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The Integral Mandala - A Metaphysical "Map" of Consciousness/Reality

The Integral Mandala, or quadontological diagram, shown here, is 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 remeber 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.

Integral Metaphysics diagram

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

It is important of course not to interpret this representation too literally; otherwise it all becomes a dogma. However, using the above diagram as a metaphor, it can be a glyph for the exploration of consciousness and reality, a map of reality, with correspondences, as shown here. This diagram is similar to (and in a sense inspired by) Ken Wilber's AQAL diagram, here is a comparison between the two.

In this diagram we see the four ontoclines or gradations of reality, as the four arms (or quadrants, as Wilber would say) of the mandala. Each of these correspond in a generic way (these things should never be taken dogmatically and turned into procrustean nonsense) to one of the primary parameters of consciousness and Reality. These four themselves come from a Center, representing the Divine or Supreme or Absolute Reality, and this Center is itself made up of four (as the original archetype) as well as (in this diagram) three levels.

The four ontoclines are as follows:

(left) Self and Non-Self from True Self / "I" to Non-Self / "This" / Phenomena (and vice versa) - representing the Monadology (or pluratity and unity) of Selves. This pertains to the nature of the knowing Self (especially as elaborated in Eastern Philosophy). With Liberation (moksha, Enlightenment) in one realises one already is the Absolute (Atman-Brahman). The science that deals with this can be called Atmaology (from the sanskrit "atma" - the self) or (when considering the dynamics of this Monadology).

(bottom) The "Vertical" Physical-Spiritual Axis - from Transcendent Spiritual Mind down to Physical Matter (and vice-versa) - representing the Hierarchy (Great Chain of Being) of Octaves of Existence. This "Vertical" Axis or Planes of Existence (in which one ascends to the Absolute) corresponds to the various subtle and gross universes and ocatves as described through Esotericism and Occultism with their understanding of the nature of gross and subtle realities, and to the ascent of consciousness through levels of existence (and exoteric religion to some degree, although here there is a lot of false understanding due to literalism).

(right) The "Horizontal" Inner-Outer Axis represents the contrast between the Innermost (Inner Light, Divine Soul) and Outermost (most external) Being - representing the Psychological Polarity of Being. The "Horizontal" Inner-Outer Axis corresponds to Psychology and Mysticism which addresses the depths of the being, and also on a more superficial level to the Arts (and the Social Sciences in part) with its dicotomy of Mythos and Logos, Imagination and Reason, and to depth and transpersonal psychology. The term "Endopsychology" is here proposed to distinguish this more "inward" psychology from conventional psychology

(top) The Universal-Individual-Atomistic Axis - From Universal Whole to "Atomistic" "Point" (and vice versa) constitutes the Holarchic arrangement of Systems. This "Concentric" Universal-Individual Axis corresponds, on the physical level, to Science especially the systems sciences and natural and applied sciences, also the social sciences in part. On the supraphysical it becomes the domain of esotericism, but the basic principles of interaction, ecology, system dynamics, chaos theory, and so on. The overall reality is the (esoteric) science of Cosmecology, which includes the experiential approach of Astrognosis.

All the ontoclines together represent the Spiritual Path; not literalist or exoteric religion, but yoga, sadhana, and esoteric (mystical) religion; the essense of self-transformation

One can even create a metaphorical table of correspondences, as follows:

Mandalic Position Ontological Axis Quality Dynamics made up of approached through symbolic metaphors
psychological faculty spacetime orientation element
Center Absolute Absolute Reality Absolute Reality The Absolute Enlightenment Non-dual Consciousness
Quadrant Levels of Selfhood Activity Noesis / Monadology Consciousness Yogic spirituality, Atmalogy and Monadology, Phenomenology Field of Consciousness "Breadth" "Air"
Quadrant Physical-Spiritual Axis Density (or Subtlty) Emanation Octaves Esotericism and Occultism (Occult Cosmology) Will "Height" / "Vertical" "Fire"
Quadrant Inner-Outer Direction (Orientation) Figure-Ground Being Mysticism and Psychology (Endopsychology) Feeling (empathy) "Depth" / "Concentric" "Water"
Quadrant Universal-Individual Scale or Organisation Coaction / Systems Theory Holons Science, systems theories, ecology (Cosmecology) Sensation (concrete) "Temporal" "Earth"

It is important of course not to interpret this too literally; otherwise one becomes trapped by dogmatic thoughtforms. And of course, each of these fields of study can also be applied to the other hierarchies or parameters, which is why it is misleading to only assume a one on one equivalence.

The review of the above four gradations or polarities of being may imply that in order to explain everything, a four dimensional cartesian grid would be required. So for example a physical object might be considered as (from "least" to "most" ontologically significant):

Individual (holonic) - Outer aspect of Outer Being (being) - Dense Physical (plane) - Not-Self (self)

But while this may work in some instances, it may not in all. We find for example that Sri Aurobindo says that the Psychic / Innermost Being does not pertain to any of the conventional planes ("vertical" hierarchy) like Physical, Vital, or Mental (ref. xxxx) . Rather it supports the outer being. In Kabbalah, in Samkhya and Kashmir Shaivism, in Procline neoplatonism, and in Gnosticism, we find a sort of tree-like phylogeny of being, in which emanation from the original Godhead or Absolute branches out into a number of channels or worlds, aeons, tattwas, or sefirot, which then converge or alternatively further multiply. Sometimes there is a final convergence to represent the physical or material world (e.g. Malkhut in Kabbalah) as the "furthest point" from the Absolute. But this sort of dualism is probably too simplistic, especially since many more esoteric teachings speak about the Absolute or Godhead being beyond and giving rise to all polarities, dualities and opposites, all of which are reconciled and transcendend in the Source.

Yin and Yang

In a traditional mandala there are four such variables (one for each quarter or quadrant) plus a fifth as the Source otr Origin in the center. Alternatively, these can be seen as a doubled duality (as in the "bigrams" of the yin yang series of lines in the I Ching). The dynamic mandala applies the interrelationships between any two of these parameters or variables, or any two points on the same axis. One of these points or variables or modes will be "yang" and one will be "yin", because in any manifestation there is always a polarity (in the Absolute itself, this polarity - Yin and Yang (Chinese philosophy), Shiva and Shakti (Tantra), Hesed and Gevurah ( Kabbalah), whatever term one may wish to give to it - is considered latent and unmanifest), and indeed it is this polartity or difference in potential that not only causes but is manifestation.

The following is a suggestion of the polarity of the four parameters of existence (which - iof each is derived from an archetype or godhead, would fit nicely with the four points of the mandala:

One should understand that neither of these is more important than the other; both are complementary and necessary polarities of manifestation. This is not a moral cosmology of "good" and "evil".

The following diagram represents the various parameters as a sort of multi-dimensional grid.

Simple Integral Matrix

Each axis or parameter consitutes a distinct spectrum of consciousness (or "chain of being"). So the "vertical parameter" from physical matter to noetic planes consists of many subplanes.

Moreover each of these gradations is not a simple spectrum or series, but rather a fractal with numerous aspects and ramifications, each of which has a "yin" and a "yang" polarity. So matter is yin, spirit is yang; cosmic or universal is yin, individual is yang.

The following pages consider each of these four metaphysical sequences/processes in turn:

Levels of Selfhood
Occultism - The "Vertical" Physical-Spiritual Axis
Psychology and Mysticism - The "Horizontal" Inner-Outer Axis
Holarchy - The Universal-Atomistic Axis

These divisions seem - and are - pretty arbitary. Where does Environment/Collective end and Cosmic begin? And since an Individual may be a Part of a larger totality, isn't the distinction between these two superfluous? Wouldn't it be better to say atom - molocule - cell - tissue - organism - ecosystem - etc?

My reply is that what is important is not the details here, but the dynamic. A "cosmic" entity would function (manifest, be conscious, whatever...) in a completely different way to an individual entity. It would have a "distributed" rather than a "localised" existence. And even if and though a part of a larger whole, an individual entity would be an autonomous unit. So a person is an individual entity, a society is a distributed or collective entity. Or an ant is an individual entity, while the hive is a distributed or collective consciousness. The parts of an individual, on the other hand, are not autonomous. If you take a cell from your body, it won't survive on its own. Whereas a bacterium or a protozoan is an individual entity. Furthermore to have a spectrum like cell-organism, or individual-society, is anthropocentric, because what about worlds and regions of interstellar space. And obviously what is being discussed here is not simply (and usually not even) size, but complexity, organisation, and inclusiveness. Size in the sense of physical dimensions of length, width, and breadth, are qualities of the dense physical subplane of the vertical axis or ontocline, which is considered later in this essay.

The Eight Levels

Just as there are four ontoclines on the quadontological mandala, so, in this diagram, there are eight hirerachical levels.

The number eight does not specifically mean anything here, or rather, it does, but no more than the numerological significance of any other number. I could equally have put in an extra level in the center but I ran out of circles! Also, one could combine two or more adjacent "rings", or divide a single ring in two. What mnatters is that these are hierarchical levels. The exact number of hierarchies or levels or planes or worlds varies according to the teaching. Indo-Aryan and Shamanic cosmology refers to three worlds. Kabbalists have four or five worlds, Sufis have five worlds, Kashmir Shaivism five kalas (divisions). In the Purans there are seven lokas, and Theosophists have seven planes, so does Sri Aurobindo; also, in Hindu Tantra there are seven chakras. Max Theon has eight states, and four worlds. There are ten Kabbalistic sefirot, and Ken Wilber speaks of ten, or alternatively twenty, levels in his AQAL diagram. So it really doesnt matter how many one has. But for the sake of a managable diagram, and not making things to complex, I put eight in (see numbered rings). These values are suggested here as a symbolic archetypal or abstract hierarchy of levels.

Note also that, unlike Wilber's AQAL diagram, these levels are not the primary determining quality throughout all the quadrants; each quadrant or ontocline is a completely independent parameter, and any level and quadrant can intersact with or be combined with any other level or ontocline/quadrant. The relationship between each of the ontoclines at each level is purely one of correspondence, hence metaphorical only. However, the further in one goes to the center, the more yang, the further out, the more yin. The two inner circles are equally beyond yang and yin, alpha and omega

The levels are as follows:

  1. The Original ineffable Absolute - in the above series, this is the Zero/Infinite prior to the One
  2. The Manifest but Transcendent Absolute - in the above series, this is the One, and the Two
  3. The Dynamic or Noetic Absolute - this is the highest level of evolution and spiritual attainment, constituting maximum yang (in relation to all following levels) or omega (in comparison to all preceeding evolutionary states). In the above series, this is the Three
  4. The Divine or pure reality - while not of the nature of Absolute perfection of the preceeding, it is still Divine and superconscious in relation to everything that follows, whether it be the Pure Self or the original emanation (Divine World) or the Divine Soul or or the Cosmos as the unfolding body of God(s). In the above series, this and all susequent levels are the Kosmos
  5. The Archetypal or inner or mystical or spiritual reality
  6. The Forces that form and determine relationships
  7. The appearance of Form or Individuality or outer reality
  8. The outermost being, hylic, atomistic, inconscient, etc. This is the lowest point of involution, constituting maximum yin (in relation to all higher levels) or alpha (in comparison to all subsequent evolutionary states)

The increasingly wide and dark bands on each level symbolise the incraese of maya and avidya, and the involution of consciousness.

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text content and original diagram by M.Alan Kazlev
this page uploaded 25 September 2005, last modified 26 November