Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
In the Sam Harris on Spiritual Experience thread, Mary offered a critique which I think is worth exploring, so I'm setting up a separate thread for that.
Here is what Mary said:
In that article that Bruce linked to Lears writes: "As their critics began to realize, positivists had abandoned the provisionality of science’s experimental outlook by transforming science from a method into a metaphysic, a source of absolute certainty."
I was thinking earlier today, while going over a few posts here, that sometimes I see echoes of this kind of thing in discussions on this forum. In certain ways, postmetaphysics is held up as a kind of gold standard against which to measure or judge other ways of thinking and being. I mean, of course, it's a forum on postmetaphysics, duh -- but what I'd noticed were phrases suggestive of a .... postmetaphysical "puritanism" (or asceticism) -- a seeming yearning to cleanse or purge one's thinking of ideas and attitudes with any scent of the metaphysical on it. Here are a few snippets from this thread:
"...such experience must be translated into postmetaphysical terms shorn of religious dogma to be of pertinent use in today's world."
"While he's cleaning up the more obvious metaphysicalities from religion he might still be caught in some of the "higher-level" (to be intentionally ironic) or deeper traps himself."
"the transformative power of 'meditation' stripped of 'traditional' baggage."
I'm somewhat taken aback when I re-read that first phrase there (by Edward). Must all translations of meditative experience really be shorn of religious dogma to be of use in today's world? Are you saying that what's true for you must become true for everyone?
The last quote (about meditation stripped of traditional baggage) is something I wrote. In it, I was not forwarding my own views, but trying to summarize what I see as the similar aims of Harris and Krishnamurti. But with that said, Mary's critique still struck a chord with me, because I believe it is something others have picked up on here as well, at least from time to time, and I've actually had a similar response to my own "voice" here on several occasions -- picking up on a certain nascent asceticism to the tone of some of my posts, or a sort of concern with establishing and maintaining (postmetaphysical) doctrinal purity. When I've sensed something like this, the experience has been like being surprised and disconcerted by one's own shadow. Enforcing some kind of postmetaphysical puritanism is not my conscious intent, and does not represent my aspirations, either for this forum or for "all religious people," but I've found that in trying to explore and clearly articulate just what is involved in a postmetaphysical approach to spirituality -- if such an animal is even possible, as we've discussed -- the discussion has often circulated around questions of what is acceptable, or what will fly, in a "postmetaphysical space," and what will not. And I think that can lead -- and sometimes has lead -- to a boundary-enforcing sort of concern that may smack of dogmatism.
When approached about this before, my response has been that the main exercise here on IPS, as I understand it and attempt to pursue it, is not to craft some sort of doctrine to be imposed on other groups, but to explore and articulate a "meaning space" for interested individuals who are looking for a form of spirituality resonant with their own (postmodern/postmetaphysical/integral) sensibilities. And this is still how I see what we're doing here. But I can understand how / why the impression is sometimes given that a dogmatic movement is afoot, and for myself, I want to remain vigilant of that as a "shadow" to what we are attempting here.
Hi, Mary, thank you for the new word ("ignosticism.") I hadn't heard it before, but I think there is a bit of an "ignostic" flavor to the essay I linked. However, it doesn't stop at ignostic questions; after proclaiming the supernatural God of the two-story universe dead, it moves on to posit a positive way of speaking about, and defining and relating to, God. (To prevent neck strain when reading that article, there should be an icon on the menu bar of your Adobe reader that lets you rotate the page clockwise.)
Anyway, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this more fully. I hope you write more, because I'm interested in what you have to say. And, as you know, I relate to your peripatetic spiritual past, having done similar wandering myself (including in and out of the Catholic church on a couple occasions).
I expect there is a tone here sometimes of "Get thee behind me, metaphysics!" When I've noticed this (including in myself), I've related to this -- or have come to relate to this -- as characteristic of a period of differentiation. I see the Integral "Green allergy" in these terms as well (that is, when it really is an exercise of differentiating from Green, rather than something more like Orange reacting to Green). But while there is this "anti-" tone that may emerge in this process, I personally think that a postmetaphysical stance in more developed form does not constitute an anti-metaphysical stance; it opens the door to playful-serious re-engagement with "Big Stories" and such.
About the folly of looking for the "perfect community," I hear you. I've lately been going to services at a Unitarian Universalist church, even though I'm definitely not in alignment with all the values or perspectives expressed there (but can more easily feel an affinity of perspective -- socially and politically -- there than I could at the kinds of Church of Christ congregations, for instance, that I used to attend back in college). Occasionally, we also visit the Shiva temple that is nearby us, especially for special puja days; and there is a Buddhist temple up the hills, not far from us, that I plan to visit with my family soon. If I find a community that we all feel happy with, we'll "settle in" and contribute to it.
But with that said, while I agree it is better to join an imperfect community than to long for community but remain perpetually aloof out of an idealistic perfectionism, I do like a "marginal" space like IPS for a number of reasons -- both as an experimental space just for inquiry, brainstorming, critically assessing "what has come before," sketching out of ideas and perspectives and "testing" them out with others, and just as a space for connecting (and occasionally even communing!) with others who have a similar vision and engaging in a bit of creative visioning together, perhaps collaborating to give fuller shape to something that is still somewhat inchoate. I value the opportunity to work on developing something new, which may translate out into the "world" in any number of ways. (If I had another life to live, I might actually pursue a more spiritual vocation -- serving in or pastoring an "integral postmeta" spiritual community, as Tom Thresher and others are attempting).
An observation: If you command metaphysics to get behind thee it will at best bite you in the ass and more likely will WTF you there. I prefer to keep it right in front of me for exploration, knowing full well its shadow buggering* propensities.
*As Seinfeld would say, "Not that there's anything wrong with that," depending on the context. I'm no Puritan in that regard, at least.
Also, and once again, all of this depends on what we mean by "metaphysics." The logical positivists had attempted to do away with metaphysics, until it was shown that their position presupposed at least some form of metaphysics, or what Wittgenstein referred to as a linking up of propositions with "facts" and "factual reality."
And once again, I sense a kind of schizoid understanding of what we mean by post-metaphysics. For some it appears to mean simply that propositions be linked with empirical experiences. But for others, the term refers to expunging or at least keeping in check the "philosophy of the subject," and/or "the philosophy of presence," and other pomo or post-structuralist concerns.
Ed -- Thanks for that explanation on "metaphysical" versus "postmetaphysical." You are patient with people like me as well, taking the time to (yet again) explain ideas that you have already explained umpteen times, linking up to previous discussions and other material ... It is a help to me. Some of this stuff I need to read and re-read (when time allows) -- it takes longer for abstractions to "stick" in my brain (which is why I have a preference for story). I grok and concur with the "embodied realist" notion that we cannot have objective and absolute knowledge of the world-in-itself. And, as a contemplative, I savor approaches involving "unknowing" and and a trust in "mystery" -- I accept, and even embrace, the fact that I cannot "know" -- while simultaneously having some kind of inwardly "felt" access to what I cannot know. I "taste and see," but without knowing, without seeing anything "as it is." And that capacity -- that choice, actually, to trust and surrender to this tasting without knowing is part and parcel of what I call "faith." I choose faith in a mystery that flows both within and beyond thoughts, concepts, feelings, experiences. [Richard Rohr speaks of faith as "an initial opening of the heart or the mind space from our side ... our small but necessary offering to any new change or encounter."] But if I assert this kind of thing here, my sense is (on occasion, at least) that it's too close to regular old metaphysical / mystical concepts that must be "shed" to be properly postmeta.
FWIW, here's another Rohr quote that (kind of) expresses where I'm coming from: "Only abstract concepts and verbal dogmas contain the air of mathematical or divine perfection, but mystics do not primarily love concepts. They have had at least one significant encounter with the Divine, which is all it takes, and which they themselves cannot understand or describe in a clear concept .... Afterwards, such people are not rebels against anything except any attempts to block that kind of encounter for others." (I hasten to add, lest I'm misunderstood: I do not think that you are trying to block such encounters, Ed).
Bruce --I actually did not read that entire article that you linked to -- I couldn't find the button to make the pages rotate, which surprised me because I know I've seen it before. Probably means I have to update my software.
Anyway: My reflection about the puritanism among those searching for the perfect community of practitioners was not intended as a statement / judgment on what you're trying to do here with this forum. It was mostly meant as an example to illustrate my recurring hypersensitivity to what I'm perceiving (rightly or wrongly) as puritanism and perfectionism -- anywhere. I understand that this is a space for exploration, creative visioning, and inquiry -- and actually, I dig much of the wildness and "messiness" here. Where else would I find explorations of Caputo, Brian Swimme videos, prayers for Charlie Sheen, links to an integral monastery, mini-treatises on Lady Gaga, critiques of capitalism, great Panikkar excerpts, and existential Star Wars all in one place, after all?
And by the way, did you have your discussion with *Kendling today?
*Kendling is what I'm gonna start calling KW here. It's intended to be suggestive of "kindling" -- the bits of wood that are used to start a fire -- and a bow to the one who has, in good part, sparked integral forums such as these. It's also intended as a term of endearment, because despite his flaws and shortcomings, I'm still quite fond of the fellow.
Where else would I find explorations of Caputo, Brian Swimme videos, prayers for Charlie Sheen, links to an integral monastery, mini-treatises on Lady Gaga, critiques of capitalism, great Panikkar excerpts, and existential Star Wars all in one place, after all?
:-D You have been lurking and reading!
And by the way, did you have your discussion with *Kendling today?
Yes, I did, and it was really a pleasure. He was very warm and receptive to the paper -- said it was "terrific," urged me to keep writing on these topics, said he learned something new from it and thanked me for that, and told me he agreed with essentially all of it, even the points that I was suggesting as possible critiques of his model. He did make some suggestions for expanding on a few points, which I will do, but overall we just had a good conversation about this material. And he actually read my entire paper out loud to me (except for a few filler passages that he skipped), stopping to comment on it as he went. I felt really warm and appreciative towards him after this exercise -- I know he is not in full health and is likely tired, and he still spent a lot of quality time with me and discussed these ideas for over an hour in an engaging, supportive way. Very cool.
So let's bring in kennilnguist postmetaphysics. A few excerpts from Appendix II of IS:
What is metaphysics? Metaphysics is generally taken to be the branch of philosophy that deals with issues of ontology—what is being or reality?...Kant’s critical philosophy replaced ontological objects with structures of the subject....Various a priori categories of the knowing subject help to fashion or construct reality as we know it. Reality is not a perception, but a conception; at least in part. Ontology per se just does not exist. Metaphysics is then a broad name for the type of thinking that can’t figure this out. Or, metaphysics is thinking that falls prey to the myth of the given.
What this means for spirituality in general is that metaphysics needs to be jettisoned, or at the very least, completely rethought..the claim of Integral Post-Metaphysics is that you can indeed account for all the really necessary ingredients of metaphysics or a spiritual philosophy without them. These metaphysical assumptions are, quite simply, unnecessary and cumbersome baggage that hurts spirituality more than helps. Spirituality, to survive in the present and future world, is and must be post-metaphysical.
From Chapter 1, section “integral postmetaphysics”:
Habermas calls monological knowledge by various names, particularly “the philosophy of the subject” and the “philosophy of consciousness”—both of which he and every postmodern theorist worth their salt completely savaged. The “philosophy of the subject” simply takes it that an individual subject is aware of phenomena, whereas that subject is actually set in cultural contexts of which the subject is totally unaware.
“The philosophy of consciousness” is the similar assumption, namely, that there is consciousness and that phenomena present themselves to consciousness, either individual or a collective or store-house consciousness (e.g.,alayavijnana). Every meditative and contemplative tradition makes this assumption. And it is simply wrong.
Integral Post-Metaphysics replaces perceptions with perspectives, and thus redefines the manifest realm*as the realm of perspectives.
*Note the qualifier "manifest realm." This doesn't apply to the absolute realm, which still retains all of the pre-modern metaphysical monism a kennilinguist can muster. Place at least the absolute pole in the category or those "regressive monist" and non-sustainable (either in labor or environment) philosophies being explored in this new thread.
Mary: And by the way, did you have your discussion with *Kendling today?
Bruce: Yes, I did, and it was really a pleasure. He was very warm and receptive to the paper -- said it was "terrific," urged me to keep writing on these topics, said he learned something new from it and thanked me for that, and told me he agreed with essentially all of it, even the points that I was suggesting as possible critiques of his model. He did make some suggestions for expanding on a few points, which I will do, but overall we just had a good conversation about this material. And he actually read my entire paper out loud to me (except for a few filler passages that he skipped), stopping to comment on it as he went. I felt really warm and appreciative towards him after this exercise -- I know he is not in full health and is likely tired, and he still spent a lot of quality time with me and discussed these ideas for over an hour in an engaging, supportive way. Very cool.
--A delight to hear this, Bruce! Warms my heart. Ah, to have been a fly on that wall! And -- though this is secondhand information -- I heard from a friend in Boulder that Kendling's health improved recently after a change in medication. I'm looking forward to reading the revision of your paper. :-)
Bruce: Enforcing some kind of postmetaphysical puritanism is not my conscious intent, and does not represent my aspirations, ...
It's good to be explicit about this once in awhile in the group but don't sweat it Bruce...I've never gotten that vibe from you.