Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
The above is an article by the Lanes at Integral World. The topic isn't new to the forum but the article is new and perhaps it can start anew some of the same type discussions we've had in the past around the topic. A few excerpts:
"The projective arc is such a normal process that it oftentimes skims under our critical antenna even as we pride ourselves for not being blind to such happenings. Right after my first glossolalia moment I was handed the Bible by my religion teacher at Notre Dame high school, Brother August, and informed to read certain passages in the New Testament which directly related to what I had just undergone.
"So I eagerly took up the suggestion and discovered that what happened to me appeared to dovetail (even if only partially) to what had occurred to some early Christians post Jesus’ death. But finding this correlation led me to almost irretrievably intertwine my experience with the theological underpinnings of Christianity in general.... I ended up binding my transformative encounter with a particular theological purview.
"This procedure creates within the disciple a persistent tendency to take his or her experiences and filter them within the interpretative nexus that is provided by his/her spiritual path. But in so doing the student all too often ends up trying to relate what transpires in meditation to the expectations or desired aims of the religious matrice in which he is grounded.... The danger, of course, is that this two way intersection tends not to be open to alternative explanations (which might be more viable) and also prevents a more free form of exploration.
"Spiritual aspirants...can have their own inner journeys manipulated by a given theology or teaching which instead of freeing him or her actually does the opposite by kidnapping their meditation to serve ulterior needs and motives. One can historically see this most markedly in the case of Indulgences where the earnest desire to be forgiven for one’s sins is twisted to actually fill the coffers of higher-ups in the Roman Catholic Church.
"No doubt it can be forcefully argued that all inner experiences are infused (more or less) by some sort of peculiar biographical or cultural flavoring. But there is something amiss when one’s inner search becomes boomer ranged into a theological echo chamber. Perhaps it would be more fruitful if we allowed our pioneering spirit to be be less encumbered by the already over wrought baggage that certain spiritual cartographies bring with them. Perhaps it would be wiser to let pioneers of the inner quest be precisely that . . . pioneers."
"Perhaps it would be wiser to let pioneers of the inner quest be precisely that . . . pioneers."
As Wilber suggest of pioneers, just watch out for the arrows in the back ;-)
The issue that leaps out at me is who exactly is doing the "letting pioneers be pioneers" and how is that "letting" accomplished? Assuming we are not merely indulging in the passive intellectual game of having-at-look-at-a-subtle-process then we are proposing what kind of intervention?
It seems that the history of bio-energetic & altered consciousness experiences is filled with people who subscribe to the anticipated patterns of their group's discourse and those who don't -- as well as people who migrate from one to the other. The ability to separate our interpretations from the phenomenology of our experiences is an ongoing process determined by all kinds of factors -- many of which undoubtedly reside in the early life of family and elementary schooling, others of which are determined by whether or not the individual has sufficient "surplus psychological energy" to grow new levels of self-understanding by challenging the local social orthodoxy in which their assumptions are embedded.
All kinds of factors enable pioneering to occur but very few of these stem from encouragement or discouragement on the part of those who have analyzed part of the process by which personal interpretations dovetail with group expectations.
We might even assume that the establishment of the expected forms of subtle and mystical experience provides an adequate test or discriminatory threshold by which to separate those who are prepared for pioneering from those who are not.
I am reminded of the tale of Hassan i Sabbah (told by Robert Anton Wilson) who purported drugged Islamic visitors and mocked up a scenario identical the Koran's vision of heavenly pleasures. Afterwards those who believed they'd visited heaven were asked to perform favors for the Cult in exchange for a chance to repeat the experience. Those who felt they had been tricked, or that the situation was more complex, were asked to join the inner circle of the Cult.
So perhaps we should not underestimate the efficacy of interpretive expectancy.
When we look back upon the great pioneers and transformative agents of history it is not the case that they were the people who believed in paradigm shifts, or who had been enculturated to try to act as pioneers. It is at least as true that those who seek change preserve the status quo and those who cause change are trying to be steadiness agents clustered around the line of the norm.
Quite possibly the idea of "letting pioneers be pioneers" is a limiting assumption.
I'd agree it is not as simple as merely allowing on to be free of programming. The Lanes admit that it's likely all experience is shaped by some sort of "biographical or cultural flavoring." That's a recurrent theme in the forum, that experience itself, including transformation, is inextricably tied to one's translation. So I'd agree that "we should not underestimate the efficacy of interpretive expectancy." Where I'd disagree (as would apparently the Lanes) is with this:
"We might even assume that the establishment of the expected forms of subtle and mystical experience provides an adequate test or discriminatory threshold by which to separate those who are prepared for pioneering from those who are not."
It's been my experience, as well as that of many others, that such traditions are dogma-laden and not likely to encourage a pioneering translation of their sacred cows. Granted spiritual pioneers typically have experience within traditions but when they enact something new they tend to get labeled heretics. And often then 'pioneer' a new solo path, which might or not then gather adherents and begin the process anew.
Also one might presume that the meditative experience itself is a universal mystical state that would be the same regardless of the translation. Balder has done a lot of work in the forum and in JITP articles on the plural and enacted nature of mystical experience, that is not the same experience for all to discover. This is also a key observation in the OOO thread.
I think we can assume that "cultural flavoring" is an inextricable dimension of every form of experience -- just as are subjectivity & objectivity. And, speaking personally, I assume that most every idea, state and stage both conceals a multiplicity of facets and also a potential for new emergent forms. My slogan for this is "On a spherical Earth, going UP can occur in even diametrically opposed directions".
And, certainly, we can probably also assume that most traditions are dogma-laden and discouraging to pioneering translations of their sacred cows. But that's not necessarily problematic.
Why shouldn't pioneers be heretics? Obviously we have to keep them safe but that is a general protection afforded to all citizens. There seems to be no fundamental problem with establishing an eccentric relationship to a consistent set of limited interpretations. Every new translation is a bifurcation moment that may be able to fit within an existing social field or may require a new cultural space in order to function. This is quite normal, no?
The "traditions" seem to have always functioned as a pragmatic way to cluster organic, idiosyncratic evolutionary experiences among those whose interpretive complexity allows them to tolerate such conditions.
The social dimension of spiritual experience is a limitation only in the degree to which we ourselves conflate the spiritual and social side of religion. Many so-called religious people are only adherents of a particular social hobby. A few are actual adherents of religiousness. There seems to be plenty of room for both and for all kinds of mixtures when we are looking to religion to fulfill both personal and cultural goals.
I have discussed elsewhere the notion of "generative (en)closure" -- which is one way that I describe the generative potential of particulars, of autopoietic systems. From an enactive point of view, I see the "coupling" of one's mystical or psychological (or other) experience with a particular interpretive system, theological or humanist or otherwise, as a pairing generative of a Sloterdijkian bubble of intimacy (or communal sphere), a sphere which holds certain enactive (and immunological and transformational) potentials and not others. It is a pairing which will bring forth certain latent potentials within the experience -- perhaps along the lines of Bryant's discussion of object-encounters, where particular object-relations will call forth certain potentials while leaving others dormant. The "issue," where there is one, arises in my opinion when a given system is closed to alternative interpretations to the degree that it severely stifles creativity and perhaps also engenders trauma in its rigidity. I don't see this as a problem on the big scale, since folks have always been able to escape from such restrictive hermeneutic circles, and it may even be that the intensity of the closure can and does sometimes lead to some powerful eruptions of creativity and novelty (both within the circle, as people find creative ways to bring novelty into an officially "closed" sphere, and when people finally make a decisive break). But if we are interested in developing an integral spiritual practice culture, then I think the Lanes' cautioning message is useful -- reminding us not to foreclose prematurely on interpretations of our experiences and the fruits of our inquiry, and to recognize that the cultural-theological enaction in which we are engaged, while yielding particular and maybe particularly beautiful fruits, does not represent an "exhaustion" of the potential in our spiritual explorations and experiences. This is in part what I was getting at elsewhere when I was discussing the principle of irreduction: no reduction of a spiritual event or "object" exhausts the generative potential of that event or object, and in that the event or object is therefore simultaneously endlessly reducible and irreducible.
Hmm, I like implications of the prefix ir and am now contemplating adding it to my theurjianism rhetaphor to make it irrhetaphor. (For newcomers see the posts from 6/2 forward on p. 2 of this thread for its inception.) Irrhetaphor cannot be reduced to the simple definitions of both rhetoric (as persuasive human language) or metaphor (as something that stands for something else), but rather is the communicative 'language' between suobjects (and is itself a suobject) at any level. Or something like that...
Yes, generally speaking I agree with all this. I think, quite obviously, that there is some type of mechanism or set of processes which describe the ways in which the overt & latent expectations of a socially-communicating group attempt to act as if they were functionally indistinct from the phenomenology of individual experiences. Since this occurs everywhere we necessarily also find it in groups that we single out because they remind us of the evolutionary, spiritual & mystical opportunities of the human being.
In such groups it may act as a catalyst (provoking personal insight), a test (separating people who can and cannot expand beyond the implied interpretive threshold), a burrow (for heretics to pragmatically hide themselves within a well-established group field) or an obstacle.
The potential for such dynamics to act as an obstacle is not fundamentally problematic, though it may rankle our sensibilities, but it does appear as a gargoyle or cautionary element when we are thinking of organizing our own fields of social interaction for the purpose of maximizing the evolutionary and psycho-mystical potentials of people who remind us of ourselves.
However, I would add that
(a) the general culture in which I have been raised since infancy lauds the individual's breaking free from the group enclosure. It is the subject of most films and TV shows. So either this message is widely dispersed already and doesn't need much reinforcement OR something in this message itself is false and prone to act ideologically contrary to its apparent content
(b) The attitude and practices whereby an individual is able to de-couple from the manifest & latent interpretive implications of the group field and open up new, fresh, emergent enactments is not necessarily based on having the idea that one should do so. A practice of constant new distinction making, or cheerfully aggressive self-doubt, or discontentment with the feeling of normalization, are three among many factors which incline an individual to migrate beyond the enclosure -- whereas the cautionary observation the enclosures tend to occur may be of minimal use.
And, yes, ir- is a hellzagood prefix!