Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Philosophy vs Teaching

Marko - who like me posts occaisonally on Open Integral, always from the perspective of gnosis - made an interesting observation that I think is highly relevant and worth repeating here:

I would propose the distinction between Integral philosophies and Integral teachings. I see that in the Integral community the two are not enough delineated while I think it helps to do so.

I found this little explanation of the difference between teachings and philosophies by a professor of the university of Virginia in an article on consciousness:

“A metaphysical philosophy is a purely conceptual structure that is presumed to be a logically self-consistent description of some aspect of reality. It does not necessarily include techniques for experiencing this reality. A philosophy is different from what we shall call a teaching. The purpose of a teaching is to help a student to know a reality, no matter whether it is phenomenal or noumenal. Since the emphasis is on knowledge rather than on logic, a teaching may use whatever concepts and techniques work in bringing the student to the desired knowledge. A teaching often will have a philosophical basis, but there is no particular equirement to adhere rigidly to it.”

I see Wilber etc. as creating an integral philosophy, meaning their purpose is to describe in a logical self-consistent way as many aspects of reality as possible.

Aurobindo, Almaas etc. have integral teachings, meaning their purpose is to help their students know (by experience) as many aspects of reality as possible.

Now I am not saying that one is better then the other, I find both of them interesting although I am more interested in the second. But I do see a confusion in the Integral community between the two that would help the discussions if there was more clarity.

And also I see Integral philosophers use concepts from teachings (like for instance Advaita) that are not meant to be used in the philosophical way, but in the teaching way, that is only as pointers for students to find the knowledge themselves through jnana or gnosis. I think you
can use these concepts for a philosophical system, but if you then afterwards refer back to the teaching you should not treat it like a philosophy but as a teaching.

Obviously, this is also where I differ from the Wilberian / Post Wilberian movement. Their intellectual and philosophical discussions are about taking authentic teachings out of their original very pragmatic spiritual and soteriological milieu, making them into something dry and mentally abstract. But while it is useful in adding to the store of human knowledge, and indeed serves an absolutely necessary purpose, in the end no amount of mental theorising can confer enlightenment. For me therefore what is interesting and useful is the Teaching, not the Philosophy!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Spiritual attitude

I've been getting some very good cxomments from my original suggestion for a gnostic community. Here are two that I would like to repeat.

From Tom:
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!"
Lao-tzu seems to me to be an enlightened sage very much in the mould of Ramana Maharshi, and vice-versa. Both teach a form of quietism and non-striving that is very confronting to the egotist who seeks to elevate him or herself (for often him) above others.

This is where most pop gurus and teachings go wrong. They are full of egotism, full of what the Mother and Sri Aurobindo call "the vital" (the emotional/affective nature, corresponding in part to the "astral plane" of Theosophy); one contacts such a guru and is full of excitement. This excitement, tied up with egotism, is the result of "the vital" (or as my friend Steven Guth calls it, "The Double"). Almost all religion and (pseudo-)spirituality is based on this. So is the mass media, and if you look at a Hollywood blockbuster movie you will notice it is almost totally devoid of any mentality at all. In each case, the whole thing is just a way of pushing the buttons of the lower "vital". Likewise the Wilberian Integral movement, and much of the New Age movement in general.

From Ned:

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.
The Divine, and the consciousness of the Enlightened Being (as opposed to the "intermediate zone" guru with only a partial realisation) doesn't discriminate. The mental and egotistic position however organises things in terms of a hierarchy, with those most disagreeable to one's own pov, or alternatively those deemed the most "primitive", placed at the bottom, and those most similar to one's own pov, near the top, but still below one's own position, as a sort of earlier version or prelude to what one is saying. Some religious classifications do this, they classify the other religions or philosophies in an ascending order. Ditto 19th/early 20th century western colonialism, with other cultures and races. And of course Wilberian and Spiral Dynamics versions of the "Great Chain of Being" (as opposed to the authentic, metapohysical "Great Chain of Being". Ultimately, the whole thing is narcissistic, the universe revolving around one's own religion, culture, race, philosophy, or ideology.

A gnostic or geneuine spiritual community's "outreach" would be very different to that of the conventional (Wilberian) integral movement, since it would be on the level of the mental pointing to the spiritual, whereas the latter is based on the mental inspired and powered by the affective ("vital", astral) level. How such a thing would work, without ego getting involved, I don't know. The best thing would be to strive for mindful awareness of one's own reactions, watching out for movements of the lower nature which are ever waiting toi hijack the genuine spiritual impulse. And in that way, to always follow one's own inner spiritual guidance.

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