In reply to my article, Criticizing “Integral Abuse”: Be Scofield & The Culture of Adversarial Journalism at Integral World, David Christopher Lane said:

After reading Joe Perez’s article here, I wanted to re-read Be Scofield’s essay on “Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen & The Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment”. I am glad I did because I liked it even more after a close reading. I don’t see Be Scofield’s writing as “anti-Integral” nor do I view it as “muckraking.” To the contrary, I found the essay to be spot-on in pointing out the dangers of cult leaders such as Andrew Cohen and why it is important to point out their ethical transgressions. I commend Be Scofield and would argue that Integral Theory needs such voices. I especially don’t view it as “adversarial journalism” but rather as good, incisive critical reporting. We need more voices such as Be Scofield. We certainly don’t need more Andrew Cohen like cultic antics. I don’t buy the argument that if “we let the Dharma die a death from a thousand attack-blog-bites or suffocate the Holy Spirit under a pillow stuffed with festering doubt.”

Rather, deep skepticism is precisely what is needed when individuals make extraordinary claims. As Laplace and later Carl Sagan pointed out, “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.” Let these cult leaders, these gurus, these self-proclaimed mystics, be open to severe criticism. Why? Because if what they say is true it will easily withstand whatever questions or doubts or scrutiny we place upon them. As that famous quip goes, “little faith, little doubt; great faith, great doubt.” To which I would add, “infinite faith, infinite doubt.” The sun doesn’t disappear if we throw water at it from the earth, likewise the great wisdom of mystics shouldn’t disappear because we ask hard questions of them.

We need more investigations, not less, from Be Scofield and others who are willing to shed a clearer light on the shadow side of spirituality. We all derive a benefit from such illuminations.

My reply…

Hi David,

Nice to meet you. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify the aim of my article a little bit by responding to your comment.

I don’t think the terms “muckraking” or “adversarial journalism” are pejorative; they are accurate descriptions of Be’s work even as she described it herself in her comments in the Agape Forum. You prefer the term “critical reporting”, but that’s not one that has an accepted definition and therefore its use gets us nothing in terms of greater understanding.

I notice that you really elided, not engaged, with the substance of my critiques of Be’s article. Nowhere did I say it was wrong for her to point out flaws in spiritual teachers. Nowhere did I say that voices like hers should be silenced. What I said was basically twofold: (1) that as an adversarial journalist, she engaged in the use of extreme bias and out-of-context sourcing that made her work unreliable, though it could be incorporated with caution into a more nuanced synthesis; (2) that her work didn’t rise to an “Integral” level as I would want it to, unfortunately, which is particularly fair and appropriate to note because she said she is “a fan of integral theory”. To make this case I located the Kosmic Address of her argument at “mean green meme (just kidding!)” or simply Green and contrasted it to the approach of a Teal or Turquoise thinker who would recognize the partiality of her values in her approach and situate their critique in a wider context: e.g., (a) when a guru encourages ascetic behavior is it merely “psychological abuse” or could it be an act of developing in trans-psychological (post-egoic) ways as well?; (b) how does criticizing a Western teacher for “abuse” square with her silence in not speaking out to criticize Indian or Chinese or African or indigenous gurus and shamans and mystics for practices that Westerners would say are even worse; (c) how does tarring the entire “Integral” community as enablers to abuse harm the evolution of consciousness itself at a critical time in the world’s transition into second-tier forms?; etc. (I could go on; these are points in the spirit of my original article, not a transcription of it.)

To the authentic Integralist, there is not much to praise as “integral” in Be’s article. It’s all Green flatland, explicitly lacking the transcendent or awakening dimensions, tied to neo-Maxist reductionist social theory. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad work from the standpoint of Green consciousness though. When the systemic-mind sees only flat systems it devalues the need to find workable ways to fit systems from different paradigms together; it is not yet mature enough to “enfold, enclude, and enact” in the form of a thinker genuinely wrestling with the concerns appropriate to an Integral thinker.

I agree with you on the value of deep skepticism, though I would add that to extol the virtues of skepticism or deconstruction alone outside of a wider context of critical appreciation is to see totality only in its yin-yang-yang or yin-yang-yin faces. Those are the subtle forms of Green thought which find a surprising but warmly welcome sythesis in the yin-yang-yung face of, yes, “enfolding, encluding, and enacting”.

To reiterate: my article was not a commentary on whether or not people should be critical of any particular spiritual or religious figure. It was a comment about how those of us who comment on such things (i.e., journalists) may be blinded by wearing too narrow a vision for our worldview, puffing up ourselves in an explosion of self-righteous virtue signalling, and then turn away from or fail to notice the damage left in our wake.

Sifu Shi Yan Ming, the Shaolin master, suffered ascetic disciplines growing up in the care of monks at China’s Shaolin Temple that many Westerners would simply consider torture: stress positions, sleep deprivation, 50-pound weights strapped to his testicles, etc. They also taught him lessons in life as an awakened master for which he is enormously grateful. There isn’t an ounce of hatred, resentment, or bitter nastiness coming from him regarding his childhood experiences. Later, many of these Shaolin Buddhist monks were murdered by a left-wing totalitarian regime that had a vision of a more socially just order, and Ming escaped persecution and defected to America. He doesn’t speak of the communists with hatred either. He says that treatment like he endured is common in China, but not in America, and so he treats his students differently, adapting ancient ways to the appropriate cultural context.

One reason I’m talking about Ming: regarding Social Justice Warriors with no awakening, no transcendent spirit, we’ve seen what happens historically when these sorts of people get power. They murder the monks and mystics. This is no exaggeration, you know. Green SJWs should transform themselves into Teal Shaolin warriors on route to a comprehensive awakening in order to transform real shadows, using a balance of inner and outer disciplines and practices, instead of preening on soapboxes or poking sticks at people who rise to leadership in order to rip them down.

Spiritual warriorship takes real courage and could truly help bring about an enlightened world; mean green SJWship is its quasi-fascistic, socially stagnant, self-corrupting and anti-evolutionary cousin. There’s no doubt about which path I would prefer to see integralists take.

There are many fascinating ethical questions that one can pose about guru cultures in cross-cultural perspective; none of these are posed by Scofield, nor does she seem to even be aware of them. She writes to injure or assassinate with ink by playing a zero-sum game, not to illuminate with complexity and nuance and thereby expand the game. Praise it if you like for its own merits, but I’m not buying that it’s “integral” one bit.

So yes, bring on looks at the shadow side of spirituality and make them as tough as they need to be to curtail any wrongdoing or mistreatment or exploitation of anyone. But then if you point your stick at Integral Spirituality so broadly that it jabs everyone inhabiting the environment, be prepared to have that stick broken with karate or jiu jitsu!

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