Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Introduction continued

I realize that some do not read the comments. I often don't either at other blogs because they are often not nearly as interesting as the originator's post. So I'll post the comments from the Intro here, since most of them are mine.

Here are some comments from the IPS discussion:

kela: I personally don't have that big a problem with the term "spirituality," as it has now come to encompass more than it originally did. For example, the series on "Western Spirituality" now has books on stoicism, skepticism, and kynicism -- philosopical regimens that do not necessarily require positing a ghostly essence. As Hadot points out, these are ways of life in the late ancient world. That, to me, more properly defines what a "spirituality" entails.

Balder: Agreed. That's how I interpret the word, as I indicated in my previous post. But calling the forum "Integral Postmetaphysical Ways of Life" is even more cumbersome than the current name!

I do like Ed's term, but to me that is a narrower focus than what this forum is about: it refers to a particular (interesting, promising, fruitful) philosophical perspective, while this forum (as I see it) allows for a range of (world)views and philosophical perspectives, as "ways of life" or "visions," to be gathered under the broader general umbrella of an "integrative" and "postmetaphysical" orientation.

theurj: On the other hand it seems Richard Dawkins sort of agrees with me, at least as the terms "God" and "religion" are used. I'm reading The God Delusion along with a reading group at the local UU "church."* Dawkins argues in Chapter 1 that many use such terms to denote a more general feeling of wonder or mystery, or to refer to a more generalized entity like nature or the universe. He says that such usuage though is so general as to be meaningless, and that we should stick to more specific language for such descriptions and limit those terms to belief in the supernatural, aka the metaphysical. He does make a good point, that if we are to find new modes of the postmetaphysical perhaps we need to "let go" of trying to fit new wine into old wineskins?

Granted the same case can be made for the term "nonduality" but not as convincingly, since that term seems to have arisen in the Buddhist context of no metaphysical self or reality. That others have misinterpreted such nonduality as metaphysical spirituality, including much later-day Buddhism (at least according to Batchelor), is not support enough to decry the terms usuage, especially in light of American pragmatism and 2nd gen cogsci, which expand and refine the postmeta aspects of at least a certain sect of Buddhism. (See for example The Center for Pragmatic Buddhism, on which Board Batchelor sits.)

*The same case can be made for calling UU a church, since it invites people of all persuasions, even atheists and secular humanists, to participate. In which case it is more of a community than the usual use of the word "church." The mission statement of the UU I'm attending is as follows, not particularly religious or spiritual:

"We gather in community to nourish souls, transform lives and do justice."

Although I am a bit squeamish about the word "soul" for the same reasons.

Part of Dawkins message is that there is nothing that doesn't have a natural base, ie, something supernatural without a "body," so to speak. And of course because of this he has been criticized by the likes of Wilber for being reductionist, reducing everything to matter. But he doesn't do this. He notes for example:

"Human thoughts and emotions emerge [his emphasis] from exceedingly complex interactions of physical entities in the brain" (14). But a kennilinguist might reply: "But see, he is reducing mind to a its physical correlate, reducing the left to the right hand quadrant." But again this is a fallacious argument hiding behind a dualistic separation of inner-outer. While it might be useful to speak of inner-outer quadrants it's another thing again to think there is a actual ontological separation. As I demonstrated elsewhere the cogscipragos, through the principle of continuity, show the continuous relation between the levels of mind from its bodily base and the inseparable relation between the inside and outside. There is no actual, dualistic separation. One consequence of this is that there is no mind without a body, which doesn't reduce the mind to a body, since a mind emerges from and out of a body; a matter of degree, not kind.

Wilber did discuss the different meanings of the term "body," which includes the above two usages, that of body as a level (body-emotion-mind-spirit) and between inner-outer (body as physical base for consciousness).* In both cases though to say that because one recognizes the continuous, nondual relation between them is reductive because it doesn't accept a supernatural (aka spiritual) agent apart from them is to me metaphysical elevationism.

* Also recall the cogscipragos noting other meanings of "body" beyond the physical, associated with an social and cultural body, a hermeneutic body, all of which are emergent, developmental aspects of, but never separate from, a physical body. Granted a societal culture exists in its artifacts, like books, so any particular physical body is not required to perpetuate it. But without some body around to embody it it's moot as to its inherent existence apart from it. And to be sure this cultural artifact was created by body-minds.

Also note that Mark Edwards has criticized Wilber for his own reduction of the so-called exterior quadrants as being "merely material" and lacking in exactly the kind of developmental "bodies" referenced above.

Granted in Excerpt G Wilber indeed talks about the gross, subtle and causal bodies, so he's not limited to the physical body. But he adopts metaphysical Vedanta nondualism wholesale* here so his interpretation is not of the more postmetaphysical nondualism of the cogscipragos beyond physical (yet in the physical) bodies. For example, he begins by accepting the metaphysical involutionary scheme arising in Spirit. And critics have noticed how his subtle and causal bodies sound much more like levels of interior consciousness. Such confusion arises due to his adherence to traditional, metaphysical models instead of including the nondualism of the cogscipragos.

Now he does note that the subtle and causal bodies co-arise with more developed brain structures, which of course makes the case for them existing apriori via involution problematic. I think he's correct here but he's still interpreting them traditionally and metaphysically as subtle and causal. And we can find his dualistic nondualism again on display in page 2 of the series in his discussion of the Two Truths which he says "are of radically different orders."

* For example, from Part III: "I have incorporated those aspects, virtually unchanged, in my own model of Integral Psychology."

Later in Excerpt G Wilber discusses reincarnation and he rightly affirms that for cogscipragos like Varela consciousness is anchored "firmly in the sensorimotor body—so much so that reincarnation, by their theory, is impossible." And Wilber proposes that "the subtle bodymind can exist without the gross bodymind, and the causal bodymind can exist without either of them." Again he is using Vedanta/Vajrayana to support the thesis with its metaphysical concomitants.

Here are a couple more of my comments from the IPS discussion referencing the above:

In the Levin thread I brought up Mark Johnson's book The Meaning of the Body in relation to Gendlin. From it I made a point relevant to this thread so I'm copying some of it here.

Structure-forms, as in language, are meaningless in themselves without the felt sense of a body-mind to provide that meaning based in its experience. So culture per se does not reside in the books alone. It requires an embodied person who has been embedded in and developed by a culture to re-embody the meaning back into the words of that book with each reading. Here's the relevant passage:

"The fateful error...is to overlook much of what goes into making something meaningful to us. Then we are seduced into mistaking the forms for that which they inform.... We think that if we have succeeding in abstracting a form...then we have captured the full meaning. Moreover, this exclusive attention to stable structures can entice us to succumb to the illusion of fixity, that is, the illusion that meanings are fixed, abstract entities that can float free of contexts and the ongoing flow of experience" (80).

Recall above, in reference to Wilber's excerpt G:

"And we can find his dualistic nondualism again on display in page 2 of the series in his discussion of the Two Truths which he says 'are of radically different orders'."

Compare and contrast with Johnson in the above referenced book:

"What must be avoided...is the Kantian view that an adequate account of human mind and thought requires the keeping of two sets of books--one for the phenomenal world of things as appearances to us, and the other for the mysterious, noumenal world of things in themselves" (113).

And lest we forget, Integral Spirituality is full of the same type of metaphysical descriptions. As one example of several see Appendix II, The sliding scale of enlightenment:

“Enlightenment is a union of both Emptiness and Form, or a union of Freedom and Fullness. To realize infinite Emptiness is to be free from all finite things, free from all pain, all suffering, all limitation, all qualities—the via negativa that soars to a transcendental freedom from the known, a nirvikalpa samadhi beyond desire and death, beyond pain and time, longing and remorse, fear and hope, a timeless Dharmakaya of the Unborn, the great Ayin or Abyss that is free from all finite qualities whatsoever (including that one).”

And this from Integral Spirituality, Chapter 5, section "emptiness and view are not two":

"When one is in deep meditation or contemplation, touching even that which is formless and unmanifest—the purest emptiness of cessation—there are of course no conceptual forms arising. This pure 'nonconceptual' mind—a causal state of formlessness—is an essential part of our liberation, realization, and enlightenment.... When it comes to the nature of enlightenment or realization, this means that a complete, full, or nondual realization has two components, absolute (emptiness) and relative (form). The 'nonconceptual mind' gives us the former, and the 'conceptual mind' gives us the latter."

Wilber's definition of "postmetaphysical" in IS is described in Appendix II, section "what is the address of an object in the kosmos?" where he notes that there is no fundamental, pregiven world apart from all perception of it. There are only perspectives in relation to each other. Thus we need to establish this relation via a kosmic address, which includes the altitude and perspective (aka quadrant or quadrivium) of both the subject and the object. Although he does slip up in this section and admit this only refers to the "manifest world." Which goes with what he said above about the radically different realms of emptiness and form.

And how do we determine altitude? He makes this clear in Chapter 2, section "the relation of the different lines to each other," discussing consciousness per se:

"This happens to fit nicely with the Madhyamaka-Yogachara* Buddhist view of consciousness as emptiness or openness. Consciousness is not anything itself, just the degree of openness or emptiness, the clearing in which the phenomena of the various lines appear (but consciousness is not itself a phenomena—it is the space in which phenomena arise)."

So the formless unmanifest consciousness experienced in nirvikalpa samadhi is the measure of the relative altitude in any kosmic address. Hello! This is "post" metaphysical?

* Here he slips again in admitting this as a Yogacara doctrine, and as I've said numerous times before, it is this type of "Vajrayana" Buddhism he equates with Vendanta, and rightly so. 

Balder: Hmm, I don't know. I agree that Wilber seems to retain certain metaphysical ideas in his theory, but I don't think discussion of a state in which discursive thought has momentarily subsided -- in which there is no experience of the movement of thought, no perception, no non-perception, nothing you can say about it -- is necessarily "metaphysical," not if you are reporting the after-the-fact apprehension of the cessation of phenomenal experience (a sort of blanking out). If you hold "pure formless emptiness" as the actual foundation of the entire world (as I expect Wilber does), then I believe you do cross over into metaphysics. But to use the term "formless emptiness" and to associate it with an enactable experience (or experience-gap) which involves the apparent cessation of discursive thought and phenomenal distinctions is not, in itself, "metaphysical," any more than it is metaphysical to make reference to other humanly available apprehensions (like "bliss" or "the zone"). What do you think?

theurj: I posted the above not in direct response to you Balder, as I read your response after posting it. Yes, as I've said before, having myself had such experiences of apparent (good descriptor) "void," that of course we can interpret it postmetaphysically and I have. The question is, does Wilber?


  1. Balder: That's interesting; I hadn't read Wilber in that way. I guess he could be thinking along those lines (e.g., when actually determining Kosmic addresses), but I expected he was thinking more along the lines of the various evaluative models of development he draws on in his AQAL model. However, his Kosmic addressing references in Integral Spirituality do not include any indication as to how he arrived at his assessment (as to stage level, state, etc), and that really needs to be indicated. Even then, this system is not without significant challenges.

    Sean Esbjorn-Hargens makes reference to this issue:

    "Mark Edwards pointed out to me -— and I completely agree -— that it is important to keep in mind that an approach to Kosmic addresses is enacting those addresses in a particular way. Integral Theory needs to spend more time developing and justifying how it has arrived at its own Kosmic address mailing system and how this system establishes its own system of addresses. Edwards is understandably suspicious of Integral Theory’s capacity to do this adequately: 'No one system is up to this task. Hence the ultimately inadequate nature of all mailing systems. Only when all the partialities of the inadequate address systems are combined (including AQAL) can the process of communication (sending mail) somehow occur. AQAL by itself can’t represent this Integral (Meta)Theoretical Pluralism process.' (M. Edwards, personal communication, March 8, 2010). This is an important critique that will need to be attended to."

  2. I think Wilber definitely does provide the basis of his kosmic addressing system in his definition of enlightenment as the combination of the highest state and stage present at any particular time in history. For now that it indigo altitude with a nondual state. (Which is our course his own personal kosmic address so he decides.) And his descriptions of both of those are highly problematic, aka metaphysical. So while the actual statement that one has to be enlightened to be postmetaphyhsical isn't contained in IS (that I can find) the implication is clear. And we know who is enlightened in IS, don't we?

  3. Some of you might find this ancient (started 3/23/07) Lightmind discussion on this topic will provide a lot of context. kela participated in this one.


  4. Take a look at the above referenced section in IS on consciousness per se. He notes that it is the contentless measuring stick of altitude, using the metaphor* of inches. The difference is that inches are a "relative" convention constructed to provide useful grids to accomplish practical functions. Which is of course how L&J describe basic metaphors in their relation to and applicability with the environment. But note that for Wilber CPS is not a convention, i.e., it is the absolute from which the relative depends. In itself (yes, the thing in itself) it has no qualities, being formless. And this ultimate realm is directly contacted-experienced in nirvikalpa samadhi practice. This is laid out plainly in IS. So the problem is how to relate this metaphysically derived model of two realms from a "completely different order." Somehow (magically? but it seems such a skyhook is required) the unqualifiable becomes qualified inches. (How many inches in your CPS-dick?) Whereas the cogsciprago postmeta (re)solution is that there aren't two radically different orders to begin with, i.e., an alternative, postmetaphysical nondualism, integral to boot.

    * The key is that CPS is indeed a conventional metaphor, not a thing in itself. Same for the AQAL holon of everything. Just this realization goes a long way toward making Wilber's whole edifice postmetaphysical and puts it into useful context, like inches.

  5. In response to a related thread at IPS Balder said (addressing kela): Ken's position in Integral Spirituality is not entirely clear to me, either. At times, yes, I agree, he seems to be advocating something like a Kantian perspective. But I hadn't read his comments about God in the way that you have. I think he has definitely advocated a "mystical empiricist" approach in the past, and sometimes it still sounds like he is; but my reading of his Appendix II on post-metaphysics was that he was now saying that you can speak positively or "assertively" about spiritual realities only if you frame such statements (or at least interpret such statements) enactively, implying that you are not asserting something about a spiritual object-in-itself, but only about a (developmentally, culturally, enactively) situated perspective. What do you think?

  6. My response: We're addressing this issue in the IPN thread, where the basis of altitude is in fact an enacted yet metaphysical consciousness. For example in Appendix II of IS, in talking about kosmic addressing, Wilber says this:

    "Thus, we cannot make any ontic or assertic statement...without being able to specify the Kosmic address of the subject, which also means the injunctions that the subject must perform in order to enact and access the worldspace of the object....if I want to know if there is a referent to the signifier Ayin or Godhead, then one among the necessary routes is to take a concentrative form of meditation....a clear majority of those who complete the experiment report that the signifier Ayin or Emptiness...can be said that, among other things, that Spirit is a vast infinite abyss or emptiness out of which all thing arise" (267-68).

    Now it would be fine if Wilber keeps this in the "state" category, as in this state will then be interpreted by the level. But as we saw in the IPN thread, this state is interpreted as the measure of altitude level in the kosmic address! I guess it takes an indigo level, combined with this state, to make that interpretation (aka enlightenment)? All of which plays right into kela's thesis of privileged access.

    For you see, when you are of the highest absolute state and relative stage, i.e., enlightened, the distinction between states and stages dissolves into the nondual... Glory be unto God, amen.


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