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.


Blogger John said...


I have an interest in esotericism and spiral dynamics and I'm working to reconcile the two in my own scheme. I'm currently using Wilber's ideas as a jump off point but, as I've read some of your critiques on Integral World, it occurs to me that your ideas are a 'better fit' for my initiatives.

I'm reading Gangaji's new book and I think it's good. I came up with the following post for lightmind but nobody commented. I wonder what you think. I'd appreciate any comments you may wish to offer. Thanks!! The post:

"Everyone is talking about Emptiness, Nothingness, the Silence, The Void, etc. All this emphasis on nothing seems so shallow. Why focus on nothing? Surely something is worthy of our attention. There is something. There is an experience of Oneness that is your birthright and it requires the totality of your conscious awareness to be uncluttered for you to experience it directly. Emptying your mind of thoughts and feelings is the best way to make room for this Divine Awareness of God. Emptiness is the means to the end of Self-realization.

Why be silent?

You’re out in the woods with ten people. You’re all talking and joking, sharing experiences and having a good time. Suddenly, your phone rings. It’s the forest ranger, there’s an emergency and he has a message for your entire group to hear. You switch the phone to the ‘speaker’ setting and tell everyone to be quiet. Why? So they can hear the message. If they keep talking they might not hear it. This is the value of silence. In the case of Spirit, the message is always playing, but we must quiet our minds to hear it.

Why empty your mind?

Imagine a King in his carriage pulls up to a crowded square. His attendants announce: “Your King wishes to enter the square in person, make room for the King.” But nobody moves. So the attendants tell the King, “They make no room for you, Sire.” And the King responds, “I must have room for my procession and my entourage; have these people no respect for there own King?” The King can only wave from the window. Emptiness makes room for the King, the Self, to enter consciousness. You must empty your consciousness to make room for the Fullness of the King. He won’t fit otherwise.

Imagine you’ve been out in the dessert all day with no water. After walking for hours in a sandstorm you finally find a well to drink from. But when you pull your canteen out of your backpack, it’s full of sand. You must dump the sand out on the ground in order to fill the canteen with water. You’re ‘cultivating emptiness’ to make room for the more satisfying experience of satiation. Spiritually speaking, we’ve all tasted sandy water, it’s bitter and gritty but it will sustain us. But if you dump your canteen (conscious mind) completely, you make room for the clearest water of Non-dual awareness to fill it. Discard what doesnt' satisfy to make room for what does.

God is knocking at your door. You must answer the door (seek Him), get out of the way (empty your conscious mind) and let Him in (achieve Self-realization).

This is the value of cultivating emptiness; to make room for the Fullness of Self-realization. We don't worship emptiness any more than we worship the car that takes us to church."

6:37 AM  
Blogger goethean said...

A philosophy professor of mine once said, "it is useful to put things into boxes, but only in order to eventually overcome the boxes."

Or something like that.

8:28 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

hi John

Glad you like my critiques!

You haven't studied Kabbalah by any chance have you? ;-) Tzimtzum, The Will to Receive, use of poetic allegory, the King as metaphor of God/Absolute, etc

I'm not sure why your post did not garner any response on the Lightmind forum as I found it quite inspiring. The Buddhist definition of "emptiness" is however rather different. Shunyata is a dialectical concept (Nagarjuna), and Buddhists deny an essential Absolute (anatta - all things are empty of Self). This was discussed in at great length on Open Integral not that long ago. (me, I tend to lose interest in these sorts of intellectual debates, although they do seem to be an important part of the Wilberian and post-Wilberian integral movement. Everything has it's place)

Goethean, yep I agree with your professor!

5:38 PM  

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