In broad outline (I may need to add a few more points), an Integral approach to Religious Studies is ...

1) Meta-paradigmatically encompassing of at least eight broad zones of inquiry, each of which might contain multiple theoretical and disciplinary approaches to the field of religion: mystical/phenomenological, structural/psychological (Folwer's stages of faith, psychology of religion), hermeneutic/anthropological (Gadamer/Geertz), autopoietic/neurophysiological (neurotheology, neurophenomenology, etc), social autopoietic/systemic (social autopoiesis of religion, evolutionary theories of religion, etc).  In the spirit of IMP, however, hybrid orientations are also facilitated, such as Heidegger's or Levin's spiritual hermeneutic phenomenology, or Varela's neurophenomenology (named above).

2) Inclusive of the gifts of premodern, modern, and postmodern approaches to religious praxis and scholarship.

3) Conversant in, and capable of navigating within, metaphysical and postmetaphysical frameworks or modes of discourse.

4) Capable of fostering a coherent, integral-pluralistic approach to the challenge of religious diversity -- neither promoting a hegemonic inclusivism nor sliding into a depthless relativism.

5) Validating of emic as well as etic religious orientations and methodologies -- facilitated, perhaps, by the adoption of an enactive, processual, and/or participatory "view" or epistemology, which allows for the co-creative emergence of multiple religious worldspaces, forms of spiritual knowledge/experience, and soteriological horizons.

6) Broadly concerned with personal, cultural, and sociological dimensions of religious belief and practice -- no longer confining the "spiritual" to the (necessarily) private interior of the (isolated) modern rational ego.

7) Reinvigorating of the old archetype of the scholar-practitioner -- dissolving the hard-and-fast boundary, which has developed in recent years (esp. in academia), between the (critical) religious scholar and the (supposedly critically compromised) religious practitioner or theologian.  Critical engagement can be fostered and facilitated, not compromised, by serious contemplative engagement or religious praxis.

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That's funny!  But that's not what I meant.  :-)  I'm only speaking on my behalf (not knowing a number of the other board members yet), but for this cat, I will want to help craft guidelines I deeply believe in, support, and would be willing and happy to follow if I were a minister, without concluding that whatever way is worked out is the only viable way to "do Integral ministry," and without attempting to preclude the emergence or development of those other ways.

I'm not sure it would be funny if it was exactly what you meant.  But I'm glad to hear you're speaking on your own behalf and will be attempting to do a good job according to your own criteria.

An Integral association with [cohen] isn't "all bad," in my opinion -- I do like some of his ideas, and it's clear he also values and strives to enact Integral thought (to some extent) -- but my concern hinges around two things:  1) the reports about his past behaviors with students (though, admittedly, there have not been any recent reports that I'm aware of), and 2) the particular metaphysical mix he endorses (a classic metaphysics of the One, impersonality and impersonal collectivity, absolutization of evolution) is a potentially dangerous one, socially and psychologically, in my opinion. 

It seems to me like

(a) an evolutionary systems must supplement critique and ethical demands with an extraordinary degree of tolerance since we are so aware of our limits in understanding, the complexity of perspectives involved, and the fact that every development stands at the end of many, many less developed engagements

(b) that a natural affinity exists between all approaches who wish to grapple with the questions of post-post-modernism, evolutionary non-dualism, planetary transformation, etc. 

(c) that an inclusive approach must, more than any other, strongly affirm that affiliation, exposure, etc. is not endorsement.  this is tied to a lot of issues -- one wonders, for example, what a society would be like if all energy put in censorship was put into teaching critical resilience and responsibility in the face of disturbing and seductive stimuli.  at a more grandiose level this becomes the issue of placing energy into policing the affiliations between various integralites and pseudo-integralites vs. affirming the need to direct that energy toward a less troubled critical-affirmative stance which intelligently expects a great deal of ambiguity, partialness and disagreement among integral affiliates.  

PR concerns are, of course, another matter.

As is the really necessary question here, as elsewhere -- how to establish a proto-Way, a general teaching which prepares people to properly evaluate and make use of all different kinds of teaching scenarios rather than becoming a self-exploited or other-exploited unhappy subject.  

"The defence of the ancient models of student-teacher relationship, particularly where development is focused on the stage-based lens, seems to me to be a sign of regression rather than evolution."

This Edwards quote seems to sum up a lot of concerns which, for me, take the form of an over-hasty response which does not anticipate the great variety of organic and subtle-energetic processes which might be involved.  The need to learn where ancient models actually resemble our guesses about them, whether they work, where they don't work, where they contain unnecessary or counter-productive assumptions embedded in power, culture, etc. and where they merely reflect the diverse of the bio-energetic human "machinery" of the different streams of human spiritual life may be inhibited by superficially disturbed ethico-individualistic feelings which want to pre-interpret these ancient models are almost inherently regressive.

This Edwards quote seems to...take the form of an over-hasty response.

I suggest it is you that are being overly hasty with Edwards due to one sentence. Perhaps you should explore not only the referenced post but some of his other quite intricate, complex views on integrality? There is plenty to find in the forum.

Perhaps a refresher to this oldy but goody '04 article might be of assistance in the overall project?

I certainly read the linked post before responding but chose to allow it to be largely summarized as the extended implications of the provided quote in order to both save time and respond to the prior single-ing out of this snippet.  It does seem to hover near the center of many different kinds of problematics which I have heard raised around this topic.  

Ah -- my editing timed out before I could address the issues of higher cultural artifacts (incl. ideas) wielded by lower stage personalities and subpersonalities, or the relevance of attempts at an integral ethical code.  Maybe next time...

Dustin DiPerna's recent essay on Integral Religious Studies is available here.

Thanks Bruce,

Nice to have the stand-alone version. I am quite a fan of Dustin ;-).



Thanks for the link.

I have a couple of responses.  First, I notice that the article includes inerrancy in its treatment of pre-modern study of religion.  I think this is anachronistic.  Inerrancy did not arise until the period around the turn of the nineteenth century.  It was part of the fundamentalistic response to what the fundamentalists called modernism.  Fundamentalistic Christianity and its accompanying idea of inerrancy takes one modern notion of what constitutes truth -- empirical facts -- and superimposes that on text(s) that understand truth claims in the context of magic and myth.  Inerrancy is a truncation of "transcend and include" in that it transcended a magical or mythical understanding of truth by accepting empiricism as one of the forms of a modern understanding of truth, but it failed to include magical and mythical truth.  Instead it claims that the magical and mythical truths represented in the Bible are empirical truths.  This denies the power of magic and myth and robs the fundamentalist of any of the richness that including them into a modern paradigm might give.  Such a move is the obverse of stereotypical modernism, which fails also fails to include the earlier paradigms, but which does so by saying that only empirical truth is true and that, since biblical narratives that contain elements that cannot be empirically true, it contains nothing of value for the modern person.  So I bring this up not as simply an historical quibble that inerrancy didn't exist in pre-modernity, but to put flesh on the article's insight that there are ways in which the move to transcend and include can get truncated.  Is this a form of the level-line fallacy, or is this something else?

Second, I add a resounding, "Yes!" to the article's second conclusion.  I'm not in the field of religious studies but in continental philosophy of religion and to some extend philosophical theology, but part of my dissertation is the adding of developmental theory to postmodern forms (hermeneutical forms) of phenomenology.  I should say re-adding, since Gebser already incorporates development in his integral phenomenology.  While Gebser is popular in the discipline of communications and integral studies, he has all but been forgotten in "mainstream" phenomenology.  I'm not at all sure why that is.

I wonder whether it has anything to do with a move away from essentialized "stages" in religious studies the work of early, and therefore modernist, practitioners of phenomenological method.  (I'll distinguish between the use of the phenomenological method in various disciplines, including religious studies, and philosophical phenomenology.)

I'm working from a postmetaphysical framework (hmm, does any "framework" already reintroduce metaphysics?) -- how about postmetaphysical posture? -- I certainly am not appropriating Gebser in any essentialized manner.

Okay, a couple of thoughts off the top of my head.  I really enjoyed the article.  Thanks again.

Balder said:

Dustin DiPerna's recent essay on Integral Religious Studies is available here.

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