I just came across an essay on religious pluralism which appears to touch on some of the themes we've explored here in the past (I've read the abstract and conclusion so far, and will dig in to the rest tomorrow.)

The Postmetaphysics of Religious Difference

For those interested, here's the abstract:

This article contests the dominant paradigm in the theology of
religions which promotes a type of pluralism purporting to recognise a
limited form of “otherness” and “difference” but which emerges upon
analysis to obviate these by incorporating religions into a single theological
or philosophical schema, reducing their concrete plurality and
particularity to an abstract unity based on ontotheological
presuppositions. It therefore proposes a perspective that draws upon
contemporary postmetaphysical thought, particularly the work of
Rosenzweig and Levinas. It suggests that the appropriate posture in the
face of religious difference is one that valorises otherness and nurtures
and sustains religious difference.

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My initial statement about Spielrein did put it in either/or terms because that was how it was presented in the movie between Jung and Freud. Spielrein was a go-between to the men personally as well as between their ideas. She seemed to side with Freud on the more social-scientific interpretation, finding Jung's mystical unions counterproductive. I used the occasion to make the point that I too find metaphysical interpretations of such union a regressive step back, as does Kennilingam when he accuses Jung of elevating prototypes to archetypes.*

Not only that, but such mystical interpretations tend to an imbalance toward the individual pole, or rather consciousness or experience being limited to the kennilingual individual UL. Whereas the more polydox approaches, at least in this thread, tend toward more balance between the individual and the social. That's why I brought in Edwards, for his AQAL holonic expansion provides more precise tools for understanding these dynamics. He hightlights how kennilinus AQAL promotes the exact kind of metaphysical dualities that the polydox surpass by showing that any holon, individual or social, also has an UL (and all) quadrants. Just using his figure of the 1st person perspective of an individual holon more fully shows the kind of individual/social dynamic involved in individual consciousness that is inherent to the polydox approaches and lacking in the more traditional 'mystical' approaches.**

Grated we can, as you say, interpret mystical experiences in much more postmetaphysical terms; it doesn't have to be limited to union with a super assholon like God, the universe and everything. But that is exactly what this thread starting out criticizing, this ontotheological (i.e., metaphysical) approach to religion and religious pluralism. And Jung, while having some postmeta ideas, did seem to frame them within traditional and metaphysical mystical interpretations.

So it's not so much that individual mysticism interpreted more broadly is opposed to a social interpretation of such experience. Rather the polydox interpretation seems a much more developed interpretation that allows for broader interpretations of said mystical experience, not limiting it to an UL quadrant of an individual, to put it in kennilingus.

* That I might agree with this in a certain way discussed elsewhere is a distinction for another time.

** Yes, these approaches include the social, as in social service to aid others toward their own enlightenment. But that's the point; enlightenment is through an individual's consciousness and doesn't see the connections of the 'exterior' (like body and cultural body) in forming that individual consciousness.

Also see this post and the one following on Arnsperger from the progressive economics thread. He applies the principles above to economics, noting the metaphysically individual monadology inherent to the neoclassical model. He calls for a more individual/social balance and brings in Levinas to support it, one of the authors referenced in this thread. Check out his use of Levinas in his referenced article and you'll see many of the same criticisms upstream. For example:

"Enjoyment is the sign of human nature's fundamental embodiment, its physical engagement with `exteriority' as opposed to the transcendental subject constructed by various idealistic methods.... Levinas suggests a rather different scheme, which consists in showing that individual subjectivity is in fact constituted by, rather than able to represent to itself, the exterior and hence prior otherness of world and other individuals" (143 - 45).

However the individual is not replaced by the other. Arnsperger continues:

"Of course, all `access' to this exteriority requires an ego, but this ego itself is unable to know itself as an ego by pure reflection, that is, outside of a relation of response to otherness....the basic explanatory entity is still the individual ego (which decides, calculates, and so on), but only to the extent that this ego is viewed as constitutively altruistic.... Viewing the ego as responsibility means....the ego and all its intentional acts can only be described as a response to otherness" (146).

Theurj:  My initial statement about Spielrein did put it in either/or terms because that was how it was presented in the movie between Jung and Freud. Spielrein was a go-between to the men personally as well as between their ideas. She seemed to side with Freud on the more social-scientific interpretation, finding Jung's mystical unions counterproductive. I used the occasion to make the point that I too find metaphysical interpretations of such union a regressive step back, as does Kennilingam when he accuses Jung of elevating prototypes to archetypes.


I think our discussion of this might be suffering a bit from lack of precision or specificity.  For instance, when I hear the phrase "metaphysical interpretations of such union," I immediately want to ask, "Which union"?   I think there a many types of unitive or "mystical" experiences, some of which are amenable to a primarily social interpretation, but others of which might not be.  I have not seen the movie you're referencing, so I don't know the context of Spielrein's comments, but I fear she is being overly reductive if she wants to interpret all mystical experience as really an experience of self-surrender to a broader social identity or set of ideals.


I definitely agree that Edwards' AQAL and the Levinasian/polydox understandings of the 'self' are more sophisticated and nuanced than typical traditional/idealist views, for instance.  And I think we can fruitfully bring such understandings to a reinterpretation of some traditional claims about enlightenment (where applicable).  But some mystical experiences seem, to me, to involve psychological and phenomenological changes, for instance, which, while very likely culturally influenced, are not best understood in Spielrein's primarily sociological terms (i.e., as "putting self aside in order to identify with a broader social identity").  As I wrote, I believe to Julian, back on the old Gaia forum -- if I can find the post, I'll reference it later -- I see meditative training leading likely to certain neuroplastic changes in the brain and to qualitative shifts in the mode(s) of cognition and experience (increasing "silence" or stillness; lessening or weakening of the compulsive activity of thinking; shifts in energetic experience and control; shifts in the quality of awareness; heightened mindfulness of at least some dimensions of thought, in terms of both process and content; decreased reactivity; transformed operation of the senses, as Levin describes in some detail; new modes of self-world experience and construction, etc), that just are not well-represented by a primarily sociological interpretation.


Theurj:  Yes, these approaches include the social, as in social service to aid others toward their own enlightenment. But that's the point; enlightenment is through an individual's consciousness and doesn't see the connections of the 'exterior' (like body and cultural body) in forming that individual consciousness.


To Wilber's credit, he is pretty clear that he also regards traditional enlightenment as limited or "incomplete" because it does not recognize the cultural body, for instance, in the formation of individual consciousness.  I think he'd also accept the Lakoffian/embodied element of consciousness and the cognitive unconscious (in that he accepts Varela's enactive approach, which is also "embodied"), though he clearly doesn't emphasize or develop this to the extent that you do or that we have discussed here.  However, as we have also discussed, even though he does argue for inclusion of these cultural and embodied dynamics, this does not seem to stop him from ultimately positing something rather like the (neo-)perennialist ontotheology critiqued in the article we've been discussing (and that I also critiqued in my paper).  In my talk with him, he actually sounded like he agreed with me and the postmetaphysical view I was articulating -- he never expressed disagreement with anything I said, and in fact gave emphatic "yeses" throughout his reading of the paper -- but, elsewhere, the view he expresses sounds relatively close to Hicks' (in a number of the relevant details).

Theurj:  Granted we can, as you say, interpret mystical experiences in much more postmetaphysical terms; it doesn't have to be limited to union with a super assholon like God, the universe and everything.


I might differ with you somewhat on this, but I don't think experiences of identification with the cosmos -- feelings of deep intimacy or participatory connection with the universe and its inhabitants, for instance -- are necessarily problematic or regressive. I think they can still be quite nourishing and transformative, even in a postmetaphysical context.  They can be enriched by something like Edwards' or Levinas' view (note Grandy's Levinasian reading of "light," for instance; or Levins' Heideggerian/Levinasian evocation of deep (participatory) affinity with the non-human world).

I agree that Spielrein might be reductive if indeed she's doing as you say, which was my impression from the movie and one of Jung's criticisms of Freud. As to meditative training I again agree with the all the individual benefits you enumerate. And I'd agree that this would not be well framed in a primarily sociological interpretation, depending on whose. But such training itself is sociological in that a 'tradition' teaches the methods, tells the practitioner what to look for and then judges whether they are making 'progress' according to that tradition. So even with individual meditative consciousness there is an 'outside' influence shaping the individual experience. Grated there is a there there, meaning an individual awareness that is in-born. But from the moment of birth* that inherent awareness is itself shaped by the 'outside.' So basically my entire point is about this inside-outside, individual-group 'nondual' relation.

* Actually perhaps from the moment of conception, since said individual's body and awareness is fed by an 'outside' source, the mother.

As to you last post, again I'd agree, for that is how I interpret any sort of mystical union experience I have, and I do have them. It's just the ontotheological/metaphysical interpretations that gets my goat. Baaahhh!

To Wilber's credit, he is pretty clear that he also regards traditional enlightenment as limited or "incomplete" because it does not recognize the cultural body, for instance, in the formation of individual consciousness.

Indeed, one of my fav quotes from IS, Chapter 8, monological imperialism:

"So consciousness itself is deficient—whether personal or transpersonal, whether pure or not pure, essential or relative, high or low, big mind or small mind, vipassana, bare attention, centering prayer, contemplative awareness—none of them can see these other truths, and that is why Habermas and the postmodernists extensively criticize 'the philosophy of consciousness.'”

I'm reminded of Bryant's objects here. They have their own distinct, singular agency yet they enter into relations. One of our criticisms of his objects is that they are capable of removing themselves from all (exo)relations. It seems to me that the type of rugged individualistic focus of ontotheological religions, as well as neoclassical economics, partakes of a similar disconnect. Perhaps it's an enaction of our deep-seated and unconscious lifeworld background?

Recall I said it depends on whose sociological approach. Integral Options alerted me to this article on social neuroscience.

That's a good point -- yes, something like that may be at work.  I want to return to my beginning formulation of an Edwardsian/AQAL/OOO amalgam; I will do that on the OOO thread.

theurj said:

I'm reminded of Bryant's objects here. They have their own distinct, singular agency yet they enter into relations. One of our criticisms of his objects is that they are capable of removing themselves from all (exo)relations. It seems to me that the type of rugged individualistic focus of ontotheological religions, as well as neoclassical economics, partakes of a similar disconnect. Perhaps it's an enaction of our deep-seated and unconscious lifeworld background?

Theurj:  But such training itself is sociological in that a 'tradition' teaches the methods, tells the practitioner what to look for and then judges whether they are making 'progress' according to that tradition.

Yes, definitely, I agree; there is a sociological dimension to such training, and we can analyze it from a sociological point of view.  But this does not mean such analysis would "exhaust" the "essence" of such experiences or practices and their "fruits" (such as those that I've listed above).  I think this is an old point that Wilber has long made: holons, being tetra-enacted (or, better, indefinitely/multiply enacted), cannot be exhaustively described by any particular discipline or modality -- a point which I think is generally commensurate with some of Bryant's notions about objects, or Latour's principle of irreduction.

Somehow, I got onto the mailing list of Rajiv Malhotra, a Huffington Post blogger who also writes on interfaith dialogue.  The other day, I received an email pointing me to some of his writings on religious difference, including this recent HP post.  Note that at the end, he grounds his "trust" of difference in his faith in the One, which seems like a perennialist move.  I also noted a link at the bottom of his article to a relevant post by another author I've mentioned here before: Samir Selmanovic. 

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