of the lower.

7. The number of levels which a hierarchy comprises determines whether it is ’shallow’ or ‘deep’; and the number of holons on any given level we shall call its ’span’.

8. Each successive level of evolution produces GREATER depth and LESS span.

9. Addition 1: The greater the depth of a holon, the greater its DEGREE [emphasis added] of conciousness [in the sense of: the degree of fulfillment of the telos of Kosmos, but see also tenet 29].

10. Destroy any type of holon, and you will destroy all of the holons above it and none of the holons below it.

11. Holarchies coevolve.

12. The micro is in relational exchange with the macro at all levels of its depth.

13. Evolution has directionality.

14. Evolution has increasing complexity.

15. Evolution has increasing differentiation/integration.

16. Evolution has increasing organization/structuration.

17. Evolution has increasing relative autonomy.

18. Evolution has increasing telos [Omega].

19. Addition 2: Every holon issues an IOU to the Kosmos [God the Father].

20. Addition 3: All IOUs are redeemed in Emptiness [Emptiness = Kronos = God the Son].

21. Addition 4: Involution has directionality.

22. Addition 5: Involution has increasing simplicity.

23. Addition 6: Involution has increasing sensitivity/texture.

24. Addition 7: Involution has increasing relative communion.

25. Addition 8: Involution has increasing telos [Alpha].

26. Addition 9: All holons receive a receipt for the IOU from the Kosmos and Kronos [The Holy Spirit].

27. Addition 10: All holons arise in the occasion of acknowledging receipt for the IOU.

28. Addition 11: Attempt to destroy any type of holon and it adds to the increasing telos of Kosmos and Kronos [Holy Spirit].

29. Addition 12: The greater the span of a holon, the greater its DEGREE of conciousness [that is, the degree to which it fulfills the telos of Kronos]

30. Addition 13: The unity of Kronos and Kosmos is greater than the sum of its parts [God the Father + God the Son + Holy Spirit]


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