Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
This is a compilation of recent threads on the FB IPS forum. This meme seems to be floating around the Facesphere, to wit Levi Bryant's recent relevant post documented here. Steven Shapiro's FB post here linked to a comic on philosophy here. I replied in that thread:
I agree with the cyborg that we need to end something, but not human life. How about the end to useless philosophy that has virtually no impact on human life because it is "no longer immanent to anything other than itself?" To paraphrase one of its last news items: "Philosophy store robbed at gunpoint but nothing of value was stolen."
I also linked to this Monty Python video. A discussion between Balder and I ensued:
Balder: Almost as meaningless as participating in a rigged political system with near-zero chance of significant reform....
Me: Is that what you think of Sanders campaign? Or how we the people got significant changes to laws like marriage equality, minimum wage increases, legal marijuana? Or on how the internet and social media gave us the capacity to organize globally? I'd say all of those had significant impact on countless lives.
Balder: I was meeting your cynical hyperbole with cynical hyperbole.
Me: Which brings me to a legitimate question then. When I originally posted the Warren/Clinton thread on politics I was challenged to how it related to an integral postmetaphysical spirituality. It seems at least some here agreed that it does. And especially given that the last ITC is on impact, I'd really like to hear from some in this group how philosophy impacts the spiritual lives of a great number and how it also impacts the socio-economic lives of a great number, a spiritual endeavor. Is this a legitimate inquiry?
Balder: Yes, it's a legitimate inquiry. A simple answer for now (since I'm supposed to be working!): A good part of the ITC was dedicated to showing where Wilber's (and other integralists') philosophical work is being applied on the ground, translated into action, etc, in multiple spheres (social, political, medical, scientific, religious, educational, environmental engineering, artistic, etc). The common person doesn't have to read philosophy to be affected by it. Strong ideas end up permeating a culture and can play a role in its organization, in a people's self-conception and aspirations, etc. And philosophy also has a significant role to play in interrogating the presuppositions that currently inform a culture or institution. Some philosophy is certainly insular and overly specialized and doesn't impact much more than the space it claims on some shelf or hard drive. But good philosophy underlabors for a culture or a discipline (in Bhaskar's terms) and that work is not wasted.
Me: I appreciate the general statements of philosophy's overall purpose. But I'd like more specifics on how integral philosophy is achieving such impacts in the world, and the degree of measurable impact.
As one example, I really appreciated the discussion around the ITC debate on capitalism in the sense described above, how it interrogated its presuppositions. And how some integral expressions like conscious capitalism supported those presuppositions. So what are some of the actions taken by integralists to not only publicly challenge capitalism philosophically but to impact a change in that system? Is philosophy enough for that mission? To frame it in the philosophical soccer video, doesn't someone have to go kick the soccer ball to change the score?
At this point in the discussion I linked to the Bryant post above, so please see it. And then Cameron Freeman posted the following in the FB IPS forum:
I genuinely like and respect many of you guys (and gals), but just want to be straight up and brutally honest with you all about some of my overriding impressions and sentiments re: Integral PM. So please understand that this doesn't reflect on some of the truly brilliant individuals that frequent this page, I’m just referring to the more general drift of the activity in the Integral PM universe here.
The Integral model is so clear, simple and elegant; making it so attractive to those of us who tend toward cognitive understanding and intellectual reasoning a lot. But when it comes to (post-metaphysical) spirituality I'm more like a soldier in war zone, when everything is quiet and the birds are singing something is profoundly wrong. Integral is too clear, too elegant to tell us anything useful about reality.
Now forgive me in advance for the vulgarity to come, but this is the only way I know of to get to the core of my view of Integral. While there are a few rare exceptions, the vast majority of the Integrally informed FB postings here are like watching others masturbate to a favorite fantasy. It is just stimulating the intellect's ability to sort and categorize, occupying the mind with soothing illusions. Like masturbation it is safe and gratifying to those engaging it, but no more than that. The pleasure, reward and satisfaction is already built into the Integral trap. There is no risk, and therefore no discovery. It's a mental mirage. Integral is an apparition mistaken for a reality map. Real life isn't like Integral's mental playground. It hurts a hell of a lot, and for no reason. One gets fooled, betrayed and sick without comfort or the comfortable chimera of understanding that Integral insists on. There’s no need to stray outside the safety nets of the Integral model to investigate what might lie in the tall grasses and on the barren turf.
Where is the suffering in IPM? Whose going to die for states and stages, and all the other distractions? Give me the proclamation of good news that says engage the mirage and believe that it is as it should be, and you are not as trapped as you cannot help but think you are. Believe that Reality is just beyond your reach, and throw yourself into that belief placing all your chips on the "insanity" revealed in the life of the Nazarene. Don't read maps, arguing about topography - become the Way, insecure, unknowing and exposed to the trembling at the heart of things...
Thanks for paying attention, I just needed to get that off my chest…
Responses in the last thread:
Me: Thanks. I have similar sentiments. Hence I've changed my focus to changing the oligarchic capitalistic system through political engagement. It is causing untold suffering that I see all around me daily that is not affected much if at all by so-called integral modeling.
Balder: Cameron, so you can join us in our self-reflection on these self-serving and -pleasuring intellectual dynamics, instead of standing safely outside, let me say that -- while I also like you a lot and do appreciate very much of what you say -- your own presentation often strikes me also as a neat, well-worked-out story, very much situated in and beholden to a particular philosophical lineage and set of principles. It is a careful and systematic -- and, in its carefulness and systematicity, predictable -- story ("reality model") about rupture, pain, and contradiction, often presented with a certain existentialist one-upping machismo.
But who is going to die for your story of the ultimacy of antagonism and conflict?
With that said, this is beautiful: "Don't read maps, arguing about topography - become the Way, insecure, unknowing and exposed to the trembling at the heart of things..."
And now, for more vulnerability: I responded personally, pointing a finger defensively back at you first, because I know a number of my own posts here are of the kind you criticize: more abstract than personal, working out philosphical and conceptual distinctions, model-making, etc. I don't think spiritual/philosophical reflection or inquiry is purely masturbatory or worthless for the world, but I agree that it is easy to get trapped in or to hide out there -- and it does become relatively worthless if it ends up mostly reflecting back on itself (masturbation) instead of engaging, being affected by, and responsive to the world. What I do here on IPS is different from what I do in the classroom. In class, we talk a great deal about personal and global suffering (since these are mostly psychology classes), do experiential/process work together, and work on projects relevant to personal healing or engaging proactively with world problems. In a class that just finished last week, students used living systems principles to explore problems in the mental health system, the Monsanto-dominated agricultural system, the legal system, and the increasingly neo-liberally dominated higher educational system (among others), and to propose various systemic interventions. I don't bring much of that material in here; I keep these worlds separate. But maybe I should not.
What would you like to see more of here on this forum? That would still be relevant to the theme of the forum (integral postmetaphysical spirituality) and yet be more responsive to your own deepest concerns?
Me: Thanks Bruce, for me seeing how you apply this to real world problems in the classroom is what I'd like to see more of.
Cameron: I'll have a think about Bruce, but this really wasn't meant as a personal affront - particularly not to you, although as group moderator I can see how it might be taken that way. But you've already touched on what feels more real to me - this raw, exposed, vulnerability and radical honesty has a genuine ring of truth about it ;)
And what the hell, here's Bryant's post linked above:
"Put a bit differently, perhaps it could be said that a philosophy is not so much a representation or picture of the world as a map of virtual or potential actions or ways of doing things, and also a response to actions. The Platonist lives and acts in the world in an entirely different way from the Aristotlean and also has a different set of aims. The debate between, say, Badiou and Deleuze is thoroughly uninteresting and is purely academic. There's nothing more dreary than those who discuss philosophy as if what matters is whether you fall under the banner, the tribe, of Deleuzians or Derrideans or Lacanians, etc; as if what matters is these labels and texts. There's nothing more irritating and depressing that a philosophical discussion that takes the form of an abstract debate about whether or sides with Descartes's dualism or Spinoza's parallelism.
"What's interesting is the question of what difference these positions make, of how we'd live differently. For example, how would Spinozist parallelism lead me to think of something as mundane as diet differently? These names, rather, are sign-posts, intensive points, responding not to other philosophies-- though that too --but to problems in the world. What names denote are ways of living, forms of action, ways of perceiving. To be a Cartesian, for example, is not to pursue certainty or struggle with mind/body dualism, or attempt to prove the existence of God. No, to be a Cartesian is to let forth a scream of horror in response to the blood of the Thirty Years War and how it was inspired by an epistemological problem; namely, the indeterminacy of the indetermination of scripture that led to dozens of different religious sects all convinced they had the truth and that if we did not live as they demanded, more plague and famine would be sent. It was to let forth a scream of horror at the treatment of Galileo and Bruno and to express hope at the possibility of a way that peaceful consensus might be reached. Epistemology during this period wasn't some arid speculation, but was a form of politics in a world gone mad."