Saturday, October 16, 2010


I am one of the founders of Open Integral blog, which originated in 2006 in response to Ken Wilber's Wyatt Earp fiasco. A number of disgruntled integralites coordinated to create a space in which to provide a critique and alternative vision of what it means to be "integral" in this wake, one that was open to other voices. Since then everyone has gone off in their own directions and I was the lone survivor, keeping the site alive with occasional posts and cleaning it up from spam infestation. Since I've been creating my own unique integral vision for quite awhile it's time to go off the reservation and start my own blog instead of trying to fit into a format that has long since lost its meaning and purpose.

Aside from participation in the above I've invested a lot of time online at the Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum created by Balder, first located at Zaadz/Gaia and now at Ning. I will continue to hang out  and post there, and cross-post from there to here and back again, as I find my best thinking and writing come from dialogue with other interested and apt parties. In one of my recent posts there I pondered the name of the forum and my relation to it. I resonate with the terms "integral" and "postmetaphysical" but I never did like the term "spirituality," since by nature it implies a duality with something not spiritual, something mundane, something that maintains the absolute-relative divide. So I suggested instead that for me the phrase "integral postmetaphysical nonduality" was more befitting.

Since then I did an Google search of that phrase and at the time, last week, that IPM post was the only instance of it on the internet! While  the ideas are not unique the phrase itself certainly was. Since then I created a post about it at IPM and OI, both of which have now generated a dozen or so internet references. So given that I birthed the phrase, or rather it emerged from my own integral journey these past few years in interaction with an alternative integral community, I thought I would start my own blog with this title and it's first post would give a general idea. What follows is a partial (but true) excerpt copied from the IPM and OI posts:

Out of curiosity I did a Google search on the above three words in parentheses as a phrase. In the entire internet there was only one hit and it was to this forum in my discussion of ladder, climber, view. It is a unique phrase and even more, a valid contender for what this forum purports. It might even be a misnomer to call something postmetaphysical “spirituality” given what I said in the thread:

[Referencing "to see a world," see link] “As for turquoise, it reinjects ‘Spirit’ back into the equation. And therein lies the question for an IPS, how to have a nondual spirituality that doesn’t separate spirituality from the mundane, that doesn’t ‘include’ the metaphysical interpretations from prior WVs. It might even be an expression of a metaphysical WV holdover to call something ’spirituality,’ since the very term indicates the metaphysical notion of an absolute world apart from a relative WV. Granted we can re-define it any way we like but nevertheless its etymology is one of a split, dualistic origin. Another term that can be more easily separated from its metaphysical baggage is ‘nondual.’ Integral Postmetaphysical nonduality? I’ve already made a strong case that the intersection of American Pragmatism with second generation cognitive science is precisely this WV based on postformal cognitive functioning. And AQAL to boot, though they don’t use those terms."

Jana said:

Creating the post-metaphysical nondual spiritual individual therefore cannot be done using the same methods that we have used in our religions, spiritual traditions or commercial spiritual movements.

theurj (me) said:

I’d agree though that we need different methods to achieve IPN than has been available in previous metaphysical traditions. Some integralites believe we can use those same enactive paradigms but just update or recontextualize or reinterpret them. I’ve long argued though that the paradigm form-structures are themselves part and parcel of the metaphysical “experience” thus created so we need more than just a superficial facelift or metaphorical boob-job. I made the same case about “integral” capitalism, that we need to move into a democratic economic model, that we can’t just put integral lipstick on the capitalist pig.


Exactly I am really big on this…mainly perhaps because I am not on the predator side of the equation and want to create a vessel for the emergence of true creativity and true spirit.For starters I propose monthly sovereignty salons that provide a circle-process cauldron suitable for artists, scientists, and philosophers to “cook” a unique, personal expression of the cosmic human.

This is what I am doing…I will tell you how it goes. I am going to use a toy clockface…with Noon being perfect alignment with ones sovereign seat. Then during the course of discussion and exercises if someone feels thrown off their seat, or others think that someone is thrown off, they will move the hour arm to how far they are removed from Noon. This is a tactile way of helping us remember to “maintain” within the push-pull of social interaction. Then we will explore methods of how to regroup, recoup and reestablish our sovereign seat within an ongoing relational exchange. We will be building the language, sensitivities, gestures, games, exercises, visioneering, planning, meditation and practices related around building individual sovereignty and circle-group intercommunion.


[referring to another thread] But does Levin prescribe new technology for attaining this process? As we’re discussing in the IPN thread, will the old methods suffice?

Levin gives some clues to a new methodology above.

“Hearkening requires the disciplined practice of Gelassenheit, i.e. letting-go and letting-be, as a mode or style of listening. In learning Gelassenheit, the art of ‘just listening’, listening without getting entangled in the ego’s stories and preoccupations, one learns a different way of channelling, focusing, attending.”

I am reminded of the practice of vipassana, just observing the breath, listening to the sounds that arise and fall away, watching thoughts float by on scudding clouds. And perhaps more importantly, observing the self that observes all of that, the ego turned on itself, allowing for awareness to disidentify with a self, at least for a moment or two. In this sense the method is not new but rather is ancient. So what makes it different?

“Our practice at stage IV is a practice that needs to take place under the influence of the feminine archetypes: there ust be an appreciation of and a recovery of experiencing modalities that, in our culture, have been traditionally constellated through these archetypes.”

I am reminded of Lakoff’s metaphors for the differences between contemporary political parties, the stern father and the nurturing mother. That we are moving from the former conservative to the latter liberal “archetype,” if you will. And the mother is much more apt at unconditional love for her child, much more apt to listen without judgment, to accept and nourish whatever the child brings home from its adventures. So perhaps our contemporary contemplative practice per above is different in that it is not so much above focus and concentration as it is about openness and allowing. As a sage once sang:

Mother Mary comes to me
speaking words of wisdom
let it be, let it be.

But again, this is not a return to the former matriarchal mode that arose with horticulture. It is not a return to the kind of Goddess worship akin to witchcraft and paganism. It is as Levin notes:

“It brings back what was ‘forgotten’; but it also redeems it by ‘making’ it what it never was.”

As Meredith Brooks once sang:

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I’m a bitch, I’m a tease
I’m a goddess on my knees

Along the lines of hearkening a feminine that never was I’m reminded of John Caputo, from The Weakness of God (IUP, 2006):

“The name of God is the name of an event rather than of an entity, of a call rather than of a cause, of a provocation or a promise rather than of a presence…. I shift from the register of strength to that of weakness, from a robust theology of divine power…and omnipotence to the thin theology of the weakness of god, from the noise of being to the silence of an unconditional call” (12).

And hearken back to this discussion of Lady Gaga, how she is a postmodern, postmetaphysical, nondual hermaphrodite, an old kind of feminine in a new way.


I skipped around in the book a little to get a sense of where he was going, and whether he offered any specific “practices.” You’ve already hit on two of them — hearkening, which he likens to Gendlin’s focusing or Zen shikantaza; and a renewed emphasis on feminine archetypes.

Regarding the former, he writes:

“Since hearkening, the fourth stage, or centre, of listening, is a recollection that demands of us the greatest openness to Being of which we are capable, it is a mode of perceptiveness that we can only achieve by cultivating our capacity for feeling and restoring the connection between feeling and listening. This means, in the important terminology that Eugene Gendlin has introduced, not only that we need to listen to our body’s felt sense of its Befindlichkeit (how we are faring in the various situations of life in which we find ourselves), but also that we need to learn a listening which listens with this bodily felt sense. In other words, we need to cultivate a listening that is deeply rooted in our body’s felt sense of situated being.”

He also touches on a few other practices, including a social communicative practice (a la Habermas) and a proposal to seek, in this context, the conditions of an “ideal listening situation” to complement H’s ideal speech situation — which is first broached and cultivated at stage III, apparently, and then deepened at stage IV. Other suggested practices relate to the cultivation of aesthetic dimensions of listening (through music and cultivation of attention to natural environments).

In one of his endnotes, besides referencing Zen in several places, I notice he briefly discusses Tarthang Tulku’s TSK vision:

“I especially recommend Tarthang Tulku (1977) Time, Space, and Knowledge, Berkeley, Calif.: Dharma Publishing. This book contains a treasury of practical exercises, based on ancient Tibetan Buddhist wisdom, to facilitate the transformation of our habitual way of experiencing ourselves as living in time. I would add that, because of the connection between listening and time, and the way these two figure in the identity of the self, the development of our capacity for listening can change our experiencing of time — and, conversely, changes in the way we live time, changes in the way we experience ourselves as being-in-time, or being-timed, can affect the way we listen, e.g., increasing our listening patience and our tolerance of silence.”


Indeed practices of the body in situated space are key to the cogscipragos of American pragmatism, of how more complex metaphor is built upon more primitive image schemeas of exactly this kind. Mark Johnson, one of those cogscii, in his new book The Meaning of the Body also emphasizes the aesthetic element related to this, as in dance. And of course they’ve always been about the nondual relationship of self-other and inner-outer that is interactive, i.e., a social communicative practice a la Habermas, who got a lot of this from Mead, another of the cogscii. (Btw, Johnson considers Levin as part of this tradition.)

Which brings me to the shift in emphasis of meditation per se from a strictly individual event to more of an interactive event. The former is more of the rugged individualism type that still posits an individual ego self that arises in response to the other-outside whereas the latter recognizes, like the cogscipragos, that it arises within the matrix, if you will. Hence more “feminine” and interactive meditative practices are developing like insight dialogue and what Jana is experimenting with instead of the typical individual meditation practice of sitting in a room, alone together, doing our own practice but not interacting.

All of which reminds me of dance as one of my interactive meditative practices. Even in couples dancing there are those that dance alone while together, not dancing together as a unit. And the latter is the key to partner dancing, to creating an event-performance that is more than the individuals alone, that is about connection and communication, about felt sense, about the body in space. And not just the physical body but also about creating emotional and aesthetic bodies in their own spaces, in time, with knowledge. It is a most delicious TSK practice.

I am also reminded of John Heron’s collaborative inquiry, and what he said about Wilber’s notion of spirituality in “A tangle of levels and lines”:

“Thus Wilber tries to argue that the basic categories for integrating all the lines in higher unfoldment have been uncovered on a single line that has no experience whatsoever of such multi-line integration. The way out of this tangle is gently to propose that the contemplative line is not a spirituality line, that spirituality is not about states, however remarkable and extraordinary, that people get into by a lifetime of individual meditation.

“A more convincing account of spirituality is that it is about multi-line integral development explored by persons in relation. This is because many basic developmental lines – e.g. those to do with gender, psychosexuality, emotional and interpersonal skills, communicative competence, morality, to name but a few – unfold through engagement with other people. A person cannot develop these lines on their own, but through mutual co-inquiry. The spirituality that is the highest development of these lines can only be achieved through relational forms of practice that unveil the spirituality implicit in them.

“In short, the spirituality of persons is developed and revealed primarily in the spirituality of their relations with other persons. If you regard spirituality primarily as the fruit of individual meditative attainment, then you can have the gross anomaly of a “spiritual” person who is an interpersonal oppressor, and the possibility of “spiritual” traditions that are oppression-prone.”

Jana said:

Open Relating and Grokking—The practice of Gelassenheit, (letting-go and letting-be), is a compassionate style of listening meditation and social interaction that comes more from “allowing” the Heart/right-brain wiring to gain prominence. Rather than dissecting our interpersonal interactions through the left-brain’s narrative and status preoccupations. We thus enter “We Space” through the empathetic circuitry by first training ourselves to love our own flesh and our own core by turning the Mind’s Eye within to deeply feel our innate a priori health, thereby restoring the connection between feeling and listening. Growing up in presovereign, dependent families we were taught to look for love and attention outside of ourselves, and so we remain starved of our own affection, health and integration our entire lives. Once we have unconditionally reconnected with ourselves and established the hardware for Grokking, we can then drop the safety-judgment monitoring system (vigilance) of the left-brain’s security narrative. Energy and consciousness that was formerly spent in “scanning for safety and status” can then be channeled into feeling, openness and allowing. The energy that was spent in the paranoia of power differential can then be spent in Grokking, hearkening, or the fully embodied flow of holistic perception…similar to Gendlin’s focusing or Zen shikantaza. This felt-sense mode of perception permits the mystic connection within and without by restoring the bodily felt-sense of listening without the inertia of repression or resistance. In other words, we need to cultivate a listening that is deeply rooted in our body’s felt sense of being situated fully in its own space-time, with spacious knowledge (emptiness-unconditionality), patience and tolerance for silence. Thus permitting the coherent synchronization of information received by all the various modes of antennae. By relating within and without through the opened empathetic circuitry we can then reintegrate those parts of us that have been cut off and deadened, thus recovering our full resources, health and deep humanity.

The energetic of humans caught living within the compulsive ignorance of Borg culture is that of a racehorse in a hamster wheel. In Borg society we spend the majority of our energy suppressing ourselves to maintain the social contracts of deceit. Lies of repression, omission and retreat to sustain a meager survival within the automatic dominant/submission, master/slave relationship transactions permissible within a economically focused society. Breaking out of this energetic to create the world of the sovereign human requires the deep engagement of self-acceptance, Self-love, Self-responsibility and Self-creation. For there are no bridges, no easy direct routes from this culture to the next, thus we must forge our own path through the “Nothing.” In discovering this path we must cocreate all aspects of the sovereign human: language, behaviors, senses, touch, gesture, looks, attitude, sovereign-eyes, responses, discipline, focus, remembrance, vision, direction, motivation, capital, relationships and goals.

See more in comments.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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."

  4. 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.

  5. 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 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 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).

  6. 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).”

  7. 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."

  8. 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.


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