August 21, 2006

Ascent or Eros and Descent or Logos

Integral Religion Uniting Eros and Logos Daniel Araya
Background
There remains a lingering need for further consideration with regard to the spiritual and transpersonal stages of humanity's sociocultural evolution. More to the point, it would seem that the discord between Ascent (Many to the One) and Descent (One to the Many) remains largely unresolved within Integral Studies thus far. This paper is, in part, an attempt to resolve this discord.
Abstract
The purpose of this paper will be to consider the potential realization of an integral religion. As the philosopher Ken Wilber suggests, human evolution is driven by the teleological ascension of Mind or Spirit. In this way, Mind is both transcendent as God and immanent as evolution. Following this understanding our thesis is simply that human evolution is the underlying principle of both Eastern and Western religious traditions. As this paper will show, Eastern religion demonstrates the spiritual psychology of evolution, while Western religion demonstrates the spiritual sociology of evolution. Eastern religion, following the course of Ascent, seeks to unite humanity's consciousness with God; while Western religion, following the course of Descent, serves God's manifest unfolding. The profound and engrossing work of Ken Wilber and his interpretation of the Eastern spiritual traditions will be examined here as the basic architecture for a transpersonal understanding of psychological development. In addition, we will attempt to decipher the Western spiritual traditions in terms of the transpersonal advance towards divine civilization. Finally, we will suggest a basic framework for uniting these two paths in one complimentary form, in one integral religion.
Introduction
As the modern mystic Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) writes in the Ideal of Human Unity,
A spiritual religion of humanity is the hope of the future… A religion of humanity means the growing realisation that there is a secret Spirit, a divine Reality, in which we are all one, that humanity is its highest present vehicle on earth, that the human race and the human being are the means by which it will progressively reveal itself here. It implies a growing attempt to live out this knowledge and bring about a kingdom of this divine Spirit upon earth. By its growth within us oneness with our fellow-men will become the leading principle of all our life, not merely a principle of cooperation but a deeper brotherhood, a real and an inner sense of unity and equality and a common life.-Chapter XXXV, p. 307 (July 1918)
As Aurobindo concludes, the foundations for a universal humanity are to be found in a spiritual unity. Yet, no such worldview has become embedded within modern political institutions thus far. Lacking a framework for such transpersonal advancement, humanity has achieved little progress beyond modern mental-egoic civilization. Today, postmodern thinkers are consumed by the urge to transcend the maladies afflicting modern society; yet, as Aurobindo writes, the motivating force behind human transformation still remains to be fully actualized. Through the course of this paper we will consider the potential realization of this higher transformation within an emerging "religion of humanity".
1. Integral Spirituality
Aurobindo is perhaps the first thinker to envision an integral approach to spiritual development. As Georg Feuerstein observes, Aurobindo's approach combined personal aspiration "from below" with divine grace "from above".[1] As Aurobindo writes,
A divine life in a material world implies necessarily a union of the two ends of existence, the spiritual summit and the material base. The soul with the basis of its life established in Matter ascends to the heights of the Spirit but does not cast away its base, it joins the heights and the depths together. The Spirit descends into Matter and the material world with all its lights and glories and powers and with them fills and transforms life in the material world so that it becomes more and more divine.[2]
Aurobindo's Integral philosophy synthesized the mystical realization of the East with the earthly transformation of the West. He believed that a universal spirituality was inevitable in the course of Spirit's evolution. Today, our task is to continue his work, to unite the Eastern and Western religious traditions and thereby contribute to Spirit's ultimate emancipation...
As Aurobindo makes clear, an integral spirituality must unite Ascent and Descent, yoga and divine civilization. As the Eastern paradigm demonstrates, nondual realization joins humanity with the Source and Summit of consciousness. As the Western paradigm demonstrates, through service to this Summit, the Godhead manifests in stages of Revelation towards an integral civilization. Put simply, these paradigms are interdependent dimensions of an integral Reality (inward and outward, feminine and masculine, yin and yang).
Through the course of this paper we have examined these two complimentary spiritual currents: the current of Ascent or Eros and the current of Descent or Logos. Uniting these two interpretations we have said that God is Mind. As Aurobindo points out, it is this Mind that powers evolution, moving humanity towards ever higher stages of consciousness. In humanity, we see the living mirror of this Divine Mind, the image, par excellence, of Its' Descent. And ultimately, as humanity ascends into the heights of consciousness, the Godhead ceaselessly descends as an ever-advancing civilization.

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