Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More on post-metaphysics

There's a new essay up at Integralworld by Zakariyya Ishaq called "The Myth of the Given and the Forgotten".

Ishaq is an avowed metaphysician, perennialist, or spiritual cosmologist, whatever term one prefers. It is the great alternative in many ways to the post-metaphysical outlook I promote in this blog. For that reason, obviously, I disagree with major elements of it, but it's worth the read and the consideration nonetheless. Although I like the writing styles of say Alan Kazlev and Frank Visser better not to mention the genuine articles of that stream: Schuon, Huxley, Smith, Hixon, Guenon, etc.

My main criticism is this view tries to create an Archimedean point in the universe which is uncriticizable, around which everything else must flow. The point is the science of metaphysics, which is objectively true for all time & space and in no way partially a product of social-linguistic-political-philosophical-religious construction (the myth of the given need not apply).

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It is still "heliocentric" in that regard for me. The Sun (i.e. The Truth) radiates to all and is the center of the universe. Certainly better than the geocentricism of mythic religions ("convert or die"). Certainly this heliocentric perennialism lessens racism, fundamentalisms, would promote a more peaceful co-existence on the planet. At least in its better moments. It does have a tendency to romanticize the mythic realm--the "perennial" philosophy arose in the time of slavery, prior to women's large scale entrance into the public sphere, endemic "civilizational" conflict, and the like. But in the modern world it tends to be more cosmopolitan in outlook.

Nevertheless this heliocentric view is still not yet the omnicentricism of Einstein: every point in the universe is the center expanding in all directions as itself, in itself.

This is not a renewed egocentricism per se--although given the right "planetary conditions" one can see how such a revival can occur. It is also not, the re-entrenchment, of another planet on top of all others, some new Super-Sun that is now the new center. In this analogy that would be post-metaphysics treated as another myth of the given, itself not recognizing its own construction and partiality.

Omnicentricism is the opening of all the systems, following their course and development, not another uber-planet imposed on from without (although it can be incorrectly applied this way).

Ishaq writes:
The straw man is here easy to describe, in that metaphysics doesn't concern itself about these irrelevant and peripheral forms of knowledge Wilber and other postmodernist thinkers are touting, metaphysics is only concerned about the spiritual completion of the individual. Knowledge of Spiral dynamics, zone 2 and 4 IMP levels is totally irrelevant to metaphysics.
It is true that knowledge of IMP, Zone 2, Spiral Dynamics is irrelevant to metaphysics and it can be argued more or less rightly that metaphysics is only considered with the awakened individual. And that precisely is the point. That those forms of knowledge are not necessary to metaphysics leaves them open to all kinds of other influences of which it is not and can not be aware--because it does not have the tools to recognize them.

Otherwise you are left, it seems to me, with the argument from authority. The Mother said so and so.....The great masters say such and such.....

Of course it is a science of awakening individuals. But awakened individuals arise in contexts nonetheless. Contexts that may be malformed, outdated, or wrong. And contexts that the awakened (to spiritual truth) individual may not be aware of.

But again we are back at the point--are there such contexts that an awakened being will be unaware of? I say yes. Seems to me, this view would say no. But that to me sounds very un-nondual as it were. Namely it is secretly privileging the perspective of the Formless over Form. Form is as best, then, a sort of "play" of the Formless or modification but not in any way purposeful, telic in nature.

The only argument that is to be made about why Zone 2 (or fill in the blank) is not to be brought in is that it is irrelevant. And why it is irrelevant? Because it is unnecessary. Circularity of thought seems to be front and center (to me anyway).

One other avenue (different than argument from authority) that Ishaq points to is the following (his words):
Because as legitimate integral mystics they study and learn all aspects of mysticism, including symbiology, mythology, and allegory, something I am sorry to say may be lacking in our post modern mystics, who have been told that these things are obsolete.
Nice use of legitimate there and "all aspects" of mysticism--Wilber's argument was only that the interpretations of the past mystics need re-imaging in today's light not their realizations.

Be that as it may, no one, so far as I know, has said that mythology, symbiology, and allegory are obsolete. I would direct Ishaq to my buddy Joe Perez's blog for oodles of symbiology. There's no conflict with him between symbolism and post-metaphysics.

The only distinction is that if one is going to use symbols, myth, allegory etc to be aware of the social construction involved in them. For the time of say the practice of the metaphysical science (when taking Zone 1) you don't need to concern yourself. Follow the practices, chart the experiences, like usual. But in the interpretation there needs to be (via Right View) a more conscious attention and when necessary negation of the original contexts. Or rather not the contexts themselves but the other connected contexts that are floating along with the original.

For example, as Campbell always pointed out, the mystics of the mythic era used analogies drawn from the process of planting and agriculture. Given that it arose during the time of techno-economic agrarianism that makes sense. Perfect sense. How many people today reading this are farmers? Or live in predominantly farming agrarian communities? Death, resurrection--seeds going into the ground and dying.

It's not wrong. It certainly is worth the meditation. Just don't take it for "fully real" or some metaphysically objective science. Because the metaphysical system (the mystical, esoteric) rightly de-literalizes the surface content/myth (as Campbell admitted) and realizes its truth on a higher plane. Great. Fantastic. Do that. But the metaphysical system does not ever question the rightness of the analogy itself because it was originally drawn from a world in which the metaphors were obvious and standard and large scale. That's fine. What's not the best is just repeating those for all times and places. Because even in the esoteric practice, you are still going to embed those analogies and the worlds they arise in even if in enlightened form. Which is no doubt better than an unenlightened form. But I would submit not as (relatively) good as enlightened plus metaphors from the world we live in instead of someone else's.

And not just the metaphors. The social and political and religious structures that ride on that content, usually unexamined.

That's actually all post-metaphysics is. It's not out to destroy or pump up its own ego. It's about finding a way of speaking that is true to our world just as they did for theirs. Just as down the line others will need to jettison our interpretive overlay because life will have moved in a direction that the metaphors no longer automatically connect. When that happens they become myths. Which is ok and is inevitable. But is not good for those investigating awakened consciousness in its fullest expression possible in a time and place.

In bodies, in non-duality.


At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Durwin said...

In a post-metaphysical era, we must view metaphysics as a screen for power!

At 5:11 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


Thanks for the comment.

Power is involved in every act of knowledge/interpretation. Including his, including mine.

The question, so far as I see it, is to try make how that is working conscious and be able to discuss it humanely. It is not all that is involved surely, but it is never absent either.

Especially in spiritual-ish circles, there is this tendency to see power as questionable, even negative. Therefore when someone thinks of him/herself as a spiritual good guy/gal then they assume they are not involved in/with power.

And the power is not completely arbitrary--at least I think an integral praxis/wave opens the possibility of seeing patterns of power.

And then the question is about is it power with, power over, done with love, done for justice, done for ego, etc.

Following the analogy of the sun, there are beings who give off great and profound light. But much can hide behind the sun.

It's not the sun's "fault" as it were, it just means we need to take another angle to see behind the sun on occasion.

The method outlined by Ishaq (and again I don't mean to pick on him individually, I could have chosen other paradigmatic examples) doesn't to me give a look-see behind the sun.

But ultimately you are right, metaphysics of this variety holds to a fixed point outside of sentient beings in relationship. That point will then in some fashion or other--either mildly and innocuously or in worse ways--be attempted to imposed on all or force them to ascend to it.

It breaks relations. Da's great question: "Avoiding relationship?"

If one's ego is hiding behind the sun, chances are high the answer is yes.




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