Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
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.
I posted about this in the forum status bar already, but this is a better place for the announcement: The new JITP issue on Integral Religious Studies is out.
I read your descriptions of the 8 IMP zones relative to Religion. Then I tried to mingle that with my own concerns about distinguishing "religion-as-organic-cultural-surplus-harmony" from "official pseudo-religion" AND my concerns about the unconscious/conscious split in all domains AND my concerns about the pathology/health dynamic in all domains. So that left me with this:
A Preliminary Pass at an Integral Methodological Pluralist Approach to Organic Religion
Don't get your hopes up! I don't stand behind these results yet. I can see all kinds of gaping holes and entries which do not satisfy me... but if I don't post what I just dashed off it might sit around forever in Google Docs and not prompt me to think any deeper on this matter. So here is the conscious & unconscious & pathological & healthy "openings" for each interior and exterior forms of each of the four quadrants relative to natural religiosity. It might give us some interesting parameters or stimulations...
Very interesting, Layman. Yes, I like these extensions and think something like this is necessary. I will respond to your particular points in detail later. An additional facet or dimension you could bring in more explicitly might be the developmental one*. In my post right before yours today, I mentioned the new issue of the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, which features a lead article by Dustin DiPerna. I do not have a copy of that article, and have not read it yet, but I expect he is carrying forward ideas he has presented earlier (on developmental religious studies). Here is a sample from his older work. Bringing in this basic 5-stage developmental model and interfacing it with your facets above would yield 160 facets altogether.
* There are some caveats to be made about taking a developmental approach to religion -- some of the traditional or common rankings are a bit suspect and apparently largely ideologically motivated, and others may be too simplistically linear -- but I still think this is an important dimension we need to consider and include. One developmental model we've discussed here recently that both Theurj and I like is offered by David Michael Levin (discussed in this thread, among other places).
My copy of the JITP issue on Integral Religious Studies arrived yesterday. I have started on DiPerna's article and will report on it later. I also just read an essay by Amod Lele, which is reminiscent to me of the kinds of arguments kelamuni used to make here regarding "mystical empiricism," what he considered the fallacious or problematic rhetorical dichotomy of "talking school" vs. "practicing school," etc. Lele argues that by focusing on enaction and injunction and "replicable spiritual experience," Wilber does not, and cannot, include the "essentials of the premodern traditions" in his Integral model, since current leading historical scholarship (Sharf, Halbfass) demonstrates that "replicable spiritual experiences or phenomenal states" were almost never central concerns or points of orientation for most traditions (or even for their central "masters" or exemplars).
There's a lot to discuss here, and I'd like to come back to some of his points later. An important implication of his critique, which I've touched on elsewhere, is that Integral may participate to a degree in a problematic essentialization of religion: seeing all religions as involving, at their authentic core, a contemplative, injunctive, experientially oriented practice. This assumption is found in the argument that, by taking a mystical injunctive approach, we can include the essentials (and trim away the metaphysical non-essentials) of all authentic premodern religious traditions. Lele suggests that an Integral approach might indeed still be able to include the essentials of premodern traditions, if it wanted to, but it would need to do so differently for each tradition: how one might include the "essentials" of Confucianism would likely be quite different from how one includes essentials from Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Christianity, and Shinto. The mystical-injunctive approach is not sufficient -- if one is really interested in including premodern "essentials."
Of course, Integral could take another tack as well: it could more consciously adopt a polemic, mystical-normative approach towards religion. "Mystical experience may not have played a significant role in past religions, even among so-called transformative or contemplative streams of these traditions, but it should have, and this is why...."
I've in fact made a postmeta case for including the mystical experience (states thread) but de-mystifying it, so to speak. And not making it the central focus of an overall integral practice but rather focusing on those aspects that lead to social activism and justice. The latter is what I appreciate most about religions, how they help the downtrodden. Granted a 'unitive' (or as I prefer, 'integrative') state experience moves us to compassion and service, but as I've said before such states themselves are integrated by stages and the integral stage is what postmetaphysically contextualizes the state(s). Nothing new to that, standard kennilingus, except that I translate the state(s) differently, again de-mystifying them and giving it/them less importance. Which of course is a different integral stage interpretation of what integral means.
I'd like to speak up in favor of problematic essentialization of religion. That is to say, part of Integral's mandate is to investigate & include, but equally it is a social movement and emerging religious sensibility of its own that must, to some degree, invent the essences of other traditions in a manner consonant with what we are trying to produce. A tight-rope is being walked and complaints that a certain degree of over-generalization, or a certain non-resonance with the concerns and evaluations of historical practices must be expected in this process. Not that we shouldn't dig deeper but some complains must be contextualized with this understanding that integral is not an academic think tank whose sole goal is to accurately depict what other people thought they were doing...
However (and as theurj gets to) religious injunctions are not solely or even primarily oriented toward mystical states. I think Wilber uses the term "contemplative traditions" quite purposefully to distinguish those religious streams which emphasize contemplative injunctions but he doesn't assert that this is the primary characteristic of religion. His overall approach (where he is not, as in the SES notes, anticipating the arising of new planetary religion) is to treat religions as potential machines for stage-development in a context of maximizing the greatest depth of experience for the greatest span of people. So that's a much more strongly world-interceding view which, it could be argued, mobilizes meditative injunctions as adjuncts to the improvement of human conditions through the enrich of human psyches.
Honorable Mr. Flamperdeen,
I concur. Do you concur?
In the past, I've discussed several different, concurrent streams of "integral thinking" or "integral cultural movement" vis a vis religion and spirituality. On the one hand, Integral tries to map extant traditions, situating them in various locales of AQAL space. This is Integral in its psycho-historical-objective mode. In this role, at least to the extent that Integral discourse emphasizes Integral as a "comprehensive map" which allows you to view how various traditions are actually related to each other (in perspectival, developmental, typological, and line- and state-specific ways), Integral would do well to get its history, and its socio-cultural-historical representations, right, if it wants to maintain its credibility as a universal (and relatively neutral or 'contentless,' as Wilber puts it) mapping system. Relating this to religion, Integral in this role can potentially underlabor, philosophically and psychometrically and otherwise, for multiple traditions. This, at least, is what some folks have been trying to get "Integral" to do and be, including Wilber in some of his writings.
But on the other hand (and there may be as many hands here as Chenrezig's), Integral has always had specific (normative) spiritual commitments, and in more recent years is clearly emerging as a spiritual visionary, practice path unto itself*. In this role, the emphasis here is on enacting new spiritual vision, setting integral norms, articulating soteriological horizons, etc, and this could certainly involve "inventing essences of religion consonant with what we are trying to produce," and "mobilizing meditative injunctions as adjuncts to the improvement of human conditions."
In my opinion, these different "integrals" haven't been clearly differentiated and this can work to Integral's disadvantage socially, at least to the extent that it is striving for academic credibility (and it is). It is not hard to find Integral followers who repeat Wilber's generalizations about other traditions (including contemplative traditions and spiritual exemplars) as if they represented simple, historical facts (rather than the more nuanced, enactive, creatively normative understanding you argued for above, Mr. Flamperdeen). This leads us into territory similar to Bahai (where Buddhism and other traditions are "essentialized" in a way that serves Bahai ends, and upholds Bahai faith and "vision," but also in ways which Buddhists and others so-represented would have a bit of trouble recognizing or agreeing with). Does Integral want to repeat this? It certainly could do so, and Integral could still be a "fulfilling" path for folks who embrace such a vision. But Amod Lele, in the article I was discussing, is talking, not about Integral Religion, but about the emerging field of Integral Religious Studies. Such moves, in an academic Integral Religious Studies context, would not be received very well, and would not be regarded as credible.
I definitely agree that Integral can and should engage in some creative visioning and even re-essentializing, in its social-generative role -- taking on an active apologetic approach, as I suggested at the end of my previous post -- but this should ideally either be teased apart from other "integral" projects (which have different aims), or at least done with greater self-reflexivity and awareness.
* An Integral Ordination program has recently been approved (by Wilber), and I have been asked (shhh) to sit on the board that is working out some of the dimensions of Integral Spirituality as an "official" entity.
It is not clear, given the historical operations of social movements & religious emergence that the failure to clearly differentiate these "integrals" will be socially disadvantageous. This could be -- but it equally may be the case that a certain vagueness in this regard is vital. Would Christianity have exerted such an impact if the Bible had been clearly differentiated into history, mythology, ethics, etc.? Or rather does its life consist in entangled mass which is so instinctively challenged by the scholarly investigator (in any of us)?
Obviously Integral must retain enough comprehension and ongoing-inclusion-of-objections to keep it relevant in "spiritual and political academia". But we might easily over-emphasize the importance of this.
However I am not talking here as one who might be called upon to address Lele's concerns in ways which s/he would find "credible". That is only the local constraint of such a dialogue. Though, doubtless, a motivated person could probably critique Lele's comprehensions and assumptions about traditional religious practice quite readily.
>* An Integral Ordination program has recently been approved (by Wilber), and I have been asked (shhh) to sit on the board that is working out some of the dimensions of Integral Spirituality as an "official" entity.
WHAT??? Sorry, shhhh -- (what?) I mean - good. Since I have a great many strong and complicated feelings on these subjects I would be interested to know how it's going and what relevance such "official" clarification is expected to have? The emerging organic planetary character of human spiritual philosophy and practice is my eternal companion... so I am always keen to smell whatever dead animals are being dragged up the front door by the cat in the night.
I agree that too much emphasis on "academic acceptability" could be deadening -- not to mention misguided, especially if the primary aim (or, your desire) is not to develop an academic instrument but a socio-spiritual generator or engine. I also recognize we can't really predict what will prove advantageous or disadvantageous to Integral's ultimate public acceptance or flowering. In my comments, I am (obviously) arguing for my own preference, which is that Integral spiritual discourse and apologetics take (good enough) account of the kinds of critiques offered by folks such as Lele or Kelamuni (or scholars such as Halbfass or Sharf) not to overly strain its credibility and not to "found itself" unknowingly on modern(ist) perennial philosophical representations of the world's traditions (especially when other, better options are available). In past discussions on this forum, I don't think I've ever fully agreed with Kelamuni's arguments, and I don't fully agree with Lele, but I think they both bring something important to the table -- speaking on behalf of some of the leading religious studies scholars of our day -- that is important to take into account. I'm interested in Integral's success, and would like to contribute to its strong and healthy flowering. To me, this means going beyond some of its earlier working assumptions, but also some of its current marriages of convenience (such as to Cohen), the ongoing maintenance of which does undermine its credibility, and its potential and power, for me.
As for the secret nighttime activities of this balding, rat-dragging cat, I don't expect this program or this "board" to have significant impact on what is happening organically with "integral spirituality" around the world. My own promiscuous tomcattiness will also not allow me to pledge exclusive allegiance to whatever vision this board crafts -- I think an Integral spiritual flowering should be a multitudinous flowering. To my knowledge thus far, the purpose of this work will be to begin to craft some of the basic guidelines and ethical principals for an "ordained" Integral ministry. I'll be happy to talk to you about whatever shenanigans we get up to, if and when we meet (I'm expecting the first meeting will be a little later this summer).
Yeah, concur, etc. You seem the very sort of chap to help work out what "good enough" integral apologetics and intra-distinguishing might require. At the very least one of Integral's great weapons -- hinted at rather than exhausted by Saint Ken -- is it ability to flexibly, adequately absorb all complaints. Although the terms of this adequacy are always up for grabs the skills gained in the attempt are part of what do and will characterize the living body of the integral community at all levels. Our collective spiritual self-confidence is adumbrated by every accommodation. We are very hegel's-end-of-history in this sense.
So I'm all on board with that. Now, I personally -- whatever my own feelings about Cohen -- have never sensed his alliance as a threat to integral credibility and power although I see that such ripples of concern periodically move through the community. Where do you situate the danger here?
Good to hear that I will hear about the conclusion-generating cat council whose conclusions the cats have pre-concluded that they probably won't treat as personally conclusive. Yay!
Good to hear that I will hear about the conclusion-generating cat council whose conclusions the cats have pre-concluded that they probably won't treat as personally conclusive. Yay!
That's funny! But that's not what I meant. :-) I'm only speaking on my behalf (not knowing a number of the other board members yet), but for this cat, I will want to help craft guidelines I deeply believe in, support, and would be willing and happy to follow if I were a minister, without concluding that whatever way is worked out is the only viable way to "do Integral ministry," and without attempting to preclude the emergence or development of those other ways.
Where do you situate the danger [of the association with Cohen] here?
An Integral association with him isn't "all bad," in my opinion -- I do like some of his ideas, and it's clear he also values and strives to enact Integral thought (to some extent) -- but my concern hinges around two things: 1) the reports about his past behaviors with students (though, admittedly, there have not been any recent reports that I'm aware of), and 2) the particular metaphysical mix he endorses (a classic metaphysics of the One, impersonality and impersonal collectivity, absolutization of evolution) is a potentially dangerous one, socially and psychologically, in my opinion. Zach Stein did a pretty good analysis of these dynamics in Cohen's community in an issue of JITP (see below). We've discussed some of these issues in various threads, and Joseph, a member here, has offered a good critique of the fetishization of evolution.
Here's an excerpt from Stein's JITP article:
The role of the guru (i.e., Cohen) is to facilitate this transformation of the individual, from a partial and unique ego to a radically impersonal expression of cosmic evolution. Because the ultimate goal of the teaching is to create a dynamic community of individuals, all of whom are awakened to the same evolutionary impulse, the Classic wholistic authority of the teacher can be justified. The teacher is ostensibly already an expression of the Authentic Self, which means he is already in touch with the impersonal evolutionary impulse that the student strives to realize. Thus, the teacher is taken as justified in enlisting the conformity of the student across a wide array of particulars affecting their life-trajectory. In the terms of the Classic structure, the teacher is already that One without a second (the Authentic Self) and the student strives to be That. So the goal of the teachings and the scope of teacherly authority are aligned in that they focus on overcoming individuality for the sake of what is universal.
Both Cohen and Gafni have teachings that display Integral metaphysical and epistemological aspects. While they stem from specific traditions, they make translineage justificatory moves, pulling from a wide array of traditional, non-traditional, and scientific sources. Both are prodigious interlocutors and communicators, which gives their views a multi-perspectival interpretive bent and intersubjective validity. And both have catalyzed diverse and dynamic student bodies that engage in post-traditional forms of spiritual practice and contemplative enactment. However, as noted above, the teacherly practices they deploy and aim to justify (and thus the texture of the authority dynamics in their communities) are almost diametrically opposed.
Putting an emphasis on impersonal evolutionary processes allows Cohen to justify classic guru relationships, the subordination of the individual to the cosmic process, and the homogenization of personality characteristics and modes of ethical engagement. In the context of the post-industrial West, the liability here is that these forms of student-teacher relationship are incongruent with broader cultural values, representing a step backward behind the advances made in the wake of the Western Enlightenment. One of the great dignities accompanying the emergence of Modern forms of authority are ethical views that stress the inviolability of the individual, views that aim to insure persons are treated as ends in themselves, and never merely as means to an end. Classic forms of authority are built around the idea that persons lack this kind of intrinsic value; instead, persons are understood as instances of a generic metaphysical type, to be valued in terms of their position in the Great Chain of Being, the dominant social hierarchy, or as facets of broader cosmic processes. So while Cohen’s teachings represent a kind of sophisticated Integral view, they are nevertheless amenable to justifying authority dynamics that are out of step with some of the most important ethical innovations achieved by the West. Put bluntly: the greatest human rights violations in history have all followed in the wake of ideologies that subordinated the individual to broader processes and thus characterized persons as means to an end. (Stein, On Teachers and Teachings, 2011, JITP v.6 n.1).
Also recall Mark Edwards on the topic in this post. Concluding sentence:
"The defence of the ancient models of student-teacher relationship, particularly where development is focused on the stage-based lens, seems to me to be a sign of regression rather than evolution."