The state of Integral philosophy concerned me in the mid-2000s. Although I was not a professional academic philosopher, I sought to explore its incongruities and incompleteness and contribute to the ongoing development of these fields. At the same time, I wanted to create the scaffolding for a more holistic and future-looking Christianity.
These two tasks met for the first time in my prose poem “Trinity”, a deceptively simple ten lines written in 2007. I added ten lines of prose poetry to twenty lines of philosophy, specifically Ken Wilber’s “The Twenty Tenets of Holons” from Sex, Ecology, Spirituality.
Wilber’s 20 tenets were never intended as poetry, but as a summation of his research in a wide range of evolutionary theory. He had identified the major underlying patterns of the “spirit of evolution” and presented these in a concise formula. Ken was gracious enough to publish the poem on his blog in 2007 under the headline “Does Involution Have a Telos?”
You haven’t seen the last of the these “thirty tenets of holons” yet. They are emerging in a new, philosophical form in an unpublished book in progress. In a modified form, they will form the basis of a volutionary Christology (i.e., the branch of theology treating the nature of Jesus Christ).
(first 20 tenets by Ken Wilber; additions in brackets and last 10 tenets by Joe Perez)
- Reality as a whole is not composed of things or processes, but of holons. (wholes that are part of other wholes)
- Holons display four fundamental capacities: self-preservation, self-adaptation, self-transcendence, and self-dissolution.
- self-preservation (agency)
- self-adaptation (communion)
- self-transcendence (Eros)
- self-dissolution (Agape)
- Holons emerge.
- Holons emerge holarchically.
- Each emergent holon transcends but includes its predecessor(s).
- The lower sets the possibilities of the higher; the higher sets the probabilities of the lower.
- The number of levels which a hierarchy comprises determines whether it is ‘shallow’ or ‘deep’; and the number of holons on any given level we shall call its ‘span’.
- Each successive level of evolution produces greater depth and less span.
- Addition 1: the greater the depth of a holon, the greater its degree of conciousness [in the sense of: the degree of fulfillment of the telos of Kosmos, but see also tenet 29].
- Destroy any type of holon, and you will destroy all of the holons above it and none of the holons below it.
- Holarchies coevolve.
- The micro is in relational exchange with the macro at all levels of its depth.
- Evolution has directionality.
- Evolution has increasing complexity.
- Evolution has increasing differentiation/integration.
- Evolution has increasing organization/structuration.
- Evolution has increasing relative autonomy.
- Evolution has increasing telos [Omega].
- Addition 2: every holon issues an IOU to the Kosmos [God The Father].
- Addition 3: all IOUs are redeemed in Emptiness [Emptiness = God The Son].
- Addition 4: involution has directionality.
- Addition 5: involution has increasing simplicity.
- Addition 6: involution has increasing sensitivity/texture.
- Addition 7: involution has increasing relative communion.
- Addition 8: involution has increasing telos [Alpha].
- Addition 9: all holons receive a receipt for the IOU from the Kosmos and Kronos [Holy Spirit].
- Addition 10: all holons arise in the occasion of acknowledging receipt for the IOU.
- Addition 11: destroy any type of holon and it adds to the increasing telos of Kosmos and Kronos [Holy Spirit].
- Addition 12: the greater the span of a holon, the greater its degree of conciousness. [that is, the degree to which it fulfills the telos of Kronos]
- Addition 13: the unity of Kronos and Kosmos is greater than the sum of its parts. [God the Father + God the Son + Holy Spirit]
An excerpt from unpublished manuscript
One upshot of these additional lines is to insist that our model of reality needs to include not only ascending currents of evolution, but also descending currents of involution, and to hold them both in tension and examine their interplay and ultimate resolution to the extent imaginable. The poem departs from Wilber’s well-known usage of Kosmos to refer to all things in all worlds, dividing a unified vision of reality into three parts: Kosmos for the evolutionary direction, Kronos for the involutionary direction, and Holy Spirit for their union.
The persistence of holons following their destruction is raised explicitly in the poem, mirroring certain reflections on human immortality in Christian theology. Based on his interpretation of Christian doctrine, Joseph asserts that death has a purpose, and that it is ultimately transcended in the Holy Spirit. The poem suggests that the destruction of a holon is part of the combined telos of the evolutionary and involutionary currents (line 28) and results in creative novelty (line 30).
Joseph stopped short of using the language of personal immortality of the human soul in the poem, but it was not far from his beliefs. The Roman Catholic theology of personal immortality still influenced him, especially its formulation by Hans Küng in Eternal Life. The way Joseph saw it, the hydrogen atoms in the human body were formed in ancient supernovae nearly as old as the Big Bang itself. Other atoms in the human body such as carbon and oxygen are estimated to be around 4.6 billion years old, older than the Sun. If atoms make up everything and they persist for billions and billions of years, why do so many people take for granted that a human being typically exists only for a maximum of 70 or 80 years? Are our souls really so different?
“Trinity” does not merely interject Christian doctrine into the “Twenty Tenets of Holons”; it begins to envision how the Trinity doctrine could be reformulated in a way that is consistent with the general theory of evolution (i.e., the underlying patterns identified by scientific research into a range of evolutionary processes in biology, culture, and society). Not only would this potentially make Christian doctrine more acceptable from the standpoint of natural philosophy (in the spirit of the project of Tielhard de Chardin), it would help shine a light on a key missing element in secular humanistic philosophy: the involutionary process, God’s self-giving and loving nature.
When Joseph published “Trinity” on his blog, some of his readers called it “speculative” and “unempirical”. They could wrap their minds around evolution, a scientifically proven concept, but the notion that evolution has a complementary process with which it forms a unity seemed to arouse their skepticism. Joseph could sympathize, but he explained that involution is not a concept to be broken down empirically, but rather a way of looking at things based on the logic of the whole. Sri Aurobindo, the sage who brought Vedanta together with evolutionary philosophy, described involution as the process by which Brahman (Omnipresent Reality) extends Itself out of its Divine Energy to create a universe of separate forms. Recognizing Agape or involution is merely part of making explicit what is already implicit in the nature of things which is knowable through empirical observation.