RE: http://www.mikemorrell.org/2012/01/nondual-week-ken-wilber-on-one-taste/ Wilber’s integral approach could be improved by becoming even more integral, I think. Epistemologically, when we “transcend but include” all quadrants [AQ] and all levels [AL], it would be best to do that at all times [AT]. And by “time” I mean “kairos” not “chronos,” which is to say – not at every moment in time, temporally, but – every time we fully realize a value, axiologically. This distinction is subtle but important. What it means is that a truly integral interplay of quadrants and levels is required for all optimal human value realizations. No quadrant or level, alone, is sufficient and all are necessary for every significant value realization. Wilber, contrastingly, tells us that there are different realms of knowledge and different modes of knowing, each realm or mode both necessary and sufficient for yielding valid knowledge. That’s not true integrality, just a mere inclusivity. I’ll provide an example. We could divide human knowledge up into 4 methods or types of questions: 1) descriptive – What is that? 2) evaluative – What’s that to us? 3) normative – What’s the best way to acquire (or avoid) that? 4) interpretive – How do we tie all of this back together (re-ligate)? Each method is distinct, hence autonomous. But all are necessary to complete the picture and fully realize a value. We could say, then, that these questions (probes) are methodologically-autonomous but axiologically-integral. We might more broadly conceive the descriptive as our sciences, the evaluative as our cultures, the normative as our philosophies and the interpretive as our great traditions. We could describe their integral relationship thus: The normative mediates between the descriptive and the interpretive to effect the evaluative. What’s the difference? Without this important nuance, religion can claim a special gnosis – not just interpreting reality, but – describing reality. This isn’t new; it’s fideism. Science, for its part, would not only describe but also interpret reality, which is not a new conflation but a tired old scientism. They’re suggesting, then, that each of these these different methods are both methodologically and axiologically autonomous. The nondual, epistemically, entails the robustly relational aspect of human value-realization. It describes the enjoyment of fellowship, of simple awareness. It goes beyond our dualistic problem-solving epistemic suite (empirical, logical, practical, moral, etc) but not without it. For example, we could conceive of a nondual value-realization in terms of a spousal mysticism, which is caught up in the throes of ecstasy with our Bride (let’s not be coy, we’re talking about “knowledge OF” in the Biblical sense). Sticking with that particular example of the nondual, one dualistic value-added contribution might be realized in terms of some “knowledge ABOUT” our love-partner; for example, we could suggest that that knowledge about our love-partner came about as we determined beforehand that it was not, rather, our wife’s identical twin sister to whom we were going to be making love (persistent & seductive as she had been over the years, the little devil). I’ll return with a few comments on the nondual from an ontological perspective. As we consider the nondual realizations of the East, we must be clear in distinguishing 1
between epistemology (how do we know what we know?) and ontology (what’s the basic stuff of reality?). The nondual realization, itself, speaks to neither epistemology nor ontology but, instead, of an ineffable phenomenal experience (which characteristically leaves one with little of which to effable). The take-away is practical more so than theoretical, existential more so than metaphysical and conveys a sense of radical solidarity, which then produces the fruit of an immense compassion. If you meet the metaphysical Buddha on the road, kill her, I say. The West has a tendency to process Eastern experiences through metaphysical lenses. Now, the nondual experience does arise in the context of practices, which are epistemically fraught. But those practices have implications much more so dealing with how it is we SEE reality and much less so dealing with how it is we PROCESS reality. Those practices gift us with perceptual purity and conceptual clarity but do not otherwise involve conceptual mapmaking. They help us fruitfully engage our participatory imaginations (or hometown knowledge – that skillset that gets us around town while meeting our needs with great ease but which may not, with equal facility, otherwise allow us to provide an out-of-towner with a clear set of directions to this or that destination, notwithstanding our own long familiarity with same). Wilber’s nondual theology/theodicy has undeniable ontological implications and it’s no better (really worse in some ways) than many other onto-theology projects, as I see it. The chief problem that I have with mixing metaphysics and theology is that we come off proving too much, saying more than we can possibly know, telling untellable stories. That’s not living with paradox; it’s trying to banish mystery because we cannot bear the anxiety of reality’s ambivalence toward us and ambiguity for us. Don’t get me wrong; I say we should let a thousand metaphysical blossoms bloom. But their value-added take-away is in framing up our most pressing questions and most insistent longings, orienting us existentially to Whomever it is that might answer them -not academically & theoretically with formulaic answers, but – relationally & compassionately with a consoling Presence. So, of course, we will have our sneaking suspicions metaphysically but we best leave them in the form of vague questions and not definitive answers (even those answers conveyed allegorically): 1) How can the Creator interact with creatures if we do not together participate in some type of Divine Matrix of the same STUFF (forget the root metaphors: being, substance, process, experience, etc)? The placemarker I use for this question is intra-objective identity. 2) How is it that the Creator and creatures dance together in an inter-subjective intimacy? 3) How can each of us best grow integrally with intra-subjective integrity? 4) If there is something wholly transcendent, ontologically, certainly, we cannot successfully DESCRIBE it (even though we might successfully REFER to it) due to its inter-objective indeterminacy? 2
Now, there is truly something to Moltmann’s “tzitzum” and Simone Weil’s “divine delimitation” and the Kabbalistic “shrinking of God” that also appeals to me in Wilber’s creation theology/theodicy. But we can improve this account, I believe, with a healthy dose of apophatic theology, such as can be found in Robert Cummings Neville’s approach to the One (indeterminate) & the Many (determinate vis a vis the act of creation). Theodicy problems arise from the presumption that we know more about God’s essential nature/divine attributes than we could possibly know, especially vis a vis Her supposed moral character (a truly anthropomorphic move). The problem of human suffering, even when supposedly dismissed on theoretical grounds, will always perdure practically. Even a workable academic solution will not ever be existentially satisfying? In the end, most come across as cruel, anyway? Ultimately, we just do not know WHY things are wrong or exactly HOW they will be set right but can only live our lives with hope because of WHO it is who told us THAT everything will be alright? Finally, there is nothing magical about preserving paradox. We do not know ahead of time (a priori), in any given encounter of paradox, which we can 1) dissolve via a paradigm shift 2) resolve via some Hegelian dialectic 3) evade for all practical purposes 4) exploit by maintaining its creative tensions. This is to make the point that some dualistic realities are not illusory but real (good and evil) and, while we may not be able to satisfactorily account for their origin, theoretically, we definitely must approach them with the practical goal of evading them (through more than denial or wishful thinking). Even though explicitly asked, neither the Buddha nor Jesus satisfied our theodicy questions, theoretically, but they did both offer practical prescriptions grounded in a new way of looking at reality: nondually. This assertion invites much nuance but … Let me suggest a distinction between the unitary and the unitive. When we’re talking vaguely about the STUFF of primal reality, we intuit that it all somehow has to share certain attributes in order for it to be able to interact, otherwise our accounts will suffer what the philosophers call a “causal disjunction.” How could a Creator, Whom we only describe metaphorically, ever interact with creatures if all we have to work with are analogues? Try to have an analogy tonight for supper and see if that fills you up! This refers, then, to a putative UNITARY being, hence INTRA (within) OBJECTIVE (an object). At the same time, when talking about the self as a true agent, it violates common sense long before it becomes a metaphysical conundrum to deny the reality of authentically interacting subjects. This refers, then, to our UNITIVE strivings, hence INTER (between) SUBJECTIVE (persons). Combining these insights we might affirm a panentheism. I call it a vague panSEMIOentheism because this meta-critique is a step away from the more metaphysically robust panentheisms, which rely variously on different root metaphors like substance, process, being, experience and so on. In other words, it is a semiotic realism, which suggests that, even though I’ve only offered a putative heuristic with some vague placeholders that lack robust descriptions (root metaphors), still, those placeholders might very well make successful references to a putative primal reality in a way that we can realize some SIGNificant value vis a vis our God-talk. To be sure, much of what we seem to take away in our more Eastern-like experiences of the 3
Indeterminate Ground of Being (just for example) seems to correspond to an experience of absolute unitary being (cf. Andy Newberg, neuroscientist) or intra-objective identity. Our more Western-like experiences of a determinate Creator and creation seem to correspond to an experience of our unitive strivings or inter-subjective intimacy. Interestingly, people who’ve experienced either/both the unitary or/and the unitive come away with a profound sense of solidarity & compassion for all sentient reality and deep gratitude for all reality. These general categories are much too facile though for authentic interreligious dialogue for there are prominent devotional elements in the East (bhakti and such) that affirm the value of our intersubjective experiences. Most of the valuable take-aways from Western encounters with the East have been in the realm of practices and asceticisms, more epistemic than ontological. There’s more to be had by the West, though, in further cultivating the Eastern wisdom of remaining silent on all things metaphysical as it pertains to God’s essential nature? Not that the West doesn’t have a great apophatic tradition of its own. Let’s just say it’s been under-employed in many circles, just like our contemplative tradition, the reawakening of which remains in its infancy (post-Merton). Was I too harsh on Wilber? I see the self as a quasi-autonomous agent, free-enough to realize values and not as some vestige of divine amnesia. In other words, there is a true ontological distinction from which we realize value, inter-subjectively, vis a vis God and other persons in our UNITIVE strivings. This is not to deny — but to held in a creative tension with — the notion that we and God, in some mysterious way, also share some of the very same “stuff” from which we may have issued forth vis a vis primal reality, creatio ex nihilo notwithstanding. Otherwise, whither any divine interactivity? I’ve always thought the Hesychasts of Mt Athos might have been on to something with their distinction between the divine essence and the divine energies. Maybe they were on to something — not in a robustly metaphysical way, but — and providing us a vague metacritique? So, I’m only suggesting that Wilber’s account would be fine once sufficiently nuanced. I’d also like to affirm Cynthia Bourgeault’s notion that our experience of “constriction” is an encounter with a sacrament and all that that would efficaciously entail! It matches my intuition that we, as co-creators, amplify risks to augment values. I’m not suggesting that those values that are derived from all of the suffering attendant to that risk-taking could not have been gotten some other way (how could we know?), only that there IS value and I embrace it even as I positively eschew the suffering and would love to realize values without having to make sacrifices! Some day we’ll all understand … cried Fogelberg. I adamantly maintain that that day hasn’t arrived and that no theodicy is good that does not contain a huge measure of MYSTERY. re: the case for the sacramentality of creation as informed by Edwards, my dear late fellow Yat (NOLA native), Donald L. Gelpi, S.J. published: Incarnate Excellence’: Jonathan Edwards and an American Theological Aesthetic,” Religion and the Arts 2 (1998) 423-42 RE: Nondual Week: Panentheism & Interspirituality – What’s Jesus Got to do With It? | Mike Morrell – January 31, 2012 – want to follow up yesterday’s Ken Wilber interview with this blast from the past – something I wrote for the previous iteration of TheOOZE 4
It would be difficult to improve on that BLAST! Let me offer a strategic note re: interreligious dialogue If one accepts that, formatively, in most traditions, belonging precedes desiring which precedes behaving which is last followed by believing … If those desires are largely formed by practices which engage us participatively and holistically … If so much of the early stages of the journey within most of our great traditions thus entails evaluative attunement to reality via participatory praxes prior to any interpretive indoctrination via conceptual map-making and is thus much more nonpropositional than propositional … Then there is an INTERFAITH BONANZA that awaits us if we would only [BRACKET] the [propositional elements] of our interfaith exchanges, at least at the start, to lead with the nonpropositional (practices)… Then, when we do begin to engage the propositional elements of our respective traditions, there is yet a further INTERFAITH BONANZA to be enjoyed if we would only [BRACKET] our [Christology], at least at the start, to lead with our pneumatology (the Spirit)! Now, some might offer the objection that many doctrines are inextricably intertwined with certain practices and that may well be true but, for all sorts of reasons (some listed above), the converse is manifestly not true. If we’d approach interfaith exchanges in this manner, we’d have so much to celebrate in the way of belonging, desiring and behaving and even regarding some rudimentary shared beliefs regarding the Spirit! And this could help pave the way for a more fruitful dialogue regarding the propositional elements of our faiths, which are not unimportant. Importantly, even the term inter-religious dialogue reveals a certain rationalistic, dualistic hegemony in its emphasis on the dia-logical. I now prefer the term inter-faith exchange because it goes beyond the logical and propositional, but not without them, to include the more robustly relational and nondual approaches to such human value-realizations as solidarity and compassion. Finally, I don’t advocate this approach only for the academic and theological guilds but feel strongly that we need to popularize it and make it more accessible, perhaps through storytelling vehicles like The Shack. In a country and a world so torn apart by destructive polarizations that are grounded in religious differences, this strategy for engaging the religious-other could be a viable route to more peace, less war. There are two ways that panentheism is most often conceived. The first, a fundamentalist take, panen-theism, sees God as part of all things but more than the sum of all things; the second, an orthodox parsing, pan-entheism, sees God indwelling in all things. My pansemio-entheism suggests that there’s value to be realized in both of those parsings, panentheism via our realizations of intra-objective identity (absolute unitary being), pan5
entheism via our realizations of inter-subjective intimacy (relational unitive strivings). What it also suggests is that we can (maybe even better) realize these values by relaxing with our vague conceptions and questions, holding (exploiting even) these creative tensions while abiding with mystery and paradox, rather than anxiously rushing forward with specific root metaphors and answers, imagining that every paradox is ours to resolve dialectically, dissolve paradigmatically or evade practically. This is to say, for instance, that it doesn’t ambition a theodicy. In fact, the theodicy “problem” doesn’t arise precisely because it hasn’t tried to say more than we could possibly know by “proving” too much regarding God’s essential nature or divine attributes. It seems clear to me that our panentheisms begin within the faith as theologies of nature, as poetic reflections of our affective attunements and participatory imaginations, as anagogical expressions of our hope in a God Who deeply cares for us and desires to be with us. They cannot credibly proceed from a natural theology or metaphysics, which at best could only raise the plausibility of a deism, which could have no inkling of whether or not primal reality is ultimately friendly or not (nature being so red in tooth and claw). I have come across some beautiful neo-pagan reflections which did seem to link their panentheist intuitions and anarchist inclinations via what I would call a divine spark anthropology. (Now, when it comes to theological anthropology, even Rahner’s transcendental thomism was too optimistic, so, we must take care with any “divine spark” anthropology to avoid getting too dualistic, too Kantian. Human knowledge is way more problematical and a gnostic rationalism is no cure for other epistemic vices.) I have elaborated my own “norms for intervention” based on my reflections on nature as it dances with both freedom and coercion (from an emergentist perspective). I’ll simply say this – that, notwithstanding the initial, boundary and limit conditions of the cosmos and the constrictions we experience, we are generally free enough to love and the normative takeaway is that our default bias must be on freedom. The rub has always been whether or not freedom can be absolutized, for all practical purposes, and this speaks to anarchist and pacifist stances. And this comes full circle back to just what type of Kingdom the Good News aspires. Ted wrote: “I think there is corollary here to what I consider one of the key dynamics of Christian anarchism: that the Christian anarchist’s allegiance is to Christ as king who is primarily present by dint of having his spirit poured out on all people (that’s a theologically sloppy gloss but I’m trying to keep it succinct). It seems to me the relationship some are articulating between panentheism (and similar constructions) and anarchism would be at least tangentially related to this.” Ted is spot on here. Let me extrapolate to suggest that, only articulating my view, panentheism is such a corollary in the sense that it would follow as a direct inference from this or that pneumatology (stance re: the Spirit) which, for Christians, would follow from this or that Christology (view of Christ). What I am implying is that, as with the Transcendentalists, any compelling intuitions of God in nature will be articulated from insights gathered from within some faith perspective rather than derived merely philosophically, much less metaphysically. To what values, then, does the Good News really aspire? temporally vs eternally? How 6
might any Christian, in general, articulate and practice anarchist-pacifist norms or reconcile them to extant historical, social, cultural, economic and political realities? How might a panentheist, in particular? Niebuhr employs a temporal dialectic, drawing normative distinctions between now and eternity, eschatologically. It’s as if he’s saying that anarchism and pacifism will indeed enjoy their MOMENT, just not yet? Now, it has been claimed that Yoder employs a spatial dialectic, drawing normative distinctions between the world and the Kingdom, ecclesiologically. And that would sound as if he’s saying (he’s not?) that anarchism and pacifism enjoy their PLACE, just not everywhere? What if, in keeping with our hesitance to resolve such tensions dialectically, dissolve them paradigmatically or evade them practically, we aspire to exploit them creatively as cocreators? Our panentheist intuitions might then employ a pneumatological imagination inspired by such a fivefold Christology as would see the Spirit at work “orienting” us through all of history (an implicit eschatology), “empowering” us through all social gatherings (an implicit ecclesiologly), “sanctifying” all cultures (an implicit theology), “nurturing and healing” through every economic sphere (an implicit sacramentology) and “saving” in every political order (an implicit soteriology)? (This is not to suggest that cooperation with the Spirit, hence realization of the fruits of the Spirit, does not present in varying degrees from time to time, place to place, as best we can communally discern.) Now, it takes a radically nondual perspective to imagine that the Spirit has, always and everywhere, been thus gently coaxing us along orienting, empowering, sanctifying, nurturing & healing and saving us? However, if this is true, then, while Niebuhr may be correct, descriptively, insofar as we enjoy merely proleptic (anticipatory) realizations of a Kingdom that is both now and to come, still, normatively, who could reasonably deny that anarchism-pacifism is a realizable vocation, NOW? And while it would not be incorrect to recognize with Yoder, descriptively, that our world seems to enjoy so few wholly “voluntary associations of wo/men” (as Dorothy Day might say), still, normatively, it would nevertheless be wrong to imagine that he would suggest that anarchism-pacifism is not a realizable vocation, EVERYWHERE, for there is no antinomy between the sacred and profane, the church and the world, precisely because the reality of God permeates the reality we call this world? This panentheistic view is really catching on, too, for just yesterday, a Lucky Dog vendor in New Orleans’ French Quarter asked: “Would you like me to make you one with everything?” In the same way that Mike has been challenged for not doing full justice to the divinity of Jesus, so some have taken issue with Bourgeault vis a vis her John 10:30 interpretation in the thread above. But note that she also makes the following Christological affirmations, which go beyond but not without, which transcend but include, her “high anthropology.” Mike’s affirmations similarly cohere for me. >>> beginning of quotes: [T]he resurrection proves that Jesus is the only Son of God, that 7
there is none other like him, that in and through him God has reconciled heaven and earth and laid the foundations of the New Creation, that this is the pivotal moment in salvation history …
[A] sacrament does not merely symbolize a spiritual reality; it lives that reality into existence. Jesus’ life, considered from this standpoint, is a sacrament: a mystery that draws us deeply into itself and, when rightly approached, conveys an actual spiritual energy empowering us to follow the path that his teachings have laid out.
Yes, we come into constriction, but is that the same as punishment? I believe not. I believe rather that this constriction is a sacrament, and we have been offered a divine invitation to participate in it. … It is difficult to risk love in a world so fragile and contingent. And yet, the greater the gamble …<<< end of quotes
Cynthia Bourgeault in _Wisdom Jesus_ wrote: “While he (Jesus) does indeed claim that ‘the Father and I are one’ (John 10:30)–a statement so blasphemous to Jewish ears that it nearly gets him stoned–he does not see this as an exclusive privilege but something shared by all human beings. … There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love.”
While most of the Church Fathers did interpret that verse in an ontological sense, there are reasonable minority views (including Calvin) that received this verse moreso in terms of sharing a design or plan . It is doubtful any Jews, including Jesus, were doing metaphysics, in general, much less using a substance ontology of being/essence, in particular. This is not to deny the tradition’s ontological affirmations, only to suggest that they needn’t rest solely on this verse.
Furthermore, if one changes one’s root metaphor to process, then new interpretations arise, even of the concept being. To wit, check out Joe Bracken’s Process Philosophy and Trinitarian Theology:
quote >>> The second theologian to be considered is Heribert Mühlen, a Roman Catholic who has published two works on the Trinity in recent years: Der heilige Geist als Person and Die Veränderlichkeit Gottes als Horizont einer zukünftigen Christologie. Only the second will be considered here. Taking note of the altered world-consciousness of human beings in this century, according to which Being is to be understood in strictly interpersonal terms, Mühlen suggests, first of all, that the classical expression homoousios, as applied to the Son’s relationship to the Father, does not necessarily mean that the Son is of the same substance as the Father but only that he is of equal being (gleichseiendlich) with the Father (VG 13). Accordingly, the way is now open to conceive the being of both the Father and the Son as the being or reality of a community. In fact, says Mühlen, Scripture itself implies that the union between Father and Son is not really a physical union within a single substance but rather a moral union within a community (e.g., John 10:30: “The Father and I are one”). Like Moltmann, Mühlen then presents the Spirit as the personified bond of love between the Father and the Son, who at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross is breathed forth upon the world to unite human beings with one another and with the triune God (VG 23-24, 33-36). <<< end of quote
From Bracken's discussion, the John 10:30 take away was the moral union within a community and the bond of love which can unite human beings with one another and with the triune God. From Cynthia's discussion: "There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love."
There is, I believe, some value to be derived from the distinction between an Ascension and an Assumption, the former describing Jesus’ lot, alone. Our move up Mt Carmel (journey of transformation) is much more like the latter.
But do check out the herein-referenced distinctions of Bourgeault, Bracken and others. While so much of our God-talk vis a vis the human experience is necessarily analogical or otherwise descriptively apophatic, aren’t we otherwise invoking a conceptual univocity when we reference the reality of LOVE? In other words, we love God and each other with the very same love experienced by the Trinity, not some weak metaphor of same?
I am not suggesting we can fully describe this unfathomable mystery that we refer to as love or that we can in any way fully comprehend it, but I am suggesting that we can partially apprehend it and successfully reference it because it is nevertheless infinitely realizable (incl intelligible).