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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Blogger Lux said...

I agree so much, Alan.
Actually, in many teachings specially nondual, concepts used are provisional, skillful means to activate the gnosis which itself transcends concepts and words. That's another difference between academic concept-building, which takes these intellectual constructs as fundamental and "true", and gnostic teachings that use concepts as a medium to get the sadhak beyond the conceptual frame of mind into the intuitive and enlightened understanding which is concept-free.


7:57 PM  
Blogger edvard said...

"Integral" is not here to save the world, neither is "gnosis", but the practical action that we put in to the world is the only thing that is worth anything. Quite simply, you havn't understood if you aren't able to live according to the consequences of the understanding.

I skeptical about possibility of communicating gnosis through virtual communities. Perhaps webcam-meetings could facilitate the blossoming of the human spirit, but there is a limitation there too. Overall your idea about bringing different people together is very noble and I hope it could be a catalyst for people into a more personal inquiry.

7:12 PM  
Blogger phil said...

Dear m alan kazlev my name is Phil
and this is the first time I've ever intellectually communicated with someone I did not know.
I will ask for ensurances that I am taking to you and only you. I realize you are buzy wring your book and collecting your thoughts
but I am always brief and to the point. So the reason I am speaking to you today is because in 1970 during our University studies we created the "Integral Correlated Transformation Theory"
So tonight during my search for others who understand the significance of this I found your website and thought we may be able to help each other somehow. Unforunately I do not have the time or the energy or the typing speed to present too much information during one sitting, short direct conversations is what I had in mind. Please let me know how you feel about this and get back to me if your interested. Thanks Phil

10:19 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Hi Phil

yes, please contact me with your ideas! My email address is: alankazlev (at) ihug (dot) com (dot) au

2:30 AM  
Blogger William D. Stewart said...

Its good article. I understood now what is exactly Philosophy and Teaching. Thank you for this article.

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10:37 AM  

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