The UTOK Wisdom Bees

Gregg Henriques
Unified Theory of Knowledge
14 min readJun 14, 2024

This blog was co-authored with Marcia Gralha, MA.

“Plant Seeds, Grow Trees!” is one of the mantras in the set of practices based on UTOK, the Unified Theory of Knowledge (see here). It is the mantra associated with the Life-Organism plane of existence in the Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System, UTOK’s map of cosmological complexification. The mantra works to make salient one of UTOK’s core value orientations: aspiring to be good ancestors for future generations, planting small seeds of wise choices now to cultivate increased well-being and wisdom in the future. It is a mantra about “pollinating” the world within our reach with wise knowing and wise living. This is what the UTOK Bees are all about.

Bees are remarkable in their collective effort to maintain the wellbeing of their colonies. Here is an awesome example: honeybees do a figure-eight dance called “waggle dance” where they communicate to their fellow bees the direction and distance of their hive to precious resources, such as nectar and pollen. This enables them to share vital information about where to find nourishment, ensuring the survival and prosperity of the hive. Just as individual foraging honeybees are essential in maintaining the well-being of their colonies, the UTOK Wisdom Bees strive to nourish collective growth in the UTOK Garden.

The Garden is home to two bees: the Bee of Sophia, A.K.A the “WKID WISM Bee”, and the Bee of Phronesis, A.K.A the “WIC-W Bee”. Before we dive into their individual messages, we frame their role in the larger context of the Garden representation.

The Bees Placement in the UTOK Garden

A core aspect of UTOK as a knowledge system is to cultivate right relation between objective, subjective, and intersubjective knowledge, placing mind and matter coherently in the same unified framework for understanding nature and our place in it. This is in response to a long-standing philosophical problem that UTOK calls the Enlightenment Gap (see more here).

UTOK understands objective knowledge as the endeavor of modern empirical natural science, which is tasked with systematically mapping behavioral patterns in nature. The idea in UTOK that frames objective knowledge is the Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System. Subjective knowledge, on the other hand, is understood as the unique, idiographic, phenomenological perspective of the individual, and is framed in the system by the architecture of the iQuad Coin. In UTOK, intersubjective knowledge is framed as the shared systems of justification that orient and coordinate groups of people by clarifying what is true and real and cultivating their associated values. The idea in UTOK that represents intersubjective knowledge is the UTOK Garden, the home of the Bees.

A representation of the UTOK Garden.

It is important to point out that, from a UTOK perspective, modern science is a system of justification, and thus, it is inherently an intersubjective endeavor. Despite that, science is a “special case” of a justification system, as it operates on specific protocols and epistemic values, such as accuracy and precision, and its success depends on how well it can eliminate subjective biases and value-laden perspectives, isolating the behavior being analyzed from its surrounding context. In other words, although the context of a lab experiment is intersubjective (e.g., the researchers, the human-mediated institutional structure that enables it), ideally, the experimental output leads to a way to make objective truth statements.

The intersubjective knowledge represented by the Garden speaks a different language than science. Although consistent with modern scientific knowledge, its grammar is more flexible, contextual, and is mythos-based. The Garden is an artistic representation of a coherent scientific humanistic worldview, integrating natural science while embracing the humanities and the arts. Its goal is to orient our shared knowledge systems toward wise knowing and wise living across generations.

Putting these frameworks together, we get UTOK’s core mantra: Marry the Coin to the Tree in the Garden under God. This means that we seek to find right relation between our subjective perspective, the objective epistemology of science, and our intersubjective knowledge, while holding an orientation toward our conception what is godly or sacred (see here for UTOK’s approach to the concept of God).

In this way, the Garden is inherently value-oriented. Its component parts are the Tree of Life, the Seed of Life, the STEPPing Stone, and, highlighted here, the Wisdom Bees, Sophia and Phronesis. You will find them flying around the Tree of Life in the Garden. As you will understand by the end of this blog, they work to maintain the equilibrium between science and humanism, and theory and practice in the UTOK Garden scientific-humanistic framework.

A real-life representation of the UTOK Garden.

The Wisdom Bees’ names may sound familiar. They originate in the conception of wisdom articulated by Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics (NE). Sophia is the root of the word philosophy and can be translated as the love of knowledge into wisdom. While it can be used in reference to people who are deeply skilled, the essence of Sophia refers to a more refined form of knowing. To quote Aristotle, those who embody Sophia “must not only know the conclusions that follow from his first principles, but also have a true conception of those principles themselves.” (NE VI.7). As embodied by the WKID WISM Bee, it represents the metaphysics of knowing and the pollination of knowledge in service of wisdom.

Phronesis is wise knowing put into practice in the real world. It refers to living wisely, making good decisions under one’s unique circumstances, and is related to cultivating good character, healthy habits, and being prudent. Phronesis is about living wisely, whereas Sophia is about cultivating deep knowledge that allows one to orient toward wisdom.

The Wisdom Bees’ Dialectical Dance

UTOK’s Tree of Life (ToL) homes the eight key ideas of UTOK that constitute the Unified Theory of Psychology and the Unified Approach to Psychotherapy. Their component ideas are the “branches” or “flowers” on the ToL. The four “flowers” on the left side form the Unified Theory and the four on the right side form the Unified Approach.

The Unified Theory unifies our scientific knowledge in psychological science, while the Unified Approach assimilates and integrates key insights in the applied field of psychotherapy. The Bee of Sophia sits on the lefthand side of the Tree of Life, aligned with the Unified Theory of Psychology, and the Bee of Phronesis sits on the righthand side of the Tree, and is aligned with the Unified Approach to Psychotherapy.

The Unified Theory affords the metatheoretical structures that enable us to solve the Problem of Psychology. It is fundamentally tasked with the detached description of nature and its psychological phenomena. Thus, its focus is on the acquisition of scientific knowledge in a cumulative manner to cultivate wisdom. For such, it unites science’s values of accuracy and objectivity, its third-person empiricism, as well as metatheoretical coherence and metaphysical clarity (for more on UTOK’s approach to metaphysics, see here).

The Unified Approach, on the other hand, is oriented toward the application of the scientific knowledge of psychology in the psychotherapy room. It is tasked with the responsibility to effect real change in the world, not describe it. It broadly represents the pragmatic design of useful approaches to orient individuals and communities toward lived wellbeing and wisdom. In this way, it is humanistic at its base, for its ultimate goal is human betterment rather than detached description. This side of the Tree of Life represents the embodiment of knowledge into wisdom in the practicalities of daily life.

The placement of the Bees on either side is, of course, intentional. As they fly around the Tree of Life, they pollinate each side in a dialectical dance between science and humanism, and theory and practice. This means that the Bees advocate for knowledge that is coherent and cumulative in a manner that contributes to wise knowing, which, in turn, orients the embodiment of such wisdom in daily life to maximize valued states of being across time.

In this dialectical “waggle dance,” the Bees work as messengers of wisdom, cross-pollinating our scientific understanding with humanistic values and pragmatic application, and vice-versa. Much as in the honeybee waggle dance, Sophia and Phronesis inform the distance and direction for our cultivation of wise knowing and wise living.

Now that we know their role in the Garden of UTOK, we can zoom-in to learn what each UTOK Bee has to say.

The Bee of Sophia, A.K.A The “WKID WISM Bee”

In the original depiction of the UTOK Garden, reproduced below, the Bee of Sophia is characterized as the one who “pollinates wisdom via the Knowledge Hierarchy and Wholistic InterSubjective Mental Behaviorism.” This description gives Sophia its formal name: WKID WISM.

Sophia’s first name, WKID, inscribed on its top half, refers to the knowledge hierarchy typically represented in the form of a pyramid, more commonly referred to as the DIKW pyramid, which stands for data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. The main point here is that if we seek to truly comprehend something in a way that clarifies what is and cultivates what ought to be, all those elements of knowing should be present. Such knowing process can be embodied by any system that is able to process information, from a squirrel to a machine to a human being, although arguably the wisdom level is, thus far, within the bounds of the human self-reflective capacity.

In this hierarchy of information processing, data is at the base, referring to directly observed or measured differences in the world. For instance, in a system like weather forecasts, data will include things like temperature ratings, humidity levels, and wind speed collected from various instruments. The next level in the pyramid is information. It is obtained when the raw data is processed or interpreted based on some type of computational or information processing protocol. In the example, the weather data is processed to identify relevant patterns, such as detecting that there is a storm forming.

Knowledge is the level above information. When a system recursively references the novel information against the network of other information that the system can access, it can turn into knowledge, as long as it is validated, which can happen via it being judged as justifiable, viable, or useful–or not. In weather forecasting, information is synthesized from multiple models and referenced against past patterns to generate plausible predictions.

Finally, when knowledge is assimilated in a broad and deep manner, referenced against multiple perspectives, and works to clarify important questions, such as those related to first principles and values, it can turn into a guide to effectively consider what ought to be done in given circumstances based on the knowledge gathered. In other words, knowledge turns into a wisdom compass. Our weather example may get odd here, but it illustrates the idea: the knowledge of weather predictions can help folks make informed decisions about safety and preparedness, such as issuing warnings and advising the public on emergency measures to protect valued states, such as safety and wellbeing.

Following the dialectical pattern, the succession across the levels of the pyramid can move bidirectionally. That is, a system that works from the bottom to the top would receive empirical data first, refine it across the levels, and recursively reflect on knowledge in wise ways. Alternatively, knowledge processing could originate from the self-reflective higher order wisdom, informing and shaping the way knowledge is manipulated at the lower levels. In an optimal opponent process, a system will be co-regulated dynamically by higher order reflection and direct empirical data.

Since UTOK is a big picture system of knowing that zooms out to conceptually map, organize, and unify knowledge into wisdom, Sophia chooses to be named WIKD, representing the top-down process from wisdom into data. That way, the big picture understanding provided by UTOK can orient us, in the 5th joint point (i.e., the transition from the Culture-Person plane into the Digital Globalization plane; see more here), to clarify our understanding from wisdom to knowledge to information to data in WIcKeDly cool ways!

On its back half, Sophia wiggles the second part of its name, WISM. It stands for a Wholistic InterSubjective Mental Behavioral approach to knowledge, a frame that directly corresponds with Ken Wilber’s epistemological quadrants. The Wholistic element is associated with the lower right interobjective systems view, or “Its”, illustrated in UTOK by the systemic-behavioral view of the ToK System. The Intersubjective aligns with Wilber’s lower left “We” quadrant, illustrated in UTOK by the intersubjective epistemology of the Garden and by Justification Systems Theory (JUST). The Mental element aligns here with the upper left subjective “I” quadrant, represented by the iQuad Coin in UTOK. Finally, the Behavioral element aligns with the upper right exterior individual “It” quadrant, represented in UTOK by the Periodic Table of Behavior (PTB).

In sum, WIKD WISM is the embodiment of the processes of knowing that take into consideration all levels of the knowledge hierarchy and multiple perspectives, honoring the complexity, the multiplicity, as well as the unity and coherence of what can be known in the world.

The Bee of Phronesis, A.K.A The “WIC W Bee”

The Bee of Phronesis is our worker bee. While it is in dialectical relation to the more analytical, reflective wisdom of Sophia, its primary concern is with the practical application of such wisdom: not only being and becoming wise but actually doing it in the here and now. The embodiment of Phronesis is illustrated by someone with good character who is oriented toward living wisely and fostering the well-being of others.

Phronesis’ formal name is the WIC-W Bee, which stands for Wisdom, Interest, Character, and Well-Being. These are core elements within the Unified Theory of Psychology and Unified Approach to Psychotherapy — as shown earlier, the left and right side of the Tree of Life, respectively.

WIC-W identifies key concepts from each of the eight branches of the Tree of Life and then combines them into four pairs that yield its name:

  • Knowledge from the Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System (first branch) pairs with Justification from Justification Systems Theory (JUST; second branch) and together they yield Wisdom. This way, wisdom is framed as the combination of coherent, unified naturalistic knowledge that is justified in a way that maximizes valued states.
  • Investment from Behavioral Investment Theory (BIT) joins up with Influence from the Influence Matrix to yield Interest, which is a way to frame the interaction between the social forces around us with our behavioral investments as human persons.
  • Moving along the Tree of Life, Adaptation from Character Adaptation Systems Theory (CAST) couples with Development from the Wheel of Development and yields Character. In UTOK, the formation of good character entails adaptive development in various domains of character adaptation to foster good relations with current and future stressors.
  • Finally, Well-Being from the Nested Model is paired with Mindfulness from CALM-MO to yield the orientation toward Well-“Beeing” in WIC-W.

Representing the symbiotic relation between theory and practice, as expounded earlier, the WIC-W Bee informs the subjective and social reality of everyday life with the deep knowledge available in the objective, scientific, metatheorical and metaphysical pool of Sophia wisdom. In sum, it represents the building of good character via fostering healthy adaptation and development in a way that is mindful and cultivates well-being.

The Wisdom Bees Symbolism in the Garden

There are other symbols can be identified in the UTOK Wisdom Bees, including how they represent our minded-animal natures, as well as our navigation through suffering and adaptive living.

The Minded-Animal Layer of Existence

If you are familiar with UTOK’s Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System, you know that it maps complexification in the universe from an Energy-Information Implicate Order, into Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture (read more here). In particular, the Mind-Animal plane of existence is the dimension of minded behavior, i.e., the sensorimotor loop of animals with complex active bodies and nervous systems. It is a plane that can readily be differentiated from the Living-Organism plane below it, and the Culture-Person plane above it. This is very important for UTOK, given that our modern knowledge systems have “forgotten” about this plane of existence, getting stuck in dichotomies between the material, bio-chemical world and the cultural world.

UTOK brings awareness to the minded behaviors of human and non-human animals, reminding us that, in addition to being living organisms and cultured persons, we are minded animals with a neurocognitive system that coordinates our mental behavior as value-laden investments operating on patterns of energy economics, evolution, genetics, learning, as well as on our developmental history.

The UTOK Bees, as the only animals in the UTOK Garden, represent this layer of our nature. Although, as humans, we exhibit unique linguistic justificatory dynamics, just like the bees, we have an “animalistic” perceptual, motivational, and emotional structure that makes us react and adapt to our environment to approach affordances and avoid pain. Becoming aware, welcoming, and responsive to our basic animal embodiment is a key piece in cultivating adaptive living.

The Relation between Human Suffering and Adaptive Living

As described earlier, the mission of Phronesis is to foster wise ways of “bee-ing” in the world. Part of the condition of being human is to experience pain, from physical to emotional. The neurotic kind of suffering is one of the most frequent among us, and the most common problem encountered in psychotherapy. UTOK frames neurotic suffering as the misguided reactivity against one’s core feelings that stem from genuine, embodied reactions to negative events in one’s world, as well as the rationalization of those feelings into distorted and unrealistic justifications that act like water on a grease fire.

These reactions are rooted in our “primate heart”, the part of us that, as sophisticated social animals, tracks the world around us to be seen, known, and valued by important others. As UTOK contends, the honest, real emotional pain that we feel in response to various situations is adaptive and should be held with awareness and attunement before we wisely decide our course of action. This is certainly part of the UTOK Bees embodiment of wisdom. UTOK’s approach to psychological mindfulness, CALM MO, orients us to develop a meta-cognitive observation of our feelings in our core primate heart and hold them with Curiosity, Acceptance, Loving compassion, and Motivation toward our valued states of being.

As human animals and persons, we are perennially challenged with negative situations in life, and we often risk responding to those with foolishness, sin, and fragility. The Bees symbolism in the Garden mirrors this “darker”, more primitive side of our human nature, and orients us toward being, doing, and becoming wiser in a constructive opponent process between pain and adaptation. This requires both the knowledge and right justification that can foster awareness of our potential for self-deception and rationalization of our primate motives, as well as the active commitment to enacting change in our real lives to move toward truth, goodness, and beauty.



Gregg Henriques
Unified Theory of Knowledge

Professor Henriques is a scholar, clinician and theorist at James Madison University.