Thesis: The journey from seed impulse to mature fruition can be described as an octave of 8 phases. The mature form (fruit) becomes the seed for the next level of the process, if there is a niche for it to respond to. It may also have fulfilled its function and just dissolve.
This section goes into more detail on the phases of growth within a holographic torus-like entity as it moves from seed to fruit. I have chosen to explore this through the lens of eight phases, as an octave. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, I came to my insights on volution initially through the exploration of the eight levels of Spiral Dynamics in a rigorous body-based workshop process, which I will describe more below. Secondly, the octave has always been known as a complete set, with the eighth note bringing a completion to a scale, which fits the idea of seed growing into fruit - the octave both completing one group of notes and starting another. Thirdly, as I read more, I came across a number of other points to reinforce the validity of this exploration, which I will spend some time on now before moving into the details. I do want to note that the octave perspective is only one possible perspective you could take on the volution dynamics of a living entity, and that other perspectives would surely yield interesting insights. The key about the octave is the doubling of frequency, whether you have a scale of eight notes or a chromatic scale of 12 or 13 notes. As we will see in a later section, we can also build on our insights into the Spiral Dynamics model’s eight stages to link volution to human individual and culture development.
In The Wave, Currivan (2005) makes a number of references to the octave and the significance of the number 8. From a sound perspective she notes that the eighth note in an octave "represents a sound whose wavelength is exactly half and thus whose frequency is twice the first note. This 2 to 1 ratio of wavelength and frequency is repeated with each higher octave and represents a fundamental property of energetic waves, called resonance” (52). The seed (1) and potential (8) come into resonance with each other, healing (“whol-ing’) and sealing the entity. From a numerological perspective, she notes that ”the essence of the number eight is the continual weaving together of the world of energy" (52). From a scientific chemistry perspective, she points out that periodic table rows "complete the expression of the properties in an eight step cycle or octave, which was eventually discovered to relate to the completion of orbital shells of electrons at different energetic states around the atomic nuclei" (52-3). From a geological perspective she notes that “The Gutenberg-Richter Power law of earthquakes shows that when their magnitude doubles, their frequency is reduced by a factor of four – this 2:1 relationship represents the harmonic of the octave.” (82). From an esoteric perspective, she discusses the need and evidence for an eighth chakra to complete the traditional seven, and notes that "Only when we resonate to a higher octave of awareness do we begin to fully comprehend the wholeness of who we really are.” (230).
Elgin (1993) also references an “eighth dimension” in which “the polarities of life will be integrated continuously into a higher synthesis” (206). He believes at that eighth stage in human development, we will come to see “the entire Universe as continuously woven together as a single, flowing creation”, and “a holographic entity, where all is contained within all” (218) and that the torus is the most adequate geometric form to represent that (207).
Timothy Leary (1987) defines an eight circuit model of consciousness that has also been mapped onto other models of eight as in the tables below. Note the significance of the half-way point that is also key in the volution process.
This shows that it is possible to make a good case for the description of a complete entity using the number eight and the octave.
Dylan Newcomb (personal communication, 10 May 2016) notes how the octave is also an expression of three polarity dimensions, making possible a link between the trinity described above and the octave. In his work with the i Ching he describes how one polarity dimension is simply Yin and Yang, or Other and Self. As that dimensiondifferentiates to a second dimension, we get Yin-Yang-Yin-Yang, and the core dynamic of differentiation (Yin) and integration (Yang). One more differentiation goes to three dimensions and an octave of 4 Yins and 4 Yangs, with a core dynamic of contract (Yin) and expand (Yang). The first dimension he relates to the first person Subject and can de seen as the volutionary seed of the present moment. The third dimension he relates to the third person Object, which can be seen as the Potential future out there that is seen in the future. The second dimension he relates to the second person Verb and the relationship between Subject and Object with the process of differentiation and integration. In this way the trinity and the octave are integrated.
It is now time to turn to the detail of the eight phases. As mentioned above, this draws on the Spiral Dynamics model (Beck & Cowan 1996), a theory of human individual and collective development that evolved from the work of Dr Clare W Graves (2002). It essentially describes the evolution of underlying values systems in people and societies from survival onwards. The idea that we as humanity have evolved in a linear process over time is probably one of the most widely accepted ideas across the human species. There is debate between more religious fundamentalist perspectives and more scientific-rational perspectives about exactly when it all began (e.g. a few thousand years ago versus 14 billion years ago), but they all agree on the idea that since that beginning we have been evolving through historical time with a past, present and future. Indeed, even our most popular philosophers and spiritual teachers tend to promote an evolutionary perspective (Wilber (1996), Cohen (2011), Laszlo (1996)). In my own book (Merry 2009) I adopted and connected these various evolutionary theories.
However, over the last years I have come to question this perspective, and the volution theory emerged from that inquiry. The map of the territory of our human development that I am most familiar with is that of Spiral Dynamics (Beck & Cowan 1996) and the archetypal dynamics of that journey (Wilber 1996). Based on the research of Clare W Graves (Graves 2002), it describes the evolution of our individual and collective worldviews, oscillating between I-centered and We-centered perspectives, in interaction with the life conditions as we experience them around us. Here is a summary of the worldviews:
Graves, and Beck and Cowan after him, postulate that our evolution is a never-ending quest, with one worldview’s solutions sowing the seeds for the next set of existential problems, which a new worldview emerges to solve.
During the very first course I followed with Dr Don Beck on Spiral Dynamics, I remember saying to him that it seemed to me that the model Spiral Dynamics came out of a Yellow worldview, and that therefore once we get to Turquoise, we should expect the model itself to start to look out-dated and a more adequate model to emerge. He replied: “I like the way you think, Peter Merry”. That was the start of what has been a great relationship. Now it feels like the Turquoise moment has come, and in the very spirit of what lies at the heart of Spiral Dynamics, it is time to expand our current understanding, while embracing the best of what it has given us so far.
From Worldviews to Energy Dynamics
In my work with Dylan Newcomb, exploring the energy dynamics of the Spiral Dynamics value systems through the body, we settled on a framing that held to the set of eight worldviews. One of the main reasons for that at that time was that we didn’t feel that we could stretch much beyond Turquoise ourselves, and that there was very little data on Turquoise itself let alone anything postulated to exist beyond that. Coupled with Newcomb’s musical background and the natural form of an octave, and my sense that the model would shift anyway when we got beyond Yellow, we decided to work with the eight. It is important to remember that this was a choice, and therefore gives us data from that octave perspective.
When we started to explore the spiral through the octave lens, some interesting insights emerged that formed the beginning of my inquiry into a new framing. One of the key findings was a relationship between Beige (1) and Turquoise (8), Purple (2) and Yellow (7), Red (3) and Green (6), Blue (4) and Orange (5), as depicted in Figure 20.
The body-based research that we carried out around this involved having dozens of different dancers explore the dynamics of these eight value systems through sound and movement. One of the key outcomes was that the pairs of value systems above each ended up having the same basic movements but with a different quality. The movements in Beige to Blue were more solid and fixed than their echoes in Orange to Turquoise, which were more fluid and relaxed. As we looked into what the quality of the energy dynamics was related to each worldview pairing, an interesting pattern started to emerge. The outer-systems (starting at beige-turquoise) were more archetypal in their nature, that is to say that they reflected morethe extremes and essences of yin and yang, whereas the closer you got to the center, the more refined the systems became, in increasingly subtle combinations of yin and yang. This can be seen in the image, where the white and black circles reflect yin and yang. In the center they are more differentiated and in the extremes more pure.
Seeing Spiral Dynamics in this way gave me the impression that there was somehow a meta-map behind this map that was describing the creative process of life, from seed to fruit and back to seed again. The image I had was of more subtle archetypal energies coming ever more into form as they move in from the outer dynamics (Beige-Turquoise) to the core where it crystallises into manifestation (between Blue and Orange). This also happens to be the location on the Spiral octave map above of the heart chakra (verified through body energy research), known to be the ultimate place of connection and crystallisation. I had a sense of a breathing process, out of a field of potential into form and back out again, continually expanding and embracing. It didn’t feel linear any more, but somehow pulsing in and out, like a heart, connecting energy with matter, or heaven with Earth.
The concept of more subtle layers of reality literally in-forming the physical world reflects Currivan’s perspective of The Cosmic Hologram (2017): “for everything which manifests in the physical world does so as the emergence from deeper and ordered levels of non-physical and in-formed reality”. She notes that everything has a vibrational frequency and wavelength - it is just that energies (in the outer layers of the Spiral) are moving waves whereas particles / matter (at the centre of the Spiral) are “forms of standing waves” - energy and matter are both composed of waves, just differing on a scale of moving or standing. “The higher the frequency the greater the energy or more fundamentally the information embodied.”
Wilber (1982,166-168) notes the similar language used to describe the basic realm of physics (which could be seen as the Seed or Level 1 of the volution octave) and the transcendent realm of mysticism (which could be seen as the Potential or Level 8 of the volution octave) - one of interconnectedness outside of linear time and space. Wilber bemoans how this has lead some to collapse the two levels into each other, erroneously suggesting that the realm of Level 1 quantum physics can inform us about Level 8 mysticism. From a volutionary perspective, we can acknowledge that they are very different stages, while at the same time noting that there is likely to be resonance as these two stages are connected as the outer layer of the torus. Wilber (168) criticises people for suggesting that what Bohm described as “implicate” at the physical level could be applied in the same way to the transcendent level. Volution enables us to embrace both perspectives by noting that Levels 1 and 8 are indeed very different in their qualities yet at the same time the creative tension field that they co-create as Seed and Potential is indeed an “implicate” in the sense that it holds the potential of the manifest reality and is invisible to most people's perception. The implicate then both “subscends” and “transcends” (168) visible reality. The main difference between Wilber’s model of vertical stages and the volution thesis, is that Wilber only explores the vertical unfolding in which an earlier stage holds the implicate order that “becomes explicate at the next” (171) whereas volution suggestions that there is an implicate to explicate dynamic that also works from the outside of the torus in, through the resonance between polarities of levels in the octave as described above. This relationship between “higher” and “lower” fits an intuition I have that the more your awareness expands to take in more of reality (e.g. transcendent mysticism) the more refined and differentiated your understanding of the world becomes (e.g. quantum physics). The transcendence and subscendence happen in parallel, like a tree having to grow deeper roots in parallel to higher branches - in that sense, it grows out from the centre. This matches Currivan’s description of the life process being a process of increasing parallel integration and differentiation.
Small Wright (1997) gives this description that matches the volutionary octave:
From our perspective, form and energy create one unit of reality and are differentiated from one another solely by the individual’s ability to perceive them with his or her sensory system. In short, the differentiation between form and energy within any given object, plant, animal or human lies with the observer. (3)
In the volutionary octave, the closer something is to the centre, the more likely we are to be able to perceive form with our senses. It is ultimately one spectrum of information expressed as energy, which becomes form (as standing waves) at the moment we are able to perceive it. This is reflected in the frequency at which information vibrates, getting lower as it gets denser towards the centre of the torus:
Light vibrates at a frequency of five times 10 to the 14th power Hertz; the Earth's magnetic field vibrates only at 8 to 10 Hertz. Nerve cells can have vibrations between 10 and 1,000 Hertz. Human skin cells vibrate at a frequency of six Hertz. (Nefiodow 2014, 106)
I had been exploring the torus for a while as a fundamental pattern of life but had never really looked into the dynamics that it reflects. What resonated with me and my inquiry was the subtle, lighter outer skin and denser inner core, like in my new sense of Spiral Dynamics. When I saw the animated jitterbug graphic for the first time at the Wisdom University Geometrica intensive in Chartres 2011, I could see in front of me the breathing process that I had been feeling was related to the dynamic underneath my new Spiral Dynamics map.
The concept of a unified field out of which every form emerges, described in Chapter 4, resonated with my experience and understanding of there being an absolute and relative dimension to life, and allowed me to park the absolute perspective with the concept of unified field so that I could devote myself to exploring the relative dimension without worrying that it was ignoring the ultimate truth of absolute unity.
The idea of there being a geometry to the unified field, the Vector Equilibrium (VE), which is ready at any moment to come into movement and create form, enabled me to bridge from a feeling of the unified field to a cognitive sense of it in the relative world. It resonated with my understanding of the Spiral Dynamics model having the most fundamental unity-based dynamics at the extremes, holding the other worldview dynamics between two poles. Beige is a sub-conscious pre-cognitive unity system where the drive is pure survival, with no thought process coming between our instinct and its expression, and full living in the moment blending with the environment. It could be seen as the seed. Turquoise is a supra-conscious post-cognitive unity system that experiences reality as one interlocking sea of energy. It could be seen as the potential. A Vector Equilibrium is six pairs of vectors, six polarities holding the structure in balance. As I contemplated how this might relate to the Spiral Dynamics octave perspective, I realised that actually only six of the worldviews could be seen to contain polarity, as the extremes of Beige and Turquoise were unity systems. From that perspective, in Spiral Dynamics there are also a set of six polarity vectors (Purple to Yellow). I also realised that in themselves, that set is also in relationship as polarised pairs, with Purple-Yellow, Red-Green and Blue-Orange. As I said above, the two members of a pair contain the same basic dynamic, but with a very different form:
These pairs through their polarity seem to have the function of pulling potential from the extremes (seed Beige and potential Turquoise) into form at the heart (between Blue and Orange), through the phases of:
• connecting up what needs to be connected and defining what is core and periphery (Purple-Yellow),
• putting it into right relationship by defining the identity of each part and its relationship to the rest (Red-Green)
• and manifesting it in form through creating just enough structure for it to be able to thrive and grow (Blue-Orange)
This is what in the geometry is known as “tensional integrity”, or tensegrity (Edmondson, A 2009), as the tension manifests the form and the form holds the tension. As I sensed into this dynamic I got an image of the seed (e.g. Beige) and potential (e.g.. Turquoise) arising at one and the same moment. It is a moment of conception at which point a seed planted in the physical world is in resonance with its potential in the informational world, forming together an energetic envelop within which that life form can crystallise out. It is literally a process of the integration of heaven and earth, of in-formation, as subtle energy potential inspires (“breathes into”) physical form and physical form draws down the energy through its density and gravity so it can manifest in three-dimensional reality.
This reflects the process described geometrically by Marshall Lefferts (2012). When the unified field and Vector Equilibrium come into disequilibrium, a process is triggered in which a dynamic geometry is released in a process of continual enfolding and unfolding as it breathes into the core and out to the periphery, linking up all levels and densities of energy, including matter. The density increases as the scale gets smaller towards the center of the Vector Equilibrium, as it does towards the center of the Spiral Dynamics model. As it enfolds and unfolds, the dynamic jitterbug form passes through the geometric shapes that make up the platonic solids, known to be the core geometries at the foundation of all life forms, as explored above.
In my new understanding of Spiral Dynamics, this would correlate with the icosahedron being yellow-purple, the dodecahedron green-red and the octahedron blue-orange. A brief review of descriptions of the qualities of the geometric forms (Patinkas 2014) do suggest resonance with the worldviews as linked above, although to postulate it with more conviction would need much more research. What we can conclude is that this jitterbug dynamic literally links energetic potential with material form through its dynamic geometry. This reflects well the Spiral Dynamics model from the perspective I described above. It is the creation process.
Seeing Spiral Dynamics in this way, as an example of a deeper creation dynamic, links it very closely to the dynamics of the torus. The torus describes the form of the flow field that surrounds the Vector Equilibrium and jitterbug dynamics. It is essentially a spinning dynamic. The Vector Equilibrium collapse goes hand in hand with the emergence of the torus form. This connection between the torus and Spiral Dynamics suggests that we can look at the human story more in terms of spin, pulses and breath, rather than linear evolution. It was this realisation, that evolution and involution are both part of the core life process, and that it is neither one without the other, that triggered me to use the term “volution” instead. When it came to me, I had no idea what it meant, just that it seemed to cover both evolution and involution as it was at the root of both. When I looked it up I saw that it meant “turn” and “spin”, which fits the toroidal perspective.
Having laid out the argument for revisiting our evolutionary understanding of human development from a volutionary perspective, it is important to note how the linearity still has its place.
From Beige to Blue, our reality manifests in the material plane through those worldviews, but each of those systems is in resonance with its values-system partner informationally. That could explain why in the time periods of Beige and Purple (where we were apparently pre-cognitive in our development), we created great pyramids and temple structures which are being shown today to have encoded in their geometry the physics of the vacuum and so-called “dark matter” (Melchizedek 1990). The resonance with Turquoise/Yellow somehow enabled Beige/Purple to manifest those structures bypassing the central cognition-driven value systems (Red to Green). From Orange to Turquoise, our world manifests in resonance with their earlier values-system partner, which means that we have to clear up any pain or unfinished business from the earlier phase to be able to maturely manifest the later partner (i.e. orange fully integrate blue, green fully integrate red, yellow fully integrate purple and turquoise fully integrate beige). That has certainly been my personal experience and would also be an explanation for why Dr Don Beck and Ken Wilber targeted a Red-Green combination which they called the Mean Green Meme (Wilber 2003) as a blockage to the emergence of Yellow. The central point of the octave between Blue and Orange, where we identified the heart chakra in the body-energy research, seems to be where the individual or system becomes conscious of itself and its purpose, and goes through a process of integration on its journey to wholeness. The pairs are locked in a co-creative dance. At the end of the process, potential information (heaven) and seed matter (earth) have been fully fused, all worldviews infuse each other in an octave harmonic, a major cycle is complete, the toroidal entity is functioning at its highest potential, and ready to be the seed for a new scale of manifestation.
Elgin (1993) describes what he calls “dimensional coevolution” in a similar way:
Development proceeds as an arc that turns back upon itself. In the initial stages, humanities evolutionary challenge is to separate from nature and discover our capacities as a relatively autonomous species. In the later stages, our challenge is to reintegrate ourselves with nature and to learn to act in conscious harmony with the cosmos. Evolution moves through a nested series of perceptual environments, each with new challenges and potentials, that gradually turn back upon themselves to create self-referencing beings and civilizations that are intimately connected with the deep ecology of the Universe. (220)
Wilber (1982) describes how levels in a holarchy like this are “mutually interpenetrating and interconnecting. But not in an equivalent fashion. The higher transcends but includes the lower - not vice versa”. (160). He summarises this as a “multidimensional interpenetration with nonequivalence”. This means that the higher is aware of, can see and embrace the lower, but not the other way round. Wilber calls the volutionary journey an “Atman Project”, referring to the Hindu concept of a World Soul from which all individual souls emerge and to which they return. Once the initial impulse has been felt and there is a movement out of the unified field, a “subtle ripple, awakening to itself” (161), this ripple wants to return to the Infinite from which it came, yet knows that it would cease to exist if it did, and is therefore also afraid of returning. Not being able to, it creates all sorts of substitutes, initially setting itself up as a God as it crystallises its own identity, getting more and more concrete as it moves from the causal to the subtle to the pranic and the material, where “it falls into insentient slumber” (161). This is the central point of the volution process, where the identity of the entity has fully crystallised before it then becomes more conscious of itself and starts it re-integration towards the next level of wholeness.
Wilber (1982) makes an important point that points towards an integration of a more traditional fractal, holographic perspective - as often described in relationship to quantum mechanics - with a holarchical understanding of levels or phases as above. He makes the case that the pure holographic nature of reality can be seen within each level of development, but not across levels. The physicists discovered holograms in the physical realm, a “one dimensional interpenetration of the material plane” (164), where all elements of that realm are “mutually interpenetrating and interdependent”. However the nature of the holographic patterns at that level are not the same as the patterns at a different level, for example, biological, mental or pranic. This means we need to talk about a holographic holarchical reality, in which patterns will exist between the levels but the patterns within each level cannot be reduced to the patterns within another level. Given that it is all information expressed in different ways, the informational imprint will exist across levels, yet it will express itself differently within each level. Wilber argues this strongly, in order to dissuade a growing trend of immediately assuming that patterns found at the quantum physical level can be applied to the subtle and causal levels. An overlap of language adds to the confusion (e.g. interconnectedness, oneness) but it is important to distinguish between a pre-conscious experience of unity (e.g. Spiral dynamics beige or quantum mechanics) and a post-conscious experience of unity (e.g. Spiral Dynamics Turquoise or transcendent consciousness).
Frank Barr, in his description of Arthur M Young’s work, describes a similar process, where manifestation starts with the Potential (Seed) at level 1 and then descends into form and connection before returning conscious to level 1 as “realization”. In this casethe pivot moment and level 4 would be equivalent to the two related phases in the volutionary octave.
Anne Baring (2013) describes our civilisation’s journey from the lunar to the solar to the integration of solar and lunar. The phases of development that Baring describes can be related to the eight Spiral Dynamics stages in the following way:
- Beige/Purple - lunar instinctive; the time we are immersed in lunar consciousness without being aware of there being a potentially different way of experiencing life
- Red/Blue - solar instinctive; the time we grow into solar consciousness as a reaction to the limitations of the lunar age, unaware of the potential implications of our solar impulse
- Orange/Green - solar integration; the time we become aware of our solar development: Orange becomes aware of Blue rules and structure and we learn to play the game; Green becomes aware of Red individuality and diversity so looks to embrace it
- Yellow/Turquoise - lunar integration; as we become of the lunar parts of ourselves, that we left behind a while ago, and are confronted by the limits of our solar development: Yellow becomes aware of Purple interconnectedness so tries to re-integrate everything; Turquoise becomes aware of Beige unity and body instinct consciousness so looks to engage it consciously and complete the cycle.
This awareness helped me to develop a basic map of how the volutionary development from seed to potential works:
Relating the Lunar-Solar-Integration phases to this description would look as follows:
With this perspective, we now return to the mirror-like dynamic that seems to be at play, whereby the system develops to a moment of self-awareness (through four phases in the octave model), and then consciously sets about integrating the earlier developed parts of itself, as each of the following four phases become conscious expressions of their earlier partner system.
Currivan (2017) describes this central “crossover” point in the life of our Universe:
From the outward push of the Big Bang, the expansion of space slowly decelerated due to the gravitational effect of both visible and Dark Matter enabling both to cluster into stars and galaxies. But as space extends beyond a certain point, the density of such attractive energies diminishes until a crossover is reached with the density of Dark Energy which then dominates over the remaining life-time of our Universe.
In this description we see a shift at the crossover point from the domination of Dark Matter to the domination of Dark Energy. In volution language, Dark Matter can be seen as the equivalent of the seed energy and Dark Energy as the equivalent of the potential energy. For the first part of the journey the past patterns held in the seed dominate, and for the second the future patterns held in the potential dominate.
Walter Russell (Binder 1995, 48) saw these two dynamics continually going on in parallel:
The essence of the wave can be expressed as the appearance and disappearance of motion/matter from the One in two directions: direction from the inertial, cathode plane and its progression through four generating stages to maturity at the anode where it simulates stillness in the One by fast motion, and then from there in the other direction through four degenerating stages to dissolution where it again loses form in the inertial, cathode plane, stillness. The one aspect of motion common to both these directions is spiral motion.
From a linear perspective, for the first half of that journey the entity is relatively unconscious of itself and is following a pathway of development that is more shaped from its environment that from its own internal will. The first half of the journey draws on pre-existing information captured from the past experiences of similar entities, information that is held in information fields, such as the morphogenetic fields that Sheldrake describes (1981) or the Akashic field that Laszlo describes (2004). These fields hold archetypal patterns that go on to influence how the system manifests and that the system only becomes aware of in the later stages of the second half of the journey (Grof 2012). These archetypal patterns provide an invisible level of coherence underlying the increasingly differentiate and seemingly chaotic manifest expression. In this first half, the entity is downloading past patterns from that field and acting without much own initiative or free will - the same way that collectives such as organisations do when they are running on auto-pilot with little innovation (this is described in detail in Senge et al (2004) and labelled as “downloading”).
For the second half of the journey, the entity is waking up to itself, realizing that it has choices about its existence and starting to co-create reality rather than simply consume reality as it is. However, in order to move forward in that way, and add new information to the fields, or create new “kosmic grooves” as Ken Wilber (1995) would call them, energy that is held within the system linked to past experiences and beliefs needs to be transformed and released. From this perspective, an entity adheres to the law of the conservation of energy - the total energy of an isolated system remains constant and is said to be conserved over time. From the moment of seed-potential conception, the system has all the energy it needs to manifest its potential. In order to evolve beyond the way things have been until the present, the entity needs to transform and release old energy to co-create new expressions of life. New insights, new light, reveals new shadows that need integration to manifest the potential of the new awareness.
In the context of this seemingly intricate relationship between the past and the future, it is interesting to note that the term uvatiarru used by the Inuit of Baffin Island, can be translated as both “long ago” and “in the future” (Abram 1996, 221). Rees (2013) describes this second half of the journey as “the recovery of memory” (12) in the introduction to her poetic work about this process.
This process was at the heart of CG Jung’s work. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1995, 17) he starts his Prologue with these words:
My life is a story of the self-realisation of the unconscious. Everything in the unconscious seeks outward manifestation, and the personality too desires to evolve out of its unconscious conditions and to experience itself as a whole.
Later on in the same work he comes to that conclusion that “there is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self” (222). That looks very much like Figure 30 below, where is the self is at the centre and go through a process of expanding and embracing.
The process of transforming past energy for new futures can be described in five phases (see images below):
- an impulse to growth - the entity feels the pull to develop a new part of its potential
- light descends - this impulse releases new information or the light of awareness into the entity
- shadow enlightened - the patterns of the past that need transforming are revealed
- energy released - energy is released as the past patterns are transformed
- growth - with that new energy, the entity is able to crystallise and embody the new information, accessing new degrees of freedom
The light of the new information triggers an expansive drive for greater agency and freedom, while at the same time love and understanding are needed to embrace and integrate the past. These two fundamental dynamics that happen in parallel to each other reflect two of the main drives of a holon (see above) that Wilber (2005) describes, agency and communion. This stretching for the light, reconnecting with love and being in the middle of that, could be seen as an expression of the three person perspectives of language. Reaching out to something outside of us, an “it”, is a third person expression, reconnecting with love to past trauma in us to put humpty-dumpty back together again is engaging in a relationship with a second person “you” to make a “we”, while the first person “I” sits at the centre of this dynamic. In this way the three person perspectives can be seen as part of the dynamic volution of life, not simply categories of perspective.
To release the energy for greater agency, the sub-holons that currently make up the main holon need to be re-arranged so they become more efficient leaving more energy for growth, through more natural communion. The relationships of the parts to each other and to the whole grow increasingly close to the Phi proportion as they crystallise into greater refinement, thus needing less energy themselves and releasing more for increased growth and agency of the whole. Currivan (2005) beautifully summarises this process of healing and completion: "whilst in its rising and falling the polarity expressions of yang and yin are overt, it is in the turning points of its peaking and reforming that the cycle is able to complete and move on" (35).
Another perspective on the process of reaching down to heal past trauma in order to release the information for future development can be found in change model of Spiral Dynamics (Beck & Cowan 1996). A fundamental element of the Spiral Dynamics model is the understanding of how value systems change. The change model comprises three main parts: a description of states of change (from stable through transition phases into new stability), a description of the conditions that need to be in place for change to happen, and a description of different types of change known as change variations. These three are connected through a powerful change matrix. For this point I am going to focus first on the change variations. The change variations describe different intensities of change that a system can be going through:
CV-4, the “down-stretch” is related to the going back to heal past pain while the CV-5 “up-stretch” accesses more light and information from a potential future. We cannot shift into the “vertical” change dynamics of change variations 6-8, where the whole system renews, until we have done enough down- and up-stretching. The down-stretching will release energy that is being held in past traumas, and the up-stretching will access new, higher frequency energy of the future. It is this build up of energy that pushes us into the break-out and up-shift when the time is ripe.
People’s ability to influence the past is also something that has been demonstrated through experiments. Radin (2013, 263-5) documents what he calls a “time-reversed, or retrocausal, experiment” that demonstrated how people exerting a certain intention three months after data was originally recorded, had an influence on that previously recorded data. This implies that the past is not fixed and can be influenced from its future. The key seems to be when the observation happens, which is always in the present. In this case, “the observation phase … took place three months after the data were generated and recorded.” So although recorded at the start point, they were not consciously observed until three months later. The observer cannot be separated from the observed.
This process of development in which differentiation increases over time is the dynamics of informational entropy. In The Cosmic Hologram, Currivan (2017) describes entropy in terms of informational content and flow (see also Laszlo & Currivan 2008, 49). Entropy is often used to refer to the relative measure of order or disorder in a system, with increasing entropy being related to increasing disorder, although the physicists actually understand it as a difference in the microstates of the system, from simplicity to complexity (see for example Boltzmann 1866). The dynamics of entropy are captured in the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that: ‘The entropy of an isolated system will always tend to stay the same or to increase.’ From a volution perspective, the way this plays out is that at the seed-potential initiation moment, entropy is at its lowest, as it was just before the Big Bang. In other words, order is at its greatest and everything is undifferentiated in the seed, with the potential being held in the informational field. As the process of life and manifestation unfolds, the information and seed grow into each other, the seed expands and differentiates into increasing numbers of parts, the brane of the entity expands at the same time increasing the differentiation of the information held in the brane (as described above), and entropy increases as the original undifferentiated unity and order becomes increasingly expressed in a diversity of form and “disorder”. This is literally what creates our experience of linear time (Laszlo & Currivan 2008, 54-5). Towards the centre of the volutionary torus, information gains mass as the energy forms into standing waves, and “mass slows things down … enabling the entropic flow of information and so the experience of time itself”. It is important to note that the increase in entropy and “disorder” does not mean that the parts lose their interconnectedness - they are still held together by the field of the entity as a whole and are ultimately simply diverse expressions of that one original impulse. This is different to the way in which entropy is often used to simply mean breakdown. Wilber (personal communication, 24 September 2016) distinguishes between “agape” which is the embrace of the parts and fits informational entropy, and “thanatos” which is the breakdown into parts which lose the interrelatedness.
Out of the increasing “disorder” of informational entropy a new level of order starts to emerge. This emergence of a new order has been called “syntropy” or “negentropy”. Griffith (2011) describes how biologists use the latter term to describe the basic direction of life, with increasing co-operation. The Wikipedia entry on negentropy notes that “In 2009, Mahulikar & Herwig redefined negentropy of a dynamically ordered sub-system as the specific entropy deficit of the ordered sub-system relative to its surrounding chaos.” Given that the volutionary impulse is a response to a need in the world, the “surrounding chaos” is context which the entity is growing to respond to. So “entropy deficit” is when the entity has not yet differentiated into enough diversity to be able to deal with the level of complexity that the life conditions it finds itself in require. Negentropy is then the entity’s relative ability to deal with the complexity of its life conditions - it is the emerging order of the mature entity that it is becoming.
Currivan (personal communication, 11 Feb 2016) notes that there is actually no need to create other terms alongside entropy (such as syntropy or negentropy), as informational entropy actually covers the whole process of increasing parallel differentiation and reintegration. It is information expressed as space-time - one process, as with volution (as compared to involution and evolution). It is from simplicity to complexity concentrated in greater differentiation. In the volution model, the Seed-Potential field represents information expressed as matter-energy and is conserved, as per quantum theory on energy-matter and its conservation. The integration of the Seed with its Potential is information expressed entropically, going from minimum entropy to its maximum entropy, as per relativity theory on space-time and the second law of thermodynamics. Quantum theory and relativity theory have traditionally been in conflict with scientists struggling to reconcile them. Currivan refers to them as simply the first law of information and the second law of information respectively. Together they are a perfect way to make a Universe. As she frames it in a presentation (2016), the First Law of Thermodynamics which is that “energy-matter whilst changing its forms is universally conserved” transforms to the “First Law of Information: Information expressed as energy-matter whilst changing its forms is symmetrically and universally conserved throughout our Universal lifecycle - essentially Quantum Theory”. The Second Law of Thermodynamics namely “entropy can only increase” becomes the “Second Law of Information: Information expressed as space-time can only asymmetrically and entropically increase throughout our Universal lifecycle - essentially Relativity Theory”.
Key is also that within any bounded system, the amount of energy is conserved throughout its life process, with the expansive and attractive forces in balance (Currivan 2017, 27). Therefore energy that may be trapped in earlier stages of the system needs to be released in order for the system to complete its journey to new wholeness.
In the volution model, the original order has the highest influence on the system until it passes the halfway point in its development when the new order starts to dominate - from a pull from the past to a pull from the future. At its highest level of differentiation or “disorder” (seen in terms of the original order), the system is actually at its most ordered in terms of the entity that it was born to become - the fruit of the seed that becomes a new seed. Dylan Newcomb’s work that continues to relate these kind of dynamics to the I Ching, noted that in the second half of the octave cycle, the system has a foundational pro-active energy, as compared to a reactive foundation in the first half (D. Newcomb, personal communication, 15 December 2015). This reinforces the argument that the system becomes more self-aware past the half-way point and pro-actively starts to co-create its reality rather than simply “downloading” existing patterns in the information fields. Newcomb also notes the increasing degrees of “sophistication and freedom” as an entity matures, together with an increasing ability to deal with complexity with decreasing conflict and to hold a longer timespan in its awareness. These last two points reflect the same characteristics of the Spiral Dynamics value systems as they unfold - in fact, Graves (2002) said the only thing he could say about the general directionality of the value systems was that of their increasing ability to deal with complexity. Newcomb also sees this as increasing entropy and relates it to increasing asymmetry, as described in the work of Tom Bearden and Michael Leyton (2003). Bearden seems to be pointing to the same process using different terms, where “symmetry” would relate to “order” and “asymmetry” to “disorder”, both describing an entropic process of increasing differentiation leading to the emergence of a new level of order. When Newcomb analyses the I Ching hexagrams he sees each yáo (broken or unbroken horizontal line) reflecting the increasing maturity of a system, moving from the base of the hexagram up. Newcomb sees the top trigram as the “context” and the lower trigram as the “action” with the two integrating with each other in the same dynamic of the octave as described above. The entity thus grows into becoming mature enough to deal adequately with its context, at which point it reaches fruition. Given the amount of information now in the system, it needs to emerge into a new form and let go of the old, so that it can continue the process of informational entropy, absorbing more information and differentiating into ever more refined and interconnected expressions of life.
Currivan (2017, 39) describes this moment of fruition in the life, and projected death, of our Universe:
perhaps like a bubble that bursts as its inner pressure equals that of the surrounding atmosphere, this end-time may express a point of equivalence when our Universe may release its accumulated information, knowledge and wisdom into the infinite Cosmic plenum within which it was born, lives and will die.
If this process is extended to any entity, we could say that once the volutionary octave process is complete, and the original impulse for that manifestation of life has run its course, then the “inner pressure” of the seed-potential now matches the “surrounding atmosphere” of the life conditions it has entered into to fill a niche, reaching “equivalence” and dissolving itself into the bigger whole, making all its information and wisdom available - seeding new possibilities. One could say that the mission given to this entity by the bigger life process of the system it is part of - a mission to bring certain information into the system - has been successfully completed and the entity’s final act is to gift that information to the system as a whole.
Elgin (1993, 301) describes this process in a similar way, marking the turning point as the moment we achieve “self-referencing knowing - when we ‘know that we know’”. This is the same as the mid-point in the volutionary process. From that point on, he believes, “we no longer require the density of our material world and physical body to center our knowing process upon itself”. The body can then die and the entity endures “as a subtle body of light and knowing”.
Teilhard de Chardin describes this completion moment as the “Omega point”. Brian Swimme (1990) summarises it in this way: “The Universe is moving in the direction of reaching a point where every aspect of the Universe knows every other aspect in its depth.” This reflects the volutionary moment where the whole system is fully integrated and conscious of itself.
Walter Russell sees the process as ongoing rather than linear, “a steady explosion and implosion state of eternal creation, a continuous life-and-death cycling. … It is a two-way, continuous-creation, eternally living-dying Universe” (Binder 1995, 45).
This volutionary process also matches the dynamics of holons and holarchies described by Wilber (1995), which we touched on in the previous section. Wilber identifies four “fundamental capacities” of holons (40-46): self-preservation (a capacity “to preserve their own particular wholeness or autonomy”), self-adaptation (a capacity “to adapt or accommodate itself to other holons”), self-transcendence (a capacity for “transformation that results in something novel and emergent”), and self-embrace (“Agape reaches down and embraces all the lower holons in the higher holon” - personal communication 24 September 2016). The process I describe above focuses primarily on the self-transcendence capacity, which goes hand-in-hand with “symmetry breaks” (Wilber quoting Jantsch) - a break down of the original order so that a new order can emerge. In that process, Wilber refers to Whitehead’s famous dictum “The many become one and are increased by one” (49). The differentiation that emerges with the increased entropy comes together again in a new unity which adds a new level of complex life. In that new order, the old is “transcended but included”, and comes into a greater level of order so that it can be of more coherent service to the new whole. Wilber quotes the biologist Rupert Sheldrake on this matter: “The morphic units in isolation behave more indeterminately when they are part of a higher level morphic unit. The higher level morphogenetic field restricts and patterns their intrinsic indeterminism” (54). The higher level brane increases the probability of the lower level branes acting in ways to support the purpose of the higher level system. Wilber’s final major tenet on holarchies (“Evolution has directionality”) summarises that directionality with five main aspects: increasing complexity, increasing differentiation/integration, increasing organization/structuration, increasing relative autonomy and increasing telos (67-78). The volution model as described above shows how a more expanded brane with more information is able to deal with greater complexity. Differentiation/integration is the informational entropic process. The increasing organization happens as new levels of brane emerge that need to contain a larger number of sub-branes. The increasing relative autonomy is related to the increasing ability of a more expanded brane to deal with greater complexity (“a holon’s capacity for self-preservation in the midst of environmental fluctuations” (71)). Increasing telos is what Wilber describes as the “chaotic attractor” (referring to Chaos Theory) that is pulling the system towards a new level of order out of the increasing differentiation and apparent chaos. In the volution model, the chaotic attractors would start to exert their greatest pull past the half-way point in the life-cycle, whereas in the first half of the journey the behaviour of the entity is dominated by the existing “periodic attractors” of the old stable system. It is worth quoting Laszlo (1994) at length on this:
When growing fluctuations upset the dynamic stability of a system, it's stable point of periodic attractors can no longer maintain it in its established state; chaotic attractors appear and with them an interval of transition hallmarked by transitory chaos. When the system achieves a new state of dynamic stability, the chaotic contractors of the bifurcation epoch give way to a new set of point or periodic attractors. These attractors maintain the system in a condition far from thermodynamic equilibrium, with more effective use of information, greater efficiency in the use of free energies, greater flexibility, as well as greater structural complexity on a higher level of organisation (93).
In this Chapter we have looked at evidence for certain stages of development and dynamics within the volution process, completing the theoretical description of volution. In the next section we will look at the implications of applying this perspective to individual, cultural and societal development.