Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Integral Paradigm

Just cross-posting this on Gaia com (formerly Zaadz) as well.

My book, previously called Integral Metaphysics and Transformation, will now be called The Integral Paradigm (with apologies to Thomas Kuhn!). I feel that Paradigm is a broader and hence more useful term than metaphysics, even if it is a bit New Agey.

Also, the phrase the Integral Movement (which I previously used) is inappropriate for anything other than the Wilber-Beck-Cohen-etc movement (which I previously called "Integral Movement sensu stricta"). Because it is not a movement as such, but rather a frame of reference (hence "paradigm" a la Fritjof Capra).

Basically I define the Integral Paradigm in terms of seven central interrelated and interweaving themes:

1) Manysidedness (in Jainism Anekantavada), Broadness, All-Inclusiveness)
2) Metaphysics, Esotericism, Gnosis, (Absolutre Reality, Great Chain of Being, evolving body of godhead, etc)
3) Evolution, (includes Spiritual evolution, but also scientific e.g. Darwinian, evolution), Creativity, spontaneity
4) Empathy for all beings, Sentientism, I-Thou (Buber), Participatory epistemology & spirituality
5) Co-Creation, Transformation of self and society, and of all aspects of the being
6) Synthesis of all partial perspectives and practices in a larger or universal integral whole
7) Singularity, Divinization, Perfection (Omega Point, Supramentalization, Transhumanist Singularity, etc)

This represents a radical revisioning previous definitions of Integral philosophy.

Previously, the definition of Integral visionaries has been mostly limited to those recommended or described by Wilber (Integral Psychology), the EnlightenNext editors, and others. So Aurobindo, Gebser, and Wilber are considered integral but not Teilhard. Or Aurobindo, Teilhard, Gebser, and Wilber are integral but not Mahatma Gandhi, Fritjof Capra, or Peter Russell. Hence an emphasis on developmental psychology, postmodern philosophy, Tibetan Buddhism, and so on, which can be found in many Integralist blogs. These are all worthy topics, but they reflect Wilber's interests, not teh Integral Paradigm as such. So the whole thing quickly deteriorates into yet another (albeit benign and useful) New Age religious movement based around a charismatic leader.

In my book I take a very different tack. This is different even to my previous essays, where I was looking for some common stream or thread that can define "Integral". But any such approach is self-limiting.

While it is easy to make fun of the belief that only those who advocate Wilber's AQAL philosophy represent the evolutionary elite, the top 2%, or whatever, what is harder is to define what the Integral Paradigm actually is. My current position is that the classic New Age movement is just as much, or as little, Integral as the Wilber-inspired movement that currently bears the name. Which isn't in any way to denegrate the latter. Or the former.

I emphasise Classic New Age, what Hanegraaff (New Age Religion and Western Culture) calls the New Age sensu stricta. By this is meant people like David Spangler, Jose Arguelles, etc, not dumbed down stuff like The Secret (my original comment on this here, while Stuart Davis provides a more detailed critique). David Spangler rightly attacks such "New Age glamour"; is it any wonder he has decided to distance himself from the whole movement!

Then there is Russian Cosmism; and you have people like Barbara Marx Hubbard; in fact it soon becomes apparent that the Integral Paradigm is much vaster than what is currently referred to as the "Integral Movement".

I've several times even considered scrapping the term "integral" altogether. This is so I don't have to be limited to the Wilber-inspired movement (which is but one contemporary stream of the Integral paradigm, albeit an important one). Unfortunately, there are no good alternatives. "The Cosmic Paradigm" sounds pretentious and silly. So it looks like Integral it is!

Labels: , , , ,