The Holon and the Fire Festivals

Integral theorist Ken Wilber, in his books Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and A Brief History of Everything, maintains that every discrete thing (or “holon”) in existence displays four fundamental capacities. These capacities include the drive to self-preservation (“agency”) and the drive to self-adaptation (“communion”), as well as the drive to self-transcendence (“eros”) and the capacity for self-dissolution (“thanatos”).

You can see this in action simply by considering an individual human being. We mortals have within us the desire for agency (“no one tells me what to do”) but also the desire for communion (“part of the tribe”) — sure, some folks exhibit one more than the other, but each capacity is in all of us. Meanwhile, anyone who has ever fallen in love, created a work of art or tried to become a better person has participated in the drive for eros/self-transcendence, and every last one of us will have a final, ultimate, date with thanatos/self-dissolution (i.e., death).

Thinking about this today, it occurred to me that these four fundamental capacities dovetail nicely with the ancient Celtic fire festivals:

  • Samhain is a festival celebrating thanatos;
  • Imbolc is a festival celebrating communion;
  • Beltaine is a festival celebrating eros;
  • Lughnasa is a festival celebrating agency.

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  • Jon Zuck

    That reminds me of a similar teaching by Brian Swimme, a cosmologist. He said that the universal attributes of all particles are expression, communion (interaction), and differentiation (increasing variety).