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Wit, Spiritual Technologies, Turning Away from thin brands

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A note from Frank Visser*, who has used a graphic I created to head a reposting of an article, THE ‘SPIRIT OF EVOLUTION’ RECONSIDERED Relating Ken Wilber’s view of spiritual evolution to the current evolution debates, had me thinking for a moment about Wilber and Integralism.

This coincided with a minor bit of cultural synch, when the following video ended up in my Facebook news feed.

There is a lot more glorious cynicism and Zen slapping from JP.

Also, because of the guileless way youtube throws click bait on video pages, JP’s funny parodies lead to sidebars chock full of the didactic presentations of new age guru Teal Swan. She might as well claim the role of being the female Ken Wilber.

The problem is: after a little JP, her stuff comes across as parody. I laughed out loud. This is ironic, and doubly so because the Daily Evolver newsletter is similarly, mostly, humorless.

AN ARCHIMEDES LEVER FOR GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION

WHAT IS TRANSFORMATIONAL TECHNOLOGY?

Robb Smith – July 29th, 2015

Said simply: TransTech helps people evolve. Meant literally.

If successful, it can help the species evolve. It’s what Google should really be doing but doesn’t know to. It’s what one of the most important companies in the world will be doing a decade from now; which company that will be is up for grabs. It’s what I’m doing now because no matter which domain I was working in, and over the past 20 years I’ve worked in a bunch—venture capital, university research, healthcare, corporate leadership development, metatheory, conscious capitalism, climate change, spiritual development, publishing, family development, etc.—they are all far less effective and authentic than they could be otherwise, if they had TransTech working right in the center of their disciplines.

Said simply, if we could liberate the world’s scientific knowledge of human transformation—all its wisdom, research and practices—into a real-time format available everywhere and always, and that helps people build mindfulness, skills and habits, than we can influence every known problem on the planet. It’s true that it’s a crazy vision. But it’s also true that there are only a few levers long enough to effect global transformation. And those are worth a lifetime of failure if there’s a possibility that even one succeeds.

Back in 1994, in the momentous meeting that kicked off my relation ship with my mentor, Judith Buerkel, we both learned our fundamental, influential shared affinity, was the work of Gregory Bateson. But, she was heavily into Ken Wilber, and I, by then, was no longer a Wilberian.’ (Albeit, I had been following Wilber’s work since Up From Eden was published in 1981.) By contrast, I was a student of the Analytical Psychology founded by Carl Jung, whereas she was not, and, Judith wasn’t so to the extent that she would sometimes ask me not to make everything ‘a Jungian moment.’

I came to respect her wish, while her referencing Wilber a bit too much for my sensibility also came back to pinch her as she came to understand that I silently thought Wilber to be far from ‘the smartest man in the world,’ and the ‘Twentieth Century’s greatest philosopher.’ For me, both characterizations qualify as ludicrous misestimations of Wilber and the heft of his body of work.

Then, as the 20th century ended, the arc of Wilber’s vision bent away from his hoping to bring his Integral Philosophy into the academy, and curved toward developing his philosophy into a spiritual technology. This caused his philosophy to also severely bend away from contact with: various core scholarly disciplines, meta-sociologies, inter-disciplinarities and transdisciplinarities given by the contemporary developmental courses of the crucial disciplines of the social and psychological sciences, and, philosophy. Although I wasn’t in the academy, I had hoped Wilber’s Integral philosophy would, as it were, ‘pro-create’ with the related academic disciplines, and then bubble up my way.

(It also bent away from ever daring to come close to (my own ground) of outlying fields General Systems Theory, 2nd Order Cybernetics, 3rd Order Social Cybernetics, Systems-ordinated Constructivism, Biosemiotics, Enactivist Neurophenomenology, and, conventional Experiential Learning Theories. Oh well.)

My own view today is that WIlber, the Wilberians, and the Integral Communities most associated with Wilberian ‘normativity,’ have mostly managed to turn the post-conventional thrust of ‘Integralism’ back into a conventional brand of new age transpersonalism focused on practices aimed to support positive adult development. PAy your entry and coursework fees, and Integral practices apparently capably support advanced development of consciousness and of the personality.

But, is there also a kind of masculinist Saturnian Messianic flavor to the thrust of the Wilberian spiritual technology that accompanies all this cha-ching?

Said simply, if we could liberate the world’s scientific knowledge of human transformation—all its wisdom, research and practices—into a real-time format available everywhere and always, and that helps people build mindfulness, skills and habits, than we can influence every known problem on the planet.

This is to say that the philosophical position of Integralism, having divorced itself from any messy entanglement with mainstream fields of study and scholarship, and with multi-disciplinarity, came to focus its normative system on developmental applications. And, so, it misses completely–nowadays–any opportunity for it undergoing ‘Kuhnian’ or theoretical, revolutions due to the radical imposition upon it of other perspectives and theories. My own sense is that this provides for a defense against the Wilberian Integral developing into anything which might attenuate its stable potential to generate profitable product lines.

Hey, I’m cynical too! The unironic spiritualization of the Integral probably requires the Wilberian Integral ‘system’ to morph into just another shelf full of stuff to buy, check out, identify with, and, realize all the other steps which come to my cynical mind.

I have greatly reduced my contact point to the Wilberian community down to a single email newsletter The Daily Evolver. Every now and then it leads me to other short engagements. So, caveat emptor; although I can hope for JP to have his way with “Wilber World’ someday.

*Frank Visser, is a post-Wilberian Integral Thinker, intellctual biographer of Ken Wilber, and, builder of Integral World, an outpost for post-Wilberian thought.

addendum:

Mr. Visser in November 2014 added REACHING OUT TO THE WORLD Years of Application and Assessment A New Online Chapter ofKen Wilber: Thought as Passion. This brings the intellectual biography begun in his book Thought As Passion, up to 2014. It is an excellent piece.

On the other hand, I personally have no time for discussions of scientism v. eros. From my perspective, it is fine to locate eros in biological mindedness and per force in high order consciousness; and then grant this meta-field of differentiating beingness its dynamic extension outward through the world, through the cosmos, maybe even through the multiplicity of universes. If you see what I am doing here you won’t need to be told I am forging a ‘sense’ from my ‘belief’ that my, yours, our, his, her, various projections from our interiority outward is enough qualification of the aspect of eros. Heck, it qualifies logos, too.

The bottom line is: differential economy, that is the ontologically real, (and existentially phenomenal,) cost of difference. My post-Integral musing is predicated on there being no free lunch! Yet, probably, I’m wrong all the way up through all the turtles!

note — I would suggest there are no worthwhile fields-of-study that are stable only because the discipline’s essential canon is largely the work of a single person and his or her social experience. The downfall of Wilberian Integral’s effective engagement with other disciplines has already come about due to this insularity and a kind of intellectual solipsism–for lack of a better term. Except, now I read Joe Perez, where he writes as part of his multipart response to Visser,

It is through construction and extension and expansion and embodiment that integralists are offering their boldest critiques of Integral Theory.

My contact point is exceedingly thin, then, in light of advancements about which I am unaware. Again, caveat emptor.

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Planet of the Snake-Oil Loving Apes

Lowland-Wilber.jpg

David Lane takes Ken Wilber to task, Frisky Dirt, Why Ken Wilber’s New Creationism
is Pseudo-Science
, for reprising his odd views on evolution. Those views can be encapsulated in quotes from The Guru and the Pandit. Eros, Buddha, and the Spectrum of Love, from the new issue of Andrew Cohen’s magazine EnlightenmentNext.

It’s evidence of a force that is pushing against randomness in the universe.

The fact that such a thing can happen is a miracle. It’s just unbelievable.

All of this, without exception, is driven by love.

Lane’s takedown of Wilber’s ‘esotericistic’ intelligent design is okay, but let’s face it, all the varieties of intelligent design and creationism present low hanging fruit. The abstract for the article is telling:

Love is a hot topic in the world of progressive spirituality, but you haven’t heard anyone discuss it like the Guru and the Pandit. Distinguishing between love’s personal, cultural, and cosmic dimensions, they explore how this primordial force gives rise to every new emergence in the evolutionary process.

Wilber has spelled out what he means by speaking of love’s primordial force. This can be put differently without error, and on offer then is the context, a context many times more interesting than Wilber’s new age creationism.

Love works from the beginning to organize greater complexity and greater consciousness, ending up for our moment in “Ken Wilber.”

Or, ending up in the Centauric Integral, another term for “Ken Wilber.”

This developmental outcome is very ironic if you’re aware of Wilber’s antipathy toward baby boomer solipsism.

As a thinker and quasi-philosopher, Wilber’s development peaked fifteen years ago. At the time he had sketched out an interesting, even compelling, albeit rudimentary, transdisciplinary methodology. It required proponents to get down to the brass tacks of formulating a sharp critical culture.

In 2001, he told Jordan Gruber,

>E.com: In the meantime, though, the grants that people could write to I-I for, none of that’s happening?

KW: No, what’s happening right now is that one of the main things we wanted to do with the original one hundred million dollars was to get it to as many people as possible doing work in this field, the general field of integral studies and integral endeavors. That’s one of the reasons that I started Integral Institute, to act as a funding source for people doing this kind of work because the marketplace doesn’t reward truly integral studies as all. It rewards New Age approaches to it, it rewards the experiential workshop approach, as it were, it rewards the green meme and the purple meme and everything in between, but it does not reward truly integral studies.

So, the only way we’re going to get real work done in this field is, frankly, if we have funding agencies that will do it. And once the real work is done, and the research is done, and we start producing really solid texts, and presentations, and articles, and research, then we can create a market off of that. That’s going to be probably three years from now.

So, what we’ve done at Integral Institute … the biggest change in our orientation happened not because of the market, but quite independent of that, a change we would have made whether the market went up or down. And that is, we went from being a kind of community of some four hundred founding members to focusing more on producing what we call “integral product,” actual books, texts, academic material in each of the ten branches. So we’re working on books in, for example, What is Integral Politics? What is Integral Business? Integral Medicine? Integral Law? Because what we found was that there were no really strong statements about an integral approach to any of these fields.

E.com: Which is one of the reasons academia can ignore it completely.

KW: It can ignore it completely, and the other things we found is that most people with very very good intentions would simply take what they’re doing and call it integral when it really wasn’t. They were leaving out certain aspects of the human condition that ought not to be left out. We could demonstrate that to them, and they would say, “OK, I guess what I’m doing is not integral.”

So before we can build community, or create a market, or have a web presence, or have conferences, we have to produce specific texts in each of these ten branches, put together by one of our core teams of recognized scholars and researchers, saying “This is our best shot as an opening statement about what integral business is, integral politics, integral education, integral medicine, integral law, integral psychology, integral spirituality, and so on.”

Actually, what happened was this was inverted. Wilber created a community, a web presence, conferences, and, crucially, a market. Wilber’s Integral has been regressing ever since. Only The Integral Leadership Review, (itself mostly off the Wilberian reservation,) regularly publishes something like scholarship. Elsewhere there isn’t a body of Integral scholarship in those other nine branches, where the scholarship works to, as the Wilberian principle goes, keep the good and throw out the bad. So, without having enabled a keen critical culture to negotiate disciplinary fields using a robust and sophisticated Integral criteria, the Integral methodology was sunk.

Wilber’s creationism is interesting because its context is not Integral biology, but rather its context (and purpose) is the yoking of Wilber’s product lines to the biggest, most fantastic, view of that which can be the reward for buying Wilber’s spiritual technologies. This value-added idea is simple:

Love works from the beginning to organize greater complexity and greater consciousness, ending up for our moment in your ability to realize your cosmic integral love-vitalized high consciousness nature.

One has to buy a ticket, or otherwise pony up.

As for biology and science, Wilber has time and time again, in interviews with Larry Dossy, and other new age thought leaders, proposed that what is bad about science, methodological materialism, needs to be reformed and revolutionized, and, he’s implied, transformed into something altogether more ‘integral-mystical.’ (Magical!) Needless to say there aren’t any cogent Integral philosophers of science. Nor is there–as far as I know–any scholarly Integral biology, Integral physics, Integral anthropology, etc.. Also, the varieties of integral-like interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarship found in some fields is not under review by Integral scholars.

No, there is only the facile spiritualizing of the Wilberian spiritual technology put up for sale. ‘Adeptitude’ has taken over; sadly. The strange, anti-intellectual case is that as much as this high-minded technology harps on getting right with The Shadow, science itself is smack dab in the middle of Wilber’s own shadow. I suspect love is stuck there too because the self-agrandizing, primordial move is too easy, compared, say, to the necessarily unsparing, perspective of Rilke.

To reconfigure Carl Jung’s famous insight,

…where power marketing predominates, love is lacking.

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The Sweat Lodge of World Transformation

Scary, but also worth a read: For Some Seeking Rebirth, Sweat Lodge Was End John Doughtery – New York Times: October 21, 2009

The story summarizes the horrific manslaughter that resulted from a sweat lodge conducted by new age con man James Arthur Ray in Sedona, October 8. Three died, eighteen were hospitalized, and, Ray has yet to be charged. Ray herded paying customers into a dangerous environment and then—literally—allowed three to perish. His state of consciousness can easily be characterized: oblivious. On the website for the deadly new age huckster Ray, he offers bona-fides.

Throughout his life, James Arthur Ray has studied and been exposed to a wide diversity of teachings and teachers – from his collegiate learning and the schools of the corporate world, to the ancient cultures of Peru, Egypt and the Amazon. Armed with this comprehensive and diverse background in behavioral sciences, coupled with his experience as a successful, entrepreneur, and an avid thirst for spiritual knowledge, James boasts the unique and powerful ability to blend the practical and mystical into a usable and easy-to-access formula for achieving true wealth across all aspects of life.

I’ll return to this shortly.

Speaking of hucksters, here’s some excerpts of a pitch received from Ken Wilber, October 15.

This is Ken Wilber, and I wanted to take a moment to write you and tell you of the first and only organization that is the exclusive outlet of my Integral work and all projects connected with it. The organization is called Integral Life, co-founded by myself and my CEO, Robb Smith.

I’m truly excited by this organization and its development, because for the first time in history, although there are hundreds of projects and organizations and websites inspired by my work, this is the first one that has my personal seal of approval. The projects, partner organizations, academic journals and books, blogs and forums all have a quality checked by me to personally guarantee that my Integral model is being used accurately. That’s the problem with these hundreds of other applications of my work. As much as I truly appreciate the inspired use of my model by them, there are often misinterpretations of its leading ideas, resulting in less than truly Integral results.

What is an ‘integral result?’

Here’s what it looks like, symbolically speaking:


(more…)

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