Friday, January 7, 2011

Synergist spirituality

In the last post I referenced this past Gaia IPS discussion started by Gregory Desilet (with link). I want to highlight a few posts from that thread here:


Beginning with a synergist cosmology/ ontology

1) Synergism is the natural interaction of two or more agents or forces whereby their combined effects produce wholes greater than the sum of their parts.

2) Wholes follow the principle of “quasi-transcendence,” never yielding one transcendental whole.

3) Parts never dissolve in favor of the whole.

4) Interaction of the parts never balance in equal proportions in specific instances; one or the other may dominate but in the general system of interaction each plays an equally essential role.

5) Of the parts, neither can be entirely reduced to the other and neither can exist without the other, thereby comprising the synergistic “whole.”

6) Yet no part is whole in itself; each part is inherently ruptured and exposed to permeation by the other.

7) To complete the cosmology, neither being nor time nor space are wholes unto themselves. Each is fundamentally ruptured, being into beings or traces (split by differance or temporality), time into times (split by motion), space into spaces (warped by gravity), particle into wave (split by context), wave into particle (split by context). Nothing is unaffected by relation to the other of itself.

So what I'm calling the “synergist” approach follows a deconstructive line of thinking about oppositional structure and suggests two elements caught up in an interdependent twist such that they are different yet not separate (as described in the points below). As time goes on I'll try to build on the importance of this line in relation to conceiving of a philosophy that avoids most of the problems of basic dualism, realism, monism. Integral philosophy was also a response to the modernist metaphysics of these postions but still tends, in my view, too much toward realism and monism.

Here are some points taken from Balder's blog post (cited below) in which I have inserted some comments:

"The Madhyamaka critique of ontology (which demonstrates that, try as we might, we will not be able to find any self-existent things-in-themselves)."

In other words, this is not a view that at bottom is consistent with basic realism (an absolute reality completely independent of contextual constraints–and here “context” does not refer simply to cognitive orientations because a clean separation of cognitive or mental constructs and a physical reality cannot be reliably achieved by any means presently known)

"An operational or enactive approach to cognition and epistemology, such as Varela's autopoeisis or the Neo-Kantian transcendental philosophy of science (which proceeds by identifying invariants [objectivation] and distinguishing them from the noninvariant remainders of any perspective-occasion [subjectivation], without ever having to appeal to correspondence to an absolute, independent, pregiven reality)."

Another way of putting this “operational or enactive approach” regarding cognition and epistemology would be to say that all “truth” is held provisionally and forever open to alteration by way of new “evidence.” In this sense “truth,” operationally speaking, remains linked to persuasiveness and judgment (as opposed to the coercion of “brute fact”). This, however, does not reduce to an expression of the form such as “Truth is that which one is persuaded is the case” but rather “That which, at any given time, one is persuaded is the case necessarily operates as the provisional truth.” This latter form becomes preferable by virtue of the belief that at no point in time do humans operate with anything that may count as other than provisional truth.

"The implications of postmodern science / quantum theory (which challenge us to reconsider our attachment to object ontology)."

For an academically rigorous and detailed presentation of the case for this position see my essay “Physics and Language–Science and Rhetoric: Reviewing the Parallel Evolution of Theory on Motion and Meaning in the Aftermath of the Sokal Hoax” available on my website at under the “Essays” link.

Bruce concludes his post with the following relating to the subjective/objective tension:

"From the point of view of the Madhyamaka, and of IPM as well, neither the objects on the right hand or the subjective patterns on the left are inherently self-existing – they are co-dependently originated, tetra-enacting, and thus, in the ultimate Buddhist analysis, “empty.” But emptiness is not a denial of existence; without this radical interdependence, no world order at all would ever appear or get off the ground. Therefore emptiness does not constitute grounds for ignoring or dismissing the importance of either the subjective and objective dimensions of experience in human life. To privilege one side over the other is to move in the direction of reification, metaphysical illusion, and potential pathology or disorder."

This view of “emptiness” as implying “co-dependent origination” and “radical interdependence” without “inherent self-existence” or “core essence” marks off a position that Bruce rightly concludes is one that does not privilege one side of any particular oppositional tension over another. However, this must be understood carefully. It does not mean that in particular instances there may not be an experiental dominance of, say, subject over object, but that at the level of ontological grounding both subject and object contribute essentially, that is, in ways whereby one cannot simply be ultimately reduced to the other.

This view of oppositional tensions is paramount to an understanding of the nondual in the sense of “not one, not two.” It lies at the heart of what I want to call a “synergist spirituality” and I believe is consistent with the points of “cosmology/ontology” in the post above.

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