Perspectivism and Complementarity: AQAL, the Big Tube, and the Dynamic Mandala

Perspectivism and Complementarity:
AQAL, the Big Tube, and the Dynamic Mandala

This article was first published on the Scientific and Medical Network blog

We live in a world where most people firmly hold on to their personal view or belief and defend it against other views or beliefs, arguing and feeling that they are right and others are wrong. Thus, conflicts can arise, and, in the extreme, wars in different guises are fought for this reason.

A more widespread recognition and practice of
perspectivism and complementarity could profoundly transform and ameliorate this situation: it could have a very positive impact on our individual lives, our relationships, society, and the planet.

According to perspectivism, any view or belief is relative to the standpoint or viewpoint taken. I like to illustrate this by a mountain analogy in which the mountain symbolizes reality (Sattler, 2008, Chapter 6). If you look at a mountain from one side, you get a certain view. For example, you may find that the mountain is steep. However, if you look at the same mountain from another side, you may get a very different view: you may find that the mountain is not steep. We may want to reconcile these two opposite views by taking an aerial view, which is more comprehensive because it allows us to see both the steep and gently sloping sides of the mountain. But, although more comprehensive, this view is also a perspective. It is also relative to the viewpoint and therefore cannot reveal everything. For example, it cannot reveal details of a gorge or cave. Hence, no perspective can claim to reveal the absolute truth of the mountain.

Similarly, no view or belief about reality can tell us the absolute truth of reality. Different views or beliefs present different aspects, different perspectives on reality. Again, some views may be more comprehensive than others. For example, Ken Wilber’s integral vision represented by his
AQAL map is more comprehensive than many other views (see, e.g., Wilber, 2006, 2007). His integral methodological pluralism comprises eight different methodologies that provide different perspectives on reality. Since these perspectives complement each other, all of them together provide a much richer view of reality than any perspective alone.

Ken Wilber concluded, “in the manifest world, there are no perceptions, only perspectives” (Wilber, 2006, p. 255). Does this mean that holarchy (hierarchy), the most fundamental ordering principle of his
AQAL map, is also a perspective? If so, why does Ken Wilber not allow other perspectives with regard to the basic levels (structure stages) of manifest reality? He insists that these levels such as body, mind, and spirit (if only three levels are distinguished) are only holarchically related: they follow the Include and Transcend Principle, that is, each higher level includes and transcends the lower level.

To see manifest reality in terms of basic levels (structure stages) that are only holarchically related is too limiting if we want deeper insights. Although holarchy is a useful ordering principle that provides insights into manifest reality, other views are also useful, such as holism in terms of undivided wholeness, dialectics, Yin-Yang, continuum and network views (Sattler,
2008, 2009). Ken Wilber recognizes all of these other views but not with regard to the levels (structure stages) of manifest reality.

These other views complement
the holarchical view. In as much as they present additional perspectives on reality, they enrich our understanding of reality. For example, the Yin-Yang view allows us to see also the higher in the lower level, if only as a germ or potentiality, whereas the holarchical view excludes this possibility. Holism in terms of undivided wholeness offers a unified, unbroken view of reality, whereas according to the holarchical view, reality has to be fragmented into separate holons, which are then arranged in a holarchy.

Since we strive to integrate different views into one more comprehensive view, the question is whether it is possible to integrate all of the above views. Yes, indeed, Dirk Laureyssens (2002-2009) has achieved such an integration and synthesis: his
Big Tube theory (also called the Theory of the Pelastrating Universe) integrates holarchy, holism in terms of undivided wholeness, dialectics, Yin-Yang, continuum and network views. According to this theory, the cosmological singularity is a spherical, unbreakable, dynamic membrane of neutral, unmanifested energy, nondual non-being (Wu Chi). This membrane has the potential to form oscillations that interpenetrate in a Yin-Yang fashion, thus giving rise to holons that form a network and holarchy, which may exhibit dialectical movement. Although holons may appear to be separate entities, they are continuous with the membrane (of which they are extensions), and therefore, everything being interconnected, undivided wholeness is retained, which is evident in Laureyssens’ pictorial representations of his theory.

Laureyssens’ pictorial representations of his Big Tube theory overcome limitations of language and semantics. They show that reality is not as discrete and fragmented as words and concepts portray it: holons do not have an existence of their own; the source (the membrane) and its manifestation (holons) are one, not two.

Like Ken Wilber’s AQAL map, Dirk Laureyssens’ Big Tube theory can be seen as a mandala. Whereas AQAL is a conceptual mandala, the Big Tube is a topological mandala with conceptual and organic/artistic aspects. I see AQAL and the Big Tube as complementary models, each one presenting unique views of reality. However, with regard to structure stages, the Big Tube is more comprehensive than AQAL since it integrates holarchy, holism in terms of undivided wholeness, dialectics, Yin-Yang, continuum and network views. Ken Wilber’s integral vision also integrates these views, but not with regard to the most basic structure of his AQAL map, that is, the levels (structure stages) of this map.

dynamic mandala that I proposed in my online book Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond (Sattler, 2008) comprises the whole set of mandalas seen in a dynamic relationship: mathematical, conceptual, topological, and organic/artistic mandalas. Hence, it includes AQAL and the Big Tube as well as mandalas of the wisdom traditions. All of them share the unmanifest source, which may be represented explicitly or implicitly; however, each of them presents a unique view of manifest reality that is one with the source. All of these different representations are complementary perspectives on reality.

If we could become more aware that we all share the same source and are different manifestations of this source, the differences could not divide us because they arise out of the common source that is one with its manifestations. As the Big Tube theory shows so vividly, all holons, including human beings with their different points of views and ideas, are emanations (extensions) of the common source, the unbreakable membrane, and remain continuous with it. This means that we are always interconnected; we always partake of and are integrated into the whole of reality, the ineffable mystery that bestows holiness on this wholeness.


Laureyssens, D. (2002-2009). Big Tube Theory. Yin-Yang and Holons. Retrieved December 4, 2017 from
Sattler, R. (2009). Ken Wilber, Holarchy, and Beyond. Retrieved April 2, 2009, from

Wilber, K. (2006).
Integral Spirituality. Boston & London: Integral Books, Shambhala.

Wilber, K. (2007).
The Integral Vision. Boston & London: Shambhala.