Saturday, May 23, 2009

The historical and autobiographical approach

I'm going to post occaisonal updates of my progress in writing The Integral Paradigm here, as well as assorting musings and inspirations.

So, Chapter 1 - the Introduction - is pretty much completed (although there'll always be small updates and edits) so I'm mostly working on Chapter 3 - Gnosis and Esotericism, now (Chapter 2 is on the Perennial Philosophy).

This chapter turned out to be a lot longer than originally planned, because I kept adding stuff, as I usually do. It is also very different to my previous attempts at book writing, because I followed the advice and feedback of several reviewers and made it more personal and autobiographical.

This shift from impersonal, objectivist statements to personal experience is really part of the overall zeitgeist, which is moving a way from the old authoritorian model to a more participatory one, with the author as part of history, rather than standing above history. The term "postmodernist" is sometimes used in this context, although I would specify that this has nothing to do with deconstruction (I've never read Derrida and am probably not likely to), contextualism (Steven Katz on mysticism - basically the diametric opposite of Perennialism), anti-metaphysics (Wilber is an example here, although he tries to retain some of his own metaphysics, while denying everyone else's), and so on. I still fully acknowledge the transcendent reality; indeed I am compelled by gnosis to do so. Postmodernist philosophers only have the rational mind to depend on; without gnosis they cannot understand the transcendent, and hence they reject or deny it. This is the same with Western Philosophy in general, as it has lost the original Wisdom Tradition of Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, etc. This is why I have always been more attracted to Eastern Philosophy, which retains the wisdom tradition and gnostic aspects.

But it is interesting to consider that, if I were writing 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, it would have been more purely academic and "objectivist". It would have been a very different book, and, I believe, a much less interesting one.

For me, writing has always been a way to gnosis (at least to one form of gnosism, what Sri Aurobindo calls the "Higher Mental". Indeed it is only in writing this book that I have come to fully appreciate that there is no philosophy outside of history.

Even the very greatest spiritual sages, like Sri Aurobindo for example (although I could equally mention other Realized beings), were still embedded in a historical and cultural context. That is why certain fundamentalist interpretations of Sri Aurobindo, which take his words as absolute and eternal, are so ridiculous. While his Consciousness and teachings came from a Transcendent and yes an Eternal realm, they still had to be expressed through his finite personality in time and space, which was educated in England and liked classic poetry.

The problem with Religion is that it confuses Time and Space with that which is eternal and transcendent. The result is fundamentalism. This sort of frozen thinking is the very opposite of Truth, which is ever new and creative. And you can be a fundamentalist Aurobindonian as much as fundamentalist Christian or Buddhist or anything else. Just as you can be a spontaneous, non-dogmatic, free and open, Aurobindonian, Christian, Buddhist, or whatever.

I remember many years back, i guess in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was very much a fundamentalist Aurobindonian. And the wierd thing is, it was an obsessive thing, you aren't allowed to believe in anything that contradicts this. I guess I knew it was neurotic, but there was nothing I could do about it. I actually remained an Aurobindonian fundamentalist until quite recently. I can't recall when I actually was able to let go of that stuff; i guess it was a gradual process. Personally, I feel it isn't possible to really understand Sri Aurobindo, or any other great sage, if you are fundamentalist about their teachings.

I've mentioned in the past my own experiences with the Integral movement, and I was amazed how they were so fundamentalist about Wilber. Well, I can say I have been equally fundamentalist about Aurobindo. This is also part of my story; the meeting with, and growing beyond, fundamentalism and literalism in all its forms.

So, in all these ways, and many more I haven't mentioned here, my book will be as much an autobiography about my intellectual journey as it will be a description of esoteric cosmology, transcendent dimensions, cosmic evolution, an dthe Divinization (Supramentalization) of the Earth (although it will be about those things too).

It is all about balancing and integrating the transcendenta nd teh historical. What I like about Integral philosophy is that it ideally - although most people who claim to be integral (I'm thinking specifically of the Wilber movement) don't or can't seem to be able to do this - integrates the historical and the eternal (I talk about this in chapter 2, on the Perennial Philosophy).

Ok, that's all for now!

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