I want to re-open some previous discussions we've had with and about Greg in the previous forum, as well as this one. Here are the links to the prior Gaia threads on Derrida and synergist spirituality. In this post from the OOO thread I introduced his new book, Radical Atheism and New Spirituality. Therein I linked to an Integral World article that highlights a few excerpts of the book. I will include the referenced passage from that post below in some more lengthy excerpts:

"The nature of being may be such that it can only reveal itself partially...there are alternative economies of order, economies that see partiality and limited perspective as a consequence of the nature of being itself.

"Derrida...calls such an alternative economy of order a general economy. A general economy features the necessity of interrelation and dissemination of information or meaning as exceeding all measures of control and recuperation. It forms a law of irrecuperable loss.... Arkady Plotnitsky explores Derrida's use of general economy in great detail alongside parallel developments in theoretical physics.

"A restricted economy imposes a structuring principle that establishes a strong polarity of opposites and clear lines of choice. The structural tension between opposites such as true and false or fact and interpretation operates with a clarity that facilitates either/or alternatives and simplified decision-making. In a general economy, however, every oppositional structure submits to a reversal and a displacement. This displacement involves an extraordinary reconfiguration of the structure or dynamic play between opposites.

"General economy displaces discrete and essential difference between opposites with a new structure that sees the opposition as presenting a tension between elements both different yet connected, both penetrated to the core each by the other yet irreducible one to the other. Plotnitsky calls this structure complementary—after Niels Bohr and the quantum theory of wave/particle duality.

"Applying the principle of complementarity to any oppositional pair yields a structure in which the two sides of the opposition penetrate each other in every instance such that there is no pure instance of either. As will be discussed in the next section, this complementary structure of oppositional relations has profound consequences for the concept of transcendence.

"In a general economy there is no crossing over from one pure instance to another pure instance since no clear boundary separates one instance from the other. This circumstance of structure supports the notion of a universal law of contamination. This universal contamination cannot be explained in simple degrees of mixture, gradation, or shades of difference. Instead, this law of contamination presents the circumstance of superposition—superposition of continuity (irreducible dependence) and discontinuity (irreducible separation).

"The possibility for unique and irretrievable loss inherent in a general economy is theorized at the philosophical level by Derrida in his notion of the trace—a term he uses to describe the nature and quality of being. The trace is an absenting presencing, disappearing as it appears.

"From the language Wilber uses in characterizing his view of Spirit and his view of enlightenment it becomes clear that his spirituality remains within what Derrida calls a restricted economy. There are two primary indicators for assessing Wilber's approach to spirituality as consistent with a restricted economy: 1) the implicit assumptions about the deep structure of basic oppositions such as Emptiness and Form, timeless and temporal and 2) the dominant role of notions such as unity and union.

"Wilber speaks of the overcoming of this dualism in the union of Emptiness and Form and time and timelessness as if each side in the pair were in some sense separate, as if the Emptiness and Form aspects of Spirit could be approached separately in paths that then lead to partial enlightenment. The mere notion of the possibility of partial enlightenment in the sense Wilber suggests is symptomatic of an organization or structuring of oppositional relation in a manner consistent with a restricted economy."

In the “essence and identity” thread I introduced Gregory Desilet's essay “Physics and Language.” From that essay he said:

"As both the one and the many, the continuum does not require, and in fact precludes, a thorough merging of opposites. Where there is a tendency to see unity as fundamental the continuum asserts that difference is equiprimordial with unity. Oddly enough...[this is] consistent with descriptions Derrida gives for the term differance" (349).

In this post quoting the same article he says:

“Contexts are not absolute, [they] are in motion and continually changing within an infinite, changing net…. The reality that emerges though particular contexts is not objective reality in any traditional sense of the word. Reality as a superposition does not conform to the idea of objectness or thingness. This way of thinking places it in a conceptual category for which adequate metaphors are difficult to find—thereby necessitating terms such as ‘continuum’ or ‘differance,’ ‘superposition’ etc.

“Yet the contextualization that limits interpretation does not function with the closure of totalization; its boundary remains open. This lack of closure entrails, paradoxically, that reality both is and is not what it is interpreted to be. It is, at one level, what is interpreted to be but also always exceeds, at another level, what it is interpreted to be. This ‘exceeding’ means that at every point of capture reality escapes calculation and thereby admits construction” (352).

Also recall the following, originally posted in the “what 'is' the differance?” thread:

Let's now look at his article "Misunderstanding Derrida and Postmodernism." He says:

"But by embracing any form of absolute transcendence in his philosophical outlook, Wilber necessarily retains traditional metaphysical distinctions between emptiness and form, the real and the manifest, and Being and time."

Desilet gives Wilber credit for his exposition in IS (Appendix II) on the relative side of the coin and agrees with much of it. But W still maintains an absolute in clear distinction with the relative and his nonduality is a higher synthesis and reconciliation between the two. Whereas for Desilet (and Derrida):

"Time (as difference or change) and Being (as sameness or permanence) interpenetrate each other all the way through and at every point....At certain places in his discussion Wilber seems to grasp the postmodern approach to oppositional tensions as interpenetrations simultaneously essentially different and essentially related."

And in other places W maintains the divide with his absolute Spirit apprehended via nirodha meditation as the other side of the equation. W's version of the myth of the given only applies to the relative side.

Desilet then goes into this "witness" business, which relates to the other thread on Shinzin Young. It is distinguished form the ego in that the latter is again only relative whereas the witness is pure, absolute consciousness. Particularly relevant to this discussion is that Derrida's "undeconstructable" (like khora) should not be confused with the likes of this transcendental absolute:

"Every instance of consciousness...is necessarily already divided. Consciousness and Being are split by difference all the way to the core.... The 'other' functions as an 'absolute' for Derrida only in the sense of presenting an absolute 'opening' as the 'yet to come' (what Wilber might regard as the 'unmanifest'). The 'yet to come,' as that which can potentially come into awareness and experience, cannot be absolutely alien to the self yet neither can it be absolutely known or comprehended at any moment in time. As such, the 'yet to come' retains a quality of essential difference from and essential relation to 'what is.'”

And Desilet's concluding remarks make a point I've made several times before, that retaining the absolute (as metaphysically defined) maintains notions of superiority and hegemony, something we've certainly witnessed in the kennilinguist integral community.

"Traditional metaphysics and its construction of notions of absolute transcendence that easily slide, however unintentionally, toward authorization of modes of certainty that do little more than contribute to predispositions of non-negotiation and systems of exclusionary discrimination."

Granted Wilber does move away from traditional metaphysics, per both my and Desilet's comments above, at least on the relative side of the street. But he still retains it for his absolute.


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Frank Visser and Joe Perez have been engaged in an online debate about Integral Theory and its strengths and shortcomings.  In his latest blog post, Joe suggests that the source of disagreement between Frank and other more pro-Wilber integralists is traceable to altitude, not "culture," as Frank had originally suggested, and he challenges Frank to take a developmental assessment and put his altitude on the table.  I share this here mostly for the comments that ensue beneath Joe's blog -- covering some related issues to those just discussed here.

Thanks. While I cannot access Integral World I can access Joe's blog. I like this from Ingersoll, an actual psychologist trained in CG's measurement metric:

"The idea of levels of consciousness is a metaphor that has not been supported to the point where one can say another person's outlook is totally filtered through a 'level' of consciousness. [...] There is no psychological test that functions to capture the whole of how a person experiences/interacts with the world. [...] I would suggest that retreating to metaphors of 'altitude' or 'levels of consciousness' shuts down the dialogue in the same way as the question 'Are you saved?'"

As to the last statement, I've noted that very same analogy on many occasions.

Also recall this from Kurt Fischer, who not only administers measurements of 'levels' but is one of the leading empirical researchers into their formulation.

"To speak of the development of psychological structures is not the same as speaking about the development of a person. There are no general or 'all purpose' psychological structures. Although they undergo massive development over the lifespan, psychological structures consist of localized skills that are tied to particular situational demands, psychological demands and social contexts. [...] It is not appropriate to say that an individual functions at a single developmental level, even for a particular skill. Instead it is more appropriate to say that an individual's skills function at a range of levels depending on context, domain, time of day, emotional state and other variables."

My impression is that kennilinguists base this general altitude more on ideology than on actual developmental research. I know, just saying that means I'm a lower altitude. I guess the empirical researchers (aka experts in the field) above are too?

Also recall Michael Commons, Mr. Levels himself, from this source:

"Order of performance on one task is not necessarily generalizable to other tasks, even where the tasks share the same order of complexity and are found in the same domain. [...] No claims are made as to cognitive structures of the brain, or about some overall stage of competence in the subject."

Perez's "levels" based argument is unpersuasive.

From Robb Smith's Facebook posting 10/25/12: 


There are only two safe paths ahead for this project we call "integral."

One is to treat integral characteristics as a typology, and the other is to treat it as a language system for value-free aperspectivality. As a typology it is developmentally-neutral and rejects growth-to-goodness language and epistemology. It also sees that "integral" is a typology of normativity that can be engendered by any and all people at any age and any stage: inclusion, deep listening, taking and seeking perspectives, contemplation beyond self, etc. (i.e., good 12 year old behavior). As an aperspectival language system it jettisons the normativity and seeks to refine meta-distinctions that are useful for emancipating occasions in the human life.

I have distanced myself from dialogues that evidence the cruder understandings of integral as a developmental system and I suspect I'm not alone. And I'm absolutely convinced that that path is a dead-end for this wide-ranging integral project. Good times.

Balder said:

Frank Visser and Joe Perez have been engaged in an online debate about Integral Theory and its strengths and shortcomings. 

This is the home site for Dr. Zachary Stein, who studied with Fischer at Harvard. Developmental psychology and integral metatheories are his thing. The following is from his now infamous paper, "Myth busting and metric making:"

"There is overwhelming evidence showing that our metrics are limited and that we can't touch the true complexity of human development. In this light, the idea that a holistic assessment could tell us about the essence of a person is absurd and flagrantly ideological. Development assessments at their best can only paint pictures of the differential distribution of capabilities within persons. We can't assess people as a whole, we can only assess their performances along particular lines in particular contexts. And performances vary across contexts, which means that you may perform at one level in one context and at a very different level in another context. [...] It is fundamentally wrong to think of a person as being at a level" (11).

Bang! Bang! Bang! Incoming, get down! Take cover, there's rowdies in these woods! 

Back in the day when I lived on the streets I once witnessed--while enjoying the sensations of a certain entheogen--a rather strange commotion. It was while watching my partner hustle pool at the Young Station in Toronto when I watched the surrealism of ONE dude kick the crap out of about a dozen people. Probably the best fighter I've ever watched up close. I was fortunate that when he came towards me he stopped, stared, laughed, and walked away. At that point I got the hell out of there before the cops showed up. Which kind of reminds me how the U.S. cops would level their lights and shotguns at me while on the side of the road hitchhiking: for the most part they laughed, too, when they got a close look at me. 

Anyway, lot's to think about here. I think I've finally figured out what's been bugging me about the name IPS. What doesn't bother me is if it's used in the context of western philosophy to describe an era 100 or so years after Nietzche ; the previous era started somewhere around the time of Plato. It  makes sense then to talk about philosophy today as a type of post-metaphysics. But that is not the context the term is being used for; at least I think not, but rather the term is being ployed as a gambit for non-supernatural, or god doesn't exist. That gambit bothers me. 

It might be worth noting here what the talking monkey doesn't know yet: 

- it knows nothing of why there is something instead of nothing. 

- it knows little about how rocks turned into flowers ( abiogenesis). 

- it doesn't know much about consciousness; qualia, how it got here, why it works the way it does. 

Here is a link that talks about religious ranking : 


The last paragraph: 

To repeat an earlier point: our purpose is not to question the reality of the internal states described by Wilber. There is sufficient cross-cultural and historical evidence to conclude that such internal experiences indeed occur. The question is: what are they and what do they mean? It is on the question of interpretation of internal experiences that Wilber's system falters. Wilber fails to defend the validity of his practice of interpreting these internal experiences as epistemologically sound means of gaining access to valid knowledge about the true nature of extra-pyschic reality. Similarly, he fails to provide convincing arguments to explain why his interpretation of those experiences should be considered more valid than the theist's quite different interpretations of the same internal experiences. Finally, he fails to demonstrate why the non-dualist religious experience should be considered superior to the religious experience of theists, an experience which asserts and values the otherness of God. From this epistemological issue, other issues follow: the de-valuation of the personal, the separation of the ethical and the spiritual, Wilber's selective, non-representative use of sources, and others. The future status of Wilber's work and the field of transpersonal psychology will in part be a product of how successfully Wilber responds to these and other challenges from non-transpersonalist commentators.6

The point being that who gets to rank spiritual experience and how that ranking is achieved and applied is not something we should take lightly while offering up free passes to various systems . For myself, I like the usage of logic and reason as guideposts when it comes to these issues , much like the deists of yesteryear. Anyone for Panendeism out there? The fact is , at least to me, is that what we have on this planet are differing camps of beliefs and values which are not easily stratified into nice, tidy, vertical notions. 

Besides, whats this obsession with being elite anyway? What are the elite getting today? Oh yeah, free passes when it comes to high financial crimes, free passes on crimes of torture, free passes on illegal imperial wars; complete ownership of the globe by corporate entities  who's theatre operandi is now the desert of the absurd ( global pornographic geopolitics). Who the hell wants to become a part of that clique when one can simply not do what is evil to you to anyone else? Why turn spirituality upside down now? Come follow me, let's quit while we are behind!

Anyone for a post-mythological Spirituality? One that distances itself from the divisions and falsities of mans religious inheritance?

Happy Holidays ALL:)

Layman--yes, I agree that a vertical axis is necessary. Not only necessary but likely unavoidable in human community. The problem, as you say, is how to introduce some kind of reliable means of assessment into the process. In high school I was always amazed at how easy it was to grade performance in math classes and how seemingly random that process became in history and literature classes, where you were graded on performance in essay tests. I've read about attempts to computerize the grading of essay tests and, frankly, that left me very unconvinced of the productivity of that method. As I've argued in other postings on Integral World, I don't believe that the testing of consciousness performance and interpretive performance can ever become a science--due to the fact that this realm is not a realm of cause/effect relations but rather signifier/signified relations. The latter is a very different can of worms.

Gotta go for now. But more later.

Lots to respond to. I'll start with something Andrew says because it ties into thinking I've been doing lately on the issue of the something/nothing dichotomy and the notion entertained by some physicists that the something of the cosmos came from nothing. In one respect at least, this notion strikes me as a manner of speaking Wittgenstein would jump on as metaphysical nonsense.

When we think of something coming out of nothing or even when we think the dichotomy of something/nothing has some kind of meaning, it's hard to see how we can be making any sense. If we define nothing as that out of which something cannot emerge, then it makes no logical sense to say something can come out of nothing. If we view nothing as some kind of ontological state out of which something, namely the cosmos, has emerged, then clearly "nothing" is not really "nothing" by virtue of the fact it has given rise to something. If this were in fact the case, we would need to revise our ontological definition of "nothing" because that out of which something can come is surely not "nothing" in any meaningful sense of the word. So I don't believe the notion that something came out of nothing is worth any serious reflection. It leads to a logical mess of contradictions.

In my opinion, then, cosmologically speaking there has always been something. There is something rather than nothing because, evidently speaking (because we are here), there is no opposite to something. Supposing there were an opposite to something and we called it "nothing," how would we ever confirm its role or detect it non-presence? And if we were somehow to detect it and confirm its role in the emergence of something, would it not then have become "something"? For how could we detect the existence of that which does not exist? Maybe I'm just having a bad day, but the whole notion of nothing makes sense to me only as an analogue to the function of zero in mathematics.

Just as I don't think there is any escape from or (onto)logical opposite to something, I don't believe there is any escape from metaphysics. So I tend to side with Andrew on the issue of the unsatisfactoriness of anything labeled "post-metaphysical." I don't see the possibility of anything post-metaphysical--there are only alternative metaphysical beliefs, metaphysical choices, or metaphysical default positions (for those who are unaware of making any metaphysical choices). In this regard the situation seems analogous to Sartre's existentialism when he says we are condemned to freedom. Even not choosing counts as a choice. We are always in some metaphysical soup of our own making--even when we don't acknowledge or consent to making the soup. The question, then, for post-integral theorists (for lack of a better term) may be: what soup ought we to be choosing? The metaphysics of presence, the metaphysics of deconstruction (radical atheism), the metaphysics of taoism, the metaphysics of value (re: Pirsig), the metaphysics of O-O-O? And which choice of metaphysics most supports the quality of human community we would consider desirable? And my use of the word "choice" need not be understood to obviate the constraints of evidence, to the extent evidence can even reach into the tightest of metaphysical corners.

Having said all this, it seems to me this group has been addressing these metaphysical and spiritual community issues for some time and I find that admirable. It's an important and necessary thing to do since theism is clearly dead (despite rumors of its survival), which leaves a significant void to fill in relation to working out not only what it means to be human but what it might mean to evolve as human. No easy answers given the growing power of technology in brain science, biogenetics, and robotics.

Hi Gregory, i'd like to start off by weighing in on the Perez/Visser squabble . I sit around the campfire where people are agreeing that SDI should not be used to pigeonhole individuals into lower/higher rankings. That other camp where people do that is being soaked by gail winds and rain; not so good, kind of sucks!  The ability to be able to 'think' meta-paradigmatically is obviously a nifty ability and has much potential; and if we want to label that ability as an Integral stage that's fine with me. But in and of itself, that ability and utility doesn't guarantee much; it can sink or swim/surf awesome waves, or get mired in vortices of rip tides and rocks. Personally, I think i get where Frank is coming from on the scientific/evolution meme; it's been pretty darn useful overall insofar as giving humanity a solid epistemological base; and i'm good that it may yet tell us much more about the nature of things; but I've never been convinced of much when science oversteps what it can know. On Wilber's view: I see it as a type of faith ( one i share in some sense) so i'm not opposed to Wilber's ideas along these lines until he reaches a point in argument where he seems to me, to overstate his opinions and theories. I'd even give him that in the end he may well be right about eros and agape; but for now, for me, he's using poetry. 

On metaphysics: I agree with you; there is no escaping it, but I have no problem thinking of MOA1/2 as post-metaphysical systems. I guess I just have an aversion to the generic use of the word to describe natural/supernatural dichotomies. 

Oh yeah, something rather than nothing?  Well, Godel, perhaps? It may well be that the talking monkey's faculties of logic and reason--in the end-- have limitations. That our minds are not equipped to understand ___ mind. Hahaha, speaking of monkeys: yeah I'm a pan psychic …..dedumdodo……..


One last note: the pathology of the elite within control of A.I. / biogenetics doesn't exactly thrill me with hope:(

I wanted to touch on what I consider the more important topic that is inherent in philosophy: that of how shall we live?  Not that I don't think arguments over ontology and metaphysics are unimportant; it's more that to me, those areas have always and will continue to be camps. There never has been or never will be one monological system wherein everyone will agree that one explanation satisfies all questions about the nature of reality and being. I for one, am okay with that; I would however like to see that truism acknowledged more instead of the usual fortresses that surround these differing  views. 

How shall we live then? Well, it is becoming abundantly clear that monological thinking is alive and well when it comes to global economic neoliberalism. I see this trend over the last 30 years being a precursor to the future. A future that will be defined by energy resource. If the elites succeed in their attempts at ITER or other means of scaling energy supply then I suspect that that technology combined by elite neoliberal ideology will create a culture much like portrayed in the movie Elysium. A new energy scaled to meet the demands of the elites combined with their arrogant pathology will wipe out billions from the middle classes creating a two tiered society of extreme wealth, luxury, and self entitlement ; juxtaposed to the most abject poverty and misery for the masses. All present trends point in this direction. The flip side scenario to that future will be the one where the elites fail to materialize a new energy source to scale. Present trends continued combined with the downward trajectory of energy resource will create various scenarios of Mad Max type cultures as depicted in shows like Revolution i.e.  Neo-feudalism. 

Of course, the elites could engineer a more friendly egalitarian type future but I believe they will choose not to, and then at the point we can start to ask WHY  they choose NOT to create a benevolent future. 

Which, of course, leads us right back to metaphysics and ontology. 

Anyway, Gregory, I was wondering if it's possible to think of Derrida as a modern day Kabbalist? In the sense that he tends to view language as foundational in that signified/signifier way of looking at things. I would guess that you would think the 'nothingness' of the Aleph, and the 'fullness' of the Bet are not appropriate metaphors for the dimensions of space-time, and that there is no correlation between mystical Kabbalah and Derrida whatsoever?

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

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