Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Using the Encyclopedia of Science and Religion, I have culled together a number of entries and passages to begin to flesh out an Integral Methodological Pluralist approach to or perspective on religion and spirituality. (One of the criticisms of Integral Spirituality was that it failed to do just this). The entries below are examples of some of the methodologies appropriate to each Zone. I may fill this out further later, and I welcome additional contributions if you want to add to this.
Zone 1: Phenomenology (Prayer, Meditation, Mysticism)
Zone 1: The perspectives, injunctions, and phenomena associated with the inside view of a holon in the Upper-Left quadrant.
Phenomenology and Consciousness
Phenomenology is an area of philosophy with important implications for consciousness. Phenomenology seeks to ground everything in the actual experience of human beings; in other words it takes a "first person" experiential perspective, rather than "third person" scientific perspective. Important exponents include Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Heidegger considered implications of embodiment, including finitude and temporality, noting that humans are historical beings, bounded in time, space, and ability. Many of these themes also appear in the anti-cognitivist movement. Another such theme, with origins in Heidegger and especially Merleau-Ponty, but developed by Hubert Dreyfus, is the phenomenological critique of representation, which draws on human experience with routine activities to argue that representations are not necessary for embodied action. The work of Merleau-Ponty predates Gibson and Brooks, but is non-empirical, while Dreyfus makes compelling use of work by Walter Freeman connecting brain dynamics with chaos theory.
…There have been proposals to merge phenomenology and science (such as the neurophenomenology of Francisco Varela), and even proposals to reformulate science based on phenomenology. More such proposals can be expected, in part because experience provides phenomena that demand explanation, including the following aspects of consciousness: it is ineffable, open, fluid, non-local, temporally thick, and involves qualia and a sense of self. Can it be mere coincidence that similar properties are often attributed to God? Reports from experienced meditators suggest additional phenomena, such as certain states of consciousness in which there are no thoughts. Moreover, the emphasis on time in phenomenology resonates well with many issues and results in neuroscience.
Prayer and Meditation
Prayer is the practice of communion with God and traditionally involves components such as confession, thanksgiving, and intercession (praying for the needs of others). Meditation is a form of spiritual practice based on focused attention that is restrained in its use of words or images. Whereas prayer is conceptualized in terms of a relationship with God, meditation does not necessarily make theistic assumptions. Prayer and meditation raise several issues for the science-religion discussion, including the effects of intercessory prayer for those prayed for and the more general benefits of prayer and meditation for those who practice them. There are both outcome questions about the extent of the benefits, and process questions about how benefits are mediated.
...Meditation has been widely studied scientifically, especially transcendental meditation. There is clear evidence that transcendental meditation produces a distinctive arousal pattern of relaxed alertness, and there is evidence also of its therapeutic value, not only on subjective measures such as anxiety, but on more objective measures such as use of drugs and alcohol. However, none of that may have much to do with religion; it may be that transcendental meditation is little more than a technique for deep relaxation.
The cognitive aspects of meditation are more interesting from a theological point of view. A pointer to the distinctive mode of cognition induced by meditation comes from the classic laboratory studies of Arthur Deikman during the 1960s in which college students gazed at a blue vase while refraining from thinking discursively about the vase in any way. The unusual sensations of vividness experienced were interpreted as arising from a suspension of the normal "automatization" of perception.
Though some meditation moves beyond words and images, much of it still uses them, albeit in an unusual way. Words and images are characteristically used sparingly, but each is allowed to resonate with maximum depth of meaning.
Layers of meaning may be uncovered that are felt to be "ineffable." That sense of ineffability may arise from making use of a meaning system of the cognitive architecture that is distinct from, and to an unusual extent decoupled from, propositions that lend themselves to articulation.
Permeating each of the world's major religious traditions, mysticism may be described as the level of deep, experiential encounter with the divine, or ultimate, however that may be understood, that links religious and spiritual pursuits across cultures and across the centuries. Mysticism differs from more defined forms of religious experience, inasmuch as it frequently transports the individual beyond the confines of the religious tradition itself to a realm often described as lacking in any sense of differentiation, whether it be between aspirant and God, or between self and non-self.
The task of defining mysticism bears reevaluation, however. As Frits Staal has written, "If mysticism is to be studied seriously, it should not merely be studied indirectly and from without, but also directly and from within.
Mysticism can at least in part be regarded as something affecting the human mind, and it is therefore quite unreasonable to expect that it could be fruitfully explored by confining oneself to literature about or contributed by mystics, or to the behavior and physiological characteristics of mystics and their bodies." (p. 123). That being said, according to a loose, phenomenological typology, one may consider mysticism to be that genre of subjectivity and behavior manifesting in an "altered," or nonconventional
mode, framed in a religious or spiritual narrative, and experienced by those who are referred to, at least in English, as "mystics."
Defined in contradistinction to so-called ordinary or mundane experience, mystical experience conjures images of ecstatic rapture, overwhelming emotion, or profound quietude. An apparently universal aspect of human experience cross-culturally and interreligiously, subjective experiences of a mystical persuasion likely reflect universal but nonetheless unusual predispositions and propensities of the human mind. Continuing advances in cognitive science in general, and in the neurosciences in particular, promise to illuminate aspects of mystical experience previously hidden behind the mask of the phenomenological. At the same time, a historically more refined form of comparative phenomenology promises to coordinate the enormous variety of descriptions of mystical experiences. Research from both the sciences and the humanities will contribute to the development of a comprehensive, compelling interpretation of these experiences.
Zone 7: Social Autopoiesis
Zone 7: The perspectives, injunctions, and phenomena associated with the inside view of a holon in the Lower-Right quadrant.
The German sociologist Niklas Luhmann (1927–1998) introduced the concept into the social sciences in order to characterize the self-referential operative closure of social systems and psychic systems. Social systems consist of communication, and psychic systems of thoughts.
(See thesis): Religion as social autopoietic system of communication of faith.
(Details to be provided soon)