If you are like many of my blog readers, then you are probably a sort of worldview artist in your own right. This is true if you have made use of a sacred artwork in order to illuminate your internal maps for driving your personal growth, your philosophical opinions, and even your religious beliefs and spiritual practices.
Many people in the spiritual or New Age communities, for instance, understand their personality type in relationship to a twelve-sided figure, the Zodiac, or a nine-sided figure, the Enneagram. They will often use suited Tarot cards arranging many different esoteric symbols from Kabbalah and witchy traditions into a sort of harmony. Some people, the religious kind, proudly wear four-pointed crosses or six-pointed stars to summarize their faith symbolically; these symbols represent stories that set the backdrop for their life.
Integral folks, of course, have sacred artworks of our own. Ken Wilber’s work includes the Four Quadrants and other illustrations of the major dimensions of AQAL, which is a way of organizing all the different insights into human development. There’s also the Wilber-Combs Lattice and other important illustrates of how all the different theoretical streams of integral theory fit together.
If you are thinking of exploring what it means to be a worldview artist, then AQAL is worth considering, even if it looks intimidating at first. Any one of its key elements — stages, quadrants, lines, types, and states — could make an important difference in your worldview. Many resources are available for learning about AQAL, and you only have to google “AQAL” or “Integral Theory” or “Ken Wilber” to learn more. And there are good books to read: The Integral Vision by Wilber being good for absolute beginners.
So familiarize yourself with AQAL and let the sacred artworks of this philosophy begin to structure your inner map of reality. What’s so great about AQAL? Well, I like to think that it’s probably the best effort made to date to develop a truly comprehensive picture of what makes human beings tick, from biology to psychology to culture to sociology, all wrapped up in a neat package. Unlike the New Age options, AQAL is a living body of scholarship in deep conversation with modernity and postmodern philosophy.
AQAL takes study. When you have come to a point of understanding it more and more, you are changed. Your inner map (or “operating system”, if you prefer the Wilberian metaphor) guides you in navigating life and all its challenges.
Terrific! You can boot up AQAL or Gebserian Integral or something similar. But what kind of worldview artist have you become? You have not created the AQAL map, after all, you are using an image of it in your own head. It’s as if you downloaded a copy of the AQAL operating system from Integralsoft, booted it up, and started running programs on it. That’s why I say you have become an entry-level student of worldview artistry.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and those of us who have been around a while were all there once (with AQAL or some other powerful piece of spiritual art like the Enneagram or Zodiac). But at a convention of worldview artists each of whom have created a way to structure reality, you still might find yourself out of place on account of your not having done something more original. You’re copying the master’s technique, but you haven’t mastered it.
So that is one key to understanding worldview artistry: originality in designing sacred artworks of reality is a prerequisite to feeling that you are a worldview artist. And this won’t happen overnight in your exploration of the Integral framework, but it ought to happen if you work at it (that’s partly what Integral Life Practice is for).
Status as a worldview artist may very well come over time, as you customize the artworks and simplify them so they are more useful for your own experience. I know lots of integral thinkers who have many designed many different original sacred artworks and shared them with others, each highlighting something he or she felt had been left out of the artworks and philosophy they learned from another integral thinker.
By designing your own sacred artworks, you can incorporate the wisdom that is unique to your own life lessons and blend it with received wisdom until new works of spirit and soul emerge in your consciousness. Will you make one number more important than the rest? Will you adapt an existing symbol like a pentagram or cross? What problem does your sacred artwork solve that hadn’t been solved before?
Let me give you a simple example from my Alchemical Art collection: The Triune. This symbol looks a lot like the yin-yang or Taoist symbol; however, instead of two swooshes there are three. That’s because it steals the design of a largely unknown esoteric Taoist thinker, Yang Hsiung. Hsiung created the Tai Hsuan (Supreme Mystery) because he believed it had the power to reconcile all the other competing schools of thought in ancient China, the best known being Taoism and Confucianism.
Hsiung’s symbol was passed down over the ages in black and white, and if there were ever any colors linked to it, I don’t know. Nevertheless, color is important in my design, as well as the directionality of the swooshes. I wanted to use the three primary colors because out of these colors all the other colors could be formed, so I had to choose between red, green, and blue or red, yellow, and blue. I selected yellow, in part because yellow is a color associated with China, and I wanted to honor the Tai Hsuan’s heritage.
The swooshes also needed to be arranged in a particular order in order to symbolize spiritual evolution. At the 12 o’clock position on the circle, I wanted the color red to begin to swoosh in a clockwise direction; yellow, a color of centrality, would begin at the 4 o’clock position; and blue, a color higher in wavelength than the others, would complete the triad.
All of this is nice, but it’s not quite yet worldview artistry. What makes it so, in my way of thinking, is what comes next: the elements are named and a title is given which depicts worldviews themselves. Red is linked to Yang, and it is associated with agentic types of forms. Yellow is linked to Yin, and it is associated with communal types of forms. (Agency and communal are types, part of AQAL’s nomenclature.) And then blue is linked to Yung — and neologism of mine, not the word Yang Hsiung used originally — and it is associated with a nondual or unitive embrace of the polarity between Yang and Yin.
Furthermore, the artwork is given a name The Triune, linking the whole thing to the numerology of 3. This begs the question: what sort of triads or ternaries might also be represented by this symbol? Well, in fiction such as The Kalendar: The Black Stone, I’ve already answered this question. I have stated that I see The Triune as depicting not only a Taoist symbol, but also the Christian Trinity and the Hindu concepts of Trimurti and Tridevi. Finally, I add that Yang is associated with the years 1 to 1000 CE, Yin with 1000 CE to 2000 CE, and Yung with 2000 – 3000 CE, and all the worldviews linked historically to these periods of time.
This has been a brief look at how super-integral perspectives come to emerge out of integral perspectives. And how ordinary integral folks start to become worldview artists in their own right. You’ve seen how The Triune can bring complexity and simplicity together. What can you create on your own?