Saturday, December 30, 2006

First there is, then there isn't, then there is

For me writing has always been a sort of jnana yoga, a yoga of insight. As I write, new insights come to me, old insights are discarded or put aside, sometimes permanently, sometimes just for a while. My perspective changes in a sort of kaleidoscopic manner, especially if the subject matter is subtle

Thus in my current book in progress, with the working title The Integral Paradigm, I am wrestling with the question of whether there really even is an integral paradigm and an integral movement (as opposed to say, simply a Wilberian etc), or whether it isn't just an artifact due to the fact that the same word was used in a (perhaps only superficially) similar manner by different spiritual and big picture philosophers.

So originally I thought there was an Integral movement, and there is a sort of generic Integral paradigm (although very poorly defined). This was my view when I submitted the two essays to Frank's Integral World website.

Then, as explained in my last blog post, I started to have doubts, and came to the conclusion that no there isn't and Integral movement or Integral paradigm.

Then I happened to chance upon Joe Perez's thoughtful and passionate essay "Two kinds of criticisms of integral theory: internal and external”, and, while I aren't quite so sanguine about the degree of essential unity among representatives of the Integral movement/paradigm/theory, (that they would agree on about 80% of things and only disagree on about 20%), reading what he said did make think that maybe there is an Integral movement/paradigm/etc after all.

I think where I went wrong before was to try to look for things that everyone had in common. It just didn't work. Now I'm considering instead recurring themes. Even though there is no teaching that includes all the themes, there are still many common themes - e.g. Unity, Holism, Evolution, Divinisation, etc. So I decided to write the book based on these themes. Of course I still consider that Sri Aurobindo and The Mother have the highest perspective, since only they refer to the Divinisation of the world, rather than just seeing the world from enlightenment eyes (although that too, and that's the starting point).

Having had my ideas on this matter go back and forth like this reminds me a bit of that Zen saying

First there is a mountain.
Then there isn't.
Then there is.

For those interested in minutiae of references, the saying goes back to an eighth-century Ch'an (or Zen to give the later, Japanese, name) master of the T'ang Dynasty named Ch’ing Yuan (or Quingyuan, depending on what transliteration spelling you use), who said

"Thirty years ago, before I practiced, I saw mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers. After having arrived at more intimate knowledge, I saw that mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains and rivers as rivers."

(The above combines two translations, here (moving acount of 9/11 from a Buddhist perspective) and here (philosophy and counselling). Thanks to Google for finding the quotes for me!)

Unlike Ch’ing Yuan I cannot say I have arrived at the final understanding. But through practice of sadhana one's understanding does grow. The same with everything.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Getting started on the Integral paradigm

As you may know, I've been working on a book tentatively titled The Integral Paradigm (I may still change this title), based on the idea of an Integral Philosophy or worldview and praxis incorporating common elements of Sri Aurobindo, Ken Wilber, and others, and building on themes in my two essays on Integral World, as well as comments and discussions on Open Integral.

And I just felt I was getting nowhere. In other words, there just isn't enough common denominator to even define an Integral worldview, as opposed to say a New Age worldview. And as I argue in my essay, the Integral movement, especially the Wilberian Integral movement, cannot even be distinguished from the New Age sensu lato (see Wouter Hanegraaff New Age Religion and Western Culture, SUNY 1998). There just isn't enough of a common denominator between Aurobindo and Wilber to constitute a worldview. This was brought home to me even more clearly in discussions on Open Integral - see the threads The Integral movement - new page at Integral Wiki and What does the Integral Movement represent? which made me question whether there even is such a thing as an Integral Movement. There is a Wilberian Integral movement, an Aurobindonian Integral Yoga community, etc etc. Sure. But an Integral movement over and above all these? Forums like Open Integral and SCIY may or may not be able to define the Integral Movement. And sure one can construct a mental viewpoint based on the "big three" of Aurobindo, Gebser, and Wilber, or even on one of these alone, but it would be mental only, arbitrary, artificial, a mere construct, not a real revelation.

Anyway, I was thinking about this, trying to figure what to do. Should I just scrap the whole idea as unworkable? Just forget this integral stuff and go back to straight Esotericism?

And then the answer came to me, on Christmas late afternoon. A sort of Christmas epiphany one might say (I spent Christmas on my own apart from my animals).

The solution is simple. For an Integral worldview I have a strong nucleus. That strong nucleus is (or will be in my book) the essence of the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother on this.

e.g. Sri Aurobindo's teachings might be summed up as

o The Supermind as the link between the static, infinite, and perfect Absolute (Sachchidananda) and the lower three worlds of matter, life, and mind.
o Man is a transitional being (i.e., evolution doesn't end with the mental)
o This Yoga begins where all the others end
o Integral Yoga involves the transformation and divinisation of the entire being
o The transformation is not just individual but collective, involving the entire terrestrial (i.e. physical) evolution

(note that this is just my own tentative listing; more knowledgeable students of Sri Aurobindo than I would probably have a more accurate list)

For The Mother one might add

o The importance of spiritual virtues like Faith, Aspiration, Surrender etc
o The bringing to the fore of the Psychic Being
o The Supramental Force is (and has been since 29 February 1956) already established on the Earth, it just needs to be attuned to
o The transformation is through the Cells of the Body (Satprem's "Mind of the Cells" - incidentally I find The Mother's quotes here far more useful then most of Staprem's commentary)

(again, this is just my own incomplete and preliminary list)

In this context then, and as a starting point, "Integral" means the spiritual and divine transformation initiated by Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and the associated theory and practice that might be included in this. This does not exclude Wilberian, Genserian, Teilhardian, and other paradigms, because as I said the Aurobindonian definition is selected, rather than a vague lowest common denominator approach, in order to get the ball rolling.

So I am not trying to enforce an Aurobinbdonian fundamentalism here, because any form of literalism means that there can no longer be growth and transformation. But at least this way I have my starting point.

Now, you may ask, why not start with the Wilberian definition? Since we are looking only for a starting point, not as a delimiter? Well, here's the definition of Integral from the Integral Institute (thanks to Joe Perez for this quote)

What's "Integral"? It simply means more balanced, comprehensive, interconnected, and whole. By using an Integral approach--whether it's in business, personal development, art, education, or spirituality (or any of dozens of other fields)--we can include more aspects of reality, and more of our humanity, in order to become more fully awake and effective in anything we do... "Integral" is not only a "theory of everything," but involves new ways of working, loving, creating, playing, and interacting in a complex and evolving world--it's a worldview for the 21st Century.

Now, no disrespect intended to Wilberians, all to whom I have associated with have shown a lot of integrity (even Backface was acting in a more reasonable and civil manner in his most recent post), but this definition does not work for me.

Why not? Because,looking beneath the surface, the impression I get (and I emphasise that this is only the impression I get, you may get a totally different impression) is that ultimately it is about lifestyle, about New Age sensu lato, about the where you go next once you have an affluent career and lifestyle and all the material trappings that come with success in Western consumerist society, about a better way of the limited outer personality and body doing things, only about the way in which this small finite personality is made more balanced, interconnected, etc while remaining in the state of avidya. Mention is made to "new ways of working, loving, etc" but how does this differ from what you would find advertised in any New Age / Human Potential workshop?

Don't get me wrong, these are fantastic goals, and certainly our current world with its short-sided, greedy, exploitative, shadow-projecting ugliness is destroying the Earth desperately needs more people who uphold them. And what the Integral Institute talks about (although it's cultic devotionalism means it may have difficulty in applying it!) are the sort of attitudes can save the Earth, if everyone were to adopt them (that's a big if, but...). So I am not saying there is anything wrong with these goals, not at all. I 100% support all the things the Integral Institute mentions. I am just saying they are too limited, too tiny, too unimaginative, too exoteric, for me.

Why aim small, when you can aim high? Why aim only for trying to be harmonious and interconnected in the workplace, when you can realise the Supermind (the Supreme Godhead) in the cells of your body? Why strive only for better ways of loving and playing, when you can reverse entropy?

Of course, it is very much much easier to be harmonious in the workplace than to reverse entropy. The little goals are achieved before the big goals are. Rome wasn't built in a day, and maybe the Wilberian goals are necessary prerequisites before one can hope for anything like what Sri Aurobindo and the Mother promised. Although for me personally, it's the path of Sri Ramana that's the preliminary stage, each to their own. Perhaps these can all be arranged hgirarchically:


o mundane consciousness which is unsatisfactory (the ordinary consciousness of most people)
o a more harmonious mundane consciousness (Wiilberian, New Age, etc)
o realisation of the Silent Self, shunyata, enlightenment, liberation, union with God, whatever (Sri Ramana, Buddhism, genuine Sufism, other authentic teachings)
o Supramental Transformation (Sri Aurobindo and The Mother)

So to get back to the question, why start with the Aurobindonian stance rather than the Wilberian, my reply is simply that (to me) the Aurobindonian is more majestic, more awesome, more inspiring, more provocative, more inclusive, and more amazing and more profound in every way then any other teaching and any other praxis. And that is why, in my book on the Integral paradigm, I am using as the foundation and point of reference the Aurobindonian revelation. Starting with that first, and considering all the others (both "integral" and non-integral). Of course, who knows, I might decide to change things again, but so far this feels right.

The current plan of my book is

o Introduction - What is Integral, problems of definition, the Aurobindonian message
o Biographies and teachings - a list of people both included and not included in the integral movement, and who have either influenced and inspired me in my understanding and development of this Integral paradigm, or who are worthy of inclusion, regardless of what I might thing at present (I might have to get some feedback regarding this latter). Not that not everyone here need be famous, they might just be people I get a good vibe about, even people I have met on the Internet ;-) This is not a definitive review, only my own personal account
o Exoteric praxis (Wilberian and other, e.g. the Integral Institute quote above, and similar themes) - personal and social transformation; Integral lifestyle, Social transformation, sentient rights (Animal Liberation etc), Integral Art, "spiritual cross-training", etc etc
o Esoteric praxis - inward transformation, the Inner Being, the spiritual path (I don't mean superficially, I mean the real deal), leading to liberation, and a brief mention of dangers along the way, such as the Intermediate Zone; the culmination here is liberation such as is taught by Sri Ramana and others. Where all other yogas end, where Integral Yoga begins.
o The Integral/Supramental Transformation

Most of these themes have already been covered or will be covered in my material posted on Frank's Integral World website; so essentially I am elaborating upon that. The only original element will be the biographies, and even there some of these have already been referred to briefly in my essays or their seminal ideas mentioned - e.g. Tielhard, Haskell, Gooch, Wilber, etc. I'm also going to include here several communities - specifically Zaadz and Integrative Spirituality, although the latter looks a lot less like a community and more like an amazing idea by some Wilber-inspired people that unfortunately did not really catch on; regardless, the ideas of the anonymous authors of that site deserve a mention; they certainly have inspired me in several points (I was interested to find that Joe Perez independently mentioned them on Open Integral), despite my criticisms with certain problems they may have.

As my book is written I will post extracts on this blog and on my Zaadz blog; not the whole manuscript, just some stuff here and there, to get people's feedback and to give everyone an idea oif the sort of content. Basically it will be, as mentioned, like the material on Integral World, but with more detail, and some of the more abrasive polemics toned down (what's suitable for the internet isn't necessarily suitable for a book!).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wilber fundamentalist on Wikipedia?

I'm going to leave off my usual musing on Integral matters to address a bit of a drama that's been happening lately. But in itself this is also important, because no amount of accessing the higher worlds and transpersonal states of consciousness matters if the situation and groundwork on the physical plane isn't done too!

The situation is this. Recently a Wilberian propagandist joined Wikipedia and began selectively attacking and deleting all the links he could find to my pages on the Integral movement, as well as trying to delete all references to Matthew Dallman, and nominating for deletion Michel Bauwen's biography (the motion was narrowly defeated)

Here's his user page

Here's the discussion on my talk page

Here's his nominations for page deletion

(Note that I am the author of all of those pages.)

From what I gather and the opinion of a friend, BF is much more likely to be a solitary Wilber fundamentalist rather than someone affiliated with an organisation like, say, the Integral Institute.

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it seems that this guy's main gripe is with me, possibly as a result of my essay on Integral Esotericism on Frank Visser's site, as he refers to my work as "self-published drivel from self-declared esotericists". It is possible also that Wiki references to Matthew may have been targeted because I was the author of his now deleted bio (you can find Backface's comments there too (scroll down)) and I added links and references to him on the Wikipedia Integral Art page. Interestingly, I was also the author of Michel's wikipedia page.

Anyway most of his edits have since been reverted, so there's no harm done there, although unfortunately pages that are deleted stay deleted. And here Backface is able to manipulate Wikipedia's current appallingly one-sided policy regarding biographical essays, against which I have argued passionately but with very little effect (and yes BF even has to have his say on that page too. Yet only on the issue I'm talking about!)

In any case, like bullies everywhere, BF is good at dishing it out (deleting links etc) but not so good at taking it, as indicated by the fact that he ran straight to the Personal Attack noticeboard when I marked his edits as pov vandal (actually he is right on a technicality, Wikipedia vandalism doesnt include POV, and I was happy to admit my breach of wikinette, but why go to all the trouble of trying to list me there?), as well as using my first name rather than Kazlev and even giving me a compliment as if trying to suck up to me. Yet at the same time as he's trying to be friendly to me, he's harassing one of my supporters

So why am I saying all this here? Especially since Backface, having been challenged, has (at least at the time of writing) stopped attempting to delete pages and links relevant to the Integral movement? Because this sort of abuse of Wikipedia, which is by no means rare, should be brought out into the open. It is all too easy for people with specific agendas to push their pov.

A few closing comments (and disclaimers) in regard to this whole affair.

I have no idea what BF is like apart from his activities on Wikipedia. For all I know he may be a really swell guy, very sincere and well-meaning in what he tries to do, but, through lack of self-knowledge, not aware of his own biases and shadow-projection. I don't know. And I certainly don't want to judging him as a person. I'm only judging what he does on Wikipedia, and the attitude with which he judges it. The reader is free to come to their own opinion on this and other matters, indeed I certainly don;t think you should form an opinion about something or someone just because I said something regarding them. It is important to always make one's own inquiries and then, guiding by one's inner intuition and Light, come to one's own conclusions with sincerity.

Secondly, those Wilberians I have met have come across as very decent and principled people. So I am not trying to imply that Backface's actions are in any way representative of the Wilberian movement. This is not to deny that some Wilberians do act in a reprehensible manner (e.g. the antagonism some commentators show to Frank's posts on Wilber Watch is disappointing), but on the whole I find this community to be a high principled one, my criticism of certain cultic tendencies not withstanding. The very fact that there is the ability to look at and question things, as indicated for example by these blogs on Zaadz, is an encouraging sign

Thirdly, Wikipedia itself, despite its many glaring faults, has built into it an admirable transparency. Indeed, it is this transparenmcy that prevents Backface from hiding his real agenda, as anyone who takes the trouble to follow up on his edits on his user page can see.

Finally, I must say, all of this has been a very big incentive and encouragement for me to get my books written! I've decided that the first one will be a revised version of my material posted on Frank's site.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Integral Wiki

I'm just posting this in a few places, because it's a worthy project and more people should get involved and contribute material to it

Integral Wiki

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An integral perfection cannot come by one kind of realisation alone

A while back I posted a quote by Sri Aurobindo on the Wikipedia page on Integral thought. While I was impressed by the sentiment of the words of this quote, I didn't yet appreciate it in a deeper manner.

A few days ago (1st Dec), postwilberian philosopher Edward Berge posted the same quote on Open Integral, as a comment on my post An Integral Approach to Enlightenment and beyond.

Rereading this profound passage, it occured to me how perfectly it explains my own experiences in this regard (concerning the non-contradiction of the Light and revelations Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramana):

“But the Divine is in his essence infinite and his manifestation too is multitudinously infinite. If that is so, it is not likely that our true integral perfection in being and in nature can come by one kind of realisation alone; it must combine many different strands of divine experience. It cannot be reached by the exclusive pursuit of a single line of identity till that is raised to its absolute; it must harmonise many aspects of the Infinite. An integral consciousness with a multiform dynamic experience is essential for the complete transformation of our nature.”

— ''The Synthesis of Yoga'', p.114

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Teacher or the Teaching?

The widespread phenomenon of the "abusive guru" has put paid the myth of the spiritual renunciate who, desiring only moksha (Liberation), would spend years or decades meditating alone in a cave in the Himalayas, attain enlightenment, and set up an ashram dedicated to given out pure teachings and aiding others in their own quest for realisation.

In the West today, the guru is an ambiguous, paradoxical figure who helps and inspires many and harms, exploits, and abuses many (while others go away neither helped nor harmed). They are a world away from the figure of the ideal sage such as Yajnavalkya, Gautama Buddha, Pythagoras, Lao-tze, Bodhidharma, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, or Sri Aurobindo.

Faced with the guru who acts egotistically, or selfishly takes advantage of their disciples for financial gain, or abuses their position of trust by selects teens or twenty-something devotees for sex, or cruelly plays with their devotees feelings using the excuse of "braking down the ego", yet at the same time says things that are inspiring, what are we to do?

The common approach in the West, among those who are not locked in a sado-masochistic co-dependency relationship with an abusive guru, or who - if anything even more appalling - rationalise and justify their guru's abusive and selfish behaviour and attack or denigrate the victims, is to take the teachings for what they are worth and reject the teacher.

My approach, ironically, is the exact inverse of this. It is not that one should adopt the teachings and reject the teacher. Rather one should adopt an authetic teacher (very rare and precious indeed!), and thus go beyond the mental limitations of the teachings.

On the basis of my own experience with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, and more recently with Gangaji (by no means a sadguru but still with a lot of decent qualities) and Ramana Maharshi (the real deal), I have to say that what the teacher says (the teaching) is of less importance than the Light and Presence of the Teacher.

Yes, even the profound and magnificent philosophical synthesis of Sri Aurobindo's written work, which have for more than 25 years guided and continue to guide my intellectual understanding of the world and of the spiritual path. The Presence of the authentic Teacher (whether it be Sri Aurobindo himself or someone else), on the transcendent (nondual) level, is even more important than that.

This ultimately is what the Guru really represents, the role the authentic guru plays. The guru-disciple relationship is a form of bhakti yoga, in which the guru (as the enlightened or realised being) takes the form of the Supreme, and is seen as and believed to be the Divine (this is the whole idea of avatar, sadguru, etc), showers their grace, and in this way enables the disciple to attain that same state.

Would you worship a deity who acted as capriciously and selfishly as many so-called gurus?

So if the teacher is imperfect, if their realisation, however profound and sublime in all other respects, is polluted by their ego or desires, anything you get from would likewise be imperfect. This is the whole idea of the Intermediate Zone Guru.

To ignore the (abusive) guru but concentrate only on their teachings is to be stuck in the thoughtform of the exoteric reality, but substituting words (teachings) for reality (the Divine Presence). Worse, much much worse, you are using the words of an imperfect teacher, and thus attuning to their presence on the subtle realms. In this way one can be misled. So rather than chasing the real state of the Supreme, one becomes lost in the beguiling half-lights and hall of mirrors that is the Intermediate zone.

It only a true guru, a Sadguru, that is safe and reliable, and worthy of the guru-disciple relationship. And only an awakened Divine Center ("Psychic Being" in Aurobindonian terminology) can guide you safely and surely to such a teacher or teachers.

And while one may find out about an authentic guru through an imperfect teacher, the imperfect teacher can then be transcended, once one has a connection with an authentic teacher. In this way, one can attain to the sadguru's enlightenment and grace, and thus oneself work to and eventually (more quickly or more slowly, depending on one's sincerity and integrity of one's aspiration) attain that state, and realise within oneslef the same state of divinity as shines through and as the nondual Presence and Personality of the authentic guru.