Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I've been asked to give a brief presentation at an Integral event in March, and have been thinking for awhile about what to do. I finally decided on a topic which will involve an elaboration on several themes in my recent trans-lineage spirituality paper.
Magic Circles, Generative (En)closures, and Kosmic Foam: A Trans-lineage Vision of Spiritual Enactment
For millennia humans have associated the circle with spiritual power and sanctified space: from medicine wheels to mandalas, and from sorcerers' circles to sacred domes. It has been used to evoke feelings of intimacy, belonging, and protection, as well as boundless space, wholeness, and womb-like generativity. In this brief but information-packed presentation, Bruce will explore how several more recent philosophical perspectives -- from Uexküll's biosemiotic bubbles, to Sloterdijk's spherology, to sociobiological and object-oriented notions of autopoietic closure -- can be linked to ancient circle symbolism to generate an integral trans-lineage model of spiritual enactment and a participatory, pluralist topology of sacred spaces. At this time of cultural and spiritual diversification, we are called now more than ever to find skillful new ways of conceptualizing and navigating this complexity, and of integrally honoring the richness and particularity of the many modes of spiritual enactment we now have available to us. Drawing on his own work in this area as well as several of the core philosophical concepts he will introduce, particularly Sloterdijk's metaphor of foam, Bruce will discuss how Integral post-metaphysics and trans-lineage spirituality can be enriched and supported by the vision of participatory enactment and sacred topology that he will invoke here.
(More information about the event will be posted here soon)
Speaking of dreams (from this post), and as it relates to Jung and sub-unconsciousness, it seems that it's really our conscious rationality (ego) that does all this 'ordering' of things into tidy little boxes (or cubes). Whereas when we go below the surface in dreams things are not at all tidy or in sequence, and go all over taking tangents ever other second, with no particular order or sense whatsoever. What does that tell us about our order, the most recent and superficial layer of psyche?
This thread explores that question.
Here's Layman's next response:
Asanas are a great metaphor.
One of the reasons is the very intriguing fact that "shape" and "flow" reveal, at certain altitudes of consciousness, a common identity. The trasmission-receptivity capacity of a radio is dependent upon its particular configuration in much the same way that facial enactments and whole-body comportment provide the conductivity of certain frequencies of experience. Those esoteric schools which deploy variations on the idea of practicing "your already existing enlightenment" invite us to receive-transmit higher energy by virtue of embodying the mental, emotional and physical posture of illumination. Even forms of yoga which contemplative Divine Forms or surrender to the Divine Person utilize a mechanism similar to "mirror neurons" in which we subtly take on a shape by pitching ourselves into resonance with its template.
Potential levels of enactment need to be evaluated, selected among, grouped, harmonized, exapanded, reinforced, etc. So the parasite (sic) of an integrative Operating System must do what each of the less complex cultural operating systems have done -- renovate and institute, instaurate, clarify and secure and mobilize already existing networks of concern, insight and experience within and among individuals.
>... to my knowledge, we haven't seen Integral Institute (yet) emerge as its own thriving generative (en)closure. It is languishing, stuck in an always-yet-to-really-emerge mode. So, what "forces" are at play that are preventing this emergence? (Is it because IT is a parasite and needs a host to thrive? Is it because the (en)closures thus far have been undermined by degenerative forces? Is it because of a failure to tetra-mesh?) But of course these questions are quite relevant to religious and cultural movements of all types. I am aware, for instance, that a number of Christian leaders are reporting that their churches are dying; some are even looking to Integral Theory as a means of renewal. An inquiry into the dynamics of degenerative (en)closures would be very helpful here (and could be instructive by negative example). However, as I think you are suggesting, we should be careful not to assume decomposition or de-generation is necessarily always bad, just as not all generativity is "good." Jean-Luc Nancy, for instance, first introduced the notion of dis/enclosure in the context of a reflection on the auto-deconstruction of Christianity. Christianity, in building itself on the doctrine of kenosis and the killing of God, sets up or foretells for itself its own dis/enclosure, its own "secularization." In a sense, the fulfillment of Christianity is in its self-emptying, its bleeding out into the world, till the tomb is empty and the world is changed.
The problems of immaturity, imbalance and corruption are all relevant to the discussion of cultural forces. Immaturity means it's not ready yet, still growing, still small, still a little superficial. Imbalance means that not all of its quadrants are functioning at the level of sophistication of its leading edge. I say this a lot -- but what is being done to ensure that the protocols for acquiring and compiling group intelligence are analogically sophisticated to the integral level of individual and shared mutual consciousness? There will always be considerable lag if integral individuals in shared integral we-spaces are utilizing mostly orange and green levels of complexity in their decision making behaviors. The LR is difficult and it takes a lot more than a building and a web came to constitute advancement in this area. But any lower sophistication in any quadrant will have a similar drag effect. As you say, a possible "failure to tetra-mesh". And then there is corruption -- by which I mean de-generative instincts, attempts, subtle and not so subtle nihilisms, etc.
In McLuhan's wonderful critiques of his beloved Catholic church he makes some interesting recommendations. While he advocates being contemporary in the ethical values which are being preached, he cautions against adapting the church to the modern lives and habits of people. He sees the pageantry and role-playing (as Nietzsche did) as considerably more important than reading the Bible in your own language. Why translate the Latin? This removes mystery and aesthetic in favor of easy superificial comprehensibility. Any church (a force of organic religiosity in my terms -- so this included organized Integralism) must give people an alternative to their lifestyle. Cultural mobilization requires (a) the integration of the panoply of forces within and among people (b) a role for them to "play" in opposition to -- rather than fitting into -- their lives.
How much of the social impact of Christianity or Buddhism was because of... the costumes?
Decomposition is natural and normal -- both as the Thanatos which enables Eros to assemble new forms & as the sensible auto-deconstruction of systems which feel themselves to be stuck, ennervated, painfully itchy in a place they cannot scratch. Break down and start something else. We must have great love and analytical respect for the utility and naturalness of destruction.
Despite some good signs from Pope Francis, the auto-deconstruction of the Catholic Church has proceeded for centuries. Just as the auto-deconstruction of the "fascist" republics. Just as the auto-deconstruction of North Korea. Etc. While I agree that Christendom was uniquely equipped to convert itself into secular modernism... I am not sure the doctrine of kenosis foretells dis-enclosure into secularization. The church has risen and fallen in various cycles while carrying along the idea of god's death and the unmaking of the soul's content which are implied by the Gospels. The right leaders at the right moments carry it in a different direction -- but establishing what "right" means is at the heart of our diffficulties. Nietzsche chided people for associating the Overman with either a proto-Nazi fantasy OR "Buddhist-Christian" idealism. He used to say that we should look to a hybrid of Jesus and Cesare Borgia. Great saints, great popes, even the foundational Lamas of Tibetan culture were richly complex human being who we might call power-mad, arrogant, greedy, controlling, lascivious... just as much as their were noble, wise, good, understanding, etc. Nihilism is in part the refusal to understand how the whole range of human capacities must be intensified and harmonized in order to generate surplus culture-patterning energy. In Integral there is still too much hope for the "nice" transformation. Of course much of the hard edge of past efforts was foolish and counterproductive... but we may be overly concerned. Do we think that integral imperialism would be worse than the contemporary situation merely because it is imperialistic? Do we think that power corrupts? Do we think change must galvanize only our highest intentions and being generally praised? Do we fear aribrary conformity or un-necessary symbolism and pageantry? Do we think hypocrisy, indulgence, deceit are black marks which suggest the potential invalidity of our own efforts? This reticence may be a sign of weakness and ill-health... we must be very careful here. We must put on the gloves of the autopsy doctor, make the proper facial grimace, and begin the work of teasing apart pathological and viable organs.
What is your sense of things that might be a hoped for, praised, highly regarded among integralites, taken as success, etc. which could be a symptom of ineffectiveness, dis-generative-ness, self-thwart?
A couple of hasty grammatical (sic) errors now corrected in the original...
Okay, sure; I have just copied your latest version into the post above.
Here's my latest response to Layman:
Layman: Asanas are a great metaphor. One of the reasons is the very intriguing fact that "shape" and "flow" reveal, at certain altitudes of consciousness, a common identity. The trasmission-receptivity capacity of a radio is dependent upon its particular configuration in much the same way that facial enactments and whole-body comportment provide the conductivity of certain frequencies of experience. Those esoteric schools which deploy variations on the idea of practicing "your already existing enlightenment" invite us to receive-transmit higher energy by virtue of embodying the mental, emotional and physical posture of illumination. Even forms of yoga which contemplative Divine Forms or surrender to the Divine Person utilize a mechanism similar to "mirror neurons" in which we subtly take on a shape by pitching ourselves into resonance with its template.
I like this a lot -- and, yes, agreed; asanas are a great metaphor. One thing such reflections suggest, to me, is the continued relevance in our time of a 'sacred geometry.' Sloterdijk's bubbles represent one example of a (post)-postmodern re-emergence and re-valuation of space and geometry in philosophy and bio-socio-cultural-spiritual reflection. Sloterdijk's teeming bubbles and foams provide one way of visualizing generative (en)closures and enactive / immunological zones. But there are other powerful, generative forms to consider -- not only for their usefulness in mapping various theoretical models, but also as uniquely resonant structures, as AQAL asanas for gathering, circulating, and amplifying -- for enacting -- interior states and exterior energies. (And for thinking about, not only the comportment of our bodies, but of our institutions, of our social and technological and artistic forms, in these terms).
For instance, in my investigation of generative (en)closures and various meta-paradigms, I've been looking to knot theory for inspiration. Knots fold and imbricate space in complex ways, and each different kind of knot can be seen as an asana-like receiver or 'circuit,' a generative (en)closure which draws certain things together and entangles them in various ways for different generative effects. There are many different kinds of knots but I've found myself attracted to wild knots, which are so-called pathological because they infinitely escape final closure (but, to me, fractally suggest the 'withdrawal' of objects that we have discussed elsewhere).
I might write more about this later. But other geometric shapes are also valuable -- such as Lexi's or Joe Camosy's cubes.
(Another example of generative (en)closures as social asanas can be found in the family constellation work of Bert Hellinger.)
Layman: The problems of immaturity, imbalance and corruption are all relevant to the discussion of cultural forces. Immaturity means it's not ready yet, still growing, still small, still a little superficial. Imbalance means that not all of its quadrants are functioning at the level of sophistication of its leading edge. I say this a lot -- but what is being done to ensure that the protocols for acquiring and compiling group intelligence are analogically sophisticated to the integral level of individual and shared mutual consciousness? There will always be considerable lag if integral individuals in shared integral we-spaces are utilizing mostly orange and green levels of complexity in their decision making behaviors. The LR is difficult and it takes a lot more than a building and a web came to constitute advancement in this area. But any lower sophistication in any quadrant will have a similar drag effect. As you say, a possible "failure to tetra-mesh". And then there is corruption -- by which I mean de-generative instincts, attempts, subtle and not so subtle nihilisms, etc.
I don't have much to add to this, other than to say I think this is a really important point. Well said.
Layman: In McLuhan's wonderful critiques of his beloved Catholic church he makes some interesting recommendations. While he advocates being contemporary in the ethical values which are being preached, he cautions against adapting the church to the modern lives and habits of people. He sees the pageantry and role-playing (as Nietzsche did) as considerably more important than reading the Bible in your own language. Why translate the Latin? This removes mystery and aesthetic in favor of easy superificial comprehensibility. Any church (a force of organic religiosity in my terms -- so this included organized Integralism) must give people an alternative to their lifestyle. Cultural mobilization requires (a) the integration of the panoply of forces within and among people (b) a role for them to "play" in opposition to -- rather than fitting into -- their lives. How much of the social impact of Christianity or Buddhism was because of... the costumes?
There are many layers to this that are resonant with me -- from the tantric practice of imaginally deconstructing the body and replacing or 'instaurating' it as the deity, to practices of sacred dance and movement as means of bodying forth new modes of being (Gurdjieff's or Namkhai Norbu's dances, tai chi, etc), to the simple potency of communal ritual and pageantry, to Roland Faber's location of at least some religious universals in and as the generational re-enactment of the foundational myths (where enactment is intended to be read both in its traditional meaning of dramatic 'play' and in its cognitive neuroscientific meaning of enaction). I agree with McLuhan that religious institutions must provide alternatives to conventional lifestyles -- containers for intensification and energetic flowering. And this is greatly helped by ... the costumes (literal and figurative).
As a side, somewhat-related note: We should think about an AQAL medicine wheel (as I wrote in an old blog post once). In one of my classes, I have an exercise where people stand in an AQAL formation and we do a practice (with colored yarn) of tracing out inter-quadrant relations of various sorts. I have found (from students' reports) that people really get something out of this -- communally and physically embodying it helps people to feel and get insight into tetra-enactive/quadratic space in a different way.
This is as much as I have time to write today, so I'll stop for now. But I'll return to your other questions as soon as I can.
I'll await your comments on some of those other points. Yarn and knots put me in mind of Lacan's later-life attempt to generate mathemtical and toplogical approaches to his insights. These sorts of investigation -- although offputting to many people who lack training or sympathy for geometrics -- have an interesting universality. On the one side it moves into complications like the deformable space-time of General Relativity and the putative higher dimensional frameworks of the so-called "strings"... while on the other side it is very human, a matter of posture, emobiment, structural investigation.
Your mention of Gurdjieff's dances should remind us that a certain intentionality combined with a certain balanced of equal activity in the sensing, feeling and mental aspects of the body may be necessary in order to create the "energy" that sacralizes a space... or a person's experience of a space.
One thing we haven't touched upon, but which is very intimately related to generative enclosure, is the way in which locations can seemingly absorb the blessing power of saints or even become a place of sanctity in response to our own frequent meditation and spiritual activity within it. Although it is not always obvious where the membrane of such an enclosure might be we all have a kind of inuitive sense of being able to saturate a space with "emmantations" produced when we are in certain states or certain alignments.
Anyway... looking forward to your further remarks...
I've been asked to write a paper on Integral Theory and Critical Realism (and related meta-theories). One of the suggested topics is how IT and CR (and/or related approaches) can contribute to religion and spirituality, such as in the area of dis- and re-enchantment.
I had already planned a paper (for ITC 2013) to explore similarities between Wilber's IMP, Bryant's alethetics (informed, in part, by Bhaskar), and Harman's quadruple object model of trans-disciplinarity, but I abandoned it for my integral grammar paper. So, this is one possibility (to return to this original paper).
But another is to follow the suggestion above, about spirituality and dis/re-enchantment -- and I was thinking it might be worthwhile to connect this to the generative (en)closure topic. Further developing the thoughts introduced in my Opening Space for Translineage Practice paper, using Wilber, Bhaskar, Sloterdijk, and Bryant, among others. For anyone who has been following the discussion above, do you think this would be a worthwhile topic?
It is evening and I have come to walk the labyrinth under the trees. Following the winding narrow paths between the rows of stone, looping around the same patch of earth again and again from new directions, I think about space as a mode of accommodation, as a boundless allowing. I am struck by the strange fullness of every stone and leaf and blade of grass, each pregnant with an unfathomable presence, each irreducibly unique; and yet in all this excess of form, space's potential is unexhausted. I think about how these labyrinthine lines of stone both constrain movement and enact new potential, as the (en)closures of our bodies and our constructs are similarly generative: so many ways that space can flower. We seem always to move within limits, but ... is there a limit to the forms these limiting borders may take? What richness is available for each new pattern to evoke, for each new pathway to enact?
As I move around the labyrinth, slowly tracing out this space within the larger space of the garden, sensing the movements of my body and the play of thought and image "within" me, listening to the rush of cars on the freeway not far away, I notice first a layering and overlapping of perspectives and spaces, which then seems to collapse and somehow become spaceless. Turning a bend on the path, sunlight streams suddenly through the branches of the tree, illuminating the motes of dust hanging in the air under the branches and the watchful squirrels, and I experience the whole scene as somehow virtual, a patterned readout which overlaps with other readouts -- other perspective-spaces -- like a field of infinitely slippery spheres which forever interpenetrate and withdraw. I do not have the impression that the surrounding space I perceive isn't really "there"; rather, the patterned space in its transtemporal imbrication seems simultaneously given and not given, found and called forth, as the squirrels looking on summon their given world, and the trees their own as well.
Chris Dierkes, on his new website, has an essay on it that is relevant to some of the themes of this thread: Establishing a Sacred Container.
In response to Layman Pascal's request on the Ferrer thread, I'm posting a few of my latest thoughts on the concept of generative (en)closure, which I first introduced in the paper, "Opening Space for Translineage Practice." I haven't published anything else formal on the topic, so here are some informal notes. I'd welcome feedback, if you find this to be a useful concept.
In "Opening Space," I used generative (en)closure as a generic term to refer to embodied, inter/subjective systems of enactment, focusing in the paper in particular on systems of spiritual enactment such as ritual and contemplative traditions, spiritual lineages, churches, temples, monastic or experimental (training, formative, educational) communities, and so on. I wanted to introduce a new term here so I could fold in, and flexibly interface this concept with, multiple philosophical orientations -- not only Wilber's concept of tetra-enactive holons, but various new ontological paradigms such as Object-Oriented Ontology or Actor-Network Theory, and/or phenomenological paradigms such as Gendlin's model of body-environment-constitution, Uexkull's notion of the umwelt or biosemiotic "bubble-worlds of experience," etc. I used OOO's notion of withdrawal and Latour's concept of irreduction to highlight the irreducibility and ontological excess of generative (en)closures (whether religious or otherwise), which could be related to Wilber's concept of the Unique Self; Jean-Luc Nancy's *being singularplural* to argue for the intrinsic multiplicity of any 'one' enclosure; and Gendlin's and Uexkull's ideas to exemplify the enactive, generative potentials of such (en)closures.
Since then, I have discovered the affinity of this concept with a number of other models -- particularly Sloterdijk's spherology, which explores the immunological spaces we enact at various scales and in various patterns (and similarly sees bubbles or spheres multiplistically, at minimum dyadic), and Deleuze & Guattari's concepts of territorialization and deterritorialization. Both accounts allow us to see how generative (en)closures initially self-constitute out of dynamically emergent zones of resonance or coherence, how they form boundaries or membranes which serve immunizing, stabilizing, and self-actualizing functions (both filtering and amplifying information, generating energetic and aesthetic excess), and how these new spaces open up new possibilities or 'lines of flight' -- potentiating altogether new modes or forms of becoming, which allow such enclosures or the beings which occupy such enclosures to open to and interface with the kosmos in novel and expanded ways.
A generative (en)closure may sicken or die, of course -- becoming a degenerative (en)closure, one which over-insulates and stultifies becoming, for instance. We might also bring in additional distinctions, such as to discuss the interplay of enclosure, disclosure, and disenclosure, where disclosure indicates the enactivity of enclosure, and disenclosure traces the 'breaching of boundaries' or transcendence which allows for new growth, transformation, or death.
Any thoughts? Anything you would add? Do you find such a term useful?
Watched and enjoyed this video again. Interesting section discussing Uexkull, because a day earlier I had skimmed Dorion Sagan's Introduction to this Uexkull book ("A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans: with a Theory of Meaning (Posthumanities)"). The Introduction by Sagan can be read online mostly intact (with a number of pages left blank) on the "Look Inside" feature at Amazon.com. Sagan talks extensively about semiotics and thermodynamics. Other portions of the book can be read as well. I will have to go back at some point and spend some time with this.
I decided to post this presentation to Youtube, at the urging of a couple friends. I had hesitated to do so because it is incomplete. I only had 18 minutes to talk and I wasn't able to cover the full topic, even though I tried (as you'll hear from the speed of my words!). As it turned out, I was mostly able just to set the topic up, introducing some ideas from von Uexkull, Sloterdijk, and others. After the talk, we had several break-out groups and I was able to get into more specific applications then, but that was not filmed. Maybe I'll give this talk another time, without the time limit, and will be able to complete it then. Anyway, here it is: