smith-ism

Another critique of Wilberian thought from Matthew here.

Watch what happens. Matthew quotes this line from Chris Cowan:

People at different levels will conceptualize the Bible in different ways, just as a construct like evolution will get different treatments with different levels.

Then Matthew comments:
Hallejuah for that regarding the Bible. It is a document that refuses such crude analyses that it is the product of one “level of consciousness”.

Which is an obvious shot at Wilber. But if you go back to the original Cowan piece, look at the sentence one line before Matthew’s quotation begins.

Since the creation argument was offered only as an example, we’ll assume that Ken recognizes the false complex equivalence: Bible isn’t necessarily blue nor evolution orange.

In other words Cown (the “devastating” critic) knows Ken does not hold such a simplistic notion that the Bible is blue (only blue).

Then Matthew writes:

In fact, its [Bible’s] very existence refutes the importance of “levels of consciousness” as a working concept relevent to the creation of timeless art. For if, in the case of the Old Testament, a work upwards of 2,000 years old can still inspire meditation and insight as much if not more than anything created today, what does that say about so-called “development”? What does that say about so-called “evolution”?

So Matthew is using Spiral Dynamics to argue there are no levels of consciousness related to art. That’s an argument he makes, which has its own (partial) merits, but to have SD prove no level of consciousness is wack. That’s it whole schtick. It’s a developmental psychological model. It may be wrong, but there are no ways around the levels.

It’s a problem I generally have with Matthew’s criticisms of Wilber(ism): namely that he uses authors critics of Ken while he elides the fact that he actually doesn’t believe in their own theories nor methodologies.

A perfect example is Jeff Meyerhoff–author of Bald Ambition. Meyerhoff explictly uses the postmodern post-structuralist notion of ‘diference” to deconstruct so-called Wilberian thought. On numerous occassions Matthew has linked to it with praise. But of course Matthew, for regular readers of his posts, spends a great deal of time (at one point with me specifically) arguing that Derrida, Foucault, etc. are two bit scholars. Part of his general criticisms of Wilber, Frankfurt School, and French Post-structuralism. So a concept/methodology he thinks has no validity (diferance) is then agreed with bc it serves his chain of argumentation.

He also has linked to Frank Visser’s criticisms of post-metaphysics from a neo-perennialist worldview, which I’m almost 100% Matthew in no way supports.

If Matthew is going to follow this mode of argument, I believe he has to make clear to his readers the way in which he is selectively using these arguments and conclusions. Some disclaimer or something. His otherwise very impressive powers of logical analysis seem to go right out the door when it comes to almost anything critical of Wilber. It’s all just dumped onto his blog, it seems to me, like water through an open sieve.

But just to make clear. Wilber does not think the Bible is “blue”.

The Bible is not a document but many many documents, in fact documents within documents–as for example in the Book of Genesis which contains prior sources merged/edited traditionally labeled in the scholarship “J” (Yawhist, J in German), “E” (Elohim), and “P” (Priestly).

But the Bible overall was written in the general so-called mythic blue meme timeframe. The Bible, in the book of Joshua specifically commands the Israelites as a holy act of purifying the land to exterminate all the Canaanites (non-Jewish) peoples they encounter. That is God commands genoicde. And of those groups not executed (men, women, and children), enslavement instead.

Slavery was commonly practiced in the “blue” agrarian mythic meme. It still is today. In heavily Islamic (still blue) regions of Saharan Africa (Chad, Niger, Mauritania) human slavery is still practiced. The Bible in this sense is no different. Even St. Paul assumes a world with slaves.

But the Bible also has within it a counter narrative. A narrative that says that God chooses the oppressed, is the God of the poor, widow and outcast.

By the rise of abolitionism, these two strains in the Bible collided in the form of liberal (anti-slavery) and conservative (pro-slavery) forces. Both sides correctly quoted passages from the Bible in their defense. Because the Bible is ambiguous. While in many ways it criticizes the themes of its world, it also assumes many of them as well.

The anti-slavery forces eventually were triumphant–what I would call a definite development and evolution.

The current furor of homosexuality in Western churches is of this same ilk. It represents, in general in this language a phenomena of the green worldspace. There are passages in the Bible that specifically support exlucsion of homosexuals (just as those in favor of slavery), There are other passages that mitigate against this teaching. But those passages tend to be thematic in nature: God is a God of justice, mercy, and love. Christ if he were alive today would reach out to the marginalized as he did in his own day.

And just live with slavery Christian denominations are fracturing along progressive and conservative lines. Because people live in different worlds with different primary modes of reading/interpreting the Bible, different awareness-es, motivations, and limitations. In time, in a long time–again 200 years and slavery is still strong on our planet–the push will be towards inclusion of homosexuals.

Other instances I could point to and have in the past are modern critical methods of reading, archaeologiy, historical-textual research, were all brought to bear on the Bible. As well as postmodern theories of liberation, oppression, feminism, post-colonial, reader-response tools applied to the Biblical texts.

And an entirely different world emerges. If you read the ancient Patristic commentaries on the Bible versus 20th century critical appraisals (Bultmann) versus 1970s liberation thought (Gutierrez) they are in different universes. They have different phenomena emerging, different drives. And this shift is related to notions of stages of consciousness. Here is an article I wrote way back giving a brief introduction to how stages/levels could be used (very basically) in relation to theology.

Of course there are continuities but there are also massive ruptures and discontinuities as well.

Not to mention that the Bible means different things when read according to a notion of what in AQAL are called states of consciousness. This is the traditional mystical reading of the Bible.

Even within the AQAL lens there is a notion that certain seers pushed into higher levels (beginning of them) of consciousness. Including the Prophetic Hebraic tradition. So AQAL may be wrong but it certainly by its own system does not teach the Bible is at any one level of consciousness. In fact, by AQAL standards alone, there is no such thing–no matter how the languaginng–any action, person, collective solely at one level of consciousness. Levels are probability waves (like 50% is “blue”) of finding certain occassions within certain patterns/environs that humans label in their minds (only after certain thresholds are passed). Levels do not exist anywhere in the universe except in the minds of those who label them.

Now as I’ve said before Matthew still has a valid point when he talks about a text, all of that notwithstanding, open to life and unable to be categoried according to vectors/stages/levels, etc. Especially when it comes to art. When it comes to Biblical preaching, individual meditation, and personal exegesis, it isn’t blue, orange, green whatever. Such elements may or may not be there, but it is much better to simply enter the hermeneutic circle, find common meaning, try to walk in someone else’s shoes, be marveled by beauty or dismayed by hatred and ignorance.

But to act as if none of these other concepts has validity to me is just hermeneutical absolutism. Matthew is writing for artists and for artists that domain should be absolute. But others are not writing for artists and are not limited to that audience nor to those methodologies. To me, MD steps over the line, when he goes from his context/audience to denuncation of a whole enterprise, esp. the notion of integral as comprehensive.

And hell even Cowan is right about prejudicial notions of “green” in integral circles even while I disagree with him that there are levels beyond green. It is true that Wilber only uses SDi/Gravesian as one line of development within his system, whereas if you read Don Beck’s work you notice elements missing in Wilber’s presentation. Particularly you notice what I would call horizontal cyclical patterns that can recur at each vertical level. Wilber has never strongly emphasized horitzontality/heterarchy thought it is there in his thinking. Still, again Wilber’s criticisms of SDi have never been answered, horizontal or no.

On the other hand, SDi has more practical value at the local level (being yellow as I would say) and more easily applicable to business and politics—not education–which is where I think it tends to work best.

Again in my way of separating these things yellow/SD is about cleansing the world, relieving stuck perspectives-institutions-ideologies of left/right that are holding the species back. AQAL is about the creation of an integral worldscape. And not just in some theortical fashion. My prime motivation and interest, however imperfectly achieved, has been a lived communal relational way of being in this world. In intimacy beyond the fixity of perspectives. In deep relaxation and coming together not some cultish way but humanely, spiritually, in love and matured wisdom combined with some youthful passion, God forbid, tempered visionary idealism.

But sadly I see very little of that in these debates, which strike me more as ego games. Which is why sadly this has become smith-ism.

[For the record I did not and do not approve of the Wilber Earp blog posts].

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Published in: on November 16, 2006 at 9:29 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Hello Sir Smith,

    Actually I didn’t have Wilber in mind whatsoever. Rather, someone who had commented on your blog, about the Bible being a blue document. I forget who it was at this moment. Forgive me that.

    But thinking back, one of the direct responses of Wilber to one of my questions about art was to say that Hildegard von Bingen was Blue, Bach was orange, and Phillip Glass green. Hearing that was more than a small turnoff.

    But you are right, I don’t recall Wilber ever expressing the Bible is blue. Again, I was referring to someone else, but I just can’t think of who right now. Maybe it will come to me. Ah, whatever.

    And, contra your critique, I chose my words carefully, a care you don’t seem to recognize.

    I wrote the Bible refutes the importance of levels of consciousnes as a working concept relevent to the creation of timeless art.

    In other words, the conceptions of development have no practical bearing, in my view, on artists who are seeking to create good art. Whether levels of consciousness have validity in their own right (which I happen to believe these do) is another matter altogether.

    And since when is talking about development necessarily “using SD”?

    Nor would I suggest you be so rash as to think you know what I do or do not in 100% way support.

    So, before you start associating my blog with what you call “ego” games, maybe consider these points a bit further.

    I like, btw, the “the Bible is many documents” line. Cool thought.

    md

    p.s. and with regard to what appears to me to be your main critique of my view, namely this:

    “It’s a problem I generally have with Matthew’s criticisms of Wilber(ism): namely that he uses authors critics of Ken while he elides the fact that he actually doesn’t believe in their own theories nor methodologies.”

    All I would say now (and I hope you get my meaning) would be that I believe, like Whitman, that all the people you cite “are large, and contain multitudes”.

    I duked it out with Meyerhoff about certain of the French poststructuralist blech in the previous decade, in our sparring on the Wilber Shambhala forum. Not to mention fighting with him about Chomsky, whom Meyerhoff is an enormous fan.

    I try my best to ignore Chomsky, Foucault, Wilber, etc. But these people, and their followers, are both in the general orbit of my website, writing, and regular readers, and I have things to say against each of them. So occassionally I do.

    btw, I know I owe you an email, about the whole “SD/Wilber = Meno” analogy, which I’ve been thinking about.

    p.p.s. And to this:

    “But to act as if none of these other concepts has validity to me is just hermeneutical absolutism. Matthew is writing for artists and for artists that domain should be absolute. But others are not writing for artists and are not limited to that audience nor to those methodologies. To me, MD steps over the line, when he goes from his context/audience to denuncation of a whole enterprise, esp. the notion of integral as comprehensive.”

    Integral, depending on how one defines it, certainly might be comprehensive. Wilberism, in my view, is not. As far as “hermeneutical absolutism”, that is a more serious charge. I personally think you know my work and views better than that, and I think you’d be really hard pressed to come up with examples that support your view (rather than this mere assertion), and do so in good faith (i.e., not take them wildly out of context).


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