Towards an Integral Gnostic Community
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 :-)