On the old forum, I posted an essay by Robert Miller on Zen and an aesthetic philosophy of play.  Here is another of his essays (excerpted below, and attached in full as a document to this post).




What Might Come After Postmodernism?


Here’s a thought-experiment. Let’s explore the idea that human consciousness is a

metastable interplay between being and not being, believing and not believing.

Though I had not thought of Sartre in a long while, the idea reminded me of him. For

it seems similar to the characterisation of human consciousness he presents in Being

And Nothingness, particularly in his chapter on Bad Faith.i So I had a look at that

again. His account is intriguing, though rather negative in tone. I’d like to

counterbalance his play on the negative in the interplay of consciousness by playing

up the more positive aspects. It may help us explain how the general phenomenon of

human playing is possible – eg, how children can play so easily at cops and robbers,

or how an actor can play at being Hamlet, or how audiences can play at believing in

the reality of the play unfolding on stage when they also know at the same time that

it is not real, or how the player in a relatively trivial game can nevertheless play the

game as if it had great importance. In other words, it may help elucidate the “as if”

phenomena in human life that involve elements of pretending – and, we may note,

not always in a “bad” sense.


Let’s raise this Kantian-sounding question: What are the conditions of the possibility

of the phenomenon of human playing and pretending? The suggestion is that what

conditions the possibility of the phenomenon is the ongoing metastable interplay of

consciousness between being and not being, believing and not believing.


In what way has Postmodernism added to our understanding of this phenomenon?

It has helped to highlight for us how this interplay of consciousness is influenced by

the differential play of signs in semiotic systems, especially words in a cultural

language or in paradigm language-games – much along the lines suggested by such

writers as, eg, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Derrida, and Baudrillard. Postmodernism has

focussed on how this factor of linguistic structuring and differential play makes it

impossible to establish a final decision – closure – on such key philosophical terms as

truth, knowledge, proof, power, value, and meaning: for the criteria for and meaning

of these key terms is said to be culturally and historically relative and shifting in an

evolving way. Accordingly, the tendency in postmodernity has been relativistic and

deconstructive, even nihilistic and auto-destructive – as Baudrillard, among others,

claimsii – a corrosive criticism undermining the very foundations of all theory and

knowledge, an “antifoundationalism” that undermines every foundation, even its

own in the long run.


This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, if one were to focus attention

exclusively on the negative, highlighting and attempting to consolidate only its

critical and nihilistic effects, there is a sense in which it could be rather debilitating or

depressing or even incapacitating – as many these days complain. At an extreme it

could perhaps make human life impossible. For if postmodern theory declares

everything problematic, unfounded, and undecidable, still, something has to get

decided all the same if there is to be purposive human thought and action in the

world. For this presupposes some kind of transcendental framing – that is, some kind

of being and believing – even although it takes us well beyond proof.


On the other hand, looking on the bright side, one can see how the postmodern

demise of fixated truth can have a liberating effect, viz., in that it can free us up to be

more playful, creative, artistic, and positive in our beliefs. If there is to be something

“after Postmodernism” – after this onslaught of critical theory – it will have be

something that plays up the factor of creative belief while at the same time fully

taking into account the preceding critical play of the auto-destruction of theory.iii


If we say that human consciousness is an ongoing metastable interplay between

being and not being, believing and not believing, then the recurring sceptical

movements in the history of philosophy from Socrates and the ancient Greek

Pyrrhonian sceptics to the postmoderns tend to play up the negative or nihilistic side

of the interplay: ie, the philosophical “via negativa”, as it were, which attends more

to non-being and non-believing – or to “the suspension” of being and believing.

Meanwhile, rationalist metaphysicians and other master-builders and believers, tend

to play up the positive or constructive side: the philosophical “via positiva”, as it

were, which attends more to being and believing – or to “the fixation” of being and

believing. However, overall the situation is not simply one side or the other. Rather,

it is the ongoingmetastable interplay of the two: hence an interplay in human

consciousness of being and not being, believing and not believing, the condition of

the possibility of the general phenomenon of human playing and pretending (eg,

theatre, games, sports, etc)....


Now, let’s relate all this to the title of our talk. Suppose we were to appropriate the

lessons of 20th century Existentialism and Postmodernism to seek a way forward

into the 21st century. What might come after them? What seems likely? If we accept

that human consciousness is an interplay of being and not being, believing and not

believing, and if the tendency in the 20th century has been mainly to play up and

consolidate the negative side – eg, nonconformist existential and postmodern

scepticism, disbelief, deconstruction, auto-destruction, nihilism, emptiness, etc –

what seems likely is that there will now be a counter-reaction to this of trying again

to play up and consolidate the positive: the side of stable being and conformity in

believing. The rise of various fundamentalisms lately on the global scene may be a

sign of this happening. There is a tendency to re-introduce some authoritarian

dichotomies of old: of absolute good and evil, truth and falsity, religion versus

religion, science versus religion, religion versus science, and so forth, in the way of a

new crusade.


On the other hand, if we learn the lessons of history, we might come to an awareness

that it is contrary to the metastable nature of consciousness to rest for long in either

one side or the other. If this is so, then perhaps the wisest thing to do is to

acknowledge and become comfortable with the metastable interplay itself. That is:

get in harmony with human life in the world as a kind of playing and pretending.


It’s a double game: a matter of living in the interplay between being something and

not being anything – a flickering between being and nothingness. With this in mind,

recall now Hamlet’s famous either/or – the most famous question in the history of

playing: “To be or not to be”. Maybe the proper reply to this riddle is: to be and not to

be – the opposites held together but, somewhat paradoxically, not mediated in a

higher synthesis. It is this interplay, after all, that allows us to be players playing in

this or that theatre of the world....

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"Maybe the proper reply to this riddle is: to be and not to be – the opposites held together but, somewhat paradoxically, not mediated in a higher synthesis."

I'm in agreement but this has been my impression all along of Derrida and deconstruction, not that he is on the side of negativity, destruction or nihilism. I tire of him being framed this way by those that don't understand, integral or otherwise.
Here's Balder from his 9/3/08 blog at Integral LIfe:

"As may be apparent by the tone and content of this blog, I am suggesting - along with Gary Hampson and others - that Integralites may do well not to hurry too quickly past postmodernism, leaving it in the dust of history; rather they should return to take fuller advantage of the insights and tools won by this fairly recent development in human thought. I believe Wilber himself is recognizing the importance of this move, judging by his emphasis on intersubjectivity and constructivism in Integral Spirituality."

Hampson makes clear in his article that Derrida is nothing like how he is characterized (straw-manned) by Wilber. We can say the same for Miller here. Wilber and Miller are now finally going back to learn from pomo and are coming to some conclusions like the above that Derrida knew decades ago. If they want to know what comes after pomo (and integral) this is the place to look.
Particularly read Hampson pp. 129-35 to dispell this straw case nonsense about deconstruction being destructive, etc.
Which reminds me of the online discussion several of us participated in at Integral Review on Hampson’s article, including Hampson, Desilet, Roy, me and others. Since that IR forum is defunct and gone I copied several posts from it at Open Integral, links following. Here is Bonnita Roy opening the discussion and as you can see, reflects Miller’s sentiment:

“It is my feeling that dialectics in the above forms, is formal, not postformal, because it relies on the positing of opposite pairs, which it considers in some kind of tension. I believe that post-formal thinking sees dialectical pairs as self-defining, and therefore the tension is ‘resolved’ or ‘dissolved’ before there is any kind of movement toward synthesis. This open up into entirely new ways of thinking/ perceiving more in terms of ‘constellations’ (hunting for the right words here) and what the Buddhists call co-dependent origination.”

Postformal dialectics:

Part 1 http://www.openintegral.net/blog/2007/11/02/postformal-dialectics/

Part 2 http://www.openintegral.net/blog/2007/11/05/postformal-dialectics-2/

Part3 http://www.openintegral.net/blog/2007/11/09/postformal-dialectics-3/
Reading sources on this topic: Johan Huizinga: Homo Ludens. And the master, H.G Gadamer: Truth and Method.

Of course, thinking hypothetically, and/or dialectically but without a particular telos or resolution in mind, is the benchmark for higher order thinking. We entertain a hypothesis; we play with it, explore its possibilities. Implied here is a kind of openness; a domain of possibility without a final and necessary resolution; a process.
I resonate with this, and I can feel this process happening in me. But I just wonder if it is really beyond postmodernism. It could simply be a well balanced postmodernism. Just wondering.

Also, isn't the ability to play with the previous stages of development found at the end of each stage? What I mean is that when you're technique at an instrument starts to be really good, then you can have fun and "play" as in playfull.

I would love to think that this "stance" is beyond postmodernism, but one has to admit that it really feels like a very healthy postmodernism. It may be that this metastable interplay will lead us beyond but is not there yet. Just a hunch!

This reminds me of learning to dance. When I was first starting out I had a naturual knack at movement and developed quickly. I was in a rush to move on to more advanced material, thinking I was ready. As it turned out for me, and with most others, we bite off more than we can chew. I learned advanced moves and patterns before I had a firm foundation in more basic and intermediate technique. Hence my advanced moves we incomplete, crude, clumsy. I then realized an old saying in the dance community: Beginners want to learn intermediate moves; intermediates want to learn advanced moves; advanced dancers return to the basics.

This seems to be the predominate phenomena in the so-called integral movement. We're so enamoured of being advanced, evolved, enlightened beings that we skip over a lot of important lateral developments in our hurry to be an elite "2nd tier." And Hampson's (and Sara Ross's) warnings that we have not hardly, let alone fully, digested pomo yet means all of us are a long, long way off to the "next level of development." Thinking that we are already there by denigrating pomo inaccurately is more likely indicative of a dysfunctional formal operation with delusions of grandeur. It's no wonder the latter is rampant in this movement.
I agree with you, Theurj. I really enjoyed the ITC conference and it was for me a debauchery of lofty ideas on many subjects. But I always feel a bit uneasy at the certainty with which people call themselves integral.

I went to see Barbara Marx Hubbard who made a presentation with terry Patten. It was nothing for the mind, but I was amazed by the intensity, clarity and humility of this 80 y.o. woman. Some Integralist asked her, how we, at the integral level, could relate and bring knowledge to people at lower levels. The question is good, but it kinds of hurt my ears for many reasons. Her answer was amazing and she kind of said that if we connect with people, we don't have to bother about stages. This was exemplified by the way she dealt with the many questions that where asked from her in the assembly. She had to deal with fierce integralists and alien lovers!!! She managed both with grace and clarity, bringing the whole thing down to presence and evolution.

Another thing about the ITC is that it is said that we all are integral. But when attending the presentations, I discovered that most of them where trying to sort out what postmodernism is, or is not, or is and is not! So in the end, if we really are honnest about it, it kind of mostly dealt with postmodernism and the desire to differenciate from it

I think we still have a long way to go indeed, to piss as high as our integral selves do!!!
Whether we call it postmodernism, post-postmodernism, or integral post-metaphysics, the point of it all is to engage our unexamined presuppositions and grandiose constructions with a critical methodology. I honestly don't think we have to worry too much about overemphasizing the negative. Creating bright shiny narrative worldviews is what humans do naturally.

It seems to me that one reason postmodern & continental thought is difficult to approach is that many of the primary sources (Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, & Marion) make for dense & obscure reading. Most of my own understanding of postmodern thought has come from overviews written by Stanley Grenz, James K A Smith, & Merold Westphal (all evangelical Christian academics); or by creative interpreters such as John Caputo, Gregory Desilet & Peter Rollins.

I recently watched Derrida, a DVD documentary where a video crew followed the man himself in a variety of interviews and interactions. I got some sense of his method, watching him engage brilliantly & playfully with different audiences & individuals. Much more than my few poor attempts to read him.

KW & others in the Integral scene have made proclamations about creating an Integral Christianity. Mostly this has been about encouraging meditation & contemplative practices with an AQAL perennialist theoretical overlay. Which is OK as far as it goes. What is interesting to me is how they missed the boat completely on the evangelical engagement with postmodern thought that's been going on for the last 15 years. I've not heard of KW or anyone in the inner circle engaging in dialogue with influential emergents such as Brian McClaren or Peter Rollins, who have been a part of a movement of genuine, creative grassroots change in western Christianity.
Hey Joseph --

It seems to me that integral Christianity is nascent, a seed that sprouted just a blink of an eye ago, but not yet at the breaking ground stage. There is yet time for that dialogue with emergent evangelicals; I don't know if it's really a question of an inner circle missing the boat; it's more like several boats have just started their engines. (Still and all, a lingering insularity does make for very slow cross-fertilization. I remember Richard Rohr once making a joke about how the Franciscans and Benedictines, 2 venerable religions orders within the same denomination, were thinking about beginning some dialogue . . .)

I was at the recent Integral Theory Conference (hi Patrick, hi Bruce) and attended two half-day workshops and one 90-minute presentation on Integral Christianity. Wonderful stuff! Chris Dierkes led the workshop on Integral Mystical Christianity, which focused on experiencing God in relation to first, second, and third perspectives. The workshop on Integral Church was led by UCC pastor Tom Thresher, who invited us to examine how one might develop a Christian community that would hold space for different worldviews (tribal, mythic-literal, traditional, modern, postmodern, etc) in a way that would be inviting and nourishing for folks operating from various stages of faith. And Neville Kelly's talk argued for a more "multilingual" theological model "capable of bearing the communicative weight of the comprehensive and varied languages spoken and understood across the Christian denominations." There was actually very little discussion on meditation and contemplative practices.
And P.S. to my above tangent -- It was a pretty small group of people attending these workshops, but they included folks from various denominations, including Catholic, Anglican, United Church of Christ, Methodist, Seventh-Day Adventist, Mennonite, and others ...
I agree with you, Joseph, that some of the continental postmodern writers, and especially french ones, are very difficult to read. In fact, as a french speaking person, Derrida in french sounds like suffering from a severe alzheimer. I don't know how the english translation is, but I bet they made it a bit more easy. Piaget is in french a hard read as he breaks the rules of the normal lenghts of sentences, but it doesn't cross the "disease" threshold. But Derrida is just unbearable. French people have a lot of fun making simple things complicated: it's a cultural ego boost. And I think that D was not immune to that. The least we can say, is that he didn't put much effort in getting understood by a wide array of people. In fact he's quite elitiste in his writings.

But I also want to lay down some of my interrogations about the subject of "Integral Christianity". In fact I feel quite uneasy with this association of terms. I'd be more happy with "Postmodern Christianity", as I think that we have first to witness that. By that, I simply mean that reaching a Christian attitude where all other paths are given the benefit of doubt as to also reaching God (second person), is already a long way to go.

As for calling any tradition "integral", be it Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaïsm, Christianity or what else, seems to me to be like shooting oneself in the foot. I'm well aware that Hinduism and Buddhism have had an important place in Wilber's model, and that seekers from other traditions may feel lessened, but trying to get your brand "integral" doesn't seem for me to be the right approach to make the "thing" go forward. This kind of endeavour is totally green.

I tend to think that beyond postmodern, there's no more ability to call oneself Christian, Buddhist or anything else.

Steve McIntosh calls for a stripping of the integral model of some of the eastern concepts. He also advocates integrating more christian culture in it. That is for me the height of green stuff.

So for me, interreligious dialogue, differentiation and bonding is postmodern work. And we need that...badly!

But integral has nothing to do with it.

I personally think that integral=mystery. Mysteries are beyond previous categories, open spaces, new lands.


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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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