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The Metaphysics of Process - Ontodynamics

It is proposed that a truely integral Unified Map of Existence, which explains and (as Ken Wilber would say) honours all experiences, interpretations, perspectives, and aspects of Consciousness and the Cosmos, requires not one but four Parameters or States or gradations of consciousness and existence, each of which, it is suggested, has its own dynamic, or ontodynamic.

The term Ontodynamics has been independently coined by external link Stephen Harrison and myself. As I define it, it refers to the dynamic nature and interelations of being (ontos), as opposed to a simple static formulation of koshas, planes, atoms, or whatever. Reality, rather than being static, is a constant process, a "play of consciousness" (skt. lila), of involution and evolution, the working out of the infinite possibilities of the Unmanifest and Manifest Absolute within the infinite Kosmos.

God is a Verb

Wikipedia link Buckminster Fuller famously said "God is a Verb". And apparently the united church now teaches its ministers that god is a process. This all comes from A.N. Whitheead's Process Theology. Concerning the Supreme as the cosmos (in conrtrast to the transcendent Absolute) there is an unfolding, doing, aspect to it.

Considering the transcendent we can say that "God" isn't a verb but an adjective (pointing to the unknowable in Itsef) - the Transcendent, the Supreme, The Absolute, the ineffable - rather like the Muslim 99 names of God. According to the Sufis they represent the original archetypes. But the Activity of these adjectivities, archetypes, godheads, in the world, constitutes the Verb. And all of these interactions are ultimately nothing but the Absolute Reality "I" experiencing Itself ("this").

And the way this process, or "verb", which is "God", works is through the dynamics of consciousness / being

The Cycle of Existence

What then is the relationship between the Absolute Reality and the world of multiplicity?

Judeo-Christian religious cosmologies are based on a strictly linear view of history and creation. In contrast to this, both the Eastern (Vedantic - e.g. Kashmir Shaivite) and the Neoplatonic cosmologies present a vision of a cyclic series of emanation and withdrawl. This doesn't have to be a temporal sequence, in fact it can be seen as atemporal. Hence a cyclic cosmology does not contradict a linear one, and vice versa. Like physicalism, holism, dualism and monism, these are all different (Relative Truth) ways of looking at the same multi-dimensional and ineffable (Absolute Truth) Reality.

Regarding the linear or temporal historical cosmos (as advocated in different ways both by exoteric and esoteric Judeo-Christianity and secular science), we will return to that later. The atemporal cyclic cosmology however can be shown as follows:

Absolute and Relative Reality

Being moves between the two modes of unmanifest and manifest, emptiness and form, as described in esoteric teachings. Involution or Emanation (left on diagram) is the way in which things come into being, this is the process of "creation" (to use the Judeo-Chriostian term, understanding that this is never creation out of nothing), and the converse of this process is transcendence, reabsorption, or return (right) in which things return to teh Source from which they came (and which is their actual true or original nature, and was so all along).

In terms of the Three Truths, the Absolute Truth, which is ineffable, goes at the top of the diagram, and both relative truth and relative error at the bottom, as these pertain to the world of multiplicity.

Opposites/Complements - Yin and Yang

yin yang symbol

Whereas the Absolute in Itself is ineffable, at the relative level - in other words in terms of manifestation and creation - everything can be described, at the most fundamental level, in terms of polar opposites. Yet these opposites are also at the same time complementaries, each is necessary for the existence of the other. This is described in the Yin Yang (or Tao) diagram

The Yin-Yang symbol is without doubt one of the most recognisable metaphysical diagrams. It describes ithe fundamental polarity and inseperability of the polar opposites; the binary pattern of Reality, and its cyclic metamorphes.  The black represents yin, matter, earth, receptivity, ending, etc, the white yang, spirit, heaven, creativity, beginning, etc.  Note that the white half contains a black dot, the black half a white dot.  This is because yang contains the seed of yin, and yin the seed of yang.  Hence yang becomes yin and yin becomes yang; the basic principle of metamorphosis, and fundamental to the Book of Changes (I Ching).  The pair yin and yang are also equated with female and male, but this is simplistic: both male and female contain both yin and yang.  It is also interesting to consider that the Japanese macrobiotic system uses yin and yang in the opposite way to the Chinese taoists system; e.g. the macrobiotic yin is equivalent in many ways to the Chinese yang, and vice-versa.  This shows that despite the fundamental cosmic reality of yin and yang, human interpretations differ, according to the line of approach.

From the basic binary unit of reality comes the four (2 x 2) which takes us to the mandala, the tetrakys and the quibit.  Times two again and we have the eight trigrams, an important element in Chinese cosmology.  Actually, in view of the importance of the four-fold I see the trigrams as a relatively minor system, and I havent been able to do much with it.  4 x 4 x 4 however (or 2 to the power of 6) gives 64, the number of hexagramic symbols that make up the I Ching oracle, and also the number of possible DNA codons.  The way DNA, which is a sort of organic computer (there is even talk of building nano-computers using the DNA molocule), transmits information is through combining any of the four fundamental nucleotide bases (four again) in sets of three, hence 64 possible amino acid sequences.

Change is the only constant

"There is nothing permanent except change"

"You cannot step into the same river twice"

"All compounded things are impermanent"
Siddharta Buddha

The Buddha, Heraclitus, and the authors of the I Ching ("book of changes") were all in agreement on one thing; change is the only constant in the universe

Creation is ever a process of flux and becoming, and the only permanence is in the unmanifest Absolute (or nirvana). Hence those religions and philosophies that teach a permanent and immortal ego personality in life or after death (e.g. the heaven of many exoteric theistic religions are like this) are in error.

In the cyclic diagram therefore, we have the changeless and unitary Absolute at the top of the diagram, and the world of manifestation, multiplicity and change at the bottom.

Unity/Eternity and Multiplicity/Change

Dependent Origination

Wheel of Life - click for larger image
Wheel of Life - buddhistic painting from Bhutan photo by Henryart 2005 - Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 License

Whilst emanation explains how causality works on a "vertical" or inter-hierarchical level, "Co-Dependent Origination" or "causal interdependence" (to use the Buddhist terms) shows how causality works on a "horizontal" level, in which enties of the same hierarchical level interact with each other.

In Buddhism, Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada in Pali) is described in a stylised manner in terms of a stylised series of phenomenological states, each of which is the cause or condition that generates the next. All phenomenon arise according to the required casual factors or conditions. i.e.:

1. Ignorance causes karmic activity;
2. Karmic activity causes consciousness;
3. Consciousness causes name and form;
4. Name and form causes the sense organs;
5. The sense organs cause contact;
6. Contact causes feeling;
7. Feeling causes desire and craving;
8. Desire and craving causes grasping;
9. Grasping causes existing;
10. Existing causes birth;
11. Birth causes old age and death;
12. Old age and death causes ignorance (1)

This is illustrated graphically in the "Wheel of Life"

Once again, dependent origination, karma, and evolution pertain to world of multiplicity (or "samsara" as it is called in Buddhism, literally, going around and around, the world of rebirth), and the opposite, teh Absolute Reality, is "nirvana", changeless and perfect, in Western theology the "God of the philosophers" (as oppsoe dto teh anthropomorphic deity of religious faith)

Changelessness/Eternity and Karma and Evolution


If atmalogy shows how enties interact with each other, emanation shows how these entities come about in the first place. I argue for the of the Emanation hypothesis on two grounds: firstly it is a central element in much of the "perennial philosophy" and secondly it provides the only explanation for how things came to be that is not nonsensical (craetio ex hihilo) or reductionist. Assuming then that emanation is a fact (much as it contradicts the current physicalist consensus paradigm of the secular West), a number of specific ontological laws or principles would seem to follow.  These are listed as follows:

Assuming then that emanation is a fact (much as it contradicts the current physicalist consensus paradigm of the secular West), a number of specific ontological principles would seem to follow.  These are listed as follows:

Principle of Authentic Reality
Principle of Distinct Hypostases
Principle of Qualitativeness
Principle of Downward Causation
Principle of nondifferentiated ground
Principle of non-diminishment
Principle of Reflection
Principle of Proximity
Principle of Fractalisation

In no way should the above be considered a definitive statement or final explanation. These principles are suggested soley to encourage further thought and debate. We have a long way to go before a truely axiomatic integral theory of everything can be formulated.

Essay on Principles of Emanation | The emanationist worldview

The Hierarchical Ontology (Ontological Gradation)

An Ontological Hierarchy

A central element of my own "Theory of Everything" is what I term "ontological gradation" - the gradation of being (Gk: ontos) from higher (and ultimately from the Absolute, or infinite of being) to lower (deprivation, and the appearance of non-being - e.g. Sri Aurobindo's "Inconscient")

Ontological Gradation is also referred to as the "Great Chain of Being", the "Spectrum of Consciousness", and so on. It is the primary parameter or axis along which the hypostases are arranged. Of course there is not a single linear ontological gradation, but rather a Tree by which the One Source or Root becomes many, and even as the later Neoplatonists like Proclus suggest, having become many, reduces to simplicity again in non-being (inconscience)

Let us see then how this works.

Beginning with point (1) of the Basic Premises, every datum of experience should be considered without bias, and point (6), the more inclusive explanation is to be preferred, I have chosen what I feel to be the most inclusive explanation; something that can sympathetically explain every datum, without rejectiong any as "false". This is the hierarchical ontology (theory of being), which has been proposed by a number of universalists, such as Huston Smith (Smith 1977) and Ken Wilber (Wilber 2000, 2000b, etc).

The diagram on the left shows a simplistic representation of this, using for the sake of example the three hypostrases of Plotinus plus physical reality

Note that I certainly am not saying that hierarchy is all that is. Because the existence of hierarchy automatically assumes its complement/polarity/opposite - equality. But we can't just say "everything is equal" either, because some things are not equal. So we begin with hierarchy, more specifically, a Hierarchy of Being (note - it is fashionable nowadays in postmodernist academia to reject "hierarchy", along with "metaphysics". As Ken Wilber points out, even those who reject hierarchy still have their own hierarchical values (Wilber 2000, pp.x-xi).

However, when we look at various examples of the hierarchy or "spectrum" or "great chain" of being, we find there is a lot of disagreement regarding its component levels. For example Kashmir Shaivism gives a very different spectrum of being to Theosophy or Kabbalah. Clearly, this explanation is not sufficient to incorporate all datums of experience.

It might also be asked - hierarchy of what? The answer is Consciousness. This is a hierarchy of states of consciousness (d-SoC in Charles T. Tart's notation), which is the same as saying it is a hierarchy of states of existence, or of being (ontology), since it is suggested here that all these can be equated (Kashmir Shaivism (ref ), and Moshe Kroy's Advaitin Phenomenology (Wilber 2002))


A linear series of hypostases showing emanation and transcendence

If paramology points to the unmanifest Absolute which is complete unity, emanation, or creation in terms of a series of stages or hypostases of the original Absolute, shows how multiplicity comes about out of that ineffable One. A representation of this is shown on the left in terms of the Neoplotanic conception taught by Plotinus. This is the same as the earlier diagram of hierrachical hypostases, except that now the cyclic relationship of emanation and withdrawl replaces the earlier simplistic one-way arrows.

I argue for the Emanationist hypothesis on two grounds: firstly it is a central element in much of the "perennial philosophy" and secondly it provides the only explanation for how things came to be that is not logically nonsensical (creatio ex hihilo) or reductionist.

Emanation is also an essential element in ontodynamics, more on which later.

Emanation as the alternative to Dualism and Monism

Exoteric understanding is often based on pairs of opposites - spirit and matter, body and soul, true and false, saint and sinner, God and creation, being and nonbeing - in other words, dualism. This is a position that I feel is too simplistic to be used to appreciate reality (except in the sense of sub-units, e.g. the yin-yang binary pairs of the I Ching and DNA or particle physics say, which really refers to sets of polarities.)

Radical Monism (only the Absolute is Real, or even only a neutral "something" is real) is just as limiting, for it swallows up the diversity of existence in a single Absolute (e.g. the Advaita Vedantin (and pop-guru-derived) depreciation of the world as "maya") or reduces everything to a single entity like matter or energy

Ontological Gradation allows us to avoid both extremes. All shades and stages of being are authentic, and it is possible to map these out, describing the characteristics of each segment or stage or phase of the Spectrum of Being. Indeed, according to the perennial philosophy, ontological gradation of at least a simple form (three or four levels) is basic to all pre-modern thought.

Hypostases and Yin and Yang

Normally, the Neoplatonic emanationist paradigm (also characteristic of Sufi, Kabbalistic, Kashmir Shaivite, Theosophical, and Wilberian teachings) is rather different from the Taoist/I Ching Yin-Yang conception. Yin and Yang are the two polarities that emerge from the original unity (Tao), just as in Tantra Shiva and Shakti emerge from the original Supreme Consciousness or Supreme Shiva, in Kabbalah Hesed and Gevurah, emerge from Keter or En Sof, and so on. The hypostases are "vertical", the polarities "horizontal". However, if we think of Yang as Heaven or Spirit, and Yin as matter or Earth, that implies a "vertical" and hypostasis-like element. Moreover, in asmuch as all polarities and dualities can be described in terms of Yin and Yang, this would also logically apply to the hierarchical hypostases as well. Iif we say that, like Arthur Koestler's holons (see Janus, a summing up), the hypostases are "two-faced entities", in that every hypostases can be considered yang in relation to the one which is beneath it, and yin in relation to the one above it, we get a diagram that combines both hierarchy and polarity:

Hypostases and yin and yang
Hypostases, cycle of emanation and transcendence, and yin and yang

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

Multiple Emanation and Transcendence

The above diagrams present a strictly linear (or linear-cyclic) and sequential cosmology. But there is no reasion why every level or hypostasis cannot connect to every other hypostasis. If we show it this way, we get a rather more complex representation, as follows:

Hypostases, cycles, yin and yang
Multiply interacting hypostases, cycles, and yin and yang

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

Can we go still further? So far we have only a single hierarchy, albeit one that is myuultifaceted in its details and interconnections. But the mono-linear representation, which is standard in most esoteric teachings, as well as with more recent thinkers like Edward Haskell (Unified Science) and Ken Wilber (Integral theory), suffers from a certain inflexibility, because it assumes that every progression or ascent in consciousness will pass through the exact same series of stages, and the accounts that people give of their experiences with various non-ordinary states of consciousness paint a far more complex picture than this. Moreover, if there is only a single "spectrum of being", it is impossible to correlate the different esoteric teachings, because there will always be things that don't match up. Hence, the situation is, as always, more complex then the conventional representation takes it to be. Which brings us to the next proposition.


In the century the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz came up with a metaphysical theory called Monadology (after his book of the same name - there are a number of copies on-line: e.g. here, here, here, and here) in which he posits that all that exist are an indefinite number of simple (by which he means without consisting of parts) entities called Monads (para.1). These are eternal, individual, mental or spiritual atoms so to speak. There is no such thing as physical space or external objects; rather, each monad experiences the world from its own point of view, and the totality of all those experiences is the universe. However the monads are unable to interact with each other (para. 7. "The monads have no windows through which anything may come in or go out") but all their respective experiences are synchronised through a Wikipedia link pre-established harmony (para.78). nterestingly Blavatsky refers to the higher spiritual Self in man (atma-buddhi) as a "monad", perhaps combining Leibnitz with Pythagoras, for whom the monad was the primal entity to come into being.

A monadology with similarities to that of Leibniz was independently developed by Ken Wilber, who of course calls his monads holons. For Wilber holons likewise are the only things that exist, are teleological, conscious, and so on. However unlike Leibnitz's monads, Wilber's holons do have "windows" in that they interact with other holons, and they are not "simple" because each holon consists of holons beneath it, and so on to infinity. And wheras Leibniz solves the problem of the interaction of mind and matter that bedevils Descartes' system, Wilber seems to take a step backwards by intrenching the Cartesian duality of of mind and body (interiors and exteriors) in his four-quadrant holons. (i will have more to say on this later)

I would like to propose a new monadology.

We begin with the monistic understanding that all that exists is the Absolute Reality, which is infinite, eternal, without boundaries (see this page for a philosophical thesis on this (still needs some work)). According to Kashmir Shaivism, this Absolute contemplates (or simply reflects upon, or experiences) itself, thus resulting in the thought "I am This" and creating the original duality of Absolute ("I") and its power of creation ("this), and hence all other polarities and dualities.

Everything that exists is a "self" or Aspect or reflection of the Absolute, and there is nothing that is not-Absolute and hence not-Self, then the not-Self includes all other selves apart from one's own Self. Because they are not one's own Self (but other selves), they are experienced as "Without" (Teilhard) or "exteriors" (Wilber - the right half of his diagram) rather than the "Within" or interior or subjectivity.

This gives us the "participative paradigm" defined by John Heron (Heron 1996) and previously referred to.

I would extend this by saying that because everything that exists is a Self (and/or an aspect of the Supreme Self / Absolute Reality), this relation of Knower and Known extends even to so-called "inanimate" objects. This is the opposite of the depersonalisation and objectification of things that one finds in physicalist-materialist, naive postmodernist relativist, and exoteric religious literalist worldviews.

The Co-action Compass

Using a standard mandala as a cosmological "map" means a "static" timeless, or cyclic (like the famous "Wheel of Rebirth") diagram. But we also need something that can convey process and evolution as well. Hence the "Co-action Compass", a cybernetic feedback diagram that forms the basis of the Unified Science paradigm presented by Edward Haskell and his associates. An example of this diagram on the cover of their book Full Circle - The Moral Force of Unified Science is shown here:

This diagram (and Unified Science in general) is based on the premise that with any two interacting factors, one will have a controlling role (this is represented by the y axis, and can be considered "yang") and the other will be the "work component" (the x axis, corresponding to yin). These two elements can interact in a way that benefits, harms, or is neutral to, one, both, or neither. The result is a matrix of 9 possible interactions, which are represented graphically as the co-action compass. The following diagram shows how these 9 possible relationships determine the 9 fundamental states of the co-action compass:

Diagram © Timothy Wilken - see Future Positive - Edward Haskell

The following diagram shows how even the co-action between the opposite poles of only one of the above axii can produce a whole range of situations.

co-action compass - spirit and matter

Looking at the The Co-action Compass, it seems that the fundamental principle is not Y or X, but the relation between the two. So we have again a participative paradigm, in which the interaction of Governor (Y) and Work Component (X) determines the outcome of the joint entity that the two comprise.

So the fundamental unit is not a spiritual atom or a holon, but rather the interaction between two (or more) entities (beings, systems, whatever(. And each entity is itself not a static unit but an interaction between other entities (which may simply be the X/Yin and Y/Yang components of its own make-up) Whether an entity or element is more yin or more yang is determined by its position on the quadontological mandala. So not only is, say, the Divine World (level 4 of the vertical planes (bottom) ontocline/quadrant) yang in relation to the lower or dense material world (level 8 of the same quadrant), but it is also Yang in relation to the Collective Being (level 6 of the holarchical (top) ontocline/quadrant), the Inner Being (level 5 of the inner and outer (right) ontocline/quadrant) for example. Thus every phenomenon and manifets reality can be understood in terms of a yin and yang interaction, leading to either an entropic, a neutral, or a syntropic outcome for one or both units.

The result of this "Tao of Physics"esque "dance of Shiva" type reasoning is that fundamentally everything that exists are a network of bootstrapped interactions of other interactions which in turn consist of other interactions (like the dance of virtual particles). Hence we have a "monadology" in which the monads are not entities but "processes". Being in the sense of a noun that is also a verb.


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

Heron, John (1996) Co-operative Inquiry, London, Sage, (An extract from Chapter 1 - Co-operative inquiry and participative reality; this is also reprinted in P/I: Pluralities/Integration #67 (April 25, 2005))

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