Thursday, November 30, 2006

estoeric integralism pt1

Another post in the thread on multiple integralisms. Alan Kazlev's integral esotericism. He has multiple posts on Visser's Integralworld site--click on his name under Reading Room link.

First off, the action is always in the difference, so while I focus on my differences vis a vis Alan's writings, I want to say I think he is a very intelligent soul. And there are a great deal of things we share in common--care for and dedication to the spiritual path probably being foremost. So the differences, whlie they do exist and are even fairly substantial I would say are not so different that we are completely worlds apart.

Alan refers to his position as Neo-Aurobindian. This title refers to his deep admiration and mystical connection to the writings/vision of the great masters of Pondicherry Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. If you have never read any Aurobindo, I can't recommend it enough. The Life Divine is one of the greatest spiritual texts ever written.

Alan has correctly stated that Aurobindo's primary vision is about divinization of matter--what Aurobindo called the Descent of Supermind. The infusing of the spiritual into every crevice of the material world, lighting up the whole realiity.

Aurobindo did create a spiritual map/system and Wilber has criticized what he considers the partial elements of the map. Alan does not accept this criticism, but it is really important to remember that Aurobindo did focus principally on spiritual awakening and embodiment (what Aurobindo called integral yoga).

And it is important to remember that Aurobindo did not come from the Vedanta-Shankara-Ramana strain of Advaita Hinduism, but rather the Vedic-Upanishads. Aurobindo's spiritual practice was his writing, but his writings involve deeply devotional writings. And Wilber in his own spiritual life has been influenced more by Zen, Ramana, and Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhism--though he does practice tonglen and deity yoga--and Wilber doesn't speak about Aurobindo's devotional writings. Not that I have no room in his integral scheme; just doesn't emphasize it. Michael Murphy is the Aurobindo devotee of the group.

Keeping in mind all of that, Aurobindo still has translated his spiritual insights into mental categories. And those interpretations are open to judgment, while not in any way criticizing Aurobindo's spiritual genius.

Which is what Wilber has done, particularly in his latest phase of writing post-metaphysics (Wilber-5). The key argument of Wilber's is that the higher stages/levels of consciousness are not pre-set but rather tetra-constructed through kosmic patterning. The tetra-construction is part of Wilber's assertion that the quadrants go all the way up and down through the Kosmos. In other words, for Wilber material objective world (3rd person objective pov) co-arise with the subjective. Wilber describes consciousness as being intra-physical (co-arising) to the material world, not meta-physical. As well as, following his (Wilber's) argument that spirituality has failed by not being able to answer the postmodern constructivist, contextualist nature of postmodern philosophy (the lower quadrants, particularly left intersubjective one).

Aurobindo, Wilber argues, had his stages of consciousness already set and the Descent of the Supermind was therefore a meta-physical reality. Aurobindo did unite nonduality with an evolutionary worldview, but one in which for Wilber the steps are already established, all we do is walk through them. There is more to it than that--at least in terms of the super-divinization of the planet--but that characterization is not I think as it is incorrect. Just again doesn't emphasize as much as Aurobindo did what happens when the end point is reached.

Along with meta-physical stages of consciousness for Aurobindo (and Alan K) there are esoteric realities. [More on that later].

For post-metaphysics it is not that one has to believe in the non-existence of metaphysical realities: e.g. heaven/hell, reincarnation, etc. Post-metaphysics is agnostic on the question of metaphysical issues. One is free to believe them or not as long as one admits that there is no proof--even comparable to the proof of phenomenological mystical evidence for this life--as to the existence, just as there is no proof against their existence as well. But for Kazlev (and Visser too I think) post-metaphysical is really more like anti-metaphysical and therefore by their lights physicalist, reductionist, and psychologizing. Post-metaphysical spirituality, in their view, essentailly throws up its hands and surrenders to the flatland world of modernism.

What we do know is that leading with such metaphysical realities is a complete non-starter in the world. I see post-metaphysics more in the light of wise evangelism adapted to the situation of the day rather than a final declaration of all reality.

Post-metaphysics is not a denail of supra-physical realities as Alan states but rather a bracketing of the question in phenomenological style. Post-metaphysics may be wrong--although since it does not take a position formally on the matter either way don't know how it could be considered wrong--but it may be unhelpful, it may have misread the need for adapting itself to the modern and postmodern worlds. That could be and people have to think these things through and make decisions for themselves. But I'd rather they do so with the right information at hand.

in the next section, i'll look more closely at Alan's main criticisms and his own esoteric integral thought.


At 5:47 AM, Blogger Tusar N. Mohapatra said...

The divine manifestation of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo has manifold ramifications that are difficult to compile. It is, therefore, unfair to summarize them all in one or two phrases.

Instead of talking about far-off eventualities in abstract fashion, more accessible innovations brought about by them can be practiced to enrich our day to day life.

Like, Poetry and his new theory of Aesthetics, Human Unity and World Union, Historiography and the Vedic Hermeneutics, Science of living and Integral education, etc.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


thanks for the post. in a blog post I can't obviously get into all the profound different ideas Aurobindo had--aesthetics, world governance, integral ed., etc.

I recommended people read his works. And I definitely agree with you that they offer valuable insights for daily life.

I was specifically talking only about the question of the larger spiritual-philosophical interpretative structure (maps) and whether it allowed for recognition of the linguistic- interpretive social construction of say mysticism.

I don't think such discussion is necessarily "far off eventualities in abstract fashion"--because I'm practicing those methods in my own life now. So for me they are nether absract nor far off, whatever they may be relative to the larger population.



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