Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
In the Sam Harris on Spiritual Experience thread, Mary offered a critique which I think is worth exploring, so I'm setting up a separate thread for that.
Here is what Mary said:
In that article that Bruce linked to Lears writes: "As their critics began to realize, positivists had abandoned the provisionality of science’s experimental outlook by transforming science from a method into a metaphysic, a source of absolute certainty."
I was thinking earlier today, while going over a few posts here, that sometimes I see echoes of this kind of thing in discussions on this forum. In certain ways, postmetaphysics is held up as a kind of gold standard against which to measure or judge other ways of thinking and being. I mean, of course, it's a forum on postmetaphysics, duh -- but what I'd noticed were phrases suggestive of a .... postmetaphysical "puritanism" (or asceticism) -- a seeming yearning to cleanse or purge one's thinking of ideas and attitudes with any scent of the metaphysical on it. Here are a few snippets from this thread:
"...such experience must be translated into postmetaphysical terms shorn of religious dogma to be of pertinent use in today's world."
"While he's cleaning up the more obvious metaphysicalities from religion he might still be caught in some of the "higher-level" (to be intentionally ironic) or deeper traps himself."
"the transformative power of 'meditation' stripped of 'traditional' baggage."
I'm somewhat taken aback when I re-read that first phrase there (by Edward). Must all translations of meditative experience really be shorn of religious dogma to be of use in today's world? Are you saying that what's true for you must become true for everyone?
The last quote (about meditation stripped of traditional baggage) is something I wrote. In it, I was not forwarding my own views, but trying to summarize what I see as the similar aims of Harris and Krishnamurti. But with that said, Mary's critique still struck a chord with me, because I believe it is something others have picked up on here as well, at least from time to time, and I've actually had a similar response to my own "voice" here on several occasions -- picking up on a certain nascent asceticism to the tone of some of my posts, or a sort of concern with establishing and maintaining (postmetaphysical) doctrinal purity. When I've sensed something like this, the experience has been like being surprised and disconcerted by one's own shadow. Enforcing some kind of postmetaphysical puritanism is not my conscious intent, and does not represent my aspirations, either for this forum or for "all religious people," but I've found that in trying to explore and clearly articulate just what is involved in a postmetaphysical approach to spirituality -- if such an animal is even possible, as we've discussed -- the discussion has often circulated around questions of what is acceptable, or what will fly, in a "postmetaphysical space," and what will not. And I think that can lead -- and sometimes has lead -- to a boundary-enforcing sort of concern that may smack of dogmatism.
When approached about this before, my response has been that the main exercise here on IPS, as I understand it and attempt to pursue it, is not to craft some sort of doctrine to be imposed on other groups, but to explore and articulate a "meaning space" for interested individuals who are looking for a form of spirituality resonant with their own (postmodern/postmetaphysical/integral) sensibilities. And this is still how I see what we're doing here. But I can understand how / why the impression is sometimes given that a dogmatic movement is afoot, and for myself, I want to remain vigilant of that as a "shadow" to what we are attempting here.
Two other notes:
One, Steve McIntosh, in his discussion of "Integral Spirituality," discusses the need for integral religionists to be willing, in theory and practice, to criticize (on moral, philosophical, and other grounds) various traditional (or other) religious stances and practices, and to be willing (in their own practice within their respective traditions) to "prune away" those elements which no longer serve an integral orientation, so I do think this exercise involves -- for those interested in pursuing it -- both the adoption of an interreligious and an intrareligious critical stance.
Two, with regard to "metaphysics," the view I've come to is that a post-metaphysical view does not reject metaphysics altogether, but reframes it and holds it in a different way. As I put it in my "Kingdom Come" piece:
The Integral approach advocated here proceeds on both meta-metaphysical (post-metaphysical) and metaphysical levels simultaneously. Meta-metaphysically, the Integral approach embraces metaphysical pluralism, viewing metaphysical systems as enactive operators which play a role in the enactment of particular, ontologically rich worldspaces. In this context, post-metaphysics, as Joel David Morrison (2007) well describes it, "is not ultimately a feature of the metaphysical system itself, but a cognitive or conceptual aperspectival stance which imposes an acategorical imperative — a meta-metaphysical and metacategorical framework — in which the absolute truth claims of any metaphysics are suspended in the relative world of justification, partly through the rational truth that all truth claims may be subject, endlessly, to further analysis" (p. 50). Specifically, as discussed above, an Integral post-metaphysical approach will insist that metaphysical systems and ontologies be framed injunctively, and subject to Kosmic addressing.
What I am saying is that is we, meaning those interested in a postmetaphysical worldview, need to explore together what postmetaphysical means... That does not mean that everyone should adopt postmetaphysics, or that their own religious beliefs should reflect postmetaphysics. I'm with [those who :-) ] say there should be a place for everyone to be where they choose. And yet I, and apparently others, have need to push the boundaries and go into something new with the hopes that it will have practical and efficacious implications for making a better world.
This dichotomy would appear to be one of the principle issues here, posed dialectically as it should be.
On the one hand there is the (pomo? anarchic?) concern that people be free to "practice" as they please. And yet there may be certain beliefs and "practices" that could be antithetical to the free society in which we live, and these should be subject to discussion and critique.
I'm picking up on another related issue in what theurg states, though it is not explicitly stated by him and he may not wish to phrase it the way I will. And that is the tension between, on the one hand, allowing people to practice and believe as they wish, and, on the other hand, the free critique of religious and metaphysical conceptions.
This tension parallels that between a "hermeneutics of suspicion," on the one hand, and what I call the "hermeneutics of sympathy," on the other. The second approach has traditionally been linked to purportedly "neutral" phenomenological accounts of religion, but it is also linked to "tolerant," if not fully fledged positive, attitudes to religion.
While there is no doubt some value to "tolerance" toward other cultures, and religions in general, personally, over the years, I have, run up against what I feel are the limitations of this attitude. As a result, I have come to abandon the once held belief that I should be simply "tolerant" toward all religions. This is specifically the case where certain conservative and fundamentalist manifestations of religion in the world are concerned, but it is also the case where I sense that there may be some sleight of hand at work (as in the case of certain questionable "healers" and the conceptions surrounding them), or where I feel some particular conception calls for critique due to what I feel is some form of incoherence.
I also think that there can be found, among some, a certain generally held "politically correct" attitude toward religions. I sense that this attitude may be an extension of the idea that we should be "open minded" and respectful toward other cultures. While I think the latter is generally a good principle to adhere to, I have reservations about its full and unreflective extension toward all religions, or religion in general. For I think that there is also the matter that intellectuals should be free to criticize religious concepts, in a manner akin to being able to criticize political theories or philosophical concepts, that needs to be factored into the equation. The problem of course is that people tend to be even more sensitive about their religious beliefs than they are about their political and philosophical ones, and for this reason, so goes the thinking, we are supposed to "tiptoe" around them so as to not "offend" anyone. The idea, for example, that "religion" and "science" are two "complementary but different spheres" of human existence strikes me -- at least as it is used in certain defences of religion over against the "new atheists" -- as an example of tiptoeing around the issue so as to not step on anyone's toes. I sometimes find the application of this idea rather disingenuous, if not paternalistic and patronizing, and I have come to admire, to a limited degree anyway, those who have had the stones to speak up and voice their concerns about various religious conceptions, even though the ones that are doing so sometimes reveal their own limited understanding of that which they criticize. If anything though, i think that such criticism is a step in the right direction, even if it is not always positive, in that it at least gets the conversation going in a way that is not simply superficial or disingenuous.
kela: On the one hand there is the (pomo? anarchic?) concern that people be free to "practice" as they please. And yet there may be certain beliefs and "practices" that could be antithetical to the free society in which we live, and these should be subject to discussion and critique.
Furthermore I do think that those beliefs antithetical to a free and just society should be limited when it comes to behavior. E.g., if a religion thinks it's ok for a husband to beat his wife, justified by their religious texts, well too bad; in our society's law they cannot beat their wife without a) a trial and b) if convicted then c) punishment. In this sense I support imposing my society's "beliefs" on everyone else. I'm in agreement with Kennilingus Prime* in this old statement (4/19/03) from "The War in Iraq":
Laws are enacted from the highest average expectable level of development in the governance system.
A second-tier, integral, World Federation—in my Utopian view—would therefore prevent any first-tier memes from dominating, attacking, or exploiting any other populations. If necessary, a World Federation would do so by using force, just as all democracies today have an internal police force to curtail murder, rape, robbery, extortion, and so on. Somebody whose center of gravity is green will not commit murder, rape, or robbery. However, somebody whose center of gravity is red will do any or all of those, sometimes happily. And because everybody is born at square one, and must progress through purple, red, blue, and so on, some sort of police will always be necessary to protect others from those who do not evolve to a worldcentric level of care and compassion.
This police force is NOT allowed to tell people what level of consciousness they should be at; it is NOT allowed to govern what individuals do in the privacy of their own homes or dwellings; it is NOT allowed to coerce or intimidate people who are not at the average level of social development. It is, however, allowed to prevent (or punish) those whose public behavior stems from a less-than-worldcentric stance.
There are simply some beliefs that are better than others in the progression from pre- to modern to pomo and beyond. And yes, there should be laws imposed on the rest of society from those higher standards. (Much like the higher standards of war we're discussing in the bin Laden thread.)
* From now on when I refer to Wilber the person I will capitalize the term "Kennilingus" to denote it as a proper noun. Uncapitalized it will mean anyone who speaks AQALese.
Thanks much for this, Bruce [and Mary, too]. I confess to feeling similar to Mary's experience with many posts here. At times there seems to be a demand for purity of thought in eliminating all metaphysical language to the point of disdain for the poetical expressions of deep feelings of reverence and gratitude.
Of course there are many other places for those expressions, but the reaction here at times seems a bit allergic in tone.
Hey, you all got me laughing now ;-). Points made and conceded!
I am perhaps just suggesting a little more ontological/epistemological humility dealing with the fuzzy, fractal edge of post-metaphysics.
Absolute knowing in either physics or metaphysics seems counter productive . . . we're not done learning yet.
Yeah, I hear you. I definitely don't have "disdain for the poetical expressions of deep feelings of reverence and gratitude," and I don't expect many others here do either, but I can see why some of the posts here would give you that impression. From my side, when I have expressed criticism of various religious expressions or views, it has not been out of disdain for poetry, reverence, or gratitude, all of which I value, but generally for the appearance of what seems to me to be the lack of epistemological and ontological humility you reference -- taking 'poetry' positivistically as 'fact,' dealing in absolutisms of one sort or another, etc.
But, still, I've felt a sort of imbalance, on my side, particularly in my emphasis on a certain mode of speaking, questioning, thinking, which is one reason why I've recently been starting threads on what I see as the importance of story, "big stories," etc.
Balder: Given the way we've questioned every part of the title of the forum, maybe it should be "integral postmetaphysical spirituality.
Indeed. However the questioning doesn't negate the endeavor. Remember the following from the After Finitude thread, quoting Caputo. To the contrary negating the negation is a positive affirmation of what I call integral postmetaphysical sp;irituality in a good way. And it is rhetorical poetry to at least my ears. (My underlining below):
Žižek provocatively suggests an odd kind of 'positive' unbelief in an undead God, like the 'undead' in the novels of Stephen King, a 'spectral' belief that is never simple disbelief along with a God who is never simply dead (101). God is dead but we continue to (un)believe in the ghost of god, in a living dead god. If atheism ("I don't believe in God") is the negation of belief ("I believe in God"), what is the negation of that negation? It is not a higher living spirit of faith that reconciles belief and unbelief but a negation deeper than a simple naturalistic and reactionary atheism (like Hitchins and Dawkins). Belief is not aufgehoben but rather not quite killed off, even though it is dead. It is muted, erased but surviving under erasure, like seeing Marley's ghost even though Scrooge knows he is dead these twenty years; like a crossed out letter we can still read, oddly living on in a kind of spectral condition. Things are neither black nor white but shifting, spectral, incomplete. We have bid farewell to God, adieu to the good old God (à Dieu), farewell to the Big Other, Who Makes Everything Turn Out Right, Who Writes Straight with Crooked Lines, who maketh me to lie down in green pastures. Still, that negation of negation does not spell the simple death of belief but its positive mode in which belief, while dead, lives on (sur/vivre). This unbelief would be the 'pure form' of belief, and if belief is the substance of the things that appear not, Žižek proposes a belief deprived of substance as well as of appearance. Žižek mocks Derrida mercilessly, but when spaceship Žižek finally lands, when this buzzing flutterbug named Žižek finally alights, one has to ask, exactly how far has he landed from Derrida's 'spectral messianic.'
If this is postmetaphysical puritanism then I pray to God/dess to grace me with more.
Thanks for all these responses, folks -- and to Bruce for turning this into its own post topic (since, for some reason, I'm very shy about starting my own threads here & in most other forums).
Bruce, thank you for admitting to the possibility of a postmetaphysical shadow (I had considered calling it that). While I don't think that it's a conscious intention on the part of anyone here to turn postmetaphysical approaches into dogma, sometimes I sense a general undertone of "get thee behind me, metaphysicality!" (And there is some ironic humor there, imo). Thanks also for your patience with folks like me -- (peeps who have to keep re-looking up the word "ontological," lol) i.e., taking the time to yet again explain the purpose of a space like this and to re-clarify that "a post-metaphysical view does not reject metaphysics altogether, but reframes it and holds it in a different way."
And -- to wax personal -- I may simply be experiencing a (recurring) hypersensitivity to "puritanism" right now. I'm a "cradle Catholic" who was, for 20 or so years, agnostic (or actually, simply indifferent to religions and very limited in my thinking about spirituality), then pagan, before marrying an agnostic (son of an atheist father and Protestant mother) who had been originally baptized in an Orthodox church. Five years later, I returned to the C. church, although as somewhat of a "dissenter from within," and as one drawn to mystical approaches, cosmic awe, social justice, ecumenism, and interreligious dialogue. Currently I have a few friends who consider themselves within the Christian fold and who yearn for a community of like-minded practitioners, but -- having not found the "perfect church" where everyone is in agreement and where things proceed just how they think they should -- remain adrift and (unhappily) disconnected. No church is "good enough" for them, free enough from scandal, unburdened enough from historical atrocities, progressive enough, contemplative enough, musical enough, socially just enough, etc etc enough. Nothing wrong with high standards, of course, but it seems to me that they are seeking an unattainable "purity." Life and love and practice are messy! And full of dissonances and contradictions and paradoxes! There are no stainless halls. (Moreover, Jesus was not in to purity codes). I'm reminded of a question John Allen Jr. (reporter for an independent Catholic newspaper) asked at a conference recently: "Do you want to live in a private church of your dreams that is in absolute alignment with how you feel things should be, or do you want to participate in a communion of people who hold a variety of opinions, who bring different gifts to the table, and who are striving to build something despite the struggle and difficulty involved?" (That's a paraphrase).
Sheesh, it's late and I'm getting sleepy. I want to say more, but for now I just want to offer a general "uh-huh" response to other posts above: I agree that not all aspects of religion or religious practices should be tolerated. I agree that some beliefs are better than others. And I also agree that intellectuals, and even ordinary folks like me, "should be free to criticize religious concepts." (In fact, even some religious practitioners -- Merton, Gandhi, Bishop John Spong, Cynthia Bourgeault -- have done such things!) I value the "interreligious and intrareligious critical stance."
Lastly, Edward, I'm not really grokking that rhetorical poetry you quoted above, and Bruce, that link you just posted had me literally reading sideways, but it brought to mind this Wikipedia piece on "ignosticism".
Cheers and nite-nite for now.
Perhaps I should again clarify what I mean by the terms "metaphysical" and "postmetaphysical." I don't think that postmetaphysics means the elimination of metaphysics concerning ontological statements, for of course postmeta partakes in that. As Balder said, "a post-metaphysical view does not reject metaphysics altogether, but reframes it and holds it in a different way." Or put another way, remember this from the “Sunday Sermon” thread:
"Post-modernism is often understood simply to be a reversal of the many over the one. And although that may be the case with many post-modern thinkers this is simply modernity in another guise. Both Luce Irigaray and Raimon Panikkar have observed that the hegemony of the one can also take the guise of a multiplicity of private or relative truths. For Irigaray especially, breaking the hegemony of the one does not entail an abandonment of the idea of the universal but rather a recovery of a concept of the universal freed from its metaphysical pretensions.”
So then what does "metaphysics" otherwise mean if not an ontological commitment? What exactly is the criticism? I appreciate how L&J frame this in Philosophy in the Flesh, as quoted in the “witness consciousness” thread:
"Perhaps the oldest of philosophical problems is the problem of what is real and how we can know it, if we can know it…. Aristotle concluded that we could know because our minds could directly grasp the essences of things in the world. This was ultimate metaphysical realism. There was no split between ontology (what there is) and epistemology (what you could know), because the mind was in direct touch with the world.
"With Descartes, philosophy opened a gap between the mind and the world…. Ideas…became internal “representations” of external reality…but somehow “corresponding” to it. This split metaphysics from epistemology.
"…embodied realism…is closer to…direct realism…than…representational realism. [It] is, rather, a realism grounded in our capacity to function successfully in our physical environments. It is therefore an evolutionary realism. Evolution has provided us with adapted bodies and brains that allow us to accommodate to, and even transform, our surroundings.
"It gives up on being able to know things-in-themselves, but, through embodiment, explains how we can have knowledge that, although it is not absolute, is nonetheless sufficient to allow us to function and flourish.
"The direct realism of the Greeks can thus be characterized as having three aspects:
1. The Realist Aspect: The assumption that the material world exists and an account of how we can function successfully within it;
2. The Directness Aspect: The lack of any mind-body gap;
3. The Absoluteness Aspect: The view of the world as a unique, absolutely objective structure of which we can have absolutely correct, objective knowledge.
"Symbol-system realism of the sort found in analytic philosophy accepts 3, denies 2 and claims that 1 follows from 3, given a scientifically unexplicated notion of 'correspondence.'
"Embodied realism accepts 1 and 2 but denies that we have any access to 3.
"All three of these views are “realist” by virtue of their acceptance of 1. Embodied realism is close to direct realism…in its denial of a mind-body gap. It differs from direct and symbol-system realism in its epistemology, since it denies that we can have objective and absolute knowledge of the world-in-itself.
"…it may appear to some to be a form of relativism. However, while it does treat knowledge as relative—relative to the nature of our bodies, brains and interactions with the environment—it is not a form of extreme relativism, because it has an account of how real, stable knowledge, both is science and in the everyday world, is possible" (94-6).
There is a core set of “beliefs” (enactions) in postmetaphysics in whatever domain, from philosophy to religion to science, etc. Recall this, also from the Sunday Sermon thread:
“Not only do these two domains [science and religion] bump up against each other, there are certain ideas or memes that permeate through all of the different methodological boundaries, certain big stories that make coherent sense of them all. For example the article by Sellars kela referenced in the Big Stories thread notes that while there certainly is NOMA for specific diciplines nevertheless philosophy's job is to 'understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.' That it, how we might create broad, orienting generalizations and/or narratives about how the big picture coheres.
“For example, one such generalizing meme that cut across all disciplines was what is often referred to as postmodernism. The idea that there is no fixed center, no absolute, pre-given reality, runs through science to literature to religion, i.e. postmetaphysics. Postmetaphysics is not limited to any specific genre but is one of those overall cohering big pictures necessary to generate meaning. Contrary to popular kennlingist belief, pomo is not about total fragmentation and blind relativism, for it too has its own big picture story about how big pictures operate, albeit one that is non-metaphysical. So while there is no doubt some pomo relativists caught in a performative contradiction that there is no big story while advancing one, the better pomosexuals like Derrida and Caputo espouse no such nonsense.”
And yet there is still a plurality to this core, with diversity in expression and still quite a bit of disagreement as to which aspects are more or less “legitimate,” which are better, which are more clear, coherent, consistent etc. And to me that is what this forum is for, for exploring exactly that. So yes, I will make validity claims, I will challenge other conceptions of postmetaphysics (and often my own), and I will most certainly rail against those views that still adhere to “metaphysics” in the bad sense, for I see those views as having dire political ramifications for society and we need to move forward.