Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Happy New Year!
As the year comes to a close, I am thinking about IPS and the work we do here. One thing I've been thinking about is the relatively small number of people* participating on and actively contributing to the discussions here -- and, in particular, the general lack of participation here by members from the wider Integral community. It seems IPS is either still relatively obscure, or else simply not of interest to that broader community, judging by the membership and participation I've witnessed here over the past couple years.
On the one hand, being an "outsider" to that larger community seems like a good thing (I'm not "on board" with a number of its current trends, for instance). But even more sympathetically, having folks who stand on the outside, at the margins, can itself be useful for a community, and allow for perhaps the manifestation of possibilities and "directions" not available or readily apparent from within the community. At least, that's my present rationalization. :-)
In any event, I'm posting this as a general poll for members here -- regular contributors, sometime-contributors, and lurkers. What would you like to see happen here at IPS in 2012? What could we do differently that might attract sometime-contributors and lurkers to become more active and involved? For new members (we've had 10 join in the last month), what brought you here? For regular contributors, what visions do you hold for our activity or "work" here? What are our "next steps"?
* On a logistical note, we are actually at the limit of our membership here. On the current Ning plan, I am allowed 150 members, which is the number we have now. I am considering paying for a more expensive plan, to accommodate a larger number of people, but at present it is hard to justify that since only a small percentage of the 150 are actively contributing to this site. I will likely purchase the next-level plan if we see a boost in participation in 2012.
Ooops, there I go...
Hahaha, no worries; we love you, Ed.
Yes, the spark has dimmed for me as well. I think it has, partly, to do with Integral's official "alignment" with a select group of teachers (marketed, of course, as the leading-edge spiritual teachers on the planet), and thus an apparent narrowing (and, to my ear, a calcifying) of the Integral voice. It seems there is more creativity and "juice" on the fringes of the movement. At least, that's where the juice is for me.
Mary W. said:
I was able to watch a number of clips from the ongoing Integral Spiritual Experience retreat last night (while it was temporarily open to all), and I find that I am indeed finding it increasingly difficult to align with "Integral Spirituality" as it is currently being expressed or represented. I also have ongoing reservations about Wilber's continued alliance with several teachers, which is increasingly off-putting for me.
-- I saw a bit of the ISE as well. I wasn't feeling it either, I have to admit. (Although actually being at the gathering might have been delightful -- because of the opportunity to hang with a few friends I've met through integralia). At one time I thought I might try to go to one of these events. I don't feel drawn to do so now. Alas, the spark is gone.
Just after writing the above, I read this over at Beams and Struts. A passage that was read aloud at the "Integral Church" service at ISE 3.
"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ~ Walt Whitman
Good words for starting the year, indeed.
I'm with Mary, though she expresses herself much better than me. It's a great website, I visit several times a week, browse through a topic that interests me, or attempt to follow one that is interesting but difficult. My brain cells seem to leak out my ears or dissolve into post nasal drip, and coughing clears the throat but not the head. I couldn't agree more when Mary says:
I really appreciate the ideas and depth of thought that goes in to most of the posts and discussions here, as well as the occasional rambunctiousness and irreverence. I also must admit (mostly to myself): I will never ever catch up with y'all's ramblings here. I am perpetually behind and perpetually in need of reminders of what particular terms mean -- thus grateful for any trouble that those of you who provide links, references, and such go through.
So well said! Best wishes to all,
Hi, David! Happy New Year. :-) And thanks, too, for your feedback -- I'm glad to know that folks like you and Mary are here with us, even if mostly silently. I'm also a mostly silent visitor at the TSK site, as you know. If I end up giving the TSK workshop later this year, I'll be sure to post something from it (my notes or observations) over there....
All the best,
One thought I've been toying with for the past few months is to create something more polished, like Beams and Struts. A kind of IPS magazine. Because my time is so limited, I think I'd have difficulty pulling that off, though, so the next best thing might be to create a new board here, called The Magazine, where folks can post more "finished" pieces of writing (perhaps distillations of what we work out and slog through in the forums). Or we could just use the Blog feature more. But something like a board dedicated to essay-like pieces might have more cohesion.
What do you think?
Hi Balder, hello all, and best new year wishes to everyone..
For 2012, I'd like to see more of the body included on this site. Or attempts to do this, at least. I like what Balder, Thomas and theurj do, but alongside this - and now and again as a challenge, even, - I hope there can be room for other takes on what is Integral. Conceptions that include more of the body, the everyday, agency. And more especially of actual examples that ground/illustrate through stories existing in the world. I want to locate my lived self among all this theory to a much greater degree so as to clarify and nourish agency.
And apropos of nothing in particular, but relevant to all that goes on here, I like this comment of David McMahan, author of, The Making of Buddhist Modernism, speaking about the changes Buddhism has undergone in time and space throughout it's history:
"I’m not very satisfied [with talk of de-mythologizing/modernising Buddhism] because it kind of implies that you can take all the mythology out of something and you're just left with what it is - it just is what it is, and it's based on fact - and I don't really buy that, so at the end of my section of de-mythologization, I say well, this is really a re-mythologization"
Hi, Dial, thanks for your good new year wishes and your suggestions for the forum. I'm late in responding, but heck, the year is still young...
I like your suggestions -- and one of my wishes, in starting this thread, was to invite some new voices in here. I also like what Theurj and Thomas and the very few other regular posters bring here, and hope they will continue to do so, but wanted to encourage other lurkers and sometimes-visitors to participate here more actively.
Concerning including more about the body on this site, I'd like to hear more specifically what you're thinking about. Theurj references the body fairly consistently, particularly in his appeals to Lakoff and Johnson's embodied model of cognition, and it also informs my Varela-esque conception of enaction, but I agree that some additional topics specifically focused on body-centered spirituality, philosophy, therapy, practice, etc, would be interesting and worth exploring further here.
"I’m not very satisfied [with talk of de-mythologizing/modernising Buddhism] because it kind of implies that you can take all the mythology out of something and you're just left with what it is - it just is what it is, and it's based on fact - and I don't really buy that, so at the end of my section of de-mythologization, I say well, this is really a re-mythologization."
I agree. Speaking of, and seeking, de-mythologization as a simple stripping down or reduction to "what is" is IMO itself a myth: the myth of the given.
Good to hear from you. My apologies for the both the speed of my response and it’s length. Particularly the length! It’s a bit of a rant, in which I’ve said much of what is on my mind at this early stage of 2012. I ramble a little, perhaps. I hope you’ll accept the over-abundance as a prelude to further exploration, clarification, and simplification in the year ahead. If you, or anyone else, tires in the reading, I suggest going straight to the last third, or so, where I begin to talk of the ideas of Jane Bennet and David Loy/Dogen. These are the people I want to engage with more in 2012. Onward, then…
By ‘body’ I mean, firstly, instantiation, and a folding back on that instantiation to reflect on how it fulfills the intentions that produced it - and then, of course, from that a further unfolding instantiation in an ongoing, unending movement. I’m speaking of dialectics, in short. For example, the body that is the IPM project we are engaged in here emerges from Integral thought, which, in turn, is grounded in spirit and spiritual disciplines that move and shape the physical body and mind. As one of the speakers in the Speculative Realism/OOO seminar at the Cal. Institute of Integral said, “Integral thematizes practice” - which means that it also thematizes embodiment. Accordingly, there should be a folding back of our thought on itself in such a way that accounts for both content and delivery of that content.
One aspect of that is the body that is this text and all that supports it here: the assemblage of material and conceptual that extends out as far as one might be capable of tracking. How does this body function in OOO or enacted ontological terms? Does it fairly accord with its own theses? It doesn’t necessarily have to, but we should be aware of just what the relationship is. There is nothing so excruciating as encountering something like the 3rd section of Integral Spirituality as the great mind of Ken Wilber (I mean that, sincerely) critiques others for their ‘performative contradiction’ while engaged in exactly the same himself. Indeed, I think it could be argued that the entire failure of Integral as a movement comes from a lack of self-reflexive accord between its actual embodiment and the content of its thought. Although, that’s hardly perceptive and an obvious enough critique to make, it does suggest that at some point Integral failed as a practice. For an approach that ‘thematizes practice’ that seems significant.
There is also the body where we can find sedimented aspects of thought and actions from the past. These sedimented layers exist in our body and in our environment. Impossible to articulate, but still material and very present, these guide and inspire current actions and by their very nature undermine attempts to give a fully articulated account of being. These traces from our past and in our current environment drive us to act and think in particular ways. What, for example, is the drive that motivates the construction of Integral Post Metaphysics. What are the forces that provoke and shape its formation? I think it helps greatly to know that to provide the best possible answer. Below I offer a source that begins to do that – for me, at any rate.
Going into the body that is Integral thought, for example, aiming at both the word ‘integral’, itself, and the various borrowings Integral thought has made. One of these is the concept of the good, true and beautiful from critical theory (Habermas, most immediately, I believe?) Why are these concepts not utilized more extensively? I would like to see the true, good, and beautiful both more fully explored and more fully integrated. I think it's fair to ask of an Integral thought, where is the good (ethics) and the beautiful (art/aesthetics)? I tire of the obsequious relation to science that late 20/early 21st spirituality has. I love science, I understand the need for engagement, but it seems lacking in confidence for a thought (Integral, that is) based in a notion of the three eyes to cede so much power to the eye of the flesh. You might think it ironic, at best, to complain of this when asking for more of the body. What I'm asking for, though, is to take from science the notion of verification and evidence and the need for a base in what actually is, and run these core understandings through the other eyes of the mind and spirit. The principles of empiricism and reason, rather than science itself, can be extracted as key and applied to the domains of ethics and aesthetics.
To divide a previously unified spirit into three is to conceive of an interweaving of these three domains as equals. Therefore we should be asking, how do the good(ethics) and the beautiful (aesthetics) move within the true (science)? How do aesthetics and science move within the ethical? How do science and ethics move within aesthetics? Are these not the sorts of questions that Integral demands. Without either discounting or ceding too much authority to science, take also from aesthetics and ethics, and see how post enlightenment there has been an ongoing developmental manifestation of the perennial eyes of the flesh, mind, and spirit.
Along with this, I want to see the dynamics of spirit as experienced in our own awareness practices - surely a/the key body - related to the world at large. Are these dynamics axiomatic to all realms, all scales? Are there continuities, points of common flexion, a single point of equilibrium/poise, even? Or, is it a case of discontinuities. I know that Bryant - following embodied thinkers such as Andy Clark - has interesting things to say about how wider structures enter into our consciousness. What Bryant doesn't have, of course, is any sort of engaged and focused spiritual practice that might prise him from going just that step too far into the excavation of mystery via rational inquiry. For all its great brilliance, the very register of Bryant’s argument ultimately performs closure to finally render itself rather wooden and dead. Bryant’s recent post on ‘Thinking the Absolute’ is quite indicative in this regard: he has a concept of ‘religion’, but no real concept of spiritual practices. It would seem a brilliant theory of objects doesn’t necessarily alert one to the presence/lack of these bodies.
As much as I really do value Bryant, a thinker I really want to talk up is Jane Bennet. Her book, The Enchantment of Modern Life, manages to begin just this sort of bringing together of art, science and ethics. It provides much useful orientation for the concerns I raise here by clearly grounding what can be taken as historical and existential motivations for an IPM. Indeed, the orienting motivations for an IPM I asked for above. It is incredibly informative and grounding to have these spelled out in such lucid fashion.
Bennet, a fellow traveler of OOO in speaking for materialism and an animate world, also argues for an ethics that is mobilized by a disciplined aesthetics of enchantment. An enchantment, that she first defines, and then argues is able to be found in all sorts of surprising places and ways. She tells, as she puts it, an 'alter-tale' against the modernist tale of disenchantment and a fallen world put forth by Voltaire, Weber, Marx, Blumenberg, Adorno, Horkheimer et al. While she sees the great value of skepticism and a critical attitude, she also views such an attitude as ultimately enervating and failing to provide the energies and enthusiasm needed to act for the good of the whole. Bennet, instead, argues that enchantment not only encourages an attitude of generosity ('presumptive generosity’ in her words) but, that, we can also cultivate a well-tempered version of these enchanted states that avoids the dangers of aestheticizing. Her argument in favor for this enchantment includes Epicurus, Schiller, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Kafka, and the weak ontology of Richard Flatman. (I like this notion of 'weak ontology' very much and find it entirely in accordance with a thought against closure) Kant, unsurprisingly, appears for both enchantment and disenchantment.
Which brings me to the marvelous David Loy, and his paper Dead Words, Living Words, and (in particular) Healing Words. In this paper Loy discusses Derrida, Eckhart, Hui-Neng, and Dogen, with some reference, along the way, to Nagarjuna and Caputo.Loy is with Derrida and Caputo in discerning ‘dead words’ from ‘living words’. The former mired in mistaken notions of self-presence/identity, the latter understood as able to move and play in accord with their true nature as disseminated traces. What Loy goes on to argue for and affirm are a third type of words - ‘healing words’ . These are the words used by Hui-neng, Dogen, and Eckhart that truly integrate reality by deconstructing the self/world boundary . These three – I’m sure you’ll agree it’s fair to call them, great masters - go beyond language as a means to deconstruct or even point to a true nature, and instead use language to actively realize true nature itself. Loy quotes Hee-jin Kim: “Metaphor in Dogen’s sense is not that which points to something other than itself, but that, in which something realizes itself.” (Which, as an aside, is exactly as Joshua Landy argues in regard to Proust). Kim again: “in spite of inherent frailties in their make-up, words are the bearer of ultimate truth. In this respect words are not different from things, events, or beings – all ‘alive’ in Dogen’s thought.” Sounds remarkably like OOO to me. Only, as Loy finishes saying: Dogen’s Buddhism and Eckhart’s Christianity are religious because they offer much broader critiques of attachment intended to inform and alter the ways we live in the world…… part of of a larger, indeed holistic practice – including moral precepts, ritual, meditation exercises etc. – that develops non-attachment in all our activities and is therefore able to discover and liberate the ippo-gujin (realization of buddha-nature) in all of them.
You’ll note that Loy’s sense of ‘religious’ differs from Bryant’s ‘religion’ in that it includes actual practices to transform being in the world. Bryant figures religion as an inevitable pair to philosophy’s constitutive inability to speak existence. Loy, and with him, I imagine, Dogen, Hui-neng, and Eckhart, figure the ‘religious’ as a means to heal the constitutive lack of the separate- self delusion. Bryant believes the answer will be found in philosophy. Well, if so, it will be a philosophy that includes actual practices of the body and mind that transform being in the world. I believe, with others here, obviously, that OOO has a lot to offer an IPM. What I believe an IPM has to offer OOO is a thought that includes the body of practice. Only right now that IPM contains little of this or the other bodies I speak of.
If you’ve got this far, thanks for your patience: in the year ahead I hope to introduce more of Jane Bennet and William Connolly - who is behind much of my thinking on sedimented traces below the level of conscious reflection. I also want to return to that great piece of Loy’s above on Dogen, Eckhart, and Hui-neng. And, last, but hardly least, I want to say more on how the dynamics of my practice can be seen to figure themselves throughout my life and reality in general. I hope others will be interested, also.
Ah, very nice, Dial. Thank you for this. I will respond soon.
Thanks, again, for offering these reflections on your understanding of IPS and its forms of embodiment -- which I take as prolegomenon to future related discussions throughout the year.
I particularly appreciate your desire, and call, for greater reflexivity in Integral thought and practice. I would not (yet) say that the Integral project has failed outright, since there are many little related islands of Integral thought and experimentation that have cropped up, and some still remain attractive and compelling for me -- though admittedly some of the official Integral enactions have been less than satisfactory to me, and do appear to me to be foundering somewhat. But I do agree that, to the extent that the Integral project is foundering, it would be useful to reflect on the degree to which this may have to do with its failure to embody its own professed principles (such as post-metaphysics). This was something I argued, in a gentle way, in my paper on an Integral approach to interreligious relationships, and I know Ed has argued this extensively in relation to certain of Integral's political affiliations.
To relate this to the opening questions in this thread, I take your reflections as an invitation to reflect on how this forum might better embody its vision. I will not try to answer this now, but will hold it as an ongoing question. Although it hasn't happened yet, I've got an "interview" tentatively scheduled with a writer at Beams & Struts about this forum; I expect we'll be discussing why I started IPS, what the guiding vision is, where to from here ...? Or, he might surprise me with very different questions altogether. But, in any event, that imminent discussion, together with your reflections here, is prompting me to turn and try to see this site in a new way.
Regarding your desire for fuller development (and balancing) of the Good, True, and Beautiful in Integral thought, what do you think of Steve McIntosh's writings on this? It has been awhile since I read it, but in his book, Integral Consciousness, he attempts to think these categories anew -- an Integral, practice-oriented values metabolism. I agree that the emphasis on science might be excessive in modern spirituality and spiritual philosophy. I recently have been appreciating Catherine Keller's writings on theopoetics, for instance, as an alternative (non-empirical) way of holding, and relating to, spiritual practice.
I am not familiar with Jane Bennet or William Connolly, but would welcome further discussion of either. Perhaps a thread in the "book and film" section of the forum would be good, if you'd like to discuss a particular text. I am quite familiar with Loy, on the other hand, and really like his work. We've discussed a number of his texts on Derrida and Nagarjuna, for instance, and I started a thread on his little text The World is Made of Stories awhile back, but I have not yet read the essay you cited. I'll enjoy dipping into that, especially since he also focuses on Dogen, whom I mentioned earlier as an anticipated ally in the IPS project.
Ah yes, Catherine Keller. I've discussed her in several threads. One can read the entire book she edited here, Process and Difference. Therein she says that David Ray Griffin “has mounted the argument against a deconstruction of his own invention” via a “fallacy of misplaced opposition,” a fallacy retained by kennilingus. She also edited and contributed to the book Polydoxy in this thread. Therein a relation is shown between religious idealism (“false unifications”) and conservative polity, a relation most recently explored in the Pepper thread. I especially liked the metaphor of necrophilia to describe this relation. Keller is also in the thread “religion and politics,” as is Loy. Loy said: "Religions are not fulfilling their responsibility if they ignore this religious dimension of capitalism."