Integrative philosophy (1)


In this series I will try to define my fourfold model of process a bit further, and study some examples or applications of this model. In case you haven't studied my previous blog postings on creation philosophy & psychology (1-5), now may be the time to review them.
Also, some basic knowledge of theosophy, as explained in my ebook (see, is assumed, although probably not strictly necessary to follow these postings. The way I write is as follows: first, a sketch of the topic is given, which is gradually filled in, in later postings. I am somewhat limited by the state of development of the sciences involved: organization theory, cybernetics, brain science, and theory of meaning/value. Especially the latter has been poorly developed. The other disciplines mentioned above are also relatively young (most of these stem from the post World-War Two period).
Nevertheless, I think that these branches of knowledge can deliver enough data to be of use.

The material I deal with has been partly dealt with by diverse individuals and organizations. I mention first of all, cyberneticians such as James Grier Miller (Living Systems Theory), Management theorists such as Stafford Beer (Brain of the Firm and many other seminal books), Anthroposophists (Threefold Social Order - Rudolf Steiner and many after him), brain scientists (too many to mention, but Edelman, MacLean and Luria come to mind), and of course, Arthur Young (see my ebook). Fritjof Capra can be mentioned too. See his books "Web of Life", and "The hidden connections", for example. There are of course many philosophers that I could mention in this respect, especially philosophers of process. I will pay some attention to their contributions as the occasion warrants.

It has always amazed me that so few people seem to see the relevancy of ideas developed in other branches or societies than their own. This also applies to theosophers. The second object of the T.S. concerns comparative study of religion, study of philosophy and science. This has been neglected during the last century, thus neglecting a major goal of the founders.

Transdisciplinary research is a necessary thing in our fragmented society.
It will lead to a more holistic system of thought by integrating findings in a comprehensive system of thought.
Summarizing the above, I can say that a truly integrative philosophy is needed for the era in which we live. This philosophy builds on certain axiomas and research findings. Higher order cybernetics, perhaps a bit extended to include value and meaning, will play an important part in all this.

The model

The idea of a fourfold structure and division of process is not new. The Brahmans seem to have had a fourfold model of the world. See the writings of Subba Rao. They only didn't want to share it with outsiders. How pathetic.
H.P. Blavatsky gives an abstract fourfold model of our universe in Isis Unveiled, volume 2. See the diagrams of the Hindu and Chaldean cosmogonies. I may refer to these from time to time when the topic of evolution and development pops up. Threefold models seem to have been popular as well in esoteric or semi-esoteric literature. One may encounter such models, for example, the threefold social order, in the work of Rudolf Steiner, which BTW, can be extended to a fourfold model quite easily, as I will show.
Proclus is a champion of threefold systems with threefold subdivisions.

My model is an interpretation (and modification) of Arthur Young's model, and includes some Kabbalistic and theosophical notions. It is in its incipient stage and very much under development. It is heavily based on biological and psychological insights and includes spiritual aspects as well.
The model consists of four layers or spheres of influence, energies, principles, etc., which interpenetrate each other to some degree. There is (some) autonomy for each layer, to be researched further. The description of the layers has already been given to some extent in my creation philosophy blog postings, among which you will find a figure or diagram (see posting no. 4 of that series) that synthesizes a couple of ideas.

The current model simply takes the current state of development of things (like organisms), and says little about development of structures over time.
There are some ideas about the latter, but these need a lot more research.

Limiting the model to four layers is a conscious choice. It makes things easier to recognize, since it is restricted to mainly observable structures and processes, although subjectivity plays an important role too (as in value and meaning). One can always put an imaginary triangle above the four layers to indicate three further levels of a more spiritual or subtle nature, but let's learn to work with four layers first.

A first tentative description of the layers follows here (question marks indicate that more research is necessary):

Layer one: potential, idea, archetype, seed, pattern, power, source; relatively abstract layer (as to function). Its connection with the environment may be indirectly through its connections with other layers, a feature to be researched. The meaning of the labels or descriptions of this layer will become clearer in applications.

Layer two: "Social" level. valuation, selection, selectivity, choice, switch, control, deliberation, decision, meaning, agency, animation, motivation, communication with the outside world, interaction, relational, exchange of information, signaling process. Triggering of internal maintenance processes (the latter processes are more of a layer three type activity).

Layer three: formative and organizing forces, sustaining flow, homeostasis, maintenance of structure, internal stability and organization, planning, administration, control. Differentiation and development of identity? Together with layer four: metabolic activity: extracting valuable substances from raw material, transforming matter-energy streams.

Layer four: execution of plan, steering of execution, combination of (influences of) layers, binding layers together, grounding, control, error correction, feedback (environment-system, also passing control info to higher control structures); peripheral action (compared to above layers). Lateral or horizontal axis.
Expression on the physical plane. Exchange of matter/info? Work.

Layers work together in some fashion, to be researched. Combinations of layers may vary as to relative contribution of influences. Examples will make this a bit clearer. Impulses flow through the layers - bidirectional. How all this is supposed to work is a matter of meticulous research which obviously has involved and will involve many people during long periods of time. (Theosophical principles, energies and elements will play a role too, at some point).

To summarize:

Generally speaking, when one starts with ideas and patterns (layer one), there arises the question of selection. There has to be a process of evaluation, weighing pros and cons, and then a decision/choice, or a simple selectivity for beings lacking self-consciousness. That is all layer two stuff.
Then there is a need for (internal) organization. An organism cannot work or live haphazardly. There must be order in structure and process (build-up and maintenance), or the organism is not viable at all. That can be considered layer three (which controls layer four). It is a reflection or development of pattern into form which materializes further in layer four.
Organizational forces play a prominent role in these layers.
The reverse direction, the extraction of pattern from form also seems a standard feature of life to me. (The plant that forms a seed; the human brain that perceives a pattern).
Finally, there is the matter of daily operation and control and outward (peripheral) expression. This is closely related to, and integrated with, layers three and four (and also layer two, as we will see). The whole matter of autonomic and somatic function of the human nervous system come to mind here.

I have already formulated one model, based on these layers, namely, the stages of active will working in the psyche, based on the work of Roberto Assagioli. (It is an idealized model, because it presupposes a complete run from layer one - the formation of idea - to layer four - the steering of the act, while in reality a partial loop can be completed. A simple need is something different from a grand idea that needs elaboration.)
Note that this model can be tested! Each stage has certain characteristics which will be experienced more or less clearly, depending on the degree to which one has developed one's sensitivity to subtle energies. The stages can be inter-subjectively verified. This is foremost a phenomenological approach, and certainly valid in scientific circles (except to the die-hard adherents of scientism, which I simply ignore). Transitions between layers can be easily discerned in the model of active will. The flow of prana, e.g., that occurs after the fiat of will has been given, is very distinct. Peripheral action simply means expression of a program/plan/idea in the "physical", tangible, world. The transition from plan to action (localized in space-time) is quite clear. The transition from the idea-phase to deliberation is clear as well, in the sense that, after a while, one realizes that deliberation is necessary.

Other models, based on this fourfold division or meta-paradigm, can be formulated, for example for the brain/nervous system, human organizations (structure and process), and society. I will outline some basic features of such models here, and in later postings, hopefully to be elaborated at some point by whomever is capable of that. Note that control and decision flow through all the layers distributively. We will have to deal with that aspect at some point. The question of the nesting vs. relative independence of layers is another point of research. A most interesting question concerns the fractality of the model, i.e., are these layers somehow repeated on another scale of the same process? Relativity, as a philosophical concept, plays an important role in this model. Everywhere we find relationships, not absolutes, in this model. Isn’t it the same in real life?

Note that many research questions can be formulated with the help of this model.

Questions as mentioned above:

. nesting [hierarchy] vs independence or interdependence of layers
. transitions between layers: which flows (matter-energy, information, value/meaning) can be discerned?
. selection and combination of influences (energies/information/meaning) from the layers
. dominance and relative contribution of influences from and through the layers
. how is value being coded in an organization (norms)?
. which channels are there through which matter-energy, information, value/meaning flow?
. how is control/decision effected throughout the layers? Are there centers of control? Which ones?
. how about coordination and planning?
. how does homeostasis relate to the control loop/decider subsystem [Miller, see below]
. which transducers are there in the system under study?
. and thousands of other questions (see e.g. the book Living Systems Theory from James Grier Miller which deals with the processing of information and matter-energy streams by a total of twenty subsystems)

Ok, let's have a brief look at some examples or applications of the meta-model. This is a first tentative formulation, to be refined and modified later on, as study reveals ever more connections and patterns of process. I will try to focus a bit more on process as a whole and the associated functions (or even principles) than on structure or components, since several structures or components may be needed to perform a functional activity, and a structure may serve more than one function.


Cultural sphere; science, religion, art, philosophy; values; patterns; produces advice, reports, etc.
Social sphere - active values -> law, hard-coded norms;
government: police, army; regulator of economic activities;
service organization; design of processes;
applied insights from the cultural sphere;
Economic sphere; merchants (organizers), planners; maintenance of structures,
providing for needs and wants; process (organization of manufacturing goods)
Combinations; steering of execution of plans [“foremen”] in contact with layer 3;
executive functions (workfloor); “blue collar workers”; general (peripheral) expression of impulses.

Explanation: the first three layers are described by Rudolf Steiner, in his threefold social order. Important contributions to this threefold model have been made by Dutch anthroposophists such as Bos, Brull, and many others. I may give some examples from their work later on.
The fourth layer has been added by me as a level where actualization of plans, ideas, etc., occur on the physical plane ("peripheral expression" through appropriate organs/structures and “muscles” or executives). After all, influences must be combined and grounded (bound) to the physical, embodied, world. This can be seen as a horizontal or lateral axis, whereas layers 1,2,3 have a vertical (control) component. Also, there is, to some extent, a mutual influence of layers on each other.

Many questions can be raised as to the relation of the spheres to each other:

.Which are the values that determine how we organize our economic system?
How does this relate to plan-economy, raw capitalism, and guided market systems?
.Are subsidies necessary to support artists?
.How do scientific research and technology relate to each other and to economic activity? Role of subsidies?
.Layer 2: regulating function - law, coded norms - examples (how does it work)
.What is the influence of layer 1 on layer 3 and vice versa(relation science/technology to economic sphere)? What is considered a healthy relationship?
. And so on. Anthroposophists have devoted a lot of time to contemplating questions like these. Why haven’t Theosophists done the same?

The next two examples will be posted in a separate posting (#2). They are rather complicated, but can potentially enrich our understanding considerably. As always, if you feel that you have something constructive to contribute, feel free to mail me, or post a comment.

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