November 13, 2006

Danger of literalism and religious dogmatism

Integral Esotericism: A new Integral paradigm in theory and practice
Part One: Introduction Alan Kazlev integralworld
The first was that through my own approach to reading The Mother and Sri Aurobindo, my understanding and indeed my spiritual insight went through a sort of breakthrough or development, and as a result I am now much more aware of the limits of the intuitive-rational mental understanding. For this reason I am now less inclined to take specific mental maps or descriptions of reality as accurate representations of that reality. Indeed I now see them as totally provisional and arbitrary, albeit still useful. So although I still enjoy creating such diagrams and worldviews, and presnet quite a few in the course of this essay, I take them much less seriously than I used to, and advise the reader to do the same. Ironically, by taking such representations less seriously, one can also explore and present them better...
And while Wilber has endeavored to keep his whole philosophy academically respectable (although like all bridge-builders (TLDI 2-ii) with little or no acknowledgment or interest from the audience he addresses), for more interesting maps of consciousness, one has to leave orthodox Integral theory for the field of esotericism. Plotinus, Abhinuvagupta, Suhrawadi, Isaac Luria, Radhasoami, Max Theon, Sri Aurobindo, Jane Roberts/Seth, A.H. Almaas are simply a few that could be mentioned. Although Wilber has attempted to reduce the sort of maps of reality these teachers describe to intellectual subsets of his own Integral Theory in the hope that it would in that way be acceptable to academia, nothing in his books indicates he really understands what these other mapmakers are describing in the first place. In TLDI I showed how problematic Wilber's understanding of Sri Aurobindo was for example. And my impression so far is that his followers have even less understanding of the great Bengali sage, all they know is second hand from Wilber's misinterpretations. This lack of understanding is not really Wilber's fault (still less the fault of Wilber's students), because it requires a lifetime of study, contemplation, and humility to appreciate Sri Aurobindo. The same applies to other spiritual teachings listed here...
But again, the problem with exploring a map is that one needs to have familiarity with the teaching that provides the map, otehrwise all one will do is distort the map to fit one's own preconceptions. There are people who have dedicated years of their lives to studying Wilber for example. I have dedicated years of mine to Sri Aurobindo and The Mother and other esoteric teachings. And that is the dilemma; it takes years to truly understand what even one mapmaker is saying, and hence to properly understand and apply their map. How then can one incorporate them all? I don't have an answer for that question. All I can do is create a map, according to my understanding. Which I have done here...
One thing that can be annoying (even if it is understandable and I suppose in a sense forgivable) when dialogging with Wilberians is their tendency to believe what Wilber says as some sort of literal truth or literal hypothesis of how the world works. To me this indicates that, like fundamentalist practitioners of any religion, they have already lost their ability to think for themselves; a problem is exacerbated by Wilber's own authoritarian and cultic attitude[33]. I am referring to a rigid interpretation of reality in intellectual-mental terms. The Aurobindonian equivalent would be to take the dead letter of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's words, and ignore the yogic experience behind them, something I am equally opposed to because it is equally one-sided and fundamentalist. i.e. an Aurobindonian fundamentalist would say - there are only these realities as describe by Sri Aurobindo, and all interpretation and experiences must be defined only in the words which he used[34]. And the same danger of literalism and hence missing the true spiritual inspiration is found with all spiritual teachers and teachings.
This is one reason why it would be an absolute tragedy if the integral movement were to be identified with a fundamentalist Wilberanity, a fundamentalist Aurobindonism, a fundamentalist Theosophy, or with any other rigidly fixed conceptual system, no matter how "integral" it may be in a superficial theoretical manner. We have already seen what religious dogmatism can do, has in the past done, and is still responsible for now (Middle East, anyone?)[35]. Let's leave religions and cults in the past where they belong.

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