Science fiction movies frequently offer stories at the intersection of science and spirituality, melding intimate human drama with larger-than-life themes and plots. Some of the greatest sci-fi movies have created enduring myths which have shaped the worldview of more than one generation of moviegoers. But they are not all created equal.
The new film Interstellar, directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan, bends the space-time continuum of Armageddon plot-lines. It is created with much of the hero worship of Batman Begins, the intensity of The Dark Knight, and the creative reality-twisting of Memento and Inception. If you’re like the vast majority of moviegoers and critics surveyed by meta-critic websites, you are bound to have a good time and give the flick two thumbs up.
But you are not reading this review in order to decide whether to spend $12 and a Saturday night on this movie. Since this is Integral Blog, you are likely wondering how to approach this movie from an Integral perspective or maybe what the movie offers an Integral worldview. I cannot satisfy those curiosities completely, but I will offer some salient observations.
In my view, there is no point to watching the vast majority of movies made every year (about 700 by one count), and who has the time? Indeed, most forms of popular culture entertainment are soul-denying wastes of time and precious brain cells. At the end of sitting through a typical movie, there is no greater or deeper extension of knowledge of the human condition or inspiration to make the world a better place.
I love very good movies. Very good movies are meant to be transcendent and elevating. They help wake you up without being preachy. They engage your feelings, mind, soul, and spirit in harmony. And great movies give you moments you will never forget and change your life.
Interstellar is a great movie. It is everything a very good movie is, and then it goes the extra mile. I don’t care if it has imperfections, whether it lacks humor or contains improbable twists, whether its characters are memorable enough or the music too loud. It’s not perfect.
One look at Google Trends for “spirituality” ought to raise eyebrows of anyone who believes that spirituality is an increasingly popular phenomenon, or some sort of cure for the illness of secularism, or some sort of replacement for religion.
Since March 2004, to June of 2013, interest in “spirituality” as a search time has declined by over 70 percentage points. For every hundred or so web searches nine years ago, only thirty people searched on the topic over the summer. Pick other timeframes and you’ll still find an enormous loss of 40 percentage points in less than a decade.
If there were a CEO of Spirituality, she or he would have been fired long ago. If there were a public relations firm responsible for promoting spirituality, its contract would have been terminated. But who do you hold accountable for such a precipitous decline in interest in the topic?
Not only is it hard to point fingers to find a responsible party, it is equally difficult to explain how it happened. Did some sort of bubble burst caused by media fads or the alignment of planetary forces or a spate of bestselling books? Did the intellectual apogee of spirituality occur with the first Matrix movie? Seriously though, what’s up with the precipitous numbers and how much ought we care?
There’s a play on words in the title of this new blog. Spirituality Post is not merely a blog with posts about spiritual topics. It is an inquiry into the possibility that we are entering a Post-Spiritual World, an exploration of what the contemporary spiritual landscape looks like, and a constructive vision of a new way of being in the world which might transcend the dichotomy between spiritual and non-spiritual.
I have several hypotheses which I believe may help to explain the decline of interest in spirituality and the rise of a new ethos. This blog will tell all. Here is the first hypothesis: the belief that there is spirituality distinct from religion became infused (or infected if you’re inclined to judge negatively) with postmodern relativism, ultimately leading to the quintessential message: Everything is Spiritual.
Whether you are inclined to think the slogan Everything is Spiritual is deeply profound “non-dual” wisdom or the banal logical conclusion of the death of the truly spiritual, it’s hard to deny that it’s easy to get people excited about Something but it’s next-to-impossible to get them excited about Everything. How long can that level of enthusiasm last? Is it even possible for the average person to orient his or her ultimate concern in life to Everything or is that the exclusive province of rare mystics?
The End of Spirituality could be on the horizon, but if so it need not fade into a breed of secularism. If contemporary spiritual and religious leaders adapt to the transformed landscape, there is reason to believe that Post-Spiritual is only a rejection of certain vacuous forms of spirituality and the beginning of something new and hopeful.
Follow Spirituality Post to discover yourself with a view at the front-line of Life, Culture, Society, Spirit.
One of the most inspirational stories you’ll read about, right here, by Ken Picard in Seven Days. Jocelyn Woods, 27, of Vermont has not only battled a perplexing neuromuscular disease since childhood which leaves her mostly bedridden, she is also a cutting-edge artist with powerful creative visions which are defying stereotypes about disabled people and sexuality. Woods does so without resorting to politically correct message-driven art (which she detests), but by calling up the power of her True Self, the “vast eternity” which she came to identify with.
Woods was born in Florida but moved to Vermont at age 10. An only child, she was homeschooled by her mom through high school, which she completed at 16. Woods traces her spiritual awakening to an existential crisis she had at age 4, when she brought her mother into the bathroom and stood there crying because she didn’t believe the little girl in the mirror reflected her true, infinite nature.
“I felt like I was sitting on the edge of this vast eternity,” she recalls, “and didn’t know how to process that as a child.”
Woods’ creativity also blossomed early. At 3, she asked her mother for piano lessons, and was playing by age 5. At 15 she was composing and performing her own classical pieces, and at age 16 Woods recorded a solo album titled A River’s Journey at Charles Eller’s studio in Charlotte. She expected to pursue a career as a concert pianist until her poor health intervened.
A severe bout of influenza when she was 18 robbed Woods of mobility and dexterity, including her ability to play the piano. She was left semi-bedridden and took years to recover. Today, her health has stabilized, but she undergoes daily physical therapy and Pilates sessions to maintain her strength and muscle tone. She also experiments with alternative therapies and takes singing lessons to strengthen her diaphragm.
In June 2012, Woods contracted a severe respiratory illness that nearly claimed her life. This time, it triggered what she calls a “shamanic experience” that inspired much of her recent work.
“It was quite frightening, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would emerge from that,” she recalls, “because I felt as though I were suspended between the two worlds of life and death, the soul realm and the physical realm.”
In this blog I sometimes point out instances of political correctness gone awry, but I also don’t hesitate to call for greater sensitivity and cultural diversity when it is genuinely needed. Changing sports team mascots is an example of an important change to the symbolism that defines our civil society, one which could have a significant impact on how people think. Just getting people to talk about the reasons for the name and logo changes would produce a lot of good consciousness raising.
However the situation with the Washington team bearing a name which is slightly to somewhat to moderately offensive to Native Americans raises another topic: We wouldn’t have to be having this debate if we reformed the ownership structure of sports teams. What would be the social benefits of eliminating private ownership of sports teams and replacing it with a public-private partnership or a system of non-profit organizations organized in the interest of the public welfare? More about this post-capitalist idea after giving readers a bit of background on the naming controversy…
David Plotz of Slate explains the need for the online magazine to no longer refer to Washington DC’s football team as “The Redskins”:
For decades, American Indian activists and others have been asking, urging, and haranguing the Washington Redskins to ditch their nickname, calling it a racist slur and an insult to Indians. They have collected historical and cultural examples of the use of redskin as a pejorative and twice sued to void the Redskins trademark, arguing that the name cannot be legally protected because it’s a slur. (A ruling on the second suit is expected soon; the first failed for technical reasons.) A group in the House of Representatives also recently introduced a bill to void the trademark. The team has been criticized from every different direction, by every kind of person. More than 20 years ago, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, no politically correct squish, urged the team to abandon the name. Today, the mayor of Washington, D.C.—the mayor!—goes out of his way to avoid saying the team’s name.
Why, then, has nothing changed? Because the choice of the team’s name belongs to one person, Washington owner Daniel Snyder. He has brushed off the controversy with arm waves at “tradition,” “competitiveness,” and “honor.” He recently told USA Today, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.” Earlier this year, some Redskins flunky was assigned the job of locating high school teams around the country called Redskins, and found 70 of them, which proved very little except that the Redskins are capable of spreading a bad example to the young. (A Google search of “Redskins” “nickname” and “high school” turns up story after story of schools dropping the nickname.) And this May, the team pathetically trotted out a guy named Chief Dodson to explain that his people were “quite honored” by the Redskins name. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cited Dodson’s support in a letter to the Congressional Native American Caucus, apparently not realizing that the supposedly Redskins-loving Dodson wasn’t a real chief.
And then Plotz explains that his publication doesn’t approve of the monicker (“While the name Redskins is only a bit offensive, it’s extremely tacky and dated…”) they aren’t waiting for the team’s owner. They’re just going to stop using the offensive term.
Andrew Sullivan has an extensive series of posts giving opinions about whether sports teams should modernize their dated and racially insensitive mascots. I find the topic interesting but also a diversion from a more difficult economic structural problem.
Daniel Snyder, like Donald Trump or Warren Buffett, has free reign in the U.S. economic system to run his enterprise largely as he sees fit, charging sky high prices, making fat profits, and giving the teams names as offensive as he wants. But if sports teams were quasi-socialized or mutualized, the decision-making authority would be handed over to an individual or group working in the public interest. Mutual insurance companies organize this way — their policy owners are literally owners, and profits are redistributed to them through premium refunds.
Mutualized sports teams could hoist a wide rage of benefits to the public good and social justice, lowering outrageous athlete pay sometimes in excess of $50 million for football players for instance and lowering ticket prices. How many sports fans would be interested in actually owning a piece of their favorite team, showing their loyalty and getting reduced prices on tickets as a result?
I would wager a whole lot. Sports fans would become more invested in what is happening with the team and participate in decision-making through their voting and election of officers. And the billions of dollars that taxpayers pay to fund new stadiums could actually be restructured to give taxpayers stock ownership in the teams which would use the stadiums.
From an Integral standpoint, I have to wonder if mutualization or quasi-socialization of sports teams would not raise the consciousness of many sports fans, turning Red towards Amber for instance, just as promoting an employee to a stockholder would increase their sense of participation in something wider than themselves which participates in the larger whole.
Spirituality isn’t just about connecting the little self with a God far removed from the world, but expanding the self’s sense of loyalties and concerns and caring to broader and broader communities. And in Christian terms, spirituality certainly is about more than individual salvation; it’s about our collective embodiment of the Reign of Heaven come.
His specialty is writing historical fiction and among the revelations were the fact that he didn’t know he had such a deep spiritual need until he tried to write historical fiction. To educate himself he enrolled in a theology class and kept going until he earned a Master’s degree, finding that he was “feeding and enriching a hungry aspect of my personality that lived”.
Also he doesn’t find so much that faith shaped his creativity as the opposite:
RR: How has your faith shaped your literary sensibility?
RH: Maybe it’s the other way around: in writing about vexed people and crucial events I have been forced to focus on last things, on the eschatological, and ask the questions that loom as we approach crises or death. There are, of course, many novelists with no religious faith, who may have even discarded what they grew up with, but my own favorite writers are those who have looked heavenward and struggled with theological mysteries.
In truth, there is no division between spirituality and politics that can be found in The Way Things Are. If you believe, as I do, that there is only one True Self and that every unique individual is a completely whole and infinitely valuable Unique Self which is one and the same as that Ultimate Identity, then how can there be a separation?
In an Integral view of ethics, care and justice evolve in ever expanding reach from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to kosmocentric levels. Ultimately, there is a sense of self-identification with responsibility and empathy for all sentient beings in all times and places. Thus, politics — which I define broadly as the expansion of our circle of concern to ever wider levels of embrace — is deeply wedded to our sense of self and our understanding of the nature of reality.
Spirituality and politics are distinct aspects of our human existence, but not separate ways of being. In other words, every spiritual act is also a political act, and every political act is also spiritual. But if spirituality is related as Paul Tillich formulated to our “ultimate concern,” then politics relates to concerns that individuals share with other individuals in their community.
There are family and tribal/organizational politics, there are national and international politics. And as plans in recent decades for human colonization of other worlds has demonstrated, there is even a politics of the relationship between the inhabitants of Earth and everything extraterrestrial. Politics is inescapable, no matter how apolitical one’s views.
If you scan articles written about politics by members of the World Spirituality, Integral Spirituality, or Evolutionary Spirituality communities, you may come away with the impression that most people are progressive. After all, among those in the U.S. you will frequently hear praise of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Barack Obama — all Democrats. You will hear support for remedying income inequality, addressing climate change, and legalizing same-sex marriage.
But read more closely and you will find a more complex picture.
Last month, I engaged in dialogue with Stuart Davis, a contemporary American musician, actor, and stand-up comic. With over 10 full-length music albums to his credit, including the brand new Music for Mortals, Davis has bravely brought depth and spirituality into popular culture — including the topics of God, sex and death — crafting them into lyrical and memorable pop songs.
This is the first of a three-part series of posts. In this section of the interview, I speak with Stuart about the topics of the future of Integral, spirituality, celebrities and popular culture.
Part 1: The Future of Art and Integral
(or: What if Kim Kardashian Endorsed World Spirituality Tomorrow?)
Joe Perez: As an introduction to this interview, let me say that I did a board retreat for the Center for World Spirituality last month [February] and met a couple of dozen of people contributing to World Spirituality in different fields working in this area that nobody even knows about. The more I am exposed to that, I think, there really seems to be something bubbling up in the world right now. And then there is the article by Terri [Patten] and Marco [Morelli], “Occupy Integral!” that people are talking about… Did you read that?
Stuart Davis: I think I did read that, a couple weeks ago.
Joe: Their basic idea being that there is something about Integral that hasn’t completely entered the cultural consciousness yet, and so there’s a discussion around what needs to happen, where are we at, what is this moment, and how can we best rise to the potential of the moment. What’s your take on all that, Stuart?
Stuart: I couldn’t agree more for starters. To go back to the initial, for me when this first started, the passion about integral entering the public consciousness at large, however you want to frame that, let’s say crossing over the threshold into something that’s bigger than our own private club, whatever that means in different domains. When I first encountered Integral, I encountered something that many people probably do, and I didn’t realize what it was. But when you get that initial hit of Integral and you begin to crackle alive in that regard, you have this sense, almost tactile, not just an idea or a promise, but you can feel it in your gut. And that promise is Integral taking its place and inhabiting its portion of the body of humanity, growing, being a truly emergent, novel dimension coming to life. And we all sense that.
And what I think has been interesting to navigate and process is that when I first felt that, I felt it was just a few years away. I felt it was just a few years away. It was 1998. When I first read Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality and first met Ken [Wilber]. I just had this certitude that it was pregnant, that we were giving birth, and it felt to me that the baby was crowning. Right, so I began, much in the fashion that people who think the apocalypse is coming, and that’s been going on for centuries, I began to prepare and anticipate and behave and conduct myself as though that promise was emergent and it wouldn’t be long, it would be just a few years, that you could turn on the NBC, or feel it coming from the White House, that it was going to enter into every domain.
I was really intoxicated for many years, and I was really wrong about a lot of timelines. I’ve felt the same certitude that I felt back then. It’s either inevitable because we’re talking about human development here. Either this is coming down the pipeline… or there won’t be humans around. Because we’ve never seen humans not develop. But on the other hand I will fully admit that I was really wrong about the timeline, what it was going to take, and specifically in the realm I can speak most precisely from, which is entertainment, because where I work is movies and film, television and books. I felt an immediacy that has turned out to be much more difficult. This inevitable process occurring I way underestimated in the people that I work with. I would say the way that I feel about it is that: Yes, I read that article and I have felt ever since day one that it’s occurring and I would qualify it by saying I’ve also been wrong about the timeline and how hard it would be. “Hard” in quotes. It’s a beautiful difficulty. It’s tough.
Joe: I was reading an article recently about youth today – specifically 18-to-19-year-olds. They’re less political, less concerned about the environment, and they’re turned off by organized religion, thinking it’s become very judgmental. But what’s most interesting in what I noticed is in what they ARE engaged with. If young people are to be recruited into politics, they said, it will be from selective use of entertainment media, celebrities, Facebook, Twitter and mobile technologies with forms of participation limited in their duration, sophistication, and intensity. You’re closer to this than I am. Do you think entertainment, celebrities, and social media can help to reengage youth into a developmental path?
Stuart: What a great question. That brings to mind the pop song. That has been my experience with the pop song since day one. The greatest triggers and invitations I have experienced have come through these brief, concise, but potent pop song type piece of pop art. Some of them literally pop songs. I have had moments of mystical insights that were unrivaled, more effective than anything I learned in church … Does that mean that pop songs are more effective, or is it just my typology, or something about how I’m put together? I do think that there is in a deeper place, my conviction is that art existed before organized and conventional religion, and it will exist after.
Awake, Aware & Alive will be featuring short dialogues with some of the leaders of the World Spirituality movement. Our first dialogue is with Marc Gafni, Director of the Center for World Spirituality.
Joe: Let’s limit our dialogue today to about 10 minutes so it won’t overwhelm readers of my blog. I sent you a few questions earlier to get us started. With that in mind, let’s begin by talking about your vision of World Spirituality and go from there.
Marc: Fantastic. It’s great to be with you on the phone, as always. You sent me three different questions: What is World Spirituality? Is World Spiritualilty a new religion? And what’s the difference between World Spirituality and the interfaith movement? Those are awesome questions and I understand why you limited it to 10 minutes; we could easily talk for eight hours on just these three questions.
World Spirituality is not a new religion. A new world religion is exactly what we don’t need.
Particularly in the World Spirituality framework where Unique Self is a key lodestone, we have a realization, not only a belief, but a realization, that every human being has a Unique Self. And that every religion has a Unique Self. Every great system of knowing, pre-modern, modern, and post-modern, is a unique epistemological expression of Knowing.
We use a number of images to describe this. One is a symphony in which each instrument is playing its own music, recognizing that the essence is not the instrument but the music, but the uniqueness of the instrument is irreducible and each reveals a different dimension of the music. In that sense, the great systems of knowing in the world are music. Each great system of knowing is approaching the knowing asking different questions, using different methodologies, enacting different inquiries, and those different instruments produce different faces, dimensions, notes in the music.
Joe: Are you suggesting, Marc, that each of the world religions is like a musical instrument or a band, and somehow World Spirituality steps into play like an orchestra conductor might?
Marc: Exactly. That’s right. … Each system of knowing is a unique instrument in the symphony of gnosis. The job of World Spirituality is to act precisely as the conductor and help these different instruments find their right tone, find their right relationship to the other instruments, and ensure that each instrument is listening to the others, so that what emerges is not noise but music. That’s what World Spirituality is. Not heaps, but wholes. Not noise, but music. It’s a grand symphony with enormous texture and depth in which the integrity of every instrument is honored and yet a larger whole emerges from it.
Joe: That’s fine, Marc, but you know there are people who don’t want that. They would say that if every religion is like an instrument, then each individual is his or her own symphony conductor and they don’t want some holistic framework or universalizing narrative to enter the scene which can become another competing instrument. They want every individual to be her or his own orchestra conductor, not to look to some outside authority. How would you respond to that?
Marc: That is green [post-modern] thinking, classical green thinking. Green thinking says there is no canon, no authority, and so everyone does it in their own way and they’re all equal. That’s not true. It’s impossible for even the wisest person to swallow whole all the great systems of knowing, and be able to independently navigate them, find the right weight of each one, etc We need an operating system. An elegant operating system to allow us to get what we need from each, establish right relationship, etc.
Now that doesn’t mean that the operating system is the one eternal authoritative voice. It’s an evolving operating system. You could have open source code. People could participate, share their insights, and more deeply evolving what World Spirituality is. But at its core, it’s a “framework/symphony” in which the job of World Spirituality is to create an ability for people to see the patterns that connect the dots. An individual is practically and epistemologically usually unable to do. It’s an evolving system.
One last point. To take issue with one word you said: you referred to the world religions. As you know, when we talk about great systems of knowing, we aren’t just talking about world religions. They are almost exclusively pre-modern, with exceptions for Mormonism and a couple of small exceptions. We are talking about a framework which includes modern: for example, science and psychology, which come out of modernity; and post-modernity, which is this deep understanding that context is essential, the crucial recognition of development and finally the great insight that everything arises and develops within an evolutionary context.
We want to take all the great systems of knowing, give them all an appropriate place at the table, and then show the patterns that connect. What are the deeper structural understandings that will allow us to live in a context of meaning? That’s what World Spirituality is. It’s to create a shared framework of meaning in which an individual can realize the full gorgeousness of their Unique Self, in which every great system of knowing can be honored, reverentially received … and evolved.
Joe: I think you’ve begun to answer my question about interfaith. At least one way that World Spirituality differs from the interfaith movement is that interfaith leaves out of the picture science and post-modernity. They’re interested in inter-religious dialogue. What are some of the other distinctions?
Marc: That’s an important distinction. That’s distinction one. First off, interfaith has made an important contribution. We bow to it. It’s critical and necessary.
There are two versions of interfaith: version one — what I call “soft interfaith” — says, “Hey we’ve been killing each other. We need to respect each other. That’s not helpful. We need to respect that we’re all doing our best, we have good intentions, we are all engaged in spirit in some sense, so let’s respect each other and love each other if possible. And so we need dialogue.” Clearly important.
A second, what I would call a “hard interfaith” says that the depth structures are identical, even though the rituals and other surface structures may be different. The same core practices and core understandings are shared. Another name that has been given for what I’m calling hard interfaith is perennial philosophy.
Perennial philosophy is a version of hard interfaith. World spirituality transcends and includes. It negates the problematic elements of each one of these, to borrow Hegel’s phrase, including both soft interfaith and hard interfaith. In that, clearly we need to respect each other.
Clearly there are shared depth sstructures. But the next step is to recognize that actually there are evolving depth structures. The cosmos is evolving and everything is evolving at the same time. Everyone is tetra-evolving. All four quadrants of reality. Everything Spirit is evolving. We don’t want to reify what we know today and freeze it. We wan to recognize that in a thousand years from now these depth structures will have evolved.
World Spirituality is perennial philosophy in an evolutionary context.
Joe: We’re out of time. I think that’s going to have to be the end of part 1 of our conversation. Let’s continue next with a discussion of where we are at today in the development of World Spirituality as a distinct movement.
Unlike traditional religions, spirituality can be as individual as you are. And when that spirituality is founded on Integral principles, it opens the door wide for expanding human potential for rich inner development, cultural progress, artistic creativity, and spiritual renewal. But how can you tell if your spirituality is really based on integral principles?
If your spirituality is integrally based, it’s a way of being in the world as who you truly are, giving you a roadmap to finding yourself, clarifying your values, facing and healing your shadows, and eventually losing yourself again in the bliss of identity with the driving force of evolution itself: Love. It’s that simple and elegant.
An integral spiritual worldview shows you the divinity of humanity mirrored equally in both our particular and universal identities: male and female, rich and poor, black and white, gay or straight, adult or child, mature or immature. It does not blur differences into a blah sort of fake uniformity, but allows us to be uniquely ourselves, fully human, and fully capable of realizing our divinity.
In fact, maybe you are Integral without even knowing it. Here are 10 signs that your spirituality might be integral:
10. You don’t find yourself easily offended by slights to your ego, subculture, or group identification; therefore “political correctness” has little appeal to you (though you intuitively tend to avoid causing others unnecessary pain through your words or deeds). You look for signs of agreement with others and try to mediate or negotiate solutions whenever possible. You realize that there are more ways to work for justice than complaining that people are being insensitive. You don’t try to silence or shout down those who disagree with you.
9. You have come to a compassionate stance with regard to religious fundamentalists and conservative zealots because you recognize that their own stage of evolution may be less than your own. You know that everyone has a part of the truth. You know that many of the worst problems in the world are caused by people who think they have the full truth when they only have a part. You believe sacred texts such as the Bible are a source of wisdom, even if they contain many teachings which aren’t useful today. You pick your battles for justice carefully and strategically, not by reacting out of anger or fear.
8. You don’t think spirituality and religion are antithetical: Whether or not you have found a spiritual community, you know that being fully human is not strictly an individual affair. You know no person is an island. You may even admire the strong bonds of commitment and devotion shown by the religiously orthodox or traditional, and you long for deeper relations with people in your community and — through virtual communities and/or travel — around the world. When someone asks if you believe in God, before you say yes or no, part of you wonders what they mean by “God” and questions whether you are both talking about the same thing.
7. You don’t look for “explanations” of religion as strictly a subject of interest to biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, social historians, or theologians, but seek comprehensive approaches that include individual and collective dimensions of spiritual experience in subjective and objective perspectives. You believe not only in biological evolution but you are at least open to the possibility that cultures and societies undergo a sort of evolution. You don’t think science and spirituality are opposed. You don’t want to stay “stuck in your head” all the time; however, at the same time, you want your spirituality to be intellectually rigorous, not anti-intellectual.
6. You are non-judgmental not because you want others to like you or you because you seek to avoid being judged by others, but because you recognize your own shadow in everything you judge. You don’t think spiritual people have to be nice all the time. You know that anger — even rudeness — can have a healthy place in the spiritual life. You are skeptical when you hear of spiritual people blaming sick people for causing their own illnesses. You want to be free of shame, but still take responsibility for mistakes and shortcomings without blaming every problem on other individuals or classes of people.
5. You reject beliefs that insist on classifying people into victims and perpetrators, because you know that ultimately Spirit knows no such distinctions and every person has light and dark within themselves. You understand that many -isms such as classism, sexism, racism, and so forth, are wrong and need to be addressed; at the same time, you know that these socio-cultural conventions emerged in the context of a world evolving in greater degrees of Spirit and reflect the concerns of earlier stages in religious and cultural development. You believe strongly in human liberation, but think the ways that most people think of liberation are too limiting.
4. You reject overly simplistic answers to complex questions, and realize that our beliefs about ultimate reality should not seek to diminish, sentimentalize, or rationalize the mysterious and awe-inspiring nature of life. Likewise you try to avoid supposedly certain answers for understanding the mystery of death. Whether you believe in heaven and hell, reincarnation, or are agnostic about the afterlife, you know that human life is purposeful and our actions make a difference in this world. You understand that denial of death is the hallmark of an ego that doesn’t understand its true nature, its higher Self.
3. You are concerned about both ecology and justice not only in your community, but for all people around the world, part of your concern to alleviate the suffering and contribute to the holistic development of all sentient beings. You may have evolved beyond thinking only about people in your community or ethnic group or nation. You may have discovered a worldcentric worldview, one which realizes that in the 21st century it isn’t good enough to only think locally but also to think globally. You are deeply concerned by environmental concerns and protecting the natural world for future generations, but you know that technology isn’t the root of all evils; it can sometimes be the solution.
2. You recognize that Eros pervades every dimension of the world, and you celebrate erotic energy as well as spiritual energy because they are ultimately one. Nevertheless, you give sex a unique role for encountering beauty, expressing blissful play, exercising ethical behavior, and for giving and receiving love. You aren’t afraid to talk about subtle energies of yin and yang or masculine and feminine. You know that our gender and sexual roles are biologically, culturally, and sociologically conditioned; at the same time you recognize that there are meaningful cross-cultural patterns and universals that we can benefit from understanding.
1. You aren’t afraid to see your own divinity, inside and out. You may worry about arrogance sometimes, but you don’t think pride is the worst sin. You know that having self-esteem is important and that it is only genuine when it is based on recognition of your intrinsic worth, gorgeous uniqueness, and inner divinity. You know it’s safe to “come out of the closet” about both your shadows and your light, and doing so is central to your spiritual journey. You strive to overcome all limited conceptions of who you are into a fully authentic sense that accepts everything that arises in an integral embrace as not distinct from your own highest Self.
If you look at your life and beliefs and see some or all of these signs, then you are discovering that you may already have an Integral worldview. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about the Integral philosophy of life and World Spirituality. Follow me, Joe Perez, on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about my approach to spirituality on Awake, Aware & Alive.