Tuesday, February 28, 2006

E/W Part V: Protestant Theologies--Lutheranism

Since this is a general overview, I will only deal with Luther and Calvin, in terms of classical Protestant theology, though there are many other classical Prot. theologians who would deserve a reflection in a more thorough analysis (e.g. Huldrich Zwingli and Philip Melanchthon).

I'll begin with Luther, focusing only on his theological vision as it relates to Christian mysticism.

One of the key elements of Luther's insight was the notion of law/gospel. Luther was an avid Augustinian. Augustine, recall separated (ontologically) nature from grace. What Luther did that was quite new was re-interpret Augustine's nature/grace dichotomy as law/gospel. The Catholic Church and its system of penace, sacraments, purgatory, and "good works" was for Luther the law (that is nature). The Gospel was Grace. The Gospel, the Evangelical gift of Grace was the source of salvation alone.

Now in one sense Luther is here in the mainstream of Western theology--from Augustine through Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Ockham. Grace alone. Prevenient and subsequent grace. All of them are in Augustine's line against the more ancient notion of grace and free will working symbiotically as in Eastern Orthodox Theology.

But what did separate Luther from the (now) Roman Catholics was interpreting the medieval church as part of the realm of Law. Law meant Nature and could not therefore have anything to do with Grace.

In Paul's Letter to the Galatians, Paul rails against Jewish-Christians who tried to convince Paul's Gentile converts to Christianity that they had to become Jews to become Christians. Paul writes a brutal letter explicitly denying this. For Paul, Christ Crucified and Resurrected abolished the distinction between Gentile and Jews--or if you like, more positively as in Paul's Letter to the Romans, extended the gift of Salvation offered to the Jews to the Gentiles.

So Luther re-interprets Paul's words about Jewish/Gentile arguments to Catholic/Lutheran ones. The Medieval Papal Catholic Church in other words were the new "Jewish-Christians" telling the new Gentiles (the Protestants) that they had to become "Catholics" to become "Christians' (or saved presumably). When in fact they did not--God's gift was freely given. A pretty ingenious move, until of course Luther tried to make everybody Lutheran (or Calvin Calvinist) at which point it was hard to tell how they were different from the Pope. [More on that at the end--it's a key point to understanding the almost-Absolute insight of Protestantism].

Some more background on Medieval Scholasticism is necessary here before we get to the main point on Luther. It might not be immediately clear what the point of all this metaphysical excursion is, but I hope it will be by the end. [If not skip to the next set of hyphens ---].

Luther came at the end of the Medieval Era, which philosophically had come to be dominated by nominalism.

Nominalism arose in opposition to realism (especially Aristotelian realism). The big name in Medieval Catholic Realist Scholasticism was Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas accepted Augustine's separtion of nature and grace. For Augustine, though nature and grace while (ontologically) separate were never separated in day-to-day existential life.

For Aquinas, following Aristotle, Grace was the form of Nature. Aristotle's forms (as opposed to Plato's) were immanent in materiality. This gave Aquinas' philosophy and theology a very concrete feel. But it also assumed that the human mind (nature) could directly proove the existence of Grace. It could never existentially lift us up to God, nor could it ever directly proove the existence of Christian elements of theology (like the Incarnation, Trinity), but it could prove the existence of God through the effects of the natural world (the famous 5 Ways argument).

So Nature had its own agency in Aquinas not found in Augustine. It had its own sphere of influence, its own truth value, and all of the natural mental truth-sphere could directly prove (though not connected with) the realm of Grace.

Then came along John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan (not a Dominican like Thomas). He criticized Thomas for over-stressing the role of intellect. Thomas, Scotus thought, under appreciated the role of will.

Everything Thomas wrote about grace/free will could be true (and more or less was from Scotus) and yet it was not enough. Necessary but not sufficient. The sufficiency came from will alone. The intellect might "prove" God's existence, but that meant nothing unless the will desired God. If the will did not seek God, it would not find him.

Then lastly William Ockham (famous for his "Razor"). Occkham took this turn to its finale. The intellect (particularly the Divine Intellect) no longer mattered, everything was dependent on the will.

The human mind was not "realistically" depicting the things in the outer world or the world above. It was simply giving them "names" (hence nominalism).

All Protestant theologies, consciously or not, assume a nominalistic viewpoint. That is very important because with the loss of realism, there was a movement to emphasize the will alone (as in Ockham). Luther would do this as well (Grace over Law). The German spirit that arose in the Romantics and sadly later in the Nazis (pure voluntarism) had its roots, both positive and negative, in this nominalistic-voluntaristic outlook. Instead of seeing a way in which Spirit would bring about a transcendent mind and will.

Nominalism does not provide a wide enough lens for mysticism. It leads to a typically secular outlook, at least as regards humans and the natural world (science, politics, etc.). To the degree there is any notion of divnity it tends to be a deistic or totally separate theistic God, out there somewhere who possibly from time to time overturns the natural order from without. Nominalism cuts out the intermediate states (like the subtle) and weakens the concept of meditation--both from God to us and from our higher states to embodiment in this world. Realims unfortunately no longer holds philosphically and can not therefore support mysticism either. [Only a post-metaphysical philosophical construct will support Christian mystical theology for the 21st century, what I am advocating in these writings].

Luther also read Dionysius, father of the 3-fold mystical path of purgation, illumination, and union. Luther though he initially seemed interested in Dionysius, misinterpreted him badly. For Luther apophatic theology (via negativa, causal consciousness) meant that all theological statements refer to the Cross.

All theologies are crucified and implode at the point of the Cross. That's not a bad point of view, he seems to have been the first to say that explicitly, but that is definitely not what Dionysius meant by apophatic theology. For Dionysius, apophatic theology--saying what God is not rather than what God is--is a meditation practice to open us up to the causal state-stage of unification. Apophaic theology though it uses "negative" language (God is not comprehensible), it is in actuality a "positive" experience. It is the experience of God in the darkness.

Luther also, due to his views on the priesthood of all believers, destroyed an ancient (now forgotten) notion in Catholic theology between the commandments and the counsels. The commandments applied to all Christians. The counsels were only for the "perfect". The counsels involved things like celibacy, religious vows--basically monasticism. Luther, recall was originally a monk. The "perfect" being a code-word for mystics of the union stage in the Orthodox Church. In the Catholic Church the "perfect" became the clergy or whoever took the vows without necessarily having to transform to sanctity.

So Luther was only half-right. He was right about the arrogance of the medieval Church abrogation of the perfect being clergy and monastics. He was wrong insofar as those practices acted as supporters of a mystical path. Given the socio-cultural constructs of the premodern world, msyticism was (across religious boundaries) almost the exclusive perserve of monks.

[Generically it was the Medieval Catholic Church Luther revolted against, but the Medieval Catholic Church was not the only form of the Catholic Church. Ideally Protestantism should have transcended and included Roman Catholicism structure-stage wise, but ended up splitting, causing weakness on both sides].

Luther certainly had a strong devotional life. His thesis that apophatic theology meant that everything referred to the Cross led to his emphasis on God's Power being God's weakness. Luther had a deep devotion to creches for this very reason (still big in Lutheran churches as the huge, plain, wooden cross in every Lutheran Church I've ever been inside). He also believed strongly in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist--good Medieval Catholic monk that he was--which was sadly, for the most part lost in Lutheran circles.

Luther also had his famous "tower experience" while in hiding from the Pope and Catholic Princes of Germany. The Tower experience helped him to his insight regarding the Law/Gospel distinction and brought ease of mind to his previously anxiety-filled, neurotic soul.

But he never understood the traditional three-fold path, nor the even more daring four-fold nondual path of indistinction.

Luther famously said that the saved human soul was shit covered in snow. Damned souls were just shit. The snow (justification/salvation by grace through faith) was the snow layer. But notice the snow in Luther's mind never really cleansed the shit. It was still shit.

And this tendency in Protestantism through Luther is to see salvation as almost like an innoculation against damnation. One shot and you're "saved" for everlasting life. But nothing inside seems to change much.

In Catholic thought, salvation is salvation from damnation and to sanctification. Its only the first step in a process, not the rubber-stamped end. The shit covering snow involves a complicated Catholic versus Protestant understanding of Original Sin, which I won't go into, but sufficed to say, for mysticism, the shit needs, as Lama Surya Das would say, to turn into manure.

The shit part needs to be purified and made to help the embodiment of the snow layer into the world. This is the neglected element of "good works" the Catholics maintained. It can't just be an "outside" job as in evangelical Protestantism.

So again, what I'm saying is that certainly Protestants have mystical experiences, moments of profound intimacy with God, but there is not a systematic, theological mainframe to support those experiences nor yet a path setup to realize the state-stages of purgation, illumination, and union.

Lastly Luther argued against the ancient (Catholic and Orthodox) notion of scripture and tradition, arguing instead for scripture alone (sola scriptura). All Protestans would likewise accept this notion--as with Luther's (mis)understanding of apophatic theology and counsels/commandments.

The Scripture/Tradition, boiled down, goes like this--the Church wrote the Bible, not the Bible wrote the Church.

From historical sources we know that the earliest New Testament documents come from Paul in the 50s C.E. The Gospels Mark (70), Matthew/Luke (80-90s), John (100). Jesus being crucified in the late twenties/early 30s of the Common Era. Paul tells the Corinthians regarding the Eucharist: I told you what was handed onto me (tra-ditio, "handed-over")."

So by the 50s, only 20 years after Jesus, communities are practicing similiar forms of worship and already refer to a "tradition." This tradition would also be the ones to choose which books went into the Bible (the Canon) and which did not. Luther unsurprisingly choose the same books--there's sola scriptura for you.

Luther unfortunately missed the boat on this one as well. Probably he's biggest mistake in my book. The modern wave (of which Luther was a forerunner) was caught in the so-calld Myth of the Given. The truth, the real world was considered to just be lying out there for everyone to simply notice.

Postmodernism in contrast sees all knowledge as inherently interpretative, which is to say part of a tradition.

Sola Scriptura, is like all modern fallacies, an interpretation that claims it is interpretation-less. There is no such thing as "Scripture", but "Scriptures" read at all different levels, states, in many different contexts. There is a way (injunction, praxis) of reading Scripture for mystics. And Luther, and Protestantism, missed this truth.

For many Protestant theologies, mysticism is suspect (or outright heretical) because it is not "Biblical."

Now, as I argued in the earlier posts there are explicit references to Union with Christ in the New Testament, but Paul or John are not as explicit as will be later Hesychast and Bridal Mystics.

A parallel from Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) will help here.

In the Book of Kings the prophet Elijah is taken up by a Chariot. The prophet Ezekiel also has a vision of Chariot descending from Heaven. The word for chariot is merkavah.

Later Kabbalistic masters (zadiks) would meditate on this chariot. A whole school of Kabbalah arose around these stories--known as merkavah mysticism. Now, the Kabbalist would ascend through levels of the chariot until being "enraptured" like Elijah into heaven. That is the master would move from subtle (God with form, Chariot) to the Causal (Heaven, nameless, imageless, Cloud of Unknowing).

Now a metaphysical, premodern Kabbalah master would tell you he was having the exact same experience as Elijah. A modern Biblical scholar would show how the texts serves to assert a theological agenda or support a social vision. The "mystical" thesis thereby being invalidated.

But that criticism is only half-right. The Kabbalah master is wrong insofar as it is not possible to make the statement that one is having the EXACT SAME experience as Elijah (who may be a literary amalgamation, or possibly not even a historical figure, a literary type if you will). But the experience is valid.

From a post-metaphysical standpoint, we need not argue that mystical experiences are explicitly the same as the Biblical precedents---Moses on the mount, Jesus Transfigured, Paul, Elijah, whoever. In a Post-Meta. frame, we understand that we are co-constructing (tetra-constructing) the contours of Creation by enacting certain injunctions, in this case mystical ones.

The practice is "Biblical" insofar as the seeds, the genesis of the practice are there--both for Kabbalah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Mysticism in the Christian "New" Testament. While the seeds are there, the way in which this mysticism will manifest depend on our current situation and will not therefore be "exactly" the same as the ancient predecessors. Thereby cutting through the premodern/modern debate labeled above.

Which is to say mysticism is part of the tradition---part of how we interpret the Scripture. Obviously as a Christian, I believe the tradition is open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and has been guided by the Spirit and is therefore to be believed as trustworthy, in its essentials. But that doesn't mean the interpretation of the tradition (the interpretation of the interpretation) is itself divine or to stand for all time. The tradition can and does develop.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


I guess I'm going to continue with social-political commentary on the question of modernity, Islam, GWOT (Global War on Terrorism), Iraq, etc.

In that vein, check out this very disturbing article about the radicalization of the Pashtun regions of Western Pakistan in the WashingtonPost by Ahmed Rashid, expert on the Taliban.

The idea that binLaden is on the run is sadly propaganda. As Rashid notes, he's operating openly in NW Pakistan. He is rebuilding bases, gaining recruits, spreading the message of global jihad. The Taliban also are re-solidying their positions in these areas outside the control of the Pakistani state.

As the article maintains, just as in Iraq, we had enough troops, expertise to knock out the enemy, but not enough to win the peace.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Addendum to Wild Theory on Iraq

Very good comment by WH in my last post. Made me re-think some issues--at least in terms of whether formal separation of the Sunni/Shia regions is the best option and/or feasible. Still, the point holds that the US is now in a position where it is both the cause of (homegrown) insurgency and the force preventing large-scale civil war (as opposed to the "smaller" scale, if I can even use that term, civil war 3 years old to date).

Just watched Frontline's piece from Tuesday night on the Insurgency. Warning--graphic imagery.

To my mind, it is a must watch. It puts to shame mainstream US media coverage, particularly television media. The video has only further convinced me that the so-called Sunni problem has no clear end in sight. The Sunni insurgency may collaborate with al-Qaeda in Iraq at times, with al-Sadr even the Iranians at times, to expel the Americans. But then they will simply revert to fighting each other.

And as long as the insurgency has local support, reconstruction can not take place, leading to a downward spiral--the Americans then are depicted as the reason for unemployment, humiliation, and destruction of the country.

One of the journalist heroes of the Frontline piece is Michael Ware from Time. He is the only Western journalist to have connections with the insurgency. Read his extended interview with Frontline here.

Perhaps the most interesting of the passages is his take on the new generation of al-Qaeda and how it will be more inspired by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi then Osama bin Laden. Here's an excerpt:

Certainly the way I see it, and the way it's been expressed to me by individuals who have become a part of Zarqawi's organization, Sept. 11 was the end of a form of Al Qaeda. Sept. 11 was the final product of the Afghan generation. ... And I'm sure the Al Qaeda strategists knew that after Sept. 11 an attack would come, and the organization would be dispersed, and [they would] have to revert to an underground movement and would be under great stress. And if you look at what bin Laden has said, and if you just analyze the nature of the actions, it was an inspirational event: "You see what we can do? Now you go out and do it. We've trained you. We've funded you. We've shown you the way." And that's always been a fundamental Al Qaeda principle.

So very much it was franchised terrorism, and it was, "Think globally, act locally," with a very local phase to every manifestation. And it didn't have to be Al Qaeda in every appearance. It was Abu Sharif [leader of Asbat al-Ansar, a Lebanon-based group] here and the Moral Liberation Front there, and something else here and something else here. But in all its permutations, it was a furtherance of a fundamental Al Qaeda-inspired ideology or concept. It's the idea that is most powerful.

So what we saw after Afghanistan is this movement seeking its new birth, its next platform, and through Zarqawi we see this personified. He had a camp in Herat, [Afghanistan], for his organization, which was not Al Qaeda but was definitely affiliated and working within it. It's then reported that he went to Kandahar, joined the defense of that, and eventually fled through Iran. Then there [are] various reports about where he went and how long he spent and whatever. But essentially, what he was doing was ... shopping around as a terrorist consultant for hire. He was looking for the next place or group or cause on which to graft himself. And ultimately, the U.S. administration gave him Iraq as the next platform upon which to build the new generation. It was the ultimate tool with which to recruit.
If you go back and you see the letter that Zarqawi wrote to Osama bin Laden, which was intercepted, ... it constitutes Zarqawi's business plan. "This is what I intend to do with this platform, seeking the support of Osama bin Laden." You go back and read that document now, and Zarqawi has followed through with everything that he promised. Every tenet that he outlined, he has, if not fulfilled, he has pursued vigorously. And it was here that Al Qaeda was given a rebirth. This is what we're now seeing: This Bush administration is the midwife to the next generation of Al Qaeda, and that's a generation that is principally being shaped or flavored by Zarqawi. ...

This view seems to support what I had already mentioned in linking Nir Rosen's article (A Darker Take on Iraq) on Zarqawi. Bin Laden created a very individualist modernist form of Islam. I have likened him, minus the violence, to Luther in this regard. He opened up a genuinely new form of Islam (like Luther for Christianity) but then was unable to control it as he attempted to then prove his version of individualist (non-traditional) Islam was the most correct. As Luther sought to bring all Protestants to himself. Protestants accepted his attack on the Church (like jihadists accept bin Laden's attack on the Soviets and West) but not Luther's theology.

Zarqawi believes the real enemy is the near enemy. As Peter Bergen, expert on al-Qaeda has stated, after the Afghan War against the Soviets, jihadist principles were spread. These men aren't going to "retire" from Jihad once the Iraq War is concluded--just as they did not after the Soviets left Afghanistan. The jihadis in Afghanistan gained amazing skill and technical expertise after fighting a deficient, disorganized army (the Soviets). The jihadis in Iraq by extension, it is to scary to imagine, will have gained expertise and training by fighting the most well organized, efficient military force in human history.

Whatever happens in Iraq, it is clear that the Middle East will be facing renewed jihadist attacks. Particularly up for grabs will be Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.

The interplay between that al-Qaeda (2.0) inspired movements and the larger Islamist- nationalist groups using the Bush doctinre of world-wide democracy as a base for Islamic Statehood will be the real force to watch in the coming decades. Especially as they continue their struggle against the dictatorial (current) regimes of the region.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Wild Theory on Iraq

This last week's events (the bombing of Askariya Shia mosque) have really highlighted for me that the current policy is not working.

As I have stated before, following the logic of Nir Rosen, for me there is already civil war in Iraq and has been for (at least) 2 years. When I hear political commentators say that the American presence is the only thing preventing Civil War, I immediately translate that into--the American's are the only thing stopping increased, massive Civil War on a scale that is horrific. As opposed to the more low-level, awful Civil War already underway.

On the other hand, as long as the Americans remain, then the Shia are collaborators in the eyes of the Sunni.

What the mosque bombing and subsequent episodes have shown is that the Iraqi Government can only maintain order by curfews and massive military on the ground presence. They do not have the manpower or resources to keep such a curfew up full time.

The real power and legitimacy on the streets belongs to the clerics and the militias. The American army and ambassador are being increasingly squeezed out of the picture as the Iraqi government has no real authority (minus martial law) outside the International Zone (formerly the Green Zone).

I think the time has come to fundamentally re-assess the assumption that Iraq must remain a united country based on the borders carved out by British colonials.

Not to overuse the Spiral jargon, but if Iraq (and wider aspects of the Middle East, minus Iran) are basically red in nature, then it is blue (theocracies) that must come into power or already are in power (say Saudi Arabia). In a country like Saudi Arabia, there is a Shi'ite minority but it is not as large as the Sunni/Shia populations of Iraq.

When those two groups exist in such large numbers with different blue meme structures--and while they are both Islamic, there are deep differences (structurally, theologically) between Shia and Sunni, particularly modern Shia and Sunni theologies--then I'm afraid they will not be able to make it work.

A blue, order-based political structure that opens up economic rights and slowly allows political rights to seep down congruent with the rise of a middle class--who alone can properly handle such rights (from the perspective of rule of law anyway).

I think the first step is to declare Kurdistan an independent country--the Americans could begin to move a large bulk of the Troops there. The Kurds have the Peshmerga and have shown themselves to be the most progressive, well organized, well defensed bunch. Kurdistan would become the "2nd Israel" if you will of the Middle East: pro-American rule of law/democracy, economic trading partner, negotiator between Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Western Europe, and US. They have Kirkuk and its rich northern oil fields. Non-sectarian.

Just have to allay Turkish fears that the Kurds would help foment Kurdish independence in Turkey--the Iraqi Kurds and the Turkish Kurds however don't particularly like each other, so that could be achieved.

Then the more dangerous issue of splitting the Shia and Sunni.

The great monkey wrench in any plan for a separtion of Iraq proper(Kurdistan is never really a part of Iraq) is that the middle of the country and the West, mainly Sunni, is oil-less. The rest of the oil (minus Kirkuk) resides in the Shi'a South.

The Shi'a have been oppressed long enough and know their time has come, on the treads of American tanks, but their time has come nonetheless. A strong alliance with Iran guarantees them weapons and training for self-defense in the case of an attack from the Sunnis. They are not going to negotiate in any real terms with the Sunni. And true be told, I can understand why--though I wish it were otherwise. I'm not sure I would particularly trust the Sunni if I were an Iraqi Shi'a.

What the Bush administration argued is that the increased Sunni participation in the last round of elections signals their increased desire to participate in the political process over the militant process.

The hope was thereby to divide and conquer--separate out first the foreign Salafi jihadis (like Zarqawi) from the anti-US, "nationalistic" "tribal" Sunni insurgency. Then split the Sunni insurgency from its base of tacit support among the Sunni populace.

Certainly not an insane plan. It has a logic. But I'm beginning to think more and more that it is predicated on a misreading of the data. The increased Sunni involvement in the electoral process to me signifies more that the Sunnis have decided to fight the same war against the Shia on two fronts simultaneously. The democractic elements therefore further exacerbating the sectarian tension not helping to relieve it.

Without an economic incentive, they, the Sunnis, have no cards to play and they know it. Therefore string out the guerilla campaign against the US as long as it takes to swap the strength of its support back home, the Americans leave, opening up the fight (some) among the Sunni have wanted all along--against the Shi'a collaborators.

The Sunnis, it seems, have done so much to organize militarily throughout the history of Iraq and enforce its will on the majority Shia because they are without natural resources. There are other factors involved of course, but that one looms very large. Not to sound Marxist for a second, but the economic, power ends can not be overstated in this matter.

The Shi'a have, generally though not without exceptions, moderated themselves in response to the murderous insurgency against them by Sunni extremists. God bless Sistani for coming out against violent retaliations--but I'm not sure how long his voice will carry the day. Tough to know that from here. The case of the Iranian-influenced Iraqi Shi'a infiltrating the interior ministry as a cloak to carry out illegal and covert murders and imprisonments (revenge killings) being a brutal counterexample to the otherwise, fairly moderate Shia response. Remember the Shia are facing bombings and drive-bys at weddings, Friday prayer, religious pilgrimages, and funerals. Weddings and Funerals for God's sake--from other Muslims!!!

For the a Shi'a nation to be declared in the South would require the US to make strategic and diplomatic alliance with Iran--something the Bush administration has unfortunately not been wise enough to achieve. The US guarantees Iran as the major player in that region of the world, its parent-like role in Shia Iraq (Shia-stan, if you like), and the promise of not attempting to overthrown the Ayatollah regime, in exchange for the withdraw of the nuclear bomb program.

The US would then have to bring a multi-nation conference consisting of Syria, Saudis, and Jordan to prop up the new (mostly) Sunni nation of the center/West. This is particularly important as, for example, even moderate King Abdullah of Jordan--who unfortunately has been saddled with being King of Jordan, but otherwise is to my mind, possibly the most intellligent politician on the planet--has warned of a rising Shi'a Crescent. From Hezbollah-ruled Southern Lebanon, through Southern Iraq, and Iran, the balance is definitely shifting.

The US would have to make clear it does not seek total Shia dominance in the region and would not stand for Shia-stan Iraq (whatever that country would be called, Sistani-stan?) invading Sunni Iraq (again under whatever new name).

Again, the key would be to find some economic policy for the Sunni-dominated Central-Western provinces. Minus that, they will fight. Period.

And that raises a larger issue. Bush has referenced recently energy-independence from the Middle East--modestly but the issue is gaining traction. Its strongest and most consistent voice has been Thomas Friedman in a series of NYTimes op-ed pieces.

Now, I'm all for the move to a hydrogen-based economy. But, as Thomas Barnett, has wisely pointed out, if moving towards a hyrdogen economy does not come with a parallel movement to wean the Middle East off petrolism, then it will be a debacle. The Middle East will not economically "innovate" just because they have to, assuming a scenario where the US, China, India, Brazil, W.Europe move away from oil to hydrogen.

The Insurgency in Iraq proves otherwise. The Iraqi Sunnis have not self-organized to economically innovate in the face of the loss of southern oil money. If we move away from oil without at the same time, promoting a new economic venture for the Middle East, the Middle East will become Sub-Saharan Africa (if its not or worse than SSAfrica already). It will be a sub-Saharan Africa with an ideology of trans-national terrorism, more militant expertise, and a religion with (one among many) a thread that supports martyrdom in the cause of fighting as a unquestioned avenue to everlasting glory.

That ideology has not yet spread very deeply into sub-Saharan Africa. Variants of the theme exist in Northern Nigeria, Somalia, and Ethiopia. But as the West works more and more on the Southwest and Central Asia, trying to bring it into the community of federated nation-states--assuming the project is even remotely successful--sub-Saharan Africa will be the last bastion of jihadist militancy.

But the first step being Iraq. I think Bush needs to re-draw the map and move the goal posts, no longer holding onto the notion that victory in Iraq is predicated on the unified, secular, nation-state he envisioned. I don't think that is reliable any longer--not within a year or two.

Again, this is a prognostication, so I could be reading this in 10 years thinking how off the mark I was--who knows, human societies, like Nature, are chaotic systems. They are inherently unpredictable systems.

But I don't think we can hold our troops there for another 8 years just hoping this current policy works. Whatever else can be said about Bush he has fundamentally re-shaped the world--for good or evil or both depends on one's perspective I guess--but change it he has. There is no turning back the clock.

E/W IV: Western Christian Nonduality

To understand the hidden nondual theology-spirituality of the Western Catholic tradition, we have to return to Augustine.

Augustine, recall, more or less shifted all the power and efficacy of spiritual practice to grace, thereby reducing the bi-polarity of the Orthodox tradition (grace and free will) into more of a unipolar vision.

Also, Augustine read Plotinus (in translation) and undertook his injunction and had a brief (or possible several) altered nondual state of consciousness. There is only Christ, loving himself in all members.

Lastly, Augustine in his theological debate with the Donatists, came to a new understanding of the sacraments and the priesthood that would be definitive for the Catholic tradition.

In the North African Church of Augustine, the cult of martrydom and veneration of the martyrs and witnesses (those who survived torture/persecution without renouncing the faith) was strong.

After a wave of persecution was over (e.g. the persecution of 250s C.E.), the question of what do with those who "lapsed" under torture or threat of death but were sorry and wanted to return to the Church became very important.

Christian charity and the Gospels seemed to dictate pardon and re-admittance to the Church, but on the other hand, these were individuals who in some cases had turned in other Christians (or others who perahps weren't even Christian) and were complicit in their execution.

The North African Church at first seemed to have let the witnesses (confessors) to decide the fate of the lapsed (lapsi in Latin). They perhaps instituted a penace and a period of re-formation before readmitting the lapsed back into the Church. Eventually the power to decide who should be re-allowed and who not came to be controlled by the Bishops.

At this, certain more rigorist members felt the Church had betrayed the memories of the matrys/confessors. The formal penance and public display of forgiveness became less and less demanding in their eyes and bishops were re-admitting not only laity who had fallen but even bishops, deacons, and priests.

This group eventually split and started its own line of authority (technically a schism versus heresy which is holding different doctrine). They proclaimed their own bishops, clergy, performed their own sacramental rites and so forth. They also proclaimed that only a sinless clergyman could properly perform the Sacramental Rites.

This last proposition drove Augustine to attack their ideology. For Augustine, remember, sin is the prideful closing in on oneself, denying communion (with God, multiple parts of oneself, and neighbor). The idea that any person could be sinless was insane for Augustine. To attempt to be perfect was itself the height of spiritual arrogance, trying thereby to create a clique of sinless, elite, saints.

Since the Donatists tried to make the efficacy of the Sacraments subservient to the spiritual state of the clergy, Augustine argued that the Sacraments, in essence, performed themselves. The term in Latin is ex operare operatum--by the work of their work, technically. By itself in other words. The sacraments, the rituals of the Church were in no way connected to the inner state of the priest performing them.

So just as with Pelagius, the debate was between the extremes.

Because the spiritual power of the sacraments was disconnected from the priest, the emphasis shifted totally to proper recitation of the formula and making sure one had proper lines of spiritual authority--this explains in part the movement in the Vatican to attempt to garner power for itself over choices of bishops, priests, and rules over clerical celibacy, etc. But that is another debate.

Anyway, the point for Nonduality is that when seen in a different light, ex operare operatum is itself a Nondual Vision.

The Sacraments happen by themselves. The Sacraments then--and Creation is considered a Revelation in Christianity, so Nature as well--happen by themselves. The forms and the change and the salvation of all beings happens spontaneously. And here is where, flipping our lens, away from a strict literalist view (as with Augustine), we see the hidden Nonduality.

Both his views on the Sacraments and on Grace Alone, could be best summarized as: There is Nothing but Grace. Grace ALONE IS.

It is both an eye-opening and yet viscious vision--which is exactly what the Nondual state is like.

Everything as Meister Eckhart said, works unto the good. This does not mean that everything has been the best way of working unto the good possible, but that everything works unto the good nonetheless. Everything is spontaneously saved. Creation, we might say, is itself redemption.

And if there is but Christ, Christ was without Sin. If Grace is All and All, then from the Nondual State, there is no separation, hence no Sin. Only one Traveler (Christ), through all forms and times--Cosmic Christ--sinless, without consciousness of separation. The Mind of Christ alone IS.

But only from a Nondual Space. Just as in Tibetan Buddhism, in the Absolute there is no Karma, no beginning and no end, in the Relative all of these things still ex-ist.

Augustine came to this vision but couldn't take its beautiful horror.

There is a Sacramental Law to this Universe--everything eats everything else.

Every moment consists of life feeding off death. Life feeding off of life. For us to live, other beings must die--proto-conscious beings. And ultimately, no amount of ethical action will ever save us from that...no vegetarianism, no socially conscious clothing, no save the whales, nothing.

Nothing will save us. Salvation, grace happens by itself. As long as there is a conscious mind, there will always be an unconscious mind. As long as there is a part of us that seeks the good, there will be a part that seeks destruction and injects its drama and agenda into every action, no matter how "good", "well-intentioned" or "holy", even among the greatest of the saints. That is the truth of Original Sin.

I'm not advocating being un-ethical, for that is just to still be caught in the poles of Relativity. Do what you think is right, meditate long and hard on how best to tread as lightly as possible in this world, to increase life, heal broken-ness, and decrease (unjust, unmerciful, unloving forms of) death.

But know that none of it will ever make you worthy of Love. None of it is ever a perfect action. None of it gives you any Ultimate Reference point on which to stand as Righteous, Religiously Upright. That was the mistake of the Pharisees.

Live in a manner at peace with the imperfect nature of your being.

But sadly for Augustine, it lead to contraction. He felt there was no hope except the Church, literally believed in--hence the paradox of the Catholic Church. It what Vivekananda called Western Vedanta, and yet it is also the source of so much unnecessary pain and destruction of human souls. For taking the story too literally.

For Jesus the truth that everything eats everything else meant to simple love in the face of this mania.

The great symbol of Christian Nonduality is the Eucharist. As Christ knows the end is near, as he knows his body is be tortured and eaten--he freely gives it away, joyfully in order to join, to commune.

This is my Body, This is my Blood. Take eat and drink this, all of you. Whenever you do this, Re-member me.

Remember that every moment is this Eucharist. Every moment we are living this dying, we are the spontaneous express of this play of life/death. In the face of that, simply Love, LOVE ALONE, beyond all boundaries, affiliations, and even at moments, ethical constraints.

Sacrifice your very being to Kali. Give her your bloody heart to feast upon. Release purely into the immolation.

As St. Paul said, I am being poured out as a libation on the altar of the universe.

You are the very cup of Christ, the very blood of his body, his blood only salvific as it is given away, as it ex-ists for others. So to your life, as you have only ever truly lived to the degree that you have died. Only received to the degree that you give away. Only powerful to the degree that you have surrendered everything.

The Western (Catholic) Church has all sorts of deep pathologies for the mistake of reaching the Nondual and then (mis)interpreting it, too closely aligning it with the mythic meme. But for its unhealthy manifestations, it is also the strongest source in Christianity of the Nondual.

The Orthodox Church maintained the balance and kept a healthy dualistic approach--grace/free will, divinization, and the restortation of all things in Christ. But never allowed that which is beyond the Dual.

The two strains need to re-unite to allow the healthy relative (Orthodox) and the Absolute (Catholic) to manifest simultaneously. Otherwise the choice between the unhealthy relative and healthy Absolute (Catholic) or the healthy relative and absent Absolute (Orthodox).

Protestantism, as I will argue in the next segment, unfortunately got just about neither relative nor Absolute right (from the perspective of states)--but was the lead movement in stages of Christianity.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Robert Wright on Islam/West

Check out this article by Robert Wright for New America; it says what I wanted to say about Islam-West, except much more articulately and concisely.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Adrift at SEA

[SEA stands for Self-Esteem (Seekers) Anonymous].

The latest wrinkle of my self journey has been the recognition of my self-esteem issues as a dis-ease, as an illness.

I always knew I had low self-esteem as compared to my peers, but without naming it as illness, nothing I ever did seemed to work.

I've decided to set aside time each day--maybe only 10 minutes--to begin the process of ingesting the layers of this new truth into my being. I'm going slow in order to prevent an all-out Chris assault (as per my usual), turning everything into a project that demands immediate victory and success.

That isn't realistic in this case.

There is a low self-esteem inventory here. With the caveat that this "quiz" has much open-ended and vague sounding language that could lead almost anyone to believe they have self-esteem issues. (Mis)interpretation aside, the scoring goes from 0-150. The result are broken down into 5 categories of 30 points each. 0-30, no issues; 30-60, faint traces; 60-90 moderate difficulties; 90-120 presence of severe low self esteem; and 120-150 obviously being clincal problems of an extremely acute nature.

For what its worth I scored 112. That places me in the "presence of severe self-esteem issues" canp, but not as bad as those in the final grouping. That accords with my general sense of my esteem being much worse than the average, but thankfully not as a bad and debilitating as others I've encountered.

The downside of it being severe but workable is that I always put dealing with it off bc I can (and have and do) manage to lead a more or less regular life.

The notion of the emotional self-esteem issues as an illness puts this reading in line with things like AA, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. (SEA being the branch version of the same anonymous tree relating to this particular issue).

Fortunately I've never had an addictions to chemicals, gambling, acting out (e.g. promiscuous sexual activity) in self-destructive ways. I can have one drink and let it go at that; I've never understood how individuals can never not just have one drink (or one bet, or one whatever).

But the more I think about it, I've also never understood really how people can be okay with themselves, can even actually like themselves. My mindset must be to those people like mine is towards the alcoholics.

Before understanding the illness aspect, I would wonder about say an alcoholic--why don't they see they are ruining their life, destroying their relationships. All of which are perfectly reasonable (and valid) points.

The few conversations I've had with people--very few--where I've admitted to low self-esteem, they have almost always (meaning well) asked the same sort of reasonable, logical, critical questions. Or make reasonable, logical, well-meaning affirmative comments like, "But you're so talented, so intelligent...everybody likes you, etc."

All of which are certainly valid to a degree (not everybody who knows me likes me).

All valid, well-meaning, and thoughtful, and none having the least bit effect on me. At least as relates to the self-esteeem issue.

The only reason honestly I have even come to this place where I'm (partially) willing to do the long, slow, painful work of recovery is because of Chloe and the thought of our future family together. And worse the thought of losing her because of this illness.

If I would have stayed a Jesuit, I imagine I would have, like I always have done, buried the pain in work and good deeds, smilinng my way through a miserable life.

So part of learning curve I'm sure be will to face whether I eventually am internally motivated--beyond even the "external" (though a good start) motivation of my loved one(s).

Now, not reverse fields and re-inforce denial tendencies, but I want to contextualize all of this as well.

There are three identities (generically): ego, Soul, and SELF (Spirit). This particular issue of course only affects one of those--ego, frontal personality. My Soul, or better The Soul that has me (Chris) is not from this plane and is not wounded by the pains of this world. He/she/it cries for Chris' pain no doubt, but is not in any sense touched by the pain. The Soul's dis-ease is of a much darker nature and by God's grace has been fairly cleansed. And Spirit of course with no dis-ease, just pure unconditional, ever-watchful, embrace.

And then with even with the self (or better selves), not all of it is touched by this.

In the Big Mind Process, for example, there are the voices of the fixer, the controller, the seeker, and the wounded child (among many others). Of course most of this pain resides in the Wounded Child. And certainly my fixer, seeker, and such are certainly influenced by the negative scripts, pain, and trauma of my illness--but can not be reduced to those or reactions to those either.

There are pieces of my life, in the right context, where I have no doubts about my abilities--neither arrogance nor cowardice. It becomes pure expression for the sake of the art itself...the best examples of this, for me, are public speaking and teaching.

So while it might seem backward, I have very little nervousness about getting up and speaking in front of complete strangers because for one, I'll probably never have to actually interact with them anyway ever again, two, in say like a homily from seminary days, I'm in control--it's a monlogue--nobody is going to interrupt me.

But then after such a homily or talk, people come up adn congratulate you or want to discuss what you had to say in further detail, ask a question, and I freeze up. Because once that boundary is crossed, in face-to-face, one-on-one, anything can happen.

Also, like I mentioned, my symptoms do not flare up in dangerous ways. I fall into the opposite category--I take the identity of peacemaker, entertainer/mascot, rescuer. I'm too nice. I'm overly cautious about hurting people's feelings, sometimes to a fault. I have an amazingly difficult time admitting I'm angry and almost never tell someone these are my boudaries and you're crossing them, please cease.

So for those of you out there who've (in a well-meaning way) praised me for being so nice and understanding, just remember (bc I sure do), that I'm nice in part just because I don't like being mean. And I'm being nice to you, not (altogether) because I'm a swell considerate guy but I'm too self-conscious and self-focused to want to possibly upset you.

The shadow is a wonderful trickster.

I wrote the above, mostly to reinforce to myself that I don't want to become someone who has an "addiction" or "12 Step" mindset, where everything is about the Program, addictions--as someone who went through seminary, I knew a lot of people in the "Program", mostly seminarians and priests and this totalizing mindset was very common--all of which to me seems to reinforce the notion of how "addictive" addiction is....in other words, the Program, Recovery, etc. becomes a new form of addiction for some. Certainly healthier than the alternative but overly absolutized nonetheless.

Still, it's going to be painful, if I actually go through with it. It reminds me of the scene in A Beautiful Mind where at the end of the movie--after years of properly managing his hallucinations and leading a regular life--John Nash is walking away from a student and asks her if she sees some people talking to him over in the corner. She says no, and then he doesn't talk to them.

As illness, like alcoholism, it will always be with me--like John Nash's hallucinations. There is always going to be that voice in my head. Its not rational, no rational discourse will silence it, but it doesn't have to be listened to either. I can just let it speak, tell it, thank you for expressing yourself, and then calmly choose another option.

The shadow is more like a school yard bully than a monster. The bully talks a big game, but only to hide his obvious flaws. And bullies are notorious pansies when it comes to an actual fight.

Remembering those truths brings me a renewed vision and hopefulness.

Its not all of who I am, and the parts of me that it does accurately belong to, make me more like everyone else, not less so. Keeping those views in mind, will help forestall, I believe, my ego trying to go from these negative scripts to a victim script.

As the Native Americans would say before battle, "Its a good day to die."

Monday, February 20, 2006

Societal 3-2-1 Process

The 3-2-1 Process is a key piece of the Integral Life Practice (formerly Integral Transformative Practice). The 3-2-1 Process deals with going from 3rd person (IT) to second person (You), to 1st person ownership (me, mine, I), especially as it relates to disowned, resisted inner psychological processes (shadow) and the resulting bad deeds done (projection, introjection, repression, etc.). For a good overview, check out this post from Pongsathorn.

In my on-going quest to dig into the unconscious (or maybe semi-conscious) elements of integral, in this way of teasing out the real depth there, beyond what I see to be some of the more shallow-ish interpretations, I was thinking of the notion of the 2nd-person point of view.

Mark Edwards, a non-AQAL integralist, believes the 2nd-person point of view should actually be added to the quadrants--giving the sextents: see here.

Now I wouldn't exactly go that far, but I think there is an interesting point there.

One basic argument that has swum around in the (so-called) integral ponds, is the lack of communion, I-Thou, We-space, and so forth. In another universe and lifetime I wrote a rather stupid (in retrospective) piece on the subject. So none of that, that well is quite dry.

But more on the notion of the 2nd-person perspective as it relates to other cultures, religions, societies, movements, philospohies, political camps, etc.

When Ken, correctly, states that the I-Thou (from Buber) boils down to the We, I get the sesen that people (mis)interpret that to mean you can only access the 2nd-person perspective in direct communication. Or if you don't like the 2nd-person notion, just the idea of taking more and more perspectives in a way that is something deeper than only cognitively reading about it (3rd person) and yet is not person-to-person communication (We, 1st person plural).

To sound trite, it would be reading with self-identity and heart. Learning about the worlds with a background sense of dialogue.

Like the 3-2-1 process but this time not for your disowned interior psyche, but the disowned world. In I-I, let's say, they are different manifestations of the same Oneness, both dissociations-- both problematic.

Concretely I was thinking about all of this, in relation to the question of Islam, the Arab World, and the larger (for lack of a better term) Muslim arc/world stretching from Turkey through Arab lands, Iraq, Pesia (Iran), Central Asia, into Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

More correctly, Islams.

Now there are a lot of controversial elements to all of this--the Iraq War, election of Hamas, the cartoon protests, etc.

There hasn't been a lot of "integrally informed" takes on the subject. And the ones I have seen, generally to me don't seem to get past a tendency in the mainstream (liberal or conservative) press, blogosphere--the total lack of an 2nd person points of view.

And I would argue strongly that some multicultural version of "those poor people have been so oppressed by the Western world, blah blah" are not really to any serious degree taking "those poor people's" real lives and feelings into account. Mostly the multicults are "projecting" their own disowned guilt over being a Western onto a bunch of other people. Whatever may or may not be the validity of those feelings, they are certainly not clear enough to allow the other's point of view, feelngs, values, and emtions in very deeply.

It's probably a stretch to imagine too many playing with the notion of 3-2-1ing their own terrorist self, to sound reather New Agey.

So I'll just ask for a 2nd-person of view. Even if it is a more distanced 2nd-person, as I "dialogue" with you, in my head. Given that I'm not likely heading over to Lebanon or Kurdistan anytime soon.

In other words, there are a lot of intelligent criticisms to say the furor over the Danish publications: the rights of free press; rule of law; double standards and hypocrisy on the part of those who instiage riots that end up killing people as if God or the Prophet would want more death. All of which are true.

Take this passage from a book review by Max Rodenbeck The Economist's Middle Eastern Affairs writer.

The review, I highly recommend it, is of Peter Bergen's (the premier authority on Bin Laden) new oral history of Osama (The Osama Bin Laden I Know) and Bruce Lawrence's first translation into English (that I know of...) of bin Laden actual words.

Passage from Rodenbeck in bold:

One poll taken in Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2003 is perhaps more revealing. Close to half the respondents said they liked bin Laden's rhetoric, but fewer than 5 percent supported him as a leader.

And after arguing that one of the possible reasons for bin Laden's popularity is that he embodies the hero myth (read red meme)--son of a rich man, leaves youthful life of frivolity to live among the poor, fight for justice, uphold the traditions of the ancestors, gains the following of his from his sheer physical prowess, his connection to animals (sound like Robin Hood yet?)--Rodenbeck hits the nail on the head:

Yet even such semi-fictional status cannot fully explain the continued popularity of bin Laden. The simple fact is that even if the details of bin Laden's messages are unconvincing, his core meaning still resounds in the Muslim world. One reason for this is that his status as a hunted fugitive amplifies the message, turning it into a powerful expression of freedom. Another reason is that many competing voices in the Muslim world have lost their legitimacy, such as unpopular regimes, intellectuals "tainted" with secular, Westernized worldviews, or government-salaried clerics. But the main reason, as both Lawrence and Bergen conclude, is that much of what he says fits into a coherent narrative that can be bolstered with real evidence.

It does not require too selective a reading of history to compile a long list of Muslim grievances against the West in general, and America in particular. Lawrence cites a few examples: Winston Churchill's use of poison gas against Iraqi rebels in the 1920s; the million martyrs of Algeria's war of independence against France; the ravages caused by sanctions against Iraq; the support for repressive Arab regimes; and of course the invasion of Iraq. Then there is the issue of double standards: invading Iraq but not North Korea in search of forbidden weapons; chastising Iran for its purported nukes but not Israel; blasting Sudan and Syria for oppressing minorities but staying silent over India's repression in Muslim Kashmir, Russia's war in Chechnya, or China's harsh treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. These are disparate policies, and have been partially compensated by more positive interventions, such as rescuing many Muslims in Darfur from starvation, or protecting the Muslim Albanians of Kosovo. But the balance is not in the West's favor.

There is the de-repressive barrier let go. Not blame ourselves multiculturalism, but just a balanced look on the sins accured in the West's catalog as they relate to the Muslim world--for background into the degree of animus. 50% like Bin Laden's rhetoric: the US should not be upholding corrupt autocracies in the Middle East; the plight of the Palestinian Refugees, etc. But only 5% (young, Salafi, zealot males, willing to kill themselves in Iraq) like his tactics.

Bin Laden is actually not in the traditional line of Islamic theology. He has created his own very selective reading of the Islamic corpus. For another brilliant article (long but worth the read) see Nir Rosen's piece of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Leader of the so-called Al-Qaeda in Meospatamia.

One of the more interesting elements in that article is the contrast between bin Laden and Zarqawi. Both are Salafi (in the West we call them Wahabis), strict so-called fundamentalist Sunni Muslims--but bin Laden advocates attacking the far enemy (The Soviets and now the US), while Zarqawi believed, like most jihadis that the real fight is against the near-enemy (the king of Jordan).

So even the Salafi jihadists, the most minor in terms of numbers (but not media coverage and influence) in the Muslim world have huge disparate fractures from within.

This 2nd-person point of view I'm advocating is to let the "other" speak and in the great tradition of phenomenology, to initially "bracket" the question of whether the contents of the mind-stream correctly describe some "real world" pre-existing out there.

In this case, we'd (temporarily, initially) stop asking whether the terrorists, the protesters, etc. "are right." As if they could be right or wrong in absentia from the entire Kosmic process. There are right and wrong elements, and we can learn these, but first we must inhabit the perspectives, find their contours, and see how they are related to the rest of the manifest perspectives. There is no foundation above or below, no fixed center, everything is absolutely relative everything else.

Politically, the reason there are insurgencies, de-facto support of rebels, some (though very few) young men willing to go commit suicide bombings, etc. are because of the grievances listed by Rodenbeck--the grievances twisted to horrific ends by bin Laden. But the grievances, if we would take the 2nd-person perspective (without all the relativistic postmodern BS), we would see these grievances are not completely out to lunch.

To real get into the praxis of all this requires deeply , existentially letting go of the notion that there is a fixed center, even a so-called integral one. There are simply worldspaces arising, there are truths and falsehoods arising in each, and the trust is that the developmental process is itself somehow salvific--that somehow simply entering these spaces and as best we can giving aid, tearing down barriers, initiating momentum to change, buildings the necessary conditions of change to stick, somehow all of that is worth the effort.

But we never really know that. That seems to be the element of faith in this "worldspace."

Otherwise just a lot of possibly intelligent responses, but metaphysical righteousness undergirding it all.

It might be profound metaphysics, creative metaphysics, insightful metaphysics, arrogant metaphysics, even arrogant and insightul metaphysics, but metaphysics it is all is.

With making explicit the "address" of any and all perspectives in Kosmic manifestation and without specifying the injunction whereby such actions, phenomena may emerge, it is all just metaphysics.

Go from the 3rd person, to the 2nd person in our world: hear their voices, learn their stories, swin their waters, even if only temporarily. At a distance, safely, wisely, but give time and space to open up these closed psychic walls.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Dream Dreamt

Nouns do not ex-ist. They are mere abstractions from the arising of perspectives in worldspaces. Even that last sentence, even the word sentence, is itself an abstraction (abstraction the embodiment of its own definition).

David Bohm somewhere spoke of verbal nouns and attempted to create a methodology for translating all nouns into verbal nouns.

I was thinking of this in relation to Wilber's newest (and most radical) post-metaphysical linguistic/semiotic analyses. (Briefly outlined in Integral Spirituality draft).

His most daring assertion, as I see it, is: the meaning of a statement is its injunction.

From there he begins to parse nouns according to the toolkit (quadrants, levels, lines, states, types) plus altitude and methodology/injunction.

All else is metaphysics. All else, no matter how wise and researched, does make transparent the process by which one locates in the fluid worldspaces (7/L, 1st person plural) of the Kosmos.

It forces integral to no longer be simply placed upon others--at best leading only to healthier lower-level translation.

Every statement we make should simultaneously be the statement and the means (injunction) whereby it is "seen."

It is to re-calibrate the entire course of human study/life: politics, education, law, philosophy, religion--by making transparent the entire process by which we understand, speak, guess, and decide.

This process alone will slowly objectify (3rd person plural) entire lingustic-social-cultural-human mental order to itself, felt interiorly (1st person perspective) as a differentiation and healthy sense of distance.

The noosphere becoming the object, the beginning of the theosphere (9/L).

As Dr. Greuter has described the first post-postconventional level of self-identity line (9/L, 3px1p singular) as self-construct. The rules, mechanisms, and processes of the self--in the worldspace (9/L, 3px1p plural) of the collective, noosphere-construct perhaps--aware to itself.

Our current cognitive apparti can not hold in communal understanding of the arising of perspectives and location-markers, for say an individual holon, by state, stage, lines, types, and pathologies.

It will require a mind-meld of sorts, a collective depth-surge of interiority to feel beyond the abstract concept of perspectives (7/L), the feeling-response-attention of manifestation rising moment-to-moment.

I begin to dream a dream when I meditate on this new insight.

An organic wedding of bios and technos, the human body (7-8/L, 3rd person singular) achieving even more far out possibilities than a super marathon, how bout a super-duper marathon--like 200 miles, who knows?.

Jedi Knight-like Councils of the Wise/Compassionate who must gaze into the arising interior moments of the Kosmos, of the worldspaces, feeling into the pathologies, the dis-eased parts. Psychic surgies performed in unison.

Food grown in abudance in minute locations, allowing the mass of Earth to be given back to Nature and grown wild, her Eros resurgent. The human imprint light and nimble on this Earth, economically opening homo ludens (playful humanity) to give expression its deeper creative urges, freed from the shackles of hard, grinding, anonymous labor.

The darkness of space no longer dark as we sacrifice this attention into intelligizing the very space-fabric (8/L, 3rd person plural) itself.

Or a renewed techne and even more disturbing and vengeful Big Sibling. The tentacles of Empire (6/L, 3rd person plural) reaching ever more deeply into the flesh. The rebellion of social-political enlightenment, worldly liberation, freeing of the relative mind, grown ever more dangerous and courageous, and secretive.

Wars with ro/nanobots, terrorism of the mind and soul, the harnessing of the subtle underlying archetypes of Nature (9/L) for good and/or for horrific ill.

Mass joblessness created as technology and economics outpaces political and cultural rule sets. The rich, through bioengineering appear almost a different race, frightening by the chaos, ejecting into space pods, aristocratic interstellar communities of privilege--bluebloods of the stars abandoning the masses to eat their (GMO) cake.

Both dreams (mostly) freed of the musings of common place science fiction, themselves all weded to a simply more complex noospheric reality, either techno-utopic or techno-apocalyptic. The utopias and disutopias of those visions the reverse side of unconsciously lacking understanding of deep emergence. The punctuated equilibria of bodies and minds, singulars and collectives.

All of which, however, is still just a visioning of THIS, the Nature of this Experience and the future experiences, however they develop, of those worlds.

For now, a much humbler task. Living concretely in these materialized worlds (Levels 1-8, mostly 1-6). Living with the weight of this vision and knowing (in its greatest possibility) that it will not come true in your life.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


In personal news, after a very difficult month or two, last Saturday I reached a near-breaking point. I found myself going through my off-day running around donig "chores" that didn't technically even needed doing--like working out, shopping for a gift for Chloe. I realized I had no emotional connection to what I was doing, become extremely robotic. This is a pattern in my life, and luckily I was spared that day the awful emotional plunges that follow the robotic period. I had a minor one--like an irregular emotional heartbeat versus an all out heartattack.

So I realized I had do something or the Big One would hit again as it did right about this time last year.

I was searching through my immense book colletion looking for a fiction work to read--even that is a step out of bounds for me, I haven't read a fiction work since I don't know even when. I remember reading Satanic Verses in 2000, and I can't remember reading another fiction work since then. Unsurprisingly in my 4 giant Target totes not one fiction work.

I did, serendipitously come across some old Ira Progoff's works, founder of the Intensive Journal Process. (IJ) That's him above--looks like a just regular grounded dude, which is what I need more than ever in life.

So I've slowly been working my way through that and got Salman Rushdie's new book Shalimar the Clown about a Kashmiri performance artist turned terrorist--going back to that well, Satanic Verses blew my mind. Also relevant, I thought, given things like the continued Cartoon Protests.

Anyway, IJ is to my knowledge a very unique format. The form of journaling that I think is the de facto one, most of us have and practice, is simply sitting down and writing. Maybe dating the process, events of one's current life, a poem, some reflection, etc. I had neve rreally given any thought to that format being not necessarily the ideal one for a journal. Its the one I've practiced, but I find in the end the most it would really help me do is emotional catharsis. Obviously that's a good thing, but there never seemed to be a larger momentum to the process.

IJ steps in to fill that void. It was designed to give a methodology to journal writing. It is based on years of field research, group work, Progoff's own insights, tweaking, and so forth.

The principal aim of the methodology is to access what he calls the inner artistry of the unconscious. There is an inner momentum, telos, to the human frontal personality (the ego, not the Soul, even though sometimes the word psyche is used interchangeably for them). That is the "artistry" of one's egoic life.

In Integral Terminology, there is an eros--a directional push--in all beings. This injunction seeks to access the frontal personality-egoic eros of, in this case, the being known as Chris (not the Soul who has Chris, nor the Witness shinning through Chris, nor yet the Spirit alone that IS) just Chris.

From a psychological perspective/paradigm, the ego is defined as the dynamic force of self-regulation and adaptation. In spiritual circles, ego is typically defined as the separate self sense (sin, ignornace), etc.

To combine the two, generically, you could say that ego as separation is when one latches onto and identifies with (exclusively) the ego as a formal principle of psychic coherence and healthy development in the world.

IJ then, through its methodology of journaling, seeks to unlock and make conscious the blocks to the inner erotic drive of the (healthy) ego/frontal personality.

Wilber talks about the Big 4: Spirit, Art, Morals, and Science. I have spent my life deeply involved in 3 of those (Spirit, Morals, Science), to the almost total neglect of the fourth--Art.

When I face decisions I invariably ask, "What is the nature of the forces at work in the world"--so I go and study the political, cultural, religious, scientific forces at work. Science, in the broad sense.

I ask, "What is my duty, what is right?" Morals. After having purviewed the scene the conditions of what is "real" (maybe real-ish), then I ask what is the best thing for me to do given those circumstances.

Finally after having arrived at what I concieve to be the best for the world, as I can imagine it, I say prayers of gratitude and ask for strength. Spirit. I return to the basic nature of the Present Moment, the basic Isness pervading the All and all, and ask for mercy, since I know I will, however well-intentioned, ultimately fail.

I hardly, if ever, ask "What is the beautiful response? What is the creative? What would best for me?


The greatest commandment, it is said, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

As best as is possible, given the grace and lights afforded me, I Love God and Neighbor deeply. I have been a major failure at loving myself.

As much as it is part well-intentioned humility and a desire not to be focused on self, but Other, there is a way in which the ego (as negative sinful principle) warps this even to its own ends. That is, every other being in the universe deserves love except me. Therefore I am different, subtly special, and unique. All of which are untrue.

I've further realized that this tendency in me is strong because I don't give enough energy to the ego (as positive eros--individuation and differentiation) to ward off its negative counterpart.

I don't know that the IJP would be right for everybody. It can be at times a tad architectonic--with its multiple subsections like Personal History Log, Twilight Imagery Log, Steppingstones, Daily Log--and I have to be careful not to reinforce my masculine-systematizing mindframe, being more interested in the nuances and inter-relationships of the different sub-species and not simply do the practice and Feel into the momentum of my ego.

It has only been a week, but I have found the process has grounded me. While I love all others, however much they may aggravate me and/or me them, I often have a hard time living into life with others. I want to give myself, my insights, and my Love to them, but I often don't allow that good will to be returned--most especially from God. I try to fight off God's Love like it was a bacterial infection.

I don't allow others to love me because it will force me to come to grips with why I don't love myself. It will force me to live into the momentum of my ego (healthy), realizing that it is deeply finite.

Part of me would rather just identify with my Soul and Spirit and not ever deal with the vehicle, psychically--at least I do a good job of dealing with the vehicle physically.

What must be done, what should be done, these are the basic questions of my life.

What do I want freezes me. I want not to have to face the question of What I want. There is the Avoidance.

Detachment as a healthy spiritual practice warped into detachment as unhealthy psychological dissociation, failed individuation-integration-actualization.
For an adopted person, the rejection/acceptance pole is a very strong one.
Did my biological mother reject me or love me so much to give me away--knowing she couldn't take care of me?
Did the Church (my spiritual mother) reject me by not allowing me to be a married priest, or did the accept me, giving birth to the True me?
Did my parents accept me or the child they wish they had? Is their love for me their acceptacne, and their disappointment with my lifechoices (Anglican over Roman Catholic [Dad] and moving to Canada instead of living in Cincy [Mom]) their rejection?
Or both?
To the degree that I choose the rejection pole, then I reject myself. If others have rejected me, then I reject myself.

Friday, February 17, 2006

E/W Theo. Part III: Western Catholic Mystics

First a recap:

Eastern Orthodox Theology:
--Grace&Free Will working side-by-side (synergistically).
--Practice of Jesus Prayer, more "active" emphasis in prayer style, leading to experience of the Uncreated Light, culminating in the dazzling darkness of the Cloud.
--The soul/God separate but united. Soul made "into" god-like state: Divinization (Theosis)

In terms of States:
The Uncreated Light=Highest Subtle, the last moment at which the Divine is depicted in form (very subtle), leading to total union.
The Cloud=Causal

Western Theology: Augustinianism

--Prevenient and Subsequent Grace. Grace must come "before" and "subsequently" in order to keep one on the path of salvation (NOT UNDERSTOOD PRIMARILY AS DEIFICATION/DIVINIZATION)
--Free Will Dis-eased and Full of Literal Inherited Guilt (Original Sin). No synergism. Grace dominant.
--God="In and Up"....Classic mid-subtle injunction (NO CAUSAL, NO THEOSIS)
--Momentary Glimpse of Nondual
--Subjectivizing Tendency (versus more Cosmic, de-personal view of Orthodox)

Western Christian Mysticism in Relation to Augustinian Theology

The Catholic Church as McGinn notes did not have a word for union (theosis) until the 12th century. There was a practice of mystical repose and Biblical meditation practiced in the Benedictine monasteries from the time of Augustine (4th/5th c.) until the 12th, just not the explicit interpretive structure for union as in the Christian East.

The beginning of the concept of mystical union in the Western Church comes from the great Cistercian Fathers: Bernard of Clairvaux, Aelerd of Rievalux, and William of St. Thierry.

Bernard is the best known, and I'll briefly touch upon his insights.

Bernard is the first Christian mystic to claim that the mystical path begins with carnal (i.e. fleshly) love of the person of Christ. In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition the body of Jesus is the locus (the mediator) of the Uncreated Energies of God--God's means of manifestation and redemption in this universe. Jesus' body/human nature are then more conduits for the Divine Energies then somehow to be adored by themselves. The second from the top icon is a typical E.O. Crucifixion Icon--notice there is not major emphasis on the pain of his body--his body is glowing as revealer of Uncreated Light.

Compare that to the one above which is from Grunewald Isenheim Altarpiece--that Jesus' suffering with the Black Death on the Cross. This icon is much more common of the Western tradition with its emphasis on the humiliation of Jesus--there is no subtle shine to his body, just the naked glare of death and suffering.

This iconic difference reveals a key distinction between the two theologies and spiritualities (Orthodox vs. Catholic)--the Catholic/Western vision must emphasize the debasement and utter painful descent of Christ's Love far more than the East. This is because the Western Church sees the human nature that Christ must save to be far more dis-eased and sinful than the East. Hence Christ must come that much further down to reach us, to lift us up. Also, as a result, we who are being lifted up will suffer that much more.

All of which is directly traced from Augustine's repulsion at his own unconscious.

So back to Bernard.

Bernard says that we must first love Christ's flesh (in our mind's eye). God must condescend to our condition and meet us at our lowest level.

All our loves, says Bernard start with the flesh, so therefore Christ must meet us here. Progressively our loves moves to higher and higher levels of subtlety until in fact it is God's Love that directly takes us over. This temporary experience of being overtaken by God's Love is known in Latin as "raptus" or "excessus" (ec-stasis)--rapture, being taken out of oneself.

This "rapture" (not the Tim LeHaye kind--check out the graphic it is quite humorous actually) is in fact the Cloud of Unknowing. It is the temporary experience of the loss of self-sense in total loving union to God.

So there are the same three steps: purgation, illumination, and union--but they are differently emphasized than in the Orthodox Church.

More emphasis on the Love-Affective aspect in the West. This practice reaches its apex in the experience, especially though not exclusively female mystics, of the mystical marriage of Christ. The mystic, for example St. Catherine of Sienna, experiences herself mystical wed to Christ. Mystical Marriage in other words is the exact parallel of the Orthodox experience of the Uncreated Light. Mystical Marriage is the culmination of the sublte-illuminative path. The subtle experience of "marrying" Christ is seeing God under the last subtle form--Groom.

This trend has its roots in Bernard as well (through Origen). What is for the Christian, the Old Testament, contains writings known as the Wisdom Writings. One of these writings is called The Song of Songs. It is Love Song between a newly married husband and wife. It is actually about the most "un-religious" of the Hebrew Scriptures. The mystics began to spiritually interpret the Bride as the Soul and the Groom as Christ.

The exegesis is pretty wild. I won't go into it all, but again, the Soul is Feminine (even the Souls of Men) and Christ is Masculine. It is Christ, therefore, who "penetrates" into the "open" soul.

The mystical path of the West is a very Feminine Path--even when practiced by men--insofar as it adovcates a more surrendering, opening, accepting, embracing path.

It is the more the path of the woman giving birth who pushes and helps the process out no doubt, but basically has to ride the pain and let it flow through her.

Just worth noting is that someone like John of the Cross who represents this Mystical Bride path, uses homo-erotic imagery. Again, insofar as when he says that his experience with God is like being taken out to the fields and sexually raptured by Christ, (which he does), then it is a man referring to himself as a woman, sexually congressed by a man. Again, its types (Feminine/Masculine) and I'm not saying John of the Cross was necessarily a homosexual--our understanding of that term does not match up with theirs I don't think.

It is interesting to note, however, the strong Feminine-trend in the Roman Catholic Church and how that influences the treatment of women, priestly celibacy, and the so-called "feminization" of the clegy in the RC. Particularly worth noting the links between this teaching and the well known fact that the RC clergy has a higher percentage of homosexuals than civil society, both open and closeted. [There is more involved to this discussion--way more, and just so it is clear I'm not saying homosexuality=priestly sexual abuse of minors, which is patently not the case, but more on all that a different time].

But the key point is that one must be more "passive" in waiting for God to come to us to initiate the mystical quest.

For the Orthodox this is not a big issue. Once a person has begun an ethical reformation of their life, studied the Bible, the life of Jesus and the Saints, goes to Church, then they simply begin the Jesus Prayer and don't worry too much about whether there are signs that they are being called on to higher forms of prayer or not. They just simply begin the practice and let Grace work as it may.

In the Western Church with its notion of pre-venient grace, the concept of the unitive path must wait for signs. John of the Cross, the great synthesizer of the Western Catholic mystical tradition (16th century Spanish) spends the beginning of his book The Ascent of Mount Carmel listing the signs for when one is called to contemplation.

So there is a "passivity" in the Western injunction related to the notion that our free will can never freely choose to embrace God or co-operate equally in the mystical quest.

John of the Cro

In another post (here) and also in my longish comment to a response to my post Guidance on GenSit, I discuss the two truths as they relate to the spiritual path.

I don't want to rehash all that, but the basic assertion is this: In the Relative Path there will always be the poles of Self-power and Other-power. In Christianity those are free will and Grace respectively.

My argument is by over-shooting the mark on Grace, the Western Church ended up with no boundaries for the role of free will (the Orthodox having this). As a result, free will did not end up being abolished in the Western Church it just went sorta unconscious--or manifested all over the place with no real way to integrate it.

The reactionary over-abundance of free will in terms of salvation (divorced from deification) led to the Medieval Catholic pratices of pilgrimages, Crusades, indulgences, and public penance--aka "good works".

In the mystical path (deification-sanctification) this over-abundance of non-integrated free will showed up as well. By the nineteenth century the study of mystical theology had become a sub-discipline, just one of the many categories of theology. [For the Orthodox mystical theology=the experience of the truths of dogmatic theology]. Even worse, mystical theology was basically reduced to ascetical theology.

Asceticism are the practices (read: free will, self-power) involved in the spiritual path to union. But since no one in the Western church theologically was able to move into mysticism freely, asceticism is really just considered a preparatory act. Unfortunately that means in practice that asceticism becomes less a means to an end, then an end in itself. And the practice of monks and penitents flagellating themselves, kneeling for hours on end, depriving themselves of sleep/food, etc. once de-contextualized from secondary aids to the mystical path become self-centered obsessive S&M-type psuedo-mysticism. Suffering becomes less a means to higher realization and love (which are redemptive), and more the redemptive act itself. Suffering itself=Redemptive. The more suffering=The more redemption.

See Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ , which is completely seeped in this theology of suffering. No Greek Orthodox Christian would ever make a movie like The Passion, with all the emphasis on the blood and gore.

So as theology came to be dominated by the rational-intellectualist Scholastic metaphysical tradition, mystical theology lost its inherent connection to dogmatic theology. Worse by mystical theology being superseded by ascetical theology, the ancient art of contemplation was (mostly) lost. And the ones who did reach deification were considered completely "supernatural" and different from the lot of common sinful humanity. These saintly mystics did not then become symbols to help people awaken themselves, but pedastalized and turn into non-human angelic beings.

It was the great gift of the Second Vatican Council to return to the ancient (pre-Medieval) sources which taught that deification-sanctification was the potential birth-rite of all baptized Christians. All Christians were called to contemplative union--not just we would say as a temporary state but a permanent state-stage.

For those of you integrally informed, the name of Fr. Thomas Keating is well known. What he did in essence is re-connect the Western Catholic mystical tradition (from Bernard through the Cloud of Unknowing Author, and John of the Cross) for the modern lay church.

Centering Prayer, his prayer method is basically a renewed version of the Cloud of Unknowing's injunction. The Cloud of Unknowing is a 14th century English mystical text written by an unknown mystic (hence referred to as the Cloud Author).

The injunction is very simple:

Sit quietly, relax one's focus and feel your heart reach out to God. As you become distracted with mental-emotional phenomena, use a short word (e.g. God, Christ, Love, Peace) to simply re-aim your focus onto God.

Fr. Thomas uses the analogy of a compass. The sacred word is like moving the needle back to True North. Once the needle is back facing North, that is once your heart is back open yet desiring God, no more need of repeating the word.

So the key is to actively wait for God.

Any "subtle" experiences are to be simply experienced then let go of. If they come, great thank God for them, if they don't, it doesn't matter.

All that matters is that your heart stays pointed towards God alone. It is union with God you seek in order to Love and Serve God and Neighbor more fully.

If it is more mystical experiences you seek, then you are still addicted to your separate self-sense (disconnected from God) and you are seeking Consolation from God not God. God must be Number 1.

So notice the similarities/differences between that injunction and the Jesus Prayer/Orthodox Tradition.

The biggest difference is the more "active" injunction in the Jesus Prayer--actively repeating the mantra over and over.

Centering Prayer, as more "active passivity" "active waiting." God must come to you.

Both are valid, both bring one into union with God, but both illuminate slightly different worldspaces.

In a post-metaphysical theology, both have their place. Simply undertake the practice and check the facts in the community of the adequate.

But both paths then need to be more transparent, I believe, about their strengths and weakenesses.

Strengths: More sense of mysticism leading to active charity in the world--kissing the lepers, embracing the widow and orphan. Can be more easily integrated with psychologial therapeduic path (unconscious, shadow).
Weaknesses: Over emphasis on suffering and possible move to self-centeredness. Legitimation through one's own experience (bc mysticism not given strong enough place in institutional church).

Strengths: Well practiced path. Strong communal aspect, Church recognition. Connected to cosmic redemption, large panoramic view. Mysticism as very "normal".
Weaknesses: Overly traditional. Too de-personal to the point of almost being anti-personal. No innovation, no understanding of connection between mystical path (state-stages) and shadow-psychological training (structure-stages, unconscious).

With a post-metaphyiscal path we have then opened up the interpretive space for a theological re-union of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches--along the threefold path of purgation, illumination, and union that is. On Nonduality for another post.

Catholic theology could then open itself up to a more positive understanding of the synergistic model of grace/free will, particularly in the context of the mystical path. It would require, of course, letting go of the Literal interpretation of Original Sin. It is not literal participation in the Rebellion (there was no such literal event), but it is true that there is a Shadow in Rebellion.

But again looking at the therapeduic module/injunction, say depth psychology, is itself another form of an Orthodox-like synergistic path. It requires both grace and fre will (doing the practice). The practice is a necessary but not sufficient instrument. But that there is ever healin is itself a great mystery, that the injunction can even open a space for the possibility of healing is itself grace, much less that healing does and has taken place. That too is the grace element.

Orthodox theology could then open itself up to the Western insight of the unconscious and how this is not healed even in deification. As long as there is a vehicle there will be (mis)translation, impure embodiment.

In the next of this series, I'll open a thread on doing the same re-union for Catholic and Protestant theologies. Also, cover the even greater lack of mysticism in the Protestant than the Catholic tradition.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Darker Take on Iraq

While I've decided not to post do my own political-social commentary, I'll probably link things I find interesting now and then (like Zakaria before).

This caught my eye, by Nir Rosen, freelancer connected to through The WashingtonNote and New America.

Click here for Rosen's site: WARNING--SOME GRAPHIC IMAGERY ON SITE

If you would rather skip the photos and go straight to his articles,

Here and here.

The first is entitled: Once the Americans leave, Sunnis will have no common cause with foreign mujahideen’

The second, very famous is from The Atlantic Monthly, entitled: If America Left Iraq
The case for cutting and running

He has more contacts, lingustic facility and connections on the ground; he gives a viewpoint on the issue that you will not find in the mainstream press, either liberal or conservative.

The basic point he makes is that US presence is not what it is preventing a Civil War. By all definitions of a Civil War--people from within the same country warring against each other--then there HAS been a Civil War in Iraq going on for the last 3 yrs.

For Rosen, the US presence is the cause of the Civil War.

I think both sides on this have it maybe half-right. I would say the US is the primary cause of the FORM in which the Resistance/Insurgency/Civil War (pick your term) is taking, but is not the primary cause of the hatred, violence, sectarian schism per se. So if the US did leave--and I'm not convinced that Rosen is right on this point--I think those he criticizes (Barry Posen for example--I know Rosen and Posen, not the easiest to remember) are right that things would get much worse. The Posen-types are wrong to say a Civil War would start (Rosen is right its been going on and continues to do so), but they are right that it would likely explode in a way that even now it has not.

But what Rosen mentions that it is the most disturbing is the de-centralization of violence that has occured in the vacuum created when Saddam--then monopolizer of violence--was pushed out. Kurds ejecting Arabs who had been sent there in the 1980s during the Saddmist Arabization program from Kurdistan; Kurds being forced out of neighboring Arab lands; Shia and Sunni fighting in Baghdad; the insurgent campaign against the Shia; the Shia controlling the ministry of the interior and using their "legitimation" to carry out vendetta killings and secret torture prisons.

It ain't pretty. And while I'm in favor of moves towards connecting the Near East, Arab, and larger Muslim world to the community of nations, the global economy, the lack of post-war planning by the Bush Administration qualifies in my mind as nothing less than criminally negligent.

Its very hard to predict where this is all headed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Part II: Western Theology--Augustine

This strain of theology will be more familiar, given that it forms the backbone not only of the common Western Christian Churches (Roman Catholic and Protestants) but also of the secular Western world, as I will argue.

So, the ancient view of the Church held in both the Eastern and Western Churches for the first four hundred years or so. It should be noted that all of the great doctrinal statements of Christianity: Trinity, One Person/Dual Nature of Christ, etc. were all formulated in the Greek-speaking world, written in Greek, with Greek philosophical vocabulary.

The man who is opens the door to the Western world is Augustine of Hippo. There were previews to Augustine in Church Fathers like the North African Tertullian (2nd century) and Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (4th century), but Augustine would inaugurate the Western tradition like no other.

For background on the basic outline of this argument see Philip Cary's wonderful book Augustine's Invention of the Inner Self.

In that work, Cary reads Augustine as the "inventor" of the inner self sense (subjective ego) that would become so dominant in the Western world from the modern period to today. Augustine, according to this line of thinking lays the seed for the Western world--both the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and secular versions thereof.


The thesis goes (roughly) as follows:

Augustine reads Plotinus, the great Neoplatonic Nondualist. Contrary to a belief common in certain circles, Eastern Orthodox Theology-Mysticism is only occassionaly influenced by Neoplatonic influence. Most obvious is Dionysius who was influenced more by Proclus than Plotinus--for you nerds that does make a difference. But either way, the connection is mostly in terms of Greek Orthodox using Platonic terminology to their own ends.

Augustine, however, is deeply influenced by Plotinus, and this right away sets him in distinction from the Greek heritage.

Plotinus gave a much more direct and experiential version of Platonic Nondualism. For Plato, the truths of Nonduality (his own awakening in other words) were hidden among much more metaphoric narrative: like prisoners in Caves escaping to see the Sun.

Plotinus is much less literary and more to the point. Plotinus spells out his injunction for awakening quite simply:

1.Turn the mind, which is otherwise whirling about and focused outwardly within. i.e. Turn the mind in on itself.
2.Let this attention come to rest deeply without judgement of any mental-emotional-spiritual phenoman.
3.(Eventually), you will continue to go "in" until there is no more "in" to go into, and you will realize that you are One with the Divine.

Now, as Cary notes, Augustine does an interesting thing. He follows Plotinus' injunction, but since he is worried that say there will be a total unity between the Soul and God, he carries a different interpretative structure than Plotinus.

Augustine therefore ends up adding his own step to Plotinus' injunction.

Instead of going within and realizing oneness, Augustine says go within and then go "up". God is located in this interior "above" space. The space fro which the individual looks up, which is not inherently Divine (ala Plotinus) is in fact the inner self--the created self.

Augustine has thereby "invented" the sense of who a person is being an inner subjective self-sense, behind the eyes.

This is a profound change. Augustine re-reads the Bible, particularly the Letters of St. Paul through this new "subjectivist" lens. For the ancient Greek-speakers, including the Greek Jew Paul, there was not much emphasis placed on inner subjectivity. Not in Plato, Plotinus, nowhere. There is deep emphasis on placing one's own awarness "within" and realizing the connection between the inner and outer, but that is not the same as defining oneself primarily (or even exclusively) in relation to this "inner space." Nor it is the same as putting serious value into the interpretation of one's inner experience. Plotinus for example rarely references his own experiences, mystical or otherwise. Paul makes oblique reference to himself in the third person concerning his own mystical experience ("I knew a man once who whether in the body or out of it, I do not know, rose to the third heaven and heard things which are unable to be spoken of...."---Paul's Letter to the Corinthians, the man in question being Paul himself). I don't recall Plato EVER referencing his own mystical experience explicitly.

So Augustine begins a path of overly subjective focus and reading of Christian theology, the Bible, and the spiritual path.

[Again--by analogy, think of the Eastern Hindu-Buddhist Traditions which have amazing focus on inner consciousness but never develop a sense of the inner self (egoically) like in the West. It is the same with the Eastern Orthodox Christian Tradition.]

So back to Augustine's image of God being "in and up". A couple of points to note:

1.This created self is "open" on the top, like a skylight. This inner aperture allows for God's light to come streaming in. Augustine called this Illuminationism. God illuminates the mind to see truth.

The modern secular world is created by taking this inner space and closing off the skylight, making it a boxed-in non-transcendent room. See John Locke's image of the self as a camera for proof. Recall also that Descartes famous "I am conscious, therefore I am (Cogito, ergo sum)" was a riff off Augustine (1,000 yrs+ earlier), "I doubt, therefore I exist."

2.The inherent relationity of this image. This "inner self" always exist in relation to God, a relation of transcendence no doubt, but a relation nonetheless.

Which leads to point number 3:
Augustine, by delineating the lines of the inner conscious self, thereby opened the door for focus on the unconscious.

It is a well known fact that Augustine "discovered" the unconscious about 1500 years before Freud. Think for example of who is the most famoulsy "psychoanalyzed" figure in history? Augustine. Not Jesus, not Moses, but Augustine.

Who wrote arguably the first and easily the most influential-famous autobiography in the world, Western or otherwise? A: Augustine in The Confessions.

Because Augustine "invented" this inner self and gave it such credence, he therefore felt so compelled to "confess" to its maker (inherently related) this inner world.

And in this confession, he notes a part of himself that is in rebellion against himself. This rebellion is his unconscious. Not suprisingly this rebellion is often focused on unwanted sexual and aggressive libido.

As he to God prayed, "Give me chastity but not yet...."

Augustine, sadly, did not "discover" a way to heal this unconscious. It was Freud's genius to unlock the genius of temporary de-repression and the therapeudic injunction.

Augustine in the Confessions mentions that following Plotinus' injunction (Within and Oneness) he began to see the "Light" but fell away from this experience. He had a temporary experience of Nonduality--he apparently had at least a few of them. In one of his writings, Augustine says:

There is One Christ loving himself in all his members. (Unum Christum Amans...)

The reader might be more familiar with Ramana Maharshi's version of that realization:

There is Only Brahma,
Brahma is the World.

The word "unum" in Latin has the force of not only "one" but also "only". There is "only" Christ....

But generally Augustine "fell away" from this Nonduality and could not permanently maintain it. He blamed (interpreted) this fall on his own inner dis-ease, that is on the inner rebellion.

It was here that Augustine made a crazy (I believe) move. He interpreted this inner rebellion as the product of his (and all human) LITERAL participation in the Fall.

The Eastern Orthodox recall believed that the Cosmos was Fallen, in the sense that dis-unity, non-being, and death had entered, but that Christ's Death had sent the momentum back towards eventual re-unification. An individual is born in this incomplete and sinful world and will participate in it and add his/her own sin as well as virtue, but the individual is not born in Guilt.

This notion of a Literal Participation in an otherwise mythic truth is known as Original Sin--only found in Western Theology. Every soul is born in guilt for it has literally participated in the Primeval Event of Rebellion--the turning away from God to reliance on the self.

The history of the Gentile Western world (secular and religious) is rife with the Fallout of Original Sin. Its effects are beyond description. Augustine left a wisted warped structure with this insight. He opened up the possibility for a modern, phenomenological theological turn, with my metaphoric reading of the text with his understanding of the unconscious, but instead without an injunction to heal the inner rebellion, he simply resorted to a newly entrenched dogmatism and belief that the Christ's Revelation Alone mediated by the Church could help us out of this fallen mess.

By focusing so much on the inner self and its redemption, Augustine left the Western churches minus the great Orthodox insight of the recapitulation of all things in Christ and the Cosmic Redemption of the Universe. Western spirituality was more concerned with individual salvation, ethic legalism, and apocalypse (the end of the world, not is recapitulation-redemption). The Rapture craze is only the latest manifestation of that trend--the Rapture being about individual souls getted taken up into heaven because they are righteous, not again the Redemption of the Cosmos itself into God.

Since the self is created inherently in relation, then sin is to break relationship. To sin is to become turned back in on oneself. The self is in relation to God, to itself, to the Church (if baptized), to the created world, and to the human race at large.

Augustine later wrote The City of God which is in terms of history-society what Confessions is to autobiography-private journaling-introspection. In that sense, since only a modern world can go "postmodern" and only once there has been an overly isolated self-sense can a countermovement towards realizing the way selves come inmeshed in political-social-linguistic-intellectual circles, Augustine should be considered the great-grandfather of postmodernism. In a weird way.

But notice what Augustine was absolutely dead on the money about--this inner rebellion is nothing but self-centered turning in on oneself. It is the refusal of the shadow to come into relationship with the larger momentum of the conscious psyche.

Now, Eastern Orthodox theology was predicated on practices of the mythic structure-stage (blue meme) with a heavy emphasis on cosmic redemption and the state-stages of gross, subtle, and causal.

A key insight in Integral thought is that one can realize the state-stages at any level of consciousness. Also just practicing higher states technologies will not cure the shadow, repressed unconscious, pathologies and so on.

Eastern Orthodox Theology-Mysticism, with the practice and teaching of Divinization, has no insight and therefore no solutions to the unconscious.

This is absolutely crucial if we are to re-unite these two theological strains (which is my intended aim at the end of this journey).

Augustine's "in and up" is a classic subtle-level practice. God is "up" in illuminations and visions.

Divinization (Jesus Prayer) focuses "down" in the central heart channel and is Causal-aiming.

Western theology-mysticism, as McGinn notes, does not have a word for "union" (i.e. causal) until the 12th century!!!

Augustine had subtle mixed with hints of the Nondual, but no Causal.

But more importantly, Augustine came to question the synergistic model of grace and free will intrinsic to the Orthodox mystical praxis.

Augustine is famous, among many many things, for his battle royale with Pelagius, the Irish monk. Pelagius argued that one could achieve salvation by one's own ethical strength. Augustine, in contradistinction, said that Grace must be irresistible.

Pelagius in essence was on the extreme edge of the Free Will side (Free Will Alone) and Augustine was on the extreme edge of the Grace Side (Grace Alone). The traditional-middle of the road Orthodox teaching (Grace and Free Will) was lost.

Augustine's theology prevailed. After the Reformation, both classic Protestant and Tridentine (CounterReformation) Catholic Theology accepted Augustine's basic premise.

The key argument for Augustine is this. The Eastern Orthodox model is based on the assumption that the human will can freely choose to either accept or deny God's grace. But Augustine discovered aspect's of the self that are not free to "consciously" choose.

They are by definition "unconscious."

So these aspects of the self that are unable to freely say yes to God dilute the conscious aspects that can in fact choose yes.

So Augustine, in his battle with Pelagius coins a new phrase: prevenient grace--the grace that comes before (pre-venient).

This "prevenient" grace comes "before" one can even accept God's offer (through grace) of salvation. To that Augustine latter appendixed a notion of "subsequent" grace--grace that must come subsequently to maintain one in the lifelong choice of saying yes.

So grace-before, grace-grace, and grace-after.

The tortured logic of which becomes pretty far out.

Logically the implication is clear. If someone is damned, its God's fault. If it takes God's grace to enable one even to say yes to God's (freely given) offer of salvation, then literally it is all completely out of your hands.

Augustine seemed "fine", if that is the right word with this outcome. He believed the mass of humanity was to be damned--massa damnata. That God condemned these is his "justice", that God chooses (randomly?) to save some is his "mercy."

Both Catholic and Protestant churches would try to tone down some of the rough edges of Augustine's demanding vision. Augustine, to his credit, believed that no one in this life could know of their own salvation. Sorry Born-Agains. [More on that point for a later post].

As much as there are defenses from traditional RC and Prot. circles that this teaching does not blame God for the damnation of the Soul, I see no way around it.

Augustine because of this extreme-grace view, separated grace from nature. For the Orthodox they were different but connected. Each had its sphere of influence, but they both existed at every level--particularly in the journey of the higher stage-stages of mysticism.

For Augustine, nature and grace were always existentially linked, but they were ontologically separate. They did not go together, linking at each level, they were of different orders entirely.

That break eventually will lead to secularization, both positive and negative. Once nature is ontologically separated from grace, then it is free to develop in its own way. Separation of church/state being only the most famous example in the US of this trend----again, once grace alone is accepted, an individual's free will is separate from the Divine Realm.

In the next post, I will cover the Western Christian version of the three-fold mystical path (gross, subtle, and causal) and show how the Augustinian framework/interpretation molds and shapes the Christian contemplative journey.