Are We Entering A Post-Mormon Moment?

 

book_of_mormon_musical

Joseph Walker at the Deseret News writes that a Mormon university president spoke of the religion entering “the post-Mormon moment.” Here’s an explanation:

Utah Valley University President Matthew S. Holland said Tuesday that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are learning to swim in contemporary religion’s mainstream during what he referred to as “the post-Mormon moment.”

“It’s one thing to think about loving others and getting along with people from different faith perspectives when you are insular and existing outside the main body of faith,” Holland told a classroom full of students and professors during his appearance as a guest lecturer for UVU’s special “Mormonism in the American Experience” class.

“But those questions,” he continued, “become very real, very challenging when you are suddenly in the mainstream and part of a society in which we interact more regularly and are more connected globally.”

And that is precisely where Holland believes Mormonism is as a result of the so-called “Mormon moment,” which he said consisted of an extraordinary set of situations and circumstances — from the two presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney to “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway to the LDS Church’s own “I’m a Mormon” media campaign — that put the church and its members squarely within the bright light of intense media scrutiny.

Read the whole article.

Whether or not one likes the term “post-Mormon moment”, Holland is pointing to something real, I think: a heightened visibility of the LDS Church which results in greater integration within American mainstream society. This is in a sense becoming more integral: integral to the mainstream society, and so long as that results in identification with positive cultural values then that is a sign of progress.

But it is not the same as saying Mormons are truly becoming more Integral — coming to a sense of their own identity which transcends their “ethnocentric” identification with their religious subculture or society at large. A more Integral Mormonism could be seen by signs such as more Mormons moving past the fundamentalism which locks their doctrine or beginning to challenge the identification of Mormon culture with American corporate values. More Mormons will have to become more postmodern before they can become post-postmodern. Will we ever see LDS missionaries in tie-dye T-shirts and Birkenstocks, or Mormon theologians leading the World Council of Churches? Will it be commonplace for Mormon scholars to be leading the vanguard in integral interdisciplinary studies?

I’m sure there are signs of these things happening, but I don’t see the media reporting on them. Instead they are talking about something routine, a sect becoming more socially acceptable. Once we see the LDS Church and its leadership becoming more Green and Teal, then we can start talking about a real “post-Mormon moment”.

Integral Thought and Queer Theory, a reply to Daniel Gustav Anderson

Daniel Gustav Anderson
The following letter by Daniel Gustav Anderson‘s just came to my attention this morning:

An Open Letter to Joe Perez

28 October 2011

Dear Mr. Perez,

We do not know each other well. So I hope it not too impertinent for a stranger like me to make a public demand on your time and attention. I do this in a spirit of friendship, and with an eye toward pushing the horizons of contemporary integral thought forward.

Here is the thing: It seems to me that you are in a unique position to contribute to the integral studies discourse in a productive and creative way, and not only because you already have a readership of significant numbers among those who are interested in this material. I am referring instead to your legitimacy in writing on issues of gender and sexual identity. You are able to write the queer with authority, as you did in Soulfully Gay.

That is point A.

Point B: There exists a lively, provocative, and occasionally problematic body of scholarship and reflection uneasily categorized as Queer Studies. You may be surprised to hear that there is significant and evocative overlap between your project in Soulfully Gay and the concerns of queer theorists such as Lauren Berlant, Michael Warner, and most especially Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, who describes her experiences in meditation in Touching Feeling. I am also of the opinion that Juana Rodriguez’s Queer Latinidad is a quietly soulful book.

I am writing you to bring points A and B into meaningful dialogue in your mind. I am asking you, Mr. Perez, to give this work a careful and critical reading, and then to write about it. The readers of the JITP would surely benefit from this. How so? In a few ways. This will take some explaining.

I bring this up with the understanding that there is nothing particularly “postmodern” about the material I am drawing your attention to. Seriously. If anything (and Berlant spells this out in Queen of America), the practices described are a reaction to, a resistance to, the postmodern condition, to cultural life under Reagan and neoliberalism. (See David Harvey’s classic The Postmodern Condition, and Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, to specify my meaning. You surely know this work, Mr. Perez, but since this is also a public document, I want to foreclose public misunderstandings before they arise.)

Engaging with queer theory in detail will give you a chance to broaden the understanding of queer identities and experiences and practices in integral theory (which you are uniquely positioned to do), and along the way to tighten up the concept of the postmodern as it circulates in integral studies. That is the take-away. You can do this effectively, and this discourse will benefit when you do.

So please. Enlighten the counterpublic.

In friendship,

D.G.A.
Annandale, Virginia

Hi Daniel,

First of all, I really appreciate your remarks in the letter and that you’ve noticed that I’ve been pretty silent on the topic of Queer Theory since the publication of Soulfully Gay. If I’ve largely ignored writing about LGBT/Queer Studies scholars, it’s fair to note that they’ve ignored Soulfully Gay, so far as I know. That’s not true in the non-academic discourse of Gay Men’s Spirituality, by the way, even though my own work is located as a critical voice within that movement.

On my part, this is an oversight I intend to remedy in time, but I am blessed and cursed with several different areas and modalities in which I desire to contribute.  I do not foresee writing another book or substantial essay on Queer Theory for another year or more. I have a shelf on my bookshelf devoted to the latest developments in Queer Theory including some of the books you mention, and will be writing short pieces in the months ahead.

Let me be blunt: apart from a few authors such as Gilles Herrada, I have not yet read a single Queer Theory book even closely approaching an Integral or post-postmodern level of consciousness. That’s not to say there aren’t glimmers of post-postmodern insights in different writers, as one would expect a few decades into the rise of postmodern discourse in academia. Of course there are. However, academia is pretty abysmal right now. I perceive more interesting emerging integral voices in the LGBT community in spirituality, literature, art, and music — but not yet among academics.

I take issue with your judgment “there is nothing particularly ‘postmodern’ about the material…” of Queer Theorists. We clearly disagree. I guess that depends on your definition of postmodern. In 2009, I wrote a post for a popular audience called “Top 10 Signs Your Spirituality Might Be Integral” for Integral Life. It’s not intended as an academic paper, more of an “at-home self-test” of integral perspectives.

But if you ask questions like those 10 of your typical Queer Theorist you will find that the answer is definitely “No, their writing is NOT integral.” There are two important senses in which I intend this point: first, that the authors’ writing so far as I can tell probably does not evidence levels of ego-development centered at post-Individualist maturity in Susanne Cook-Greuter’s scale of ego-development maturity; secondly, that the positive values articulated by Integral Theory such as inclusion of developmental diversity, comprehensivity, non-dual perspectives on spirituality, etc., are not valued as such.

I try to hold the former judgments lightly (and generally privately), given that I have not administered any diagnostic assessment of the author and in any case it’s rarely necessary to talk about an author’s implicit psychological profile when it’s much easier to talk about the author’s explicit values.

A telltale sign of a postmodern Queer Theorist is that they value diversity in its own right and refuse to situate their discourse in a “big picture” of an evolving human nature; a sign of an integral LGBTQ/gay theorist is that they value both diversity and unity together and situate their discourse in a model of gender and sexuality capable of making sense of the facts of development in their particularity and in their general principles. An early exemplar of this approach is my own Soulfully Gay.

I want to add that there’s nothing wrong with Queer Theory as a vibrant, healthy postmodern (but non-Integral) expression of critical consciousness. “Not Integral” is not an insult in my book, it’s a tool of criticism itself, a pointer to the ways in which a writer has omitted something essential that could provide a wider and more useful perspective.

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick was a brilliant theorist whose contribution to scholarship was seminal; without her work in developing various postmodern critiques, integral scholarship could not stand on her shoulders. Her brilliance as a postmodern thinker is not diminished by the fact that she had not made certain connections obvious from a more integral perspective; indeed, it is from an integral view that her brilliance is all the more valued even as the partiality of her methodology comes more clearly into view.

Healthy postmodern perspectives are needed today inside and outside academia, just so long as they are willing to allow integral voices to work alongside them. There are destructive and constructive phases of postmodern criticism, and as writers naturally flow away from tearing down reality into appreciating and beautifying reality, they naturally progress into more integrative modes.

Warm regards,

Joe

P.S.: I contract every time I hear you talk on your blog about “Wilberians” and “Wilber and his followers,” or attaching “dynamics of exploitation” judgments to spiritual teachers without a justification that I find persuasive. Such dismissive pigeon-holing is a major turn-off to me; it’s a common tactic of academic writers, I know, but I find it cringe worthy. I’m looking forward to having time after my vacation to cutting through the contractions and commenting on your work including your new essay. Overall, Integral needs to pay more attention to justice issues, and I’m glad there are folks out there who take them seriously.

Peg O’Connor: Wittgenstein’s Philosophy Sheds Light On Addiction And Recovery

Ludwig Wittgenstein

In an interview on Huffington Post with Tom Morris, Peg O’Connor explains how the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein is useful in ordinary life. Tom’s interview with the Professor of Philosophy and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College includes these remarks:

Tom: I’m always preaching the usefulness of philosophy. Any examples from Wittgenstein that would help make the case?

Peg: One of the most obvious is his concept, or notion, of a “form of life,” which he uses in two different, though not entirely unrelated, ways. The first way is to mark off the differences between human beings and other animals. The other is to delineate different fundamental orientations, ways of living, or world-views among us humans. Naturalistic evolutionary biologists and fundamentalist Christians, for example, could be said to have two different forms of life. Where the scientist sees the earth and its inhabitants as products of evolution extending over millions of years, with blind chance mutations and adaptations as the driving force, a fundamentalist Christian sees God’s authorship and workmanship. An evolutionary biologist and a fundamentalist may see the same chimpanzee sitting in a cage, but in another important way, they do not. And they may approach the details of their lives in very different ways.

Tom: You’re suggesting that there is a sense in which, on Wittgenstein’s view, people with different enough world-views just live in different worlds, layered on top of a very basic world they share in common.

Peg: Yes, that’s what Wittgenstein sought to understand. In many ways, I think active alcoholics have a form of life different from that of recovered alcoholics, as well as from that of non-alcoholics. The world we all share is the same in important respects. But in some deep ways, the lived world and its meanings are radically different. Consider some differences between people with long-term sobriety and those who are actively alcoholic, or even newly entering a recovery program. An unrecovered alcoholic often can’t even understand the alcoholic who says, “Your life will be better without alcohol. You will like yourself more. You will have more friends and a lot more fun.” To the unrecovered, people in recovery can seem preachy and sanctimonious. Early on, no matter how many times and in how many ways a long-timer says this, what the unrecovered person hears is more like, “Blah, blah, serenity. Blah, blah, blah, serenity,” as a great Gary Larson cartoon reminds us.

Read the whole thing.

The critical side of Wittgenstein’s philosophy — his emphasis on philosophy as a practice of liberation from faulty ways of seeing the world and being in it — is one of the most influential sources for postmodern thought.

At the same time, it lays the groundwork for the emergence of post-postmodern thought such as Ken Wilber’s which is not content to assert the existence of discrete “forms of life” without simultaneously locating those forms within a provisional (a.k.a partial) attempt at a systematic meta-map of all such forms.

O’Connor seems to view alcoholics as living in different worldviews, each with a fundamentally different orientation; but at the same time she acknowledges that recovery meetings can produce genuine development through their various activities, especially the telling of stories which reframe life experiences and allow for greater clarity.

But how does Wittgenstein really help her to make sense of the contours of the common patterns underlying the recovery process of alcoholics? Do all addicts recover in a virtually infinite number of different ways with no commonalities, or are there models which can guide us in understanding how different “forms of life” are arrayed into nested patterns of relationship?

A more Integral worldview clearly makes room for development in approaches to recovery. My own book Soulfully Gay contains a short section articulating a hierarchy of developmental models including traditional 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (amber), rational recovery and cognitive therapies (orange), and pluralistic self-empowerment groups (green).

Today, pioneers such as John Dupuy are forging new understandings of post-postmodern or Integral approaches to recovery. According to the Integral Recovery website, its insights are informed by Integral Life Practice (ILP) as well as a brain entrainment technology called Holosync.

Stockbox, integrative consciousness in a shipping container

stockbox-grocers-mainA new Seattle startup is designed to bring fresh, healthy foods to an urban neighborhood where the nearest grocery store is 45 minutes away. Stockbox might think they are bringing food, but they are also bringing consciousness.

Stockbox is one of the latest efforts by entrepreneurs to provide a for-profit and socially conscious response to “food deserts,” low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people far from a grocery store. But to succeed they must do more than sell cigarettes and potato chips; they must educate potential customers in nutrition who have been getting what they need in another way. They have to sell the message, “Change your eating lifestyle… or die from diabetes or heart disease.”

Fast Company’s Ben Schiller writes:

According to the USDA, 23 million Americans live in “food deserts” – areas without ready access to fresh, affordable, and healthy food. And that doesn’t just mean a less interesting diet. One study, focusing on Chicago, found that residents who lived without proper grocery stores, but within range of fast food, were more likely to die, or suffer, from diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

But one group of enterprising business school graduates thinks the answer could be shipping containers – a popular choice for social initiatives these days. Stockbox Grocers has a plan to sell a range of fresh food, meat, and dairy in converted shipping containers, stationing mini-outlets on rented parking lots. The group opened its first prototype two weeks ago in the Delridge area of Seattle. It wants to open two permanent sites in early 2012, and at least two more later in the year.

Carrie Ferrence, Stockbox’s co-founder, says the response so far has been promising. “The community has been really supportive of having access to good food. There is a level of education we need to do. But in the short period we’ve been in Delridge, we’ve been blown away by the level of engagement people have around food, and this as a food option.”

When we see something new arising like Stockbox, it’s natural to try to peg it into a map of reality; in other words, to make sense out of the bigger picture. It’s possible to ask of a phenomenon like Stockbox, “Is this Orange? Is this Green? Is this Teal? Is this Turquoise?” or “Is this modern? Is this postmodern? Is this post-postmodern (i.e., Integral)?”

Let’s say that the socio-economic forces which create “food deserts” arise out of modernist trends in our society. As food distribution becomes centralized in national and international grocery conglomerates, they add new stores where there are attractive, rich consumers and they move stores out of less profitable low-income areas.

If this assumption is correct, then the emergence of Stockbox and the like is either post-modern or integral, because it is a response to the modernist trend. And offhand it seems much more likely to be integral than post-modern; after all, postmodern ideas have been shifting urbanity in the US since before the creation of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965. If postmodern ideas could have delivered Stockbox, they would have done so well before 2011, I expect.

Postmodern ideas were powerful in identifying the problem of “food deserts,” because (a) they were suspicious of modernity’s entrenched power, embodied in the grocery conglomerates, and (b) they were genuinely concerned to alleviate the suffering of those marginalized by modernity, the inner city poor.

But postmodernity was impotent to create the Stockbox because it’s an enormously ineffective philosophy. It’s good at deconstructing structures, not creating new ones via experimentation and adaptation. It’s good at empathizing with the poor’s victimhood, not conducting expeditions in consciousness raising among them. It’s good at villifying the evils of big business, not empowering entrepreneurs to start new ventures without drowning in government red tape.

Integral is the trend behind the trend. Stockbox … quite a post-postmodern arising. Go for it, guys!

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

Estre Hotel, Berlin (Credit: Hayva.com)

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: inmagine.com)Postmodern 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.

Post-PC? Give me a break

Andrew Sullivan gloatingly describes a real cultural phenomenon as the emergence of the “post-PC era.” In his most recent post, he adds this caveat: “Maybe political correctness was indeed a necessary phase in our churning popular culture. I’m just glad it’s over.”

His error, as I see it, is simple: PC is not only a necessary phase in popular culture, it’s also an enduring necessity. It’s not over. If PC is ever over, then post-PC ceases to exist. You can’t have one without the other.

Don’t get me wrong. I think post-PC is real. It’s part of the emerging integral, post-postmodern sensibility. But the emergence of post-PC is fragile, and it’s not to be taken for granted. It is built on the foundations of postmodernism and PC-influenced sensitivity, inclusion, and acceptance of diversity. Destructively tear away the foundations–attack it mercilessly, unfairly, and ungenerously as so many of its conservative critics do–and post-PC falls. If you haven’t gone through a “PC phase,” whatever that looks like to you, here’s the bad news: you’re not post-PC, you’re pre-PC.

Let’s say you’re white and you want to laugh at a dog barking at a black man and saying it’s okay because he (the dog) is a Democrat. Funny, isn’t it? (This is an example Sullivan cites of post-PC humor.) If you’re PC, you’re not laughing. If you’re laughing you’re either post-PC or pre-PC. And that makes you either hip or a racist. Take PC out of the equation, as Sullivan hopes happens, and your options narrow. Laugh at the barking dog, and you’re just another sorry sap who thought he was hip when everyone around him was laughing nervously. You look over your shoulders and see all these white faces enjoying the sight of a dog barking at a black man, and start to worry that maybe y’all shouldn’t be laughing so freely. The laughter dies down.

Post-PC isn’t a stylish new purse you inherit because it’s a hip cultural fashion. You can’t put it on and then throw it off. It’s a state of mind, a way of being, an aspect of a level of consciousness, and it must be earned. In Sullivan’s naive gloat that the PC era is over, he raises the distinct possibility that he hasn’t quite earned what, perhaps, he thinks he has.