In broad outline (I may need to add a few more points), an Integral approach to Religious Studies is ...

1) Meta-paradigmatically encompassing of at least eight broad zones of inquiry, each of which might contain multiple theoretical and disciplinary approaches to the field of religion: mystical/phenomenological, structural/psychological (Folwer's stages of faith, psychology of religion), hermeneutic/anthropological (Gadamer/Geertz), autopoietic/neurophysiological (neurotheology, neurophenomenology, etc), social autopoietic/systemic (social autopoiesis of religion, evolutionary theories of religion, etc).  In the spirit of IMP, however, hybrid orientations are also facilitated, such as Heidegger's or Levin's spiritual hermeneutic phenomenology, or Varela's neurophenomenology (named above).

2) Inclusive of the gifts of premodern, modern, and postmodern approaches to religious praxis and scholarship.

3) Conversant in, and capable of navigating within, metaphysical and postmetaphysical frameworks or modes of discourse.

4) Capable of fostering a coherent, integral-pluralistic approach to the challenge of religious diversity -- neither promoting a hegemonic inclusivism nor sliding into a depthless relativism.

5) Validating of emic as well as etic religious orientations and methodologies -- facilitated, perhaps, by the adoption of an enactive, processual, and/or participatory "view" or epistemology, which allows for the co-creative emergence of multiple religious worldspaces, forms of spiritual knowledge/experience, and soteriological horizons.

6) Broadly concerned with personal, cultural, and sociological dimensions of religious belief and practice -- no longer confining the "spiritual" to the (necessarily) private interior of the (isolated) modern rational ego.

7) Reinvigorating of the old archetype of the scholar-practitioner -- dissolving the hard-and-fast boundary, which has developed in recent years (esp. in academia), between the (critical) religious scholar and the (supposedly critically compromised) religious practitioner or theologian.  Critical engagement can be fostered and facilitated, not compromised, by serious contemplative engagement or religious praxis.

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Thanks Bruce,

Complete yet concise...very nice.

Gave me an opportunity to train my 'word' dictionary as well. ;-)



Thanks, Douglas.  It's still a "working list," which I've compiled as I'm working on a book review.  I see the above points as being held in common by both integral and participatory approaches to religious studies.

Recently, in a discussion elsewhere on the web, Kerry Dugan called me out on something I'd written -- identifying in it a kind of pre-integraal inclusivism.  Here is what I wrote, and his response:

Balder:  Integral and participatory approaches to religious studies arguably share a number of core questions and concerns.  How might we chart paths through and beyond the cultural-linguistic paradigm that prevails in the Western academic study of religion?  How might we foster inclusive, meta-paradigmatic approaches that honor the gifts of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern forms of religious belief and praxis, and that integrally embrace the diversity of theoretical orientations and academic disciplines that have emerged within the field to date?   

Kerry:  This question suggests it's own answer(s) by virtue of it's terms, but... doesn't yet, to me, demonstrate a meta-paradigmatic approach. The territory is full of turfs. To introduce inclusive embrace can come across as yet another turf, a staked claim over and against the rest, unless or until it speaks to the whole of the territory. As phrased it waits, like Hegel, for a New Man, one able to inhabit the new world (imagined, perspected and promoted by its proponents). Meanwhile, the koan of transmission remains. I'm partial to demo/enactment that models the new, or next. ...

In his response, he left out the remainder of my questions, which do make a bit of a difference (in my view):

Balder:  Can we develop culturally sensitive and philosophically robust approaches to the challenge of religious diversity that neither promote hegemonic inclusivism nor slide into depthless relativism?  Can we cultivate and train a generation of religious scholar-practitioners capable of navigating within both metaphysical and postmetaphysical spaces with equal facility and finesse?

But even so, perhaps his critique points out a tension in my set of questions, where in the first part I am not enacting what I am suggesting in the second set.  I think the particular sticking point for Kerry was my use of 'inclusive.'  This is a bit ironic, since my two recent academic papers have been dedicated to pointing out the limits of inclusivism (in both interreligious and Integral circles).  I used the word, 'inclusive,' as a nod to the Integral audience for which I'm writing -- thinking we can speak of inclusion without falling into inclusivism -- but maybe not; maybe a better word needs to be found.  

Kerry suggested the word, inclusive, indicates 'closure' -- which would indeed appear to involve the marking out of a new territory, a new turf, a new Hegelian space.  On the one hand, with my recent use in my writings of the pair of terms "generative enclosure" and "disenclosure" (referring to the generativity of autopoietic and allopoietic particulars and of deconstructive/kenotic openings or movements, respectively), I think there is still room to think in terms of closures (or bubbles or spheres, in Sloterdijk's terms).  But, in using one, then, I think you'd want to have the other always "highlighted" in the wings.  On the other hand, I'm thinking there is a way to think outside or beyond such inclusive (enclosing) metaphors.  Morin's complexity thinking (which I also discuss in the paper from which the quote above is taken) stresses that mono-centric holarchy, poly-centric heterarchy, and a-centric anarchy need to be thought at once; only a monocular view sees the world primarily in terms of holarchy.  

Is there a word that can evoke this sense of complex seeing, which gets at the broad engagement and affirmation intended by 'inclusion' without suggesting (or, at least, privileging) closure or the establishment of a new turf?  

Sloterdijk's metaphor of 'foam' might be one place to look.  But ... well, 'foamy' would probably be too opaque a term (if I said, "How might we foster foamy, meta-paradigmatic approaches...")

Any thoughts, folks?  Do you see the problem Kerry identified?  What do you think of my tentative suggestions above?

An answer (at least to the wording of one of my questions, not necessarily to the broader theoretical issues) might be found in what I wrote above.  How about either of these alternatives?


"How might we foster broadly engaging and affirming, meta-paradigmatic approaches that honor the gifts of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern forms of religious belief and praxis, and that integrally enact the diversity of theoretical orientations and academic disciplines that have emerged within the field to date?"

"How might we enact meta-paradigmatic approaches that honor the gifts of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern forms of religious belief and praxis, and that integrally engage and affirm the diversity of theoretical orientations and academic disciplines that have emerged within the field to date?"

I like the second phrasing better. Also: I know "enact" is one of the hot words now, but my preference would be to use the word "foster" as the 4th word in the second option. That makes it clearer, in my opinion. 

Cool, thank you for your feedback, Mary.  (And I know "enact" has become a bit trendy; I like to think I was using it before it became quite so much "the thing" :-D ... ).

In a recent post Bryant has taken to calling the porous and permable nature of objects trans-corporeality, and using the image-metaphor of the sponge. I also like his description of it as a jungle ecosystem.

Interesting.  Reminds me of Betcher's inter-corporeality.  (Trans- is suggestive of being "beyond" bodies, though I'm sure that is not what is meant [in a metaphysical sense].  Maybe here more like through or across?).   

Read the post and you'll see what he means, given the open and closed nature of an object's boundaries. Like your dis/enclosures.

Yes, I read it (or most of it).  I like what he says, generally, and find it to be largely consonant with a living systems view.  I was just commenting that the word itself (transcorporeal) sounds like older metaphysical notions of going beyond the body.

But for the problem I posed above, I don't think transcorporeal will work.  I think it's a concept that has traction, but doesn't quite get at what I was looking for in the above.  Since you're a good neologizer, I was hoping maybe we could come up with a neologism, if an existing word won't do the trick. 

What do you think of either rephrasing I suggested above (or Mary's modification thereof)?  Do you think that phrasing adequately mitigates Kerry's concerns (that I was suggesting a new Hegelian transcend-and-include turf)?

You mentioned some other adjectives, through and across. I like both, since the idea seems to be about permeable membranes/boundaries. Crosscorporeal though has a nice alliterative ring but is not quite right. However if we maintain the a in across it seems more apropos, as in a/crosscorporeal or (a)crosscorporeal.* The a also hints at the 'void' spaces in any spongey object, or its hidden, reserved and empty (in the Buddhist sense) virtual aspect. It also specifies an objects singularity, as well as its relations in context with the entire word. We also have the words cross, corpo and real therein, with their many connotations. Cross for example has religious implications as well as Harman's four-fold nature. Corp of course of the body, and I just love the term real as in realism, etc.

Also the word is itself a meta-paradigmatic enaction, kind of like differance is an enaction of its meaning. Thus once explained it serves as a shorthand enaction for the complex 'universal' principle, a principle of the embodied kind I discussed in the OOO thread.

Granted you know I like the prefix inter, having used it in my neologism intergraal. But inter doesn't have the other aspects mentioned above.

* Reminiscent of one of my fav neologisms, hier(an)archy (and an-archy). But Caputo beat me to that one.

Another word popped up for me transact, since it denotes interrelated actions between objects. Combine the prefix en and we get trans(en)act, another word that enacts its meaning. I also like the meaning of en, from, one being akin to your use of enclosure:

A prefix occurring originally in loanwords from French and productive in English on this model, forming verbs with the general sense “to cause (a person or thing) to be in” the place, condition, or state named by the stem; more specifically, “to confine in or place on” ( enshrine; enthrone; entomb );  “to cause to be in” ( enslave; entrust; enrich; encourage; endear );  “to restrict” in the manner named by the stem, typically with the additional sense “on all sides, completely” ( enwind; encircle; enclose; entwine ).  This prefix is also attached to verbs in order to make them transitive, or to give them a transitive marker if they are already transitive ( enkindle; enliven; enshield; enface ).

Combine them in a phrase: A 'trans(en)acted a/crosscorporeality' instead of an 'enacted meta-paradigmatic approach?' Granted the latter sounds more AQALey but heh, mine is more neologismey. (Ew, that sounds too jismey...)

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