Cultivating Knowledge and Wisdom in Your Life

Gregg Henriques
Unified Theory of Knowledge
9 min readMar 13, 2024


In this final blog in the series, Dr. Baron Short completes his integration of the Unified Theory of the Tree in the Knower (UTIK) with UTOK. The first two blogs helped the reader clarify their personal theory of knowledge, with Part I reviewing key aspects of one’s worldview and Part II showing how folks can engage in full spectrum multi-modal mindfulness to organize and integrate their experience of being in the world. Part III started the transformation from PTOK into UTIK by showing how we can think of the ontology of the self via the metaphor of the tree in the knower. In this final blog, Dr. Short connects the tree in the knower with the UTOK Tree of Life in the Garden under God.

Clarifying What Is, Cultivating What Ought to Be

In my first blog, I referenced axiology as being part of your personal theory of knowledge (PTOK). In philosophy, axiology refers to the study of value, and thus in this context it refers to what you value and why. Crucial to UTIK, is the process of reflecting on one’s values and attempt to be oriented toward cultivating valued states of being.

Indeed, as was mentioned in Part I, at the heart of the UTIK formulation is axiological aspirational statement: Realize-Actualize the Unified Tree in Knower by connecting to the Tree of Life and embodying your valuable place in the Garden under God. This final blog in the series elucidates the meaning of this statement and affords us an opportunity to weave our PTOK with UTOK via UTIK.

In Part III of this series, we delineated the key elements of the theory of the tree in the knower, which is depicted below. Specifically, there is the ground of being, the roots of experience, the trunk of the self, the branches extending into the world, the leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds that represented needs, and the doing, being, and becoming modes of existence, and finally, the zoomed-out place of the tree in the forest and world.

The UTIK Tree in the Knower

Here we look to explicitly connect the UTIK tree in the knower with the UTOK Tree of Life in the Garden under God. To so, I will define the key concepts that go into our aspirational axiological statement.

Definitions of the Components in the UTIK Aspirational Statement

Realize-Actualize UTIK: This is the ongoing process of realizing your nested self-layers within your experiential ground of awareness and actualizing yourself in your personal, interpersonal, and extrapersonal activities and relations.

Tree of Life: As elaborated upon in this blog, the Tree of Life is the central icon of UTOK. Shown below, it represents life, knowledge, and wisdom and the coherent integration of what is the case and what ought to be. At the center of the Tree of Life is the MEme Flower, which has “small me” pedals around a “Big ME” center. As was discussed in Part I, the small me represents your PTOK (i.e., your particular metaphysical — empirical way of being in the world). The Big ME represents the shared worldview of the larger collective.

In addition to the MEme Flower, the ToL houses two wisdom bees and eight flowering branches. The flowering branches can be thought of as nourishing fruits that provide insights for understanding our selves and the world around us. The two bees represent “beeing” mindful and wise. On the left side of the ToL sits the Bee of Sophia, which represents the cultivation of knowledge to support wisdom. The first flowering branch on the ToL is the Tree of Knowledge System, which maps both reality into four planes of existence (i.e., Matter-Object, Life-Organism, Mind-Animal, and Culture-Person) and identifies the corollary epistemic, scientific ways of knowing (i.e., the physical, biological, psychological and social sciences).

The next three branches are Justification Systems Theory, Behavioral Investment Theory, and the Influence Matrix. Together, they provide us a framework for understanding human mental behavior.

On the right side of the ToL sits the Bee of Phronesis, which symbolizes practical, wise living. The fifth, sixth, and seventh branches are Character Adaptation Systems Theory, the Wheel of Development, and the Nested Model of Well-being, which frame human development is a way that is also aligned with the major perspectives in psychotherapy. Finally, the eighth branch is CALM-MO, which we encountered in Part II as a key component of multi-modal mindfulness.

I see the ToL as symbolizing the historical, evolutionary, and emergent feature of humans reaching to know more about reality and live wisely in existence. I also see the tree of life expanding in unexpected ways to inform all domains of our lives. We both can connect with and download from the tree of life. And we also can upload our contributions too.

Valuable Place: This is not just cognitive or conceptual view, rather this is a felt, lived, and situated in the world. We have value attractors of truth, beauty, and goodness bringing us into more dignified well-being. You as a focal being in the observable matrix of being have intrinsic value.

Garden: The Garden of UTOK is an artistic representation of a system of knowledge that offers a novel way to unify natural science, psychology, psychotherapy, and wise living into a coherent scientific humanistic worldview. The Garden is scientific in the sense that it offers a map of the universe that is consistent with modern scientific knowledge, from quantum mechanics to sociology. It is humanistic in the sense that it embraces value-based living, meaning making, creative expression, and the concept of the sacred.

In addition to this symbolic garden, there is also the literal garden we find ourselves in. This is the nested ontology of being on earth, made of dynamic layers of complexity, nested at scale within the larger solar system, milky way, cosmos at large and nesting in scale that which is much smaller. We are interconnected with all energy, all forms of matter, all forms of life on earth, all forms of minded animals on earth, all forms of culture person on earth. This is an observable matrix of being. We are in a real sweet spot of reality.

God: UTOK’s icon for God is the Elephant Sun God. As part of a transcendent naturalism, God would indicate both a strong transcendence and immanence to reality. Even with all that we know, God transcends both our objective reality of energy-information stack and our subjective reality of a self.

UTOK’s Elephant Sun God

This is the God we carefully call God without putting much conceptual layering on top of what is always transcendent. This transcendence has an emanation function that perhaps constrains what is possible here in our cosmos and in us. This same God is also immanent in the fabric of reality and cosmos and has an emergent function that is revealed in our existence stack of behavior and identity stack of the self and all the observable matrices of being.

Potential Ongoing Aspirational Process

What’s after we have UTIK’d ourselves ☺ by connecting to the Tree of Life and embody our valuable place in the Garden Under God?

Participate bidirectionally with the Tree of Life

As each of us realize and actualize who we are, we become more receptive to the metacultural wisdom and knowledge available and evolving. We become participants both downloading and uploading to this Tree of Life. We become more open to nuggets of value in everyone’s perspective and its capacity to grow within us and advance the Tree of Life.

Momentum to Embody the Garden under God

As more people own their Tree within by connecting to the Tree of Life, we collective feel driven to embody our realization and actualization collectively here on Earth in the Cosmos with the current metacrisis we collectively face. The transcendent, by whatever name we chose or concept applied, precedes and fuels this entire existence. We remain humble before the Totality, while creating the capacity to continue this personal, collective, and cosmic journey.

UTIK Eschatology - Your End in this life, Our Collective End of an Age, and the Deep Future End

Now that we have provided an overview of PTOK and multimodal mindfulness and the UTIK bridge to the UTOK Tree of Life, let’s finish with the end. Yes, the eschatological end!

From a UTIK viewpoint, let’s consider the end of our individual life and those implications, the end of an age as our industrial, modern civilization unchecked in material growth, and the end of our world on earth.

The End of Your Life

One day, you and I will unquestionably die. What happens? What does it mean? From an exterior viewpoint, the wave of behavioral complexity simplifies. Materially, we degenerate into matter that can be implemented into life again. Culturally, we are remembered, usually in the minds of a few and that is until they die. There are cultural behaviors of the dead, albeit small, that play out in the present. For example, my father died years ago, but I see many of his quirky mannerisms now manifested through me. In addition, there are the rare people that made a historical mark and are remembered in collective history. But even in these cases, the personal is forgotten as the individuals that knew those persons also have died.

This life is a gift, not to be mindlessly squandered. There is meaning in impermanence, of being here just a short time. Contemplating your unknown, untimely death helps you find the vibrant meaning of being alive today.

If that is the basic, naturalistic account of the exterior perspective on death, what about the interior? Well, consistent with UTOK’s endo-naturalistic perspective, UTIK is agnostic to a “lights out or lights on” view. “Lights out” supports the idea that when an organism dies, there will be no subjectivity left. If this is true, then there is no experience, no pain, no suffering, no memory or imagination. Experientially, then, it is not a big deal.

If it’s “lights on,” then we will find ourselves in an imaginal-like world of other conscious immaterial beings. If this happens it will let us know consciousness not only emerges from minded living animals but emanates into material existence — there would be at least “two worlds”! It is fascinating either way. And knowing your life will end can wake you up to what are you doing with your life today.

The End of an Age

With the ongoing metacrisis, our civilization is trying to maintain the industrial age, while ecological collapse is looming, and the emerging new phase of complexity is figuratively exploring how it will be born. We can feel within us what wants to stay, what is in trouble, and what newness will be born through us. Perhaps it is time to recognize an end of age for humanity that will produce both collapse and emergence and none of us know how it turns out. Rather than a utopia or dystopia, perhaps we can maturely put our efforts towards Kevin Kelly’s protopia, where we pragmatically work toward progress that helps people, life, and the planet with intelligent use of technology that will transform us in ways we can barely imagine. We can motivate and play our roles at this end of an age and the beginnings of a new one.

The End of Life on Earth

While life on earth could end as part of this human era, it is not likely. Life finds a way. What is more certain is that natural events will occur that ends life, humanity, and our descendants on Earth. Whether it’s the effects of a supercontinent in 250 million years or the radiation of an older Sun billions years from now, this will happen. This is a long time from now, yet worth considering in our eschatological stack. When practicing via the worldview of UTIK, you care about everyone and everything for all time. You, as nature, want to keep the journey going. We want to be good ancestors, so our descendants will find a way to live off Earth, one way or another.


UTOK is a philosophical system that aims to unite psychotherapy with psychology, psychology within the natural sciences, and objective sciences with subjective and intersubjective ways of knowing. It is structured to address the Enlightenment Gap and gives artistic representation as the Garden to host artifacts of our collective knowledge and wisdom. I wish to add to the artifacts with a psychospiritual frame, UTIK, a unified theory of the tree in the theory in knower, that has a metacontext, a subjective ontology, a subjective epistemology, an axiology, and eschatology.

My hope is by laying out the UTIK path, it shows how folks who are drawn to UTOK can start by reflecting on their own PTOK and learn and integrate using multimodal mindfulness to know themselves in the deepest simplicity and complexity possible. And from an inside-out, ground up approach, they may play their part in living the best life at the end of an era in this 5th joint point. I believe that through the UTIK path, you can find your living freedom and peace, and reach into your world of relationships and activity with vibrancy as an awake descendent aligned with humbly being the best ancestor you can be.



Gregg Henriques
Unified Theory of Knowledge

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