An Integral Nondual Mandalic Worldview and Living

(seeing and living life as mandala, integrally and nondualistically)

Rolf Sattler

Chapters 1-12 first published in 2016


INTRODUCTION: A MANDALIC WORLDVIEW: Questions - Disturbing Contradictions between Answers - The Mandala and a Mandalic Worldview as a Solution - Outer and Inner Circle (Mechanism and Holism) – Outer and Inner Circle as Yang and Yin – Materialism and Holism as Levels of a Hierarchy (Holarchy) - Continuum between the Outer and Inner Circle - Complementarity – Lessons from Physics - Mystery - Arts - Spirituality - A Joke - Out of Balance - Health – Extension of the Mandala - The Big Tube - The Integral Sphere - Shinzen Young's Mandala - The Dynamic Mandala - Fundamentalism - Education - Silence - A Meditation: Beyond Words and Sounds - About Jokes - Liberation through the Mandala - Mandala Meditation - References

WHOLENESS AND FRAGMENTATION: Introduction - Abstraction (Fragmentation) - Hierarchy: Boxes within Boxes within Boxes - Unity Dissolving Hierarchical Structure - The Whole in the Part - From Fragments toward increasing Wholeness - No-Mind - Integral Structure of Consciousness and Beyond - Re-member - This-Worldly and Otherworldly - Sex - A Joke - Romantic Love - Enemies - Alienation and Loneliness - Jokes - A Meditation: Include Everything - Summary - References - Quotes

CONTINUUM AND DISCONTINUUM: Introduction - Plants - Soil-Plant-Air-Continuum - The Soil-Plant-Air-Animal-Continuum - Prana and Qi - Are there Western Equivalents of Qi? - The Web of Life - A Joke - The Interior of the Web of Life - The Development and Evolution of Consciousness - The Big Three - Levels and Dimensions of Consciousness in the Mandala of this Book - A Meditation: From Witnessing to Unity Consciousness (the Nondual) - Summary - References - Quotes

3. FUZZINESS AND EXACTNESS: Introduction - Logic - Identity - Either/or Logic - Both/and Logic - Fuzzy Logic and Fuzziness - Semantic Interlude - Fuzziness in Science - Fuzziness in Religion - Fuzziness in Ethics - Fuzziness in Law - Fuzziness in Politics - Fuzziness in Everyday Life - "Mandala" as a Fuzzy Set - From Fuzzy Sets to Fuzzy Systems - Yin-Yang - Yin-Yang and Fuzziness - Nature is not Perfect - A Joke - Plato and Aristotle - Polar Opposites - Love and Hate - Life and Death - Other Polar Opposites - Beyond Polar Opposites - Standing Meditation - Standing with a Tree - Summary - References - Quotes

OPENNESS AND CLOSURE: Introduction - Life as a Living Flame - A Joke - Radiance, Radiance, Radiance... - Subtle Energy - Nonlocality - Relativity of Openness - Opening and Closing - Open and Closed Minds - Openness is Related to Love, Closure to Fear Broad Science - Science and Religion/Spirituality - Breathing - What Did You Do Today? - A Meditation: Remember Yourself as Light - Summary - References - Quotes

ORGANIC AND MECHANICAL (ORGANICISM AND MECHANISM): Introduction - Mechanism - Reductionism - Conventional Medicine - A Joke - Organicism - Three Bodies and Energies - Alternative Medicine - Is Alternative Medicine Scientific? - The Many Faces of Science - Beauty - Goodness - Truth - Dancing Meditation - Summary - References - Quotes

COOPERATION AND COMPETITION: Introduction - Competition - Cooperation - The Darwinian World View - Is Science Value-Free and Objective? Selective Attention - The Danger of Competition - Aggressive Capitalist Science - A Joke - The Feminine Face of Science -Sociobiology - Alternative Evolutionary Theories - Stress - Relaxation and Meditation - Summary - References - Quotes

DYNAMICS AND STATICS/DYNAMICS: Introduction - Structure and Process - Physics - Life Sciences - A Leaf is a Cosmic Event - The Human Being as a Cosmic Event - The Primacy of Process - Process Philosophy - Process Language - Just Loving - No “I” - Essentialism - Flow Creates Happiness - The Wisdom of Insecurity - Relationships - A Joke - Transformations of the Mandala - Transcendence of Statics and Dynamics - A Centering Meditation - Summary - References - Quotes

FLEXIBILITY AND RIGIDITY: Introduction - Norms in Society - Education - Plasticity - Elastic Thinking - Categorical Thinking and Essentialism - Perspectivism - Relativism and Complementarity -Taiji and Qigong - Spontaneity - Laughing Meditation - A Joke - Summary - References

VARIABILITY AND INVARIANCE: Introduction - Invariance - Variability - A Joke - Genetics - Are there Laws of Nature? - The Semantic View of Laws and Theories - Law and Order - Uniqueness - Suchness - A Meditation: Who am I? - Summary - References

CONTEXT-DEPENDENCE AND ISOLATION: Introduction - Context-Dependence - A Joke - Verbal Communication - Isolation - Medicinal Drugs - Genes , Genes, Genes - Widening the Context in Forest Ecology - Widening the Context in Medicine - Contextualism - A Meditation: Circulation of the Light - Summary - References

COMPLEXITY AND SIMPLIFICATION: Introduction - Simplicity - Linear and Hierarchical Thinking - Goals, Goals, Goals - The Circle: No Beginning and no End -Complexity: Nets or Networks - No Causes -Simplicity as Simplification - A Joke - Nets within Nets - Interconnection and the Heart Sutra - The Mandala as a Net - The Mathematics of Complexity - Science and Art - Order and Chaos - No-Mind Meditation - Summary - References - Quotes

SELF-REFERENCE AND SUBJECT-OBJECT DIVISION and EPILOGUE: Introduction - Self-Reference -The Environmental Crisis - Ethics and Morals - Hate - Love - Object-Referral - Story of a Father - Self-Referral - Dependence, Independence, and Interdependence - A Joke - The Mandala is Self-Referential - Five Interpretations of the Mandala - The Map is not the Territory - Eat the Meal, not the Menu - Closing the Circle - Dzogchen Meditation: Skygazing - Summary - References - EPILOGUE

The Human Condition and its Transcendence: A Very Short History and Prehistory of Humanity.

Lessons from the 20th Century for the 21st Century.

SUBJECT AND AUTHOR INDEX for this book and the whole website


This book is about the big picture and being an integral part of the big picture. It could have simply been entitled "The Big Picture." It emphasizes integration, wholeness, oneness (nonduality). And since oneness (as not two-ness) includes everything, even fragmentation, the many facets of fragmentation in our world have also been included. The focus is on key aspects and concepts of life and living in the broadest sense ranging from our personal life to life of the earth and the universe. But this book is not only about life; it relates directly to living and the transformation of living. Although intellectual understanding, which I consider important, may lead to major transformation, for even deeper transformation we have to go beyond mere intellection. Therefore, in each chapter, in addition to intellectual discussion, I inserted jokes that may release tension (an enormous problem in the world), I included poetry and visual art that may open up higher or deeper realms, and, at the end of each chapter, I described a meditation that - if practiced - may create deeper awareness and lead to wisdom and compassion beyond one’s imagination.

Many links in the text and many quotes constitute an important part of the book because they provide a bigger picture and underline how much we owe to many great scientists, artists, philosophers and sages of the past and the present. I think the quotations alone, especially the list of quotes at the end of each chapter, can serve as a precious guide through the many topics of this book.

The book is based on a mandala and thus presents a mandalic worldview. Mandalas can transform our life and living. HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said: "We should learn to see everyday life as mandala - the luminous fringes of experience which radiate spontaneously from the empty nature of our being. The aspects of our mandala are the day-to-day objects of our life experience moving in the dance or play of the universe. By this symbolism the inner teacher reveals the profound and ultimate significance of being" (Dzogchen Practice in Everyday Life by H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche).

Usually a mandala is considered a symbol that represents the universe. Therefore, it also provides a device to explore the big picture. The mandala I devised for this book is introduced in the
Introduction: A Mandalic Worldview. I present two versions of the mandala: a conceptual and a pictorial version. The conceptual version consists of an empty centre and two circles of twelve concepts. The empty centre represents the unnamable, that which is not definable, the mystery, the source, the unmanifest from which the manifest of the two circles arises. The twelve concepts of the outer circle describe mainstream science, society, and culture; and the twelve corresponding concepts of the inner circle characterize holistic science and holistic alternative culture. Thus, the mandala as a whole provides a framework for an understanding of the relation between fragmenting materialistic and mechanistic mainstream thinking, holistic thinking, and spirituality.

the mandala emphasizes synthesis and integration (integral philosophy) it points to many bridges, bridges between East and West, science/philosophy and art/spirituality, materialistic mechanistic mainstream science and holistic science, this-worldly and other-worldly, body and mind, body and soul, the mundane and the sacred, thinking and being, the many and the one. It can create awareness that, although we often cannot see the bridges, they are already there. We just have to re-member them and then we can walk over them, then we can join “the other half” that has been separated and for whose union with us we have been longing so much.

Although the book deals with materialistic mechanistic mainstream science, society, and culture,
the major emphasis is on wholeness, holism, holomovement, holodynamics, health and healing, cooperation, coherence, continuum, interconnectedness, integration, integral philosophy, integral spirituality, mysticism, mystery... I try to convey that living can be like a mandala that encompasses the sun and its radiance, the source and its efflux, the unmanifest and the manifest (as one, not two), mystery upon mystery...

The spiritually inclined reader might ask: So why bother with science and philosophy? My answer is simple: because science has become an integral part of our society and our lives. Almost everything has been touched and permeated by science and technology. Unless we completely retreat from society, we cannot avoid science. And philosophy is at
the basis of science. One cannot engage in science without making some philosophical assumptions. I want to create more awareness of these assumptions. I want to show how our society and our lives have been conditioned and constrained by these assumptions, by philosophical ideas and world views.

Yet beyond philosophy and science we still have a profound yearning, consciously or subconsciously, for art and what some call spirituality and others simply know as profound happiness, joy, bliss, enlightenment. It is for this reason that the relation between science and philosophy on the one hand and art and spirituality on the other may be one of the most pressing issues in our society and our lives.
Ken Wilber in his book on The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion (1998, p.3) wrote, “there is arguably no more pressing topic than the relation of science and religion [spirituality] in the modern world.” This book is about this relation, and it also includes philosophy and art that are important forces in our society besides science and spirituality. It is based on a mandala that complements Wilber’s four-quadrant (AQAL) map as his four-quadrant map complements the mandala of this book.

Instead of 'mysticism' - another 'ism' - I also refer to the mystical, the mysterious, mystery, the unnamable, the un-speakable, the indescribable, the ineffable, emptiness (in the Buddhist sense), the empty centre, no-thingness, no-mind, the formless, the unmanifest, spaciousness, infinity, silence, stillness, the source, the timeless eternal now, ever-present awareness, absolute freedom, nirvanic Self, true Self, big Mind, the Seer, and the Witness. Since I could not include so many words in the title, I simply opted for 'the Unnamable' and 'mysticism' instead.

I also would have liked to add concepts that are more or less related to materialism and holism. Since these concepts could not be included in the title, I present here the following alternative titles that together with the chosen title give some indication of the scope of the book:

Modernism, Postmodernism, and Beyond – A Mandala
Mainstream Culture, Alternative Culture, and Beyond – A Mandala
Rational, Holistic and Integral Levels – A Mandala
Life, Living, and the Source – A Mandala

Instead of having three major concepts in the title, one could have only two: the first one comprising the first two concepts and the second one referring to the third in the above titles:

The Namable and the Unnamable – A Mandala
The Namable and Beyond – A Mandala
Form and Emptiness – A Mandala
The Manifest and the Unmanifest – A Mandala
Appearance and its Source – A Mandala
Appearance and Mystery – A Mandala

(When I began working on this project many years ago, I called it “Mandala of Life and Living.” Since “life” (that as a noun creates a fragment) appears more static than “living,” to some extent, “life” seems more representative of materialism and mechanism, whereas “living” resonates more with a holistic, holodynamic view. However, "life" can, of course, also be understood in a more comprehensive and dynamic way).

The title of Appendix 2,
Lessons from the 20th Century for the 21st Century, could also have been chosen as a title for the whole book since the 20th century comprises both circles of the mandala and to some extent also its centre. Although the materialistic worldview represented by the outer circle remained predominant during the 20th century, there has been a limited evolution toward a holistic worldview represented by the inner circle and even a slight advance toward the unnamable represented by the centre of the mandala. Many lessons can be learned from this evolution, but so far they have been implemented only to a very limited extent. This book highlights the importance of these lessons for individual, social and global health and well-being.

How to Use this Book

A special feature of this book is the use of
boldface in the text. Words, phrases or sentences that present major ideas or concepts are printed in bold letters. Thus the reader who looks only at the headings and subheadings plus the words in boldface and the highlighted hyperlinks can get a rough idea of what the book is about.

Like any other book, this book can be read from beginning to end. However, since it is based on a mandala, it need not be read in a linear fashion. The mandala is circular and in a circle there is no beginning and no end (see Chapter 11 on
Complexity and Simplification). In other words, there is no privileged concept pair that marks the beginning, and there is no prescribed sequence either. Thus, the numbering of the chapters could have been done differently or omitted altogether.You may start anywhere in the mandala and move from there anywhere else. For example, you may start with the concept pair of cooperation and completion, move from there to fragmentation and wholeness, or to mechanism and organicism, or anywhere else. This provides considerable freedom, which is inherent in the mandala. Nonetheless, as I wrote the book, I had to follow a particular sequence for the chapters. I began with fragmentation and wholeness, which made much sense to me because it seems fundamental, and I continued clockwise in the mandala. But I could have done otherwise. And you as the reader should feel free to do so. Each chapter is relatively self-contained, but there are connections between chapters, some of which are indicated by cross-references. Reading the Introduction before any one chapter will be very useful.

Most important of all, whichever way you move through the book, you stay near the empty centre and the underlying space of the mandala, which means you remain always connected to the unnamable mystery, emptiness, the formless and the source from which the circles of the mandala full of concepts or images arise. Thus you can always go beyond thought and feeling, and you can return to thought and feeling with the realization that they are not ultimate. Not being ultimate means that they need not enslave us: we can go beyond them and remain free.

A Personal Note

I consider this book the fruit of my lifelong inquiries, a summary and synthesis of many of my major scientific, philosophical and spiritual insights, reinforced by important links and precious references that often have been ignored or forgotten but could present immensely relevant perspectives on reality.

The origin of this book dates back to 1986 when, on a beautiful beach at Kratomtip in Phuket, Thailand, I conceived the conceptual version of the mandala on which this book is based. Subsequently, I used this mandala as the framework for the introductory biology course I taught at McGill University. After my retirement in 1997 my major focus became meditation. But then after publishing my online books
Wilber's AQAL Map and Beyond (2008) and Healing Thinking and Being (2010), I resumed working on this book and I finally published it on this website in 2016. Since I published it as an Open Book I can continue working on it to further improve it and update it.

The banner image and the colours of the text and links have a special significance for me. The banner image of the ocean with waves I see as a symbol of a
Mandalic Worldview that implies an integral philosophy and nonduality: the waves are integrated in the ocean, and thus waves and ocean are one, nondual (see also the The Deepest Acceptance by Jeff Foster that refers much to this ocean-wave analogy). Appropriately, the name of the blue colour of the text is 'aqua.' Aqua, that is, water, integrates the ocean and its waves. Thus, water can be seen as a symbol of nonduality. The name of the reddish colour of the links is 'salmon' (as you can see on this page). Salmon, the fish, inhabits rivers and the ocean that are not separate, hence nondual. Nonduality that implies interconnectedness or boundlessness appears all-pervasive. Some of the most profound statements on nonduality, interconnectedness or boundlessness can be found in the the Heart Sutra (see Chapter 11).

Latest update of this webpage on February 18, 2020.

Continue with the
Introduction of the book


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