Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
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
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.
Okay, I thought so! I had a kind of shift in my mind this morning, in terms of how I see our interactions here: I sometimes get disoriented, since there are only a few of us talking here and one would expect that in a discussion forum we'd be talking to each other, but at times it really is more like we're all working on a collaborative project, (freely) self-publishing in parallel, with this forum as the "book" or "product."
Just happened to be reading this on Murti from Kalupahana. (See P 80 but the criticism starts a few pages before.)
I had a phone conversation back on Gaia with Annie. We hit upon Genpo and Ken (she was kinda in the inner sanctum :). She said Ken would have surely read the Pali Nikayas. I told her if he did, it seemed he did not read them very closely, etc. as Ken has a footnote in SES maintaining the same position that Kalupahana is criticizing. Sabbe dhamma anatta is a pretty famous utterance in Theravada circles.
Hope everyone is doing well!!
"with this forum as the book or product."
If we accept Bryant's reading of Luhmann, the forum is a suobject with its own suobstance. So at times I am responding to it.*
Thanks for the link e. If you would, please tell us in your own words what position Murti is defending and with which Kennilingam agrees?
* Given the foregoing, and since the forum has a name, IPS, perhaps we might say it has ipseity. Perhaps I might affectionately call it IPSie.