Sunday, February 6, 2011

Comments on Paradise Unbound

The article in the previous post reminds me of some of Mark Edwards'  criticisms. For example recall this from the Institute for Integral Studies thread:

"Particularly when applied to the area of spirituality the stage-based model suffers from serious shortcomings.... My view is that the archaic view of the teacher-guru and student-disciple has done its dash and can only be defended by those who are so immersed in stage-based development that they see no other meta-level possibilities for articulating growth (this is one of the many forms of altitude sickness that I wrote about in my last blog). I see development and learning relationships moving way beyond these limiting views of guru and student and engaging much more with the language of relationality, situational choice, shared play, communal learning, distributed intelligence, collective wisdom, reflexive learning, and action inquiry. The defense of the ancient models of student-teacher relationship, particularly where development is focused on the stage-based lens, seems to me to be a sign of regression rather than evolution."

I appreciate that Lahood also sees the relation of this type of spirituality to capitalism. For example:

"Self-spirituality coupled with the logic of 'individual competitiveness and consumer capitalism' can result in what is called 'spiritual narcissism' (Ferrer 2002 34-36).... Once counter-cultural, the New Age sanctifies capitalism (Mikaelsson 2003) and promulgates a search (journey) for prosperity and a means to wealth (Morris 2006). Spirituality has in a sense become a 'commodity'; a fetish linked to purchasing power and economically based self-esteem. Lavish spending on spiritual commodities (e.g. expensive New Age group events, spiritual tourism or showy 'donations' to Gurus buy power and participation mystique (without the transmutitive suffering required to reduce narcissistic alienation)" (19).

I also found it interesting that the type of non-dualism inherent to the transpersonal movement and kennilingus is exactly what I've been calling dual nondualism. It is apparently unconscious of being caught up in the Cartesian split while claiming to be beyond  it. And this expresses in Wilber through his conflation of Neo-Advaita and Neo-Platonism (6) and, I might add, those versions of Vajrayana (like Yogacara) in alignment with this dual nondualism. (Also see Capriles comments on Wilber's dualistic roots via Shankara and Plotinus in this thread. Also see the previous comment in the link.) And this quote of Ferrer in the text:

"One difficulty in construing action research itself as a spiritual practice is the subtle Cartesianism of recent transpersonal studies. This tacitly assumes that spirituality is a subjective experience, within a nonspatial individual consciousness, of transpersonal objects which transcend the everyday public space of social interactions (Ferrer, 2002)" (49).

Whereas one of the basic tenets of Buddhism, anatta, is antithetical to such metaphysical assumptions and hybrids.

"Various writers in the field (Mokusen Miyuki, Claire Owens, the Zen scholar D.T. Suzuki and later Ken Wilber) have conflated and overlapped (hybridized) Zen Buddhism with what appear to be very Hindu/Gnostic descriptions of Self and the process of 'merging with the divine'...mixed in with a liberal helping of Carl Jung‘s analytical psychology and his 'self realization' project. Whereas Buddha questioned the reality of the self contemporary transpersonal psychologists, influenced by Jung, find a 'deep' self in the unconscious and see 'self realization' as the 'merging' of this ego or self with some Universal Consciousness or Mind (equated with the void [sunyata] as the ultimate reality (Morris, 1994, 66). So whatever it is—to return to Washburn‘s comment for a moment—it ain‘t very Zen.

"It appears that the way around Buddhism‘s thorny crown (anatta/no-self) for transpersonalism was to blend Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism (a process, as suggested, long alive in the hybridizing American religious imagination). This is no mean feat because Vedanta (a la Shankara) claims its non-dualism as the final and highest order of consciousness (above Buddhism) whereas Nagarjuna, the important reformer of 'middle way' Buddhism, trenchantly criticized the Upanishad and Vedanta doctrine that Brahman (absolute spirit) was the sole reality in the word. There was no 'ground' or creator of the phenomenal world, and no 'soul' within the human subject, identical with Brahman. Nagarjuna along with Buddha claimed that the famous central tenant of Hinduism 'tat tvam asi' (thou art that) was nothing but an illusion. Thus it would appear that the spiritual ultimates found in Vedanta and Buddhism are not comfortable bedfellows" (35-6).

In the IPS discussion on this xibalba commented:

A question: what about Ferrer´s habitus once he got some recognition in "the field of Transpersonalism", I am using Bourdieu´s definition of field as a constructed locus of power domination between actors  exercing unconcious coercion on its adherents? Pierre Bourdieu, the french sociologist in his book "Homo academicus", shows the unconcious dynamics at paly betwen actors who want to secure their position in an intellectual field. He empirically defined the concept intellectual as "those actors producing non-material goods (texts, speechs, participation to TV-show, members of legitimate instiutions) aimed to be consumed by other actors localized in various segments of the social space".Their strategies to discredit or eliminate potential rivals. It is what he calls symbolic violence. How is this field looking like? who are the tenors? Who are rival factions struggling for domination? Who are their publishers? how is the "literary" production field looking like?

It is very obvious that such field exist today and the strategies used in this particular field are also constructed from an hidden ideology of domination, which is of course coined to narcissism . So the dialectic between the agentic versus communion strings of the transpersonalism main paradigms (I am using Imre Lakatos definition of paradigm as dominant research projects gainign recognition through publications) has produced Kenny, his fans and his bashers, thsoe who aspired to replace him, etc..."

I replied:

There is certainly an element of the competition of ideas for which is better, i.e., more useful and beneficial for society as a whole. And part of this can be construed as a will to power and domination fueled merely by narcissistic concerns of who is right and wrong. And yes, there is some of that flavor in this article, which does not focus on perhaps the validity of individualistic spirituality caught in the subtle Cartesian dualism so common of formal operations with its concomitant attachment to capitalism.

Perhaps the strategy should have been more that it was appropriate for its time and context and that we are moving into the next phase of our evolution, from metaphysical to postmetaphysical, and it behooves us to get with that program and provide ample evidence that it does indeed promulgate less will to power, domination and narcissism, and more collaboration, empathy and justice. But to just reduce both sides to some equivalent narcissistic struggle for academic dominance with no underlying developmental impetus seems exactly the type of relativism that so much of constructivism falls prey.

As an aside, I agree that even within the alternative integral movement (alt-int) it seems the only way to gain some form of validity is through academic publishing. Which type of publishing is in fact dominated by a formal, individualistic paradigm not conducing to the types of peer production of the next wave. Those of us who choose to contribute within P2P networks in forums such as this and/or blogs, either personal or collective, are not taken seriously or even recognized for our often significant contributions to this movement. Which is unfortunate because often some of the most innovative and productive ideas are generated from this milieu.

In another forum I made reference to Mark Edwards' meta-theory and his statements from part 8 of his ILR interview have relevance to my last comments:

"In developing this idea of many different lenses and interpretive frameworks I am not simply affirming a pluralist position that, while recognizing the diversity of perspectives, does not move on to find any relationship between them...metatheory building moves beyond the relativist position because it can be used to adjudicate on the strengths and weaknesses of other theory and metatheory....metatheory can provide direction to knowledge, it can be used to set a course between better and worse ways of doing and being."

P.S.: In the course of researching Mr. Lahood I discovered this website. At this link he discusses communion with his Imam, or holy guardian angel in Golden Dawn parlance. This is metaphysical to the core, so while I can appreciate his critique of one kind of metaphysics I cannot endorse his kind either.

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