Tuesday, July 25, 2006

My essay on Integral World

Finally my entire essay - Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral - An Aurobindonian vision and a critique of the Wilberian paradigm - is up on the Integral World website!

The entire series is:

Historical and Comparative use of “Integral”

The Wilberian Paradigm: A Fourfold Critique

An Aurobindonian Vision

Where To Now For The Integral Movement?

So far I have gotten some very positive feedback, also some critical comments, which I also greatly welcome.

I do get the impression from this feedback that there is a "silent majority" of people in the New consciousness / alternative paradigm /whatever we want to call it that are not as enamoured of Wilber as his publicists and PR machine would make out (although see Geoff Falk's blog if you really want some harsh comments on all this!).

On the other hand, the concept of Supramentalisation may be very hard for many people in the integral movement (whether Wilberian or ex-Wilberian) to understand; not surprisingly since their background, like Wilber's, is in Eastern philosophy and spirituality, especially Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, and Transpersonal psychology (which again is based on the Eastern traditions). And sublime and profound as these great spiritual paths are, they still do not incorporate the understanding of a truly integral transformation of matter. See part 3 of my essay for more regarding this.

In view of this fact, it will be interesting to see what effect my essay has on the Integral community. The Integral World website is very much the home of Wilberians (although less now, given Frank's strong peer review stance against Ken, which led to the latter's vindictive sniping at him and at IW in his blog) and ex-Wilberians (more so now, for the same reasons). But the Aurobindonian vision of the divinisation of matter is another ball game altogether.

Despite this, I deliberately posted my essay there because I believe that the Integral movement has enormous potential; or at least the essence of this movement has. I feel a genuine light there. That's the reason I'm taking the time and trouble to do this, rather than simply working on my books.

And sure maybe i'm deluded and caught in some intermediate zone glamour, it all depends on the nature of the attractor behind Ken. It is so hard to be certain, and so easy to be caught up in glamour, in all these things. But until I'm otherwise persuaded, I'll continue along the present course.

Wilber's role in the integral movement seems to be as the anchor for the "attractor", to serve as a nucleus for these ideas and this discussion in the internet community. He has brought a lot of people together, got them talking and interested and networking. But his own approach is far too rigid and limited and cultic to be of any real use. It is not his side of the Integral movement, but the larger Integral movement, that I feel has this great potential.

But to advance to the next stage, the stage beyond where the Integral movement is now, requires incorporating the spiritual; the true spiritual, the spiritual that comes from the individual divine center, not the intellectual so-called spiritual such as Wilber propounds in his procrustean stages and states and SDi tiers of development.

This is why in my essay I refer to the need to go beyond the rational-mental understanding. Until one can do that, until one can feel the inner divinity, one cannot truly understand what real spirituality means. And for me the Integral movement is a spiritual movement, a movement pertaining to an integral transformation (i'll develop this theme in my follow-up essay). A purely rational-mental philosophy on its own is sterile, it leads only to one becoming trapped in one's own "mental fortress". It is only when reason is a servant of higher gnosis and inner spiritual wisdom that it attains value.

If the focus of the integral movement can shift from Wilber as exemplar, to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as exemplars, there will be a mighty change.

So we will see what happens.


Blogger goethean said...

Geoffrey Falk? You might as well recommend that people read Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins or Anthony Flew for that matter. I guess I'm still a bit of a Wilberian, because I have a problem recommending authors who have no truck with spirituality to critique Wilber. Falk is a critique from the outside, from one who feels no need to read an author sympathetically. What does Falk think about Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, or even Gandhi or Jesus? I'm guessing not much. Secularism is better than fundamentalism, but in the 21st century, we can do a little better with our recommendations.

10:23 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Hi Goethian

First bear in mind the context in which I mentioned Falk; I wasn't citing him as a typical critic, I said see Geoff Falk's blog if you really want some harsh comments. i.e. he is the most extreme of the critics, and so could serve as a counterpole to the Wilber PR machine.

I agree with you re Falk's comments on Sri Aurobindo. Indeed reading what he said about S.A. is what originally made me cynical of him - i.e. if he gets S.A. so wrong, how can i rely on the rest of what he says? (It's like Wilber getting S.A. wrong, how then can i trust him when he cites other sources?). I haven't read what he says about Maharshi but i expect it would be along the same line. Falk is however much better when it comes to exposing abusive gurus. His problem is that he throws the baby out with the bathwater. This seems to be a common phenomenon among people who have been "burned" by abusive gurus and /or the hypocritical organisations of such gurus. I have been studying the guru phenomenon and have found that this is much widespread than one would think (i used to think Adi Da was a genuinely enlightened being for example, even until only several years ago). I do and will have more to say about this on my website.

But basically the conclusion I have come to is that very few gurus are genuine; in the sense that very few have not engaged in some form of abuse of their devotees. I would consider Ramakrishna (though I know he is controversial), Vivekananda, Rudolf Steiner, S.A. and the Mother, Meher Baba, Ramana Maharshi, and the present Dalai Lama to be among the real thing; some others as well. If evidence of abusive behaviour towards devotees were to come to light, I would naturally revise my opinion!

What brought about my reassesment of Falk was the recent Wilber controversy. I cannot exaggerate how much of a shock and a dissillusionment Wilber's first Earpy blog, and his narcicisstic follow-ups were. All Ken needed to do was to apologise to Visser for his disgusting behaviour, as any decent human being would. I certainly don't condemn him for letting off steam, not at all; hell i do that all the time! But it requires a real humanity and a real sincerity to admit (even to oneself) you were wrong; and an even greater humanity to say that one little word, "sorry". Wilber, with all his Nirvikalpa Samadhi and One Taste and all the rest, doesnt have that. And that's when I realsed the whole I-I thing is a sham, that Wilber's own much lauded spirituality was no more authentic than that of any abusive guru, and that Falk had been right all along about Ken (I'm not talking about his physicalist critique, I mean regarding Ken's personality and the whole Wilber phenomenon). If you don't believe me, read what Matthew Dallman has to say about his experiences with Wilber and I-I; there is no way anyone can say that Dallman is an outsider! And of course Michel Bauwens independently comes to similar conclusions on the basis of his experiences. And how about Ray Harris' blog post on this on Open Integral?

So just because Geoff gets S.A., Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, and others wrong; it doesnt necessarily mean that he gets Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Wilber, Trungpa, and other abusive gurus wrong. I won't read Dawkins to learn about spirituality, but i will read him to learn about darwinian evolution. In the same way, I won't read Falk to learn about genuine gurus, but i will read him to learn about abusive gurus. Doesn't mean I have to accept his recommendations of James Randi etc; and on that point I agree with you that secularism cannot critique spirituality and esotericism. But as I said, that is not why I read Falk.

I don't know what Falk says about Jesus, but all scholars agree that basically Jesus is someone we can know very little about; the gospels date to after Paul so already there are many layers of myth there. I do get a very good feeling about Jesus, but whether it's an avataric light of the historical Christ (assuming he was an avatar, I don't know, but i'm open to the possibility) or some intermediate zone attractor, I don't know.

Dennett I haven't read, i suppose i should, but i confess all this physicalist stuff bores me. Like you I know there is more to Reality than that. I consider all that reductionist understanding as pertaining to what Sri Aurobindo calls "the physical mind"; I'll be talking about this in one of my books. Although equally physicalistic, Dawkins I consider has some very good things to say about how biological evolution works on the physical level. In one of my books I will explain why religious Creationism is a difficient philosophy, and that emanationism and the seri4es of hypostases shows that no esotericist or metaphysician need feel threatened by Darwinism. You should also read Teilhard de Chardin for an interesting integral synthesis of science and religion. Whereas Wilber first embraces christian Intelligent Design, and now it seems has done an about face and is citing Mayr etc approvingly!, Teilhard is the real deal, a true Integral thinker and a mystic too. His style of writing is flowery, but i find him a fascinating and inspirational character.

Secularism and fundamentalism - funny you should mention that dichotomy; I start one of my books with a critique of those two poles, and speak of the need to transcend both.

You say you have a problem with non-spiritual critiques of Wilber. What about Meyerhoff?

Look, I understand and genuinely respect what you are saying, but it is still possible to critique Wilber both from an academic (hence secular) perspective (even if that's not my interest) and from a cultic perspective (which for me is more interesting, especially for the light it sheds on the formation and workings of such groups in general). And it is in this latter area that I do genuinely think that Falk does a good job.

Sorry for the rant, hope this clarifies things!

4:05 PM  
Blogger goethean said...

Your talk of Dawkins on physical evolution reminds me: have you commented on S.A.'s critique of Darwinism and how it differs from things like intelligent design and other fuller conceptions of evolution, like Teilhard's?

9:36 AM  
Blogger goethean said...

I'm going to add the "about face" paper that you linked to to the Wikipedia article on KW.

I don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I have a different approach that is in some ways just as disturbing --- I tend to switch to a different guru, rather than attaining a point from which I can evaluate all of them critically.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Mushin said...


just thought it might be nice to know that I really like your essay - haven't read it through yet, but found it very helpful so far. (Found it on Visser's site a week or so ago.)
I've been kindled towards moving on a somewhat new path (to me), a bit at angles to what I call the vertical spirituality à la Wilber. He's been the proverbial drop...

Maybe you're interested in a little preview on my English translation of that article... it's here (don't know if this linking works here...

Thanks for your article and blog,

2:31 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

hi goethean

Thanks for your feedback!

Aurobindo and Dawkins etc. As far as I know Sri Aurobindo did not have any problems at all with Darwinism (he even refers in passing in The Life Divine to the history and evolution of life on Earth as being an interesting side-branch of study (I'm paraphrasing, I don't have the exact page). Nor does Darwinism (or any of its variants, e.g. Dawkinsism) refute the Aurobindonian position. Here is why. Evolution pertains to the physical reality, higher states like the Mental, Overmental, and Supramental planes pertain to supra-physical realities. Wayne Ferguson has written a very good paper on how evolution does not disprove theism (e.g. Christianity), and reconciling (non-fundamentalist) Intelligent Design with biological evolution etc (see his very useful diagram on that page), he sent the draft to me for some feedback last year, and I'll refer to his common-sense conclusions in my book in progress. Basically he and I are very much in agreement on this point. And I am quite puzzled as to why Huston Smith (who seems to have a problem with evolutionary science) missed this obvious conclusion; since this is basically the metaphysic he presents in Forgotten Truth.

Now, it is true that the Aurobindonian and Teilhardian conceptions of evolution to divinity is not confirmed by the Darwinian position. But neither are they refuted by Darwinism. They are simply non-falsifiable by scientific means.

Switching to a different guru. Well, if one realises that one's previous guru was not truly realised, that might make one more discriminating (or not, there are people i suppose who go from one abusive guru to another).

On attaining a point from which one can evaluate all gurus critically. This is secular modernist thinking. In fact there is no such thing as a non-biased privelaged viewpoint, at least from the mental perspective (doesn't postmodernism say that as well? Also see Jorge Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory). Moreover, true spirituality does indeed seem to require contacting a living tradtion (I used to be sceptical of this when I was younger; like you I thought there was a privelaged position, now I disagree). See Marko Rinck's comments and the discussion here. I will discussing this in my follow-up essay.

2:51 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

hi Mushin

Yes there is definitely the move away from authoritarian power structures and abusive (pseudo-) spirituality. What you say is very much in keeping with the participatory spiruality movement of Heron, Tarnas, Ferrer, and Bauwens. I definitely see this sort of thing becoming more importnant and helping to define a new, more participatory and egalitarian spirituality. Regrading this, I'd like to cite your excellent essay in my own essay in progress.

At the same time there still remains, as mentioned at the conclusion of my reply to Goethean, the fact of a spiritual transmission or presence or light or force that constitutes a living spiritual tradition. And the fact is taht even false gurus have this (I have felt it with Da Free John / Adi Da for example, and I have also felt it with Wilber). I will argue in my new essay that qualitively the light of and the genuine and the false gurus is not the same - the latter derives from the Intermediate Zone and/or non-physical entities. See my comments on the "Attractor" behind Wilber in part 2 of my essay on Integral World.

The challenge of the Integral Movement, and of a true Integral Spirituality, will be in how to reconcile these two aspects.

3:17 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Goethean here's the quote by Sri Aurobindo on evolution that includes that reference that I mentioned, as well as a wider description of evolution in general. He is referring here to the "outward aspects" of evolution as opposed to spiritual evolution:

"...In its outward aspects this is what the theory of evolution comes to, -- there is in the scale of terrestrial existence a development of forms, of bodies, a progressively complex and competent organisation of Matter, of Life in Matter, of Consciousness in living Matter; in this scale, the better organised the form, the more it is capable of housing a better organised, a more complex and capable, a more developed or evolved Life and Consciousness. Once the evolutionary hypothesis is put forward and the facts supporting it are marshalled, this aspect of the terrestrial existence becomes so striking as to appear indisputable. The precise machinery by which this is done or the exact genealogy or chronological succession of types of being is a secondary, though in itself an interesting and important question; the development of one form of life out of a precedent less evolved form, natural selection, the struggle for life, the survival of acquired characteristics may or may not be accepted, but the fact of a successive creation with a developing plan in it is the one conclusion which is of primary consequence. Another self-evident conclusion is that there is a graduated necessary succession in the evolution, first the evolution of Matter, next the evolution of Life in Matter, then the evolution of Mind in living Matter, and in this last stage an animal evolution followed by a human evolution. "

From The Life Divine, p.836 of the 10th edition (1977), Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry.

Note the strong parallels with Teilhard de Chardin.

Obviously, Sri Aurobindo is more interested in the broad sweep of cosmic evolution than in details of the process, and he does indicate elsewhere in the chapter that other factors that purely physical may have been or were involved. My reason for critiquing Wilber so strongly on evolution is that Wilber specifically denies (or denied, i guess he has changed his mind now!) any sort of Darwinian physical process; Sri Aurobindo refers to Darwinian factors as part of the "machinery" by which biological evolution occurs, without specifically admitting or denying that this is exactly how it did work happened. Sri Aurobindo is more interested in the transformation from man to superman (supramental being) than in the details of physical processes that are not actually relevant to this transformation. So obviously he is not an intellectual theorist-of-everything like Wilber, and that gives him the luxury to focus on his own specific message and teaching without having to incorporate all the knowledge of the entire world (which would be impossible anyway). Rather, Sri Aurobindo is an integral teacher in that he teaches the integral transformation of the entire being (see e.g. Synthesis of Yoga and Letters on Yoga)

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Mushin said...

Hi Alan,

surely you can quote - makes me feel honoured ;-)

I’ve stumbled over Bauwens, Ferrer and Heron lately – these things always seem to work out… makes me think there is indeed a guiding intelligence at work here. The cooperative part in that would be, “Do I want to pick up what’s been put there on my path?”

Being regarded as a spiritual teacher by some myself I do have some first hand experience in projections and counter-projections. I grew wary of that some years ago, and then wrote an article ”Why God does not need a Throne”. I would see things a bit different now, but it marks well the place that I left the vertical spirituality’s path from.
So yes, more and more I’m moving towards a more ‘egalitarian’ spirituality. Which doesn’t for one moment mean that I disregard excellence and authority. But authority must be willing – to be ‘true’ authority – to answer compassionately to what is being put before it as a consequence of its position…

I agree with you about spiritual transmission. Having had a teacher for almost two decades who very much uses this I know much about it. Actually I can see this ‘principle’ at work often when I’m facilitating my seminars… and recently more then ever (maybe because I leave the shadowy region where vertical spirituality reigns supreme?) So your ideas on the Intermediate Zone are quite interesting to me. We are dealing here with ‘authorities’ from what I called the “other world” so far, but I like your term so much, I’ll be using it in the future.
So in regard to these authorities from the Intermediate Zone (IZ) I have come to the belief that if these authorities or entities are not willing to be questioned then they would be more of the kind that you propose is behind the Wilberian movement (respectfully questioned, surely, but nevertheless – just as students can question a professor or any teacher; “there are no stupid questions”, a teacher once said, “but only stupid answers.” I adhere to this view now more than ever.).
Another consideration I have in this regard is this: these entities/authorities are not embodied at present. Some of them claim – and it looks very likely to me – to have been embodied in the past. Most of them, and those are the one’s we’re dealing with here, do want our very best. But then, how do they know what’s best? They don’t, not anymore. In my view at least. It’s like some of us have now passed the lower grades where we simply take things on the teacher’s authority – and that is as it should be. But then comes the time we have to view the teachings more critically: They always come from the past and incorporate (at best) what we could learn from that. But I do believe, no, I’m certain, that God – or however we want to call the highest evolved intelligence/love of this cosmos (and maybe it didn’t even evolve) – does love novelty, surprise, wonder and so on. We are not going back to were we came from – why leave home anyway if that’s were we’re going to return?
I rather think we’re here to create new homes, maybe even enter into this big project you’re hinting at: the Transformation of matter itself. (I haven’t read any Aurobindo but might do so in the future…).
What would sum up my present ‘field of view’ is this: We participate in a multi-perspectival flexiverse (Hawkins started with that term very recently) and are co-creating it with all beings physical and non-physical alike.

Much Love,

3:41 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

hi Mushin

interesting how you associate "vertical spirituality" with the Intermediate Zone; I hadn't thought of it in those terms but yes it does seem to be the case! Whereas egalitarian spirituality is based on empathy, and hence the level of the heart consciousness and the opening of the heart chakra. From there one can more easily attune in at least some way to the Divine, and to the Divine Soul. And that in turn can lead, eventually (or maybe even quickly) to the Psychic (Soul) transformation.

Regarding the Intermediate Zone entities/authorities being embodied or not. I don't see these forces as in any way human. That is why I use the term "attractor". Another word I have heard used in the guru context is "fascinator"

You are probably tuning in to beings in the astral (which overlaps with the IZ; all these realities merge and inter-shade); there are lots of astral IZ beings that claim to be ascended masters and so on. Maybe some of them have melded with astral fragments of deceased people (c.f. Blavatsky on kama-rupa, etc) and hence taken on human characteristics, or maybe such characteristics only come about through the channeler's subcoonscious (I think this is what happened with Alice Bailey and her chennelled communications from "The Tibetan").

From your description the beings you have contacted (or that contact you) do seem to be of a positive nature, which means they most likely come from higher planes than the lower and middle astral (as presumably did Bailey's "Tibetan"). But as you point out they are still limited in their understanding.

Most so-called New Age channelled communications I find quite inferior to the best of embodied human spiritual understanding and creativity. The only one I know (and ok i don't know that many) that is truly original is Jane Robert's Seth, and maybe what Seth said owes a lot to Jane Robert's own great imagination and creativity.

You said:

I do believe, no, I’m certain, that God...does love novelty, surprise, wonder and so on. We are not going back to were we came from – why leave home anyway if that’s were we’re going to return? I rather think we’re here to create new homes, maybe even enter into this big project you’re hinting at: the Transformation of matter itself.

I couldn't agree more!

best wishes

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Ned said...

Hi Alan,

Just a quick note to let you know that whatever I've seen Geoff Falk say about James Randi has not been positive at all. In fact, he seems to consider James Randi to be the skeptical counterpart to Ken Wilber (I'm paraphrasing but he's made comments to that effect). Basically he sees Randi as intellectually dishonest and as being reliant on as much of a PR-machine as Ken Wilber is.

Meanwhile, I am just about to write you a private e-mail to update you on where I am right now.

Take care!

12:23 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Ned said:
I've seen Geoff Falk say about James Randi has not been positive at all. In fact, he seems to consider James Randi to be the skeptical counterpart to Ken Wilber

Hi Ned. Thanks for letting me know! Yeah I think that Geoff Falk is a lot smarter than most people coming from a Wilberian perspective give him credit for. A lot of opposition may be because he simply critiques KW in a very forthright manner. And his throwing the baby out with the bathwater approach doesn't help matters. But since Wilber made a fool of himself publically (he should never have been given that blog - bad PR move!) many people in the Integral movement may look at Falk's critiques more positively.

5:57 PM  

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