Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Acausal Universe; Wilber, Da, Evolution, Astrology, and the Pattern of Synchronicity

In an earlier piece on Wilber and evolutionary theory I promised to follow up on its relationship to Adi Da's theory of patterning, and the further relationship of the two to astrological principles of causality and synchronicity. Some background is necessary.

As mentioned in an earlier piece on the astrological view of the universe as an endless series of cycles, I got my start in astrology on something of a lark. As a strong skeptic and disdainer of all things astrological, I felt at a certain point that I should actually look into it and see if there was anything useful or meaningful or even true about it. Rather than simply read the literature, which seemed rather puerile for the most part, I simply used astrological software to plot out star patterns, using a charting method of my own devising, to see if there really were significant correspondences between star patterns and life patterns, studying most directly the life of my Guru at the time, Adi Da. What I found defied rationalistic explanation, and I began to formulate ideas and theories about how these correspondences could be meaningful, and deducing from the patterns what the underlying meanings of various astrological patterns were. In some respects these meanings confirmed traditional astrological literature, but at other times they stood in stark contrast, and implied a different understanding than the literature seemed to hold true.

After a year or so I wrote up a very long paper detailing some of these findings, along with a set of “test predictions” which could be used to verify their value, and sent it to Adi Da. His inner circle were quite excited about it, and told Adi Da what I had done, but he wanted to see nothing of it until time had proven or disproven the predictions I had. After another year or so, so many of the predictions I had made had come to pass that they felt comfortable presenting my work to Adi Da, and he approved of it, asking me to be his personal astrologer. After spending retreat time with him, he modified and expanded the function to simply “studying his pattern”. During this time, he also gave a significant amount of instruction on his view of the universe as an endless series of patterns emerging in consciousness, and a fair amount of that instruction involved astrology and my use of it in relation to him and his inner circle.

Adi Da's view of the conditional cosmos is, essentially, that of a machine that constantly spits out patterns. In his view, the entire cosmos is a single pattern that is endlessly modified at every level and viewpoint, which, while always appearing differently in every time and place, yet retains the same basic patterning. Therefore it is possible in his view to study any kind of phenomena at the level of pattern, and if one compares it to any other phenomenal pattern, the correspondences will reveal the something about the greater pattern of the universe itself. In his view, astrology is just one particular way of studying a pattern and seeing its correspondences with other patterns. One could do the same thing with tea leaves, or lines on one's palm, or the birds in one's backyard. Any patterning correspondence studied with enough attention and depth will reveal the same universal patterning, and yield insight into what is going on everywhere else in the cosmic pattern. This is in fact what Adi Da liked about my approach to astrology. Many people in Adidam speculated that he approved of my approach to astrology because of my devotion to him, as a way of drawing me into relationship to him, etc. Some of that may be true, but primarily it was because my approach to astrology was based on looking for real correspondences rather than just superimposing rote meanings on the star patterns and the patterns of the life of whomever's astrological pattern I was looking at.

I know I've written many critical things about Adi Da, and I've promised at various points to say positive things about him, so let me be clear here: Adi Da is definitely something of a genius in relation to spiritual matters, and has exceptional nuanced insights into higher matters. This is certainly evident in his literature, even when it gets overshadowed by his megalomaniacal pretensions. His theories of patterning, largely unpublished, are examples of this. His way of “teaching” me about astrology, however, had nothing to do with actually working through the details of astrology itself. In that respect he had no interest at all in astrology, and left such things entirely to me to work out on my own. He would give only the broadest kinds of instruction, let me report on the details of his pattern, and then respond positively or negatively, giving me feedback as to what seemed right and what didn't. This gave me a great deal of freedom to develop an understanding of astrology that was my own in most respects, and yet based on his general principles of patterning. (I have to say that this was somewhat of a unique situation in Adidam, and not generally the way things worked around there. It's too bad, because while it lasted it was a very good and productive way of going about things that could have produced a more open and liberal Adidam. But that's water under the bridge).

One of the issues that came up fairly early on in my use of astrology involved causation and influence. As mentioned, my original approach was made sheerly on the basis of actual empirical study of the astrological patterns themselves and how they corresponded to an individual's life. I at times tried to read astrological books to get a better sense of what the signs and planets “meant”, but I couldn't help but quickly become nauseated by them, and felt somehow “polluted” in reading their conclusions, or should I simply say, presumptions. When Adi Da made me his astrologer, I was utterly deficient in any traditional knowledge of astrology, and had to do something of a crash course, forcing myself to read the literature and on the fly trying to adapt it to my own understanding of things. I tried to hold back the fort against this assault, but in the short run my own understanding became overwhelmed by the sheer mass of the modern “astrological mind”, and some of this began to bleed into my reports to Adi Da. On one occasion while speaking about these matters directly with him, I kept making the faux pas of speaking about various planetary “influences” in the manner that almost all astrological books describe the workings of astrology. Adi Da then gave a fairly long instructional talk dispelling this whole notion of “influence” explaining that the stars and planets have absolutely no astrological influence at all on human life or anything else for that matter, that this was no how astrology worked. Instead, astrology simply studied patterning itself and its correspondences, not some kind of subtle or psychic “influences” that stars and planets might supposedly have.

This was quite a relief and a confirmation of what I'd been working towards, and it helped me toss away much of the traditional “theory” of how astrology worked. I began to realize that astrology is really a non-causal approach to understanding the way the universe worked. Instead, it worked through the principle of synchronicity. It's signs and symbols were not evidence of causal forces and subtle influences, but of deeper patterning correspondences that appear simultaneously on all the levels of the psyche, from the gross material to the higher spiritual to the personal unconscious. Each astrological symbol represents a pattern that could appear at every level, in a form corresponding to the features and characteristics of that level, from the material to the personal psyche to the universal. At each level, the same symbol would manifest differently, yet in the same primal pattern. The interaction between symbols could be described at each level also, and yet in none of those levels was there a causal linkage.

The pattern that emerged did not describe some subtle force that was causing all these patterns to be linked together. Instead, it described a universe in which causation only appeared within a particular level or viewpoint, but between viewpoints there was no causal linkage, only the synchronicity of pattern itself. This makes sense because viewpoint has nothing to do with causation. A viewpoint cannot create a cause within any of its levels, or across levels. Viewpoint is only a modification of attention itself, which is at root the witness, not an object or an effect upon an object. Viewpoint is governed by synchronicity, not causation, Within any viewpoint, say the gross physical, one can only find causes that are gross physical. One will never find causes emanating from another level. So higher pyschisms do not appear within the gross physical as actual physical forces that influence events directly. They have no influence, any more than the symbolic meaning of stars and planets have an influence on us. They have a relationship of synchronicity, not influence. So the symbols of astrology may coincide with varous personal and material patterns, but they do not represent a causal pattern, or a force producing a causal effect.

The patterns of causation are entirely different from those of synchronicity. In causation, one looks for effects, whereas in synchronicity, one looks for correspondences. This is why science is always completely frustrated by patterning arts such as astrology. They try to endlessly convince people that astrology has no basis in causation, that there are no detectable physical influences emanating from stars and planets that could possibly affect human affairs. Astrologers in turn accuse the scientists of being merely materialists who do not understand that there is a psychic world of influence that is invisible to their methods, which occurs on the level of the psyche. They assert that planets and stars do in fact emanate influence on a psychic level that they can feel and detect and respond to. They even will assert that the whole physical plane is actually being created and its activities caused by psychic influences at a deeper level. In this, both scientists and astrologers are wrong. There is no psychic influence on the patterns of the material world, there is only a psychic correspondence to these patterns. The universal linkage between all these levels or viewpoints is not a causal one, but an acausal pattern of synchronous correspondences. That is why astrology manages to “work” in some sense. It is also why it doesn't “work” all that well. It can't determine causal relations and definite results as science does because there are none between levels. There is only a patterning correspondence. So astrology is limited in fitting patterns together, and that kind of work simply does not produce exact results. Its real value comes at the level of integrating the psyche, such that one can see the same pattern operating at all levels, rather than figuring things out at a causal level such that one can manipulate and extract the maximum gain from one's causal actions. Astrology isn't the art for that kind of exercise – science and politics do much better. People generally come to astrologers for practical advice about what to do, or simply hopeful information that things will get better for them. It generally fails at both these things, though it may have some surprising successes as well. But really, the real value of astrology is the integration of the psyche through a non-causal understanding of one's own pattern and its relationship at all levels to all other patterns. Studying astrological patterns in this fashion has real value. The problem I encountered in practicing astrology is that not many people are actually interested astrology for this purpose. But that's another story.

So how does this relate to Wilber's take on evolution? Primarily, it's that Wilber, in confusing the levels between material and metaphysical processes, is also confusing causal processes with acausal processes. In other words. By assuming that some kind of psychic influence must be at work creating mutations at the physical level of the evolutionary process, he is confusing psychic influence with a causal process, rather than seeing it as a synchronous patterning correspondence between levels, as it should be understood. Wilber is treating his subtle “erotic force” as if it actually creates causal effects in the material world, which it simply doesn't. In trying to find holes in evolutionary theory to fit his causal force into the mutation process, Wilber is confusing levels, and making the same mistake that creationists do when they try to see God as the Creator in a causal manner. God is not actually the causal Creator of the physical universe. The physical universe simply arises within the same synchronous pattern as all other things. The “Source” of the universe in its totality is not objection causation, but subjective synchronicity. So at one level, there is a great erotic force in the universe, and at another level, there is physical evolution. Neither one “causes” the other, but their work proceeds in synchronous correspondence with each other, and with all other levels or viewpoints, as an expression of the universal or total pattern of the universe itself. Even to speak of one level emerging from a lower or higher level is misleading, of one uses the term “emerging” as expressing a causal relationship. It does not. The emergence of levels from one another does have an ordering to it, but it is not a causal ordering, it is acausal in nature. Not understanding this leads to tremendous confusion and delusion as to the processes of nature at every level. It makes it almost impossible to correctly “read” nature as a whole, or to proceed with the process of real integration, which is essentially not a causal path of development, but an acausal path of attention itself recognizing its source, its source pattern, and the pattern of all arising.

Causation is karma and bondage. The viewpoint of causation simply creates more karma and more bondage. Causation itself is the “wheel” of bondage, the wheel of causes and effects that never ends, that has no beginning, no resolution, and not final answer. Looking at consciousness and the totality of things through the lense of causation creates endless distortions and delusions. At any level, the universe works by a causal process, meaning karma. But between levels there is no causality, only synchronicity. This is the key to becoming free of the karmic process. The “integral overview” if we must call it that, which leads to freedom, is an acausal overview. It does not look for subtle causes that produce effects on the material level. Instead, it looks for the pattern that unites everything at every level. That pattern is quite simple, really, and yet the meaning of it is not in the pattern itself, or in its cause. It's meaning is in its subjective source.

That's enough for now. Perhaps more later on the specifics of astrological pre/trans issues.


friend said...

Hi again,
I think you feel my complaints come from not understanding what you are saying, and maybe I don't, though I think I do. Let me give this one more shot and then I'll shut up. What you have just said does make things more clear but it doesn't lessen my complaint.

I think you are saying essentially that there are various levels of reality which are not related causally but which are patterns that exist only in a synchronous relationship and that we shouldn't mix these categfories, especially in any ideas of causal relationship.

My complaint right off the bat has to do with your strict categorical separation of reality into various levels. When one talks about synchronicity, one is necessarily talking about a relationship between domains which are actually separate. This is what I am disagreeing with. As far as I am concerned it is all a single event.

Then you focus on and separate out the physical level and sum it up as, or reduce it to a mechanistic automaticity which suggests the old existential meaningless inevitability which I and many struggled with back in college days. It all feels to me like your old atheistic bias, which you have spoken about before, leaking back in. Not surprisingly, considering that bias, you seem attracted to Da's theory of the mechanistic patterning of existence as a whole at all levels. So it seems to me that mechanistic physicality tends to colour all of reality in your view.

What I am saying, and I think Ken is implying essentially, is that there is no such thing as a separate physical reality, not even with regard to attention. All these levels and categories are actually false, or simply analytical distinctions. They don't really exist. There need be no synchronicity at all because reality is all one single movement, fully present here and now.

You say that attention functions simply as the witness, that God is acausal and that basically nothing is operating in any causal way. The pattern is merely witnessed. But this division creates a categorical separation between the observer and the observed and renounces subjective responsibility in the functioning of the objective aspect of reality, as if the witness is somehow inevitably victim to what is witnessed, a meaningless mechanistic movie played over and over again.

I imagine it is presumed that, seeing things in this way, one would lose interest in the movie, release attention from it and in this way gain liberation. Be liberated from life by indifference and disinterest in a meaningless endlessly repeating mechanistic event.

If so, then what is so different in that view from saying inversely that this single event is not merely witnessed but, at the most fundamental level, actually brought into being and enlivened by the subjective factor of interest, desire or eros? The entire single event of manifest existence, including the physical mechanism of consciousness, materiality, is present to attention due to the rebirth of interest in the whole event, in itself. Isn't it the same thing? Interest, attraction and love is the subjective cause of the pattern.

Now you may say that this is not good if you want liberation but it still does not deny that there is a subjective cause behind or within manifest reality, including the physical level. And is that so far from what Ken is essentially implying? That's the level I'm trying to get at here, the overall driving force behind all these mutations etc., not necessarily the details. What is the drive to succed and survive and reproduce all about? The mechanism is secondary to the aim. It's all a single movement.

Anonymous said...

I’m not certain I understand your argument and how it fits with the nondual approach (emptiness is form, form emptiness.) I’m wondering if you think this acausal relationship between spirit and matter works the other way--that matter cannot influence changes in one’s realization of spirit, or have a psychic influence in any way?

Doesn’t this defy the yogic understanding that physical postures and breathing and meditation can prepare a person for enlightenment?

The other question I have is this: let’s say an astrologer looks at my natal chart and due to the planets being aligned a certain way the moment I was born, this corresponds to the patterning of how I relate to the world. But you’re saying there’s no cause and effect going on, right? That it’s synchronous correspondence... I’m struggling to understand!!

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