Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
In his award-winning paper, "Searching for Centaur: Retrieving Integral's Lost Self-Identity," Chris Dierkes makes a compelling case for recovering several key concepts from Wilber's early writings that have fallen in recent years into general disuse -- namely, the centaur (as metaphor for the integral / existential phase of development), vision-image (as a complement to, if not a more fundamental and encompassing process than, vision-logic), and intentionality. While integral consciousness now is often described in terms of "touching all the bases" and the capacity to hold and integrate multiple perspectives, Dierkes points out that Wilber's initial, existentially informed depictions of centauric consciousness were richer and more embodied. Dierkes lists four essential components of centauric being:
1. bodymind integration (aka somatic existentialism and noetic existentialism)
2. spontaneous will, supersensory awareness, vision-image cognition
3. existential concerns of life and death, being and non-beingness, finitude.
4. the proper basis for true spiritual transpersonal ventures
Together, these qualities constitute an integrated, existential-organismic, postformal identity which Wilber has argued serves as an important foundation for, and bridge to, the later, stable emergence of transpersonal stages of development.
I had not noticed the gradual creep away from references to the centaur in integral thinking, possibly because I teach transpersonal psychology and regularly appeal to Wilber's older works, especially to refer to the centaur stage -- and correlate and "unpack" it with further references to Jung, Washburn, heart-centered existential therapy, etc -- but I think Dierkes makes a good point that more recent descriptions of integral consciousness suffer, in some regards, from the shift towards AQAL, perspective-centric modeling, which arguably still presupposes the "basis" of the centauric distinctions, but without making them explicit. For instance, in Integral Psychology, we still find references to the centaur, but mostly on the charts (e.g., as a name for Fulcrum 6), without much further development or explanation.
Similarly, I had not noticed the shift from Wilber's early appeals to "vision-image," which as its name suggests emphasizes imagination or imaginal cognition, to his later reliance on "vision-logic" or "network logic" as synonyms for integral cognition. Besides simply not paying attention well enough :-), I think I may have done this because I've related "vision" itself as an appeal to the imaginal, and I've often described the emergence of "vision-logic" to students as contingent on the resurgence and reclamation of the autosymbolic imagination, now integrating formal operational capacities. But the "imaginal" cannot be limited to "vision," admittedly; and Dierkes is right to emphasize, in my view, that Wilber's earlier descriptions of vision-image involved a richer constellation of capacities and dimensions -- unconscious, feeling, emotional, perceptual, linguistic -- than descriptions of vision- or network-logic typically do.
One of the consequences of such a shift is that the importance of the emergence of integral "being" depending, in significant part, on feeling-work, existential inquiry and will-work, and imagination, as much as on increasing cognitive perspective-taking capacity, tends to be downplayed or overlooked -- even if unintentionally so.
Dierkes discusses this potential loss in detail in his paper, and also provides several interesting case studies from his work with clients to illustrate his understanding of the importance of working with vision-image and intentionality in the emergence of stable centauric (or mermaidic) identity, so I encourage interested readers to check out his paper. Members of this forum will also likely be interested in his unpacking of the possible political, economic, and spiritual consequences for integral thinking of this subtle shift away from the centaur and vision-image (see pp. 51 ff. for this discussion).
There is much more in this paper that is worth discussing, but I do not want this initial review to be too long, or to provide too many spoilers. But we can take up discussion of these things in the thread below, for anyone who is interested and wants to engage with this stimulating paper.
[ITC 2015 Papers can be downloaded here.]
As previously noted, I appreciate how Dierkes lays out Wilber's writing on the Centaur, along the lines of his 5 stages. Having now finally finished reading the paper, I can also say a bit more...
I really appreciated the section on "Examples of the Centaur in Real Time." When reading self-help type books, the examples and case studies provided often feel to me like filler material that doesn't add much to my understanding. I did not have that experience with this paper - each example was engaging and really brought into the concrete the different approaches Chris takes in using these constructs with clients - the noetic existentialist approach, the somatic existentialist, and the "organismic experiencing" of mature fantasy (or is it 'phantasy'? - I had to look it up to determine the difference).
The deeper and wider implications of all this are explored in part III, in practical terms and for the integral community in general. I resonate with pretty much everything that is said here, and there are a few cross-over parallels with my own paper - we both reference Chris's Gebserian piece at Beams & Struts on Do Culture's Develop? and are in agreement about the integral community's general (mis)understanding of Jean Gebser (a number of presenters this year prominently featured Gebser's ideas, which I found quite encouraging). Dierkes here offers a very clear articulation of some the differences between Wilberian and Gebserian thought.
The concluding section on political, economic consequences is equally insightful, where he ties in the over emphasis on vision logic with the integral community's "propensity towards a non-critical relationship to neoliberal economics and the culture of high-end personal growth and spiritual products. The more radical nature of integral is thereby softened, leaving at its best more reformist offerings, and at its worst, total selling out and massive naivete of the injustices of the world in which we live."
He writes, "Where integral is not grounded in centauric consciousness, then the ethical and political core of integral, as articulated in Sex, Ecology, and Consciousness becomes muffled, if not outright muted. Too easily vision-logic cognition becomes unmoored from centauric existential political, social, ecological, and economic concerns."
In light of some of the arguments made in the 3D debate on capitalism, such as the defense of capitalism by way of an example given where a corporation on its own developed a progressive policy on gay rights in the workplace, I especially appreciate this critique from Dierkes, p. 52:
"When simplistic progressive, unilinear depictions of integral enter the public sphere, there’s a strong tendency to interpret the enduring truth of modernism as capitalism and then to treat the enduring value of postmodernism as cultural values like support for gay and lesbian marriage equality, ecological sensitivity, women’s rights, and so on. Integral (or post-postmodernism) then becomes the dialectical synthesis of capitalism with such postmodern values (Dierkes, 2012). Meanwhile whether capitalism itself, particularly in its current neoliberal formation, is itself a healthy expression is never particularly questioned. As a result, huge swaths of time and energy are spent on the failures of the so-called mean green meme (unhealthy postmodernism) and yet very little, if any, time and energy is spent on the mean orange meme (unhealthy modernism), a far more destructive reality. The lower-right aspect of neoliberal capitalism itself and its correlate Lower Left cultural worldview (e.g. libertarian free market philosophy) is not sufficiently critiqued."
One question: I'm not sure I fully understand the difference between what is being referred to as "spontaneous will" as distinct from other types of "will."
Thanks David for pointing to Theresa Silow's paper in this thread, which I just read. Am posting a few reflections here as they seem applicable to the Centaur theme.
Silow first conducts a neat UL-UR correlation of Gebser's structures with the functioning of the nervous system as understood through Polyvagal Theory (PVT), as also a phylogeny-ontogeny correlation:
1. The Archaic structure of 'deep sleep' mode with the Dorsal Vagal Complex effectuating a 'shutdown'
2. The Magic structure of 'minimal distancing from nature to control it' with the arousal of the Sympathetic 'fight and flight' nervous system
3. The Mythic structure of the 'imaginal soul' with the Ventral Vagal Complex that sets the 'social engagement system' into play. She adds 'For the social engagement system to come into action and regulate the organism, the experience of safety is essential. If safety is not sufficiently present, then the fight-flight mechanism comes into action, or if a lack of safety is extremely pronounced or enduring, then the immobility response comes into action.' (p 17)
4. The Mental- Rational structure with Neo-Cortex driven functioning, where voluntary operations begin to supersede the autonomous system. This 4th correlation is proposed by Silow extrapolating from PVT.
Silow then weaves in the principles of Living Systems Theory - Fractals (self-similar replication), Patterns of Organization (autopoiesis), Dissipative Structures and the Embodiment Process into describing the Evolutionary/ Developmental Spiral - a 'continuing spiral moving from embeddedness to differentiation and integration, the sequence of which gets repeated again and again through the developmental process'. Wilber deals with this in great detail in his work.
Relevant points which relate to Chris' paper theme, and the IPS discourse currently are:
a) 'With the increased ability to name things, direct experience of the numinous is diminished' (p 9) because 'reason was put above revelation' (p 11), making rational consciousness 'the least participatory type of consciousness'. (p 12), and 'The rational structure has gone awry, largely due to the introduction and solidification of perspectivity' (p 27) pointing to the subtly suppressive ascendency of the vision-logic over the vision-image.
b) From the Gebserian integral perspective, 'there is no such thing as lower and higher' which Silow posits is a construct 'deeply wedded to a mental/ rational consciousness in its tendency for directionality, which always creates a hierarchical relationship'
c) 'Integration of all structures of consciousness is not to be confused with an “expansion of consciousness,” which would indicate a quantification of consciousness. To the contrary, Gebser (1985) describes it as “intensification of consciousness” that is outside any quantitative or qualitative evaluation', such intensification requiring 'a complete letting go of a dualistic notion of body and soul towards an awareness of both as unified phenomena' wherein 'time is experienced as “intensity” that is not divisive' (p 28). As a result 'such freedom is not simply freedom from previous time forms, but rather freedom for all time forms, so that all earlier forms of time are co-existent' (p 29)
To your point about 'spontaneous will', David, I find Almaas' words coming close to describing it the way I intuit its meaning:
'The inquiry and the revelation can become so connected that, at some point, they are one movement. Inquiry becomes a dynamic revelation, a nondoing with a dynamic engagement.'
Thank you Neelesh!