CODA: Wilber’s Kosmos 2 Excerpts

Russ Volckmann

It is with extreme humility that I undertake the following comments on Ken Wilber’s excerpts for Kosmos 2, the next volume in his trilogy, that can be found at

In preparation for digging into this body of “work in formation” I was motivated by a desire to tap into whatever turned out to be some of Wilber’s most recent thinking about integral theory and partly by a sense of obligation to my own growing grasp of this theory and, particularly, being accurate and authentic in the dialogue with Mark Edwards, now in its 10th session in this issue of Integral Leadership Review. I had no idea how or if it would apply. I actually printed out this entire set of excerpts, because there was not way I wanted to stay focused on a computer screen to the degree that would be required. So much for a paperless office!

In keeping with my sense of humility I am not going to attempt to summarize all of this material. After a very brief outline of the focus in each Excerpt (As I understand them) I will highlight two important clarifications that I got from reading this material. I am not suggesting these are the only two, but two that are important to me: (1) the relationship between the four quadrant model and holons, and (2) the distinctions between individual and collective holons. These have been clarified, as well, in the dialogue with Mark Edwards. I share this, now, but I believe this is the clearest discussion of this material that I have read from Wilber. This is in no way to suggest that Wilber has not been clear before, but that I have been too dense to fully “get it.”

First, the Excerpts:

Introduction: An Integral Age at the Leading Age—Part 1, Kosmic Karma: Why is the Present a Little Bit Like the Past?

Here Wilber is addressing levels of reality, particularly higher levels of reality, which already exist. They involve Aurobindo’s notions of involution and evolution and the conflict between modern and post-modern, ancient and modern centered on the issue: “are there ontologically pre-existing levels or dimensions of reality?” Representative of this discussion is Wilber’s application of the quadrant map:

Interitance of the Past in Four Quadrants by Wilber

Well, perhaps I am already getting in too far. Suffice it to say that this is an introduction to “the four basic dimensions of being-in-the-world.” He builds on this by reintroducing the idea of integral methodological pluralism, a subject he takes up in considerable detail later on.

Excerpt A: Part II: Kosmic Habits as Probability Waves

Personally, I am intrigued and delighted when Wilber takes on scientific perspectives, in this case, quantum concepts and biology. Here he begins on an encouraging note: “The leading-edge today is around yellow, which means that any of you who are pioneering integral ideas and practices are actually creating the Kosmic habits that future generations will inherit, even as future generations continue to move beyond yellow.” Here is Wilber’s optimism and commitment to evolutionary consciousness made explicit. I believe this perspective helps to make sense of so much of what Wilber has undertaken in recent years, beyond his writing, yet including his writing.

We can discover deep patterns, probability waves, through reconstructive investigation. The integral approach uses, to begin with, the idea of the quadrants.

“Because each holon has at least four quadrants or foru dimensions of eing-in-the-world, and each of those dimensions must mesh with the already-existing worldspace, there are at least four types of selection pressures: each holon must mesh to some degree with its own I, we, it, and its. Thus, each holon must be able to register the external I-world accurately enough (truth); each holon must be able to register its internal I-world accurately enough (truthfulness); it must be able to fit with its communal or social system of its (functional fit); and it must be able to adequately negotiate its cultural milieu of we (meaning).:

I am reminded that when I first began putting out models of integral theory applied to leadership John Foreman and others attempted to help me see that I wasn’t getting it. It has taken me only eight years to reach the point where I am getting it yet, a length of time that is suggestive more about me than the theory. This pregnant quote from Wilber I find very helpful in getting it, particularly in not mixing individual and collective holons.

Yet, it also brings up a concern that I have that I have long associated with notions of culture as collective agreement. The above quote emphasizes fit and shared meaning; the emphasis is on harmony, rather than on description. I would prefer an approach that recognizes disharmony and congregation, rather than agreement. I have written of that else where and shall not dwell on it.

The important point is that the individual holon has four quadrants that relate to self-understanding, behavioral activity and a worldview of areas of harmony and dissonance with others, as well as comprehension of systemic factors with which to relate in one’s environment. The lower quadrants of the individual holon are not the culture nor the systems, but the individual’s perceptions of them and behavioral interactions with them. They are all still about the individual. This is one of the points that took me so long to grasp.

Thus, there is an apparent mutuality of influence between the individual and the collective. The upper quadrants of the collective holon are, indeed, the collective culture and systems of that collective. The boundaries of that collective can be defined in a wide variety of ways, depending on what we wish to examine. They can be described as relationships between individuals, among individuals in groups or larger collectives. They can be defined economically, politically, socially, geographically, developmentally…and so on. Yet, no matter what level we focus on there is always a higher level, at least until we reach the universal or the trans-universal or some other potentially penultimate level. Each level has its own constellation of cultural and systemic variables.

Yet, one of the distinctions between types of collective holons is parallel to that of the individual and the collective. The individual is not a holonic part of the collective, but a member, as Wilber has pointed out. Some collective holons are parts and some are members. For example, one type of relationship is part of a biological family. Another constitutes a level of membership as a chapter is part of a congregation or a team is a member of a company.

So, if I am indeed, getting it, Wilber’s discussion is helping. I am sure I have more to learn. In any case, my new mantra is “Holons have four quarants, but the Four Quadrants are not holons!” How’s that for paradox?

This excerpt continues to discuss change and evolution, as tetra-phenoemna. He also focuses the use of the concept of paradigm in its narrowest sense, a set of methodologies, a set of social practices and behavioral exemplars.

The importance of a moment of truth in all of this [tensions and disjuntures] is that there is indeed a slow, overall Eros to the sequence—there is a slowly increasing developmental depth in cognition, culture, and techno-economic forces of production…And if a particular societal crisis happens to occur on the cusp of one of those major increases in developmental depth, then the only thing that will resolve the tension and turbulence in the AQAL space is a vertical social transformation and cultural revolution…In short, the only real cure for a crisis in legitimacy is an increase in authenticity.

Excerpt A: Part III: The Nature of Revolutionary Social Transformation

This is the argument for optimism of movement toward greater depth, complexity, consciousness and care. Movement to higher stages of development arises from disjuncture. “The advantage of any higher worldview is not the “include” but the transcend” side of the equation.” The capacities of those at variable levels of development challenge the optimism with an example being the use those at lower stages can put technologies developed at higher stages.

Excerpt A: Part IV: Facts and Interpretations

Revolutionary Integral Pluralism is the way to integrating the truths of premodern, modern, and postmodern approaches. This is the path from partialism to holism. Reconstructive inquiry lluminates the past and the use of integral methodological pluralism results in a brighter light and greater clarity.

“In inquiring into the past, the difficulty is how to determine just what part of our reconstructive inquires are closer to the facts as best we can construe them, and what parts are mostly our interpretation of misinterpretations added to those facts.” Wilber discusses this in much more depth. He concludes that the AQAL matrix allows us to account for existing stable structure, to view them as probability waves, while embracing the quadrants and first, second, and third person modes. The latter relates directly to the discussion in the dialogue with Mark Edwards in ntegral Leadership Review.

Excerpt A: Part V: Integral Methodological Pluralism

Here Wilber lays the foundation for an in depth discussion of IMP.

Excerpt B: The Many Ways We Touch, Three Principles Helpful for Any Integrative Approach

These principles are:

  • Nonexclusion: we can accept the valid truth claims…insofar as they make statements about the existence of their own enacted and disclosed phenomena, but not when they make statements about the existence of phenomena enacted by other paradigms.
  • Unfoldment: there is a “holonic or holarchical pattern of lowing existence—transcend and include,” while recognizing that this is not necessarily the same as progress. On the individual level, there is development and anomie.
  • Enactment: “Subjects do not perceive worlds but enact them…That means that the phenomena brought forth by various types of human inquiry will be different depending on the quadrants, levels, lines, states, and types of the subjects bringing forth the phenomena.”

We can use the AQAL map as a screening device, then, to examine not only blindspots, but also the fidelity of these principles in our meaning making.

Excerpt C: The Ways We Are in This Together, Intersubjectivity and the Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos.

This is an examination of the importance of Systems Theory and Hermeneutics. My apologies for simplifying, but this is already getting very long for a CODA.

The basic theme…is that any occasion or event can be acknowledged and addressed from the inside and the outside of the interior and the exterior in singular an plural forms…

…Kosmos is built of perspectives, not perception, not feeling, not awareness, not matter, not consciousness, not energy—for all of those are abstractions from the real world where all of them are always already a perspective…hence, the ‘death of the philosophy of consciousness’ which is part of the move to a truly post-metaphysical stance.

Excerpt D: The Look of a Feeling: The Importance of Post-Structuralism.

This 175 page Excerpt is an explication of integral methodological pluralism. For my purposes, I took away from reading this the idea that multiple methodologies are not distinct from each other, but to some degree interdependent. This held true (for me) particularly in the relationship between hermeneutics and structuralism—two methodologies that, together, are necessary for any analysis drawing from internally generated data. This was a third point of clarification for me. I will let you explore these ideas.

Excerpt G: Toward a Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies.

“This excerpt suggests a coherent and comprehensive theory of the many approaches to subtle energies, their origin, nature and development.” I leave it to you to explore this probe of post-metaphysics.

At the very least, I hope I have whetted your appetite for exploring these Excerpts in more detail. I will continue to draw on them as I continue the process of “getting it.”

> Russ Volckmann