What can we know about life? Start with what we might all agree on.
Look inside. I am a conscious subject.
Look outside. There appears to be an objective material world in which I experience. I have a body that operates in this external world.
There also appear to be in this world other conscious subjects, including those who conditioned me from birth, and including animals and other creatures. I recognise their interiority.
Much of that interiority is shared across humans (at least) – my surrounding culture.
Summary. Basic dualities.
- Interior/exterior or subject/object or conscious/material.
- Individual/collective or me/society + culture.
We can express this as four quadrants; none is reducible to the others.
These are the Four Quadrants of Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology, and Ken and others have done a great job of mapping all human knowledge onto these four quadrants. See for example his Integral Psychology or his magnum opus Sex, Ecology and Spirituality.
- modern science belongs on the right, as it is concerned with objectivity and, axiomatically, excludes the subject.
- psychology and spirituality belong on the left, although scientific psychology and institutional religion attempt to reduce this to the right, or control it from the right.
- culture belongs in the bottom left, and social and government systems in the bottom right.
These are also the four quadrants of the modern astrological birth chart. Astrology and astrological psychology have long encompassed all aspects of our being in the world. See for example Bruno & Louise Huber’s The Astrological Houses or Life Clock.
Remember that the quadrants are an analytical breakdown, and can only represent suggestive truth. In reality we know that all is interconnected; models such as this may help, but always have their limitations.
What this does imply is that one-dimensional approaches to life cannot work. Materialism is a dead end; it cannot deal with interiors and ends up being inhuman. Control of people’s innermost thoughts through religious or political systems is another dead end; it cannot effectively deal with exteriors through science. Humanity has tried all of these through history.
We just have to embrace the complexity, and ultimately the mystery, of life.
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