Thursday, November 30, 2006

integral esotercisim pt2

Alan writes the following (summarizing his disagreements with Wilber):

Points of Disagreement:
--its restrictive exoteric (sect 1-ii) and agnostic (sect. 1-viii) perspective, which means that it cannot acknowledge or understand esoteric or occult realities without trying to water them down to serve the needs of some sort of pseudo-academic respectability (TLDI 2-ii - 2-iii), kow-towing to the standards of the present-day consensus paradigm, or buying into physical-mind-derived (sect. 1-ix) scepticism or limitation of insight
--and a widespread naïvity and religious and devotional attitude among many but by no means all of its representatives and members towards (pseudo-)spiritual and often abusive (TLDI 2-iv) authority figures.
--Wilberanity, by which I mean Ken Wilber as a religion: Wilber fundamentalism (sect. 1-xi) and the religious-devotional worship of Wilber himself as a bodhisattva or enlightened being (TLDI 2-x) (an attitude of excessive religiosity that Wilberians themselves show good humour in
referring to as "Wilberitis").

It's a good summation of Kazlev's views.

As to points 2 and 3, those are more moral-practical questions not necessarily theoretical in nature. As even Alan admits, not everyone who follows AQAL is a devotee of abusive gurus--which is codeword for Adi Da and Andrew Cohen. Wilber recommends reading their works, meditating on their ideas--which I think if we are advocating truly open and free integral thought than how could we not?--without advising becoming members of the community. Again, let the reader decide as s/he sees fit.

Certainly there is a great deal I agree with in terms of people who have unhealthy absorption in the messenger (Wilber) over the message (post-metaphysical integral). And as to the devotee question, I leave that up to the reader. I would highlight one (under the rubric of what Alan calls Wilber fundamentalism): taking the map for the territory (mean yellow/turquoise meme). Particularly this shows up in individuals reading Wilber's works as an end to thinking and not a beginning. Instead of giving them capacity to delve more deeply into thought, Wilber's version of any teacher, teaching, system because he said so. Wilber may be right (I often think he is) but he isn't right because he's Ken Wilber. He's right, if so, because he's right, because the analysis is sound, clarifying, illuminating.

But beyond all that, the issue I am interested in is point #1.

And back to esotericism. Alan writes:

As used in this essay, "Esoteric" refers to insight or understanding of inner (Greek: eso-) or spiritual or metaphysical realities, or a specific teaching or spiritual practice or path or "wisdom tradition" that is based on a mystical interpretation of spirituality, rather than a religious or slavish following of the outer words of scriptures, or pertains to transpersonal or transcendent states of existence. In contrast exoteric knowledge, is knowledge that is well-known or public, and does not require any such transformation of consciousness.

In post-metaphysical AQAL integral there are states and stages of consciousness. The states of consciousness if practiced through life and awoken to our become state-stages. States may or may not have an influence on promoting stage growth--perhaps in certain lines (cognitive)--although I'm less sanguine on that reality than Wilber. But either way, the point is that a simple dichtomy between esoteric and exoteric religion breaks down at a certain point.

A state/stage distinction allows more flexibility and conceptual power in my estimation. Kazlev writes that AQAL states that religion is exoteric blue and then jumps to scientistic orange. Only if seen from an exoteric/esoteric split. First off for p/m integral there are multiple stages of faith--the conveyor belt imagery, so there is orange, green, teal, turquoise, violet, etc. religion. And states at each of those stages--what Wilber calls horizontal enlightenment. And one awakens to those or not at each level and affects deeply how that level feels, what emerges, while the stage itself helps shape the experience itself--how experience is interpreted. Not to mention the other quadratic factors.

So Muslim fundamentalism might be exoteric and Sufism esoteric, but classical Sufi mystics tended to still accept many of the dominant Islamic revelation-"exoteric" teachings: the seal of all revelation in Islam, Muhammad flying past Moses and Jesus during his mystical trip to the third heaven as proof of him as the Seal of the Prophets. Not to mention their de facto assumption of the Islamic imperial regime.

And there is nothing particular about Islam in that. Meister Eckhart considered by many to be the greatest nondual Christian mystic still said repeatedly that all Muslims and Jews (and even Christian schismatics/heretics) were going to hell.

An exoteric/esoteric split does not give room to explain how these individuals could both be experiencing mystical wisdom and still have it translated through blue-meme mythic frames. A state/stage distinction does.

To me what Alan has done is confused the map as psychoactive (pointing to actual dimension-perspectives and simply begging people to take those perspectives, follow the appropriate methodologies/exemplars with the recognized communities of the adequate) versus the map as final reality. Many others who are pro-the map make this mistake. At least Alan actually practices and reads on his own.

The AQAL map only places markers to remind people to take perspectives. When it says state-stages or states of consciousness that it no one way reduces or even explains or gives access to nor what those realities are from within. Words like states, state-stages are just signifiers if their referents are not contacted, then Alan is right, it is the colonization of the spiritual by the mental which can not handle the mystical. The inner wisdom of spirit.

But for me that is the difference, which I stress repeatedly in my writings on this subject, between what (as I see it) post-metaphysical AQAL is and how it is used and sadly in many abused.

But that is a key difference between the two of us. AQAL is only a relative truth and therefore is never the Absolute, but the Absolute is nothing other than the ground/essence of relative truth, so having the best relative truth we can is important.

But even further AQAL only gives rise at its best to a turquoise or (low?)indigo worldspace. It is the wisdom of the centaur and will have its own version--as its best--of interpreting the states that will later be negated, elements thereof preserved.

And Alan's point about the lack of discussion in AQAL circles of the Psychic Being (Soul) in Aurobindo is valuable here I think. With the proviso that we are starting to see indigo/violet as co-constructed stages (again those are just signifiers not reducers) that are not set but are going to be shaped in part by the perspectives taken. Which is not the same as New Age talk about creating your own reality. Because the individual is only creating, as it were, at most 1/4 of their own reality. And even then there is no such thing as "yourself" but rather your-selves, up and down and across your own psychograph many with varying even conflicting agendas/missions "creating' multiple realities simultaneously in conjunction with all others.

In another way though esoteric can refer not only to mystical wisdom but to paranormal capacities. And here is one element where more Aurobindian emphasis would be helpful. In Integral Spirituality Wilber says that Mike Murphy's Future of the Body is the best book on the subject (which I agree, it is magisterial in my view) but that since it does not have a method for seeing the ways in which even paranormal capacities are (in part) co-constructed by the intersubjective spaces it is not given attention.

As an example, only Western Catholic mystics receive the stigmata: the physical wounds of Christ's resurrection on their bodies. And interestingly they do so on their palms typically because devotional paintings (the culture, LL) of the era depict the nails going through Jesus' hands. Modern scientific research shows that crucifixion nails went throught the wrists. They would not have held and ripped the hands apart if on the palms. The palms were not strong enough to hold the body up to be crucified. Modern scientific types (right-hand absolutists) say this proves that the stigmata are false. But of course the point is that they are influenced by the religious-cultural construction not the scientific evidence.

And again notice that is is only Western Catholic mystics and not Eastern Orthodox Christian mystics who receive the stigmata--and not all Catholic mystics do. Mysticism is union with God, stigmata is a paranormal manifestation. The Eastern Orthodox meditate on the Transfiguration of Chrsit on the Mountain and surprise, surprise their typical paranormal manifestation is radiant faces--they become walking icons, the most important devotional aspect of Eastern Orthodox Christian theology. Not to mention that none of them have visions of Krishna or the Buddha, nor Buddhists stigmata. Think that coincidence is just because of esoteric knowledge only?

AQAL Integral does leave room for what have been called paranormal capacities. It just wants to see the introduction of more sophisticated technology to test these claims (modern, right-hand) as well as recognition of the ways in which they are shaped by technology, economics, culture-religion (postmodern, lower left/right).

When we do not recognize the postmodern inter-subjective nature of truth construction, then esoteric paranormal as well as meta-physical realities simply have to be stated as truths. The only argument is the argument from authority. The authorities in his case being principally Aurobindo and the Mother.

And of course there is always more in this world than is ever dreamt up in our philosophies. The authorities may be right. Certain mystics may be gifted with sight that blows open systems. The agnosticism inherent in post-metaphysics should not become a closing off or de facto assumption of negation as to these realities. But nevertheless we have to live with choices and at the end of the day we have to work with our minds, so for general purposes of bringing spirituality back into the world (which is a deep passion of mine and not to be dismissed I think as "pseudo-academic respectability" so easily) I find it the beginning of the way forward. The beginning, not the final word, but certainly a new plateau from which to explore and work, with adjustments and additions no dobut to come.

We always have to be drawing boundaries. There are many spiritual seekers from different traditions who either do not believe outright or don't care about such realities. They care more about waking up, following what we already know and practice to that, and living with love in this world. As Alan calls for the acceptance of esotericism in integral, are these folks out? Will esoteric belief be demaned and imposed on all integralists?

AQAL post-metaphysics tries for me to build a bridge--in practice I don't know how well it succeeds--it can be applied by those who definitely do not hold to estoericism and well as those who do. Post-metaphysics is not New Age in my experience, in my practice. There's my boundary drawing. I think post-metaphysics calls for a deep letting go of the certainty that comes with an perennialist metaphysical (even New Age esoteric) position. It is to be stripped in many many ways and be left with less baggage as we journey in this world. The real question is of the baggage that is let go--was it unnecessary or essential. Likely some of both, but perhaps more of one than the other. That is the question that gives the answer to what position one takes more than anything else I find.

Part of this of course is a matter of personal choice and intuition on the path. For myself I do believe in the existence of life after death (as does Wilber btw) though I think it is a rather unimportant issue. At least while we are alive we should be alive. As Jesus said, this day has enough evil of its own; no need to worry about tomorrow or even future lives.

I think a little more emphasis on paranormal, bodily evolution could help, but would be on a spectrum not as strong (I suspect) as Alan. So I think there is something still really valuable in Alan's writings on the subject, particularly as he, like Aurobindo, stresses so much spiritual practice and exploration/experimentation. From the point of view I maintain, Alan may discover truths that would otherwise go unknown because his view allows him to. Even though there are some fundamental differences in spiritual philosophy, those truths whatever they may be, I would bet, could be re-formatted and fitted into a post-metaphysical frame. [Which is why even if someone holds a post-metaphysical spiritual view, s/he can still learn from AK's writings].

But whatever, if one does accept such a position than Alan is a wonderful guide. Even if one doesn't accept a more metaphysical view--as I don't--I still find I learn much from his writings.

And one more thing I forgot to mention. Alan does a good job of reclaiming some oft-forgotten names in the integral pantheon: Haskell, Thompson. He linked to my post on integralisms awhile back on openintegral. Check it out here. His list of thinkers is far more extensive and much better than mine.


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