Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Metaphysics, not post-metaphysics

Here is another (slightly edited) extract from my essay in progress, now titled An Integral/Holistic Metaparadigm.

(note: The "post-metaphysics" in the title of this post concerns Ken Wilber's interpretation of post-metaphysics ("Wilber-V"), and not contemporary German philosopher Jürgen Habermas's earlier use of the term)

Metaphysics is that branch of Philosophy that the rational investigation of questions about existence, being (Ontology), the nature of God or the Absolute Reality (Theology) and of the Universe (Cosmology), the mind-body problem (nowadays generally a separate discipline in Philosophy), causality, the problem of free will and determinism, and so on. In other words, questions concerning the meaning of existence, which underlie all other inquiries.

With the rise of the secular Enlightenment in the West, and especially current modernity, much of academic philosophy has lost its connection with the original "Wisdom Tradition" of Pythagoras and Plato and Plotinus, and hence cannot really answer these questions. Because these questions cannot be answered, proved, or disproved, by rational physical or physicalist means alone.

The word Metaphysics means literally “after” (not "beyond" or “above”) “physics", and refers to the arrangement of Aristotle's writings, in which his books on “first philosophy” were placed after the books on “physics”. This is quite distinct to the popular definition of beyond or above the physical reality...

Within the integral movement, especially its majority Wilberian branch, “Metaphysics” has become something of a dirty word. This is due solely to Wilber's repeated statements that metaphysics belongs to an outdated or pre-modern age and must be rejected if spiritual teachings (by which he means experiences abstracted from any context or meaning and hence slotted into his own AQAL system) are to be acceptable at the court of modernity and postmodernity1. In addition, as I have shown (Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral, Part Two, A Fourfold Critique sect. 2a), Wilber understands by metaphysics only the popular, non-academic philosophical meaning. Because of this, he is able to avoid acknowledging the fact that his own system is highly metaphysical (quadrants, holons, transcendent Spirit, etc) when making his self-contradictory claim that his own current teachings as "post-metaphysical".

In doing this Wilber (and hence the entire Wilberian integral movement) has bought into the scientistic and academic preference for debunking metaphysics, because it deals with things that cannot be "proved" by or to the Physical Mind (sensu Sri Aurobindo). But this rationalist physicalism itself rests on a number of unproved, irrational, and yes, metaphysical, assumptions, as has been persuasively shown by Transpersonal Psychologist Charles T. Tart. (see Charles T. Tart, “Some assumptions of orthodox, Western Psychology”. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, pp. 61-111)

My position here is that not only is metaphysics necessary, but no truly comprehensive “integral” understanding of reality is possible without it. Without metaphysics the best one could have would be a sort of agnostic postmodernist or neo-Buddhistic (on western-inspired apologetic Hinduism and Buddhism see Jorge Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory, pp.48-51) style of approach, in which bare experiences are recognised and definied empirically, but there is no attempt at arriving at a deeper meaning, no attempt is made to show what those experiences refer to. Such agnosticism comes with its own metaphysical baggage, e.g. crypto-physicalism or crypto-materialism, the subtle conception that all these experiences, visions, etc are simply the by-product of the physical brain, but one shouldn't look to closely at that, just be satisfied with the experience taken out of its context and sanitised for a secular physicalistic bias. This may work for Wilberian physicalism, but as soon as one studies even superficially the teachings of authentic spiritual realisers it quickly becomes apparent that reality is much vaster than physicalism considers it to be.

The problem here, as mentioned, is that modern Western secular academic thought has lost its original wisdom tradition (represented by Pythagoreanism, Platonism, Neoplatonism, etc) and hence has to fall back on scientism and superficial empiricism. This is why spiritual apologetics like Wilber try so hard to present an unthreatening and secularised version of spiritual and perennialist teachings.

At the same time, no metaphysical system and no map of reality should be accepted as final. It should always be remembered that all these concepts are just suggestions and points of view, useful classification schemes and thoughtforms, which should never be used as alternatives for direct spiritual experience.

Monday, August 14, 2006

What Sri Aurobindo's represents

" Sri Aurobindo has come on earth not to bring a teaching or a creed in competition with previous creeds or teachings, but to show the way to overpass the past and to open concretely the route towards an imminent and inevitable future."
--- The Mother

Today, 15th August, is Sri Aurobindo's birthday, and hence one of the Aurobindo Ashram “darshan days”.

Although considered a philosopher, and on the surface dense and intellectual, Sri Aurobindo's writings go beyond the academic intellectual approach, because the physical mind cannot access the spiritual truths. They go beyond the New Age spiritual supermarket, where the Revelation of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo can easily be overlooked among the clamour of systems, some genuine, many misleading or superficial. And they go beyond religion with its dogmas and literalism.

The strength in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings lies in the fact that they truly are "integral", in both the inclusive sense, because they include all other teachings, like the parable of the Buddha's teaching being like the elephant's footprint that can contain the footprints of all the other animals, and in the Transformative sense, because they taught the way by which the entire individual being that is to be transformed, and ultimately the Earth as a whole.

It is this vast and all-encompassing vision that constitutes a powerful appeal of the Integral Yoga teaching. There is also the strength of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's spiritual presence, which is especially felt on “darshan days”. But this can only be felt by those who read their works with receptivity, or who in some way have receptivity in their hearts, and some opening or receptivity to the inner Divine Center (Psychic Being). And that is why it is most important that the Mother – usually ignored by intellectuals - be recognised as well.

Through heroic deeds, the Divinisation of even physical mundane reality may be brought about!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Suggested definition for a complete Integral metaparadigm

The following is from my essay in progress, tentatively entitled An Integral metaparadigm. This essay is about 2/3rds finished and will be posted on Frank Visser's Integral World when finished, as the follow-up to my 4-part essay "Towards a larger definition of Integral"

Please note that this is still a work in progress, and some of this material may be modified in the submitted essay:

A definition of Integral:

My current definition of an Integral Metaparadigm (so-called because it would include various integral paradigmns as components or sub-components):

A pragmatic movement of individual, collective, and global transformation, which uses theoretical integralism as a preliminary framework or entre to a practical integralism orientated to greater synergy and ultimately to the divinisation of the world.

Such a transformative integralism should be one in which the mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, and divine, the individual and collective, the exoteric and esoteric, the secular and the sacred, the scientific and the occult, in fact all dichotomies, can and should be incorporated. Nothing less than all of the above, can be considered truly integral. And it is this wideness and depth and height that the integral movement should aspire for, not just in theory, bit in practice as well, the practice being transformative (because it is integral) rather than simply a one-sided development of a single faculty that ignores the rest, or (as in most conventional spiritualities) a one-sided liberation that confers freedom and transcendence on the individual, but leaves the world unchanged.

Themes and Categories:

On the basis of the above definition, a number of specific categories could be suggested, that an Integral movement or meta-paradigm would have to include or incorporate in order to be truly Integral. Remember, the goal of Integral (as defined here) is firstly to include and encompass everything, hence all human knowledge and fields of expertise, and everything in the cosmos even beyond that, and second, to transform everything. Since we are still limited to human ways of being and knowing, there will be the largest number of categories and their included themes in those areas we are most familiar with, and much less in those we aren't. As always, the following list should be taken as provisional only; it is not an attempt at a complete explanation; that would certainly be impossible. Rather it is hoped that it can serve as a suggestion or starting point for further discussion.

The categories given here are

  • Integral Philosophy - the mental “map”, integration of knowledge, which incorporates the understanding of various ancient and modern cultures including the insights of secular modernity. Incorporates both exoteric academia and esotericism – the latter transcendending the mundane and constituting the mental “map” as regards the supra-mundane

  • Integral Science – the understanding and mental integration of the natural, social, paraphysical, and noetic worlds and sciences

  • Integral Aesthetics and fine arts which expresses, symbolically represents, participates in or allows the audience to participate in narratives and archetypal realities at various levels.

  • Integral Morality and Epistemology – action in regard to other (physical/embodied) beings, which is based on empathic relation with all sentient beings and with the entire cosmos, and actions and behaviour only in accordance with that

  • Integral Education which addresses the whole child and the whole adult, in a harmonious manner which furthers individual personal and transpersonal/spiritual development

  • Integral Society – which is pluralistic, diverse, ecological, spiritual, and wholistic

  • Integral Technology which is always appropriate and always sustainable

  • Integral Psychology and Phenomenology of which includes all states of consciousness and all aspects of the psyche and the microcosm

  • Integral Esotericism and Occultism – interacting with subtle forces, action in regard to supra-physical realities, understanding the nature of the subtle forces impinging on and influencing the individual

  • Integral Visionary Cosmology of which brings together science, esotericism, mythology, occultism, and gnosis and encompasses and explains all worlds and realities and their transformations

  • Integral Spirituality and Yoga – becoming transpersonal, accessing of the inner being; consciousness may or may not still be limited to the physical, may be solitary or interact via positive morality with others or with society, transcendence of ego, enabling the transformation and transmutation of the entire personality and surface individuality through the triple transformation of Self-realisation (Liberation or Enlightenment), Soul-realisation (The Divine Center), and ultimately Supramentalisation

  • Integral Spiritual teachers and Initiators who are fully self-realised and Godhead-realised beings, free of all trace of ego, narcissism, and self-delusion

  • Integral Tikkun – Transformation and divinisation of the individual, collective, and planetary consciousness and being on all levels, Soul- and Self-realisation and beyond; Godheadhood, Supramentalistion, Omega Point, Divinisation of the World

Each of these categories will be explained at greater length in the essay, although some of these terms - e.g. soul-realisation and self-realisation - are explained in my previous essay on the Visser site.

If anyone has any suggestions for further categories or definitions, or comments or criticisms of the ones suggested here, please send them in.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Meta-states of Consciousness - a preliminary paradigm

I haven't posted anything recently because I have been busy with my follow-up essay for Integral World; An Integral Meta-paradigm. But here is a slightly edited part of it, on Levels of Consciousness, which also reflects my current understanding.

Note that these levels (even this word is not right; they are better thought of as "states" or "meta-states" (foundational levels behind) states of consciousness, should not just be simplistically described in perennialist terms of a “Great Chain of Being”, or in Wilberian terms of “include and transcend” (although they can be described that way, but that is just one aspect). While they do represent increasing levels of Insight, they also represent radically different functionings and modes of being. Also, they are not ontological levels, but rather ways of relating to ontological levels. This quick summary will also be elaborated in detail in my forthcoming books.

The Mundane level / Mundane Consciousness – This is the level or state of the “exoteric”, the outer being or surface personality – the outer physical, emotional and mental consciousness, and of the external reality. In other words, this is the only sphere of being at which there is an actual Cartesian dichotomy between subject and object, self and other, “exterior” and “interior”. Of course, what is exterior to oneself is actually interior to another, so even this dichotomy is invalid. Mundane Consciousness, like all the spheres of being, consists of many sub-levels, of which the most focused and “objective” (pertaining to the exterior material world) and hence repeatable and scientific, is the “physical mind”(to borrow a term from Sri Aurobindo) which pertains to the mundane or outer being and the reality it experiences (there is also a much more limited form of outer experience, that of the fundamentalist literalist, who applies a sort of objectivism to every word and letter of his or her particular sacred scripture, seeking to understand it the way that the scientist understands the external universe). This and other surface aspects of the outer being constitute the essential interface between the mundane individual self and the larger mundane exterior world (other selves). And although this is the most restricted and limited level of human consciousness (apart from the subconscious), by that very reason it is also the starting point for higher development.

Occult / Spiritual / Esoteric Consciousness - Beyond the limits of the secular experience and states of consciousness, is the intuitive understanding, experience, and access to the inner being. These are dimensions and states of being far beyond the mundane level of consciousness, and simply cannot be accommodated in the secular worldview. They include both sub-physical, intra-physical, and supra-physical realities. The supra-physical realities are quite ontologically distinct from the physical, and hence can neither be proved or disproved by empirical methods.

At these levels, experience is limited only the highly distorting nature of one's mental bubble or mental fortress. The result of this is that we do not see things as they are, but as we think they are. This is why many esoteric and occult cosmologies are highly subjective, even though they do authentically contact and in their practical form (occultism and some forms of yoga) allow the interaction with subtle realities. Only a few teachers like Max Theon and the Mother (Mirra Alfassa) learned how to access these realities directly,

Intermediate / Pseudo-enlightened Consciousness - Beyond the mental bubble of our own thought-forms are the far more cosmic and potent dimensions of the immanent/transcendent (indeed such dichotomies are meaningless at this and higher levels) intermediate zone of partial realisations, in which ignorance and delusion are determined not by the conceptual mind but by the levels of egoic pseudo-enlightenment and potent but misleading experiences of great power and knowledge which are however still not of the nature of true enlightenment or liberation. Indeed it seems that the great majority of gurus and teachers that proclaim total enlightenment but still retain narcissistic and abusive behaviour rationalised as “crazy wisdom” or “necessary to break down the walls of the ego” are false teachers which are trapped in the Intermediate Zone, mistaking that for the final goal. This is explained by Sant Mat (Sikh esotericism) which refers to a number of misleading lesser heavens, by Sri Aurobindo in his important essay on the Intermediate Zone, and by my own comments in the “gurus and spiritual teachers” section of my website. (see ”The Intermediate Zone guru” and other webpages in this section - still under construction at the time of writing)

Enlightened Consciousness - Beyond the intermediate zone is the state of true liberation or enlightenment. In all traditional spiritualities this is the highest one can go. Sri Aurobindo however refers to even greater states of trans-enlightenment beyond that. The nature of some of these states of liberation or enlightenment has already been referred to at some length in my current essay on Integral World, Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral – section 3, to which the reader is referred.

Supramentalisation (or in Lurianic Kabbalah the cosmic tikkun; also Christian concepts of “New Heaven and New Earth” and Teilhard de Chardin's “Omega Point”) refers to the end process of Integral Yoga, which is the Integral Divinisation and Transenlightenment of the entire being, including even the very cells of the physical body, and ultimately inanimate matter itself. There would seem to be two stages here, a transitional and a more complete Supramentalisation. This will bring about a radical spiritual singularity at the global and eventually the cosmic level. On this, see also my essay The Divinisation Of Matter - Lurianic Kabbalah, Sri Aurobindo, and the New Physics.