Sunday, October 01, 2006


Had a couple of really good chats with many of my former mates from my spiritual seeker-West Vancouver days.

Not that I have "answers" per se, just that it seems the only place I can broach some of these issues. The only place I feel safe to open up in ways.

A theme we often return to, and one very closely connected to my heart, is group practice. I really believe people, especially small groups, will not be responsible until they have to be responsible. People won't become responsible until they are in a position where they have to be--so long as there is a recognized other, teacher, master, whatever, I just don't see the motivation.

In other words, must we see the death of the guru. If people need to seek, then they need to seek. But my experience of spiritual groups, particularly of the Eastern-model variety, in North America consists of teachers and seekers. Once there is a teacher, then who becomes the spiritual mommy/daddy, then eveyrone else reverts to childish partterns: sibling rivalry between the disciples; competittion to gain mommy/daddy's love, etc. etc.

For the teachers, there is a platform and it protects them and allows them to operate. The seekers gain identity as well and much plays itself out once the roles are set. Particularly given that all the spiritual traditions of higher consciousness ex-ist prior to an understanding of the social-communal-linguistic construction of reality.

The teacher and student are oblivious to the ways in which the entire format of teacher-student put them in a largely impersonal structure that is determining much of their action/response, and not just "enlightenment" "egoic contraction", unbelief, or whatever.

The guru model arose in a different world, with a different cosmology. A cosmology where there was no need of "redemption"--as there is in the Western mind--only a movement from being asleep to awake. And an assumption that wakefulness itself is the opposed to wakefulness being only the means to the end. A cosmology of endless cycles of birth and death, non-progressive in nature.

There was a ethical-social frame in place in the East meant to protect both student/teacher. Though it was not always successful, certainly given the ancient lack of knowledge around psychological and health issues, but overall it did it's job as best as it could.

No such ethical construct existed in the West and the importation of the guru model to the West minus that ethical religious backdrop has been the cause of the destruction--literal and figurative--of myriads of disciples and teachers. I just do not think the Guru model can work in the Western context.

[Disclaimer: I come from the Christian background where there is no guru--or just one--so I come from a position on that statement. I leave it up to the reader to decide for him/herself whether everything I saw on the matter is to be ignored because of conflict of interests on my part.]

The alternative model in the North American context is the teaching circuit--seminars, workshops, whether serious or more kitschy New Age. Those gruops as well don't, in my experience, possesss conscious awareness of the ways in which the structure/format just the way even we sit.....with a teacher up front and everyone else seated and passive "to be in-formed" in the rows.....influences what is said, how what is said is said, and what people take away as a result.

The upshot of this model is that given the seminar giver tends not to have actual control/decision making powers in the life of the attendee, there have not been, to my knowledge, the same sorts of ethical sins. Although God knows, money will attract any number of agendas and religion is always the biggest moneymaker (along with sex) around.

The flipside though is that there is no real sustained interaction. So much is left to the interpretation of the hearer/reader, that it is often unclear how to assess individually whether the teachings are "working". Particularly when they head into more ethereal notins of "acceptance", "creation", or "openness." Hard to measure these, particularly when one's ego has a vested interest in convincing the self that it has achieved progress and/or always needs to be learning more, without ever involving itself in the spiritual work--emphasis on work.

Again, if people need to seek, then seek. Just for myself, I can't find any energy in these pursuits. I want to learn, there are infinite ways in wihch spiritualy I am dead and ignorant. It just does not really speak to my desires.

The third model is the congregationalist one. Common in synagogues and churches, particularly in the American Protestant context. There can be some overlap with group 2, depending on the kind of congregation/pastor in quesiton. Typically this is called the health and wealth gospel---Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, etc. And except in rare instances, no connection to #1 (higher consciousness spiritual seekers).

Otherwise the congregationalist model isn't fundamentally interested in spiritual absorption. Again especially in the North American--particularly US--context. It is more concerned with group identity, social morality, performing rites to give a sense of well-being/wholeness to life. This model often typically assumes the whole of the work belongs to God alone and these groups do not have intelligent models for understanding their own participation in the process of God's creation...especially Christians.

The upside of congregationalism, especially in the more traditional ritual-based denominations (Catholicism, Anglicanism) is that there is a noticable lack of the competitiveness of the seeker model. The downside of course being that the religion is never really a religion. It is never really the path of connection to God in a fundamental sense. A lot of junk that we "spiritualize" away as connection to God is really just making ourselves feel better about ourselves and re-ifying a certain conception of God. Which traditionally has been called "idolatry"--worship of a false god of our own creation.

Where then does this leave those who are still desiring depth but not perhaps in these forms?

The key insight for me, of Wilber's Integral Spirituality is that there is no intersubjective spiritual path. Or put otherwise, everybody is connected to social-communal aspects in the spiritual path--as evidenced above--just no one is doing it well.

Which leads back to the point that groups are going to have to form themselves. Teachers may become more like consultants/facilitators in the sense that they might bring certain gifts but without having influence over the disciples lives. Particularly their relatinships, money, work lives.

What this intersubjective path would realize is there are not these totally pre-set archetypes in the universe. We are not just "manifesting" something creative and new to us but on an otherwise already established plane. There are worldspaces.

The relative world is nothing outside of the patterns of egoity/history qua perspectives and this added moment of possibility in the present. It is not that thought creates form. It is that thought and form co-arise and co-relate (left and right hand quadrants). It is not that archeyptes descend from above us and then we find our own expression of them and then embody them into an already fixed reality which is "abundant" or whatever other words we use to re-ify it.

It is that in every moment Spirit does descend and has very fluid but open channels that are then molded into the actual forms of an evolving universe. As these forms become lighter, become better, become more dangerous and open to misuse.

Now saying that Integral Spirituality throws down the gaunlet on spiritual traditions is not to say that so-called integral people are doing this, much less Boulder itself (which is not a spiritual community so doesn't really apply in my mind--whether it should or shouldn't be is a different question).

And within this formulation of a small group seeking a post-postmodern integrated spiritual path, two general frames.

One--call it masculine. Sitting together and starting to speak only of what is occurring within and between the group in the present. What will emerge, if the person has developed certain aspects of him/herself to a sufficient degree is an awakening of a force within them that wants to be together, that seeks to create. And this force awakening together--what I call One Network [not One Mind]--can sense when people fall in and out, as they do. Just as a sports team in the zone together--and not just an individual player--you can sense and feel the movement before words are necessary.

Two--call it feminine. Sitting in the group and totally embracing one member. Not pushing but not limply letting them bypass issues either. Generically referred to as "holding space" by some--although I don't particularly like that term. Unless by space you mean more like cavernous empty stability. The space of Mother Earth and her dark deep layers of beautiful nothingness and terror. A combination of the Dark (kali) and Light (Madonna) Feminine together. Either embraced to totality or focused to one individual until that person's egoity is surfaced and held with a grip that will not let go. [Masculine version 1 seeks more to zap the ego until it melts].

And this has to happen together spiralling horizontally and vertically, so that there is no teacher, no imbalance. No responsbility shirked, projected, deployed to an individual. To an individual's whose life will generally be ruined as a result (think Trungpa).

Boomers can not come together. Nor can the "itis" of Boomers that has infected Gen X--distanced faux irony--nor the Yers--silent rage and exterior superficiality. And Boomer anymore for me normally means bullshit.

I imagine the beginnings of what I imagine are at least 2 decades or more off into the future.


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