Yesterday, I wrote a blog post to critique the usage of the term “sweetness” for Integral Spirituality to describe the ultimate nondual station for love realization, and I got a response from an integralist disagreeing with my point by saying essentially (a) that’s what Kabbalah says, and (b) Ken Wilber and three other “big names” in the Integral scene all agreed that it was a fine term to use. So on the one hand, the integralist appeals to a traditional authority and with the other appeals to a new sort of authority: the (alleged) opinions of leading integralists associated with the Integral Spiritual Experience event.
And today, I interacted with another person (integralist or former integralist, not sure what label to use) who said that
For those with eyes to see, “Integral” is becoming/has become a religious orthodoxy. A fundamentalism.
Now, I took exception with those comments and wrote replies in context. But it got me thinking about the relationship between Integral Spirituality and religion to the point of wanting to write something on the blog. It’s probably a little too early to do so constructively, but I’ll make it brief.
1) What is the proper focus for religious reform from an Integral perspective? If integralists conclude that Kabbalists have got the terminology for nondualism all wrong, for instance, is it any of our business? Or if we conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was a highly realized being but not The One and Only True God, is it any of our business to tell Christians to change their teachings? And so on.
I would like to put out there the notion that as we develop a robust Integral Spirituality for ourselves and those in our community, that we define our sacred terminology and theological constructs based on the Good, True, and Beautiful — or Spirit or Allah-consciousness or some other formula — as it looks to us. This becomes our trans-religious perspective, the set of beliefs that we will bring into whatever religious practices we choose from one or more traditions with which we individually resonate. And then it is our responsibility to embody these beliefs and practices in our religious contexts, offering critique from within those traditions as we see fit. But it is NOT our responsibility to criticize religions that are not our specialty. We can leave that to others with an Integral Spirituality who walk in those paths to do so.
2) Do the “big names” of the Integral movement, especially those living and teaching, have the standing by authority to dictate or suggest points of belief for Integral Spirituality?
This is an easy one, I think. An author or blogger writing about “Integral spirituality” speaks only for themselves. They have no authority except as individuals; thus, their authority is one of individual influence, but not institutional influence. No one can appeal to “Ken says so” or “Marc says so” or “Diane says so” and expect it to have any sort of power except that earned by the reputations of those individuals to other individuals.
That could change in a flash, however, if an organization or network or institution for Integral Spirituality were to emerge claiming the right to define the terms of Integral Spirituality for its members. No such organization has yet emerged so far as I know, though there are some churches or other non-profit organizations that might find themselves wrestling with questions of a related nature. For instance, they may need to write a mission statement for the organization… and who gets to sign off? What if a member disagrees with it? What if a member acts in a way that seems to violate the ethical norms of the community?
It seems to me that the Integral Spirituality is in a state of disorganization or self-organization with no settled forms of authority to provide a locus of leadership to any sort of collective; only individuals acting as individuals have that authority at this time. Somehow this seems fitting for the Integral movement’s present state of evolution, which seems to be crawling around along the ground floor, flirting with rising up to a higher state for a while only to settle back down into a more inchoate system.
3) Is Integral becoming a religion? Has it already become one?
Integral Spirituality is not a religion, but it contains the raw materials out of which religious or quasi-religious movements are formed. In my mind, it’s pretty much inevitable that something new will happen in this philosophical and spiritual space, a transition difficult to predict and perhaps even something that no one expects. It is very likely to take the form of what we might call a trans-religious movement or even a meta-religion. By use of these terms, I mean to point torwards an emerging sensibility that the Good, True, and Beautiful are not found exclusively in any one religion or philosophy, but is scattered; therefore, the proper response is to appropriate what is valuable from each while disappropriating what is not.
I don’t think AQAL, Ken Wilber’s formulation of Integral Theory, was written for people who are susceptible to religious orthodoxy, but as an integrative Konstruct it — and groups that are attracted to it as such — are bound to bounce off of Amber (mythic-membership, synthetic). The most sophisticated books which contain the essence of AQAL (e.g., Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution) were written (at a higher level than Turquoise) by Ken for people capable of Turquoise (meta-systemic, cross-paradigmatic) thinking. Turquoise is the closest thing to higher Amber on the entire second-tier. If someone is looking at Turquoise and only seeing “fundamentalist” Amber, they’re definitely not there yet.
The current situation in the Integral community on social media is not one characterized as being too much Turquoise, that’s for damn sure. But as people enter into the second-tier, especially at the dispiriting orange-to-green transition as the Throne of Zeus segues into the Throne of Evolution in The Kalendar, they may very well lose (or have lost) their religion and until a new one comes along, if ever, they will grasp for a replacement. Spirituality. Science. Socialism. Self-actualization. They will keep trying to make sense of themselves and their society even if it seems to lead them beyond sense. Or they make a fruity sangria. Something to give their psyche a new crutch or their soul a new church.
“Spirit-chew-ality” is a spirit hungry for chewing on (re-)ality.
Even if the novice integralist has not yet fully internalized the cognitive processes that allow someone to feel AQAL or another Integral Konstruct “from within”, they may nevertheless intuit that it has something to offer. They are on the way to trans-religious conditioning, and there’s no reason to get alarmed if that looks like religiosity.
After all, that’s to be expected. Religion doesn’t live at The Red Jewel, where it first took a faith-filled form. It dwells in The Silver Stars, at the Ninth and final Month of The Kalendar, where it is linked to post-duality (a.k.a. evolved nonduality) as the yin to the yung of the Atman, the Universal Self.