Friday, June 30, 2006

More on the Acausal Universe

Heru from the Wilber Forum writes a good response to the original post on the Acausal Universe, which I posted there and want to repost here for continuity. He asks a lot of worthy question to help clarify this matter:

"When I got to the end of the post I was struck by the similarities between your view and Wilber's. For example, take Wilber's four quadrants: the internal-individual ("I"), the internal-collective "We"), the external-individual ("It") and the external-collective ("Its"). Wilber says that these "tetra-evolve," or tetra-emerge...that is, one quadrant doesn't cause the other three, but they emerge/arise/manifest concurrently, as four different aspects of the same occasion or movement--or pattern--of the universe. It is similar to Inayat Khan's statement that "the soul is the invisible part of the body, the body the visible part of the soul."

Yes, you're right that Wilber does acknowledge that holons simultaneously develop across quadrants, but he doesn't carry that principle across the board to levels, types, etc. He might have, but it didn't occur to him how important the principle of synchronicty is. Clearly he doesn't see it taking precedence in such developmental processes as evolution. But you're right, he might be open to it for that reason, though it would take some mahjor re-working of his models to do so. He's changed before however, and maybe he can change again.

“Although this begs the question: how could levels not have a causative relationship to eachother? If the body and soul are two aspects of the same totality, don't they interact beyond resonant patterning? Don't they influence eachother?”

This question is best answered in the link above. In brief, it is because levels are actually fragmented viewpoints of the whole, not actually self-existing divisions of consciousness. It is viewpoint that dominates, and the link between fragmented viewpoints is not a causal one, but simultaneousness. To give a concrete example, if I take photographs of a tree from many different angles, none of those photographs could be said to be the “cause” of the others. They each represent a view of the tree that is true from that angle, and each will reveal things about the tree that the others might not, but their link is synchronous, not causal. The only “cause”, one might say, is the choice of perspective from which to view the whole. So materialism is one viewpoint to take a picture from, and poetry would be another. The materialistic view of the tree would reveal many material facts and processes going on in the tree. A poetic investigation of the tree would reveal an entirely different set of “facts” about the tree. Think of Monet's “haystack” series, some 20-30 paintings of a haystack from different views, times, lighting, etc. The poetic view does not “cause” the material processes of the tree to be as they are, nor does the material process cause the poetic view to arise. They represent choices of viewpoint, possible avenues of attention. One can switch between them, but one can't view the tree as both simultaneously, because attention is limited to a single viewpoint at any one time, just as a camera is. You can overlay them on top of one another (as Da does in his photographic work) and create a hybrid image, but this is a conceptual construct divided by time exposure. We exist in time, as part of the fragmentary nature of things. So we compare viewpoints through memory, rather than direct apprehension.

The whole notion of “interaction” between levels, between body and soul, for example, is actually based on the notion that they truly are separate, rather than simply two viewpoints of a unity. Our notion that body must “affect soul, or soul “influence” body, presume that they are different to begin with. The synchronistic view is that they don't influence one another, they are simply viewpoints of a whole, like photographs of the tree from different angles. This makes them much closer to one another than any causal viewpoint could make them. It makes them identical in nature, just altered by viewpoint. As mentioned in the link, causation only appears to be a valid link between objects within a single viewpoint, not between viewpoints. Thus, the shadows in one photograph are caused by the objects in that photograph, and their relation to the light source. But two photographs of the same tree from different viewpoints cannot be analyzed in the same way. The shadows in one are not “caused” by the light source in the other, they are simply simultaneous depictions of the same relationship, seen from different angles. Mixing the two “causes” without compensating for the difference in viewpoint leads to “optical delusions”.

So the point here is that the two levels do not causally influence one another. But by studying their correspondences, one can make inferences about their mutual source, just as by comparing photos of a tree taken from different angles, one could draw inferences about the position of the sun. So it is the overall pattern that is important, not establishing some causal relationship between elements in different viewpoints.

“First of all I really like your differentiation between causation and synchronicity--and explanation of patterning and astrology in the light of Adi Da's views. It reminded me of the hermetic axiom, "as above so below"--or the Christian idea that we are created in God's image; or Indra's Net for that matter: everything reflects everything else. “

Yes, that's a good analogy. This kind of thinking is not unprecedented in the traditions. The problem is that it was not clearly differentiated from causality, and thus we ended up with mythic explanations for the “creation” of the universe becoming standardized, and even at war with genuinely causal explanations.

“Now I'm curious as to how you would apply your understanding to very conventional, earthly issues like disease. Do you see no causal relationship between, say, spiritual or mental dis-harmony and physical disease? Is cancer solely caused by physical agents? And wouldn't the synchronistic patterning still be a cause of some kind? For example, let's say that one develops physical cancer through environmental toxins and this shows up on different levels through various patternings: mental patterns and a spiritual malaise, if you will. Aren't these caused by the physical cancer? Or vice versa?”

I'm not sure its fruitful at all to look for emotional or psychic causes for physical disease. Again, these are just two viewpoints looking at the same condition. You will definitely see some correspondences between physical and spiritual conditions, but they are not causal correspondences. It is just part of the process of getting a “bigger picture” to take into account multiple perspectives. So yes, I would say that if you were looking for strict causes for cancer, you would find them strictly on the physical pain. You would not find emotional or spiritual “causes”. You may find correspondences, to be sure, but I think it is an error to make them the cause of the disease. It's not just witch-doctoring, it's category confusion, viewpoint confusion. One can, say, look for spiritual causes for one's spiritual problems, or physical causes for one's physical problems, but not spiritual causes for physical problems. This is not seeing things right. This is seeing correspondences between physical and spiritual problems, and attributing that correspondence to a causal relationship rather than a synchronistic one.

And no, synchronistic patterning is not a cause. It is a pointer to a source pattern, a clue about the overall pattern, of which these viewpoints are manifestations, but that source pattern is not the cause, it's just the overall big picture, so to speak. The big picture is not of a cause, but of a pattern in attention. God, for example, is not the cause of the universe, but the uber-pattern in which the universe arises, simultaneously at all levels. You will of course find correspondences between levels, because it is a single pattern, but they will look and behave differently, just as the images on a photograph will look different from different angles even when the subject is the same. A picture of a tree at the molecular perspective looks different from the picture of the tree that includes the whole forest in which it lives.

“It becomes a chicken-egg thing. Let's say someone is overweight and they have low self-esteem. Are they overweight because they are compensating for low self-esteem or do they have low self-esteem because they are overweight? And how can there not be a bi-directional causal relationship?”

It becomes a chicken-egg thing precisely because causation is a fruitless way of trying to figure out a synchronistic relationship. The chicken-egg paradox only appears when one is trying to find causal relations across viewpoints (levels). It doesn't occur within the level itself. Chicken-egg paradoxes are a sign of a synchronistic relationship, rather than a causal one. For example, looking for physical causes for cancer does not come across chicken-egg paradoxes, because within the physical viepoint there are indeed causal relations that make real sense. Smoking causes cancer. There's no sense in which cancer causes smoking. But the same cannot be said for spiritual problems and cancer. It makes equal sense to say that cancer causes spiritual problems as it does to say that spiritual problems cause cancer, by which it makes no sense in either case. What does make sense is to say that one spiritual problems are reflected in one's cancer, and vice-versa. They are both the sign of a deeper pattern, and understanding that deeper pattern is the purpose of making an evaluation of oneself, not trying to root out the “spiritual cause” of one's cancer.
And that, in a nutshell, is what my approach to astrology was about – not looking for causes, but for correspondences that reveal the deeper pattern of a person's life. That's what made it interesting. But of course people often aren't as interested in that as in wanting to know what the sources of their problems are and how to fix them.

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