Staying Present

There is an ancient enlightenment teaching from the East regarding the importance of concentrating the mind in the present moment as opposed to the past or the future. In this pose, inner peace is found as opposed to the turmoil of worry or remorse. Acceptance of the present moment is a key to liberation from suffering. Developing the skill of resting the mind in the stillness of the present is counseled for spiritual practice.

Enlightenment teachers today have developed these insights into spirituality into a totalizing, absolutistic teaching which is supposed to be self-sufficient for virtually every need and situation. If you suffer, it’s because you’re not experiencing the Be Here Now or Power of Now or something like that. It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of avoiding unnecessary inner conflict and being aware of the present moment, but I am certain that these teachings are too good to be true.

Consider the fact that only a small fraction of the human population – far less than 1 percent – is seemingly capable of sustaining a permanent focus on the present moment such that they do not need to pay attention to the past or future. It is wise to question if it is possible at all for anyone, though I imagine that if gurus are able to have followers take care of the “mundane” details of life for themselves, or if they can live self-sufficiently in a cave somewhere, then it is conceivable that they could rest in the present moment constantly. And they could also make themselves virtually irrelevant to the goings on of “mundane” humanity.

The Power of Now and other teachings which concentrate on the importance of “staying present” ought to be regarded as spiritual technologies, not absolutistic worldviews as they are sometimes presented or held to be. As a technology, I believe these teaching has the ability to generate positive spiritual growth and create more fulfilling and well-balanced lives if it is put into use. It also helps in the attainment of enlightenment, I think, though it is difficult to support this claim without a longer discussion.

So I would urge a practice of remaining awake and aware during the present moment as a matter of good spiritual hygiene, for all the reasons that have been pointed out by the proponents of the Here and Now technology. What needs to be avoided is the oversimplification of the spiritual life by making this teaching the totality of one’s spiritual practice. For all but a very few, that would be a serious mistake.

Meet Ken Wilber at Success 3.0

Ken-WilberAs you may know, I will soon be visiting Boulder, Colorado to attend the Success 3.0 Summit which is bringing together key thought leaders together to explore the impact that can be made by collaborating together and redefining success.

Among the folks who I am most looking forward to seeing is my friend Ken Wilber.  Owing to his health, I’m not sure whether he will appear by video or in-person, but either way is good. His bio as it appears on the site:

According to Jack Crittenden Ph.D., author of Beyond Individualism, “the twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber.” If you haven’t already heard of him, Ken Wilber is one of the most important philosophers in the world today. He is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages. Ken Wilber currently lives in Denver, Colorado, and is still active as a philosopher, author, and teacher, with all of his major publications still in print.

Tony Schwartz, the president, founder, and CEO of The Energy Project, and the author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, has referred to Wilber as “the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times.” Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D., the well-known professor of Psychiatry, Philosophy and Anthropology at UCI’s College of Medicine, believes “Ken Wilber is one of the greatest philosophers of this century and arguably the greatest theoretical psychologist of all time.” And in commenting on the scope and impact of Ken Wilber’s philosophy Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development, and the co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, mentions that “After reading Wilber, it is impossible to imagine looking at the world the same way again”.

What makes Ken Wilber especially relevant in today’s world is that he is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”. As Wilber himself puts it: “I’d like to think of it as one of the first believable world philosophies…” Incorporating cultural studies, anthropology, systems theory, developmental psychology, biology, and spirituality — it has been applied in fields as diverse as ecology, sustainability, psychotherapy, psychiatry, education, business, medicine, politics, sports and art.

Wilber explains the need for an Integral Approach in the following way: In our current post-modern world, we possess an abundance of methodologies and practices belonging to a multitude of fields and knowledge traditions. What is utterly lacking however, is a coherent organization, and coordination, of all these various practices, as well as, their respective data-sets. What is needed is an approach that moves beyond this indiscriminate eclectic-pluralism, to an “Integral Methodological Pluralism”, aimed at enriching and deepening every field through an understanding of exactly how and where each one fits in relation to all the others.

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In Media Res

joe-cowboyAfter taking a month’s writing hiatus to focus on my book series, I am back. Perhaps this is your first time reading about my projects and so you are joining me in media res. Welcome!

My books were advanced much in August but they are still a significant way off, and I do not want to spread myself too thin. Therefore my publishing on the website and social media will need to be light out of necessity if I am to finish the books on my planned schedule. You won’t be hearing much from me in the months ahead, but I am still working out of view.

The book series is called Kalen O’Tolán and is currently slated for release in three volumes plus appendices beginning in 2015. The publisher is not yet determined, and I am considering publishing the entire series in total online at (though I haven’t decided).

These are the working titles of the first four books:

Kalen O’Tolán: A Canon of Supreme Mystery

The Season of Yang: Rise of the Great Oracle (Kalen O’Tolán, Vol. I)

The Season of Yin: Fall to the Fathomless Ocean (Kalen O’Tolán, Vol. II)

The Season of You: Return to the Beckoning Stars (Kalen O’Tolán, Vol. III)

Appendix I: Lingua-U, A Unification of the World’s Wisdom of Sacred Word Traditions

The books do not fit neatly into a conventional genre but are partially inspired by the poetry of the ancient Chinese classic T’ai Hsuan Ching (The Canon of Supreme Mystery). These are poetic works, but they are also philosophical and divinatory books. They are sacred literature which aspires to provide a sort of guided tour of consciousness from the Symbiotic Station through the Unitive Station, step by step, in individual and collective dimensions.

There is a definite psychology in the books as well as philosophy, one which is Idealistic but not based on any extant school of thought. It is not empirically derived from research into human subjects. It is inductively derived from the structure of phonemes as they are arranged in Lingua-U. The book does not present a map of consciousness by means of which mental phenomena are interpreted; it provides a literary canon which articulates a complex cosmology in which the features of consciousness are induced.

The fact that this feat is even possible is nothing short of miraculous, in my view. Many spirituality books and poetry books are published every year. But how many aspire to use language in such a way that every phoneme is meant to mirror a comprehensive cosmology at the level of sound symbolism? One really must look back centuries, I think, to find comparable efforts. This is not to say that my books will succeed at achieving this sort of inspiration, but I am doing my best.

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Key Integral Tenets for Human Nature

stepsI have created a simple list of twelve items to summarize a not-so-simple thing. Incorporating elements of Ken Wilber’s “Twenty Tenets of All Holons” along with some insights from my own work and general AQAL Theory, I hereby present a list of tenets for describing human nature.

1. We realized that nothing in the universe exists on its own. Every being in the universe is incomplete on its own, and requires the redemption of every other being for its completeness.

2. Love is the basic nature of existence and this Love flows in two directions: from the Source of All-That-Is to the Destination of All-That-Is, and from the Destination back to the Source.

3. The flow of Love from the Source to the Destination is the basic drive of evolution. We evolve by aligning ourselves with Love.

4. Fear is the chief opposing force of existence. It manifests in two directions: from the Source of All-That-Is to the Destination of All-That-Is, and from the Destination back to the Source.

5. Our responses to Love and Fear take two primal forms: communion and agency, which are also the evolutionary drives to self-preservation and self-adaptation respectively.

6. Generally all things display a tendency to change according to the two primal directions: Same-Directed Love and Other-Directed Love, which put another way is the drive to self-immanence and self-transcendence.

7. As distinction-making creatures, human beings have perceived the patterns of existence through types of gender and sexuality. In communal forms, the female; in agentic forms, the male; in self-immanent forms, the homophile; in self-transcendent forms, the heterophile. Human beings come in these varieties and more.

8. Human development occurs along a wide spectrum of lines of growth: physical, psychosexual, aesthetic, identity, moral, spiritual, and more.

9. Spiritual growth tetra-arises in four dimensions: the individual’s interior life, the individual’s body, the culture, and the socio-economic foundation. These dimensions are sometimes called the Four Quadrants.

10. Growth may be characterized as enfolding greater and greater degrees of The True, The Good, and The Beautiful.

11. A variety of states of consciousness have been observed such as gross, subtle, and causal states. Practicing different states effects holistic development.

12. Incorporating growth in multiple quadrants and lines, states and types, integral development occurs vertically, producing growth in levels or stages. Put in the service of redeeming all sentient beings, wholeness arises out of partiality.
Do you like it? How would you improve these? You may comment on this thread or contact me privately with your impressions.

What Is Enlightenment?


Welcome back! It’s been a while since I last updated this website. I’ve been busy elsewhere and I’ll have more to say about that another time. But first let me ask the question “What is Enlightenment?” and suggest a response.

To do so I must put on the hat of teacher for a while, but not out of grandiosity. I will teach you just as you teach me. I strongly encourage you to teach what you know about spiritual wisdom, and I’ll do the same. This is how the truth evolves and static knowledge grows into evolving wisdom.

Simply but not obviously put, Enlightenment is the “tenning” of Light. This is an insight that I have developed through my reflections on universal language mysticism. I have expressed this idea through the poem “The Five Secrets of Enlightenment” for Kalen O’Tolán (KOT). It reads in part:

A Secret of Enlightenment:
It is not an inner knowing
But an Enfolding of knowledge;
It is not a private feeling
But an Encounter with the Light;
Not Light stilled but its disbursement;
Not to be inured but endured,
Its brilliance, long-lingering.

A Secret of Enlightenment:
It is not One-ness but One-ment.
It nears its end how Human ends –
With men tending to turn to Truth
Or women trusting in the Way.
In present it’s Meaning itself
It sees the past and what it meant
Enriching the future with Insight.

Read the full poem.

THIS is the core of my teaching on Enlightenment. It is precise. Every word is carefully chosen. It is also a work in progress and will likely be modified as time goes by.

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Letting Go of Mediocrity

I’ve been taking spring cleaning quite literally when it comes to my online presence. I have been reviewing over a thousand posts that I wrote over a ten-year period of time and throwing many of them away.

Actually I’ve really just been making some posts a bit more difficult to find while making other posts much easier to find. But it feels like I’m tossing some 700 or 800 posts in the recycling bin. I am not yet removing them from the Internet, but they will be more difficult to discover.

The worst part has been realizing that some 80% of the posts that I wrote over ten years just aren’t very good, in my opinion. I held an overly positive view of the quality of my writing output and upon a fresh look so much of it appears ephemeral, dispensable, mediocre.

The degree of narcissism in a few of the posts strikes me today as almost shocking. I had a real chip on my shoulders because my writing was never as popular as I felt it ought to be, so I spent a bit too much time all but telling people that they ought to be paying attention because it was SO important.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. One of the blogs I maintained, Until, was written when I had only dozens of T-cells and was suffering from multiple “mystery illnesses” which made every waking hour a living nightmare. It’s amazing I could write anything at all.

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What is WE Spirituality?


Today’s “none” and “spiritual, but not religious” lifestyles have made positive contributions but have also given rise to an unhealthy individualism. Arising in the midst of a narcissistic and escapist culture, Integral World Evolutionary spirituality takes a giant leap forward in the direction of deep authenticity, social engagement, and planetary consciousness.  WE spirituality insists that enlightenment can be a goal for everyone, and no one can get there alone.

World Evolutionary spirituality is a movement grounded in the realization of Unique Essence with All-That-Is. It transcends spiritual individualism in favor of an Integral humanism in which the Divine is joyously discovered. The result is an emerging Integral worldview which is gaining ground wherever the false “I” gives way to the WE. The focus is not on “my feelings” and “my desires” or “my experiences” but on the arising field of Divinity in the midst of a world needful of our awakeness, aliveness, and awareness. This worldview is sometimes called “Integral” because it makes room for more truth, more reality, than any other life philosophy. It even makes room for anyone who resists or rejects this evolutionary calling.

It’s an exciting time. As Integral Life says:

We live in a fascinating time, bearing witness to the intersection of several great eras, like massive tectonic plates colliding: a 5000-year bedrock of traditional values, 500-year era of modernity and rationalism, a 50-year run of postmodernism and pluralism, and now the rise of an entirely new era, yet to be named (though we might like to think of it as “integral”). And in the middle of this historic collision emerges, for the very first time in human history, a new kind of planetary civilization that operates with real-time awareness of every corner of the globe.

Storytellers for a Planetary Civilization

Let me tell you a story about the Way Things Are from my point-of-view. It’s a unique perspective informed by my own spiritual autobiography which was published as Soulfully Gay. To expand upon my personal philosophy, the mystery of existence is a Divine Comedy in which the Source of All reveals its essence in the course of time. Evolution is the way in which human beings become aware that human nature is part of the Divinity of reality — that is, its wholeness. Involution is the way in which the Divine becomes Self-aware of its nature as humanity — that is, its partiality. Evolution and involution are complementary forces, movements of the Divine itself, and together they are the driving forces of Spirit.

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Ellen Davis: Bible Scholars Have Ignored the Bible’s Agrarian Concerns

Perhaps care of the land doesn’t strike you as one of the major themes of the Bible. There’s a new article by Yonat Shimron on which describes one scholar’s effort to change that:

agricultureYet despite the traditional cast, Davis is leading a quiet revolution. For the past 20 years, she has been at the vanguard of theologians studying the biblical understanding of care for the land.

Her groundbreaking book, “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible,” is considered a classic, and she travels widely to speak at churches and conferences about the role of agriculture and the ethics of land use in the Bible.

Her work makes the case that Christian theologians have for too long focused narrowly on the spiritual component of Scripture and in the process have overlooked the Bible’s material concerns.

Speaking to some 30 church members as part of a Sunday morning Creation Care series at the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in nearby Chapel Hill, she focused on Genesis 1. She read aloud from the Bible and pointed out that God blesses nonhuman creatures first.

“It is not all about us,” said Davis, 63. “God is establishing a genuine relationship with creatures of sea and sky.”

Read the whole article.

In the Integral theological understanding of religious evolution, spiritualities basically evolved from magical to mythical to rational to pluralistic and integrative forms; these forms were embodied basically in foraging, agrarian, industrial, informational, and interactional forms. The labels and details are open for debate, but the front line of theology today is in understanding how to locate these forms when we see them and learn how their concerns can be addressed in a holistic fashion.

In all of these varieties, it is possible to describe the relationship between the divine, the human, and nature. The Bible is concerned — and deeply — with agrarian concerns because it arose at a time when humankind evolved to agriculture and required new forms of religion capable of supporting the modes of production. Davis’s theology is therefore an act of claiming the agrarian source code underlying the overt theology, reminding us where we came from. Brilliant and needed as it is, it does not seem to speak to the evolution of religion which occur as humankind develops new forms of social organization.

Therefore I would not say as she does that God is establishing a new relationship not only with humankind but creatures of sea and sky; the relationship was already in existence in indigenous spirituality and deepened and evolve into a new form of religion intended to co-exist alongside the earlier and more fundamental form of relationship with Nature.

Photo Credit: CAPRA Initiative via Compfight cc

Asian Architects Gather to Discuss Twin Themes of Spirituality and City

The important relationship between spirituality and architecture is affirmed by a recent article by Dr. Jiba Raj Pokharel writes in The Himalayan Times:

kathmandu-durbar-squareNepali architecture has suffered a lot in the past by engaging in this kind of a futile imitation. Our ancestors built palaces in neoclassical architecture by abandoning our own traditional palace architecture which can still be glaringly seen in the three Durbar Squares of Nepal.

Had we continued with indigenous architecture, we would have more than forty Durbar squares instead of three main Durbar squares we have at present. One can imagine what would be

the architectural ambience like with forty Durbar squares when three of them have created something of a marvel in the architectural arena.

RajbirajIt is not only in the case of architecture but we have similarly stumbled in city planning. We had our own city designing heritage whereby different castes would have different city templates allocated to them. For example, Maneswore, the capital of the Licchavis, was designed in Swastik style. We continued this practice till the middle of the twentieth century by designing Rajbiraj in the Prastara style. But we again fumbled in the following years. We deviated from the classical designing in the planning of the following cities. As a result, the modern Nepali cities lack image and identity as they are devoid of notable landmarks, nodes, districts, edges and pathways like the old cities.

This is however not the problem of Nepal alone. The other Asian countries also have fallen victim to this architectural and planning malady.

So the Asian architects have gathered in Nepal to deliberate focusing on the twin themes of spirituality and city image building. Often such conferences end in hobnobbing followed by lunches and dinners but it is expected that something fruitful will emerge out of this architectural bonhomie and brotherhood to guide the whole of Asia towards the creation of a better vision for built environment in future — a vision which enables to move forward duly looking back like the mythic bird of Ghana, the Sankofa.

Read the whole article.

At the leading edge of Asian architecture: a rejection of the modernist style in favor of a marriage of indigenous spirituality and city image. If the gathering is indicative of a larger movement, it suggests a more vibrant and holistic and culturally distinctive future in Nepal and other Asian countries.

Ram Dass on Unconditional Love (and a Teaching on Postmodernism)

The power of unconditional love is truly amazing. If you’ve ever been pulled over by a state trooper, you’ll be struck by this tale from spiritual guru Ram Dass:

pulled-overSo I started out on the New York thruway. I was just galumphing along in such a high state that I was hanging out with various forms of the Divine. I was doing my mantra, which I usually am doing one way or another, to remember that this isn’t the only game in town. So I’m holding onto the steering wheel and I’m keeping enough consciousness to keep the car on the road. At another part I’m singing to Krishna, who is blue, is radiant, plays the flute, is the seducer of the Beloved, all of whom we are, back into the merging with God, back into the formless. I am in ecstasy hanging out with blue Krishna, driving along the New York freeway, when I noticed in my rear view mirror a blue flashing light.

Now, there is enough of me down, so I knew it was a state trooper. I pulled over the car, and this man got out of the car and he came up to the window. I opened the window and he said, “may I see your license and registration?” I was in such a state that when I looked at him, I saw that it was Krishna who had come to give me darshan. How would Krishna come in 1970? Why not as a state trooper? Christ came as a carpenter.

Unfortunately, this piece was posted on Facebook with a graphic saying “Everybody is the Guru”. This is not the point of Dass, unless I am mistaken and I don’t think I am! His point is that everybody is the divine being, the Krishna or the Christ. A guru is a teacher who, regardless of whether he is regarded as divine by others, leads people to enlightenment or divinity.

Read the whole thing.

Dass is a guru, a wonderful writer and enlightened soul, and his story is splendidly more illuminative of divine truths than the average person’s. Unfortunately, Dass’s writing was advertised on Facebook with the meme “Everyone is the Guru”

It’s not the best in spiritual teaching that claims “Everyone is the Guru”, to say the least. It’s a fallacy, or better yet it’s a meme which is part of the postmodern pulverizing of value hierarchies. In terms of Integral Theory, it’s the Green meme. But pulverize the distinction between gurus and everyone else and you obscure the light which leads to the realization that “Everyone is Divine”. That is tragic whenever it happens in postmodern thinking, which is not at the front line of consciousness.

On the other hand, the message that unconditional love can transform one’s encounter with a state trooper into a blissful mystical union is gorgeous.