Johnboy January 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm #
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,
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 methodologicallyautonomous 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
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
I’ll return with a few comments on the nondual from an
Johnboy January 30, 2012 at 4:47 pm #
As we consider the nondual realizations of the East, we must
be clear in distinguishing 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 map-making. 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
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
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 intrasubjective 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
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
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 …
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