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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Blogger Lux said...

Hi Alan,
Let me step forward to reach you.
I share much with you (let's leave this for another moment).
Gnostic and Jnani is the same, they come from "knowing", "knowledge", in the fundamental meaning of the term (insight, intuition, direct seeing).
As someone that trascended the intellectual ego and found rest, some decades ago, I am available to your suggestion.
Best regards
clarallum (at)

7:19 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

I don't have the Integral theory chops that you and a great many of your blog readers have, but I do want to chirp in with an enthusiastic "Hooray!"

There is a problem, though -- which you seem to anticipate. To the extent that gnosis is embraced by the Integral interested (e.g. me) or Integral theorists, it just becomes another marker, another city on the map, another glittery piece of wearing apparell for the poseurs. Should Ken accept your insight, it would just be something better for him to hide behind and further justify the flawlessness of his theories.

This topic approaches being impossible to discuss in a virtual room full of claimants of lofty spiritual achievement. Said Lao-tzu: "We should blunt our sharp points, and unravel the complications of things; we should attemper our brightness, and bring ourselves into agreement with the obscurity of others. How pure and still the Tao is, as if it would ever so continue!"

12:47 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Hi Lux

I was very encouraged by your offer of cooperation! Yes, if even we two alone begin an initiative, and take it from there, more will become involved. Since I wrote my last blog post I've had more thoughts, which I'll post separately (I suppose eventually this should go in one of my books)

Yes, gnosis, jnana, insight, etc, all mean the same, i agree. There are also many types of higher gnosis; e.g. Sri Aurobindo's transformative levels of Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind, and Supermind constitute increasingly profound transformative realisations. But I'm still only at the most basic level of realisation when it comes to all this

Tom, thanks for your insightful feedback too. But I have to say I'm no integral expert either., at least when it come sto theory. Nor would I want to be.

Re the possiblility of an Integral Gnostic Community becoming a badge for egotists and posers to use, or for Wilber to adopt, to begin with this is unlikely. First egotists want something glamorous and important. And second KW is unlikely to adopt anything unless it is by someone famous (both Ray Harris and Jeff Meyerhoff have in different ways noted Wilber's obsession with fame), or alternatively by someone who uncritically supports and worships him. In this context, your quote by Lao-tze is perfectly appropriate!

So a good way to tell if someone should not be involved in this initiative is if they display narcissistic behaviour. Any egotist should simply be disqualified. They are of course free to set up their own group.

You are spot on too about internet forums. I have found managing a large yahoo group to be too difficult, because there are too many conflicting personalities, and I don't have the emotional wisdom to know what to do. Also the forum tended, I am sorry to say, to New Age banality among some. The worst of all is when strong personalities (not saying they are insincere, but only that they have a more limited understanding) hijack the group.

Perhaps to begin with, just us three, and anyone else who responds positively, could discuss suggestions off list for where to go next.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Nehdia said...

Hi Alan, I totally resonate with what you are saying here.

I don't think such a community would be elitist, necessarily, though I do think that some people manage to attain such great spiritual realizations that the vast majority of ignorant people would just never be led to them anyway. "He who is too great, must lonely live," writes Sri Aurobindo.

Someone needs to work on a carefully worded and well thought-out essay, perhaps with lived examples, on how, from the perspective of the sage, hierarchy and equality are totally consistent with each other and yet perfect in difference. Sri Aurobindo does do this to a great extent in "The Synthesis of Yoga" where the word "equality" is on almost every other page -- though of course he is talking about a perfect *inner* equality, not mechanically enforced ideological egalitarianism (which does more harm than good). Still, some practical examples to illustrate this would be great -- sometimes I have thought about working on some fiction to illustrate these ideas if I'm ever sufficiently inspired.

A gnostic community would include a group of people who, as Sri Aurobindo and Mother indicate to us, have compassion and empathy for all beings no matter what stage of growth they are at, while having an ongoing sense of spiritual evolution -- in other words, even in the most ignorant, such people would see the Divine behind the veil and draw that out. For such a community to arise spontaneously, all we can do on a personal level is to surrender totally to the Grace of the Supreme.

The main problem I see with this whole Wilberian business of labeling and color-coding stages and what not is that it's very prejudicial and mental. It requires that you judge people externally and basically stumble around blindly inside their souls. Truly spiritual people rise above all of this, see people's pain and attachments, and try to address their *needs*, not impose personal agendas on them. They participate from a totally different level and manifest a presence that draws out from people what they themselves were not aware of. This is why surrendering to the presence of a true sage is so empowering. It is the difference between the spiritual authoritarianism of the past and the divine anarchy of the future.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Lux said...

Hi again, Alan!

"I was very encouraged by your offer of cooperation! Yes, if even we two alone begin an initiative, and take it from there, more will become involved. Since I wrote my last blog post I've had more thoughts, which I'll post separately (I suppose eventually this should go in one of my books)"

I still have to read your most recent post, but want to tell you I am happy of your reply. I stumbled on your site some 2 or 3 years ago, and read some of the materials (not many) and always saw your integrity! :-) Always thought 'would be interesting to exachange with him'.

"Yes, gnosis, jnana, insight, etc, all mean the same, i agree. There are also many types of higher gnosis; e.g. Sri Aurobindo's transformative levels of Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind, and Supermind constitute increasingly profound transformative realisations. But I'm still only at the most basic level of realisation when it comes to all this

I am no scholar myself, but I am familiarized with Sri Aurobindo's works since 30 years ago at least. Also the rest of Hindu and Buddhist traditions. And some more... but again, not from the scholar perspective, but the combination of my inner understanding and relating to the teachings since always. My name is Clara. Keep in touch!

8:41 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Thanks Ned! Very insightful, as your comments always are. I should include some of this, along with Tom's quotation from the Tao-te-ching, in a new follow-up post.

Clara thanks for the kind words. I'm glad you've found the material on my site useful :-)

And it's certainly not necessary to be a scholar. Scholarship, while useful for adding details from a mental perspective, is not essential in the way that authentic spiritual consciousness, aspiration, and sincerity is.

7:52 PM  
Blogger ZAK said...

I have some suggestions for a name:

Gnostic Heart

Gnostic Sense


Gnostisis, I like that one!

3:48 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Hi Zak

Gnostisis wouldn't work - it sounds like Boomeritis or Wilberitis. I like "Gnostic Heart" and "Inter-Gnostic" best.

By the way I read your essay on Frank's Integral World site. I cite it in my current book in progress "Integral Metaphysics"

7:13 PM  
Blogger ZAK said...

Hi Aln

Gnostisis, your right, ha ha..

I also read an outline of your book, I forget were, its very good.

As for the essay. First I find it very difficult attacking people, even Wilber, but for the sake of what I think the truth is, I had to do it.

I finally decided to do it, once I got my own ego out the way, and realize it needed to be done for the people who are going to be hurt. Also Frank is a good guy for publishing it.

If I do another essay on Wilber I will tone it down a bit, I know I got a little rough.

Frank said it was “fiery” but he said it was all right for a change.

One more thing, I have to say its guys like you, Frank and Meyerhoff, and your brilliant essays that were an inspiration to me!


2:15 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

hi Zak!

Thanks for the compliment :-) I actually thought the tone of your essay was totally appropriate. Sure you stated your point strongly, but it was without ad hominem attacks. Anyway, I'm very pleased to see someone like yourself from a Sufi background contributing to Frank's site; it adds a new and welcome perspective! (I'm one of the few contributers there who like yourself is writing from an esoteric perspective)

And yes it's so easy to be critical; I'm the same! I now wish I had toned down the polemic a bit in my essays on Frank's site! I mean I could have still said what I said, but said it in a nicer way. This is how I'm trying to do in writing my book. But that's why it's good to write essays; one learns from one's experience, and can improve one's manner of writing.

4:14 AM  

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