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A New Integral Paradigm - A Metaphysical "Map" of Consciousness/Reality

List of sub-topics

(daughter pages)

Noetics - Levels of Selfhood

Occultism - The "Vertical" Physical-Spiritual Axis

Psychology and Mysticism - The "Concentric" Axis

Holarchy - The Universal-Atomistic Axis

The Mandala

It may well be (although this is speculation) that the original polarity or divergence or Coming Into Being (by which the One becomes Many) is in the form of that most universal of glyphs and diagrams, the mandala.

MandalaThe image on the left is a typical Buddhist mandala. We have the four quarters, representing the four primary archetypes, four deities (with the fifth in the center), four elements, four Jungian ego-functions, four worlds, four colours, whatever. And you have a series of layers, leading to and focussing on the center.

When meditating upon the mandala, the consciousness is guided through the various layers or rings from the periphery representing the outer consciousness to the center representing the Buddha Mind at the core of one's being (shown by whatever deity the mandala addresses or embodies, in Buddhism all deities are aspects of the void (shunya) or Absolute Reality)

Mandalic "Maps" of Consciousness/Reality/Existence

Wheel of Life - click for description

In addition to being a meditation tool and cosmographic diagram, a mandala can also incorporate a dynamic explanation of the nature of existence. Such for example is the Buddhist Wheel of Life (left), which illustrates not only the causes of rebirth and the six realms (states of existence) into which a sentient being can incarnate, but also the doctrine of Dependent Origination .

Periodic Co-ordinate System

A more recent (but less widely known) example of diagram that portrays the dynamic causes and factors of existence is the Co-action Compass or Periodic Co-ordinate System developed by Edward Haskell and his associates, which shows the interactions between any two entities or elements of the same entity.

The Co-action Compass is a universally applicable cybernetic feedback diagram that forms the basis of the Unified Science paradigm, and which shows the interactions between any two entities or elements of the same entity, and incorporates the twin themes of karma and evolution.

Note (10 Dec 05) - some of the metaphysical hypotheses currently presented here will be comprehensively revised. Currently I am writing a book on my Integral Paradigm (tentatively called "Towards an Integral Cosmology"); and will also be revising some of the pages here. For one thing, I no longer accept the "Quadontological" Mandala diagram as an overall metaphysical diagram

Wilber's AQAL system

Ken Wilber's AQAL (all quadrants all levels) diagram is the most recent attempt (apart from the present work) to encapsulate the various levels of existence, consciousness, involution and evolution in a single diagramatic form. Here we see both subjective and objective, individual and collective, holistic relationships, and stages of evolution of both matter and consciousness, in a depth of detail never before gathered into a single system of thought. Wilber's ambitious effort has been very popular in the consciousness movement, forming the basis of the "Integral Paradigm." Although flawed due to shortcomings in his methodology, an over-rigid intellectualising, lack of understanding of both his scientific (e.g. evolution) and his esoteric (e.g. Sri Aurobindo) sources, modernist and postmodernist physicalist aversion to metaphysics, and over-reliance on nondualism, it is still worthy of consideration, and in fact is the most complex map of reality prior to the present work. In fact it is his efforts have inspired me to create my own "integral theory of everything", which is the present thesis.

My own Integral Mandalas, or diagrams, shown here, are, as mentioned, inspired by Ken Wilber's AQAL diagram. Like Wilber, I have endevoured to summarise integral metaphysics in a series of basic diagrams or cartographies of consciousness and being (here is a comparison between our respective diagrams). It is important to remember that these diagrams should not be taken literally, they are metapohors to describe an understanding of reality that is itself only a work in progress. As soon as things are grabbed and frozen by the mind they lose their original zen-like quality, and one confuses the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.

Originally, trying to work from the "bottom up" in terms of the smallest number of possible parameters that could describe every possible state of consciosuness, I came up with a single diagram, which I called Quadontology. This presents a Fourfold Reality or A Metaphysical "Map" of Consciousness/Reality in terms of four hierarchies or ontoclines (axii or gradiants of being). In figuring these out, I have come up with several different variants. The current version is:

This is actually the third in the series. As I played around with these ideas I came up with different theories and interpretations. The first (since rejected) is :

Which can be shown in a mandalic diagram:

Integral Metaphysics diagram - click for description
diagram by M.Alan Kazlev, Creative Commons Attribution License 2005

Having given the above much thought and contemplation over a period of many months, and gotten a whole stream and succession of inspirations from the higher (supra-rational) planes or states of existence (specifically what Sri Aurobindo calls the Higher Mental), each contending with others as possibilities, and each with some authenticity, I finally decided on a new mandala. This retains the "vertical hierarchy" (Physical-Spiritual Axis), which is here redefined according to the Theonian and Aurobindonian "type descriptions", scraps the Universal-Atomistic Axis as quantitative rather than an ontocline with one pole in the Godhead, reinterprets the "Inner-Outer" Axis in terms of Theonian, Yogeshwarandian (Science of Soul, etc), and Sant Mat conceptions, and replaces Levels of Selfhood with two axii of Consciousness or Realisation.

We now have two parameters or axii of Consciousness, and two of phenomenal reality and states or planes of existence:

Which can be shown again in a mandalic diagram:

Integral Metaphysics diagram - click for description

However, this implies a duality of consciousness and worlds, or technique and reality, which is misleading, because there is only one reality, which goes through many transformations. Hence a third diagram, similar to the above, but replacing the "focus" axii with a Kashmir Shaivite style emanation or congealing of consciousness to matter (Stan Grof's test subjects also reported something very similar). This also incorporates a "top down" model based on Sri Aurobindo's vision of the Absolute Reality - or rather, the Manifets Absolute - as four four-fold, consisting of Sat, Chit-Tapas, Ananda, and Supermind, which constitute a sequence from Unmanifest to progressively more Manifest (but still infinite and perfect).

Integral Metaphysics diagram - click for description

This version has gone through a number of minor revisions.

Originally the Sant Mat and Theon cosmology were identified the "Inner and Outer worlds" Concentric parameter.

But then on 27 Nov 05 I had the inspiration that these pertain to the Emanational (Levels of Consciousness as Emanation) ontocline. This had previously been defined solely by Kashmir Shaivism, and the fact that only one esoteric system went there had always made me feel the formulation was incomplete). In the new arrangement, Barbara Brennan's four levels of Inwardness in her book Light Emerging refer to the Concentric parameter, along with Theon's subdivisions of the Physical State (which I had previously included as subdivisions of the physical).

This new arrangement allows a unification of Sant Mat and Kashmir Shaivite cosmologies, and hopefully that the Integral Metaphysics system is becoming more authentic with each insight and development.

Integral Metaphysics diagram - click for description

This version comes from an idea I had on 11 Dec 2005. This was after working on my book on Integral Cosmology, and my feeling now that Sant Mat pertains to a series of density planes, like Theon's eight states, and the Theosophical planes (although the similarities with Gnosticism indicates there may still be some overlap with the Emanational parameter). The association with Sri Aurobindo's four transcendent hypostases is no longer of such relevance. Both the Epistemic and Emanational axii are no longer included, the latter replaced by the series Gross-Subtle-Causal-Supracausal. The Density Planes are distinguished from the Vertical Parameter. The four quadrants are also identified with four states of transformation and evolution. These can also be matched with Wilber's four quadrants (albeit not to exactly, but it is interesting)

This gives:

It is important of course not to interpret these representations too literally; otherwise it all becomes a dogma. However, using the above diagrams as metaphors, they can be a glyph for the exploration of consciousness and reality, a map of reality, with correspondences.

And rather than say that one diagram is correct and the others incorrect, I would say that each of them incorporates a useful perspective. To assert that one has a single explanation, and that is the truth, is to become stuck in fundamentalism and literalism. This is what has happened in so many esoteric traditions, ancient and modern - they have become just so many fundamentalisms.

Update - the above has been revised and replaced by a newer insight.

The problem of Cartesian dualism

Cartesian dualism, the philosophy that mind/soul/consciousness/spirit and body/matter constitute an irreducable dichotomy, has characterised much of the ontology and metaphysics of western philosophy since the 17th century - both in its influence on those who support it and on those who oppose it. In fact it goes back before Descartes hismelf, all the way to Pythagoras, who spoke of the transmigration of souls (an idea he may have gotten from Brahmanism). From Pythagoras, dusalism was adopted by Plato, and from Plato it made its way - always modified but still with the same basic dichotomy, to Gnosticism and Christianity (especially Catholicism, literalist Christianity (e.g. Protestantism) denies the concept of a soul apart from the body), and thence to Descartes

Whilst philosophers like Spinoza and Liebnitz came up with creative attempts around the mind-body dualism, many of Descartes's later successors simply dropped the concept of spirit or mind altogether, and hence philosophical materialism and naive physicalism was born. With the rise of logical positivism and analytical p[hilsoophy, the fall of metaphysics, and the inability of rational-objectivist thought to solve the mind-body conundrum, Cartesian dualism fell totally out of favour in mainstream academia.

Early in the 20th century Teilhard de Chardin's evolutionary philosophy, and more recently Ken Wilber's Integral Philosophy, attempt a resolution of the original Cartesian (Mind-Body) dualism by replacing mind and matter with a single holistic reality that has a mind and matter or interior and exterior aspect (in Ken Wilber's Four Quadrant map, in which the left half of the diagram pertains to "interiors" or subjectivity, the right half to "exteriors" or objectivity (consisting of objects / "it" (Upper) and systems / "its" (Lower) quadrants).

The four axiis and Cartesian dualismThe quadontological approach to Cartesian dualism is rather different. This is shown on the left.

Quadontology argues that there is not a simple duality but rather four distinct polarities or gradations (ontoclines) of being, each with a "yin" (matter" so to speak) and a "yang") ("spirit" polarity. In Cartesian dualism the "Yang" polarity of three of the parameters are confused and jumbled together. This constitutes the mind or spirit member of the duality. However as far as everyday physical mundane reality goes, the "Yin" polarity of these three parameters do indeed merge, in what is usually considered "physical reality". This constitutes the "matter" or "body" element. There is also no "duality" between the two polarities of each ontological axis, simply a sequence or gradation.

The Absolute Reality as the Center

Like the center of the mandala which unites the four quarters, the Absolute can be said to constitute a fifth or unifying principle behind and at the heart of the other four. As Ken Wilber says about Spirit, it is both the highest member of the hierarchy and the underlying reality of the entire hierarchy {ABHOE p. xxx, etc]. But this is not entirely correct, because it is not only the highest member of each hierarchical spectrum, but also the lowest. I would follow Tantra and Taoism in saying that it is what preceds the original polarisation of each ontocline into purusha and prakriti, yin and yang. It is neither yin nor yang, higher or lower, self or non-self, but equally beyond both alone.

Parameters of Reality
Unmanifest Absolute

Reality in Itself
beyond Absolute and Phenomena
is the Ultimate Reality of
is the Ultimate Reality of
is the Ultimate Reality of
(The Manifest Absolute)
The One
Absolute Unity
The Many within One:
These aspects within and of Unity, expressing absolute Harmony and Perfection
Aspects that are polarised (yin-yang) and dualistic.
These constitute the dimensions of Kosmic and phenomenal, dualistic, involtionary-evolutionary existence

Shiva-ShaktiLimited Self

Perhaps each of these sequences begins from a different aspect of the Absolute. Or maybe from the same aspect expressed in different ways.  Whilst still within the Absolute, all these dimension/parameters are unitary.  Within the Absolute Reality things are simple (Absolute Unity, Inifite, timeless spaceless consciousness, etc). But when they are projected down into and as finite or relative existence, distinction appears, and separation, and complexity. It seems to be a common esoteric teaching (and one that makes a lot of sense) that the purpose of the ever-unfolding Kosmos, of phenomenal existence, is for the infinite possibilities within the Absolute Itself to be allowed individual expression.

The numerology of the Godhead

Pythagoras and his followers adopted a numerological cosmology, according to which the monad was the first thing that came into existence. The monad gave rise to the dyad, which in turn gave rise to numbers, and thence points, lines, surfaces, four elements, and finally the cosmos. A similar cosmology is found in the Tao te Ching, where we find that the Tao begat one, the one begat two, the two three, and the three the "ten thousand things". And in Kabbalah, beginning with and especicially in the Sefer Yetzirah, numerological speculations are central to elucidating the nature of the Divine reality.

Here I use this sort of numerology progression in a purely allegorical or symbolic way to refer to the hypostases of the Absolute. It should not be taken as a dogmatic fact, but rather can be used as a metaphor (or if not suitable for that, discarded).

The Zero/Infinite prior to the One is symbolic of the Unmanifest ineffable, inconceivable Transcendent Absolute.

The One is that same Absolute in which the two aspects (which are actually one) of Shiva and Shakti, I and This, Absolute Consciousness and Power of the Absolute Consciousness, are in a state of absolute unity and identity (incidentally, Plotinus uses the term The One to designate the Absolute)

The Two in this context symbolises that Unitary Absolute in which the two aspects of Shiva and Shakti are polarised (but still in a state of absolute unity) and manifest as the divine hypostases of infinite Being, Consciousness-Power, and Bliss/Delight (the Manifest Absolute).

The Three here refers metaphorically to that same Polarised but Unitary Absolute iwhich is now actively manifest (hence a third element, tending towards Creation) as the Noetic Absolute.

And the Four designates manifest reality, the Kosmos, and its four aspects as expressed in the four-fold ontology


Finally we have evolution, which is the movement to greater Omega (level 3 or noetic Absolute). This occurs at all the levels from 8 upto 3. This is shown in the following diagram:

Evolution from Material Physical to Divinised Physical

diagram by M.Alan Kazlev, Creative Commons Attribution License 2005

In this diagram. the Theosphere symbolically represents level 3 (Manifest Absolute), the Noosphere 5, the Sociosphere 6, the Biosphere 7, and the first two the outermost ring. More specifically though, these realities pertain to the successive resonances or octaves (the vertical parameter or ontocline) of the subtle physical, affective, ideational, divine, and noetic Absolute in the physical evolution.

Tabulation of States of Consciousness and Reality

The following table I thought up on the 22nd and 23rd March 2006, while working on ideas for my book Towards an Integral Metaphysic. This table replaces the old AQAL-inspired mandalas and quadantology, which i feel are too limited, since there are much more than four parameters of reality.

Unmanifest Absolute / Unmanifest Sachchidananda
Unmanifest and Manifest Absolute / Manifest Sachchidananda
Unmanifest <---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------> Manifest
includes the following realities: Sat, Chit-Tapas, Ananda, SupraMind
Sat /
Shunya /
Paramatman /
Absolute Truth
Ananda /
Kalyptos / Hidden Depths
Life / Love / Pathotism
Cosmic Shakti
Mind / Essence / Archetype
Divine Soul/Love
Divine Mind / Overmind / Atzilut / Relative Absolute
Levels of insight / self realisation
Intermediate Zone / Levels of siddhi /
Between Cosmic and Individual
Universe of Spiritual Mind (Illumination / Revelation)
Inner Being
Universe of Thought / Ideational Reality (Spectrum of Consciousness)
Samsara / Kleshas
Relative Truth
Universe of Desire / Will (Higher and Lower Planes)
Universe of Form / Structure - includes the following:
Inner Physical Divine Being
Yang/Celestial Archetypal
SupraCausal Physical
Individual being
Finite / Limited Self
Causal Physical
Astral Etheric
Subtle Physical
Outer Being / Desire Soul / Lower Self
Physical Etheric
Gross Physical
(sphere of evolution)
Yin / Chthonic Archetypal
Negation / Inconscience

As always with these things, this diagram should not be taken in a literal context. It is a simplistic notation, nothing more. Each column represents a distinct ontocline. The rows, where applicable, are allegorical only. The whole table shows the relationship between the different raelities, although only some of the many possible realities are included. No doubt I will in furture revise this diagram too, but for the moment I am happy with it.

Only some links have been added, and not all of these are consistent, because these pages need to be reorganised according to my new understanding.


note - Amazon links are top the current edition, the edition cited may be out of print

Odin, Steve (1982) Process Metaphysics and Hua-Yen Buddhism, State University of New York Press, Albany

Shear, Jonathan, ed. (1997) Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem, MIT Press

Smith, Huston. (1977) Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition. New York: Harper & Row.

Tart, C.T. (1975b) Some assumptions of orthodox, Western Psychology. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, pp. 61-111.

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text content and original diagrams by M.Alan Kazlev
uploaded as separate page 22 August 2005, last modified 23 March 2006