Monday, April 30, 2007

Gnosis and Outreach

Carrying on from the topic of the last post

First, a current working definition of "integral" that is able to include both Wilber and Aurobindo. By "integral" can be meant they share these qualities:

(a) a spiritual evolutionary worldview,
(b) a "big picture" approach that is both distinct from but also integrates spirituality, philosophy, science, etc, and
(c) self-referential - both use the word "integral".

Not much to go by, and at one point I was ready to give up the possibility of any connection at all, other than that Wilber appropriated Sri Aurobindo's terminology in this context. But Scott Zimmerle and I are currently working on a book which traces the influence of the Integral worldview - or alternatively the Modern Teleological worldview, back to German idealism, and I would add Western esotericism. Note that Whitehead, Teilhard, Blavatsky, Steiner, and many others can also be defined as "integral" according to (a) and (b); with Gebser and the post-wilberians we can add (c) as well.

Anyway, there is an interesting symmetry between the Integral Yoga Community (Aurobindonian) and the Integral Movement (Wilberian/PostWilberian) . Since I have been and still are involved in both, I can talk from experience, or at least as much experience as my own observations may carry, which is not anywhere as much as those qualified in these subjects.

The situation as I see it is like this. Integral Yoga constitutes an authentic spiritual path based on the teachings of two genuine enlightened beings (Sri Aurobindo and The Mother) who can only be approached through spiritual insight. Thus you need some measure of gnosis to begin with, or the whole thing appears meaningless, and can easily be rejected. As with those involved in any spiritual tradition, some may be only "seekers" (the seeker is not the same as the gnostic, because the seeker only knows from a mental or devotional level; e.g. someone is "seeking", then they join a religion or a guru) who feel an affinity. But this affinity is not or not yet the broad certainty and non-contradiction of all spiritual paths that Gnosis conveys. But (again as with any authentic tradition) the core of Integral Yoga people, and many on the periphery, have at least some level of gnosis or insight.

However the Integral Yoga community tends to be quite insular, in that it has not is primarily concerned with Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's teachings, and its effect on the larger world or even the larger New Age community has been slight. The exception is in India where Sri Aurobindo is still seen as an important guru, philosopher, and freedom-fighter, but that is a cultural thing, and I suppose also involves national pride.

What I have said here for Integral Yoga applies by analogy also to every other authentic spiritual tradition - Buddhist, Vedantic, Sufi, Kabbalistic, Taoist, Esoteric Christian, etc etc. I don't mean pop gurus who teach a watered down message acceptable to the secular West. I mean authentic esoteric spiritual traditions.

The opposite or converse of this is shown by the Integral Movement, initiated by and still focused around KW and his teachings. Here there is no transcendent spiritual path, but only mental theory. But there is something that the authentic traditions lack; outreach

The orthodox Wilberian mainstream of the Integral movement has been incredibly proficient in this regard, and indeed in many ways Wilberism resembles a missionary religion. You will never see this sort of marketing involved with an esoteric teaching. Because of their success, the Wilberian integralites have established a decent influence within the New Age and New Consciousness movement, and especially on the internet, and are also very successful - much more than any esoteric teaching - in America and I have heard also in Germany. But this isn't the case everywhere. In Australia Wilberism is insignificant as a "new age" movement. with only a relatively small number of followers. But the situation with Integral Yoga is even worse. Apart from myself and one or two others, Aurobindonianism is totally non-existent!

So we have two diametrically poles within the realm of the "integral". One has genuine spiritual insight, but little in the way of outreach. The other is brilliant at outreach, but the philosophy lacks an authentic spiritual core.

Actually the situation may be changing, at least from the Integral Yoga perspective. Here is a very intersting and promising instance of Integral Yoga outreach.

To come back to the topic back to an Integral Gnostic Community, I hadthe idea, although maybe this is just egotism and forcing things, rather than allowing them to develop spontaneously (whatever that might involve). Anyway I thought that maybe a Gnostic Community might likewise benefit from "outreach". It may be writing books, or webpages, or whatever. In any case this is only something that would be posisble after the original group is established. So first there should be a community of fellow gnostics on-line. They don't even have to be "integral" (sensu the two or three characteristics listed above) gnostics, although that's basically my approach. But others may have different approaches. The important thing is that they are receptive to a higher or deeper, more spiritual and divine, consciousness. People who genuinely see things in terms of going beyond limited mental perspectives, and are attuned to, or aspire to, the Transcendent,

Then, if and when a decent and active community develops online, and depending on the amount of interest these suggestions generate, the next step should be some sort of "outreach". But it is essential always to avoid the dangers of cultism, superficiality, authoritarianism, dogmatism etc. Spiritual principles based on genuine inner guidance and inspiration (not outer authority) should never be compromised. And there is no greater way to destroy an initiative like this than for one or more people involved to get caught up in egotism or competing personalities, or trying to appropriate the community as a vehicle for their own personal agendas or belief systems, whatever they may be. I have been involved in internet forums and I have seen that sort of thing happen, and it is immediately obvious that there is not an atom of genuine spirituality there, it is all ego. Well-meaning ego, with a lot of good will and sincerity, sure. But egotism all the same. The group therefore might be the synergetic result of the sadhana or spiritual aspiration of the participants; spiritual practice that transcends the limited thoughtforms of mental or mental-spiritual teachings, and thus can come to approach and appreciate the Supreme/Enlightment/The Absolute from one, several, many, and/or all, perspectives. A good example of this is given by Sri Aurobindo, and which I have posted on Open Integral.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Towards an Integral Gnostic Community

I'm double posting this on Zaadz as well..

Having participated in and checked out a number of "integral" forums and on-line communities, I am intrigued by the fact that there is one thing that seems to be missing. Gnosis.
By Gnosis I mean an inner certainty and spiritual knowing that goes beyond the endless futile turnings of rational argument.

These words - when divorced from the content of their experience - appear shallow and new agey and thus can be misinterpreted by those who lack Gnosis and coming only from the sceptical rational mind. Because, as with all things, they have meaning through experience. You need to have Gnosis to understand Gnosis. Elitism? Perhaps. But if that's how it is, that's how it is. You cannot say that the state of gnosis is the same as the state of lacking gnosis. When there is an lack of gnosis, all that understanding has to rely on are endless intellectual theories, abstractions, dogmas, of which one is chosen as the mental truth, and the others denied or subordinated to that. Sure there are degrees of gnosis too; it's not like anyone who has Insight is the same or in agreement or lacks ego. This is only the very first step.

And this, I contend, is where the current Integral movement totally fails. The latter is based on academic and quasi-academic thinking, and heavily influenced by the intellectualising of the Wilberian/Post-Wilberian paradigm, an intellectualising that seeks with great good will to understand. But which cannot understand the transcendent, because the transcendent by its very nature is beyond such intellectualising. All that the best intellectualising can do is point to the infinitely manifold Supreme. In the words of the old cliche, the map is not the territory. And philosophy and academia fails when it remains fixated on the map, and ignores - or still worse in the case of radical agnosticism, materialism, or religious fundamentalism, denies - the territory.

This is not to denigrate the many wonderful people I have met in the Integral community, or to deny the influence Wilber's work has had on my own way of thinking. However for me Wilber's influence has been more along the lines of a catalyst - the immensely inspirational idea of bringing everything and everyone on the cutting edge of human and collective evolution together. Unfortunately I consider Wilber's own philosophy - his integral theory - an intellectual dead end. His theory, with all its lines and levels and quadrants and stages and states, is much too tiny and much too inflexible for this vision. And his ego, sorry to say this Ken, is much too big. Without humility, nothing can be achieved.

This is why I advocate not a mental integral theory, and not egotistic pomposity, but a spiritual gnosis, an integral insight that goes beyond all such limitations. I have yet to see anyone do a better job at pointing the way than Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. What Wilber fails to do, philosophically, spiritually, esoterically and occultly, they succeed in doing.

So okay, if the Wilberian/Postwilberian movement isn't the way (at least not for me; there are many for whom it is the way, and it is good and right that they are there, because they are exactly where they should be), what about the Integral Yoga community? Wouldn't they constitute the sort of thing I am talking about?

Well, much as I am grateful to share this planet with others inspired by the same twin avatars as I, and very glad that they are carrying on the message, there is also a danger here. It is exactly the same danger the Wilberians face; the danger of becoming fixated on a single teaching. And sure in this case it is a genuine teaching, not an intellectual dead end. But there is still the fact that if you follow those two great teachers literally, you'll be stuck yet again in another limited religion. And you'll only be able to approach the Supreme through a limited perspective, that is, through the mental filter of a literal reading of only one set of teachings, rather than an unlimited one through the experience of all teachings and all teachers. Also, just because someone follows Sri Aurobindo and the Mother doesn't mean they ave gnosis! It may simply be an intellectual attraction, or an emotional affiliation, or a combination of factors that have nothing to do with spiritual insight.

Now, I'm not saying that following Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to the exclusion of all other teachers is no good. First, esotericism has always worked that way. You attain enlightenment through a fundamentalist approach to Vedanta, a fundamentalist approach to Sufism, a fundamentalist approach to Kabbalah. The rigid and inflexible Thoughtform leads beyond itself to the Supreme. And those who are fundamentalist Aurobindonians are following the path that is exactly right for them, and honouring that path and that teaching, and I would be the last one to try to dissuade them. Also, there are those Aurobindonians who are aware of the danger of literalism. So I am not saying everyone in Integral Yoga only follows the one thing, absolutely not.

And second, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother truly did bring something new, the Yoga of Descent, the Yoga of the Divinisation of the Body and of Matter, which marks a complete break with old spiritualities and yogas, which were only concerned with the attainment of a nirvana or enlightenment that renounces the world (or in the case of the bodhisattva ideal defers liberation until everyone else has been enlightened and entered nirvana and disappeared from the world). In this regard, Wilber, for all his claims to be the most advanced, the most integral, etc etc, is totally stuck in the old idea of the highest state (what he calls nondual, Spirit, One Taste, etc) as one of transcendence of the world.

But even so, for me, and for many others, there is the need to go beyond the reliance on one teacher or teaching only. Sure you may still honour that teaching, and that teacher. It may be your primary orientation to spirituality and gnosis and the Supreme. For me Sri Aurobindo and the Mother always will be. But it is not the only one. Your spiritual conscious is wide enough to take in many authentic teachings and teachers, and see the Supreme in each. For example, I see Ramana Maharshi as equal, that's right, equal, to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This is a paradox since mentally I consider Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings superior. And I am always open and receptive to further teachers and teachings, who would likewise be equal in status, because all partake of the Supreme through their complete Enlightenment. You may have similar experiences with different teachers and teachings, or with the same ones, it doesn't matter. What matters is the Gnosis that goes beyond words. And beyond focus on a single external form.

Nor does this mean that everyone has the same gnosis, the same experience, and will attain the same enlightenment. We are all different, unique, and so are experiences and our gnosis are too. It is not a bland uniformity. It is the exact opposite.

I do envisage a very new type of spiritual community emerging, a community of gnostics, not bound by religious or philosophical limitations. There have always been such esoteric groups, but in the past they were limited to a particular tradition, no matter how authentic that tradition was or is. The Supreme however encompasses all traditions, and infinitely more besides. And a community of gnostics connected over the Internet would indeed be something new. The work of transformation is still done in one's own self first and foremost. But the synergy of spiritual exchange between gnostics all over the world may lead to a totally new emergent phenomena, new spiritual evolution, quite different to the current mentally-based noosphere. And this would aid in the work of global transformation, a community of Gnostic Lightworkers.

Such are my thoughts. I look forward to your feedback on this :-)

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Eco-activism, New Age empowerment, and Lightworking

Several months ago I went to two very different workshops. The first was an ecological group, the second Theta Healing. I have already written about both on this blog and alos my zaadz blog. In this post I would like to just comment on my feelings of both in hindsight, what each has left me with. Because in a sense each only provides half the picture.

The Ecological workshop did a very good job of reminding me of the mess the Earth is in because of human stupidity (but they didn't and cannot know that human beings - at least those in power - are just puppets of forces from the supraphysical, especially the affective or astral plane (what the Mother calls the vital world). And it pricked my consciousness and reminded me of why I'm here. But when it came to solutions, well i wasn't impressed. But I'm not a march in the streets holding placards activist, or a lie down in front of bulldozers activist, or an organise a filming pof Al Gore's inconvenient truth video to your local community activist, or even a write letters to your local MP activist. And really even if you are one of those (and btw Iabsolutely support all of them, I'm not denigrating this sort pf action at all!) it wasn't very good because the second part which was supposed to be the practical solutions was inefficiently organised, rushed, and the networking not followed up (apart from a Yahoo mail list). To be fair to these people they are new at this too, at least here in Oz, but even so it reminded me of a talk/workship at a ConFest some 20-odd years ago, in which the guy giving the talk and describing all the horrors of what is happening to the Earth ended it on a funny note by saying "father australopithecus, help us!" and stuff like that (calling on the ancestral hominids i guess). And I thought, this is the only solution they have?

The New Age scene is very different. It is all about empowering yourself, thoughts/beliefs create reality, so you are given techniques or initiated into the ability to modify your thoughts and beliefs to engineer your reality. The empowerment that is lacking - or is only present on the gross physical - in eco-spirituality, is present in the New Age, and indeed is the whole subject of the New Age. But conversely the New Age tends to be..., well, narcissistic is too strong a word, but what i mean is it more about oneself, although also of course about healing others, and even when about oneself it is in a positive manner. But there is very little about the Environment for example, except the acknowledgment that the current crisis is something that comes about through negative thinking, and lightworkers are working on healing the Earth. Or there may be some millenialistic element as in Jose Arguelles system (Mayan Prophecy), which in that regard is more like millenialist Christianity than the positive aspect New Age (although it lacks the intolerance of fundamentalist premillenialism). I saw a video of Arguelles talking a month or so ago (this was organised by the local Planet Art Network group) and he seems like a really nice guy btw.

Looking back at the two workshops I went to then, learning Theta Healing was a major turning point in my life, whereas the ecological workshop did not made any change in my life.

So the true Lightworking involves taking the best from both. Ecological and environbmental consciousness from eco-spirituality and deep ecology, and ecological activism, and personal spiritual empowerment from the New Age. It is actually strange that these two have not been combined already, because it is such a logical step, with each complementing the other. Or maybe they have - in fact I'm sure someone must have connected them somewhere - but i just don't know about it.

One reason for the lack or rarity of this synergy may be obstruction due to drugs clouding the consciousness and remoiving the will. I haven't bene to any confests in many many years, but i stopped going because of the degenerate drug use (excessive marijuana). This, I suggest, is where the hippy/alternative movement has run aground; they have become a bunch of druggies, no better than alcoholics in mainstream society or among the older generation. A friend of mine who has the same pure no-drugs attitude that I have, comments on this even in the rainbow gatherings and confests today, although he thinks it may still be possible to get around this. I disagree, and think instead that this is why the alternative movement, with their very perceptive enmvironmental and political consciousness, has not been able to empower themselves. You can't work on the subtle levels if you're head is always cloudy and out of it diue to marijuana in the bvloodstream (and marijuana stays in the bloodstream much longer than alcohol does, it is quite an insidious drug in that regard)

Thus the true lightworker, the true "rainbow warrior" (i don't know if this meme is still big but it was very big in my alternative and confest days some 20-25 years ago), integrates empowerment and magical potency with strong environmental and eco-spiritual consciousness. This is how the Earth is to be saved. Thus both New Age and environmentalism are good, but alos each partial. One gives power, but no map; the other a map, but no power. Okay environmental groups still leave out animal liberation and sentient rights; this is the real weakness in the environmental / social-reform movement that continues even now. Ultimately the lightworker has three areas of healing to do, human, animal, and environmental. Any one alone, or even any two alone, cannot heal this Earth. The healing can only come with all three, and with the power to engineer reality by working with belief and invoking higher spiritual and divine realities.

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