Book Review: Mark Edwards

Russ Volckmann

Mark Edwards: At it Again…and Again,,, and Again…

“On Being Critical”
Parallel Theories of an AQAL Approach to Relationality:
Three Conversations with Ken Wilber

The last couple of months have seen further evidence of the value that Mark Edwards brings to integral communities and the development of integral theory. To his credit Ken Wilber has played an active role in bringing Edwards’ ideas to the fore through a series of three conversations published during May on Integral Naked. In addition, Edwards has published on a highly cogent essay entitled, “On Being Critical.” It is beyond the scope of this Summary to report on all of this in detail. However, here are some highlights.

Beginning with the essay, Edwards points out the importance of criticism to the development theory. He differentiates criticism of integral theory and concepts from the ad hominem arguments offered by critics of Ken Wilber. He cites the American Heritage Dictionary:

A critic is:

  1. One who forms and expresses judgments of the merits, faults, value, or truth of a matter.
  2. One who specializes in the evaluation, review and appreciation of literary or artistic works: a film critic; a dance critic.
  3. One who tends to make harsh or carping judgments; a faultfinder.

It is the first two types of criticism that are useful and the latter that is problematic:

at every level there needs to be multiple forums for validating, confirming, questioning, criticising, developing, expanding and contributing to the emergence of the integral vision. We can each contribute in our own way, and the analytical critic can contribute no less than the pragmatic doer.

Edwards suggests the types of questions developed at each level of development and further argues that given such integral principles as the existence of lines and variable levels of development in each that the potential for communications between individuals (each a holon) is greatly enhanced.

He challenges all members of integral communities to support the forums of criticism and express their own critical voices. Furthermore, he attaches as an appendix an interesting brief article on how holons communicate. A version of this essay was published in January 2006 in the newsletter “Integrale Perspectiven” and is also available (in English and German) on the Integrales Forum website at –

Edwards – Wilber Conversations

These conversations involve in depth discussions of key concepts in integral mapping and theory. It is here that Edwards has challenged the thinking of Wilber, particularly around the notions of individual and social holons and the representations of interactions among holons. As an indicator of the complexity of the conversation, Integral Naked published a .pdf representation of a PowerPoint slide presentation by Mark Edwards, “An Integral Approach to Rationality.” This document is well worth the $10.00 price of admission to a month’s membership in Integral Naked. It represents the modeling that Edwards has been doing and that shapes the focus of his conversation with Wilber.

Wilber is his usual brilliant self while holding forth on his work and perspectives of integral mapping, the primary focus of this conversation.

At the risk of gross oversimplification, Edwards is arguing for representing individual and social holons with six cells representing first, second and third person perspectives. He criticizes Wilber for underplaying the second person. In their conversation Wilber offers a response to this, to wit, second person is ad34equately represented in the collective quadrants because you cannot have the collective without I and you; these for we.

(At this point allow a caveat in this brief summary: I am doing the best I can to represent often-complex arguments clearly. Any misinterpretations are of my doing. I hope I am being clear that I believe it is well worth the time of those interested in integral theory and mapping to listen to these conversations.)

One of the points of contention in their approaches to holons has been the questions of representation of individuals and social holons. Wilber’s more recent treatment of the quadrants of the individual holon as holons themselves has a value of helping to define perspective on each holon, thus supporting an integral multi-methodological approach to examining individuals and their relationships to collectives. Edwards’ treatments of the holons simply as four quadrants in each based on agency and communion (unlike Wilber’s individual and collective) has the value of using this mapping approach for mapping of occurrences, not solely for what is happening within each four quadrant holon, but in the relationships among holons, individual as well as social. (For those unfamiliar with this material please read Edwards’ articles on

Wilber seeks a both/and approach and offers the idea that social holons are made up of quadrivia, as opposed to quadrants. Apparently, this is a term Wilber has introduced in his work on Integral Spirituality. On the Integral Naked site text about the first session between Mark and Ken appears this statement:

Part 1 explicitly covers the difference between quadrants and quadrivia, with quadrants being dimensions possessed by a (individual) holon, and quadrivia being perspectives through which an object can be viewed (even if the object itself does not possess four quadrants, such as artifacts, heaps, and groups/societies). The four quadrants are one set of perspectives that can function as quadrivia. Mark and Ken also discuss the difference between dimensions and drives as they relate to the quadrants, and the difference between individual and social holons.

Here are some definitions of quadrivia from dictionaries offered here to represent my curiosity about this term, probably stimulated by the occasion of national spelling bees now becoming a prime time television event in the United States:

higher division of liberal arts: a set of four of the seven liberal arts taught in medieval universities, consisting of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The three lower arts trivium were grammar, rhetoric, and logic.

Etymology: Late Latin, from Latin, crossroads, from quadri- + via way–more at WAY: a group of studies consisting of arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy and forming the upper division of the seven liberal arts in medieval universities–compare TRIVIUM

Other Google references were to a four-piece alternative metal funk acoustic band based in Dublin Ireland, an Italian “software farm,” a computer graphics firm in Connecticut USA, the web name of a book reviewer from Durham, North Carolina USA, the title of a newsletter published by Congress of Dreams—“a newsletter template that was designed for the University of Queensland School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics. The name and style incorporates elements of each discipline.” The following jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2005 are among the offerings on one of their issues:

I realised I was dyslexic when I went to a toga party dressed as a goat.

– Marcus Brigstocke at the Assembly Rooms

My dad is Irish and my mum is Iranian, which meant that we spent most of our family holidays in Customs.

– Patrick Monahan at the Gilded Balloon

If you are impatient with heavy discussions of theoretical constructs, then hopefully this bit of an aside has helped. In any case, on this note I will simply encourage you to listen to the conversation as a way of opening you to the work of Mark Edwards if you have not already taken the leap. Furthermore, for those who are interested in understanding the conceptual underpinnings of integral theory, this exchange between Wilber and Edwards is invaluable.