Joan Umbert Font

Licenciado en pedagogía


País: España



Wilber’s Integral Post-Metaphysics

(Synthesis by Joan Umbert Font)


Where are we going? Where do we come from? Is there an afterlife? Is there reincarnation? If there is something, how life should be in the afterlife?


Since the dawn of humanity, in all civilizations, without exception, appeared religions, philosophies or narratives that have been developing answers to all these questions, all based on the instructions or inspiration of people endowed with great wisdom and enlightenment.


Answered these disturbing questions, and set in scriptures or in shamans’ memory, people simply had to live fully respecting the mandates of such systems of thought, without questioning the established order from above. So, it was a system that had its foundation in metaphysical dogmas.


With the arrival of the first scientists they began to question the fundamental assumptions of those worldviews, as well as by the courage of great thinkers, that uncovered deadlocks and contradictions of the great metaphysical systems, which ended up favoring, in Occident, the step of pre-modernity to modernity [1] .


According to Ken Wilber and others, the Great Chain of Being was the way that great premodern traditions had to explain how the Spirit created, first, involutioning, and after the appearance of the ordinary world, evolving (ascending or returning) to the Spirit.


With the discoveries of modernity and postmodernity [2], the outline of the Great Chain of Being premodernity is inadequate. For starters, the Great Chain of Being was developed by scientists, by the interpretations that made its introspection and their inner experiences, and we must consider that such interpretations were made within a metaphysical framework given in advance, that is, what they did was, mold the vivid, culture and world view they had, which was pre-scientific (premodern) experiences. For example, the relationship between neurotransmitters and internal experiences is obvious from the emergence of neuroscience, but it was not in the pre-modernity.


It doesn't means that premodernity has nothing to give us, but simply needs a series of adjustments or updates, incorporating the truths of modernity and postmodernity. Wilber suggests a series of steps to integrate the truths before now, that we will see throughout this article.


The first step is that, according to Wilber, the matter is not the base or bottom rung of existence, but the external form, and consciousness is its interior counterpart. All holon [3] (facts, events, things, people, all in short), has an outer (matter-energy) and an inner (awareness) and also has an individuality and collectivity, according Wilber are the four quadrants of the Kosmos [4].


For example atoms, whose exterior forms are physical entities such as neutrons, protons, and electrons, have an interior gripper (proto-consciousness, that is, react to form bonds react to forces other porpúsculos, etc.); organisms with neural networks have internal sensations; organisms with neural cords have perception; the emergence of animals with a reptilian brain stem encourages the emergence of interior impulses and instincts; an exterior limbic system emerges with interior emotions; a triple brain is the outer shape or material of an interior consciousness that can contain, among other things, formal operational cognition, Postconventional morality, vision-logic, linguistic capacities, and so on.



Thus, what the premodern sages called metaphysical realities are INTRA-physical realities: they are not above matter, nor beyond nature, are not metaphysical or supernatural: they are not above nature, but in nature, not beyond matter but in the inside dimension. This is the first step in moving from metaphysics to integral post-metaphysics.


Now, before we continue, we will make a brief paragraph. To understand what integral post-metaphysics is, first we need to define briefly what's metaphysics. So, for metaphysics it's understood to be the branch of philosophy that deals with what is reality (ontology) and so as we know it (epistemology). With that definition, I don't intend to belittle the intellectual musings on this concept, simply say that knowing that, we understand the essence of the concept of metaphysics, a term chosen by Andronicus of Rhodes for naming the last book of a collection of writings of Aristotle, in the first eight spoke about the nature and physics, and the last was what lay beyond the physical, receiving the name of metaphysics.


With the arrival of Kant, metaphysics primarily was disrupted, saying that is the knowing subject who gives the characteristics (at least partially) of reality or things that are "out there". That is, the subject is who constructs reality as we know. Kant replaces ontological objects by subject structures, therefore to know something, I lay my knowledge structures to reality, I impose my conditions, and if it's not, it's impossible for me to know anything. The reality is not just a perception but a concept, co-created with what is given to me from outside and categories a priori placed  for me. And my conditions are that, to know scientifically something, it must be in the space and in the time, not outside or beyond them. Physics and other sciences meet that condition, but not metaphysics. Therefore metaphysics is not valid as science.


That determined the way philosophers see reality, eventually relegating metaphysics to the way of thinking that ignores the co-creative participation of the subject in what we think of as real. In other words, currently metaphysics is the mode of thinking that is caught up in the "myth of the given", that is to believe that everything is given by God or Nature (or whatever we want to call it) and we just discover it.


All this implies that spirituality should review its metaphysical assumptions (which always will be) and update them, as much of what the ancient sages took as metaphysical absolutes are culturally conditioned and molded. The experience in a subtle state of consciousness and the world view that one has needs to be reinterpreted as the subject and the subject community ascend the spiral of human development, offering a vision of deepening world and encompassing, that It is going from an egocentric view or preconventional to sociocentric or conventional view, to reach a postconventional or worldcentric vision, and beyond to reach a kosmocentric view.


Continuing steps to integrate and transcend the premodern, modern and postmodern, according to Wilber, evolution leads to complexity [5] growing of matter, and the complexity of the matter is the need for the manifestation on Earth of consciousness ever higher and the increasingly subtle energy nexus [6]. Which doesn't deny that higher forms of consciousness and energy can be detached from the subject, but simply the matter is its vehicle of expression in our ordinary world. And, as Wilber locates the subtle energies in the outside dimension (not in the realm of the inner-consciousness), it left open the possibility that higher consciousness beings have very subtle energy body, without having physical body. However, Wilber is not publicly proclaims respect. And if you believe in reincarnation (or in purgatory and heaven), this hypothesis can serve to give a logical explanation of it, eliminating most of the metaphysical postulates required by religions. Therefore, according to Wilber, the more subtle dimensions of consciousness and energy, created as a simple gradient [7] without content in the involution of the Spirit, can not be manifested in the ordinary world until the evolution of matter reaches the required degree of complexity (not panic, further down we will continue talking about the continuous gradient causal-sutil-ordinary vacuum of content in the involution of the Spirit).


Thus, the kingdoms premodernity label by higher, are not above matter (which would be metaphysics beyond natural), but inside, it would be the other side of the coin, because everything has an internal dimension and an external dimension. Some examples: a cell has irritability (inner dimension) and a physical-etheric energy body (external dimension); a mammal with limbic system has emotion (internal dimension) and a physical-etheric-astral energy body (external dimension); a dream where you argue with someone (inside dimension) happens in a person who has complex neocortex (external dimension) who has a physical-etheric-astral-psychic-causal energy body  (external dimension); etc.


Energy level corresponding to a  level of awareness:


1. Physical (gravitational, electromagnetic,            1. Apprehension

    strong and weak nuclear ...).


2. Etheric field-L 1 or 1-biological field.                  2. Vital


3. Astral, field-L 2 or 2-biological field.                   3. Emotional-sexual


4. Psychic-1 or field-T 1.                                        4. Mental


5. Psychic-2 or field-T 2.                           5. Mental upper and Overmind


6. Causal or field-C.                                              6. Overmind


Table 1. Levels of Energy and Consciousness


Prana (etheric-astral energy) is the holder of the material, psychic energy is the support of prana, and causal energy is the support of the psychic energy.


At this point, it should be noted that Ken Wilber called metaphysical to the beliefs without experiential basis, ie, that which we assume a priori to exist. Also spiritual experiences should be placed, given the development in the cognitive line, as in other lines, especially the values and moral of the person who has the experience, which is always within a cultural system, and also specify the state of consciousness that was accessed, because there are different meditative states, different from the ordinary state of consciousness, as the subtle state, the causal state and non-dual state.


To explain why an individual can access the disclosures permitted by a heightened state of awareness and interpret destructively, Ken Wilber and Allan Combs developed the "Wilber-Combs lattice" to combining the major states of consciousness (gross, subtle, causal and non-dual), with the basic levels (or structures) of consciousness: archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, integral and transpersonal. This defined a "lattice" in which to place the main ways in which a subject can interpret mystical experiences. If a Nazi experience a heightened state of awareness, he could interpret into mythical and conventional way according to their ideology of racial supremacy. While states of consciousness connect us with a particular level of reality, structures or levels of conciousness correspond to how we interpret those experiences revealed through the states.


Of course, our world view will always have metaphysical postulates [8], although Wilber's integral post-metaphysics reduces its to a minimum. In this sense, in today's world, is necessary that spirituality go througt a profund review.


Thus, 4 of the few metaphysical impulses that requires integral postmetaphysics are: 2 vertical, transcendence and dissolution, and 2 horizontal, communion and agency (transcende or dissolve; accommodate op reserve).


  1. Transcendence: Upward impulse, whereby all holon have the ability to go beyond what previously was. For example, when two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen come together in appropriate circumstances, a new holon emerges, and in some way unprecedented: the water molecule. It is not a simple association, it is a transformation that results in a new emerging. This would be the same impulse that leads from childhood to adulthood.
  2. The solution: (downward impulse) holons that are built can also be destroyed, decomposing into holons that formed it. For example, cells are decomposed into molecules and molecules are decomposed into atoms.
  3. Preservation: any holon has some ability to preserve its own wholeness or autonomy. For example, a hydrogen atom within the proper context remains a hydrogen atom. Preserving their individuality over time.
  4. Adaptation or communion: every holon is that it is (is a totality) and also part of a larger whole, and must adapt or accommodate other holons (an example is human socialization).


The last of the metaphysical assumptions that accepts the Integral model is the existence of a gradient (spectrum or continuum) causal-subtle-ordinary in the involutionary path, when the mystery of the Spirit decides to create. A gradient or spectrum, empty of content, which the emergence of structures  [9] (in evolution after Big Bang) would provide it content and form.


If we assume that the levels of the Great Chain of Being were created in involution (section that goes from Spirit to matter), we could only do this by metaphysical speculation. The postmetaphysical approach does not believe blindly the existence of something that is not accessible by some kind of consciousness. But when consciousness access to something, does not reflect it merely (as believed in modernity with the "myth of the given" or "paradigm of reflection"), but it's co-created in the act of perception, that is to say four quadrants always present: external data (right quadrants) and internal interpretations (left quadrants).


All we can assume is that, at first is just created a gradient that goes from Spirit to matter, devoid of content. The content is created in evolution, which occurs simultaneously from all four quadrants (all tetraevolve, that means that evolution in a quadrant has its counterpart in the other three quadrants) and, ultimately, from the entire AQAL matrix [10]. At the beginning of his work, Wilber said that in involution deep structures were created [11] and in the evolution apears surface structures [12]. But now holds that both are created in evolution. When enough idividuals (or holons) have been developed to a certain kosmic habit, the groove is deepened, making future holons of same species repeat such habit, leading to a structure (in any holon: human beings, bacteria, atoms, phrases, social systems, etc.).


Then, if the structures are created in evolution, the Great Chain of Being would'nt have links in the process of involution (only one gradation without content). And in the case of believing in Buddhist bards or heaven peopled of angels and Christian purgatory, or other worlds of non-incarnate beings, can be accommodated in the integral post-metaphysics, although they have acquired form and content in the evolution (section that goes from Big-Bang return to the Spirit).


In the words of Wilber, "... when Kosmic habits (or Kosmic memories) emerges for the first time, it happened a relatively open and creative way, but to the extent that a particular response was repeated, finally consolidated in a structure ever harder to eradicate". Said metaphorically, Kosmic habits, by repetition, makes deepen the "groove", leading to the creation of structures (in the top surface) of consciousness, which increasingly become deeper. Thus, they are not preexisting or ahistorical, but arise and go setting in evolution.


It can be said that integral post-metaphysical paradigm  transcends while includes the problem of the realistic world view [13] opposed to the idealistic world view [14]. Wilber resolves it brilliantly, introducing the concept of Kosmic Address.


Kosmic Address = altitude + perspective of both percipient and perceived. All knowledge would be "located" by altitude or development [15] and the perspective or quadrant in which or from which you access to such knowledge. Anything that is said, is in a particular Kosmic Address of both the subject and the object. Being aware that anything I say is said from a perspective is essential. Of course, there are more far-reaching perspectives and others more narrow, so not all interpretations are equally profound and inclusive.


To illustrate the improvement and integration of the realistic and the idealistic-subjective stance, Wilber argues "although the theory of relativity doesn't ex-ists in a animistic-magic society of the past, it SUB-SISTS in it as intrinsic feature of Kosmos, unknown to that society. Furthermore, these intrinsic features are not predetermined, but are a co-product of the level of consciousness that postulate it. In other words, the theory of relativity can be transcended and included a future theory. What changes with the Kosmic Address is how we interpret it and, because of this interpretation, we can see different things. Thus, the atoms moved from being as small planetary systems, to clouds of probability, to be composed of strings and superstrings. New experiements from different levels allow us to obtain new data that can allow us to reinterpret the nature of "the objective" from each new altitude".


That anchorage on an evolutionary scale of worldviews, is what prevents the integral post-metaphysics fall into a mere deconstructivism [16].


What is real (from the relativistic point of view) it depends of the Kosmic Address from which you're looking. Different Kosmical Directions reveal very different situations that may seem unrealistic for those who can not access that Kosmic Address.


Thus, integral post-metaphysics tries to minimize metaphysical content, and focus on the experience and the prescriptions to get experience. Recall that Wilber uses the concept of intra-physical to refer to these inner experiences in first person, which previously were  a subset of metaphysics.


All entities, deities, angels and light beings that we could experience at subtle levels, from the metaphysical point of view, would be real external entities. From the point of postmetaphysical view, would be phenomena that deploy from the Kosmic Address in which is the soul, that's subtle level. When Ken Wilber speaks of reincarnation, he never confirms nor denies its existence (despite his experience coming out of the causal absorption where his soul "recalled" its history and relates in "One Taste"), but says: "if it existed, it could be explained perfectly from the integral model". For example, Buddhists Bardos would just be a variation of the kingdoms or subtle and causal states, as we go through every night sleeping [17]. In each of them there would be a different Kosmic Address from which various phenomena would be deployed  (or lack of phenomena at causal state).


Before there were sentient beings, the subtle realm was there, empty of content, so if there was something we can not know, because we can only know by accessing the subtle now, and we do it through the content of our mental structures.


Basically, post-metaphysics claims that there is nothing ahistorical. Everything we perceive is determined and co-created by the Kosmic Address of subject and object. And in this, for example, clashes with the idea of Jungian archetypes, which are ahistorical elements that influence us. The question is: how can we maintain that there is something ahistorical uninfluenced by our structures? It maintained only by metaphysics. Because the fact is that at the time that we knew, we did from our Kosmic Address, as there is no "from-nowhere" perspective. And Jung came to the idea of archetypes with a specific methodology, which gave data that he interpreted from his Kosmic Address.


So, all spirituality should go through a thorough and extensive postmetaphysical review, to adapt to what the Spirit has found about itself in modernity and postmodernity, emerging a new more sincere and honest world view, not trying to fill gaps by speculation, which is always tinged with our desires and interests.








[1] In modernity the future replaces the past, rationality is constituted as the supreme court to which justify everything that claims to be valid. It is also the set of conditions that allow the joint emancipation of inherited traditions, doctrines or ideologies, not problematized by a traditional culture.


[2] The main features of postmodern thought are: 1/. Valuation and promotion of pluralism and diversity. 2/. They assert that texts -historical, literary or otherwise- have no authority or objectivity in revealing the author's intention, nor can its tell us "what really happened"; rather, these texts reflect prejudices, culture and particularities of the writer. 3/. That language shapes our thinking and that there can't be thought without language. So language literally creates the truth. 4/. The truth is a matter of perspective or context rather than being something universal. We have no access to reality, to the way things are, but only what appears to us.


[3] A holon is something that is both a whole and a part, either a subatomic particle, a person, a structure of cognition, a planet, words, ideas, sounds, emotions and all that can be identified, is both part of something and yet is made up of parts. A hierarchy of holons called holarchy. An example of physics: the atoms form a whole, but also part of the molecules; these are wholes which and at the same time are part of the cells, which, in turn, are part of organisms. And so on. A political example, an urban home is part of a town or a group of neighbors, part of a regional government, which is part of the government of a state, which is part of a continent, international organizations, etc. Each reality or entity (atoms, molecules, cells, organisms; urban household population, regional government, central government, etc.) is, above all, a holon.


[4] The four quadrants of the Kosmos are based on two premises. The first is that we can see everything from inside and outside, because every thing, event or person has an outer and an inner aspect. The second premise is that everything event or person can be viewed individually or in community. If we combine these aspects we will get the four corners of Kosmos or the four quadrants of Wilber.


[5] For example, a bacterium is not as complex as the triune brain of the human being.


[6] Bacteria can not have subtle consciousness or astral energy field, instead a human being with triune brain itself can have subtle consciousness and astral energy field (and T1, T2 and C fields (see Table 1)).


[7] This gradient without content would be a continuum or spectrum which would be the way how the Mystery of the Spirit decided to create, by involution, eventuates causal, subtle  and ordinary realm (the Big Bang), waiting to be filled of content in the evolution, going from the Big Bang to return to Spirit. That is the cleanest position of metaphysical speculation that so far we have. Of course it could be that God in involution had created angels, cherubs, various deities and demons, what happens is that either we have to make an act of blind faith, or we have to experience firsthand contact with such beings, and if so, that experience is located in evolution (the section that goes from Big Bang back to  Spirit), therefore, whether or not such beings were created in the involution is pure metaphysical speculation.


[8] Metaphysical materialism: the only existing reality is material reality.


[9] The structure is the arrangement and order of parts within a whole.


[10] Integral model or AQAL model (acronym of All Quadrants / All Levels...) was developed by the American philosopher Ken Wilber, that is the more inclusive model of human development ever made. AQAL is basically composed of five elements: quadrants, levels, lines, states and types.


[11] The human body, for example, has two hundred and eight bones, one heart and two kidneys, whether it is a resident of New York of from Mozambique, both today and thousands of years ago. These universal features form what is called "deep structures" that are essentially the same everywhere.


[12] All cultures use these deep structures in many ways, as the Chinese who bandaged the feet of their wives or the Ubangi stretching his lips, or the use of tattoos, used clothing, games, sex and childbirth, all of which varies considerably from one culture to another. All these variables are called "surface structures", because these are local rather than universal.

The same is also true in the field of the human mind. The human mind has surface structures that varies between different cultures, and has deep structures that are essentially identical regardless of considered culture. Wherever it is, the human mind has the ability to form images, symbols, concepts and rules. Individual images and symbols vary from a culture to an other culture, but the fact is that the ability to form these mental and linguistic structures -and all structures-, is essentially the same everywhere. Just as the human body produces hair, the human mind produces symbols. Mental surface structures vary considerably, but deep mental structures are, meanwhile, remarkably similar.


[13] Reality is knowable as it is.


[14] The subject builds the world.


[15] If we refer to mystical experiences, it should be noted especially cognitive development (authors: Piaget; Aurobindo; Commons; Richards...) and world view or the development of the values line described by Don E. Beck in the Spiral Dynamics theory  or in Ken Wilber's later books. (Level 1: Survival-sensorimotor; 2: Magic-animistic; 3: egocentric, power, magic-mythic; 4: mythical, ethnocentric, traditional 5: rational, worldcentric, pragmatic; 6: Pluralistic, multicultural, humanistic; 7: vision-logic, lower systemic, flow-flex; 8: global mind, late vision-logic, holistic, 9: Transglobal mind start of the transcendent vision; 10: intuitive mind; 11: Overmind; and 12: supermind, Unit).


[16] System of analysis designed by Jacques Derrida to dismantle language and reveal the false beliefs that entails. It demonstrates the inability of philosophy to establish a stable base.


[17] Subtle State: REM sleep. Causal State: consciousness when you are in deep sleep without dreams.

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