Below is an excerpt from a paper I recently published in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice.  Because of copyright issues, I cannot post the whole article here, but I can post the first few pages, and the rest of the essay can be accessed in this issue of JITP.

OPENING SPACE FOR TRANSLINEAGE PRACTICE:  Some Ontological Speculations

 

Bruce Alderman

 

ABSTRACT

This article makes speculative gestures toward the integral facilitation of a translineage religious orientation. I focus on translineage religious practice for two reasons: 1) it is becoming an increasingly common option in postmodern spiritual culture; and 2) for those who do pursue a trans-lineage path seriously and with rigor, it may be the field where the incommensurability between faith traditions, with their potentially conflicting truth claims, soteriological ends, and conceptions of ultimate reality, may be felt most acutely and personally by practitioners. In developing an integral approach capable of non-reductively accommodating and fostering multiple religious enactments, particularly in the context of a robust translineage spirituality, I argue that it is imperative that we explore both the implicit ontological commitments of Integral Theory, and the promise of emergent ontological models that are being forged in the crucible of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and engagement. To this end, I introduce concepts from recent works in comparative and constructive theology, as well as speculative realist and deconstructive philosophy, and consider the contributions these perspectives might make to an Integral framework for translineage spiritual practice. 

 

Integral spirituality invites multiple possible realizations:

 

1. The development of integrally informed schools of thought within existing religious  traditions, which may encourage greater balance and scope of vision and practice than have been previously realized, while also providing opportunities for traditions to reciprocally and uniquely inform, or even transform, integral thought itself (an AQAL Christianity, and a Christianity-inflected Integral)

 

2. On the philosophical level, and in its role as a meta-system, the facilitation of robust and transformative interfaith dialogue among traditions through the provision  of a shared meta-language (an encounter among autonomous paths that  may or may not involve actively “borrowing” from each other, or practicing across traditional boundaries)

 

3. The emergence of a new global, integral, or world spirituality as a complete path in itself

 

4. The cultivation of a sensibility that would allow practitioners to skillfully embrace  and navigate within multiple spiritual worldspaces simultaneously, as they  learn to surf their vertiginous crests rather than being dashed by the waves of  incommensurability (i.e., a translineage practice, or what Marc Gafni [2011a] calls “dual citizenship”)

 

In a previous article (Alderman, 2011), I discussed two of these possibilities (the emergence of a new integral religion and the development of an integral post-metaphysical model of interfaith relations). In this article, I would like to focus on the fourth possibility: making some speculative gestures toward the facilitation of a translineage religious orientation. Although I expect the thoughts I develop here would apply equally to several of the scenarios listed above, I have elected to focus on translineage religious practice for two reasons. First, it is becoming an increasingly common option in postmodern spiritual culture, frequently at  the expense of depth of vision or commitment as spiritual consumers drift rootlessly from one practice and teacher to another (Gafni, 2011a). And second, for those who do pursue a translineage path with rigor, it may be the field where the incommensurability between faith traditions, with their potentially conflicting truth claims, soteriological ends, and conceptions of ultimate reality, may be felt most acutely and personally by practitioners. While the first point suggests that such an inquiry is indeed timely and an emerging cultural need (as more individuals move into a worldcentric orientation), the second poses a challenge and invitation, particularly for integral practitioners who see shortcomings in a too-easy perennialist inclusivism and are seeking an approach that does justice to the plurality and precious particularity of the world’s many wisdom traditions.

 

Until relatively recently, Integral Theory did, indeed, espouse a version of the perennial philosophy, and thus arguably also endorsed a form of universalist religious inclusivism. In this view, each of the world’s many religious paths is seen as orienting more or less successfully or completely toward the same metaphysical ultimate and the same final realization (in potential if not in actual practice). As I have argued (Alderman, 2011), however, and as I will further develop here, the post-metaphysical, enactive turn in Integral Theory represents a subtle but profound shift in orientation, one which, I maintain, invites and supports a non-relativist, deep or integral pluralism, capable of non-reductively holding and honoring the rich multiplicity of humanity’s many religious truths and worldviews. Specifically, I believe that the post-metaphysical turn in Wilber’s (2002, 2006) work supports proceeding on post-metaphysical and metaphysical levels simultaneously.  Post-metaphysically, the Integral model embraces metaphysical pluralism, viewing metaphysical systems as enactive operators that play a role in the enactment of particular, ontologically rich worldspaces. And metaphysically, Integral Theory advocates the adoption of facilitative metaphysical models, such as the Three Faces of Spirit (Wilber, 2006), which invite deepened appreciation and integration of the major perspectives on divine reality available in the world’s major religious traditions.

 

As I will discuss in greater detail below, both Wilber’s (2006) post-metaphysical and Jorge Ferrer’s (2008) participatory models of enaction already go a long way toward establishing a framework for trans-lineage practice. Each enables us to understand our various traditions -— with their particular practices, visions, beliefs, and so on -— as unique means of spiritual enactment, or as I will describe later, as “generative enclosures.” There is work yet to do, however. Although Wilber (2000) first introduced a post-metaphysical orientation more than a decade ago, in the footnotes of Integral Psychology and in a few scattered essays (Wilber, 2001, 2002), I believe we have yet to unearth or trace out some of the deep implications of this turn for Integral Theory as a whole. In particular, the ontological implications of this turn are, I believe, still unrecognized or underappreciated. Sean Esbjörn-Hargens (2010) recently made some very important, and pioneering, steps toward articulating an ontological model consonant with Integral Theory’s pluralist epistemology, and I offer this article in the hope of further contributing to this effort. As discussed below, an implicit or explicit commitment to the metaphysics of the One -— a monistic ontology -— frequently has underlain, and supported, various problematic forms of religious inclusivism (whether traditional or perennial philosophical) and even, arguably, informs John Hick’s model of religious pluralism (Griffin, 2005). So, if we are interested in developing an integral approach capable of non-reductively accommodating and fostering multiple religious enactments, particularly in the context of a robust translineage spirituality, it is imperative that we explore both the implicit ontological commitments of Integral Theory to date, and the promise of the emergent participatory and multiplistic-relational ontologies that are being forged in the crucible of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and engagement.

 

To this end, and for the purposes of this article, I would like to bring Integral Theory into conversation with several post-postmodern philosophers and theologians whom I believe have much to contribute in this area. In particular, I intend a polyphonic performance -— one in which a collection of disparate voices, in parallel and contrapuntal movements, will help us to reflect on a suite of themes relevant to an integral, trans-lineage spiritual practice. The major themes to be explored here include the post-postmodern rehabilitation of ontology; the relevance of the metaphysical reflections on the Many and the One for conceptualizing the relation of religious worlds and worldviews; participatory and post-metaphysical models of the enactment of spiritual realities; and several recent multiplistic, relational, and nondual ontologies that may give us the subtle conceptual resources necessary to hold multiple religious orientations concurrently. After I lay these perspectives out alongside each other, I will attempt to bring them in closer relation through the related concepts of generative enclosure and disenclosure, in the interest of articulating an integral pluralist approach capable of honoring both the interdependence and precious particularity of each of our religious practice traditions.

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Two detailed responses to this paper have been posted on Integral Life:

 

1. By Layman Pascal

 

2. By Joe Camosy

Here's my (first) response to Layman:

 

Humble Bumblebee Layman,

 

I must share the praise:  your response was delightful, and in its vibrant cheer and brilliance, introduced me to my own paper anew.  Thank you for that.

 

Layman:  What is this fellow's broader purpose and project? He is undoubtedly trying to utter a sensible word about the de facto trans-lineage spiritual tradition that is already forming itself around, between & within our inherited traditions of religious symbol & practice.  Here, I am his great ally -- because my own heart revolves around that luminous vision which my own people call Vasud par-Limbix (the emerging bio-electronic planetary wisdom-civilizations).  This vision represents a kind of global human religiosity which embraces, deepens, encourages & connects the panoply of inherited spiritual faiths while not confining itself to them.  Many of its best people are like the bees of the hive... foraging, mixing the pollen of many flowers, collectively working to distill a golden nectar.

 

Allow me to invoke some ancient spiritual advice for modern Integral ngak'phang:  "As a bee seeks nectar from all kinds of flowers, seek teachings everywhere. Like a deer that finds a quiet place to graze, seek seclusion to digest all that you have gathered. Like a madman, beyond all limits, go where you please, and live like a lion completely free of all fear."  

 

In our hive-work, and our discussion here of hivedashery, I think also of the archetypal roles that bees are known to play:  enforcing conformity ("our pollen must gathered here, in this way"), generating diversity ("but what about all those lovely flowers over there?" "pardon me while I stray"), judging ("what is the quality and potential of the pollens being gathered?"), and allocating resources ("it's time to shift rewards in the hive").  One way of looking at generative (en)closure and disenclosure is as the broad movement of the panarchy cycle, through which hives and tribes and traditions each move.

 

Layman:  Thus I stand shoulder to shoulder with the man Balder when he inquires into the arcane habits of logic which may best facilitate the growth of a new, robust, practitioner-friendly interfaith theology for our planet.

 

Amen and Aho! 

 

Layman:  And it is quite essential that such theo-logic be able to heartily & precisely assimilate (and even to dominate) the leading edge of human metaphysical speculation in all areas of cultural life.  Religion cannot behave AS authentic religion while it still cloaks itself in historical purity, hostility toward skepticism and a grumpy mood toward the unfolding issues at the forefront of science, linguistics, sociology, etc.  Religion can only thrive by positioning itself as the seductive cup into which contemporary trends are attempting to pour themselves with utter abandon. 

 

As I said to Ambo, I love this last sentence of yours.  Even before this, of course, there are the "diversity generators" already engaged in these sorts of boundary-transgressing, exploratory, meshweaving adventures -- in monasteries and convents, in theological seminaries, in the slippery (post)postmodern trenches of our multi-cultural environments, in the subtle-generative fields of arts.  This material is being tasted, savored, and digested by scattered members of the hive, at once independently and in anticipation of that day when it might be poured richly into the hive's collective cups.  But this wandering and cross-fertilization goes in multiple directions.  Recently, philosophers like Sloterdijk and Harman have been wantonly sliding their learned probiscises into the lost flowers of theology -- Sloterdijk, to find in trinitarian, contemplative, and mesmerist/magical writings new insights into intersubjectivity and generative fields of intimacy and corporate meaning; Harman, to seek in obscure Islamic occasionalist theo-philosophy inspiration for new models of causality to enliven his strange object-oriented panpsychism.

 

Layman:  Balder’s inquiry circulates between: (a) integral theory; (b) post-“linguistic turn” philosophy; (c) the performance of spiritual practices.  A very interesting neighborhood.  While we Integralites may not all feel compelled to join him in this particular wasteland we can assuredly recognize in Balder’s essay that same urge to dignify foreign types of concerns, that same search for parallels of meaning, that very same sensitivity to structural difficulties which have repeatedly force Ken Wilber to mutate and improve the sophistication of his own philosophy... 

 

To these idiosyncratic landmarks for my peregrinations in the paper, I would add polydox theology, which is one example of modern religious-philosophical nectar-collection and -distillation.

 

Layman:  So what has Balder discovered for us?  There is the discovery of this complaint: integral theory is just a gathering together of knowledge-systems, nothing but an arrangement of epistemologies, a special club for all the different ways-of-talking BUT it totally ignores the reality of what things really are... what they are beyond all our ways of knowing about them.

 

Yes.  To be clear (for those who have not read the paper): this is not my argument, but an argument made by folks like Roy Bhaskar and Levi Bryant, to which I offer a hopefully adequate Integral response.

 

Layman:  We could...address this complaint more pointedly by stipulating that the 8 “lenses” of Integral Methodological Pluralism already exceed the epistemic emphasis found in the 4 quadrants model.  The expanded IMP-AQAL matrix (which generalizes interpretative correlations) has an “outside” and an “inside” for every type of reality.  Every holon can be both known about AND self-known.  This latter zone -- the inside of any zone -- implies a potential for disclosure which obviously exceeds all actual disclosures.  Every “inside” goes all the way down.  This is presumed in Integral Theory.  A kind of singularity lies at the heart of every holon and its potential to reveal itself always outpaces even its own ability to learn about itself.  It lingers beyond. 

 

This is an interesting rebuttal.  I like the suggestion that each quadrant, with its own inside and outside, now effectively becomes a (singularity-pierced, ever self-exceeding or self-eluding) holon.  This suggestion would appear to be in alignment with the flat ontology (not to be confused with flatland) of certain new philosophers.  (A flat ontology is akin to a holonic ontology, in that it is an ontology which posits objects or holons in all quadrants, "all the way up and all the way down," which are not aloof "transcendental forms" but emergent and evolving wholes.)  Here, thoughts, subtle visions, bodies, baseball teams, cultures, ecosystems, corporations, etc, are each "real objects" in the world, each with its own exterior, its own autopoietic or allopoietic structure, and its own interior affects (ways of being affected by and affecting the world), and each eluding any final determination (by other or self). 

 

But this proposal might also do violence to Wilber's current formulation of IMP, to the degree that it doesn't seem really proper in that model to describe the inside zones of the RQ as "self-known" or "self-knowing."

 

Layman:  Hegel observed that “the mysteries of the ancient Egyptians were mysteries TO the ancient Egyptians”.  Like those bronzed pharaonic river-dwellers we, ourselves, and all objects too, are assumed to ontologically exceed even the most up-to-date knowledge of ourselves.

 

Beautifully put.

 

Layman:  To say that IMP-AQAL is only a tangle of epistemologies, a bundling of perspectives, is to miss the key point -- perspectives are never disembodied realities.  They are styles of Being which lay hold of reality in their own unique fashion.  When we lay hold of a reality from the outside we say that we have a “mode of access” to it.  When we presume that a self-perspective lurks within every quadrant we have exceeded the doctrines of epistemology by hypothesizing a real Entity which exceeds our knowledge and its own self-knowledge.  The knower is not, finally, known.  The knower is not something the known can totally contain just as the autopoeisis of a “real bunny” exceeds our external ability to gain knowledge of its essence.

 

Yes, again well said (with the caveat about possible differences from IMP's current formulation I mentioned above).  I approach this from several angles in the essay: one, talking about the post-linguistic-turn developments in religious studies.  Where some postmodernists have reduced reality nihilistically to language games, for neo-pragmatists and others, language rises again as the ontic, generative play of the real.  And, two, I underline and support Wilber's concurrent use of holonic thinking alongside his "perspectivizing" strategies.  Third, you mention below:

 

Layman:  This "all the way down" catches Balder's eye.  He wants to partner this infinite reducibility with the principle of irreduction found in certain philosophies.  That is to say he want to help us understand that when the reality of anything slips away endlessly beyond our ability to know about it, that IN THAT VERY ACT we are face-to-face with the most peculiar, most unique essence of that thing.  It is incomparable by virtue of its specific infinite regression.

 

Great, pithy summary of this "quadrant" of my philosphical mandala.

 

Layman:  We integralites already understand this very well, do we not?  For this is no more than to say "the causal body exists!"  Causal realities are transparent, in/finite, structural identities so absolute that none of them can be reduced to any other.  Causal realities have a double-character.  They are ultra-specific & ultra-unfolding. Subtle realities have a double-character also -- their massless qualities are produced by interactions at specific sites & they are indefinitely accessible as seemingly eternal potentials everywhere and everywhen. Gross realities share this double-character too -- they are single-bodies & composite pluralities of components at once.  So here we see again this ever-present dualism which, in one stroke, cancels and assimilates the many/one problem.  This is Balder's recurring concern.  It is the closure/disclosure problem.  It is the God & Goddess rejoicing in each other, is it not?

 

I do not know if many Integralites would readily accept your definition and description of the causal here.  I am interested to hear what others think.

 

With that said, I did really appreciate your yab-yummy dancing.

 

Layman:  So all emergent religion might need to learn to speak the indifference of ____

 

What nectary fullness is hidden in this absence?

 

Layman:  When Balder beholds the complementary usefulness of enclosure & disclosure -- the functional intactness, self-generating behaviors and unique sacred space of a particular spiritual lineage AND the fertile interpenetration and sacred blending potentials revealed when a tradition opens itself deeply to other traditions and to the general cultural environment -- he is invoking what we Integralists know as the twin principles of Masculine & Feminine energy.

 

Ah, nice.  Yes, that's right.  Though I'm focusing on a particular aspect or dynamic of their play.  In the context of this paper, I apply generative (en)closure and disenclosure primarily on the level of lineage/tradition, as you nicely summarize it above, but I mean also to suggest something broader than this:  as the generative "enclosure" and "disenclosure" of intra- and intersubjective spaces, from physical practices, to relational or dialogical fields, to broadly enframing states (shamatha and samadhi), to theurgic or tantric generation of magic rings of creative unfolding; to the generative "enclosure" and "disenclosure" of physical spaces as well, from body as temple to the temple or fellowship as "body," etc.  I'll be developing all of this in my next paper.

 

I'll respond to the rest of your (brilliant and cheer-full) letter in another post.

 

Warm wishes,

 

B.

And here is my response to Joe Camosy:

Eclecticism, Homeomorphic Equivalents, and Strange Stangers

Joe, thank you for taking the time to engage with my paper in this depth.  I appreciated your reflections, and the new considerations you have introduced here, which I look forward to discussing with you (and Layman and others).

To start, I would like to clarify that, while I think a "translineage practice" could consist of selecting various practices from different traditions and creating one's own customized spiritual Lego World (as my son blends Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, and Lego Ninjago blocks and pieces to build new hybrid beings and universes), I meant something a little broader than this.  I don't think this difference will render your points and concerns irrelevant -- I think they still apply -- but I nevertheless wanted to make it clear that, by translineage practice, I also meant something like we find in the exemplars of folks like Abhishiktananda or Raimon Panikkar, people who commit to in-depth, engaged study and practice of several paths at once.  In cases such as these, the individuals are not just picking and choosing practices that strike their fancy, wherever they find them, but committing to "go the distance" along several paths of spiritual formation and development at once. 

Both approaches face certain challenges, some of which I attempt to address in the paper, but I think the former runs greater risk of creating a shallow, talismanic, generally non-growthful "brand identity" that you discuss at the end of your post.  I was intending a critique of something like this consumerist brand identity in one of my comments near the end of the paper:

"From one perspective, translineage practice is not especially an issue or problem. It is simply what we are doing, as citizens of an emergent, transcultural society, and somehow it works itself out! But from another perspective, it is indeed a challenge, particularly if we want to travel deeply on our chosen paths, with integral and integrous attention to the demands of each, and to avoid the materialistic and frequently narcissistic default position of postmodern culture: the spiritual consumerism of the global marketplace. If we take this challenge seriously, if we are interested in pursuing an integral, translineage spirituality with rigor and humility, playfulness and finesse, then we are challenged to find new ways of thinking and praxis responsive to this task -- where a translineage orientation becomes a praxis-field itself."

Besides the two possibilities named above, there are other options, of course, with some falling somewhere in between -- say, where a practitioner may have, at one time, studied deeply in one or more traditions, and undergone significant growth in that context, but who has since moved on to a more creative, exploratory or experimental mode, which may still be informed by, but which slips outside of identification with, or commitment to, any particular tradition.  Here, there might also be a free borrowing and mixing from multiple traditions, but from a more mature place than the often shallower, brand-oriented "cafeteria approach" you are critiquing.

Thinking about this, I am tempted to say it might be a good idea to distinguish between consumerist spiritual eclecticism -- which collects "spiritual technologies" without much concern for lineage -- and a translineage spiritual practice, which seeks to be, or which has been, in "deep dialogue" with various lineages (though not always as a follower), and which now attempts to hold several concurrently, or which moves freely in and around them in an informed, exploratory way.  Although I wouldn't want to say this is inevitable, because I think eclecticism can also be generative and growthful, I think it is consumerist spiritual eclecticism that runs the greater risk of amounting "to nothing more than curating a self identify via the accumulation of stylistic affectations and talismanic brands and products, ... [where] one’s 'practice' could act as an autonomous complex to retard development and limit perspective." 

Concerning your reflections on my first theme, "the post-postmodern rehabilitation of ontology,” I was surprised but pleased by your turn to "complex theory."  In my view, I see complex theory as certainly relevant to this question, but do not see it as a "missing link" in Integral theory, without which Integral Theory is ontologically adrift.  In other words, and as I argue in my paper, I think Integral Theory is misrepresented when it is critiqued, in its postmetaphysical phase, as committing the "epistemic fallacy" or advocating a disembodied, perspectival reductionism.  There are sentences in Wilber's work that could give the impression that this, indeed, is Integral's position, but in my view a fuller reading shows that Wilber also frequently acknowledges that perspectives are always embodied, and that the (ontological) claim that the universe is composed of "holons" is as true as the claim that it is composed of "perspectives." 

When you argue that a complex is a "mediating holon," this appears to situate complexes "within" the (already ontological) holon model.  However, given the broad, all-quadrant reading you give to "complex" (as dissipative structure, etc), I think it may be more profitable to hold Wilberian and Jungian models in parallel (rather than trying to reduce one to the other).

Thus, when you say: 

What Wilber is calling "Kosmic Habits" are actually the complexes.  Recognizing his helps to restore ontology.

...I would prefer to say that "kosmic habits" and "complexes" are homeomorphically equivalent notions within their respective conceptual ecologies (Wilberian and Jungian).  Homeomorphic equivalent notions are not identical -- pointing to the exact same representational "thing" -- but they are similar (adjacent, in Layman's terms) forms and functions within different enacted worldspaces.  But, in their differences, they each also have different "powers" and can lead to insights or open/enact potentials the other may lack.  We do not need to leave these forms inviolate in their respective worldspaces; we can enact a translineage practice, here, as well.

My own emergent, OOO-influenced view is similar to a view Layman suggested in one of his responses to you:  "This approach [seeing mediating holons active everywhere], which is entirely consonant with the emergence of a trans-lineage planetary spirituality, involves the possibility of treating all forms, esp. all holons & sub-holons, in all quadrants, as active, interpretative sub-personalities which have at least a minimal capacity to self-cohere & self-reiterate."  This is akin to an object-oriented ontological account, which sees all forms -- thoughts, beliefs, symbols, models, physical objects, systems, lineages or institutions, etc -- as lively actors in the world, as whole, auto- or allopoietic entities which enact and mediate differences (in burgeoning, evolutionary unfolding).  There is a homeomorphic resonance here with complex or subpersonality theory, since every one of these actors eludes and exceeds the totalizing grasp of either self or other, withdrawing from "full incorporation" into any system (while also being essential to the contitution of systems or holons).  In this view, while emergent wholes are indeed greater than the sum of their parts -- meaning, they exhibit uniquely emergent features and capacities beyond those of any constitutive parts -- it is also true that parts (subholons) are greater than the whole, since each subholon retains a degree of autonomy, a degree of reserved or withdrawn potential which is not "marshalled" by the greater whole and which lends each subholon an indeterminate measure of depth and unpredictability, allowing each part at any time to work at cross- or alternate purposes to those of the encompassing whole.  These "objects" or holons are thus teeming, "strange strangers" -- beings-with-perspectives that exceed us in an awesome, terrifying polytheistic profusion, given that we can never fully know the "intelligence" and "aims" of any subholon or emergent whole (even of things like "economies" or "brands").

Joe:  Complex theory also offers an intepretation of Morrision's "ontic-epistemic" (yin-yang diagram) polarity as well:

•For the ontic within epistemology:  The quadrivia perspective wielding complex contains an archetypal (ontic) core.
•For the epistemic within ontology:  The complex (as a mediating holon) contains and enacts a perspective.

I like this and think this is a fruitful reading of the ontic-epistemic polarity. 

Joe:  In this posting (http://integrallife.com/node/200435 ) I presented the argument that when mass culture enacts ontology, it breaks out in the form of new emergent imaginative containers (individual and collective complexes).  These can take form as literary genres (science fiction, gothic), celebrity cults (Lady Gaga), ubiquitous motifs in mass media (the “Robot Diva”) a new religion, or some other emerging cultural mythology, which has a perspective... Having presented this bit of background, my hypothesis is that by self-curating a spirituality (what you call “translineage practice”), one is definitely creating a kind of customized imaginative container.

This is similar to what I was exploring, in my paper, with the notion of "generative (en)closures."  Do you see a relationship here?

This letter has gotten long, so I'll stop here, but there's clearly lots more to discuss!  Looking forward to it.

All the best,

B.

Joe's reply to me:

Is there a soul in post-metaphysics?

Bruce,

Thank you for engaging with me on this topic.  The issues your paper brings up are important to the future of the Integral endeavor, I believe.

I also appreciate you helping us to get a better idea of what you envisioned when using the term, "translineage practice."   Of course there's a big difference between folks picking practices to follow verses choosing exemplars to act as guides for us in this arena, and I also can appreciate that in the paper you also acknowledge the challenges in whichever approach one might take.

I think your reflections on this situation are right on, and therefore I also would like to suggest adding one more major theme for consideration.  This addittional theme has to do with this idea of going it alone verses also incorporating some kind of feedback or external guidance as well.

Approaches to Translineage practice:

In attempting to create a space or facilitation or apologetics for an orientation which could be seen by some as transgressive, it's important to make some kind of case for a what that "sensibility" could be which will allow one to "skillfully […] navigate […] multiple worldspaces." From the major themes you explore in your paper, these seem to be:

Rehabilitating Ontology: One needs an orientating ontology of some kind.

The One and the Many: One needs to find a way to honor both the many and the one as a way of addressing any otherwise insurmountable problems of compatability between the lineages which one is borrowing from and for the process of recontextualizing them into a new practice.

Participatory Enaction: One needs to see the practices and realities not as "givens", but as something that you co-create.  One consequence of this is that a past tradition cannot therefore lay claim to exclusive ownership to any ontology or practice, because by engaging with it, you are co-creating it anew.

Principle of Ireduction:  To avoid metaphysical or authoritative appeals or forms of denial, one should look at one's objects, beliefs, practices, ontologies, etc… as irreducible in and of themselves.  Therefore they must be looked at "with a renewed innocence, "unreduced and set free.""

The Trinity as Generative Locus:  One should have a minimal ontology which is capable of providing a "generative context" for "interlineage engagement" with all possible lineages. The recommended ontology is a triune model composed of: "ground, contingency, and relation."

Being Singlar Plural: One should avoid any narratives which entail a "separation and return" motif, and instead embrace a "singular plural of Being" foundation, which is a non-dual exbrace of an irreducable unity and plurality at the same time.

Generative Dis/Enclosure:  One should understand the concepts of enclosure and disenclosure and seek to bring their tanslineage practices to the state of a generative enclosure.

When I read these themes, the only assumption I'm making is that by presenting them, you are also presenting them as desirable guidelines or injunctions for an Integral Translineage practice. If so, then two things stand out for me:

1.  While they may be a way of dealing with the incommensurability issue, three of these items are specific and unique enough to read like a kind of creed for a new spirituality.  These are "Participatory Enaction," "Principle of Irreduction," and "Being Singular Plural."  If this is the case, then I can certainly see the need for new exemplars, coaches, guides, etc… to help folks along this "path."  I can also see it being desireable for the leaders to have some kind of board certification or other seal of approval which would allow folks to have some confidence in the new cadre of coaches and guides.  Somthing like this has been necessary in all other kinds of services from doctors, to psychotherapists, to ministers, teachers, massage therapists, etc…

2.  Without some kind of additional recommendation for a type of feedback mechanism (shadow work, group practice, mentoring or coaching, etc..), I see a significant possibility that these themes/injunctions could end up forming an insular or closed-loop system or paradigm.  Here's an example and I hope it not a caracature of your themes.  If it is, or if I've got it wrong, then please accept my apologies:

  • You engage with X number of practices or beliefs from Y sources using the triune model to recontextualize them as well as bring them into alignment with your own choosen ontology.
     
  • You take complete responsibility for them and ownership of them, because you are now co-creating them as your own.  
  • These co-created realities of yours are completely beyond any external criticism because they are irreducible, and therefore are protected from any kind of reductive or authoritative appeals, and thus must be seen as new, innocent and free.
  • These new realities are seen not as merely relative creations, but as being one with the all at the same time that they are relative.
  • You feed these practices sufficient energy and attention to bring them up to the level of a true generative enclosure, autononous complex, dissipative structure, etc… .  Basically, your practice ignites into a living self-feeding imaginative container - an entity with an identity and a perspective.


Now if this hypothetical situation actually were to occur, you would have built for youself a very strong enclosure indeed. It would be a Super-Dreadnought of an container!  It would generate a field which would be highly resistant to any kind of outside perturbance.  

And this brings me to my main point.  If I've understood your themes correctly, I see the need for some kind of feedback mechanism built into the basic set of recommendations - either shadow work or some kind of group work, group feedback, mentoring or coaching.  In fact, it might also be advisable to always preface a discussion of translineage practice by recommending that it should take place within the context of Integral Life Practice as well.

This has significant implications for interfaith dialogue between groups as well.  I would be curious to see your 2011 paper on this topic to see how you would approach this.  Given the above situation, Interfaith dialogue could be analogous to two Super-Dreadnoughts coming together for a "talk" with neither side being open to having any of their presuppostions getting challenged by the other.  About all that I could see happening would be that if each side had sufficient empathy to be interested in understanding more about the other, (about the other's worldview), then they could listen to each other's narratives and perhaps look for those things which they do have in common.  The only dialogue which could then take place would be a possible dialogue about those things which each side thinks they have in common - those areas where they can agree to agree, and those areas where they can agree to disagree.  As limited as this might appear, there is value to this.  

On the other hand, the Super-Dreadnought class did have two design weaknesses: insufficient armour to protect against plunging fire, and a vulnerability to torpedoes.  This analogous insight brings to mind the transferrence-countertransferrence diagram which indicates analogous interactions taking place during dialogue.

In other words, even if one builds for themselves a strong generative enclosure, if they enter into a real dialgoue (and not just parallel monologues), there is always the possibility of changing and being changed in the interaction.  To put it bluntly, you are likely to trigger their complexes, and they are likely to trigger yours.  In intergral terminology, what's going to happen in a true dialogue is that while you and the other person are having one level of dialogue, both of your shadows are going to be having a dialogue of sorts of their own as well!

The Rehabilitation of Ontology:

First off I want to admit that I feel like I'm in just a bit over my head in terms of using the correct integral terminology to explain my thoughts on the complex within the Integral context.  I'm attempting to box above my weight class here, so my apologies ahead of time if I'm unable to be sufficiently precise.  With that said, here goes.

You write:

"When you argue that a complex is a "mediating holon," this appears to situate complexes "within" the (already ontological) holon model.  However, given the broad, all-quadrant reading you give to "complex" (as dissipative structure, etc), I think it may be more profitable to hold Wilberian and Jungian models in parallel (rather than trying to reduce one to the other)."


I was a bit confused when I read this, as I did not see the contradiction.  Do holons only exist in the right hand quadrants?  When I think of AQAL I'm thinking of both the quadrants (the perspective that the "thing itself" actually has) as well as quadrivim (the perspective which we can look FROM and see that "thing")

In one sense a complex (as an autonomous complex) is like a subpersonality or living thing, but it's not necessarily a physical "thing" (it doesn't have its own physical body) and it's not a type.  Could then a complex be how we choose to look at something (quadrivium), when we are looking at it as if it were a dynamical system?  On the other hand, when a complex constellates in the UL quadrant, the person experiences affect which gives rise to emotions, thoughts, feeling-tones, and enacts the phenomenal experience of a world-view or value system for the person during the duration when it is constellating.  It's like a subpersonality.  Thus we must ask, do other "things" in the other quadrants express characteristics which can be likened to a personality?

In other words, if a complex possesses all the quadrants, doesn't this imply a kind of personification of everything - that everything has a kind of consciousness or personality?  AND if it has a personality, does it have a kind of soul?

When I look at an AQAL chart, it usually shows different kinds of things in each quadrant which gives the impression that a "thing" (artifact) will only actually reside in one quadrant, see this passage from "Integral Spirituality" on page 14:
 

"All individual (or sentient) holons HAVE or POSSESS 4 perspectives through which or with which they view or touch the world, and those are the quadrants (the view through).  But anything canb be lookked at FROM those 4 perspectives - or there is a view of anything from those perspectives - that that is technically called a quadrivium.  For example, a chair, as an artifact, does not possess 4 quadrants, but it can be looked at from those 4 quadrants or perspectives, which is then a quadrivium of view of or about the chair.  An individual holon (like you or me) has an I, we, it, and its dimension-perspective (and hence a view through); an artifact does not, but I can look at an artifact from each of those perspectives or each quadrivium.  Likewise, the 8 zones are "8 quadrants" and the 8 methodologies are "8 quadrivia." "

So by saying that the complex has all the quadrants, I am implying that it has sentient qualities.  Oh dear!  It looks like I've stumbled into that one!

So where's the missing link?  Is the world composed only of a series of artifiacts plus those physically-bodied things which are obviously sentient or is there more sentience going on than meets the eye?  In other words, is the world ensouled?  

If the complex is the missing link, then it's the missing link because it implies that there is a soul somewhere that's not being taken into account.  It implies that there is more sentience taking place in the world than is currently being shown in the standard representations of AQAL charts and in integral theory in general.  In moving to a post-metaphysical spirituality something had to go.  Was it the soul?

As I may have painted myself into a corner, I think I'll stop for now.  Hopefully you can shed some light on this.

Thanks!

Joe
(humbled)

And my response to Joe, 9/9/12:

Hi, Joe, thanks for the juicy feedback!  You'll see below that it prompted a lot of thoughts (and I've only expressed a few of them so far!)

Joe:  Of course there's a big difference between folks picking practices to follow versus choosing exemplars to act as guides for us in this arena, and I also can appreciate that in the paper you also acknowledge the challenges in whichever approach one might take.

Yes, what I was wanting to say is that one way for a translineage orientation to show up, which I was discussing in the paper, is for individuals to seriously practice within more than one spiritual lineage at once -- not simply picking and choosing practices from here and there without regard for their original tetra-enactive contexts.  But because such practice will likely confront you, eventually, with certain incommensurable claims and perspectives within these different practice contexts, translineage practice itself becomes its own sort of spiritual-philosophical praxis (growing out of one's confrontation with incommensurability and co-habitation of ontologically and epistemologically diverse worldspaces).  One reason I wanted to clarify this point in response to your post was because you expressed concern that "going it alone" in one's picking and choosing of practices runs certain risks of getting stuck in talismanic or non-growthful brand identities, and I feel there is perhaps less (though not non-negligible) risk for this if one is working seriously within several existing traditions, as each provides its own living practice community and collective wisdom field with and against which one can check oneself, get feedback, etc.  And there are of course also various interspiritual and translineage pioneers that can serve as exemplars.

Concerning your summary of my main arguments, you have indeed fairly highlighted the main factors I wanted to bring to the table, but I have some corrections and clarifications to bring to your representations of some of them.  The implications you draw from them, as you hold your understanding of them together, does strike me as a kind of caricature -- but I do not take this badly.  The conclusions you draw are almost the opposite of what I was intending, but I don't reject what you are saying altogether, since I think you could be drawing out some of the "shadows" of these proposals and speculations which I think are worth reflecting on and addressing.

Joe:  Principle of Irreduction:  To avoid metaphysical or authoritative appeals or forms of denial, one should look at one's objects, beliefs, practices, ontologies, etc… as irreducible in and of themselves.  Therefore they must be looked at "with a renewed innocence, "unreduced and set free.""

My aim in introducing this principle was not to innoculate traditions or beliefs from any criticism or comparison or even "reduction."  The principle of irreduction does not say reduction is not possible; rather, it says that things are always reducible and relatable to other things, but because the possibilities for such relating and reduction are essentially open-ended, we also have to recognize that we are dealing with a "reality" or a "real actant" in itself in any object or entity or form upon which we perform our relational or reductionistic analyses, not just an "epiphenomenon" of something underneath or overhead that is "more metaphysically real."  This is, in my understanding, what Wilber is up to with his four quadrants:  we can't say that thoughts are really just neurons firing (and that psychological or other perspectives on thought are meaningless), or that everything ultimately reduces to cultural factors, or to language, or to institutions or social factors, etc.  We grant ontological dignity to all.  

I will return to this point below, but just briefly: this principle does not entail that ontological realities are immune to change, whether horizontal "typological" re-coloring, evolutionary transformation, or even destruction.  It also does not entail that all beliefs are equal, in terms of their truth value -- their "fit" with or relation to other entities in the world.  Any belief, simply by manifesting, is "real" in that it can affect other things -- people who believe in Jackalopes might actually purchase a Jeep and spend money and time going out to look for one -- but this doesn't mean that "Jackalope" has any actual biological referent in the animal kingdom.

Joe:  The Trinity as Generative Locus:  One should have a minimal ontology which is capable of providing a "generative context" for "interlineage engagement" with all possible lineages. The recommended ontology is a triune model composed of: "ground, contingency, and relation."

My aim in introducing Thatamanil's Trinity was to give an example of the kind of translineage work being done in theology, but not to make a definitive recommendation for the adoption of "ground, contingency, and relation" by translineage practitioners.  I also wanted to show how Thatamanil's model might be related to Integral Theory, but more as an example of possible "interface" work we could do as Integral translineage practitioners.  

Joe:  Being Singlar Plural: One should avoid any narratives which entail a "separation and return" motif, and instead embrace a "singular plural of Being" foundation, which is a non-dual exbrace of an irreducable unity and plurality at the same time.

I don't think Being Singular Plural challenges all separation and return motifs, but it does challenge those motifs which finally and absolutely reduce reality either to the One or to the Many.  In bringing in this concept, I did so in the interest of presenting a way of thinking that I think is already consonant with the implications of an Integral model of tetra-enaction which says that the quadrants go all the way up and all the way down.  But I did not mean this in a prohibitive fashion.  I meant it more as an exploratory gesture: in adopting such a view, how might this impact our ability to navigate translineage space?

Joe:  Generative Dis/Enclosure:  One should understand the concepts of enclosure and disenclosure and seek to bring their tanslineage practices to the state of a generative enclosure.

I introduced the notion of generative (en)closure as a way of describing and understanding practice lineages or churches or sanghas, like bodies, in autopoietic and enactive terms.  In seeing a tradition as a "generative enclosure," I think this enables us to relate to multiple traditions independently and concurrently as generative (i.e., enactive) enclosures or systems.  But, yes, the term also will apply to whatever translineage praxis we develop: it too may become a generative enclosure.  The term dis/enclosure is introduced, in part, to help individuals be cognizant that our enclosures are "egg-like" and eventually will "break open" onto new horizons, allowing us to be birthed into new spaces, new generative fields or enclosures (as we move from the enclosure of the womb to the enclosure of the maternal embrace to the enclosures of family, school, culture, etc).  (As an aside, in writing some thoughts elsewhere on what it would mean to be an Integral Minister, I included the following:  "An Integral Minister is an aperspectival steward of translineage, transmemetic, multi-dimensional flowering in and for the community s/he serves.  To this end, s/he strives to embody these principles and capacities in her own life through ongoing practice and religious formation via study, retreat, Integral peer-to-peer engagement, etc.  In this role, an Integral Minister works towards the Integral and integrous rounding of each precious particularity, each generative (en)closure of spirit [in body, mind, culture, community], and at the same time is ready to serve as initiator – and psychopomp – of passage across our evolutionary thresholds, in those processes of disenclosure, or creative holonic rupture,  out of which new order and meaning are born for the individual and the community.")

Joe:  1.  While they may be a way of dealing with the incommensurability issue, three of these items are specific and unique enough to read like a kind of creed for a new spirituality.  These are "Participatory Enaction," "Principle of Irreduction," and "Being Singular Plural."  If this is the case, then I can certainly see the need for new exemplars, coaches, guides, etc… to help folks along this "path."  I can also see it being desireable for the leaders to have some kind of board certification or other seal of approval which would allow folks to have some confidence in the new cadre of coaches and guides.  Something like this has been necessary in all other kinds of services from doctors, to psychotherapists, to ministers, teachers, massage therapists, etc…

Yes, I think these principles could lead to the development of a new form, or new forms, of spirituality.  I think "participatory enaction" and "being singular plural" are actually implicit in, and/or consonant with, Integral thought as presently formulated, though in framing these concepts in the particular way that I have, I recognize this will also likely introduce some subtle differences into the Integral field.  But in any event, while I wasn't arguing in my paper for the necessity of certified coaches in this new practice field, I do agree that it will be important to develop a new "community of the adequate" (likely with its own leaders and exemplars) as we progress.

Joe:  2.  Without some kind of additional recommendation for a type of feedback mechanism (shadow work, group practice, mentoring or coaching, etc..), I see a significant possibility that these themes/injunctions could end up forming an insular or closed-loop system or paradigm.  

Yes -- while I did not intend some of my points as you have read them, I definitely agree that feedback mechanisms, shadow work processes, mentoring, etc, are all important factors, both to encourage healthy growth and to guard against unhealthy forms of insularity, dogmatic fixation, etc.

Joe:  You engage with X number of practices or beliefs from Y sources using the triune model to recontextualize them as well as bring them into alignment with your own choosen ontology.

As I mentioned above, I am not recommending Thatamanil's triune model as the "base" of translineage practice but as one exemplar of translineage theological engagement or cross-tradition interface.  Layman put this well in his summary of my argument:  "Balder observes that symbolic triangles are found at the highest levels of many traditional theologies and speculates, therefore, that these might provide a kind of technical interface between lineages.  For there are always at least 2 traditions and at least 1 point of contact.  Here the third point of the triangle is already the spectre of the future trans-lineage haunting the interface just a child might haunt its own moment of conception."  Thatamanil provides an example of this kind of "interface" work.

Joe:  These co-created realities of yours are completely beyond any external criticism because they are irreducible, and therefore are protected from any kind of reductive or authoritative appeals, and thus must be seen as new, innocent and free.

I can understand how the principle of irreduction could be taken in this way, but in my view this would be a pathological interpretation or expression of it.  As I mentioned above, the principle of irreduction does not render things immune from comparative analysis or external or internal criticism, since it acknowledges at the outset that that sort of "work" can always be done, and that in fact such work is often generative and fruitful.  The principle of irreduction holds that no "thing" can be understood wholly and exhaustively as, or in the terms of, some other "thing."  It wants to challenge the typical metaphysical strategies which privilege some order of being at the expense of others (through the undermining and overmining strategies I discussed in the paper) and to grant ontological dignity equally to thoughts, feelings, beliefs, states, moods, words, atoms, tardigrades, bears, humans, cultures, social networks, clubs, governments, etc.  Each is a real "actant" with ontological depth to the extent that it has the power to affect other beings in some way or other.  It would say, with Ken Wilber, that trying to reduce everything ultimately to the terms of one quadrant-tradition or another is no longer acceptable or viable.  But with that said, the principle of irreduction's granting to all things the ontological dignity of "being a real actant which has effects on other beings" does not innoculate any belief or culture, for instance, from critical assessment as to its quadrant-appropriate truth-value or effectiveness or desirability.  The principle of irreduction would protect religious traditions from reductive colonization by other traditions or disciplines (which might want to describe said tradition wholly in terms of sociological or linguistic factors, for instance, or which might want to ascribe any spiritual effectiveness or moments of truth in a non-Christian tradition wholly to the hidden, extra-ecclesial redemptive work of Jesus), but it does not wall off entities from the generative and transformative "conversation of things."

This latter remark relates to another aspect of this principle, which is based on the concept of autopoiesis.  Entities have a "withdrawn core," in this perspective, which means that no entity is ever fully perceived or possessed or mastered or "included" or "analyzed" by other entities.  For an autopoietic system, which is structurally open but organizationally closed, when it encounters and perceives some other thing, what it encounters are the internal perturbations in its own system provoked by that other being; it does not simply encounter that thing in itself. A human and a dog perceive a work of art or a text by Shakespeare quite differently.  As Latour, the creator of the principle of irreduction would put it, "there is no transportation without translation."  The exchange of differences (information) across our various embodied or holonic interfaces or "membranes" (whether of body or culture or language or tradition) is always a co-creative transformation, a translation from one regime to another.  But (as I was discussing with Layman on the Hivedash thread) the "interior" of any entity similarly withdraws or exceeds its own capacity for self-apprehension.  One way of looking at this is that the ontological or generative "potential" of any system exceeds any present relationships one might have to it, or any present perspectives one might be holding on it.

In my paper, I argued that the irreducible uniqueness of a system (which manifests in the way, for instance, it can uniquely provoke and accommodate an open-ended stream of reductions and inter-relations) can be taken as a prompt to celebrate and embrace each tradition as a Unique Field in itself (akin to Gafni's Unique Self), with its own unique generative potential.  But this ontological potential does not mean that, at any time, a paradigm or belief or practice tradition cannot be defeated in its epistemological intercourse and interchange with other beliefs or systems.  It may be found, in any such exchange, to be too weak in its generative potential, for instance, or too limited or outmoded in its framework and modes of expression, to meet present demands or to be of much practical use to modern practitioners.  In that case, it might be abandoned forever, or for a long while.  But in its defeat, this doesn't mean its potential is finally exhausted.  For instance, an old long-abandoned Islamic model of causality, occasionalism, has recently been resurrected in modern philosophy, and is now yielding new fruit (not glimpsed or anticipated by its original users).

This letter, again, has gotten quite long, and I've only responded to half of your remarks!  I will stop here, hoping that these arguments are clarifying (let me know!), but I intend to respond to the rest of your letter as well.  I was interested in your comments and questions about an "ensouled" world, since I was thinking along very similar lines yesterday.  So ... more soon!

All the best,

Bruce

As always you are a patient, compassionate educator Balder. If Joe had only joined our community of the adequate here he would have groked all that by now. We have all grown here through this forum, which as Bryant says is an object* in itself with a life of its own. And it is continually teaching all of us some new things and sloughing off some old things like the very in and out-breaths of any life. The forum is not in any quadrant but a full-fledged holon (suobject) with 4 quadrants, not just reduced to being an object in the old sense of being in a right-hand quadrant. Or something that can be looked at as a quadrivium. This is part of the problem with the little boxes of AQAL.

That is why I encourage you to not only reference our forum but to cite and quote it in your future papers as a source of credible information, opening academia which tends to marginalize such sources within its insular and elitist dogma. The forum should get the credit, not so much its individual participants, since the forum is the suobject of which we are but parts. When someone says something here it is only partly a product of that individual, mostly coming from not only the interaction of the participants in dialog but from the irreducible and virtual proper being of the forum itself. And as you note, no, this is not projecting human being onto an inanimate object, for to even posit objects that way is itself ironically caught within the anthropomorphic epistemic fallacy.

* He now prefers to calls them machines.

Recall the following from TDOO, chapter 4.1, where Bryant qualifies the above. It is similar to Wilber's comments about this in Excerpt C  * but there are differences. More on that later.

"To illustrate Luhmann's thesis, I turn to the simple example of a humble dialogue. For the last few years I have been fortunate to have the friendship of my colleague Carlton Clark, a rhetorician at the institution where I teach. Within a Luhmannian framework, this dialogue is not a communication between two systems (Clark and myself), but rather is a system in its own right. In this respect, Clark and I belong not to the system of this dialogue, but to the environment of this dialogue.... The dialogue is an entity itself that constitutes its own elements (the communication events that take place within it) and that is something Clark and I are bound up in without being parts or elements within the dialogue."

* See p. 50 and following. He even goes into a similar discussion about Luhmann on 60 and following.

Yes, I was just talking about this forum in similar terms last night -- as an educational stimulant for me, as a sort of concentrated learning space.  It is not "living" very well right now as a typical discussion forum (many previously active participants have left, others just aren't posting), but for those few of us who have remained dedicated to the inquiry here (the Ed and Bruce Show!), in writing or reading, the forum can indeed be recognized as having a kind of life of its own -- with our prolonged engagement with it taking us in unexpected directions, even. 

In my letter to Joe above, I found myself attempting to speak from an OOO-informed Integral perspective in a way that surprised me a bit.  As Bryant likes to say, no one knows what a body can, or will, do!

I referenced this forum in my bio in the last issue of JITP; in my next piece, since I'm writing much more specifically about OOO, I'll definitely be referencing discussions here.

It is not "living" very well right now.

Only if we judge living by those actively participating. There are many who lurk and read and they are just as much a part of its life. And recall, the forum has a virtual proper being of its own whether or not it interacts with anyone else! Unless of course it is destroyed, and like all material machines that is a possibility. We might even say the forum is an autopoetic machine, since it demands of its participants constant food to maintain its endo-structure. Even if no one ever participates or reads again it will live on, unless of course the actual material is destroyed.

Ensoulment
 

Continued:

 

Joe:  If I've understood your themes correctly, I see the need for some kind of feedback mechanism built into the basic set of recommendations - either shadow work or some kind of group work, group feedback, mentoring or coaching.  In fact, it might also be advisable to always preface a discussion of translineage practice by recommending that it should take place within the context of Integral Life Practice as well.

 

Yes, I agree -- in looking at translineage practice as a whole, I think these sorts of feedback mechanisms are essential.  In the paper, I was limiting myself just to some "ontological speculations," so it doesn't represent for me a full statement on the nature, scope, or requirements of translineage spirituality.

 

Joe:  This has significant implications for interfaith dialogue between groups as well.  I would be curious to see your 2011 paper on this topic to see how you would approach this. 

 

I have emailed you a copy of the 2011 paper.  In it, I focus primarily on the common orientations of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism in interfaith relations, and attempt to articulate an integral orientation that moves beyond the problems of each.

 

Joe:  Given the above situation, Interfaith dialogue could be analogous to two Super-Dreadnoughts coming together for a "talk" with neither side being open to having any of their presuppostions getting challenged by the other.  About all that I could see happening would be that if each side had sufficient empathy to be interested in understanding more about the other, (about the other's worldview), then they could listen to each other's narratives and perhaps look for those things which they do have in common.  The only dialogue which could then take place would be a possible dialogue about those things which each side thinks they have in common - those areas where they can agree to agree, and those areas where they can agree to disagree.  As limited as this might appear, there is value to this. 

 

Yes, given the orientation you described above, that does seem like a possible outcome.  It's not all bad -- something of value might still arise from such encounters between two closed Super Dreadnoughts, as you say -- but it's arguably also less than ideal, from an integral perspective.  I hope that my post above clarifies that I do not interpret the principle of irreduction in a way that would support such an orientation, but I acknowledge that someone could attempt to apply it in the way that you have.

 

Joe:  In other words, even if one builds for themselves a strong generative enclosure, if they enter into a real dialgoue (and not just parallel monologues), there is always the possibility of changing and being changed in the interaction.  To put it bluntly, you are likely to trigger their complexes, and they are likely to trigger yours.  In intergral terminology, what's going to happen in a true dialogue is that while you and the other person are having one level of dialogue, both of your shadows are going to be having a dialogue of sorts of their own as well!

 

One of the aspects of a generative (en)closure, as I was attempting to define it in my paper, is that it is generative of difference, of information and change, in the world -- not only internally, within its own system, but in its way of interacting with, relating to, and affecting other beings and systems.  As with the Gendlinian understanding of "body formation" I mentioned, or as with a generally enactive understanding of autopoiesis and self-world evolution, entity-and-environment are co-generative, co-arising, where this mutual flow of influence and creative "generation" of change is both intersubjective and interobjective (or "intersuobjective," as we sometimes say in shorthand on my IPS forum).  In this mutual interchange, yes, there will be both interactions and changes that register "in the light" of awareness, and unconscious, shadow interchanges as well.  From this perspective, this would happen even in the case of two Super Dreadnoughts meeting, but in a setting that is likely more guarded, less open to receiving or entertaining the material that arises.

 

Bruce:  "When you argue that a complex is a "mediating holon," this appears to situate complexes "within" the (already ontological) holon model.  However, given the broad, all-quadrant reading you give to "complex" (as dissipative structure, etc), I think it may be more profitable to hold Wilberian and Jungian models in parallel (rather than trying to reduce one to the other)."

 

Joe:  I was a bit confused when I read this, as I did not see the contradiction.  Do holons only exist in the right hand quadrants?  When I think of AQAL I'm thinking of both the quadrants (the perspective that the "thing itself" actually has) as well as quadrivim (the perspective which we can look FROM and see that "thing")

 

What I meant was that, if a complex is understood as a type of holon, and if holons are already understood in Integral thought as ontological while also possessing a subjective interior, then a complex couldn't really be seen as a missing link which re-introduces ontology to Integral Theory.  Rather, it would be one type of ontological reality recognized by Integral Theory.  But in addition to this, I was also responding to the suggestion that Kosmic Habits are really just Complexes.  In that case, while I think you can make that argument, what I was saying was that I thought it might be more profitable to hold the Kosmic Habit model and the Complex model side by side, using either one as appropriate, rather than trying to reduce one to the other.

 

Joe:  In one sense a complex (as an autonomous complex) is like a subpersonality or living thing, but it's not necessarily a physical "thing" (it doesn't have its own physical body) and it's not a type.  Could then a complex be how we choose to look at something (quadrivium), when we are looking at it as if it were a dynamical system?  On the other hand, when a complex constellates in the UL quadrant, the person experiences affect which gives rise to emotions, thoughts, feeling-tones, and enacts the phenomenal experience of a world-view or value system for the person during the duration when it is constellating.  It's like a subpersonality.  Thus we must ask, do other "things" in the other quadrants express characteristics which can be likened to a personality?

 

There are a couple ways I can see going with this, depending on how we are using the word, "complex."  First, regarding whether or not a complex has a body: in Integral thought, I think you'd say that a complex at least has a subtle body.  But I'd say it's probable that, when we experience or are under the influence of a complex, something is going on in our brains and bodies as well that correlates to this activity or event.

 

But while I believe that many of the psychological and even subtle or archetypal dimensions of the human being that have traditionally been described in a disembodied way, will be found to be embodied within our own physical systems (as neuroimaging increasingly reveals), I think the views we are exploring on the Integral frontiers do indeed suggest that many things we normally considered inanimate and inert are more "ensouled" and entitative than we have imagined.  This, at least, is one of the suggestions of the OOO-influenced Integral thought I've been exploring in my paper and in this discussion (and in depth with members of the Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum).

 

Joe:  In other words, if a complex possesses all the quadrants, doesn't this imply a kind of personification of everything - that everything has a kind of consciousness or personality?  AND if it has a personality, does it have a kind of soul?

 

Here are some notes from a talk I gave last year, where I was asked to talk about care of the soul, and I brought in an OOO way of looking at things that relates to "soul" as I understand it:

 

~*~

 

Soul is not a word I personally use very often, but I have been reflecting on it lately.  For instance, walking down the street the other day, I pronounced the word ‘soul’ to myself, trying to find a ‘fit’ for it in my experience, and out of nowhere I felt a deep stirring – an intimation of depth of feeling that, lightning-like, lit up the whole body, edged with joy and longing at once.  It’s like listening to sublime music, the meaning of which issues from we-know-not-where, and touches us we-know-not-how, and yet there we are: transfixed by the grace of this, the inexplicable gift of the moment.

 

In one of its early meanings, according to the etymological dictionary, soul meant, “of or coming from the sea.”  The idea apparently was that the soul stopped at the sea prior to an individual’s birth, and also on its way “out” after an individual’s death.   What has the soul to do with the sea?  I do not know the mythology around this, but taking poetic license, I’ll mention two associations that have arose for me as I contemplated this.  In the first, I see the sea as our evolutionary bed of origin.  As if the soul, in coming to birth, recapitulates that great journey from mineral bed, to sea creature, to mammal, to human being; and as if, on passing out again, it stops at the sea again to honor that fertile womb...  [I edited out a discussion of the Sufi notion of seven souls here.]

 

Another association that arises when I think about the soul’s journey to the sea is the notion of the soul as a dweller in the depths.  Nietzsche, Heidegger, David Michael Levin, Raimon Panikkar, and many others have referred to ‘soul’ as the depth of the body – not as some disembodied ghost temporarily inhabiting the body, but as the mysterious depth of the body itself.  The Sufi notion of seven souls (mineral, vegetable, animal, etc) speaks in one way to this depth in the body.

 

But there is another approach to considering the body’s depths that I am interested in mentioning today, an approach which also suggests other dimensions to the notion of ‘care of the soul.’

 

[Briefly explain OOO.]  

 

GM Hopkins: 

 

And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down  things;

 

Although seeing relationally is an advance over seeing the world as just so many objective parts, the  threat of nihilism lurks at the heart of our relational view, if we think the 'being' of our client is exhausted by that relationality -- if their 'whatness' is fully commensurate with and 'nothing more than' those relationships.  As if "who" can be summed up, fully grasped or apprehended, and (though we might not consciously put it this way) explained away by "context."  This, for me, is where an appeal to "soul" comes in -- the acknowledgement, as Tim Morton, might say, of a 'freshness' and/or 'strangeness' -- an inaccessible, unmasterable, withdrawingly mysterious, integrity -- deep down things.

 

As Henri Bortoft says, the whole is an active absence.  We cannot find the 'whole' arrayed alongside other things; it forever escapes that sort of gaze.  And yet the particular is where the whole 'bodies forth.'  Here, whole is not 'entirety' but, in some sense, inexhaustibility.  And what allows us to apprehend that wholeness, that deep integrity, but care -- that light by which the gaze opens itself to receiving the inexhaustible gift of the other.  Can we live in light of the inaccessibility of the other? 

 

This inaccessibility is of a piece with integrity: the soul is autopoietic, as Almaas suggests, a site of both opening and closure.  That closure, when we encounter it, draws us forward, in invitation: but the gift is in its final unmasterability: it invites us to openness, to ongoing receiving, which is a way of seeing that flowers in care.

 

Care is an attitude of openness.  In caring, we open to ...

 

Humans are beings for whom "to be" is an open question.  We care for our humanity by keeping open to this questioning.

 

As I wrote once to my wife...

 

as suddenly as you appeared
in cottonwood drift, gold-limned
at the edge of day
I have never caught up
with your newness
or touched the bottom
of the gift of your eyes
that still invite
and surprise me with
the unbidden water
of acceptance

 

as much as I have traced
the drift of your skin, gold-brown,
at the fall of night,
I still delight at the way
you exceed me;
like a deer in a garden
chase, you lead me
and surprise me with
the undoing shudder
of your embrace

 

~*~

 

In the above, I talked mostly about "withdrawal" as the intimation of the unmasterable, evolutionarily open depth dimension in the human being, but in OOO thought, this withdrawal is a feature of all objects.  All things exceed present relations, retaining a hidden depth, a "night side," which is a fount of unique evolutionary potential and untapped power; all things, allo- or autopoietically, translate and interface with other beings in their own ways, with affective fields that constitute or define their present relations with other beings (their power to affect and be affected), but which recedes into depths which exceed other- and self-apprehension at any time.  This night side of things, when recognized and attended to, summons us to a way of seeing marked by care, as Heidegger argues.  But this view also situates us in a world where objects are not simply inert, blank "screens" awaiting human projection; they are "actors" in the world in their own right, responding, affecting, constraining, and enabling us and each other*.  This is a kind of integral neo-animism -- not anthropomorphically reading a "human interior" into things, but very definitely an acknowledgement of a world teeming with active beings or "singularities" that shape evolutionary unfolding as we do and that harbor unexpected, "esoteric" powers (meaning, withdrawn or untapped fields of potential).  As Levi Bryant likes to say, No one knows what a body (complex?) can do.

 

Joe:  So where's the missing link?  Is the world composed only of a series of artifiacts plus those physically-bodied things which are obviously sentient or is there more sentience going on than meets the eye?  In other words, is the world ensouled?  If the complex is the missing link, then it's the missing link because it implies that there is a soul somewhere that's not being taken into account.  It implies that there is more sentience taking place in the world than is currently being shown in the standard representations of AQAL charts and in integral theory in general.  In moving to a post-metaphysical spirituality something had to go.  Was it the soul?

 

In the view I'm presenting here, I do not think a postmetaphysical spiritual approach requires the exorcism of the soul.  Soul as inner ghost, instead, dies, and is resurrected as the secret depth dimension of all beings -- even so-called inanimate artifacts.  This is not to say that there aren't important qualitative differences between human beings and tools or social systems, but this is not an absolute, dualistic difference in "kind": the boundary is blurred in interesting ways. 

 

All the best,

 

B.

 

* Entities and objects and artifacts act on each other in profound ways, such that the sharp eye of the Bushman embodies the endless plain, or the crooked pines of Korea embody and express the wild winds of the Sea of Japan, or the bodies and brains of our children are learning to embody the peculiar objects and demands of high-speed gaming.

B:  It is not "living" very well right now.
T:  Only if we judge living by those actively participating.

 

Yes, that's why I stressed "as a typical discussion forum."  It may not be living very well as that type of object, but it has a life of its own as the kind of object or being that it is (which I value, and which very clearly acts on me and puts its own demands on me, inviting responses and ways of engagement, and opening horizons of vision, that I had not anticipated).

In response to this post by Joe (and subsequent conversation), which was dealing with how we relate to chairs and artefacts (whether they have interiority), I posted the following:

 

The question of the holonic nature or the "interiority" of artefacts and heaps is one that has been addressed quite skillfully (and, in my opinion, compellingly) by Mark Edwards (as my friend, Ed Berge, frequently points out when this topic comes up).  In my remarks here, I will draw on Mark Edwards' view as well as an OOO-related view, in the interest of exploring an alternative integral framing of this issue to the one in the IS quote (where a chair simply has no interiority and is sharply to be distinguished from sentient holons).

From an OOO perspective, all objects are prehensive, even a chair or a coffee mug.  Here, prehension is related to the mediation of information, where information is understood, not as "meaning," but as a difference or an event "which selects a system state."  Differences can be mediated across system or object boundaries to effect changes in the system or select new states of the system: a difference that makes a difference.  Every object or being is involved in some sort of relational exchange with other objects or beings and is constantly undergoing state changes (translating information from the environment into system-specific states).  This does not mean a chair perceives a human being in any anthropomorphic sense, but a chair prehends human contact when we sit on it or drum our fingers on its arms, putting it in a new system state (a state which is not a "direct contact" with us, but a system-specific state mediated by the chair's own unique organization).  Human prehension of the environment is, from the perspective, significantly different in quality and depth, but is not a difference in fundamental kind.  We also translate our interactions with other beings into system-specific information states.

From the OOO perspective, chairs and human beings both also "withdraw" from other beings and objects.  The reality of an object is its irreducibility to other beings' experience or perception of it; it is not ontologically exhausted by any perspective or even sum of perspectives.  This irreducibility is related to its withdrawal: it always exceeds and eludes our full perception or translation, retaining potential for manifestation or expression that is not "fully tapped" by any contact with it. 

In Latour's actor network theory and OOO's strange ontology, all objects are regarded as "actants," not simply passive, inert screens awaiting the projections of sentient beings.  Each thing exerts its own creative difference(s) in the world and impacts the world (effects differences in the world) by its ongoing manifestation and its interactions.  This does not mean that a chair has agency in the sense that Wilber uses the term (having a dominant monad*), but it does challenge the (often secretly anthropocentric) habit of seeing the world of so-called "insentient stuff" as an inert, merely passive background for sentient beings, rather than as being "involved" as generative and influencing players or actants in themselves in the interactive, evolutionary dance of the transformation and ongoing (re)organization of beings.

Thus, while there are clear differences between the behaviors and interior worlds of chairs and human beings, OOO would claim that there are also these very basic commonalities:  both so-called insentient beings and sentient beings are alike in their capacity for prehension, as defined above; in their translative engagement with other beings; in their withdrawal from each other; and in being real "actants" in the world.  In having prehensive capacity and also withdrawn depths, artefacts thus do exhibit a kind of interiority.

As Mark Edwards argues in Through AQAL Eyes, the proposed distinctions by Wilber and Kofman between holons and heaps or artefacts, and also between sentient and insentient beings, are both problematic.  Whether something appears as a sentient holon (with self-organizing capacities, capable of interacting generatively with other aspects of the kosmos, and having transformative or developmental potential, etc) often depends on the sophistication of our understanding and also the time scale we adopt.  You could say that sentient objects exhibit greater intensification of time: their activity and transformative potential is heightened in intensity or 'speed.'  But as Edwards points out, even rocks (we now know) evolve; as Swimme points out, we are what stars become at later stages of their evolution; even dust has an active life in the world (see the book, "The Secret Life of Dust"), participating in generative relationships and self-organizing over great stretches of time into forms we more clearly recognize as "sentient."  Kevin Kelly makes similar arguments about so-called insentient tools or machines: when we adopt a broad enough perspective, we begin to perceive a "field," the technium, which itself is exhibiting creative, self-organizing qualities, which exceed reducibility to human intentions and which actually exert influences back on human subjects.  Edwards thus suggests that a hard-and-fast, metaphysical-dualistic boundary between sentient and insentient realms is incoherent and unnecessary.

So, does a chair have a "soul"?  That might be going too far.  But from an OOO (or related) perspective, chairs and other artefacts become "strange strangers" in a sense, active (influential, difference-inducing, even minimally prehensive) players in the Kosmic drama, with ontological depths and (endo- and exo-)generative potentials that recede past the horizons of our knowing.  I'm tempted to bring Castaneda's notion of inorganic beings in here, maybe in bastardized form (meaning, in a form which extends the term beyond its original meaning).  A sorceror or nagual traffics in a vast, mysterious world of inorganic beings, from which he draws much of his needed energy.  In some of our talk here, we've been describing our post-postmodern age as an age of sorcery.  In relation to that, our recognition of objects (which were previously relegated to merely passive screens for human projection or manipulation) as real, withdrawing (inter-)actants in their own right, worthy of new respect and even perhaps holding significant surprises for us in the role they may play in our own or other beings' unfolding or evolution, might invite us to relate to the previously "flatland" world of insentient heaps and artefacts as powerful, even sometimes ominous "inorganic beings."


* Concerning the question of having a dominant monad, Edward (a member of my forum) recently commented to me that that this idea appears to be at odds with Wilber's postmetaphysical critique of the metaphysics of presence.  A dominant monad, at least as it is often discussed, is supposed to have direct access to and control over its subholons.  From an OOO perspective, which attempts also to take account of the postmetaphysical critique of the metaphysics of presence in its ontology, the idea that any holon has direct access to or complete subsuming control over its subholons is suspect.  The sub-objects which comprise an entity also "withdraw" from full access, meaning there is no super-agent that has full access to or control over other parts, and they can (and do) escape and sometimes confound the directive efforts of the central subject or "monad."  (Think of a person who becomes paralyzed.  Wilber often uses the example of a dog getting up to walk, and all his cells going with him, as an example of the dominant monad.  But the monad isn't an entity which has intrinsic access to and control over subholons.  Rather, it seems that there are contingent internal relationships within an organism which can be interrupted or broken.)

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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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