Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Integral rant

Author's note: This was originally written as a rather rambling rant. I decided to put it more in order, and divide it into four statements. These are

  • The Current Integral Movement does not seem to be receptive to the concept of Divinisation

  • The Integral Movement is a subset of the New Age/New Paradigm/Global Mindshift and lacks gnosis

  • The Synthesis of Yoga describes true Integral Spiritual Practice in contrast to the non-integral spirituality of the mainstream Integral movement

  • There is a lack of understanding of Bhakti (Surrender to the Supreme) in the Mainstream Integral Movement

This material is also being incorporated into an essay that I will submit to Frank Visser's Integral World when finished.

The Current Integral Movement does not seem to be receptive to the concept of Divinisation

I've been having some interesting discussion on the Integral blogs. And one thing that intrigues me is the lack of receptivity to concepts such as Divinisation. Now, I will say that Integral Praxis is a very admirable initiative, the people behind the blog are top guys, and hopefully something raelly meanintgful and productive will come of it all. I support them, and I'll probably chip in with comments and posts now and then, and also give them links and mentions. But having said that, I am reminded of where I stand, and where the Integral Movement (as opposed to the Integral Yoga movement, which which I identify) stands. And the difference is great. And always has been. I still see the Integral Movement - whether wilberian, neowilberian (hows that for a neologism ;-), postwilberian, or nonwilberian, as an important part of the planetary mindshift. And I still identify with it to a partial extent, in teh sense that I agree with their ideals of spiritual evolution, the integration of knowledge, and building a better world (all of which are indistinguishable from the goals of the mainstream New Age movement too). And I find the Kosmos definition of Integral preferable to the Integral Institute definition, because there is more praxis and less theory there.

The Integral Movement is a subset of the New Age/New Paradigm/Global Mindshift and lacks gnosis

Some background, for those who don't know my story. The reason I became interested in the Integral Movement because it seemed to me to embody a spirit of universal spiritual synthesis combined with the intellectual rigour lacking in the New Age. The reason I became disillsuioned with the Integral Movement is when I realised the whole movement is limited to a very Wilber perspective, which goes against the whole idea of a synthesis of teachings, in which everyone has their say. Who wants to follow a guy who isn't even enlightened? This is why (I discovered to my great disappointment) there is no authentic gnosis or integral spirituality there at all.

The problem with the Integral Movement is that its foundation is not spirituality or enlightened revelation, but both a religion based on Wilber worship, and an intellectualism based on Wilber books, and some Westernised Buddhism thrown in (Buddhism is pretty much the only spirituality they can handle, because it is intellectual and pragmatic, and does not involve metaphysics or radical practices such as Surrender to the Supreme; you can be a physicalist and still be a practicing Buddhist! It is ideally set up for the secular Western mindset), as well as some Californian Lifestyle choices marketed as "Spiritual Cross-Training". And even the people disillusioned with Wilber, not interested in his personality cult, and involved in activism and practice, are still limited by his intellectualism; there is no gnosis there at all.

This is now being supplemented by practical activism, which is a very positive development. But the activism and practice is still tried to modernist, wilberian, and buddhistic perspectives.

On the theoretical level, the Integral Movement can synthesise opposites and integrate the diverse areas of human knowledge in a larger evolutionary paradigm. But so could Whitehead, Vernadsky, Teilhard, Haskell, Jantsch .... So what is unique?

On the practical level it is no different to the general New Age / New Paradigm / Alternative / Global Mindshift / etc movements. All of which are highly worthy, and the most exoteric stage of the Integral Transformation. But it is not an Integral Movement or Practice, but a New Age sensu lato (Hanegraaf) / New Paradigm / Alternative / Integral / Global Mindshift / Great Turning cluster of mcurrenst within the larger Integral Transformation.

The third level? that's the spiritual. And I mean teh authentic, total transformation of all parts of the being and incorporation of all the yogas. And you won't find this sort of spirituality anywhere in the current, mainstream, Integral Movement (which is not to deny the spiritual nature of the movement, but I am talking about a much more radical and yogic spiritual practice)

The Synthesis of Yoga describes true Integral Spiritual Practice in contrast to the non-integral spirituality of the mainstream Integral movement

The following passage, from chapter V of the introduction of Synthesis of Yoga, explains how even in its most preliminary methodology, the Integral spirituality of Sri Aurobindo goes far beyond anything in the Integral movement now, and probably beyond anything the Integral Movement will have to offer for decades to come (unless my own work has an influence; because by writing about something i am also changing it). is always through something in the lower that we must rise into the higher existence, and the schools of Yoga each select their own point of departure or their own gate of escape. They specialise certain activities of the lower prakriti and turn them towards the Divine. But the normal action of Nature in us is an integral movement in which the full complexity of all our elements is affected by and affects all our environments. The whole of life is the Yoga of Nature. The Yoga that we seek must also be an integral action of Nature, and the whole difference between the Yogin and the natural man will be this, that the Yogin seeks to substitute in himself for the integral action of the lower Nature working in and by ego and division the integral action of the higher Nature working in and by God and unity. If indeed our aim be only an escape from the world to God, synthesis is unnecessary and a waste of time; for then our sole practical aim must be to find out one path out of the thousand that lead to God, one shortest possible of short cuts, and not to linger exploring different paths that end in the same goal. But if our aim be a transformation of our integral being into the terms of God-existence, it is then that a synthesis becomes necessary.

Ok, let's look at Sri Aurobindo is saying here.

Ordinary existence or nature itself is an integral movment, but one based in ignorance ("ego and division").

The various previous yogas were not interested in transforming this world, only in finding the quickest shortcut out, selcting only a single attribute of the lower nature (prakriti) and using taht to attain the transcendent (so it could be jnana or bhakti or whatever). Hence Buddha's parable of the arrow. Why waste time discussing metaphysics when you can be working on attaining Liberation?

Sri Aurobindo's unique synthesis - Integral Yoga, in contrast has to combine all the systems. This is because he isn't interested in fleeing the world. rather he wants to transform it. But to transform it he has to addre4ss all the aspects of the lower nature, and hence incorporate all the yogic techniques. rather than just one, he has to synthesise all of them.

And that's Integral Yoga.

Now, let's return to the present-day Integral Movement.

This proposes an evolutionary synthesis of knowledge. This is the first stage, theory. Here we have Wilber and development psychologists like Kegan and Cook-Gruber, Spiral Dynamics (Don Beck), neowilberian theory (i.e. people who like Wilber but add extra stuff to his ideas - e.g. Mark Edwards), and postwilberians (people who reject or go beyond Wilber but still retain certain of his ideas - e.g. Edward Berge of Open Integral). And we have lots of others who use "integral" in a non-wilberian sense - e.g. Sally Goerner and Erwin Lazlo. There is also a lot more that isn't called Integral but that says the same thing - e.g. non-integral spiral dynamics (Chris Cowan), Great Story neo-teilhardism (Thomas Berry, Brian Swimme), and New Age sensu lato and so on. So we can't even use the word Integral because Integral is just a subset of a broader paradigm shift.

Then we have the next stage, practice. This means putting that exoteric synethsis into practice in thought and word and deed. This is the cutting edge, the "frothy edge" to use their term, of the Integral Movement now. And once again there is also Great Story eco-spirituality and practice, the Alternative Movement, the New Age sensu lato, etc etc . Once again, Wilberian/Neowilberian/Postwilberian Integral is just a tiny subset of a much bigger paradigm shift.

Then we have stage three, Integral Yoga. This means going beyond mental forms altogether, and going beyond exoteric limitations, and living and practicing a life and praxis and activism that is infused with gnosis and enlighetnemnt and spiritual transformation of self and world at every stage. Here is where we leave the poor Wilberian movement far behind. Because this stage involves all spiritualities, not just Wilber's Westernised Buddhism.

So it can be seen that spirituality in the current Integral Movement is old, premodern to use their term. They have integral theory, excellent. They are only now making admirable steps in practice. have not made a single advance beyond what the Buddha discovered 2500 years ago, and if anything they have gone backwards, because rather than following the path to enlightenment they get distracted by all this mental masturbation over minutiae of quadrants and lines and waves and altitude and methodological perspectives.

There is a lack of understanding of Bhakti (Surrender to the Supreme) in the Mainstream Integral Movement

What Sri Aurobindo taught, in contrast to all this, was an Integral Spirituality. He wasn't the first, Ramakrishna did it before him. But so far this Integral Spiritual Practice is limited to the Aurobindonian Integral Yoga community, which with a few admirable exceptions such as AUM ("All USA Meeting") and an offshoot blog SCIY ("Science, Culture & Integral Yoga"), does not dialogue with the rest of the world. Well, who can blame them? There's a lot of ignorance out there, and it can be tedious. But this means the collective social transformation (noosphere) is not addressed.

Each is one-sided to some extent. The Integral Yoga community in the West is not active in outreach (in India however Sri Aurobindo is very big, and there are important education iniatives in the state of Orissa for example). While the Integral Movement remains tied to a limited, non-integral, non-world-transforming spirituality.

Ok, but what about Michael Murphy - Integral Transformative Practice - linking Aurobindo and Wilber? Well, I cannot comment here. i get a good vibe from his photo, but does ITP raelly radically go beyond the mental, transcend the ego, transmute the lower desires, enlighten the cells of the body, bring the Divine down to Earth? Or is it just another California lifestyle thing? I can't tell, because I have no experience with it. but what makes me cynical is that Murphy, like Craig Hamilton (formerly of What is Enlightenment? magazine, and a devotee of Andrew Cohen), while strongly supportive of the AUM 2007 Conference, seem to lack insights in the way that Bhakti and Surrender focused on an enlightened guru (not an intermediate zone one) works. To quote from a report about the AUM. Below is an article written for Auroville Today on the conference

Craig Hamilton (former editor of "What is Enlightenment?" magazine, whose workshop at last year's AUM brought this question into the open) along with Michael Murphy of Esalen found that their major criticisms (the unquestioning acceptance of Mother and failure of self-reflection that they'd seen in the Ashram and Auroville) were effectively answered by the very fact of the panel itself.

Failure of Self Reflection? Or heart-felt devotion through Bhakti Yoga? A devotion taht transcends the mental faculties. This is not to say that the mental cannot be employed as well; indeed it should be to avoid the slide into fundamentalism. But one thing I find interesting is that nowhere is there any evidence of Bhakti, or of Surrender to the Supreme, in the entire Integral Movement. This is not surprising, given the over intellectual nature of the whole movement. People with a strong mental nature tend to be weakly developed on the emotional. But unless there is balance between head and heart, then nothing can be achieved.

by the way I do feel this balance at forums like Integral Praxis and Zaadz; but I never see it in Wilber's obsessive intellectualising. This is obviously one reason why Wilber frequently mentions Sri Aurobindo, but never once in all his thousands of pages The Mother.

But balance of head and heart alone are not enough. A third element is needed; transcendence of the rational mind. This requires giving up hierarchical perspectives such as ideas of second tier elitism etc. And this is achieved most powerfully through heart-felt aspiration to the Supreme. If your mind and heart is centered on the Supreme, then you won't be thinking about how special and superior your mental understanding is, how you are at the cutting edge or frothy edge of kosmic evolution, and so on.

This essential humility is what is most needed for the Integral Movement

So where do I go from here? Well, I'll keep blogging and stirring things up. And finish my books. And help launch a new definition of Integral, which is also teh original definition, which is so far in advance of what is around now (which is not to denegrate, only to speak strongly).

The world is waiting for a new evolutionary consciousness.

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Blogger valleyvintner said...

Why such great concern with the ideas and writing of Ken Wilber? For all his learning and ingenuity, Wilber has not articulated any "Americanized Buddhism." There's no such thing. The Buddha's dharma is complete in iteself. It coincides exquisitely with the Integral Yoga of Shri Aurobindo, differing only in emphasis - e.g. Shakti, the Mother, in Buddhism is Prajna, the superconscious Insight. The Kheper project is marvellous! but don't give Ken Wilber such disproportionate emphasis. Wilber is no bodhisattva; he's a philosopher. But the ideas of Huston Smith IMO do merit the respect and consideration that you give them.

12:04 PM  
Blogger valleyvintner said...

Please allow me to suggest some essential reading for anyone working in the esoteric realm. What has been written here is far stronger on theory and schema than on praxis. For example, anyone who sets out to compare Christianity with Buddhism without once using the term prajnaparamita clearly needs both deeper study and at least fundamental practical experience. Eckhart Tolle, Douglas Harding, Tony Parsons and Francis Lucille are modern western teachers who IMO exemplify the range of modern thought and praxis appropriate to contemporary studies of esotericism.

1:02 PM  
Blogger ... said...


Great distinctions as usual. You are a shining light in the integral culture.

One thought: I think the reason we find some aversion to "esoteric" discourse, and related themes might be that there is an overcompensation for & avoidance of previously promoted sloppy new-age thinking.

And maybe the hesitation some people might have towards some of your concepts, as least on the surface, are more about the actual shadow elements manifesting in the integral culture at large - i.e., a deep attempt to be accepted in the context of competing hegemonies?

Just thoughts...

Michael ~

10:43 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

valley: I agree, Wilber uis no bodhisattva! But I disagree, he does advocate a sort of watered down pop Americanised Buddhism. Not original to himslef, but what he has picked up from Tibetan gurus. Sure it is pretty much lacking in intensity compared to the original and you are right it is in no way the Dharma in its fullness! But that's the way of modernity and superficiality. It's the same with the pop gurus like Osho etc in relation to the original Indian traditions. It's all pretty exoteric. True spirituality requires a great effort of will, and surrender of ego and personal weaknesses; most Westerners are unable to give up their narcissism and hedonism, that is why someone like Osho is so popular, ditto Wilber's brand of Buddhism so called.

I was interested in your identification of the teachings of Buddhism and SA, and the association of Shakti and Prajna certainly has merit! However SA differs with his concept of Supramentalisation.

I agree Huston Smith is much more insightful regarding spirituality than KW.

I see KW less of importance in himself then in being a catalyst for a larger movement, which will eventually transcend him.

Thanks for the kind words re Kheper. I agree KW shouldn't have disproportionate emphasise. I'm emphasising other teachings more now

Thanks also for the list of Western spiritual teachers, I know Tolle, I'll look up the others.

Michael: thanks for the kind words!

Yes people have a knee jerk reaction in part because of "new age" excesses (it's worth pointing out that one of the founders of the New Age, David Spangler, has since distanced himself from the whole thing). But the New Age itself is still an authentic, if mostly superficial, syncretic religious movement. The New Age is really a protest against, and alternative to, physicalism and scientism on the one hand, and exoteric religion on the other. But sure, they've caught up in sloppy thinking and in commercialism.

Shadow projection. I never thought of it that way, but certainly. It's the same with everything though, pretty much defines the human condition! And we know we are enlighetned when we no longer project our shadow on anything that threatens us or freaks us out, but just accept everything and everyone with empathy and love. (I'm nowhere there yet of course!)

5:49 PM  
Blogger Spiritheart67 said...

Fist of all, please forgive my vast ignorance on the topic in general, I only first heard of it this evening in my online wanderings while looking for some kind of spiritual clarification and kinship.

I think I more or less get what 'Integral' is, and I immediately related to the theory and the reasons why you are feeling the need to move beyond it as well, for a number of reasons. Please bear with me while I give you a brief glimpse of where I'm at right now, as a context for my comments.

I've just recently finally come to the understanding that intellectualizing has gotten me as far as it can, and it is, on some levels, something I used as a buffer against certain levels of spiritual realities I wasn't ready to deal with.

I realized that part of the reason for the fear was some kind of unconscious realization of the hugeness underlying everything. All of my life I've 'intuited' the tremendous amount of power that I could potentially tap into and wield. It's like I recognized and felt that just sitting there inside me, waiting for me to wake up enough to use it. Which scared the absolute crap out of me. I've always made a conscious, concerted effort to tone down and mute my energy around others. I've felt like I might somehow hurt or freak others out if I let it out or revealed my 'true self' or energy state. I'm realizing now this was because on some level I knew that I didn't really understand or have control over this huge amount of energy and the tremendous source of knowledge and information that I had access to.

For the sake of brevity, lets just say I've broken past the aspects that were holding me back and have come to accept the presence of some kind of 'field' (the descriptions of the Akashic Field come closest to describing where I now live my life from). I very much liked and could relate to your concern that spiritual issues and connectedness to divinity was not being addressed by the Integral Theory. You are correct, you have to be willing to let go, and at certain times, give over your own will to god's or divinity in whatever form you choose, in the spirit of complete trust and confidence, with the simple knowing faith that he, it whatever (and your spirit) know exactly where you want and need to go. Which is why I can also relate to the mention of the critical nature of submission. My experience was such that I had to take on the mantle of complete personal responsibility, succumb, submit and relinquish before I truly felt and became free. When you do this, everything, every single moment in your life going forward is altered.

I've found myself in completely uncharted territory, once I stepped into this 'field' and made a conscious decision to live from there, while staying connected at the level of spirit, instead of intellect and the results were mind blowing. Hence my online wandering to find an explanation for what has happened to me. I've always been aware of some psychic abilities, but always thought they came from within me, now I realize I was tapping into this vast 'field' and once I realized that, my past abilities paled in comparison to the knowledge I now have access to. Another 'side effect' has been the instantaneous response to any requests I put out to god, the universe, my spirit, guides, the field or what ever it is I've connected to. I've requested and received knowledge via 'dream transfer', if I put out a call for an answer on something specific I get inundated with a deluge of responses in and from multiple formats and sources, if I slip into a bad karmic pattern I immediately receive a little 'wake up reminder', as it were.

My other comments would be that you talk a lot about over intellectualizing, but it feels like you still are, at least on some level, getting stuck in that sand trap. I actually created a tool to log knowledge and intuitive information in a way that would assist in completing connections of intuitive leaps rather than intellectual reasoning alone. Even with this, I had to the fight going to the place I have allowed to trap me and distract me with mental gymnastics all of my life. I was actually surprised at how extremely irresistible the need push forward through each step, one by one, was. It was as if the conclusion I arrive at in this manner would in someway contain some kind of as yet uncomprehended truth, even though I know that’s not the case. What is it we think we will gain and why is some kind of gain or solution automatically assumed? More importantly, why do we feel the need for this process so damn desperately even as we realize its not a life preserver but a certain anchor of death? Not criticizing at all here, just making observations from a given uninformed position.

For me, I came to a place where I stood at the edge of the abyss, turned around, closed my eyes, and let myself fall without fear, because I knew that I would be caught and saved by the field or network or whatever it was that I felt above, below, within and between and beyond yet encompassing all that is.

I'm all to aware of my huge lack of knowledge of the fundamentals required to fully comprehend all of this. Anyway, sorry for babbling, I understand your not wanting to fall into the whole 'guru' thing, however as I mentioned, I'm in uncharted territory here, so any information about what is happening to/with/around me is greatly appreciated. I have a new blog at which has links to older blogs on different sites, if you are interested.

4:22 AM  
Blogger saartama said...

are you familiar with patrizia norelli-bachelet's controversial work with integral spirituality?

11:35 PM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Spiritheart67 said:
"My other comments would be that you talk a lot about over intellectualizing, but it feels like you still are, at least on some level, getting stuck in that sand trap."

Yes, I'm aware of this. The last few months I've undergone a lot of changes. So hopefully I'll be able to it a bit more discriminating in this area now.

saartama asked:
"are you familiar with patrizia norelli-bachelet's controversial work with integral spirituality?"

Yes, and one of PNB's disciples (followers, whatever) once sent me an interesting email regarding compating PNB's cycles with Wilber's quadrants etc. I encouraged him to submit it to Frank Visser of Integral World, but never heard back.

Apart from that, there is a lot of bad feeling between the PNB disciples and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's followers, due to the PNB group's demand that the SA & M community accept PNB as a third supramental avatar. There was some drama regarding this on the Auroconf email list, regarding which I got involved (if it were how I am now I would not have, but then I was younger and less restrained)

4:49 PM  

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