Ken Wilber, Holarchy, and Beyond
By Rolf Sattler
Holarchy (hierarchy) plays a fundamental role in Ken Wilber’s AQAL map of the Kosmos and human existence. It provides the basic framework of this map: in all four quadrants, the levels (structure stages) are holarchically related, which means that each higher level includes and transcends the lower level.
Although a holarchical view provides many insights, it is one-sided and therefore needs to be complemented by other views such as holism in terms of undivided wholeness, dialectics, continuum, Yin-Yang, and network views. These other views illuminate aspects of manifest reality that are not captured by the holarchical view. However, to avoid misunderstandings, I want to stress that Ken Wilber recognizes all of these views in one way or another, but not with regard to the levels (structure stages) of his AQAL map. For example, the levels that are referred to by different colors, such as orange and green, are holarchically related, which means that green (which is above orange) includes and transcends orange.
In contrast to the holarchical view, which implies an asymmetry because the higher level includes the lower but the lower does not include the higher, the Yin-Yang view recognizes a more symmetrical relationship between levels: the higher level includes to some extent the lower, and the lower includes to some extent the higher. The symmetry might be perfect or near perfect, but more likely it is not because one level may include the other to a greater extent than vice versa. Furthermore, the degree of inclusion may change: Yin-Yang is dynamic.
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ROLF SATTLER is biologist, systems theorist, yoga practioner and retired university professor who has published numerous articles and academic papers over more than 3 decades. His new book 'Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond' is free online.