Performatism, A Post-Postmodern Architecture Style In An Integral Age

Estre Hotel, Berlin (Credit:

A common way to define integral design is to say that it is a practice involving the application of a comprehensive methodological framework such as AQAL. For example, Vernon Collis and Anna Cowen write in “An Architectural Practice as an Integral Organisation,” that:

Our design process opens with an in-depth mapping of any context we work in. The context could be organizational or physical or both. This mapping process (which could be likened to the observation phase of Otto Scharmer’s “U” process) is an AQAL affair. We map as exhaustively as resources permit, integrating both local and expert perspectives, moving up and down the spiral, and looking from the 8 ‘hori-zones’, as Ken Wilber calls them. We are engaged with the design of a range of processes where communities map themselves, and in so doing, develop tools to drive development from within. These processes employ all quadrants, effectively cross-training participants in self, culture and nature through reflection, group work and systems analysis. We then enter a reflective space (the presencing space of “U” theory), integrating and synthesizing learnings from the mapping. From here, action emerges – design interventions we view as acupuncture needles, releasing trapped potentials, and enabling the various systems to both heal themselves and to thrive. Our work is deeply informed by many years’ experience of embodying our work through physically making.

While that’s an important definition which needs to be explored, I am also interested in the question of what is a distinctively integral design aesthetic, just as there are styles definitive of traditional, modern, and postmodern architecture. How is it that designers are reacting against postmodern architecture’s concern with eclecticism, irony, and ornamentation to create new styles of architecture?

Neues Kranzler Eck Shopping Mall (Credit: architecture is sometimes called “neo-eclectic,” and is concerned with the context of structures in diverse respects: the types of materials used (e.g., ecologically sustainable materials/green building), the historical context of the neighborhood and city (e.g., historical preservation), etc.

The Performatist turn in architecture

One way of characterizing post-postmodern design is “Performatism.” Wikipedia summarizes:

A systematic attempt to define post-postmodernism in aesthetic terms has been undertaken by the German-American Slavist Raoul Eshelman in his book Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism (Aurora, Colorado: Davies Group 2008, ISBN 978-1-888570-41-0). Eshelman, who coined the term “Performatism” in 2000, attempts to show that works in the new epoch are constructed in such a way as to bring about a unified, aesthetically mediated experience of transcendence. Performatism does this by creating closed works of art that force viewers to identify with simple, opaque characters or situations and to experience beauty, love, belief and transcendence under particular, artificial conditions.

In “Performatism in Architecture. On Framing and the Spatial Realization of Ostensivity,” Raoul Eshelman writes:

Performatist thinking and art reorients itself to the latter-day equivalents of a “meaningless” but nonetheless deeply significant, irreducible inner frame. This frame can hardly be deconstructed because it has little or no semantic content and almost no context; it works simply through the truth of its own existence, as a reminder of the performative foundation of the human. It is also the place where beauty, love, belief, morality and all the other originary, performative situations that postmodernism dismisses as “metaphysical” were established–situations that are now being revitalized in aesthetic settings.

Kant Triangle Berlin (Credit: Jose-luis-ortega via Flickr)Everything in that description of Performatism seems applicable as a literary description of many Integral writings as well. Ken Wilber’s “simple feeling of being” (his description of the nondual spirituality at the heart of his writing) seems aptly described as “meaningless yet significant,” undeconstructible, irreducible. Steve McIntosh’s emphasis on Integral Consciousness as bound to Truth, Beauty, and Goodness could be imagined as “performative situations” that postmodernism dismisses wrongly as metaphysical.

One feature of the Performatist aesthetic, according to Raoul Eshelman’s “Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism,” is the return of the phallus:

Finally, the unifying intention of performatism is closely tied to the return of the phallus as a positive enabling force in culture. Contrary to the poststructuralist assumption that the phallus functions only by muzzling, suppressing, or penetrating the female, the performative phallus creates a positive, gender-transcending unity through a process of more-or-less voluntary self-sacrifice.

This attribute also parallels one of the striking features of AQAL-influenced integral thought: its origin by a male writer whose work is sometimes wrongly attacked as “patriarchal” or “phallocentric” by postmodern feminists. But performatist architecture is not phallocentric so much as a reclaiming of a positive, trans-gender identity to balance the overemphasis of postmodernism on feminine virtues.

An integral design as demonstrative, functional, and monistic

Eschelman claims the key to understanding its aesthetic is not its reclaiming of masculinity, but its Spatializing Ostensivity. Ostensivity appears to be a self-explanatory neologism based on ostensive, meaning “directly or clearly demonstrative.” Ken Wilber frequently points to the self-verifying feature of AQAL, as when in Integral Vision he repeatedly asks the reader to simply examine her or his immediate awareness in order to locate the quadrants and other theoretical components (stages, lines, types, and types). Eschelman says:

Performatism in architecture arises when minimal spatial relations are configured in such a way as to suggest the possibility of achieving transcendence…. performatist architecture stylizes functionality and tends to use simple forms suggesting a single, monistic end. However, unlike modernism, performatist architecture is aimed at evoking transcendency through devices that are perceived neither as being motivated by modernist notions of ideal functionality (whose most obvious token is the grid or square) nor as displaying an ornamental plurality in the postmodern sense (citing and mixing received, recognizable codes). Instead, performatist devices call attention to spatially mediated, minimal relations which seem to overcome certain intractable material or physical limitations. One might call this transcendent functionalism, as opposed to the rational or technical functionalism of modernism. Instead of expressing a geometrically founded principle in a consistent, foreseeable way, the performative device suggests the possibility of overcoming some spatial limitation with heretofore unrecognized functional means.

He actually identifies nine distinct devices of performatist architecture: Theistic creation (addition/subtraction of mass), Transparency (dematerialization), Triangulation, Kinesis, Impendency, Wholeness (closure), Framing, Centering + ostensivity, and Oneness (generativity). (Note: I’ve added four of the buildings described by Eschelman as examples of performatism on this blog post so you can get an impression of how these devices are employed.)

While a detailed exploration of performatist design is outside the scope of this blog post, I deeply appreciate Eschelman’s contribution to the exploration of a post-postmodern aesthetic and look forward to learning more. Its principles reveal the integral phenomenon just as I see it emerging in the world: organically, holistically, rising from the earliest ashes of postmodern sensibilities into something new, unprecedented, and unpredictable.

Integral architecture is not simply about applying a single integrally informed methodology to new, unconstructed “Integral Buildings,” (however important that practice perhaps is), but is something already in our midst. We have only to recognize its features, bring our awareness to them, construct attempts at definitions, and then play with the novelty until something new emerges.

Design that allows the reader to feel the “powerful, preterhuman hand of the architect,” (what Eschelman calls theistic creation) is indeed new. It is, I think, a characteristic that describes the literary output of Ken Wilber whose 25 books and voluminous output of interviews and articles creates an aesthetic impression of virtual “theistic omnipotence.”

My own contribution to Integral literature, the memoir Soulfully Gay (Integral Books/Shambhala, 2007), also employs a highly unusual theistic literary device, beginning with an Introduction featuring a secret-withholding theistic narrator setting the stage for a drama which promises a sort of “surprise ending.” The book itself is a sequence of journal-like entries featuring an in-the-dark protagonist with whom the reader can identify, and who then is seen gradually rising step-by-step in consciousness culminating in his realization of God Consciousness.

Certainly, the Performatist style will continue to be influential for many years to come, in architecture, philosophy, art, literature, and other disciplines without limitation.

The guilty pleasure of guilty pleasures


Chocolate Chip Cookie by Laura604 (Flickr)

Matthew Yglesias in “Against ‘Guilty Pleasures'”:

I think the whole conceptual framework of “guilty pleasures” speaks to some weird underlying puritanical elements in American life. Despite the whole “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness” thing in the Declaration of Independence, our public culture is very resistant to the idea that people should try to spend more time doing things they enjoy or that producing enjoyment for others is a good thing to do in life.

Alyssa Rosenberg dissents, comparing the guilt of liking pop music to the guilt of enjoying cheesecake. She writes:

It’s about social positioning through cultural positioning, with a fluctuating definition of what’s guilty and what’s not. Sometimes it’s the opera, or the ballet, or the symphony that’s non-guilty, and sometimes it’s TV On the Radio.

Four QuadrantsAs I see it, the concept of “guilty pleasure” isn’t necessarily weird at all, though there do seem to be different usages when it is applied towards food and when it is applied to the fear of having other discover one’s lowbrow or embarrassing tastes. In Integral Theory, the different usages can be mapped to quadrants: the former usage pertains to intersection of individual subjective feelings (UL) and individual objective behavior (UR); the latter relates to individual subjective feelings (UL) and collective subjective culture (LL).

When the conversation between Matthew and Alyssa is mapped out in quadrants, you can notice that “guilty pleasures” are only being discussed in two of the four quadrants … and can now ask, what is missing? what is being left out of the discussion? Taking an integral perspective can point the way.

There are the collective objective systems,  the lower-right quadrant (LR), which would include the phenomenon of taking pleasure in doing something harmful to the environment or social system (e.g.,  enjoying the way that Styrofoam cups keep your coffee hotter than paper cups, enjoying riding around in a Hummer, etc.)

And there’s also the “guilty pleasure” of the individual subjective perspective taking a perspective on itself (UR to UR). This would include taking guilty pleasure in having guilty pleasures!

I’m not going to weigh in just now on Matthew’s dislike of “guilty pleasure,” because it isn’t in my character to have strong likes and dislikes about things that I haven’t considered with deliberation. Instead of pronouncing on the goodness or badness of something, I’m more interested in understanding why it is our culture and language has given us this phrase, “guilty pleasure,” and see how people are using it, what it gets for them, and what it blinds them to.

Looking at the phenomenon in four quadrants helps me to make sure I’m not leaving anything out. Was Matthew Yglesias considering the collective subjective or collective objective quadrants when he proclaimed “guilty pleasure” a Puritanic holdover? Was Alyssa Rosenberg considering the collective objective or individual subjective quadrants when suggesting that they may not be such a bad thing?

I don’t know, but if an integral perspective teaches me one thing it is to not leave anything important out of the equation when making a decision. If we rely only on our unconsidered opinion, our biases and cultural conditioning and settled structure of consciousness take over, and leave precious little room for innovation and growth.

Stanford linguist confirms role of sound symbolism for food names

Photo Credit: Stevendepolo (Flickr)In the Good Food blog’s “Watch Your Mouth,” a report about a seemingly obscure or trivial phenomenon that is part of a set of virtually unheard of linguistic discoveries that I am convinced have astonishing importance: sound symbolism.

Dan Jurafsky, a Stanford linguist who blogs on The Language of Food, recently performed a ?breakfast experiment? on 81 ice cream flavors and 592 cracker brands. He found that the ice cream names tended to employ back vowels?sounds formed in the back of our mouths that generally refer to big, fat, heavy things. Front vowels, on the other hand, tend to be used in words that refer to small, thin, light foods, like crackers.

Say them out loud: rocky road, chocolate, cookie dough, coconut?heavy on low-frequency o’s. Now listen to Cheese Nips, Cheez-Its, Wheat Thins, Ritz Bits, Triscuit, Cheese Crisps?you can hear all those little bitty e’s and i’s.

These things matter. Sound symbolism appears to be more universal than the kinds of learned cultural associations we pair with colors or odors. One linguistic theory, John Ohala’s “Frequency Code,” suggests that we associate lower pitches with aggression and hostility, while high-pitched frequencies tend to sound submissive, appeasing, or friendly. And these sound associations may explain the origins of one of the most positive symbols of all?the smile.

Sound symbolism does not just give us insight into smiles and brand marketing. It’s a marginal field of study that might one day become mainstream once more applications are developed which are able to identify and take advantage of the relationship between the kinesthetics of speech production and semantics.

A hint of why this is important for the integral worldview: sound symbolism suggests that there are patterns that connect words and objects that may be cross-cultural universals. Since the world’s languages create symbolic systems out of the sounds of words, then there would be an esoteric or hidden ordering system within languages.

And language is a crucial medium through which all human experience (including spiritual experiences) are described, prescribed, and practiced. Thus what linguists discover today about the non-arbitrary nature of the word “ice cream” they could be discovering tomorrow about the names for “God,” “Enlightenment,” or “Spirit.” And creating means for people of diverse worldviews to connect with shared symbolism and language is a further step along the conveyor belt than simply connecting via a shared abstract idea.

(And I’ll have more to say on the subject as it’s a favorite of mine.)

Hat tip: Zoe Pollock, The Daily Dish.

Are Big Ideas dead? Here’s one to watch out for

Photo Credit: QisurIf a philosopher announced a Theory of Everything in the forest, but nobody was around to hear it, would it still be a Theory of Everything? Just asking.

In “The Elusive Big Idea,” Neal Gabler tells us that if there were a Big Thinker alive in America today that it’s quite possible few people would even learn her or his name. He writes:

This isn’t to say that the successors of Rosenberg, Rawls and Keynes don’t exist, only that if they do, they are not likely to get traction in a culture that has so little use for ideas, especially big, exciting, dangerous ones, and that’s true whether the ideas come from academics or others who are not part of elite organizations and who challenge the conventional wisdom. All thinkers are victims of information glut, and the ideas of today’s thinkers are also victims of that glut.

But it is especially true of big thinkers in the social sciences like the cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, who has theorized on everything from the source of language to the role of genetics in human nature, or the biologist Richard Dawkins, who has had big and controversial ideas on everything from selfishness to God, or the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who has been analyzing different moral systems and drawing fascinating conclusions about the relationship of morality to political beliefs. But because they are scientists and empiricists rather than generalists in the humanities, the place from which ideas were customarily popularized, they suffer a double whammy: not only the whammy against ideas generally but the whammy against science, which is typically regarded in the media as mystifying at best, incomprehensible at worst. A generation ago, these men would have made their way into popular magazines and onto television screens. Now they are crowded out by informational effluvium….

We have become information narcissists, so uninterested in anything outside ourselves and our friendship circles or in any tidbit we cannot share with those friends that if a Marx or a Nietzsche were suddenly to appear, blasting his ideas, no one would pay the slightest attention, certainly not the general media, which have learned to service our narcissism.

Gabler’s analysis is astute, but some say it may be just another example of narcissism.

Megan Garber on the narcissism of media elites

Megan Garber makes an excellent point: the article has an unstated premise about what constitutes a Big Idea. She writes:

In the Gablerian information environment, the Big Idea is a function of Big Media: The two both purify and amplify each other, entwined so tightly that it’s hard to tell where the one ends and the other begins.

In other words, duh-pocalypse is at hand.

Which would all be very alarming and unfortunate, were it not for the flaw in Gabler’s premise: Ideas don’t need the media any more than the media need ideas. They’ve relied on each other in the past, true enough — media as the gatekeepers, ideas as the floods — but the present media moment is characterized above all by the fact that ideas, Big and otherwise, can be amplified independently of traditional media filters. The public, online, is empowered to decide for itself which ideas are worthy of changing the world.

Doh! She had me until the end. She is correct that the measure of an idea’s importance is at least in part relative and subjective, and then she virtually replaces the arbiter of bigness from the New York Times to Digg, Twitter, and StumbleUpon. Hers like Garber’s is a point of view sharing some of the characteristics typical of postmodernism: a relativization of truth, a democratization of values (“Who needs ‘Big’ Ideas anyway?”), and a suspicion of elite knowledge.

These articles got me thinking today about proposing a different, more integral, definition of an idea’s bigness: what is its uptake by individuals at the highest levels of ego-development, leadership maturity, stage of faith, psychological structure, or altitude of consciousness that a culture has yet produced.

An alternative proposal for measuring the Big Ideas

In other words, let’s take all the developmental models that have ever been created from Aurobindo to James Mark Baldwin, Jean Piaget to Terri O’Fallon, Carol Gilligan to Ken Wilber, Abraham Maslow to Robert Kegan, James Fowler to Michael Lerner, Jane Loevinger to Susanne Cook-Greuter, and so on, and then ask the individuals scoring highest whose ideas have been the most influential? Which living thinker’s ideas have the most ability to transform not only what people think about, but how people think?

The answer they’d likely arrive at by majority if not consensus: the “most important living philosopher you’ve never heard of.”

Surely it is objectionable that this would be an obviously elitist measure of importance. Why not just measure, say, IQ, and get the ranking of importance according to the highest IQ individuals? Why not just poll tenured faculty at Ivy League universities? Those are perfectly fine measurements as well.

Let’s ask all those groups which thinkers qualify as having the Biggest Ideas … and compare the results from all of these avenues and Gabler’s index of thinkers frequently mentioned on page one of the New York Times and Garber’s list of thinkers with the most Twitter followers. If we did so, they would each tell us interesting data points about today’s intellectual climate.

However, I suspect only the survey of highly self-realized and evolved individuals would actually provide insights that could really transform culture … because only such a survey could shed light on how other individuals might evolve, and how our culture might evolve, and how our social systems might evolve.

Ideas with or without brands: thinking in a post-idea world

Now it may convincingly be objected that even if all these surveys of Big Idea Thinkers were conducted, the news would be a trending hashtag on Twitter for about 30 seconds (if that), hit page A8 of the New York Times, and just as quickly be forgotten.

Garber writes:

Ideas increasingly resist branding. The idea of the idea is evolving. We don’t treat Google like a Big Idea — though, of course, that’s most definitely what it is; we treat it like Google. Ditto Facebook, ditto Twitter, ditto Reddit and Wikipedia. Those new infrastructures merge idea and practice, ars and tecnica, so seamlessly that it’s easy to forget how big (and how Big) the ideas that inform them actually are. Increasingly, the ultimate upshot of the Big Idea — the changed world, the bettered world — is bypassing the idea stage altogether…. Far from living in a post-idea world, we’re creating a world so thoroughly saturated with new ideas that we’re shedding the need to distinguish them as ideas in the first place. Thought is everywhere…. Ideas don’t need to be branded as such to change the course of history.

She makes some interesting points, but I’m not at all convinced about her central one. She says that the idea of the idea is evolving, but she never says what idea it is evolving into. Instead, she points to Google and Wikipedia as if this answer were “most definitely” self-explanatory. But it is not.

Saying that Google is a Big Idea in the 21st century is no more convincing than saying that the toga and sandal were the Big Ideas of ancient Greece. She is confusing technology for the intellectual theory-and-practice that generates the technology. She acknowledges that Google is “informed by” big ideas, but what is she speaking of? C+? Java? The semiconductor? Or philosophers of modernity like Rene Descartes or American pragmatism like William James? It’s not clear.

I am also wondering why she lists mainly cool, fun social media technologies in a world rife with famine, disease, warfare, and poverty. She also doesn’t mention any poets, artists, or musicians as having Big Ideas. Hers is so partial and biased a list it’s worrisome. But then that’s the thing: when she doesn’t have any Big Ideas giving her a comprehensive framework of reference, she doesn’t seem to notice that the technologies dominating her awareness are just one part of a much bigger picture.

Big thoughts return in a post-post-idea world

I think there is a Big Idea in the air that isn’t mentioned in Neal Gabler’s short list of ideas from comprehensive thinkers. The idea of the idea is evolving into a complex set of interactions of ontology, epistemology, and methodology. It is this set of interwoven interactions that is capable of making sense of today’s complexity and diversity: how our world exists in many stratums of development in natural, cultural, sociological, and psychological levels, and how such development can be mapped in an integral view that can help us to manage the complexity.

Contra Garber, Google and so forth are not the Big Ideas. They are technological outputs largely created at the intersection of individuals at autonomous or post-autonomous levels of development in a substantially modern-to-postmodern culture in a post-industrial economy. The world is much bigger than Facebook and Reddit, requiring far more comprehensive and inclusive perspectives. What it needs are frameworks capable of grasping the interdisciplinary interactions of ideas and practices in as many domains of knowledge and practice possible.

That’s not exactly a message that’s easy to convey in 140 characters or less … but it does say something about our time that there are millions of people going about their business working on just such integral approaches as I’ve described without a lot of attention by the New York Times and never trending on Twitter.

I agree that ideas don’t need to be branded as such to change the course of history. Sometimes they can sneak up on you, great ideas that were there all along that you just didn’t pay attention to because they didn’t get the page A1 treatment by our media barons. One such brand to watch out for is Integral.

Attention in how you start things can beat procrastination

Photo Credit: Robstephaustralia (via Flickr)In “Best Procrastination Tip Ever,” Leo Babauta writes:

Your first thought as you look at this article will be, “I’ll read this later.”

But don’t. Let the urge to switch to a new task pass. Read this now.

It’ll take you two minutes. It’ll save you countless hours.

I’ve written the book on ending procrastination, but I’ve since come up with a very simple technique for beating everyone’s favorite nemesis. It is incredibly easy, but as with anything, it takes a little practice.

Try it now:

Identify the most important thing you have to do today.

Decide to do just the first little part of it — just the first minute, or even 30 seconds of it. Getting started is the only thing in the world that matters.

Clear away distractions. Turn everything off. Close all programs. There should just be you, and your task.

Sit there, and focus on getting started. Not doing the whole task, just starting.

Pay attention to your mind, as it starts to have urges to switch to another task. You will have urges to check email or Facebook or Twitter or your favorite website. You will want to play a game or make a call or do another task. Notice these urges.

But don’t move. Notice the urges, but sit still, and let them pass. Urges build up in intensity, then pass, like a wave. Let each one pass.

Notice also your mind trying to justify not doing the task. Also let these self-rationalizing thoughts pass.

Now just take one small action to get started. As tiny a step as possible.

Get started, and the rest will flow.

Reprinted courtesy Leo Babauta.

Christian prophetic mysticism and shamanism: on Drew Jacob’s quest to meet the gods

Photo Credit: Lost in France by JinterwasDrew Jacob, a self-described priest of many gods, recently told his friends that he will be walking across two continents to meet the gods. They reacted a little skeptically, asking him, “What do you mean, you’re going to meet the gods?”

In “What Do You Mean, Meet the Gods?” on the Rogue Priest blog, he says:

The sacred stories paint a picture of the world that is rich with myth and miracle, as if every action on earth carries the echo of a divine voice. Reading the Odyssey or the Táin, you get the sense that at any moment you could stumble into one of the gods, face-to-face, in the flesh.

Even more promising is the story of Gilgamesh: a tireless and lengthy journey into parts unknown in search of something that may not exist. In Gilgamesh’s case it was a cure for death; for me it’s meeting the gods. Only after years of relentless wandering did Gilgamesh find a way to cross into the gods’ world, to approach their sanctuary and find what he sought.

I like the Gilgamesh model. It refuses to believe that prayer or shamanism or metaphor are the very best access to the divine that we can ever have. It exhibits faith, not in the gods themselves, but in the spirit of heroic determination to accomplish any task, however impossible it may seem.

I don’t know if I will ever meet the gods. I don’t know if they exist beyond the fringe of the human psyche. I don’t know if they hover behind the apparent world, unseen but intimately involved in all we do.

But if they are there I’m coming to meet them. There is no force on earth that can stop me. You’ve been forewarned, gods, and if you need to challenge me along the way, then bring it. Bring it.

Read the whole post.

Drew Jacob’s reflections inspire me to take a moment to discuss the relationship between monotheism and polytheism. A quest or a pilgrimage in the service of a priestly vocation is one that commands respect. And in my worldview, there is room for all of that — the gods, the forces of magic, the rites of sacrifice and purification, and reverence for Nature. All of that and more.

The ways in which an Integral Christian worldview harmonize with a shamanic vocation are legion. Here are three themes of importance:

1. The divinized Earth, the sacred cosmos

There is no place in the universe in which all that is divine does not dwell. In the Hebrew Bible and Christian Bible, of course there is a division between Creator and Creation, and for thousands of years there have been a variety of ways of understanding the relationship between the two.

Christianity teaches that God is self-sacrificial Love, and this Love manifests in history by his taking on the form of a human being in order to heal the split between Creator and Creator and usher in a new world in which this division is overthrown, the Kingdom of Heaven. And so with the principle of Incarnation — God becoming a flesh and blood person — there is an understanding that history is the way Creator and Creation are ultimately unified into a divinized world.

I experience a relationship with the Godhead as an evolving unfolding of greater degrees of harmony, unification, and integration in every dimension of life. But our experience of life is also one of apparent brokenness and suffering and mortality, a quest to be reunited with Spirit that will not be fulfilled until the end of all things.

In nature-based spiritualities, there is often a sacredness that transcends distinctions between the immanent and transcendent. Nature-centered views usually honor both the spirit world and the material world. In the figure of the shaman, the mediator between the spirit’s domain and mundane world, is a figure representing the union between the worlds. The vocation to shaman is not unlike the vocation to Christ-like consciousness in this respect.

2. The prophet Christian consciousness

I’ve recently begun to explain my understanding of a prophetic Christian consciousness, and want to highlight that the indwelling of Spirit is not merely an abstract dogma or personal belief, but for the prophetic mystic it is an experience of encountering the Trinity as the emergence of a Trinitarian inner life.

Drew writes that he does not know if the gods are inside his brain or in a space beyond the human psyche. I would invite anyone puzzling over such a quandry to inquire whether the language of belief, “I will meet the gods,” is a statement about the brain or cosmology or something that includes and transcends both of those places.

We can change our worldview by changing our language, right down to our pronouns and verb tenses. “I will meet the gods” is different than “We are meeting the gods,” even though both may be uttered by the same person to refer to a forthcoming pilgrimage.

Christianity teaches that Logos is Christ, which is divinity (as John 1:1 puts it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”) but it is not necessary to practice Christianity to understand that the Divine is immediately accessible through words. One only needs to believe that God is everywhere and in all things, so certainly God must be in our language.

As I know God, God speaks through me as “I AM.” (Exodous 3:14) To the extent that I am not merely “self” but Divine, every word from my mouth and every word I write occurs as an outpouring of the holy.

With that in mind, my impulse to be impeccable in thought and speech (to use a phrase similar to Don Miguel Ruiz) is central to my spiritual practice. When I inevitably find myself speaking something in conflict with what I believe God would say, this is a moment of awareness to redirect and refocus my mindfulness of language from the ego and back to God’s voice.

As I know Jesus Christ, Christ speaks to me as “You are.” When I find myself speaking not as God, I hear the voice of Christ engaging me to return to mindfulness of my Supreme identity.

If I think, “I really hate bugs,” then Christ might say, “Do you really hate?” And if I think, “I am lonely,” then Christ might say, “You are not alone. I am with you always, My Beloved.”

And if I ask Christ who I am, He might say, “You are I AM, Yahweh, God Almighty … only to the extent that you are also fully in harmony with Me. It is Our Love, and Our Friendship, which is your path to transformation from a Fallen state (“i am”) to a Risen state (“I AM.”) And you can find Me not only in you, but in all beings.”

As I know the Holy Spirit, Spirit speaks through me as “We are.” When I return from a Risen state to a Fallen state of consciousness, I forget that I am a “We.” The conventions of our language make it difficult to engage in everyday discourse using the first-person plural pronoun.

If you are alone and someone asks how you are doing, the answer “We are fine,” is rather odd. And yet within consciousness there are these three Voices of the Divine accessible to all.

The language to intercourse with the Godhead is accessible to all, but few people outside of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions have much motivation to understand a calling to prophetic mysticism … and without expecting to find God in language, the Logos, Christ, Revelation … there is little incentive to encounter God so intimately in language.

In sum, we are the Trinity, every one of us … except our speech is Fallen, our ability to pray in the Divine Tongue is largely lost, and thus we have forgotten so much of our inner sacredness. The prophets of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam knew all about this. But too often they thought they were special, and others projected their own ability to communicate with the Divine upon them, failing to understand that the source of holiness which speaks through the prophets can just as easily speak through them.

3. One god or many?

From my view, the parallels between Christian prophetic mysticism and shamanism become increasingly blurry, for both approaches look for the Divine to communicate with us.  So often have Christian contemplatives sought union with God in silence and wordless rituals that much of the power of prophetic mysticism has been lost.

The Logos has fallen out of favor, replaced with Eastern-inspired silent meditations. And yet within a resurgent Christian mysticism of sound symbols, there are new ways to begin exploring the relationship between all faiths … if the explorations are understood with an Integral embrace.

Polytheistic religions have proclaimed the existence of many gods. I’m not sure how many of today’s neo-pagans literally believe in the existence of those gods, or if they really think of them as psychological archetypes, symbols, or metaphors of humanistic truths. Drew has embraced a mystic’s path: the radical openness to discovery of the unknown, a quest to meet the gods.

Let me say that I would not be surprised if he meets the gods he wishes to meet. The gods speak not only in words, but in whispers of wind through trees, movements of the stars in the heavens, and treks to ancient sacred temples.

Polytheism as a belief system is certainly different from monotheism. But the experience of polytheistic sacred consciousness is not necessarily so different from the experience of a Christian prophetic mystic consciousness.  Just as our psychic world contains a multiplicity of subpersonalities, each of which can be accessed through a practice of relationship, the pagan worldview contains gods which can be encountered through invocation.

Drew may not find it useful to talk to God, Christ, and Spirit if those aren’t the gods with which he has relationships. But his gods too could be as real as mine, I am sure, to the extent that he cultivates the relationship with his gods with the seriousness with which he invests his most precious relationships to human beings and the natural world.

Gilgamesh communicated with the gods who sent him on his quest for eternal life, but his quest did not work out so well despite his spirit of heroic determination. I wonder how the story might have ended differently if King Gilgamesh had journeyed to the place of indwelling timelessness within himself, the “I-AM-ness,” the “You-AREness,” and “We-AREness” present at every moment.

A letter to Sam Harris: the world will never be ready for libertarianism

sam-harris-from-samharrisdotcomPosted to Sam Harris’s “Contact the Author” page:

Hello Sam,

Although I have all the same interests as you (though my Philosophy degree is from Harvard) and few of the same positions, I really admire the stand you took in your recent blog post on “How Rich is Too Rich?”

So much so, it was one of the first times I posted anything about you in as long as I can remember. Your questions were fantastic, your imagination was far-sighted, and your courage to speak outside the maturity zone of your most fanatical readership was joyful.

What a coincidence that just as you are saying incredibly smart things about Ayn Rand, I was just writing a bit about her last week on my post, “As the world searches for a 21st-century philosophy, Objectivism and Integral thought vie in Russia.”

I’ve long wondered why you’ve avoided saying anything publicly about Integral thought (which surely you must know about), and long suspected it had to do with your unwillingness to confront the strong “autism rebranded” maturity level apparent in so much of your readership. But now with your post, “How to Lose Readers Without Even Trying,” I see I might have been wrong. I guess we all get the readership we deserve eventually, and I wish you luck in replacing some of those “You are scum” readers with more suitable ones.

I’m sure our paths will cross in person one day. Until then, thanks for pushing back against your rebellious readers in the way you did.

Hasta lluego,

Joe Perez

P.S.: The world will never, ever be ready for libertarianism. It is only in recent centuries been ready for individual liberty, and if current trends in cultural development continue, the next thing we will be ready for is a more integral politics, not a return to the wild west.

Cross-posted to my blog at

I’m not holding my breath for a reply, but I have much admiration for the guy and like the direction in which his thought is evolving. Maybe someday he’ll even look carefully at the evolution in his thought, identify the patterns that connect it all together, and consider whether he needs to take development seriously.

Photo Credit:

How I forgot how to write (and what happened next), part 1

young-aquinas-by-millicent-bystander-flickrstreamFrom the moment I first saw the book title Writing the Mind Alive some time in 2004, it had an indelible imprint on my life. The title leaped of the book cover and danced in my imagination. Suddenly, someone got what I had known all along but had not yet put into words: how we write is how we think and is how we talk.

And that’s important … for reasons, well, that I couldn’t quite express. It turns out those reasons were more important than I could possibly have understood. I didn’t know that when I bought the book, read it cover to cover, and started putting into practice its simple contemplative writing practice.

Simply put, the book by Laura Metcalf (yeah! I remember her name without looking it up [actually Google tells me it’s Linda Metcalf, I was confused]) teaches you how to write in a sort of stream of consciousness, but directed in a particular fashion. It is called “proprioceptive” because it means writing in the body: as you sit down still, listening to Baroque music, you light a candle and sit before a blank sheet of paper and scrawl out a stream of whatever is running through your mind at the time.

While you do so, you become aware of a secondary voice that is able to notice that the mind has said something interesting. That voice notices a strangeness to the words, as if the mind is using language that it doesn’t quite know what to do with. The mind notices that it is a stranger to itself.

What do I mean by “stranger to itself”?

When this happens, the proprioceptive writing method teaches you to ask, “What do I mean by such-and-such?” And by “ask,” I mean that it teaches you to actually write on the paper the words “What do I mean by such and such?” And then it teaches you to answer the words you just wrote.

This practice appealed to me for many of the reasons advertised on the Proprioceptive Writing website: it could help me to find my authentic voice, it could help me to know myself better, it could perhaps bring about greater peace and tranquility. Maybe it could still the jumble of words in my brain so that I could begin to think and act more clearly.

What do I mean by, “jumble of words in my brain”?

I mean that after reading the book, doing dozens of Writes, taking the online course, and discovering how easy it was to do, I finally began to be less afraid of the “dark matter” residing in the cosmic consciousness that I mistake for the “gray matter” of my brain. I began to learn to trust my self more, and to realize that the “self” I was trusting was nothing to be afraid of … even if I didn’t know the next thing that was going to come out of my mouth.

No jumble could be completely random because it was a form of “me” in disguise, a puzzle to be wondered at and enriched by. And so I pursued this activity for a while, until it began to seem less valuable. I moved on.

The disaster of losing my authentic self

In 2005 or 2006 I began to take up the practice again. By this time, I had discovered the Integral … the Ken Wilber … the … (I don’t want to spoil this story’s twisty ending for you) … I had gone through all the amazing roller coaster of a ride that was the 2003-2005 experience of my life (immortalized in Soulfully Gay). It was a time when I began to realize that I could no longer write in the same way because I could no longer think or talk in the same way.

For a while in 2004 or 2005 it seemed that I found my “authentic voice,” but then just as quickly as my psyche and worldview and life-in-the-world were transformed, I discovered that I didn’t care about being authentic anymore. I didn’t care about being real. I didn’t care about being sincere.

Instead, I cared about wanting to test myself, to see what I was capable of becoming when I unshackled myself from the presupposition that I knew myself. I cared about wanting to know what Integral was all about not from reading books about it but by thinking about what I was thinking (and by that I mean hearing my own voice internally and immediately writing down the words that I heard) and looking at it objectively (by hearing the Witness leaping off the page/out of my mind and exploding in the air with starbursts and shouting, “See! See! You aren’t what you thought you were! You are more!”

The Witness said, “You are Love and Hate, You are Life and Death, You are Magnificent and Terrible. You only have to see the words on the page to realize that you already know what Integral is because you see it reflected there and it is not you. You are transcending it just as you write the words on this page.”

That’s what the Witness told me, circa 2005 or 2006, I can’t remember. I discovered this by noticing that Laura Linda Metcalf’s prompt, “What do you mean by such-and-such?” was one valid perspective to take, but not the only one possible, and not the most interesting for me. It was useful for trying to form coherent stories, building a narrative out of discrete thought-events. But it was powerless to allow me to reflect on my written consciousness in an Integral manner.

So I tried different things and I failed at different things. I wrote god awful poetry. I wrote god awful prose. Some of the worst of it I decided was so awful I just had to show the world how terrible it was so I posted it to a blog I called Whole Writing (and yes, those posts are incorporated in the archives of and please don’t read them).

You see, the Integral perspective offered a whole new set of ways to open up my mind. I could wake up not by forming new stories about my life, but by exploring the lived moment-to-moment experience of a thought stream. I could discover what Integral was by looking at what Integral does.


And I knew what Integral does because I could see it in my own page/mirror, the grasping mind’s relaxation away from “having to say something” into “these words are coming through us, coming through the universe, coming and just as soon going, so save them (for a while) and disperse them like glitter so you can remember what is there, what is, what is not. These words are not there. These words are not here. These words are … Boo! Time to wake up!”

You see, the Whole Writing method of mine helped me to express what Proprioceptive Writing could not. But before I could turn Whole Writing into something that I could really get out into the world and teach it to others and make gobs and gobs of money teaching Writers’ Workshops, I found myself losing interest. That’s fine.

The writing was indeed “whole,” but I was no longer interested in wholeness. I wanted to be broken again.

And that, my friends, is where the story ends today. It’s 2007, and I could no longer write proprioceptively; that is, it was impossible for me to write from my infected, diseased, almost unrecognizable body. “My body” was broken and with it “my mind” also faded for a while until “I” would learn … to do something else … what came next. I learned to write first in rainbow colors … and then, phonemes.

To be continued.

Photo Credit: Millicent-bystander

Steve McIntosh: Our Most Important Activism Today is Building the Integral Worldview Itself

We all know what a product brand is: a name, design, logo, or some more intangible quality that identifies one good from another in the marketplace. Marketers sometimes say that a brand is really the first thing you think of when someone mentions a product; in other words, its reputation in totality or the impression it leaves after the product is out of sight.

Continue reading “Steve McIntosh: Our Most Important Activism Today is Building the Integral Worldview Itself”

How do you explain “Integral” in 90 words or less? Here’s my best effort so far.

From this blog’s new “What is Integral?” page:

Integral is an approach to life which seeks a full-hearted embrace of existence and unconditional surrender to the passionate reality behind the reconciliation of all polarities, however we conceive that reality. An Integral worldview values the development of human potential in all dimensions, individually and in communities. We embrace vocations of playful creativity, enlightened authenticity, deep inner healing, and engaged service to others and the planet. Our ultimate goal is the liberation of all sentient beings into the most richly enlivened and radically illumined possibilities for being in the world.

I’d love to hear from you. How would you put it differently? Any suggestions? Go to the “What is Integral?” page to leave your views in the comment boxes.