E/W Part V: Protestant Theologies–Lutheranism

Since this is a general overview, I will only deal with Luther and Calvin, in terms of classical Protestant theology, though there are many other classical Prot. theologians who would deserve a reflection in a more thorough analysis (e.g. Huldrich Zwingli and Philip Melanchthon).

I’ll begin with Luther, focusing only on his theological vision as it relates to Christian mysticism.

One of the key elements of Luther’s insight was the notion of law/gospel. Luther was an avid Augustinian. Augustine, recall separated (ontologically) nature from grace. What Luther did that was quite new was re-interpret Augustine’s nature/grace dichotomy as law/gospel. The Catholic Church and its system of penace, sacraments, purgatory, and “good works” was for Luther the law (that is nature). The Gospel was Grace. The Gospel, the Evangelical gift of Grace was the source of salvation alone.

Now in one sense Luther is here in the mainstream of Western theology–from Augustine through Aquinas, Duns Scotus, Ockham. Grace alone. Prevenient and subsequent grace. All of them are in Augustine’s line against the more ancient notion of grace and free will working symbiotically as in Eastern Orthodox Theology.

But what did separate Luther from the (now) Roman Catholics was interpreting the medieval church as part of the realm of Law. Law meant Nature and could not therefore have anything to do with Grace.

In Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, Paul rails against Jewish-Christians who tried to convince Paul’s Gentile converts to Christianity that they had to become Jews to become Christians. Paul writes a brutal letter explicitly denying this. For Paul, Christ Crucified and Resurrected abolished the distinction between Gentile and Jews–or if you like, more positively as in Paul’s Letter to the Romans, extended the gift of Salvation offered to the Jews to the Gentiles.

So Luther re-interprets Paul’s words about Jewish/Gentile arguments to Catholic/Lutheran ones. The Medieval Papal Catholic Church in other words were the new “Jewish-Christians” telling the new Gentiles (the Protestants) that they had to become “Catholics” to become “Christians’ (or saved presumably). When in fact they did not–God’s gift was freely given. A pretty ingenious move, until of course Luther tried to make everybody Lutheran (or Calvin Calvinist) at which point it was hard to tell how they were different from the Pope. [More on that at the end–it’s a key point to understanding the almost-Absolute insight of Protestantism].

Some more background on Medieval Scholasticism is necessary here before we get to the main point on Luther. It might not be immediately clear what the point of all this metaphysical excursion is, but I hope it will be by the end. [If not skip to the next set of hyphens —].

Luther came at the end of the Medieval Era, which philosophically had come to be dominated by nominalism.

Nominalism arose in opposition to realism (especially Aristotelian realism). The big name in Medieval Catholic Realist Scholasticism was Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas accepted Augustine’s separtion of nature and grace. For Augustine, though nature and grace while (ontologically) separate were never separated in day-to-day existential life.

For Aquinas, following Aristotle, Grace was the form of Nature. Aristotle’s forms (as opposed to Plato’s) were immanent in materiality. This gave Aquinas’ philosophy and theology a very concrete feel. But it also assumed that the human mind (nature) could directly proove the existence of Grace. It could never existentially lift us up to God, nor could it ever directly proove the existence of Christian elements of theology (like the Incarnation, Trinity), but it could prove the existence of God through the effects of the natural world (the famous 5 Ways argument).

So Nature had its own agency in Aquinas not found in Augustine. It had its own sphere of influence, its own truth value, and all of the natural mental truth-sphere could directly prove (though not connected with) the realm of Grace.

Then came along John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan (not a Dominican like Thomas). He criticized Thomas for over-stressing the role of intellect. Thomas, Scotus thought, under appreciated the role of will.

Everything Thomas wrote about grace/free will could be true (and more or less was from Scotus) and yet it was not enough. Necessary but not sufficient. The sufficiency came from will alone. The intellect might “prove” God’s existence, but that meant nothing unless the will desired God. If the will did not seek God, it would not find him.

Then lastly William Ockham (famous for his “Razor”). Occkham took this turn to its finale. The intellect (particularly the Divine Intellect) no longer mattered, everything was dependent on the will.

The human mind was not “realistically” depicting the things in the outer world or the world above. It was simply giving them “names” (hence nominalism).

All Protestant theologies, consciously or not, assume a nominalistic viewpoint. That is very important because with the loss of realism, there was a movement to emphasize the will alone (as in Ockham). Luther would do this as well (Grace over Law). The German spirit that arose in the Romantics and sadly later in the Nazis (pure voluntarism) had its roots, both positive and negative, in this nominalistic-voluntaristic outlook. Instead of seeing a way in which Spirit would bring about a transcendent mind and will.

Nominalism does not provide a wide enough lens for mysticism. It leads to a typically secular outlook, at least as regards humans and the natural world (science, politics, etc.). To the degree there is any notion of divnity it tends to be a deistic or totally separate theistic God, out there somewhere who possibly from time to time overturns the natural order from without. Nominalism cuts out the intermediate states (like the subtle) and weakens the concept of meditation–both from God to us and from our higher states to embodiment in this world. Realims unfortunately no longer holds philosphically and can not therefore support mysticism either. [Only a post-metaphysical philosophical construct will support Christian mystical theology for the 21st century, what I am advocating in these writings].

Luther also read Dionysius, father of the 3-fold mystical path of purgation, illumination, and union. Luther though he initially seemed interested in Dionysius, misinterpreted him badly. For Luther apophatic theology (via negativa, causal consciousness) meant that all theological statements refer to the Cross.

All theologies are crucified and implode at the point of the Cross. That’s not a bad point of view, he seems to have been the first to say that explicitly, but that is definitely not what Dionysius meant by apophatic theology. For Dionysius, apophatic theology–saying what God is not rather than what God is–is a meditation practice to open us up to the causal state-stage of unification. Apophaic theology though it uses “negative” language (God is not comprehensible), it is in actuality a “positive” experience. It is the experience of God in the darkness.

Luther also, due to his views on the priesthood of all believers, destroyed an ancient (now forgotten) notion in Catholic theology between the commandments and the counsels. The commandments applied to all Christians. The counsels were only for the “perfect”. The counsels involved things like celibacy, religious vows–basically monasticism. Luther, recall was originally a monk. The “perfect” being a code-word for mystics of the union stage in the Orthodox Church. In the Catholic Church the “perfect” became the clergy or whoever took the vows without necessarily having to transform to sanctity.

So Luther was only half-right. He was right about the arrogance of the medieval Church abrogation of the perfect being clergy and monastics. He was wrong insofar as those practices acted as supporters of a mystical path. Given the socio-cultural constructs of the premodern world, msyticism was (across religious boundaries) almost the exclusive perserve of monks.

[Generically it was the Medieval Catholic Church Luther revolted against, but the Medieval Catholic Church was not the only form of the Catholic Church. Ideally Protestantism should have transcended and included Roman Catholicism structure-stage wise, but ended up splitting, causing weakness on both sides].

Luther certainly had a strong devotional life. His thesis that apophatic theology meant that everything referred to the Cross led to his emphasis on God’s Power being God’s weakness. Luther had a deep devotion to creches for this very reason (still big in Lutheran churches as the huge, plain, wooden cross in every Lutheran Church I’ve ever been inside). He also believed strongly in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist–good Medieval Catholic monk that he was–which was sadly, for the most part lost in Lutheran circles.

Luther also had his famous “tower experience” while in hiding from the Pope and Catholic Princes of Germany. The Tower experience helped him to his insight regarding the Law/Gospel distinction and brought ease of mind to his previously anxiety-filled, neurotic soul.

But he never understood the traditional three-fold path, nor the even more daring four-fold nondual path of indistinction.

Luther famously said that the saved human soul was shit covered in snow. Damned souls were just shit. The snow (justification/salvation by grace through faith) was the snow layer. But notice the snow in Luther’s mind never really cleansed the shit. It was still shit.

And this tendency in Protestantism through Luther is to see salvation as almost like an innoculation against damnation. One shot and you’re “saved” for everlasting life. But nothing inside seems to change much.

In Catholic thought, salvation is salvation from damnation and to sanctification. Its only the first step in a process, not the rubber-stamped end. The shit covering snow involves a complicated Catholic versus Protestant understanding of Original Sin, which I won’t go into, but sufficed to say, for mysticism, the shit needs, as Lama Surya Das would say, to turn into manure.

The shit part needs to be purified and made to help the embodiment of the snow layer into the world. This is the neglected element of “good works” the Catholics maintained. It can’t just be an “outside” job as in evangelical Protestantism.

So again, what I’m saying is that certainly Protestants have mystical experiences, moments of profound intimacy with God, but there is not a systematic, theological mainframe to support those experiences nor yet a path setup to realize the state-stages of purgation, illumination, and union.

Lastly Luther argued against the ancient (Catholic and Orthodox) notion of scripture and tradition, arguing instead for scripture alone (sola scriptura). All Protestans would likewise accept this notion–as with Luther’s (mis)understanding of apophatic theology and counsels/commandments.

The Scripture/Tradition, boiled down, goes like this–the Church wrote the Bible, not the Bible wrote the Church.

From historical sources we know that the earliest New Testament documents come from Paul in the 50s C.E. The Gospels Mark (70), Matthew/Luke (80-90s), John (100). Jesus being crucified in the late twenties/early 30s of the Common Era. Paul tells the Corinthians regarding the Eucharist: I told you what was handed onto me (tra-ditio, “handed-over”).”

So by the 50s, only 20 years after Jesus, communities are practicing similiar forms of worship and already refer to a “tradition.” This tradition would also be the ones to choose which books went into the Bible (the Canon) and which did not. Luther unsurprisingly choose the same books–there’s sola scriptura for you.

Luther unfortunately missed the boat on this one as well. Probably he’s biggest mistake in my book. The modern wave (of which Luther was a forerunner) was caught in the so-calld Myth of the Given. The truth, the real world was considered to just be lying out there for everyone to simply notice.

Postmodernism in contrast sees all knowledge as inherently interpretative, which is to say part of a tradition.

Sola Scriptura, is like all modern fallacies, an interpretation that claims it is interpretation-less. There is no such thing as “Scripture”, but “Scriptures” read at all different levels, states, in many different contexts. There is a way (injunction, praxis) of reading Scripture for mystics. And Luther, and Protestantism, missed this truth.

For many Protestant theologies, mysticism is suspect (or outright heretical) because it is not “Biblical.”

Now, as I argued in the earlier posts there are explicit references to Union with Christ in the New Testament, but Paul or John are not as explicit as will be later Hesychast and Bridal Mystics.

A parallel from Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) will help here.

In the Book of Kings the prophet Elijah is taken up by a Chariot. The prophet Ezekiel also has a vision of Chariot descending from Heaven. The word for chariot is merkavah.

Later Kabbalistic masters (zadiks) would meditate on this chariot. A whole school of Kabbalah arose around these stories–known as merkavah mysticism. Now, the Kabbalist would ascend through levels of the chariot until being “enraptured” like Elijah into heaven. That is the master would move from subtle (God with form, Chariot) to the Causal (Heaven, nameless, imageless, Cloud of Unknowing).

Now a metaphysical, premodern Kabbalah master would tell you he was having the exact same experience as Elijah. A modern Biblical scholar would show how the texts serves to assert a theological agenda or support a social vision. The “mystical” thesis thereby being invalidated.

But that criticism is only half-right. The Kabbalah master is wrong insofar as it is not possible to make the statement that one is having the EXACT SAME experience as Elijah (who may be a literary amalgamation, or possibly not even a historical figure, a literary type if you will). But the experience is valid.

From a post-metaphysical standpoint, we need not argue that mystical experiences are explicitly the same as the Biblical precedents—Moses on the mount, Jesus Transfigured, Paul, Elijah, whoever. In a Post-Meta. frame, we understand that we are co-constructing (tetra-constructing) the contours of Creation by enacting certain injunctions, in this case mystical ones.

The practice is “Biblical” insofar as the seeds, the genesis of the practice are there–both for Kabbalah in the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Mysticism in the Christian “New” Testament. While the seeds are there, the way in which this mysticism will manifest depend on our current situation and will not therefore be “exactly” the same as the ancient predecessors. Thereby cutting through the premodern/modern debate labeled above.

Which is to say mysticism is part of the tradition—part of how we interpret the Scripture. Obviously as a Christian, I believe the tradition is open to the voice of the Holy Spirit and has been guided by the Spirit and is therefore to be believed as trustworthy, in its essentials. But that doesn’t mean the interpretation of the tradition (the interpretation of the interpretation) is itself divine or to stand for all time. The tradition can and does develop.

Published in: on February 28, 2006 at 9:59 am  Leave a Comment  


I guess I’m going to continue with social-political commentary on the question of modernity, Islam, GWOT (Global War on Terrorism), Iraq, etc.

In that vein, check out this very disturbing article about the radicalization of the Pashtun regions of Western Pakistan in the WashingtonPost by Ahmed Rashid, expert on the Taliban.

The idea that binLaden is on the run is sadly propaganda. As Rashid notes, he’s operating openly in NW Pakistan. He is rebuilding bases, gaining recruits, spreading the message of global jihad. The Taliban also are re-solidying their positions in these areas outside the control of the Pakistani state.

As the article maintains, just as in Iraq, we had enough troops, expertise to knock out the enemy, but not enough to win the peace.

Published in: on February 26, 2006 at 4:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Addendum to Wild Theory on Iraq

Very good comment by WH in my last post. Made me re-think some issues–at least in terms of whether formal separation of the Sunni/Shia regions is the best option and/or feasible. Still, the point holds that the US is now in a position where it is both the cause of (homegrown) insurgency and the force preventing large-scale civil war (as opposed to the “smaller” scale, if I can even use that term, civil war 3 years old to date).

Just watched Frontline’s piece from Tuesday night on the Insurgency. Warning–graphic imagery.

To my mind, it is a must watch. It puts to shame mainstream US media coverage, particularly television media. The video has only further convinced me that the so-called Sunni problem has no clear end in sight. The Sunni insurgency may collaborate with al-Qaeda in Iraq at times, with al-Sadr even the Iranians at times, to expel the Americans. But then they will simply revert to fighting each other.

And as long as the insurgency has local support, reconstruction can not take place, leading to a downward spiral–the Americans then are depicted as the reason for unemployment, humiliation, and destruction of the country.

One of the journalist heroes of the Frontline piece is Michael Ware from Time. He is the only Western journalist to have connections with the insurgency. Read his extended interview with Frontline here.

Perhaps the most interesting of the passages is his take on the new generation of al-Qaeda and how it will be more inspired by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi then Osama bin Laden. Here’s an excerpt:

Certainly the way I see it, and the way it’s been expressed to me by individuals who have become a part of Zarqawi’s organization, Sept. 11 was the end of a form of Al Qaeda. Sept. 11 was the final product of the Afghan generation. … And I’m sure the Al Qaeda strategists knew that after Sept. 11 an attack would come, and the organization would be dispersed, and [they would] have to revert to an underground movement and would be under great stress. And if you look at what bin Laden has said, and if you just analyze the nature of the actions, it was an inspirational event: “You see what we can do? Now you go out and do it. We’ve trained you. We’ve funded you. We’ve shown you the way.” And that’s always been a fundamental Al Qaeda principle.

So very much it was franchised terrorism, and it was, “Think globally, act locally,” with a very local phase to every manifestation. And it didn’t have to be Al Qaeda in every appearance. It was Abu Sharif [leader of Asbat al-Ansar, a Lebanon-based group] here and the Moral Liberation Front there, and something else here and something else here. But in all its permutations, it was a furtherance of a fundamental Al Qaeda-inspired ideology or concept. It’s the idea that is most powerful.

So what we saw after Afghanistan is this movement seeking its new birth, its next platform, and through Zarqawi we see this personified. He had a camp in Herat, [Afghanistan], for his organization, which was not Al Qaeda but was definitely affiliated and working within it. It’s then reported that he went to Kandahar, joined the defense of that, and eventually fled through Iran. Then there [are] various reports about where he went and how long he spent and whatever. But essentially, what he was doing was … shopping around as a terrorist consultant for hire. He was looking for the next place or group or cause on which to graft himself. And ultimately, the U.S. administration gave him Iraq as the next platform upon which to build the new generation. It was the ultimate tool with which to recruit.
If you go back and you see the letter that Zarqawi wrote to Osama bin Laden, which was intercepted, … it constitutes Zarqawi’s business plan. “This is what I intend to do with this platform, seeking the support of Osama bin Laden.” You go back and read that document now, and Zarqawi has followed through with everything that he promised. Every tenet that he outlined, he has, if not fulfilled, he has pursued vigorously. And it was here that Al Qaeda was given a rebirth. This is what we’re now seeing: This Bush administration is the midwife to the next generation of Al Qaeda, and that’s a generation that is principally being shaped or flavored by Zarqawi. …

This view seems to support what I had already mentioned in linking Nir Rosen’s article (A Darker Take on Iraq) on Zarqawi. Bin Laden created a very individualist modernist form of Islam. I have likened him, minus the violence, to Luther in this regard. He opened up a genuinely new form of Islam (like Luther for Christianity) but then was unable to control it as he attempted to then prove his version of individualist (non-traditional) Islam was the most correct. As Luther sought to bring all Protestants to himself. Protestants accepted his attack on the Church (like jihadists accept bin Laden’s attack on the Soviets and West) but not Luther’s theology.

Zarqawi believes the real enemy is the near enemy. As Peter Bergen, expert on al-Qaeda has stated, after the Afghan War against the Soviets, jihadist principles were spread. These men aren’t going to “retire” from Jihad once the Iraq War is concluded–just as they did not after the Soviets left Afghanistan. The jihadis in Afghanistan gained amazing skill and technical expertise after fighting a deficient, disorganized army (the Soviets). The jihadis in Iraq by extension, it is to scary to imagine, will have gained expertise and training by fighting the most well organized, efficient military force in human history.

Whatever happens in Iraq, it is clear that the Middle East will be facing renewed jihadist attacks. Particularly up for grabs will be Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.

The interplay between that al-Qaeda (2.0) inspired movements and the larger Islamist- nationalist groups using the Bush doctinre of world-wide democracy as a base for Islamic Statehood will be the real force to watch in the coming decades. Especially as they continue their struggle against the dictatorial (current) regimes of the region.

Published in: on February 25, 2006 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  

A Wild Theory on Iraq

This last week’s events (the bombing of Askariya Shia mosque) have really highlighted for me that the current policy is not working.

As I have stated before, following the logic of Nir Rosen, for me there is already civil war in Iraq and has been for (at least) 2 years. When I hear political commentators say that the American presence is the only thing preventing Civil War, I immediately translate that into–the American’s are the only thing stopping increased, massive Civil War on a scale that is horrific. As opposed to the more low-level, awful Civil War already underway.

On the other hand, as long as the Americans remain, then the Shia are collaborators in the eyes of the Sunni.

What the mosque bombing and subsequent episodes have shown is that the Iraqi Government can only maintain order by curfews and massive military on the ground presence. They do not have the manpower or resources to keep such a curfew up full time.

The real power and legitimacy on the streets belongs to the clerics and the militias. The American army and ambassador are being increasingly squeezed out of the picture as the Iraqi government has no real authority (minus martial law) outside the International Zone (formerly the Green Zone).

I think the time has come to fundamentally re-assess the assumption that Iraq must remain a united country based on the borders carved out by British colonials.

Not to overuse the Spiral jargon, but if Iraq (and wider aspects of the Middle East, minus Iran) are basically red in nature, then it is blue (theocracies) that must come into power or already are in power (say Saudi Arabia). In a country like Saudi Arabia, there is a Shi’ite minority but it is not as large as the Sunni/Shia populations of Iraq.

When those two groups exist in such large numbers with different blue meme structures–and while they are both Islamic, there are deep differences (structurally, theologically) between Shia and Sunni, particularly modern Shia and Sunni theologies–then I’m afraid they will not be able to make it work.

A blue, order-based political structure that opens up economic rights and slowly allows political rights to seep down congruent with the rise of a middle class–who alone can properly handle such rights (from the perspective of rule of law anyway).

I think the first step is to declare Kurdistan an independent country–the Americans could begin to move a large bulk of the Troops there. The Kurds have the Peshmerga and have shown themselves to be the most progressive, well organized, well defensed bunch. Kurdistan would become the “2nd Israel” if you will of the Middle East: pro-American rule of law/democracy, economic trading partner, negotiator between Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Western Europe, and US. They have Kirkuk and its rich northern oil fields. Non-sectarian.

Just have to allay Turkish fears that the Kurds would help foment Kurdish independence in Turkey–the Iraqi Kurds and the Turkish Kurds however don’t particularly like each other, so that could be achieved.

Then the more dangerous issue of splitting the Shia and Sunni.

The great monkey wrench in any plan for a separtion of Iraq proper(Kurdistan is never really a part of Iraq) is that the middle of the country and the West, mainly Sunni, is oil-less. The rest of the oil (minus Kirkuk) resides in the Shi’a South.

The Shi’a have been oppressed long enough and know their time has come, on the treads of American tanks, but their time has come nonetheless. A strong alliance with Iran guarantees them weapons and training for self-defense in the case of an attack from the Sunnis. They are not going to negotiate in any real terms with the Sunni. And true be told, I can understand why–though I wish it were otherwise. I’m not sure I would particularly trust the Sunni if I were an Iraqi Shi’a.

What the Bush administration argued is that the increased Sunni participation in the last round of elections signals their increased desire to participate in the political process over the militant process.

The hope was thereby to divide and conquer–separate out first the foreign Salafi jihadis (like Zarqawi) from the anti-US, “nationalistic” “tribal” Sunni insurgency. Then split the Sunni insurgency from its base of tacit support among the Sunni populace.

Certainly not an insane plan. It has a logic. But I’m beginning to think more and more that it is predicated on a misreading of the data. The increased Sunni involvement in the electoral process to me signifies more that the Sunnis have decided to fight the same war against the Shia on two fronts simultaneously. The democractic elements therefore further exacerbating the sectarian tension not helping to relieve it.

Without an economic incentive, they, the Sunnis, have no cards to play and they know it. Therefore string out the guerilla campaign against the US as long as it takes to swap the strength of its support back home, the Americans leave, opening up the fight (some) among the Sunni have wanted all along–against the Shi’a collaborators.

The Sunnis, it seems, have done so much to organize militarily throughout the history of Iraq and enforce its will on the majority Shia because they are without natural resources. There are other factors involved of course, but that one looms very large. Not to sound Marxist for a second, but the economic, power ends can not be overstated in this matter.

The Shi’a have, generally though not without exceptions, moderated themselves in response to the murderous insurgency against them by Sunni extremists. God bless Sistani for coming out against violent retaliations–but I’m not sure how long his voice will carry the day. Tough to know that from here. The case of the Iranian-influenced Iraqi Shi’a infiltrating the interior ministry as a cloak to carry out illegal and covert murders and imprisonments (revenge killings) being a brutal counterexample to the otherwise, fairly moderate Shia response. Remember the Shia are facing bombings and drive-bys at weddings, Friday prayer, religious pilgrimages, and funerals. Weddings and Funerals for God’s sake–from other Muslims!!!

For the a Shi’a nation to be declared in the South would require the US to make strategic and diplomatic alliance with Iran–something the Bush administration has unfortunately not been wise enough to achieve. The US guarantees Iran as the major player in that region of the world, its parent-like role in Shia Iraq (Shia-stan, if you like), and the promise of not attempting to overthrown the Ayatollah regime, in exchange for the withdraw of the nuclear bomb program.

The US would then have to bring a multi-nation conference consisting of Syria, Saudis, and Jordan to prop up the new (mostly) Sunni nation of the center/West. This is particularly important as, for example, even moderate King Abdullah of Jordan–who unfortunately has been saddled with being King of Jordan, but otherwise is to my mind, possibly the most intellligent politician on the planet–has warned of a rising Shi’a Crescent. From Hezbollah-ruled Southern Lebanon, through Southern Iraq, and Iran, the balance is definitely shifting.

The US would have to make clear it does not seek total Shia dominance in the region and would not stand for Shia-stan Iraq (whatever that country would be called, Sistani-stan?) invading Sunni Iraq (again under whatever new name).

Again, the key would be to find some economic policy for the Sunni-dominated Central-Western provinces. Minus that, they will fight. Period.

And that raises a larger issue. Bush has referenced recently energy-independence from the Middle East–modestly but the issue is gaining traction. Its strongest and most consistent voice has been Thomas Friedman in a series of NYTimes op-ed pieces.

Now, I’m all for the move to a hydrogen-based economy. But, as Thomas Barnett, has wisely pointed out, if moving towards a hyrdogen economy does not come with a parallel movement to wean the Middle East off petrolism, then it will be a debacle. The Middle East will not economically “innovate” just because they have to, assuming a scenario where the US, China, India, Brazil, W.Europe move away from oil to hydrogen.

The Insurgency in Iraq proves otherwise. The Iraqi Sunnis have not self-organized to economically innovate in the face of the loss of southern oil money. If we move away from oil without at the same time, promoting a new economic venture for the Middle East, the Middle East will become Sub-Saharan Africa (if its not or worse than SSAfrica already). It will be a sub-Saharan Africa with an ideology of trans-national terrorism, more militant expertise, and a religion with (one among many) a thread that supports martyrdom in the cause of fighting as a unquestioned avenue to everlasting glory.

That ideology has not yet spread very deeply into sub-Saharan Africa. Variants of the theme exist in Northern Nigeria, Somalia, and Ethiopia. But as the West works more and more on the Southwest and Central Asia, trying to bring it into the community of federated nation-states–assuming the project is even remotely successful–sub-Saharan Africa will be the last bastion of jihadist militancy.

But the first step being Iraq. I think Bush needs to re-draw the map and move the goal posts, no longer holding onto the notion that victory in Iraq is predicated on the unified, secular, nation-state he envisioned. I don’t think that is reliable any longer–not within a year or two.

Again, this is a prognostication, so I could be reading this in 10 years thinking how off the mark I was–who knows, human societies, like Nature, are chaotic systems. They are inherently unpredictable systems.

But I don’t think we can hold our troops there for another 8 years just hoping this current policy works. Whatever else can be said about Bush he has fundamentally re-shaped the world–for good or evil or both depends on one’s perspective I guess–but change it he has. There is no turning back the clock.

Published in: on February 24, 2006 at 6:37 pm  Comments (1)  

E/W IV: Western Christian Nonduality

To understand the hidden nondual theology-spirituality of the Western Catholic tradition, we have to return to Augustine.

Augustine, recall, more or less shifted all the power and efficacy of spiritual practice to grace, thereby reducing the bi-polarity of the Orthodox tradition (grace and free will) into more of a unipolar vision.

Also, Augustine read Plotinus (in translation) and undertook his injunction and had a brief (or possible several) altered nondual state of consciousness. There is only Christ, loving himself in all members.

Lastly, Augustine in his theological debate with the Donatists, came to a new understanding of the sacraments and the priesthood that would be definitive for the Catholic tradition.

In the North African Church of Augustine, the cult of martrydom and veneration of the martyrs and witnesses (those who survived torture/persecution without renouncing the faith) was strong.

After a wave of persecution was over (e.g. the persecution of 250s C.E.), the question of what do with those who “lapsed” under torture or threat of death but were sorry and wanted to return to the Church became very important.

Christian charity and the Gospels seemed to dictate pardon and re-admittance to the Church, but on the other hand, these were individuals who in some cases had turned in other Christians (or others who perahps weren’t even Christian) and were complicit in their execution.

The North African Church at first seemed to have let the witnesses (confessors) to decide the fate of the lapsed (lapsi in Latin). They perhaps instituted a penace and a period of re-formation before readmitting the lapsed back into the Church. Eventually the power to decide who should be re-allowed and who not came to be controlled by the Bishops.

At this, certain more rigorist members felt the Church had betrayed the memories of the matrys/confessors. The formal penance and public display of forgiveness became less and less demanding in their eyes and bishops were re-admitting not only laity who had fallen but even bishops, deacons, and priests.

This group eventually split and started its own line of authority (technically a schism versus heresy which is holding different doctrine). They proclaimed their own bishops, clergy, performed their own sacramental rites and so forth. They also proclaimed that only a sinless clergyman could properly perform the Sacramental Rites.

This last proposition drove Augustine to attack their ideology. For Augustine, remember, sin is the prideful closing in on oneself, denying communion (with God, multiple parts of oneself, and neighbor). The idea that any person could be sinless was insane for Augustine. To attempt to be perfect was itself the height of spiritual arrogance, trying thereby to create a clique of sinless, elite, saints.

Since the Donatists tried to make the efficacy of the Sacraments subservient to the spiritual state of the clergy, Augustine argued that the Sacraments, in essence, performed themselves. The term in Latin is ex operare operatum–by the work of their work, technically. By itself in other words. The sacraments, the rituals of the Church were in no way connected to the inner state of the priest performing them.

So just as with Pelagius, the debate was between the extremes.

Because the spiritual power of the sacraments was disconnected from the priest, the emphasis shifted totally to proper recitation of the formula and making sure one had proper lines of spiritual authority–this explains in part the movement in the Vatican to attempt to garner power for itself over choices of bishops, priests, and rules over clerical celibacy, etc. But that is another debate.

Anyway, the point for Nonduality is that when seen in a different light, ex operare operatum is itself a Nondual Vision.

The Sacraments happen by themselves. The Sacraments then–and Creation is considered a Revelation in Christianity, so Nature as well–happen by themselves. The forms and the change and the salvation of all beings happens spontaneously. And here is where, flipping our lens, away from a strict literalist view (as with Augustine), we see the hidden Nonduality.

Both his views on the Sacraments and on Grace Alone, could be best summarized as: There is Nothing but Grace. Grace ALONE IS.

It is both an eye-opening and yet viscious vision–which is exactly what the Nondual state is like.

Everything as Meister Eckhart said, works unto the good. This does not mean that everything has been the best way of working unto the good possible, but that everything works unto the good nonetheless. Everything is spontaneously saved. Creation, we might say, is itself redemption.

And if there is but Christ, Christ was without Sin. If Grace is All and All, then from the Nondual State, there is no separation, hence no Sin. Only one Traveler (Christ), through all forms and times–Cosmic Christ–sinless, without consciousness of separation. The Mind of Christ alone IS.

But only from a Nondual Space. Just as in Tibetan Buddhism, in the Absolute there is no Karma, no beginning and no end, in the Relative all of these things still ex-ist.

Augustine came to this vision but couldn’t take its beautiful horror.

There is a Sacramental Law to this Universe–everything eats everything else.

Every moment consists of life feeding off death. Life feeding off of life. For us to live, other beings must die–proto-conscious beings. And ultimately, no amount of ethical action will ever save us from that…no vegetarianism, no socially conscious clothing, no save the whales, nothing.

Nothing will save us. Salvation, grace happens by itself. As long as there is a conscious mind, there will always be an unconscious mind. As long as there is a part of us that seeks the good, there will be a part that seeks destruction and injects its drama and agenda into every action, no matter how “good”, “well-intentioned” or “holy”, even among the greatest of the saints. That is the truth of Original Sin.

I’m not advocating being un-ethical, for that is just to still be caught in the poles of Relativity. Do what you think is right, meditate long and hard on how best to tread as lightly as possible in this world, to increase life, heal broken-ness, and decrease (unjust, unmerciful, unloving forms of) death.

But know that none of it will ever make you worthy of Love. None of it is ever a perfect action. None of it gives you any Ultimate Reference point on which to stand as Righteous, Religiously Upright. That was the mistake of the Pharisees.

Live in a manner at peace with the imperfect nature of your being.

But sadly for Augustine, it lead to contraction. He felt there was no hope except the Church, literally believed in–hence the paradox of the Catholic Church. It what Vivekananda called Western Vedanta, and yet it is also the source of so much unnecessary pain and destruction of human souls. For taking the story too literally.

For Jesus the truth that everything eats everything else meant to simple love in the face of this mania.

The great symbol of Christian Nonduality is the Eucharist. As Christ knows the end is near, as he knows his body is be tortured and eaten–he freely gives it away, joyfully in order to join, to commune.

This is my Body, This is my Blood. Take eat and drink this, all of you. Whenever you do this, Re-member me.

Remember that every moment is this Eucharist. Every moment we are living this dying, we are the spontaneous express of this play of life/death. In the face of that, simply Love, LOVE ALONE, beyond all boundaries, affiliations, and even at moments, ethical constraints.

Sacrifice your very being to Kali. Give her your bloody heart to feast upon. Release purely into the immolation.

As St. Paul said, I am being poured out as a libation on the altar of the universe.

You are the very cup of Christ, the very blood of his body, his blood only salvific as it is given away, as it ex-ists for others. So to your life, as you have only ever truly lived to the degree that you have died. Only received to the degree that you give away. Only powerful to the degree that you have surrendered everything.

The Western (Catholic) Church has all sorts of deep pathologies for the mistake of reaching the Nondual and then (mis)interpreting it, too closely aligning it with the mythic meme. But for its unhealthy manifestations, it is also the strongest source in Christianity of the Nondual.

The Orthodox Church maintained the balance and kept a healthy dualistic approach–grace/free will, divinization, and the restortation of all things in Christ. But never allowed that which is beyond the Dual.

The two strains need to re-unite to allow the healthy relative (Orthodox) and the Absolute (Catholic) to manifest simultaneously. Otherwise the choice between the unhealthy relative and healthy Absolute (Catholic) or the healthy relative and absent Absolute (Orthodox).

Protestantism, as I will argue in the next segment, unfortunately got just about neither relative nor Absolute right (from the perspective of states)–but was the lead movement in stages of Christianity.

Published in: on February 24, 2006 at 6:34 am  Comments (3)  

Robert Wright on Islam/West

Check out this article by Robert Wright for New America; it says what I wanted to say about Islam-West, except much more articulately and concisely.
Published in: on February 22, 2006 at 12:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Adrift at SEA

[SEA stands for Self-Esteem (Seekers) Anonymous].

The latest wrinkle of my self journey has been the recognition of my self-esteem issues as a dis-ease, as an illness.

I always knew I had low self-esteem as compared to my peers, but without naming it as illness, nothing I ever did seemed to work.

I’ve decided to set aside time each day–maybe only 10 minutes–to begin the process of ingesting the layers of this new truth into my being. I’m going slow in order to prevent an all-out Chris assault (as per my usual), turning everything into a project that demands immediate victory and success.

That isn’t realistic in this case.

There is a low self-esteem inventory here. With the caveat that this “quiz” has much open-ended and vague sounding language that could lead almost anyone to believe they have self-esteem issues. (Mis)interpretation aside, the scoring goes from 0-150. The result are broken down into 5 categories of 30 points each. 0-30, no issues; 30-60, faint traces; 60-90 moderate difficulties; 90-120 presence of severe low self esteem; and 120-150 obviously being clincal problems of an extremely acute nature.

For what its worth I scored 112. That places me in the “presence of severe self-esteem issues” canp, but not as bad as those in the final grouping. That accords with my general sense of my esteem being much worse than the average, but thankfully not as a bad and debilitating as others I’ve encountered.

The downside of it being severe but workable is that I always put dealing with it off bc I can (and have and do) manage to lead a more or less regular life.

The notion of the emotional self-esteem issues as an illness puts this reading in line with things like AA, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. (SEA being the branch version of the same anonymous tree relating to this particular issue).

Fortunately I’ve never had an addictions to chemicals, gambling, acting out (e.g. promiscuous sexual activity) in self-destructive ways. I can have one drink and let it go at that; I’ve never understood how individuals can never not just have one drink (or one bet, or one whatever).

But the more I think about it, I’ve also never understood really how people can be okay with themselves, can even actually like themselves. My mindset must be to those people like mine is towards the alcoholics.

Before understanding the illness aspect, I would wonder about say an alcoholic–why don’t they see they are ruining their life, destroying their relationships. All of which are perfectly reasonable (and valid) points.

The few conversations I’ve had with people–very few–where I’ve admitted to low self-esteem, they have almost always (meaning well) asked the same sort of reasonable, logical, critical questions. Or make reasonable, logical, well-meaning affirmative comments like, “But you’re so talented, so intelligent…everybody likes you, etc.”

All of which are certainly valid to a degree (not everybody who knows me likes me).

All valid, well-meaning, and thoughtful, and none having the least bit effect on me. At least as relates to the self-esteeem issue.

The only reason honestly I have even come to this place where I’m (partially) willing to do the long, slow, painful work of recovery is because of Chloe and the thought of our future family together. And worse the thought of losing her because of this illness.

If I would have stayed a Jesuit, I imagine I would have, like I always have done, buried the pain in work and good deeds, smilinng my way through a miserable life.

So part of learning curve I’m sure be will to face whether I eventually am internally motivated–beyond even the “external” (though a good start) motivation of my loved one(s).

Now, not reverse fields and re-inforce denial tendencies, but I want to contextualize all of this as well.

There are three identities (generically): ego, Soul, and SELF (Spirit). This particular issue of course only affects one of those–ego, frontal personality. My Soul, or better The Soul that has me (Chris) is not from this plane and is not wounded by the pains of this world. He/she/it cries for Chris’ pain no doubt, but is not in any sense touched by the pain. The Soul’s dis-ease is of a much darker nature and by God’s grace has been fairly cleansed. And Spirit of course with no dis-ease, just pure unconditional, ever-watchful, embrace.

And then with even with the self (or better selves), not all of it is touched by this.

In the Big Mind Process, for example, there are the voices of the fixer, the controller, the seeker, and the wounded child (among many others). Of course most of this pain resides in the Wounded Child. And certainly my fixer, seeker, and such are certainly influenced by the negative scripts, pain, and trauma of my illness–but can not be reduced to those or reactions to those either.

There are pieces of my life, in the right context, where I have no doubts about my abilities–neither arrogance nor cowardice. It becomes pure expression for the sake of the art itself…the best examples of this, for me, are public speaking and teaching.

So while it might seem backward, I have very little nervousness about getting up and speaking in front of complete strangers because for one, I’ll probably never have to actually interact with them anyway ever again, two, in say like a homily from seminary days, I’m in control–it’s a monlogue–nobody is going to interrupt me.

But then after such a homily or talk, people come up adn congratulate you or want to discuss what you had to say in further detail, ask a question, and I freeze up. Because once that boundary is crossed, in face-to-face, one-on-one, anything can happen.

Also, like I mentioned, my symptoms do not flare up in dangerous ways. I fall into the opposite category–I take the identity of peacemaker, entertainer/mascot, rescuer. I’m too nice. I’m overly cautious about hurting people’s feelings, sometimes to a fault. I have an amazingly difficult time admitting I’m angry and almost never tell someone these are my boudaries and you’re crossing them, please cease.

So for those of you out there who’ve (in a well-meaning way) praised me for being so nice and understanding, just remember (bc I sure do), that I’m nice in part just because I don’t like being mean. And I’m being nice to you, not (altogether) because I’m a swell considerate guy but I’m too self-conscious and self-focused to want to possibly upset you.

The shadow is a wonderful trickster.

I wrote the above, mostly to reinforce to myself that I don’t want to become someone who has an “addiction” or “12 Step” mindset, where everything is about the Program, addictions–as someone who went through seminary, I knew a lot of people in the “Program”, mostly seminarians and priests and this totalizing mindset was very common–all of which to me seems to reinforce the notion of how “addictive” addiction is….in other words, the Program, Recovery, etc. becomes a new form of addiction for some. Certainly healthier than the alternative but overly absolutized nonetheless.

Still, it’s going to be painful, if I actually go through with it. It reminds me of the scene in A Beautiful Mind where at the end of the movie–after years of properly managing his hallucinations and leading a regular life–John Nash is walking away from a student and asks her if she sees some people talking to him over in the corner. She says no, and then he doesn’t talk to them.

As illness, like alcoholism, it will always be with me–like John Nash’s hallucinations. There is always going to be that voice in my head. Its not rational, no rational discourse will silence it, but it doesn’t have to be listened to either. I can just let it speak, tell it, thank you for expressing yourself, and then calmly choose another option.

The shadow is more like a school yard bully than a monster. The bully talks a big game, but only to hide his obvious flaws. And bullies are notorious pansies when it comes to an actual fight.

Remembering those truths brings me a renewed vision and hopefulness.

Its not all of who I am, and the parts of me that it does accurately belong to, make me more like everyone else, not less so. Keeping those views in mind, will help forestall, I believe, my ego trying to go from these negative scripts to a victim script.

As the Native Americans would say before battle, “Its a good day to die.”

Published in: on February 21, 2006 at 7:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Societal 3-2-1 Process

The 3-2-1 Process is a key piece of the Integral Life Practice (formerly Integral Transformative Practice). The 3-2-1 Process deals with going from 3rd person (IT) to second person (You), to 1st person ownership (me, mine, I), especially as it relates to disowned, resisted inner psychological processes (shadow) and the resulting bad deeds done (projection, introjection, repression, etc.). For a good overview, check out this post from Pongsathorn.

In my on-going quest to dig into the unconscious (or maybe semi-conscious) elements of integral, in this way of teasing out the real depth there, beyond what I see to be some of the more shallow-ish interpretations, I was thinking of the notion of the 2nd-person point of view.

Mark Edwards, a non-AQAL integralist, believes the 2nd-person point of view should actually be added to the quadrants–giving the sextents: see here.

Now I wouldn’t exactly go that far, but I think there is an interesting point there.

One basic argument that has swum around in the (so-called) integral ponds, is the lack of communion, I-Thou, We-space, and so forth. In another universe and lifetime I wrote a rather stupid (in retrospective) piece on the subject. So none of that, that well is quite dry.

But more on the notion of the 2nd-person perspective as it relates to other cultures, religions, societies, movements, philospohies, political camps, etc.

When Ken, correctly, states that the I-Thou (from Buber) boils down to the We, I get the sesen that people (mis)interpret that to mean you can only access the 2nd-person perspective in direct communication. Or if you don’t like the 2nd-person notion, just the idea of taking more and more perspectives in a way that is something deeper than only cognitively reading about it (3rd person) and yet is not person-to-person communication (We, 1st person plural).

To sound trite, it would be reading with self-identity and heart. Learning about the worlds with a background sense of dialogue.

Like the 3-2-1 process but this time not for your disowned interior psyche, but the disowned world. In I-I, let’s say, they are different manifestations of the same Oneness, both dissociations– both problematic.

Concretely I was thinking about all of this, in relation to the question of Islam, the Arab World, and the larger (for lack of a better term) Muslim arc/world stretching from Turkey through Arab lands, Iraq, Pesia (Iran), Central Asia, into Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

More correctly, Islams.

Now there are a lot of controversial elements to all of this–the Iraq War, election of Hamas, the cartoon protests, etc.

There hasn’t been a lot of “integrally informed” takes on the subject. And the ones I have seen, generally to me don’t seem to get past a tendency in the mainstream (liberal or conservative) press, blogosphere–the total lack of an 2nd person points of view.

And I would argue strongly that some multicultural version of “those poor people have been so oppressed by the Western world, blah blah” are not really to any serious degree taking “those poor people’s” real lives and feelings into account. Mostly the multicults are “projecting” their own disowned guilt over being a Western onto a bunch of other people. Whatever may or may not be the validity of those feelings, they are certainly not clear enough to allow the other’s point of view, feelngs, values, and emtions in very deeply.

It’s probably a stretch to imagine too many playing with the notion of 3-2-1ing their own terrorist self, to sound reather New Agey.

So I’ll just ask for a 2nd-person of view. Even if it is a more distanced 2nd-person, as I “dialogue” with you, in my head. Given that I’m not likely heading over to Lebanon or Kurdistan anytime soon.

In other words, there are a lot of intelligent criticisms to say the furor over the Danish publications: the rights of free press; rule of law; double standards and hypocrisy on the part of those who instiage riots that end up killing people as if God or the Prophet would want more death. All of which are true.

Take this passage from a book review by Max Rodenbeck The Economist’s Middle Eastern Affairs writer.

The review, I highly recommend it, is of Peter Bergen’s (the premier authority on Bin Laden) new oral history of Osama (The Osama Bin Laden I Know) and Bruce Lawrence’s first translation into English (that I know of…) of bin Laden actual words.

Passage from Rodenbeck in bold:

One poll taken in Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2003 is perhaps more revealing. Close to half the respondents said they liked bin Laden’s rhetoric, but fewer than 5 percent supported him as a leader.

And after arguing that one of the possible reasons for bin Laden’s popularity is that he embodies the hero myth (read red meme)–son of a rich man, leaves youthful life of frivolity to live among the poor, fight for justice, uphold the traditions of the ancestors, gains the following of his from his sheer physical prowess, his connection to animals (sound like Robin Hood yet?)–Rodenbeck hits the nail on the head:

Yet even such semi-fictional status cannot fully explain the continued popularity of bin Laden. The simple fact is that even if the details of bin Laden’s messages are unconvincing, his core meaning still resounds in the Muslim world. One reason for this is that his status as a hunted fugitive amplifies the message, turning it into a powerful expression of freedom. Another reason is that many competing voices in the Muslim world have lost their legitimacy, such as unpopular regimes, intellectuals “tainted” with secular, Westernized worldviews, or government-salaried clerics. But the main reason, as both Lawrence and Bergen conclude, is that much of what he says fits into a coherent narrative that can be bolstered with real evidence.

It does not require too selective a reading of history to compile a long list of Muslim grievances against the West in general, and America in particular. Lawrence cites a few examples: Winston Churchill’s use of poison gas against Iraqi rebels in the 1920s; the million martyrs of Algeria’s war of independence against France; the ravages caused by sanctions against Iraq; the support for repressive Arab regimes; and of course the invasion of Iraq. Then there is the issue of double standards: invading Iraq but not North Korea in search of forbidden weapons; chastising Iran for its purported nukes but not Israel; blasting Sudan and Syria for oppressing minorities but staying silent over India’s repression in Muslim Kashmir, Russia’s war in Chechnya, or China’s harsh treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang. These are disparate policies, and have been partially compensated by more positive interventions, such as rescuing many Muslims in Darfur from starvation, or protecting the Muslim Albanians of Kosovo. But the balance is not in the West’s favor.

There is the de-repressive barrier let go. Not blame ourselves multiculturalism, but just a balanced look on the sins accured in the West’s catalog as they relate to the Muslim world–for background into the degree of animus. 50% like Bin Laden’s rhetoric: the US should not be upholding corrupt autocracies in the Middle East; the plight of the Palestinian Refugees, etc. But only 5% (young, Salafi, zealot males, willing to kill themselves in Iraq) like his tactics.

Bin Laden is actually not in the traditional line of Islamic theology. He has created his own very selective reading of the Islamic corpus. For another brilliant article (long but worth the read) see Nir Rosen’s piece of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Leader of the so-called Al-Qaeda in Meospatamia.

One of the more interesting elements in that article is the contrast between bin Laden and Zarqawi. Both are Salafi (in the West we call them Wahabis), strict so-called fundamentalist Sunni Muslims–but bin Laden advocates attacking the far enemy (The Soviets and now the US), while Zarqawi believed, like most jihadis that the real fight is against the near-enemy (the king of Jordan).

So even the Salafi jihadists, the most minor in terms of numbers (but not media coverage and influence) in the Muslim world have huge disparate fractures from within.

This 2nd-person point of view I’m advocating is to let the “other” speak and in the great tradition of phenomenology, to initially “bracket” the question of whether the contents of the mind-stream correctly describe some “real world” pre-existing out there.

In this case, we’d (temporarily, initially) stop asking whether the terrorists, the protesters, etc. “are right.” As if they could be right or wrong in absentia from the entire Kosmic process. There are right and wrong elements, and we can learn these, but first we must inhabit the perspectives, find their contours, and see how they are related to the rest of the manifest perspectives. There is no foundation above or below, no fixed center, everything is absolutely relative everything else.

Politically, the reason there are insurgencies, de-facto support of rebels, some (though very few) young men willing to go commit suicide bombings, etc. are because of the grievances listed by Rodenbeck–the grievances twisted to horrific ends by bin Laden. But the grievances, if we would take the 2nd-person perspective (without all the relativistic postmodern BS), we would see these grievances are not completely out to lunch.

To real get into the praxis of all this requires deeply , existentially letting go of the notion that there is a fixed center, even a so-called integral one. There are simply worldspaces arising, there are truths and falsehoods arising in each, and the trust is that the developmental process is itself somehow salvific–that somehow simply entering these spaces and as best we can giving aid, tearing down barriers, initiating momentum to change, buildings the necessary conditions of change to stick, somehow all of that is worth the effort.

But we never really know that. That seems to be the element of faith in this “worldspace.”

Otherwise just a lot of possibly intelligent responses, but metaphysical righteousness undergirding it all.

It might be profound metaphysics, creative metaphysics, insightful metaphysics, arrogant metaphysics, even arrogant and insightul metaphysics, but metaphysics it is all is.

With making explicit the “address” of any and all perspectives in Kosmic manifestation and without specifying the injunction whereby such actions, phenomena may emerge, it is all just metaphysics.

Go from the 3rd person, to the 2nd person in our world: hear their voices, learn their stories, swin their waters, even if only temporarily. At a distance, safely, wisely, but give time and space to open up these closed psychic walls.

Published in: on February 20, 2006 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

A Dream Dreamt

Nouns do not ex-ist. They are mere abstractions from the arising of perspectives in worldspaces. Even that last sentence, even the word sentence, is itself an abstraction (abstraction the embodiment of its own definition).

David Bohm somewhere spoke of verbal nouns and attempted to create a methodology for translating all nouns into verbal nouns.

I was thinking of this in relation to Wilber’s newest (and most radical) post-metaphysical linguistic/semiotic analyses. (Briefly outlined in Integral Spirituality draft).

His most daring assertion, as I see it, is: the meaning of a statement is its injunction.

From there he begins to parse nouns according to the toolkit (quadrants, levels, lines, states, types) plus altitude and methodology/injunction.

All else is metaphysics. All else, no matter how wise and researched, does make transparent the process by which one locates in the fluid worldspaces (7/L, 1st person plural) of the Kosmos.

It forces integral to no longer be simply placed upon others–at best leading only to healthier lower-level translation.

Every statement we make should simultaneously be the statement and the means (injunction) whereby it is “seen.”

It is to re-calibrate the entire course of human study/life: politics, education, law, philosophy, religion–by making transparent the entire process by which we understand, speak, guess, and decide.

This process alone will slowly objectify (3rd person plural) entire lingustic-social-cultural-human mental order to itself, felt interiorly (1st person perspective) as a differentiation and healthy sense of distance.

The noosphere becoming the object, the beginning of the theosphere (9/L).

As Dr. Greuter has described the first post-postconventional level of self-identity line (9/L, 3px1p singular) as self-construct. The rules, mechanisms, and processes of the self–in the worldspace (9/L, 3px1p plural) of the collective, noosphere-construct perhaps–aware to itself.

Our current cognitive apparti can not hold in communal understanding of the arising of perspectives and location-markers, for say an individual holon, by state, stage, lines, types, and pathologies.

It will require a mind-meld of sorts, a collective depth-surge of interiority to feel beyond the abstract concept of perspectives (7/L), the feeling-response-attention of manifestation rising moment-to-moment.

I begin to dream a dream when I meditate on this new insight.

An organic wedding of bios and technos, the human body (7-8/L, 3rd person singular) achieving even more far out possibilities than a super marathon, how bout a super-duper marathon–like 200 miles, who knows?.

Jedi Knight-like Councils of the Wise/Compassionate who must gaze into the arising interior moments of the Kosmos, of the worldspaces, feeling into the pathologies, the dis-eased parts. Psychic surgies performed in unison.

Food grown in abudance in minute locations, allowing the mass of Earth to be given back to Nature and grown wild, her Eros resurgent. The human imprint light and nimble on this Earth, economically opening homo ludens (playful humanity) to give expression its deeper creative urges, freed from the shackles of hard, grinding, anonymous labor.

The darkness of space no longer dark as we sacrifice this attention into intelligizing the very space-fabric (8/L, 3rd person plural) itself.

Or a renewed techne and even more disturbing and vengeful Big Sibling. The tentacles of Empire (6/L, 3rd person plural) reaching ever more deeply into the flesh. The rebellion of social-political enlightenment, worldly liberation, freeing of the relative mind, grown ever more dangerous and courageous, and secretive.

Wars with ro/nanobots, terrorism of the mind and soul, the harnessing of the subtle underlying archetypes of Nature (9/L) for good and/or for horrific ill.

Mass joblessness created as technology and economics outpaces political and cultural rule sets. The rich, through bioengineering appear almost a different race, frightening by the chaos, ejecting into space pods, aristocratic interstellar communities of privilege–bluebloods of the stars abandoning the masses to eat their (GMO) cake.

Both dreams (mostly) freed of the musings of common place science fiction, themselves all weded to a simply more complex noospheric reality, either techno-utopic or techno-apocalyptic. The utopias and disutopias of those visions the reverse side of unconsciously lacking understanding of deep emergence. The punctuated equilibria of bodies and minds, singulars and collectives.

All of which, however, is still just a visioning of THIS, the Nature of this Experience and the future experiences, however they develop, of those worlds.

For now, a much humbler task. Living concretely in these materialized worlds (Levels 1-8, mostly 1-6). Living with the weight of this vision and knowing (in its greatest possibility) that it will not come true in your life.

Published in: on February 19, 2006 at 5:24 pm  Comments (1)  


In personal news, after a very difficult month or two, last Saturday I reached a near-breaking point. I found myself going through my off-day running around donig “chores” that didn’t technically even needed doing–like working out, shopping for a gift for Chloe. I realized I had no emotional connection to what I was doing, become extremely robotic. This is a pattern in my life, and luckily I was spared that day the awful emotional plunges that follow the robotic period. I had a minor one–like an irregular emotional heartbeat versus an all out heartattack.

So I realized I had do something or the Big One would hit again as it did right about this time last year.

I was searching through my immense book colletion looking for a fiction work to read–even that is a step out of bounds for me, I haven’t read a fiction work since I don’t know even when. I remember reading Satanic Verses in 2000, and I can’t remember reading another fiction work since then. Unsurprisingly in my 4 giant Target totes not one fiction work.

I did, serendipitously come across some old Ira Progoff’s works, founder of the Intensive Journal Process. (IJ) That’s him above–looks like a just regular grounded dude, which is what I need more than ever in life.

So I’ve slowly been working my way through that and got Salman Rushdie’s new book Shalimar the Clown about a Kashmiri performance artist turned terrorist–going back to that well, Satanic Verses blew my mind. Also relevant, I thought, given things like the continued Cartoon Protests.

Anyway, IJ is to my knowledge a very unique format. The form of journaling that I think is the de facto one, most of us have and practice, is simply sitting down and writing. Maybe dating the process, events of one’s current life, a poem, some reflection, etc. I had neve rreally given any thought to that format being not necessarily the ideal one for a journal. Its the one I’ve practiced, but I find in the end the most it would really help me do is emotional catharsis. Obviously that’s a good thing, but there never seemed to be a larger momentum to the process.

IJ steps in to fill that void. It was designed to give a methodology to journal writing. It is based on years of field research, group work, Progoff’s own insights, tweaking, and so forth.

The principal aim of the methodology is to access what he calls the inner artistry of the unconscious. There is an inner momentum, telos, to the human frontal personality (the ego, not the Soul, even though sometimes the word psyche is used interchangeably for them). That is the “artistry” of one’s egoic life.

In Integral Terminology, there is an eros–a directional push–in all beings. This injunction seeks to access the frontal personality-egoic eros of, in this case, the being known as Chris (not the Soul who has Chris, nor the Witness shinning through Chris, nor yet the Spirit alone that IS) just Chris.

From a psychological perspective/paradigm, the ego is defined as the dynamic force of self-regulation and adaptation. In spiritual circles, ego is typically defined as the separate self sense (sin, ignornace), etc.

To combine the two, generically, you could say that ego as separation is when one latches onto and identifies with (exclusively) the ego as a formal principle of psychic coherence and healthy development in the world.

IJ then, through its methodology of journaling, seeks to unlock and make conscious the blocks to the inner erotic drive of the (healthy) ego/frontal personality.

Wilber talks about the Big 4: Spirit, Art, Morals, and Science. I have spent my life deeply involved in 3 of those (Spirit, Morals, Science), to the almost total neglect of the fourth–Art.

When I face decisions I invariably ask, “What is the nature of the forces at work in the world”–so I go and study the political, cultural, religious, scientific forces at work. Science, in the broad sense.

I ask, “What is my duty, what is right?” Morals. After having purviewed the scene the conditions of what is “real” (maybe real-ish), then I ask what is the best thing for me to do given those circumstances.

Finally after having arrived at what I concieve to be the best for the world, as I can imagine it, I say prayers of gratitude and ask for strength. Spirit. I return to the basic nature of the Present Moment, the basic Isness pervading the All and all, and ask for mercy, since I know I will, however well-intentioned, ultimately fail.

I hardly, if ever, ask “What is the beautiful response? What is the creative? What would best for me?


The greatest commandment, it is said, is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

As best as is possible, given the grace and lights afforded me, I Love God and Neighbor deeply. I have been a major failure at loving myself.

As much as it is part well-intentioned humility and a desire not to be focused on self, but Other, there is a way in which the ego (as negative sinful principle) warps this even to its own ends. That is, every other being in the universe deserves love except me. Therefore I am different, subtly special, and unique. All of which are untrue.

I’ve further realized that this tendency in me is strong because I don’t give enough energy to the ego (as positive eros–individuation and differentiation) to ward off its negative counterpart.

I don’t know that the IJP would be right for everybody. It can be at times a tad architectonic–with its multiple subsections like Personal History Log, Twilight Imagery Log, Steppingstones, Daily Log–and I have to be careful not to reinforce my masculine-systematizing mindframe, being more interested in the nuances and inter-relationships of the different sub-species and not simply do the practice and Feel into the momentum of my ego.

It has only been a week, but I have found the process has grounded me. While I love all others, however much they may aggravate me and/or me them, I often have a hard time living into life with others. I want to give myself, my insights, and my Love to them, but I often don’t allow that good will to be returned–most especially from God. I try to fight off God’s Love like it was a bacterial infection.

I don’t allow others to love me because it will force me to come to grips with why I don’t love myself. It will force me to live into the momentum of my ego (healthy), realizing that it is deeply finite.

Part of me would rather just identify with my Soul and Spirit and not ever deal with the vehicle, psychically–at least I do a good job of dealing with the vehicle physically.

What must be done, what should be done, these are the basic questions of my life.

What do I want freezes me. I want not to have to face the question of What I want. There is the Avoidance.

Detachment as a healthy spiritual practice warped into detachment as unhealthy psychological dissociation, failed individuation-integration-actualization.

For an adopted person, the rejection/acceptance pole is a very strong one.
Did my biological mother reject me or love me so much to give me away–knowing she couldn’t take care of me?
Did the Church (my spiritual mother) reject me by not allowing me to be a married priest, or did the accept me, giving birth to the True me?
Did my parents accept me or the child they wish they had? Is their love for me their acceptacne, and their disappointment with my lifechoices (Anglican over Roman Catholic [Dad] and moving to Canada instead of living in Cincy [Mom]) their rejection?
Or both?
To the degree that I choose the rejection pole, then I reject myself. If others have rejected me, then I reject myself.
Published in: on February 18, 2006 at 5:50 am  Comments (1)