This morning I am reflecting upon a kind note from a visitor who was inspired by my post “Top 10 signs your spirituality might be integral.”
Maria, who lives in Argentina, wrote:
SR.JOSE PEREZ; Es la primera vez que leo esto que usted propone la espiritualidad ,como algo muy importante ,yo siempre estuve en la busqueda de esa espiritualidad ,y de los diez ,pasos que usted da , creo que en todos me encuentro yo de alguna manera ,Y ademas estan interesante que me gustaria conocer mas , sobre este tema ,para mi la espiritualidad es como estud la presenta ,y yo busco eso el bienestar ,para el futuro de los que vendran a esta tiera que el mismo hombre esta destruyendo ,es por eso que me intereso muchisimo , le agradeceria que si tiene mas informacion ,poder tenerla o copiarla ,o no se , pero me encuentro en cada uno de esas 10 señales . muchisimas gracias .
Thank you, Maria. I read Spanish a bit better than I write Spanish (and with Google Translate I get even better!), so please forgive the English in this reply. I understand that this may be the first time you came across the sort of proposed vision of spirituality that I wrote about, and you would like to study more on the topic. You are moved by a deep concern for the world and the destruction of the planet, and want to learn more about the 10 signs specifically.
Let me tell you about the two labels that I use to situate my spirituality, so you can better see where I am coming from. Those two labels are “Integral” and “World Spirituality.” I believe that if you identify at least in part with many of those 10 signs, then your spirituality is probably already in harmony with “Integral” and “World Spirituality” as I understand them. That’s what I think, but it’s up for you to decide if those labels are helpful to you or not.
Yesterday I shared an academic paper by a scholar named Sean Esbjörn-Hargens. Esbjörn-Hargens describes the philosophical framework upon which people today throughout the world are talking about a World Spirituality based on Integral principles. Specifically, he outlines the major features of the AQAL model of consciousness, which is one of the chief tools that spiritual practitioners have found helpful.
In this paragraph, Sean talks about how the word “Integral,” which was originally used by the esteemed philosopher of Vedanta, Sri Aurobindo, became connected to an American philosopher in the late 1990s. The American philosopher, Ken Wilber, is no ordinary scholar. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Wilber or not, so I’ll say a few words.
Called by some admirers the “Einstein of Consciousness,” by the turn of the Millennium, he had created a philosophical system which reconciled (possibly for the first time) how the Enlightenment thinkers of the East and the psychoanalytical thinkers of the West were all talking about consciousness.
In the mid-1990s, Wilber advanced a vision for a genuine World Philosophy for the 21st century which could usher in an era in which religion, science, and postmodern thinkers could forge deeper connections to heal the planet and overcome obstacles to the full liberation of all people (indeed, all sentient beings). Here’s how Sean describes Wilber’s adoption of “Integral”:
Wilber first began to use the word “integral” to refer to his approach after the publication of his seminal book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality in 1995. It was in this book that he introduced the quadrant model, which has since become iconic of his work in general and integral theory in particular. Wilber’s quadrant model is often referred to as the AQAL model, with AQAL (pronounced ah-qwal) standing for all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, and all types. These five elements signify some of the most basic repeating patterns of reality. Thus, by including all of these patterns you “cover the bases” well, ensuring that no major part of any solution is left out or neglected. Each of these five elements can be used to “look at” reality and at the same time they represent the basic aspects of your own awareness in this and every moment.
Today, Ken Wilber is the most widely translated scholarly writer in the world today, with his books appearing in 24 languages. The goal of AQAL, as Esbjörn-Hargens suggests, is to allow people to carry a vision of the world they live in that is radically inclusive and holistic. What Wilber shows is that such a vision of the world is not merely a look at something happening “out there” somewhere else, but also something that is right in your own awareness right now, if you just open your eyes to look.
Ultimately, Wilber’s philosophy is a smokescreen (that is, a pretense or fiction). He does not want people to stop eating and bathing themselves, caring for their children, going to work, and doing good things in their community…just to sit alone reading philosophy books and staring off into the distance. He wants people to enter fully into life by becoming more aware of what is really going on within themselves and in everything they encounter.
As people become more aware, he shows, they know that they are not separate beings but connected to all things. As we wake up, we know we are not in this world alone, and we become more compassionate and loving. Out of the greater compassion and love flows a higher awareness that instinctively helps us to show up more fully in our relationships and work and spirituality.
This is a long way of beginning to answer your question, I know. You don’t need to read Ken Wilber’s books, though I highly recommend them because they can help to quiet the questioning mind while simultaneously arousing a passion for learning more about spirituality. Ken’s books are a good place for many people to continue their study of an Integral framework (though they aren’t for everyone).
Ken’s works have been one influence in creating international movements called the Integral Spirituality or Evolutionary Spirituality or World Spirituality movement. I don’t want to give you the impression that he’s the head honcho behind the whole thing; there are many people doing many things and he’s one very important part of it. The World Spirituality movement is increasingly today where I find my home, because it recognizes that the Integral Philosophy can be useful intellectually, but it is just the beginning.
World Spirituality, as Marc Gafni conceives it, isn’t a new religion or even really an interfaith religious movement. It is friendly to religion in general, and welcomes people of all faiths, and it doesn’t ask of them to give up their scriptures, rituals, prayers, and relationships that they hold valuable. It doesn’t ask them to shed their particular beliefs in favor of very general beliefs that everyone has in common. It asks us to find God in the world in ourselves, other people, and all things.
World Spirituality gives religious people a “trans-path path,” a way of being in the world as a “dual citizen” of their own faith (if they have one) and as a citizen of World Spirituality. It gives people without a faith an intellectually rigorous way of embracing the best wisdom of mystics of every religion while also embracing science and postmodern insights into the historically conditioned and socio-culturally constructed nature of understanding.
And one of World Spirituality’s core beliefs — which I share and find very exciting — is that enlightenment isn’t only for a rarefied, elite few. It’s for everyone, and it’s very important that everyone raise their consciousness, because our world desperately needs people who are more awake, alive, and aware.