The website for Kalen O’Tolan is currently under construction.

Lingua-U Letter No. 2: The Vowel i


vowel2-iThe second vowel in Lingua-U is i, the close front unrounded vowel. In the Subtle Energy Character Set (SECS), it is Yin (╎). Its sound is /i/, a common sound in English which is most commonly spelled “ee” as in “cheese” or “ea” as in “heal,” “e” as in “semen,” “ei” as in “either,” or “i” as in “Hawaii.” In the chart of vowels by the International Phonetic Association (IPA), /i/ appears at the extreme top left, in the close row and frontal column. It appears on the right side of a pair of vowels, which indicates its unrounded quality (a quality we won’t be looking at today).

Openness (Y-axis)

As an close vowel, the tongue is placed in an extreme position: as close to the top of the mouth as possible without forming a consonant. Many linguists prefer the term “high” vowels for “open” vowels, indicating the tongue’s upward position.

Cosmologically, if /a/ is like things that are low, then /i/ is like things that are high. If /a/ is like the water beneath the Earth’s surface, then /i/ is something which reaches towards the heavens and stars above.

Frontness (X-axis)

Like /a/, the /i/ with its frontal property means that the sound of the tongue is as far forward as possible. As we noted previously with /a/, frontal vowels have been observed to have a “bright” quality of sound as opposed to the “dark” back vowels.

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Lingua-U Letter No. 1: The Vowel Aɪ

vowel1-aiToday we begin to look at language through the eyes of babes, starting with one of 12 important vowels. These are not just any vowels, but the only vowels in Lingua-U. We will be looking at the first letter of the language and its sound symbolism in English.

The Letter AI

The first letter of Lingua-U is  │(Subtle Energy Character Set), or AI (upper case) or aɪ (lower case).

It is pronounced as the dipthong /aɪ/ in the chart of vowels described by the International Phonetic Association (IPA), It begins with /a/, the open front unrounded vowel. This sound is /a/, a highly uncommon sound among American English speakers. In the chart of vowels by the IPA, /a/ appears at the extreme lower left, in the open row and frontal column.

Let’s start our investigation of sound symbolism by reflecting on two of the attributes of /aɪ/: frontness, and openness/closedness.

Frontness (X-axis)

The frontal nature of /aɪ/ means that to make the sound the tongue must be positioned far forward in the mouth, but not so far as to make a consonant sound.

Scholars looking at open vowels have observed a poetic contrast between frontal and back vowels, observing that the former make “bright” sounds whereas the latter make “dark” sounds. AI is a very bright sound.

Another way to look at the symbolism of frontal sounds — a view with which I agree — is that they connote events which occur chronologically before the back vowels. The analogy here is that when the IPA chart is seen as a graph, the X-axis represents time and the Y-axis represents space. Thus, frontal vowels are “early” whereas back vowels are “late.”

To illustrate an example of this, you can look at the order of the English alphabet and note that “a” is the first letter and it so happens that the shape of the letter “a” and the sound /a/ are the same. The vowel U is the last vowel in the order of the alphabet and it is the back-most vowel. Thus, at first blush ascribing the quality of “earliness” seems plausible.

Openness (Y-axis)

As an open vowel, the tongue is placed in an extreme position: as distant as possible from the mouth’s roof. The tongue rests firmly against the mouth’s floor.

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Is A Universal Language Impossible?

Writing an article title with much confidence, Marc Ettlinger gives us a brief article: “Here’s Why The World Can Never Have One Universal Language”

His answer is two parts, and both of them are basically wrong. The first,

So, the first part of the answer is that the general tendency is for languages to propagate and diverge.

This is his most critical error. Ettlinger has mis-characterized the nature of linguistic processes. He pays lip service to but ultimately ignores the processes of globalization and the tendency for technology to homogenize the world into a global culture. Languages are converging, but he wants us to look the other way. Instead, he says that languages “change”.

Bull. We know that languages don’t merely “change”. They EVOLVE. They are part of this world, and this is an evolving world in which changes do not happen merely randomly and without purpose, but as part of emerging processes of a vast and often poorly-understood nature. The term “cultural evolution” is anathema in those parts of academia ruled by postmodern ideology, however.

Ettlinger picks the word “change” precisely, I’m sure, to avoid the connotation that there is some Hegelian Geist at work behind the scenes, secretly stacking the deck in favor of English and simplified Mandarin or whatever the case may be. But he does not argue his case for haphazard, happenstance “change”. He only assumes it, presumably because of his commitment to the ideology of irreducible pluralism. This is a common trope of contemporary linguists.

I am convinced that “evolution” is the better word for characterizing language transformations, but it might take some time for me to convince you if you are not already inclined to agree. As this blog unfolds, I’ll continue to share evidence showing how “evolve” is the more accurate term than “change”. But the question of “change” versus “evolution” is not an empirical one so much as an ideological one. If you are an academic disciple of irreducible relativism and pluralism, then you will never use a term that threatens the very premises of your work and may even threaten your good academic standing.

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Reading the Magical Letter Page

Until Monday when I begin the discussion of Lingua-U and philosophy, there is another important body of work that requires serious attention and study. It is the field of phonosemantics with a leading voice in the prominent and unconventional linguist Dr. Margaret Magnus.

Magnus has gifted the world with an extensive website on topics that revolutionize the study of language, or ought to, if more linguists were not blinded to the evidence she has compellingly presented. She provides a variety of resources from the scholarly (her entire doctoral dissertation at M.I.T.) to the popular (a series of informative looks at the “magical” properties of the English consonants and more).

I do not dispute her strongest claim: that she has successfully demonstrated the validity of Plato’s “Socratic Hypothesis” regarding the nature of language. This is how she tells her story on the opening page of her website:

I read dictionaries. And I write dictionaries. It was an occupation which seemed initially thrust unfairly upon me by financial necessity, one which over the years I have come to love deeply, one which I now practice fervently at my economic peril. It has taught me to experience words and language quite literally as living beings, as beings who outlive each of us, who are recording within their very selves the patterns of our thoughts, as beings who care a great deal how they are employed. I wander into their dominions ever more deeply moved, ever more faithful that there is after all a reason behind this chaos of experience….

These voyages into the forest of dictionaries have rewarded me with what for me was a major insight into how word semantics works, though, of course, my understanding of the Word continues to evolve daily. I literally begin to feel the words in a different way than I did before, and there’s no doubt in my mind that what I feel actually is there. What I see runs counter in a big way to what most linguists assume about word meaning. The gist of what I see can be stated fairly simply:

The Socratic Hypothesis

Each consonant and vowel in a language has a meaning, in the sense that every word containing that sound has an element of meaning which words not containing that sound do not have. What underlies this sound-meaning is the form of the sound, i.e. its pronunciation – a sound means what it is. For example, to pronounce a stopped consonant [b, d, g, p, t, k], you completely block the flow of air through the mouth. Consequently all stopped sounds involve a barrier of some kind. The nature of that barrier varies depending on whether the sound is voiced [b, d, g] or unvoiced [p, t, k], whether it is labial [b, p], dental [d, t] or velar [g, k], and so forth. This meaning is different from the referent, which is what we normally think of as the meaning of a word. Reference is a separate process from sound-meaning, and is layered on top of it. Reference is less central to word semantics than sound-meaning, although it is much more obvious to the casual observer. This aspect of meaning which is determined by sound lies much closer to what we call the connotation than the denotation. Sound meaning does tend to predispose referents, but does not largely determine them. That is, you can’t predict what a word will refer to based on its sound, but you can predict that a high percentage of words beginning with /b/ in every language will involve explosions, birth and loud noises. You can also predict that if a word referring to a sound begins with /b/, the sound will either begin abruptly or be very loud or usually both. Sound affects meaning in every word in every language. However, because of the way reference interacts with sound-meaning, its effect is not as obvious at first glance in concrete nouns and other words with very inflexible referents. What all the various referents or senses of a word have in common is their sound-meaning. Thus by virtue of its sound, the ‘get’ in ‘get up’ is the very same word to the English-speaking ear as the ‘get’ in ‘get away’, ‘get involved’, ‘get through’, ‘get fat’, ‘get a Lamborghini’. The glue that holds all these senses together is the meaning of the /g/ followed by the meaning of the /e/ followed by the meaning of the /t/. All of this can be and has been verified empirically by simply cataloguing the relationship between sound and referent and taking statistics.

I have come closest to this mysterious encounter with the Word by spending time within speech sounds and their relationship to the meanings of the words which they form. I am not a lone wanderer in this particular forest. I count among my more prominant predecessors none less than the gods!

So you see, I have verified the Socratic Hypothesis for all the English monosyllables in a commercial spelling checker word list. The fact that this test has been carried out on all the words in a well-defined portion of the vocabulary is important, because it constitutes scientific verification of a fact which is very central to the workings of language, and which is not in general acknowledged to be true. If only those words which fit nicely into a pattern are accounted for, you have demonstrated nothing. For example, you may show that lots of ‘gl’ words concern reflected light, but unless you show that all letter combinations are similarly limited and that other letter combinations do not contain a similar percentage of words concerning reflected light, you have demonstrated nothing, and you have no solid foundation from which to go forth and make really general and far-reaching claims about the nature of language. This Socratic Hypothesis could in principle be proven false, but can in fact be verified as true by repeatable experiments, such as those outlined at this Web site. I therefore strongly encourage readers who are at all interested in whether the Socratic Hypothesis is true to check it out for themselves. In addition, in myAnnotated Bibliography, the interested reader can find references to other accounts of comprehensive tests which have been conducted for other languages.

Explore Margaret Magnus’s website.

How does the proof of the Socratic Hypothesis inform my reading of Ken Wilber’s Integral Semiotics and the nature of Lingua-U? We’ll turn to that question next week.

An Integrative Approach To The Holidays

In this week’s podcast, Jeff Salzman tackles topics including the beauty of icicles and his new approach to holiday gift-giving, from an integral vantage point. He writes:

One of the hallmarks of integral thinking is that evolution moves forward by differentiating and integrating. Atoms differentiate into elements and integrate to create molecules. Cells differentiate into muscle, liver, blood, etc. and integrate to become an organism. So it is with culture and consciousness. Ambivalence arises as a muddled mess of knowing too much, and differentiates into its component ideas and feelings, often polar opposites, which are then integrated into a bigger, wiser more flexible view.

As evolutionaries we notice that the holidays evoke a set of negative feelings that hold that religion and materialism are what’s wrong with the world; and they evoke a set of positive feelings that hold that love and generosity are what will save it.

Rather than have to figure out which one is right and which one is wrong, or to live in the approach/aversion ambivalence of one view polluting the other, we realize that the way forward is to see the truth of both views fully in a bigger, more flexible space of awareness that can accommodate contradiction and paradox. “Out of the dimness, opposite equals advance”, wrote Whitman.

The advance Whitman is talking about is into a new synthesis of the polarities, a new realization that takes into account the best of both views and acts accordingly.

So that’s the theory. Here’s the practice, at least the one I’m using to make the holidays make more sense to me this year. As always I want to be part of the fun of giving and receiving gifts, but I don’t want to just buy things for people. I want to enjoy the spirit of love and peace, but I don’t want to be blind to people and critters throughout the world who have neither.

So for many people on my shopping list, I am making a donation to an organization that is doing some good in the world.

Jeff also writes on the movie Interstellar, saying it is a “movie told from all four quadrants” and a “work of integral art”. Read the full article.

I also shared a few thoughts on the movie, and concur completely that it is an outstanding work of integral art. That’s the buzz I’ve seen out on the social media of integralists as well. It’s really something when a Hollywood big-budget blockbuster gets this close to challenging the dominant ethos. You can tell it’s gold when scientific materialists write damning reviews of the movie on science-minded blogs for taking Love too seriously.

Photo Credit: [nosamk] KMason photography via Compfight cc

Alethic Coaching: A Course in Critical Realism

Noting that Roy Bhaskar died peacefully at his home so recently, Gary Hawke publicizes five hours of video created earlier this year during the Introduction to Critical Realism project. The project was intended to introduce the three main stages of Critical Realism, established through the Institute of Education.

The videos are currently offered free at the Alethic Coaching website. Hawke introduces them as follows:

At the heart of Alethic Coaching are two powerful truth questioning philosophies, Integral Theory, and Critical Realism. A quick search on YouTube will offer you many links to videos about Integral Theory, but very little about Critical Realism, and I felt that I wanted to change that. I also wanted to address the difficulty that is presupposed in reading Roy’s work. Having spend many hours with Roy listening to him speak, I knew that if I could get a recording of him talking about the stages of Critical Realism it would help the reader.

At the beginning of 2014 I began to develop a project with the founder of Critical Realism, Roy Bhaskar, in which we would hold a number of live video stream classroom events; which would be recorded with the aim of posting out on YouTube.

In May 2014, Roy and I held our first planned event, which was transposed into a video format that could be up loaded to YouTube.

Because the project was an experiment of both the web streaming software and whether it was possible to offer an introduction to Critical Realism over the web, it was decided to offer the event for free.

However, the recordings do take more than one watch and at times can become challenging. For those new to Critical Realism I would recommend, looking though the post “How to Learn Critical Realism” where you will find a comprehensive reading list. I am very excited to have been able to get Critical Realism onto YouTube, and I am please that you are now able to spend time in the company of Roy Bhaskar, as he takes you through his powerful philosophy.

There is now just over 5 hours of teaching, within this series of videos Roy will take you through the three main stages of Critical Realisms, Basic (or Original) Critical Realism, Dialectical Critical Realism, and The Philosophy of metaReality.

Visit Alethic Coaching to view the videos on Critical Realism.

Integral Thinkers, Like Poets, Underacknowledged Visionaries

In “How Has the Social Role of Poetry Changed Since Shelley?” in The New York Times, Adam Kirsch explains a key difference between Romantic poets such as Percy Bysshe Shelley and poets of today. It is the “the imaginative confidence of poets themselves”:

“Shelley was wrong to think that writing poems like ‘Queen Mab’ or ‘Prometheus Unbound’ would bring revolutionary change to England, but his conviction that they would is what allowed him to write the poems in the first place. Today, poets with a grasp of reality must start from the premise that nothing they write will be much read or have much influence on public discourse. A poetry written under such circumstances may have its own virtues, but they will not be the virtues of the Romantics — conceptual boldness, metaphysical reach, the drive to bring religion and politics themselves under the empire of art. As if in recognition of this fact, poets in our time prefer to imagine themselves not as legislators, but as witnesses — those who look on, powerless to chayou thinge the world, but sworn at least to tell the truth about it.”

One thing which hasn’t changed since the Romantics’ day is the lack of much acknowledgement of poetry among the majority of the population, including the folks in power. He writes:

It would be a mistake, then, to think that the social role of poetry has actually changed very much in the last 200 years. Poets were unacknowledged then, by a vast majority of the population, and they are only slightly less acknowledged now. No one in power in 1814 was asking for Shelley’s views on the Congress of Vienna, just as no one in power in 2014 is asking for John Ashbery’s views on climate change.

If you think about it, the social stature of Integral thought is aligned with poets in certain ways. And I would suggest that we can learn a thing of two from the Romantic poets’ boldness of vision.

In a day when poets have ceded the role of “legislators of the world”, any sort of grand epic vision of reality, one might turn to philosophy. But there too the mainstream philosophers of our time seldom make bold grand syntheses which put themselves as arbiters of truth, even people with something to say of Truth itself (by the way, who writes with capital letters these days? where have the neo-Platonists gone?)

No, for grand, bold thinkers who are in a sense similar to the Romantic poets setting themselves forth as “legislators of the world”, you have to turn to Integral thinkers and artists. I am one of them. And I would venture to say that my role within the pantheon of Integral folks mine is that of a more Romantic type than the Rationalistic type.

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The Evolution Of Tribal Identity

On the most recent edition of The Daily Evolver, Jeff Salzman describes a key difference in tribal identity (Red) at an integral consciousness (Turquoise):

The gay rights movement of the late 20th century has substantially won its two big fights: 1) AIDS, which while not cured is manageable, and 2) social acceptance, with gay marriage now legal in 32 states and a comprehensive Supreme Court ruling expected next summer.

So last weekend was a bit of a lesson for me in the power of tribal identity and the pain of its loss. I have a better understanding of why people in today’s tribal cultures are not willing to give up their identity easily. Those of us who have do so are left with the sense that we have lost something precious. But I don’t wish to have it back any more than I wish to go back to childhood. There are bigger, higher battles to be fought, with comrades that are bound together more by creativity than necessity.

At integral consciousness we begin to be able to create new tribal connections, but this time they are more more memetic than genetic, more organized around ideas than blood relations. We’re able to experience the juice of being deeply bonded to all kinds of people in ways that are not exclusive but expansive.

Read the whole article.

Other topics explored in the podcast include racism, white privilege, and a leftist critique of Obama.

Photo Credit: Adn! via Compfight cc

Kerstin Zohar Tuschik: Unique Self Dharma Goes Mainstream

At the Center for Integral Wisdom (CIW) website, Web-Scholar Zerstin Zohar Tuschik shares her experiences at the recent Success 3.0 Summit, coinitiated by CIW. After dropping the names of many of the most notable preenters, she claims that the summit met its goal of “articulat[ing] a new, transformative vision of conscious living, innovation, and social impact and to create a new definition of Success that can lead humanity into the future.”

The key to the unfolding success story, she says, was the ability of Marc Gafni and others to generate a sort of “second simplicity”. Kerstin writes:

It was gorgeous to see the many ways the Dharma of Unique Self, Eros, Outrageous Love, and World Spirituality, that Dr. Marc Gafni has been articulating and outrageously transmitting for the last several years, has played a role in this amazing happening.

Most of the speakers started to use the 6-word Mantra Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up. Dr. Marc Gafni, Visionary Scholar, Wisdom Teacher, and Co-Founder and President of CIW, brilliantly transmitted these thought forms in his opening speech. He suggested that every generation needs to participate in the evolution of consciousness. And:

“It is our turn. We are here to articulate an ethics of success that is rooted in Outrageous Love. Outrageous Love demands a new vision of success.”

He also introduced one of his key terms, the word Second Simplicity. Second Simplicity is what he calls the Simplicity that comes after Complexity. After having really grasped the complex concepts, we can get to a stage where we can express them in a compellingly simple way–thereby reaching people from all stages of consciousness.

While many of the concepts Marc brought into the space carry a lot of complexity–which became obvious to everyone listening to the basic introduction Ken Wilber gave in his keynote address–Marc transmitted them in a way that people can grasp intuitively without even knowing or understanding the depths of the teaching. And yet, all of the complexity is embedded into his Second Simplicity expression of the teaching….

The words Unique Self and Outrageous Love could be heard all over the Summit, used by speakers and attendees alike.

Read the full article.

Economic Growth As A Moral Imperative

Note: The following post was originally published on January 16, 2012, on

Some recent studies have focused attention on the apparent fact that money does not buy happiness (or at least, that happiness tends to “max out” when one’s annual income reaches about $75,000 a year). On the Big Think blog, Will Wilkinson pleads for economic growth as a moral imperative:

…Kahnemann and Deaton have found that while life satisfaction, a judgment about how one’s life is going overall, does continue to rise with income, the quality of subjective experience improves until an annual income of about $75K and then plateaus. They conclude that “high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness [i.e., subjective experiential quality], and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.”

What’s average world income? About $8K per year! The typical experience of a human being on Earth is “low life evaluation and low emotional well-being” due to too little money. How many times does global GDP need to double in order to put the average person at Kahnemann’s $75K hedonic max-out point? Three and change. But life satisfaction ain’t worth nothin’, and it keeps rising. And, of course, rising income doesn’t just correlate with rising happiness, but with better health, greater longevity, more and better education, increased freedom to choose the sort of life one wants, and so on. If it’s imperative to improve the health, welfare, and possibilities of humanity, growth is imperative.

via Why Economic Growth Totally Is Imperative.

If this is about right, then the greatest moral and existential dilemma of our time could be put succinctly: How can we triple global GDP more than three times to maximize universal happiness, health, longevity, education, freedom, and so forth…without destroying the planet for other species or future generations in the process?

If enlightenment means an end to suffering not just on an interior subjective level but in all dimensions of our existence and for all people, then evolution has got some serious work to do.

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Integral worldview to our modern discourse is its ability to explain why the solutions offered by the left and right to address global economic inequality are inadequate.

Change must happen not only in collective structures (left) or individual values and behaviors (right), but both together. And the essence of that change is getting out of the way of Love.

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

Steve Nation: The Will Is Emerging As A Universal Force

Steve Nation, a writer and speaker on meditation and global issues, observes a high-level pattern arising in world happenings: the emergence of the will as a potent force. It is arising between the wholeness vision (or what this blog calls the “Integral” vision) and oursleves, he writes, in our lives, in our communities, and throughout the world.

The will is a quality of consciousness that is taking on a decidedly new direction. Nation writes:

In the past, the will was often understood in terms of ‘thou shalt not’ and of power over others—maintaining a stiff upper lip in the face of difficulties and repressing anything unpleasant or not understood. We know that repression doesn’t work and that trying to battle on without addressing issues as they arise or without ever questioning what we are doing simply sets up new problems for the future. More often than not, problems and issues are a sign of something needing to be addressed—something that is out of alignment. The deeper will is concerned with purpose and with understanding the role that purpose can play in crafting a fulfilling and meaningful life. It is about fostering a sense of direction and nurturing a realistic sense of future possibilities. ‘Thou shalt’ replaces ‘Thou shalt not.’

In a sense, the will is all about the way in which we as individuals and groups respond to our perception of human need and to our sense of the future. As problems arise in our communities and in the world as a whole, they provide an opportunity to heal, transform, and redeem ancient patterns of separation. As such, the problems can be embraced. In learning about a particular social problem, we can train ourselves to recognize the forces that are causing the problem (forces in the human psyche reflected in economic, social, and cultural dynamics) while at the same time looking for the individuals and groups that are responding to these forces in a meaningful way—using the problem to break through ancient thought forms of division and to nurture love and goodwill in the community, and to empower disadvantaged groups and individuals with a sense of their own dignity and possibilities as human beings.

In the process of responding to the problems of our time something wonderful is happening to human beings. The quality of will is being mobilized as never before. It is happening at the local level in every community on the planet, just as it is happening regionally, nationally, and globally. There is today a vast network of groups of citizens that are applying the will to transform the quality of human relationships. Think of the vitality and purpose of the movement, or of the mindfulness networks that are emerging in health, healing, and education around the world. Think of the One Campaign fighting extreme poverty with almost 6 million global members. Think of the activities of countless Amnesty International groups throughout the world, or of the countless actions by concerned citizens on the International Day of Peace every September 21st. These are just the tip of the iceberg — we are living at a time when people of concern are becoming willfully engaged in diverse ways to transform the quality of relationships on earth.

There have always been periods in history when forces of goodwill coalesce with an unusual degree of singleminded purpose and focus. In the US for example, there was an extraordinary period during the height of the civil rights struggle when a culture of hatred, lawlessness, and violence was confronted by countless acts of individual and group courage. The anti-apartheid movement (within South Africa and around the world) saw a similar concentration of will. What is different about the will that is emerging today is that it is emerging as a universal force. Millions of people feel themselves to be a part of the One Humanity and the One Earth and feel a measure of personal responsibility and engagement in building a culture and civilization that reflects this new awareness. The good will is arising amongst individuals across the face of the globe, just as it is arising in groups and movements in every field of activity. There is an awareness of a common purpose that links community development groups with human rights groups, those working for the empowerment of women with groups targeting the need for nutritious food, and the massive global movement calling for new economic and political structures in response to the challenges of climate change. We are witnessing a quiet and steady mobilization of the will in human affairs.

Read the whole article in Kosmos Journal.

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It’s Insane To Believe There Is No Truth

By Joe Perez

Note: The following post was originally published on February 2, 2012, on, and has been modified on this date.

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to have had a good education in philosophy, theology, comparative religion, psychology and sociology of religion, and so on. This has given me the chance to see how the brightest minds, past and present, have addressed the fundamental question in philosophy: “How am I to live?”

Those smart people haven’t always agreed. In fact, the study of these subjects in college is pretty much an exercise in learning the different schools of thought and how to argue one side against another. In ethics, there are consequentialists and Kantians. In psychoanalysis, there are Freudians and Jungians. And then there are about a million different views of religion.

It wasn’t really until over a decade after I finished my formal study of religion that I encountered the work of the philosopher, psychological theorist, and mystic Ken Wilber. His work was remarkably different because he didn’t care less how exactly one thinker disagreed with another thinker. In a sense, he was only really interested in what they had in common. He asked how they were looking at the world in such a way that he could understand that in a way they weren’t really disagreeing? He saw that they were only talking past each other, comparing apples to oranges.

For Ken Wilber as I interpret him, there really is something that you might as well call Truth with a capital “T,” to distinguish it from all of the various perspectives that people have about truth. He doesn’t think we ever really are able to talk about Truth or grasp it intellectually without diminishing it to truth with the lower-case “t.” There is Truth. It is unqualified only in the unmanifest realm. And then there are perspectives on Truth. And we are always, everywhere, in the manifest order, taking a perspective.

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Remembering It All

Today is Canada’s Remembrance Day, and this year they are paying special tribute to two fallen soldiers: Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent. (Pictured above: a picture of Canadians at war memorials posted by CTV News).

Marilyn Hamilton offers an Integral spin on the holiday in “Remembering Lives and ALL LIFE”, in which she says:

Remembrance Day has traditionally commemorated human life lost in defense of our freedoms. We long for Peace.

We have grown Traditional Peace – between tribes – into Pre-Modern Peace – between worldviews. From there we have grown Modern Peace – between economies into Post-Modern Peace – between nations. And now that we see ourselves from space, without national boundaries, we have grown into an era of Post-Post Modern Peace – aspiring to span across One Earth.

And as we view Peace through a transglobal lens, is it now time to consider an evolution of Peace that transcends our species? Are we being called to make peace with all other the species who co-exist with us on this planet? A growing group are calling our attention to eradicate what they call ecocide – the loss of ecological systems because of human actions.

Read the whole post.

Yes, the loss of ecological systems and countless species on the Earth is a staggering tragedy. And who takes a day to remember the pig-footed bandicoot, the darling downs hopping mouse, or the pink-headed duck?

Although Marilyn uses the the word “transglobal” rather than Integral, for this blog’s purposes we are speaking alike. In our words, she is calling for the evolution of a national holiday from one with an Amber intent and function to one which is grounded in a worldcentric view (Green, Teal, or Turquoise).

Unapolgetically Integral In Our Own Way

“Our Most Important Activism For This Point In History Involves Building The Integral Worldview Itself” — Steve McIntosh, author of Evolution’s Purpose

Integral Blog has a new quote plastered across the top of our sidebar, so I thought I’d tell you more about it. You may have recognized it from a 2011 conversation between Scott Payne and Steve McIntosh published at Beams & Struts, or my discussion of the conversation on Awake, Aware & Alive.

Here’s the immediate context of McIntosh’s remarks:

[T]here are obviously many forms of legitimate political activism that integralists can pursue. But from my perspective, the most important form of activism for this point in history involves building the integral worldview itself. That is, we need to demonstrate the power of the integral perspective and show how effective it can be at providing solutions. We need to build wider recognition of, and agreement with, this emerging understanding of evolution. In other words, we need to teach the truths of integral philosophy and persuade people that consciousness and culture do evolve, and that we can solve many problems by coming to a deeper understanding of this phenomenon.

“Teaching” integral philosophy as a form of activism can, of course, involve a wide variety of activities. It can involve creating media such as books, videos, blogs, articles, etc. And it can also be as simple as engaging our friends and family in conversations about it. Further, the more we can each embody it as our own philosophy and not simply Wilber’s philosophy or Whitehead’s philosophy—the more we can show how it is actually a new understanding of evolution that recognizes interiors and can detect a new kind of depth—the more effective we’ll be in these communications. (Bold added.)

Now there’s a reason why I’ve given these words a special place on this new blog. Firstly, they have been inspirational to me in my blogging since I first heard them over three years ago. Secondly, they are just as relevant today as when Steve first spoke them. And thirdly, I believe they have the power to shake my fellow Integralists from their comfort zones and help to give focus to and context for the work they do. (Incidentally, as you will see I’ve shortened it a bit and changed the first word. I hope we can agree these changes are not significant.)

Integral Blog is unapologetically written by an Integralist for fellow Integralists (or integralists) if you prefer. We will not say we’re sorry for discussing theory when others would say that we are “stuck in our head”. We will not shy away from using vocabulary that requires more than a middle school education. (We have a rudimentary Integral glossary for the interested.) We will not try to sneak Integral perspectives quietly into conversations in order to appeal to the huffy-huff-huffington-posters or the league of not-so-extraordinary gentlemen.

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Highlights Of Success 3.0 Summit From One Viewpoint

Wake up, grow up, and show up to your Unique Self! With this mantra in the background, one amazing presenter after another engaged a group gathered to re-imagine SUCCESS.

It was Success 3.0 Summit, and the mantra is taken from the planned title for an upcoming book by Ken Wilber and Marc Gafni. Gafni is a leader and Wilber a leading voice in the Center for Integral Wisdom (CIW), a co-initiator of the Summit. In many respects the Summit is the brainchild of Gafni and Kate Maloney, co-chair of the Board of CIW.

“You have an ethical imperative to grow and evolve,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods founder, co-author of Conscious Capitalism, and co-chair of the Board of CIW. His talks on day one and day four of the event framed the discussion of success in terms of transforming business.

Raj Sisodia, co-author of Conscious Capitalism, asked “Can a business be built on love and care?” … and it seems that speaker after speaker reaffirmed that the answer is yes. Sisodia also said: “Business is not a game. Not a math problem. Not a machine. Not war. Business is about the real lives of real people.”

Yanik Silver, founder of Maverick Business Adventures and author of several best-selling marketing books, said, “Our business is our canvas. Entrepreneurs are artists.” The notion of entrepreneurism as a cauldron for social experimentation and consciousness raising was definitely a theme running through many presentations.

“I really believe that business can be a place where people can become self-actualized,” said David Hassell, a man named “The Most Connected Man You Don’t Know in Silicon Valley” by Forbes Magazine.

In a talk won a standing ovation from the standing-room-only room, Jack Canfield said, “JOY is immediate feedback that you’re living your purpose.” Canfield is known as America’s #1 Success Coach and originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books.

Some of the talks described important life lessons derived from the front-lines of conscious business. For example, #1 New York Times bestselling author Jeff Walker said that he discovered he was not merely teaching marketing through connection, he was really “teaching connection through marketing.”

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Jeff Salzman: Justice Is Fully Included As An Integral Value

Postmodernists are on alert when reading Integral thought for any shred of evidence that their pet values aren’t getting supreme attention. If Integralists say too many nice things about conservative values or fail to make central institutional features of power and money, then representatives of the Green Meme are soon on the attack.

Recently theorist Joe Corbett criticized two Integral thinkers, Ken Wilber and Jeff Salzman, for — oh my! — forgetting about Justice. On The Daily Evolver today, Salzman replies to an essay by Joe Corbett published recently on Integral World:

Corbett’s essay reveals a fruitful friction often found among integralists. First let me address his opening theoretical argument that when justice is not included on par with the primary human values of goodness, truth and beauty it is a “glaring omission of the L-R [lower right] quadrant”, and therefore the conversation Ken and I had is “entirely devoid of any structural analysis or acknowledgement of social institutions and the prevailing forms of justice within society.”

This is nonsense of course; suffice it to say that Ken WIlber, author of AQAL Theory, didn’t just – ooops! – forget about the exterior collective dimension of reality. Indeed Ken and I both talk about the structures of society all the time, including in our conversation. I wouldn’t know how to discuss current events without doing so.

Part of the confusion may come from a misreading of AQAL Theory where Ken relates the four quadrants that make up a human being to the three native perspectives a human being can take: first person (I and me), second person (you and we) and third person (it and they)…

Read the whole article and listen to the podcast.

Deepak Chopra: The Future Of God Is Found In The Akashic Field

Different Integral authors have proposed various ways of reconciling the differences between the scientific and spiritual worldviews. Advancing his own approach, Deepak Chopra introduces the akashic field or “cosmic consciousness” which he says is another word for God.

Deepak Chopra:

So, yes the akashic field is the immeasurable potential of all that was, all that is, and all that will be. It’s cosmic consciousness and from there comes everything that has ever existed, everything that exists now, and everything that could possibly exist in a never-ending horizon of the future. Endless. Okay? It’s our source and we have access to it. Now science will not go that far they call it the quantum vacuum. They say where’s this quantum vacuum in space and time. No it’s not it. It’s from where space-time comes. It’s another word for God and really that is the future of God. Both a model that science can accept and an experience that you can have spiritually. If you can do both that will be the future of God. And there a lot of people by the way that have that awakening now. We are collaborating with scientists looking at these people and they have the following things happening to them.

First of all they’re very clear perception. Very clear. They see colors more vivid. Sounds are more acute. Tastes and smells. Reality has a vibrancy to it. They can see beyond the physical into the subtle. They can see beyond that into the formless void and they can experience themselves in those three domains. So that’s happening to people. Secondly they are not bamboozled by melodramatic emotions because they see that emotion is just a form that consciousness takes and then it goes. They are able to witness their emotions and they are beyond reactivity. Thirdly they have no fear of death because they see death and birth as parentheses, punctuation points in the pattern of the behavior formless void. Fourthly, they have more creativity, their memories are sharper. They are not burdened by memory, they are not victimized by memory…

(For the full transcript, see

Interstellar From An Integral Perspective

interstellar-movie-2014-hd-wallpapers-fullScience fiction movies frequently offer stories at the intersection of science and spirituality, melding intimate human drama with larger-than-life themes and plots. Some of the greatest sci-fi movies have created enduring myths which have shaped the worldview of more than one generation of moviegoers. But they are not all created equal.

The new film Interstellar, directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan, bends the space-time continuum of Armageddon plot-lines. It is created with much of the hero worship of Batman Begins, the intensity of The Dark Knight, and the creative reality-twisting of Memento and Inception. If you’re like the vast majority of moviegoers and critics surveyed by meta-critic websites, you are bound to have a good time and give the flick two thumbs up.

But you are not reading this review in order to decide whether to spend $12 and a Saturday night on this movie. Since this is Integral Blog, you are likely wondering how to approach this movie from an Integral perspective or maybe what the movie offers an Integral worldview. I cannot satisfy those curiosities completely, but I will offer some salient observations.

In my view, there is no point to watching the vast majority of movies made every year (about 700 by one count), and who has the time? Indeed, most forms of popular culture entertainment are soul-denying wastes of time and precious brain cells. At the end of sitting through a typical movie, there is no greater or deeper extension of knowledge of the human condition or inspiration to make the world a better place.

I love very good movies. Very good movies are meant to be transcendent and elevating. They help wake you up without being preachy. They engage your feelings, mind, soul, and spirit in harmony. And great movies give you moments you will never forget and change your life.

Interstellar is a great movie. It is everything a very good movie is, and then it goes the extra mile. I don’t care if it has imperfections, whether it lacks humor or contains improbable twists, whether its characters are memorable enough or the music too loud. It’s not perfect.

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The 5 Steps To Disappointing Someone

Often taking wider and more inclusive perspectives leads to unconventional approaches in business and leadership. Take the topic of how to gain respect by higher level managers or board members. The usual advice would be to impress them by meeting and exceeding their expectations. But Rob McNamara, creator of Commanding Influence: Your Development for Greater Mastery at Work, argues that disappointment can achieve superior results and furthering your career.

While he acknowledges that the advice given isn’t for everyone, but people who already have strong management skills he says that there are five steps which can help them to get the most out of their disappointments. The steps are: (1) Get good intel; (2) Assemble your strategy; (3) Proactively communicate; (4) Heighten the disappointment and hold your ground; and (5) Execute.

Regarding the third step, McNamara says:

The human mind is motivated by pain. While we all like to think we’re more motivated to deliver great value, to improve our organizations, and to bring better services to our world, the truth is that at the end of the day we usually don’t leap fully into tremendous opportunities. We do, however, get into action when we’re suffering. When we’re in pain, we take action. Use this core conditioning to work for you.

The people you report to need to feel the texture of the suffering that will result from the limitations you’ve identified in the new project. One formula that often works goes something like this, “I don’t like to disappoint you, but given my expertise and how I see this initiative, I’m not able to execute as we discussed earlier. This is because these limitations are going to lead to…”

Hold your ground on what you will and won’t execute on. It’s not uncommon for management or leadership to merely reinforce the existing scope, frames and deliverables. IF you’ve done good intel, you’ll already have thought through these objections to your strategy. Remember, you’re the expert as it pertains to your job. Don’t give this up easily. Doing so tells people you’re not ready for larger organizational responsibilities…

Read the whole article.

This is the heart of what is meant by taking a higher level of consciousness in all your affairs. In business, it partly means thinking “outside the box”, but also taking an unbiased, balanced perspective on your situation.

Corey Blake: This Is How To Lead With Love

One of the most profound notions described by attendees of the Success 3.0 Summit in Boulder last weekend is that of connecting Love to business. As Corey Blake writes in Forbes, it is much easier for CEOs to donate a portion of their profits to philanthropy rather than speak of transforming the culture to one that is loving.

And yet integrating our hearts with our labor is what is working for many of the CEOs and executives in attendance at the Summit. It is a key part of what John Mackey and Raj Sisodia call “Conscious Capitalism”. This involves breaking down the artificial thought and feeling barriers that keep the two separate. And it reimagines love as not opposed to profits.

Corey Blake in “Is Love The Next Buzzword In Business?”, in an article he wrote after attending a conference on conscious capitalism (not the Success 3.0 Summit):

[W]hat does leading with love look like? Here is how it shows up at [my company] RTC:

1. Presence. Every single phone call I am on or meeting I attend gets 100 percent of my attention and focus. Being present for others is the greatest way I can show them love and respect. My staff have taken that example into their own work with coworkers and clients. That has created a culture of presence.

2. Encouraging growth. We encourage our staff to shift past their blind spots by offering them insight into their work habits and then giving them access to an executive coach who helps them work through challenges. By surrounding them with love and support so they can break through their personal barriers, we help our staff to redefine who they want to be in this world. That ties their growing identity to our organization, which inspires the entire ecosystem.

3. Exploring your passion. We only work on passion projects — we do not accept “jobs.” This was a tough transition we made a few years ago. We only say yes to people and projects that our staff can feel amazing about. Knowing that our sales team has the backs of our creative and operations teams has infused our culture with trust…

When it comes to an approach to business that allows us to show up more fully, surround staff with love and support, infuse projects with passion, build trust across the organization, and creating fierce loyalty, what’s not to love?

Zubin Damania: Are Zombie Doctors Taking Over America?

In this TEDMED, Physician Zubin Damania, Director of Healthcare Development for Downtown Project Las Vegas, describes his plan to reform a system that can dehumanize doctors and patients alike.

“I had gone into medicine with all the right intentions… but when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a burned out zombie with a stethescope covered in bacteria.”

Don Beck: The Road To A Sustainable Planet Goes Through A Value Systems Perspective

By Joe Perez

Speaking in the Netherlands recently, Dr. Don Beck makes the case for a complex, adaptive intelligences approach to sustainability issues. In his presentation, “Sustainable Cultures, Sustainable Planet: A Values System Perspective on Constructive Dialogue and Cooperative Action”, there is a plea to understand the codes and dynamics that shape cultures and drive change.

Although he may not be breaking new ground for listeners with intimate knowledge of the Spiral Dynamics model of human development, he clearly sets forth a key narrative in understanding culture, writing:

Cultures, as well as countries, are formed by the emergence of value systems (social stages) in response to life conditions. Such complex adaptive intelligences form the glue that bonds a group together, defines who they are as a people, and reflects the place on the planet they inhabit. These cultural waves, much like the Russian dolls (a doll embedded within a doll embedded within a doll), have formed, over time, into unique mixtures and blends of instructional and survival codes, myths of origin, artistic forms, life styles, and senses of community. While they are all legitimate expressions of the human experience, they are not “equal” in their capacities to deal with complex problems in society.

Yet, the detectable social stages within cultures are not Calvinistic scripts that lock us into choices against our will. Nor are they inevitable steps on a predetermined staircase, or magically appearing like crop circle structures in our collective psyche. Cultures should not be seen as rigid types, having permanent traits. Instead, they are core adaptive intelligences that ebb and flow, progress and regress, with the capacity to lay on new levels of complexity (value systems) when conditions warrant. Much like an onion, they form layers on layers on layers. There is no final state, no ultimate destination, and no utopian paradise. Each stage is but a prelude to the next, then the next, then the next.

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Yes To Including Humanists In The Spiritual Dialogue. No To “Interfaitheism”.

Abigail Clauhs, an M. Div. student at Claremont School of Theology, has written a sharp and eloquent blog post earlier this week that deserves a look. In “Interfaitheism”, she suggests the need for greater inclusion of atheists in interfaith gatherings:

In a pluralistic world, we have to realize that we must co-exist not only with people who adhere to a label that can be found in a World Religions textbook, but also those who fit no label. The group I invited to the interfaith event was the secular humanists. I know many secular humanists, and if we are looking for faith, these are people who have faith in the human spirit. They run the gamut in terms of their cosmology—some believe in a higher spirit, some are agnostic, some are just plain atheist. As a Unitarian Universalist, I know many humanist UUs. Does that mean that my religion is invalid for participating in “interfaith” work?

We have to push our boundaries of acceptance, and not be bound by semantics. After this email, I found myself tempted to change the name of the event entirely. “Interfaith” apparently just wasn’t enough. Yet I determined that I would keep it.

I was reading Forrest Church, one of my favorite Unitarian Universalist theologians, the other day. He wrote about why he chooses to use the word “God,” even though many UUs prefer to use terms like “the divine” or “Spirit of Life.” Church (yes, it’s a fitting last name, isn’t it?) says that instead of abandoning the word “God” as something too limited and fleeing to something more open like “the divine,” he chooses to use “God” as a way to expand the boundaries of what the word can mean. If people see God as an old guy in the sky, he wants to open the possibilities of how much bigger and more infinite “God” can be, and can mean.

I think the same needs to be done with the word “interfaith.” Yes, right now it’s problematic. And limiting. But that doesn’t mean we should run away and leave this word that has already helped to effect to so much change. No, we need to push the boundaries. Widen the tent. Accept the great and beautiful diversity of human experience and the way it creates meaning and community and structure in this world.

We need to have interfaith gatherings where every single person is welcome, and where they actually want to come. We need—perhaps—interfaitheism.

Read the whole article by Clauhs.

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An Awakening To Acceptance

What I said in the previous post may seem incongruent with what I have to say in this one. I just characterized the Integral awakening as a revolution, a powerful force for cultural and social and spiritual change. However, I am not about to tell you that is also a radical acceptance of What Is.

By what is, I am not talking about the status quo but All-That-Arises. I am talking about the totality of reality which is a field of fullness which is in a constant state of evolution. I am talking about an enlightened awareness, at least in part.

The Integral awakening is happening in the ever-present Now, but it does not settle complacently with the accumulated results of history. It holds the past and future in balance and acts out of a sense of responsibility to maximize awareness, compassion, and love for all beings. Thus it can really be both accepting of the status quo and revolutionary by holding a paradox.

Acceptance is an important moment in a polarity which the Integral outlook must embrace. It is the action of consenting to receive All-That-Arises and undertake the opportunities which it offers. One never accepts All-That-Arises in general, but only in a particular and unique way.

What I say must resonate with you on some deep level because it is a universal truth of human existence. We are gifted with each moment anew and must choose what to make of it. You already know that of which I speak. You are living it right now, even if you would deny it.

If the language I am using to describe it seems foreign or inaccessible or distasteful, then there is fault to be spread around. My particular phraseology comes out of my own religious tradition — Catholic Christianity — and my own philosophical outlook — a sort of Integral panentheism and esotericism. It is in itself inadequate for your perspective. It requires a wrestling with.

I invite you to take in my particular perspective as a framework available to you. I can’t force you to see your own experience from my prism, and I wouldn’t want to. Then how would I learn from your prism?

What I have to offer is a gift from my Unique Self to yours, ready for unwrapping. Will you accept the gift?

Photo: Flickr / Tc Morgan

Staying Present

There is an ancient enlightenment teaching from the East regarding the importance of concentrating the mind in the present moment as opposed to the past or the future. In this pose, inner peace is found as opposed to the turmoil of worry or remorse. Acceptance of the present moment is a key to liberation from suffering. Developing the skill of resting the mind in the stillness of the present is counseled for spiritual practice.

Enlightenment teachers today have developed these insights into spirituality into a totalizing, absolutistic teaching which is supposed to be self-sufficient for virtually every need and situation. If you suffer, it’s because you’re not experiencing the Be Here Now or Power of Now or something like that. It’s hard to argue with the wisdom of avoiding unnecessary inner conflict and being aware of the present moment, but I am certain that these teachings are too good to be true.

Consider the fact that only a small fraction of the human population – far less than 1 percent – is seemingly capable of sustaining a permanent focus on the present moment such that they do not need to pay attention to the past or future. It is wise to question if it is possible at all for anyone, though I imagine that if gurus are able to have followers take care of the “mundane” details of life for themselves, or if they can live self-sufficiently in a cave somewhere, then it is conceivable that they could rest in the present moment constantly. And they could also make themselves virtually irrelevant to the goings on of “mundane” humanity.

The Power of Now and other teachings which concentrate on the importance of “staying present” ought to be regarded as spiritual technologies, not absolutistic worldviews as they are sometimes presented or held to be. As a technology, I believe these teaching has the ability to generate positive spiritual growth and create more fulfilling and well-balanced lives if it is put into use. It also helps in the attainment of enlightenment, I think, though it is difficult to support this claim without a longer discussion.

So I would urge a practice of remaining awake and aware during the present moment as a matter of good spiritual hygiene, for all the reasons that have been pointed out by the proponents of the Here and Now technology. What needs to be avoided is the oversimplification of the spiritual life by making this teaching the totality of one’s spiritual practice. For all but a very few, that would be a serious mistake.

Meet Ken Wilber at Success 3.0

Ken-WilberAs you may know, I will soon be visiting Boulder, Colorado to attend the Success 3.0 Summit which is bringing together key thought leaders together to explore the impact that can be made by collaborating together and redefining success.

Among the folks who I am most looking forward to seeing is my friend Ken Wilber.  Owing to his health, I’m not sure whether he will appear by video or in-person, but either way is good. His bio as it appears on the site:

According to Jack Crittenden Ph.D., author of Beyond Individualism, “the twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber.” If you haven’t already heard of him, Ken Wilber is one of the most important philosophers in the world today. He is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages. Ken Wilber currently lives in Denver, Colorado, and is still active as a philosopher, author, and teacher, with all of his major publications still in print.

Tony Schwartz, the president, founder, and CEO of The Energy Project, and the author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, has referred to Wilber as “the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times.” Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D., the well-known professor of Psychiatry, Philosophy and Anthropology at UCI’s College of Medicine, believes “Ken Wilber is one of the greatest philosophers of this century and arguably the greatest theoretical psychologist of all time.” And in commenting on the scope and impact of Ken Wilber’s philosophy Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development, and the co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, mentions that “After reading Wilber, it is impossible to imagine looking at the world the same way again”.

What makes Ken Wilber especially relevant in today’s world is that he is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”. As Wilber himself puts it: “I’d like to think of it as one of the first believable world philosophies…” Incorporating cultural studies, anthropology, systems theory, developmental psychology, biology, and spirituality — it has been applied in fields as diverse as ecology, sustainability, psychotherapy, psychiatry, education, business, medicine, politics, sports and art.

Wilber explains the need for an Integral Approach in the following way: In our current post-modern world, we possess an abundance of methodologies and practices belonging to a multitude of fields and knowledge traditions. What is utterly lacking however, is a coherent organization, and coordination, of all these various practices, as well as, their respective data-sets. What is needed is an approach that moves beyond this indiscriminate eclectic-pluralism, to an “Integral Methodological Pluralism”, aimed at enriching and deepening every field through an understanding of exactly how and where each one fits in relation to all the others.

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Key Integral Tenets for Human Nature

stepsI have created a simple list of twelve items to summarize a not-so-simple thing. Incorporating elements of Ken Wilber’s “Twenty Tenets of All Holons” along with some insights from my own work and general AQAL Theory, I hereby present a list of tenets for describing human nature.

1. We realized that nothing in the universe exists on its own. Every being in the universe is incomplete on its own, and requires the redemption of every other being for its completeness.

2. Love is the basic nature of existence and this Love flows in two directions: from the Source of All-That-Is to the Destination of All-That-Is, and from the Destination back to the Source.

3. The flow of Love from the Source to the Destination is the basic drive of evolution. We evolve by aligning ourselves with Love.

4. Fear is the chief opposing force of existence. It manifests in two directions: from the Source of All-That-Is to the Destination of All-That-Is, and from the Destination back to the Source.

5. Our responses to Love and Fear take two primal forms: communion and agency, which are also the evolutionary drives to self-preservation and self-adaptation respectively.

6. Generally all things display a tendency to change according to the two primal directions: Same-Directed Love and Other-Directed Love, which put another way is the drive to self-immanence and self-transcendence.

7. As distinction-making creatures, human beings have perceived the patterns of existence through types of gender and sexuality. In communal forms, the female; in agentic forms, the male; in self-immanent forms, the homophile; in self-transcendent forms, the heterophile. Human beings come in these varieties and more.

8. Human development occurs along a wide spectrum of lines of growth: physical, psychosexual, aesthetic, identity, moral, spiritual, and more.

9. Spiritual growth tetra-arises in four dimensions: the individual’s interior life, the individual’s body, the culture, and the socio-economic foundation. These dimensions are sometimes called the Four Quadrants.

10. Growth may be characterized as enfolding greater and greater degrees of The True, The Good, and The Beautiful.

11. A variety of states of consciousness have been observed such as gross, subtle, and causal states. Practicing different states effects holistic development.

12. Incorporating growth in multiple quadrants and lines, states and types, integral development occurs vertically, producing growth in levels or stages. Put in the service of redeeming all sentient beings, wholeness arises out of partiality.
Do you like it? How would you improve these? You may comment on this thread or contact me privately with your impressions.

Letting Go of Mediocrity

I’ve been taking spring cleaning quite literally when it comes to my online presence. I have been reviewing over a thousand posts that I wrote over a ten-year period of time and throwing many of them away.

Actually I’ve really just been making some posts a bit more difficult to find while making other posts much easier to find. But it feels like I’m tossing some 700 or 800 posts in the recycling bin. I am not yet removing them from the Internet, but they will be more difficult to discover.

The worst part has been realizing that some 80% of the posts that I wrote over ten years just aren’t very good, in my opinion. I held an overly positive view of the quality of my writing output and upon a fresh look so much of it appears ephemeral, dispensable, mediocre.

The degree of narcissism in a few of the posts strikes me today as almost shocking. I had a real chip on my shoulders because my writing was never as popular as I felt it ought to be, so I spent a bit too much time all but telling people that they ought to be paying attention because it was SO important.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. One of the blogs I maintained, Until, was written when I had only dozens of T-cells and was suffering from multiple “mystery illnesses” which made every waking hour a living nightmare. It’s amazing I could write anything at all.

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Ellen Davis: Bible Scholars Have Ignored the Bible’s Agrarian Concerns

Perhaps care of the land doesn’t strike you as one of the major themes of the Bible. There’s a new article by Yonat Shimron on which describes one scholar’s effort to change that:

agricultureYet despite the traditional cast, Davis is leading a quiet revolution. For the past 20 years, she has been at the vanguard of theologians studying the biblical understanding of care for the land.

Her groundbreaking book, “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible,” is considered a classic, and she travels widely to speak at churches and conferences about the role of agriculture and the ethics of land use in the Bible.

Her work makes the case that Christian theologians have for too long focused narrowly on the spiritual component of Scripture and in the process have overlooked the Bible’s material concerns.

Speaking to some 30 church members as part of a Sunday morning Creation Care series at the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church in nearby Chapel Hill, she focused on Genesis 1. She read aloud from the Bible and pointed out that God blesses nonhuman creatures first.

“It is not all about us,” said Davis, 63. “God is establishing a genuine relationship with creatures of sea and sky.”

Read the whole article.

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Asian Architects Gather to Discuss Twin Themes of Spirituality and City

The important relationship between spirituality and architecture is affirmed by a recent article by Dr. Jiba Raj Pokharel writes in The Himalayan Times:

kathmandu-durbar-squareNepali architecture has suffered a lot in the past by engaging in this kind of a futile imitation. Our ancestors built palaces in neoclassical architecture by abandoning our own traditional palace architecture which can still be glaringly seen in the three Durbar Squares of Nepal.

Had we continued with indigenous architecture, we would have more than forty Durbar squares instead of three main Durbar squares we have at present. One can imagine what would be

the architectural ambience like with forty Durbar squares when three of them have created something of a marvel in the architectural arena.

RajbirajIt is not only in the case of architecture but we have similarly stumbled in city planning. We had our own city designing heritage whereby different castes would have different city templates allocated to them. For example, Maneswore, the capital of the Licchavis, was designed in Swastik style. We continued this practice till the middle of the twentieth century by designing Rajbiraj in the Prastara style. But we again fumbled in the following years. We deviated from the classical designing in the planning of the following cities. As a result, the modern Nepali cities lack image and identity as they are devoid of notable landmarks, nodes, districts, edges and pathways like the old cities.

This is however not the problem of Nepal alone. The other Asian countries also have fallen victim to this architectural and planning malady.

So the Asian architects have gathered in Nepal to deliberate focusing on the twin themes of spirituality and city image building. Often such conferences end in hobnobbing followed by lunches and dinners but it is expected that something fruitful will emerge out of this architectural bonhomie and brotherhood to guide the whole of Asia towards the creation of a better vision for built environment in future — a vision which enables to move forward duly looking back like the mythic bird of Ghana, the Sankofa.

Read the whole article.

At the leading edge of Asian architecture: a rejection of the modernist style in favor of a marriage of indigenous spirituality and city image. If the gathering is indicative of a larger movement, it suggests a more vibrant and holistic and culturally distinctive future in Nepal and other Asian countries.

Ram Dass on Unconditional Love (and a Teaching on Postmodernism)

The power of unconditional love is truly amazing. If you’ve ever been pulled over by a state trooper, you’ll be struck by this tale from spiritual guru Ram Dass:

pulled-overSo I started out on the New York thruway. I was just galumphing along in such a high state that I was hanging out with various forms of the Divine. I was doing my mantra, which I usually am doing one way or another, to remember that this isn’t the only game in town. So I’m holding onto the steering wheel and I’m keeping enough consciousness to keep the car on the road. At another part I’m singing to Krishna, who is blue, is radiant, plays the flute, is the seducer of the Beloved, all of whom we are, back into the merging with God, back into the formless. I am in ecstasy hanging out with blue Krishna, driving along the New York freeway, when I noticed in my rear view mirror a blue flashing light.

Now, there is enough of me down, so I knew it was a state trooper. I pulled over the car, and this man got out of the car and he came up to the window. I opened the window and he said, “may I see your license and registration?” I was in such a state that when I looked at him, I saw that it was Krishna who had come to give me darshan. How would Krishna come in 1970? Why not as a state trooper? Christ came as a carpenter.

Unfortunately, this piece was posted on Facebook with a graphic saying “Everybody is the Guru”. This is not the point of Dass, unless I am mistaken and I don’t think I am! His point is that everybody is the divine being, the Krishna or the Christ. A guru is a teacher who, regardless of whether he is regarded as divine by others, leads people to enlightenment or divinity.

Read the whole thing.

Dass is a guru, a wonderful writer and enlightened soul, and his story is splendidly more illuminative of divine truths than the average person’s. Unfortunately, Dass’s writing was advertised on Facebook with the meme “Everyone is the Guru”

It’s not the best in spiritual teaching that claims “Everyone is the Guru”, to say the least. It’s a fallacy, or better yet it’s a meme which is part of the postmodern pulverizing of value hierarchies. In terms of Integral Theory, it’s the Green meme. But pulverize the distinction between gurus and everyone else and you obscure the light which leads to the realization that “Everyone is Divine”. That is tragic whenever it happens in postmodern thinking, which is not at the front line of consciousness.

On the other hand, the message that unconditional love can transform one’s encounter with a state trooper into a blissful mystical union is gorgeous.

Hairpin: Interview with a Postmodern Pagan

In the first of a series of interviews with people who are professionally religious, a general-interest women’s website talks to a pagan clergyman, 29-year-old Brian. Brian leads a pagan church in Nashville, Tennessee.

A selection of questions and answers from the interview:

Could you tell me more about what you believe specifically?

norse6My cosmology is based on ancient Northern European religion, and my source material is mythology and epic poetry written about and by the ancient pre-Christian Northern Europeans. I’ve always been a history buff, which is part of why this appeals to me. And within this particular brand of paganism, people often think of the Viking aesthetic, macho men going out looting and pillaging. But in the source text, from an anthropological view, you’ll find a really complete society.

I do tend to worship male gods, but I’m a cisgender male, and I identify as such. Therefore I tend to resonate more with gods than goddess or gods with more fluid gender indenties.

What gods are you talking about?

Recently, Odin has decided to rear his head in my life. I started off working with the god Thor, and as I’ve gotten older, Odin has started to appear more. I also work with Freyja and Frigga, a little bit with Idunna, and the god Tyr.

What do you mean when you say you work with them?

I pray to them, I offer them time, I meditate on them. When I say that I work with a god, I mean that I engage in a practice of reciprocal gift-giving. I develop and maintain a relationship with my god by giving gifts to them and thanking for the gifts they give to me.

That’s a really nice, simple way of putting it. Do you feel that you also atone for yourself to them? Is there an analogue to Judeo-Christian punishment and repentance within paganism?

With paganism being so varied, there’s no set code of ethics. Most pagans tend to believe that people know what the right thing is. They don’t need a father figure to say, “Don’t kill people, and don’t steal.”

Most pagans believe in a variation of the Hindu belief in karma, and the variation comes from the fact that pagans tend to believe that what you do will come back to you not in the next life but in this one.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

I do believe in an afterlife, and I also espouse the idea that I have not been there so I can’t really know. Within paganism, you find a concept that your soul prepares itself for its next incarnation after you die, that you are reincarnated because you have learned certain lessons and still have more to learn, but that’s an extreme generalization. My personal view includes Asgard, Helheim, and all the various afterlife aspects found in Norse myth.

What’s something that you believe that could apply to anyone?

I really try to accept people for who they are. I very much believe in an individual’s decision to lead their lives for themselves and find meaning however they want, and that process is a beautiful thing. That’s one of the reasons I became a minister, was to help people find what gives meaning to their lives.

And this is true for any religion, but I should say that it’s very difficult for a single individual to be representative of paganism as a whole, because our faith structure is a postmodern one. Paganism—neo-paganism—only really broke on the scene in the ‘50s when England repealed its anti-witchcraft laws. So, fairly uniquely, paganism has always been defined by ease of access to information, which led us to emphasize diversity over orthodoxy, and promote tolerance, and acceptance of people walking their own paths.

Read the whole interview.

Brian’s observation that the faith structure of “paganism as a whole” is a postmodern one is pretty accurate description for neo-paganism. The pagans he is talking about aren’t indigenous people in Africa or Australia but the new pagans in America many of which are fleeing Christianity. The fact that the core meaning of the religion boils down to “I really try to accept people for who they are” is also pretty important for the consciousness of postmodernism in general.

Postmodern people don’t have to be pagan to have an ethos of accepting people’s individual self-expression. Postmodern people generally do, except of course when they are rejecting people who are fundamentalist or traditional or capitalistic or conservative or sexist or intolerant in their beliefs.

Paganism may or may not be a growing spirituality or religion in circa 2013, but my belief is that the growth of postmodernism has probably already peaked, give or take a few percentage points. I may be wrong. Paganism per se is not at the front line of consciousness, but is a spiritual expression that may already be waning, at least in its postmodern expression.

A more integral paganism is a topic that we will be visiting on Spirituality Post. What comes post-postmodern paganism? Basically I will argue that what is coming does away with the religious relativism of the postmoderns and recognizes a spiritual and cultural and social evolution through a spiral of development which requires attention to the health of the spiral as a whole. That’s too hard a pill for postmoderns to swallow unless they go through a conversion experience that leaves them adrift from postmodernism and the currents that swept them into the sea of relativity and hyper-sensitivity. Post-postmodernism is integral and evolutionary, broadly speaking. It is a subject of great interest to me, and I look forward to exploring it with you over time.

Filmmakers go biblical in a possibly unprecedented wave of new films

RNS-BIBLE-FILMSMoviegoers are about to encounter more movies with religious themes than I can remember in my lifetime. Upcoming adaptations include Resurrection, Noah, Exodus, Gods And Kings, Pontius Pilate, The Redemption of Cain, Mary Mother of Christ, Son of God, and Left Behind.

Blame or credit Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which earned over $60 million in worldwide box office receipts.

“We have learned that there is more to unite us than to divide us,” a megachurch pastor said to Religion News Service. He has previously hosted a religious film festival.

A. Larry Ross is quoted by RNS saying, “filmmakers are the new high priests of our culture.”

And the high priests are learning to market their films by going to the lower priests for help, encouraging religious hierarchy leadership and well-known pastors and preachers to endorse their movies. They want to avoid boycotts and encourage churches to screen their movies.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m reserving judgment. It’s always possible the filmmakers could strike the perfect sweet spot in which artistic merit and popular culture and evolving consciousness meet in synergy.

But then again Nicholas Cage is starring in Left Behind? (Groan.)

Photo: Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in “Son of God”. For use with RNS-BIBLE-FILMS, transmitted on October 22, 2013, Photo courtesy Lightworkers Media.

Weighing In on Oprah Winfrey’s “What is an Atheist?” Debate

Quite a bit of ink has spilled on the topic of defining atheism lately thanks to a show in which Oprah Winfrey denied that her guest was an atheist in her book. Here’s how describes the controversy:

Earlier this month (Oct. 13) Winfrey, 59, hosted Nyad on “Super Soul Sunday,” her weekly talk program on cable’s Oprah Winfrey Network. Nyad, 64, recently completed a 53-hour solo swim from Cuba to Florida.

During the hourlong segment, Nyad declared herself an atheist. She then explained, “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity. All the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt and suffered. So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad attends Day 1 of ‘Swim For Relief’ benefiting Hurricane Sandy Recovery at Herald Square on October 8, 2013 in New York City.

“Well, I don’t call you an atheist then,” Winfrey said. “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery, then that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

Read the whole article.

oprah-ep501-own-sss-diana-nyad-3-365x240Oprah Winfrey got it wrong before she got it right. Nyad said she sensed the beauty of the universe and felt love for humanity, not that she felt awe and wonder and mystery. Oprah mis-heard her somewhat. These are qualitatively different things and Nyad never said she felt the universe was mysterious, nor that she felt awe before it or even wonder. She sensed its beauty and felt love, and that was all she said.

But Oprah may have got something very important right. In her book, someone who feels mystery and awe before the universe is responding to God. She was showing the common ground she shared with the professed atheist, and catching the atheist in the common belief that just because they reject a certain false notion of god (an old man in the sky) that they truly reject God.

There are a lot of atheists who profess to not believe in God who actually disbelieve in the sort of god that believers disbelieve in. And many of them want to elevate nature to godhood in which case they are actually pantheists. Others want to elevate human love to godhood in which case they are humanists.

Nyad was clearly a pantheistic humanist, not a theist. If Oprah had really wanted to express her common ground with the swimmer she might have asked if she felt awe and wonder and mystery about the world or human love, and if so was she at all curious about what that awe and wonder and mystery might be pointing. If Nyad answered “Yes! I feel awe and mystery!” then she would be on the same path as many theists or panentheists, but she would not yet be at the station in which belief emerges out of mere questioning and wrestles with doubt instead of apathy.

I don’t think it’s worth spilling much more ink on the subject at this time. Truly only Oprah and Nyad could say what they really meant and if they properly understood each other, and the rest of the attention is curious.

The End of Spirituality?

One look at Google Trends for “spirituality” ought to raise eyebrows of anyone who believes that spirituality is an increasingly popular phenomenon, or some sort of cure for the illness of secularism, or some sort of replacement for religion.


Since March 2004, to June of 2013, interest in “spirituality” as a search time has declined by over 70 percentage points. For every hundred or so web searches nine years ago, only thirty people searched on the topic over the summer. Pick other timeframes and you’ll still find an enormous loss of 40 percentage points in less than a decade.

If there were a CEO of Spirituality, she or he would have been fired long ago. If there were a public relations firm responsible for promoting spirituality, its contract would have been terminated.  But who do you hold accountable for such a precipitous decline in interest in the topic?

Not only is it hard to point fingers to find a responsible party, it is equally difficult to explain how it happened. Did some sort of bubble burst caused by media fads or the alignment of planetary forces or a spate of bestselling books? Did the intellectual apogee of spirituality occur with the first Matrix movie? Seriously though, what’s up with the precipitous numbers and how much ought we care?

There’s a play on words in the title of this new blog. Spirituality Post is not merely a blog with posts about spiritual topics. It is an inquiry into the possibility that we are entering a Post-Spiritual World, an exploration of what the contemporary spiritual landscape looks like, and a constructive vision of a new way of being in the world which might transcend the dichotomy between spiritual and non-spiritual.

I have several hypotheses which I believe may help to explain the decline of interest in spirituality and the rise of a new ethos. This blog will tell all. Here is the first hypothesis: the belief that there is spirituality distinct from religion became infused (or infected if you’re inclined to judge negatively) with postmodern relativism, ultimately leading to the quintessential message: Everything is Spiritual.

Whether you are inclined to think the slogan Everything is Spiritual is deeply profound “non-dual” wisdom or the banal logical conclusion of the death of the truly spiritual, it’s hard to deny that it’s easy to get people excited about Something but it’s next-to-impossible to get them excited about Everything. How long can that level of enthusiasm last? Is it even possible for the average person to orient his or her ultimate concern in life to Everything or is that the exclusive province of rare mystics?

The End of Spirituality could be on the horizon, but if so it need not fade into a breed of secularism. If contemporary spiritual and religious leaders adapt to the transformed landscape, there is reason to believe that Post-Spiritual is only a rejection of certain vacuous forms of spirituality and the beginning of something new and hopeful.

Follow Spirituality Post to discover yourself with a view at the front-line of Life, Culture, Society, Spirit.

Lady Gaga Undresses The Burqa: A Step On The Path Of A World Artist

gagaOmid Safi has written a heartfelt editorial for Religion News Service explaining why Lady Gaga’s new song which uses the traditional Muslim burqa — women’s scarf and body covering — is in poor taste. It’s hardly the first time the performer has been accused of poor taste, but in this instance she is being accused of violating the sacred.

Here are some of the lyrics to “Burqa”:

I’m not a wandering slave, 
I am a woman of choice
My veil is protection for the gorgeousness of my face
You watch, you fancy me cause there’s always one man to love
But in the bedroom the size of them’s more than enough 

Safi writes:

But let us not, for one minute, confuse all the #Burqaswag references among her fan (“little monsters”, as she affectionately calls them) as something in any way emancipatory, or actually about the women who choose to wear burqa (or niqab) or are even forced to wear one by dominant patriarchal cultures around them. Gaga’s Burqa outfits (and song, if it is indeed hers) does nothing to share the already existing full humanity of Muslim women, or others who wear (by choice, custom, or force) the burqa.   It is merely appropriation of some one else’s clothing by an unimaginably wealthy, white, elite North American woman without in any way altering the reality of the lives of women on whose behalf it pretends to speak.

Later he quotes approvingly Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American Muslim poet, in the context of Lady Gaga’s song (noting that Hammad was not describing Gaga):

Don’t build around me your fetish, fantasy,
Your lustful profanity to cage me in, clip my wings.
Don’t wanna be your exotic.

Your lovin’ of my beauty
ain’t more than funky fornication, plain pink perversion
In fact, nasty necrophilia.
Because my beauty is dead to you…

Please, don’t don’t accuse Lady Gaga of necrophilia. We just don’t know what she’s capable of doing next.

I have a certain sympathy with artists who push boundaries of propriety even to the point where they are accused of breaking rules, being insensitive to the feelings of others, or engaging in sensationalism. There is no written rulebook for the agent provocateur, and each artist has a unique style. And then there are successful exploitations of a cultural opening and unsuccessful forays.

Did Lady Gage misfire? Is her Burqua song so offensive she ought to be criticized for Orientalizing all women who wear the Burqua, harming them in some way? Ought her effort to call attention to the potential for exploitation and oppression in Muslim culture be ridiculed as not “in any way emancipatory”?

The issues are complex and yet what does your heart say? Mine does not go on the offensive against an artist who knows how to use the power of her bully pulpit to shift the tide of public opinion — especially the opinion of youth — in emancipatory ways. Perhaps her flirtation with the Burqua song will be short-lived, a mere exploitation of a sensitive issue, an experiment in testing the boundaries of what is acceptable to say about Islamic tradition in a song. Even so I would not criticize her for trying, nor would I attack anyone such as Safi or Hammad if they are turned off by it. They are also entitled to their reactions.

At Think Progress, Alyssa Rosenberg doesn’t care much for Burqua and uses its opportunity to just say that Lady Gaga isn’t a very good artist:

There’s no question that as an advocate, Lady Gaga’s done enormous good in raising the profile of issues like Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, marriage equality, and Russia’s anti-gay laws. I just wish that her songs were as nuanced and effective as her political work can be. Using your power in service of others is a generous act. Speaking for others in your music in a way that doesn’t recognize the difference between elevating their voices and subsuming them, is less noble, and less musically effective.

So you see here’s the crux of where I disagree with this strand of thought in art criticism: Safi and Rosenberg think Gaga is “subsuming” those who are different from her rather than “elevating their voices”. They have an either/or worldview: you’re either lifting THEM up, or you’re stomping on THEM. However, Gaga seems to be both identifying with the other as well as differentiating herself from them clearly by putting her lyrics into her own unique style. Safi’s and Rosenberg’s views are more Green, Gaga’s and mine are more Integral.

To think that you can’t sing about being “born this way” unless you are yourself that way is the worst sort of handcuffing of artists, a denial of the non-dual or causal self in the name of the subtle self or gross self. To think that an artist isn’t allowed her own voice because she’s a “wealthy, white, elite North American woman” is its own sort of unfortunate discrimination. Sometimes Gaga’s lyrics become bland and sappy when they fly too high above the particular, it is true, but when you’re doing work on the frothy edge of popular culture some of that is inevitable.

What I hope is that Lady Gaga will not stop at Burqua, but will continue to take up a truly prophetic calling to use pop music as a vehicle for shifting the cultural views of women throughout the world in more liberating directions, including those Muslim women who are forced to wear garments that violate them. If she keeps going she may not make every critic happy, especially the Green ones, but she will have demonstrated that she is a World Artist capable of delivering a mix of entertainment with enlightenment to audiences across the globe while changing millions of lives in the process.

“Moon Reflection” By Mattar Bin Lahej Depicts Phases Of The Spiritual Life



An artist from Dubai has created a unique art piece for The Dubai Mall which is associated with Ramadan.

Spiritual development is the primary theme of the work, with phases of the moon connected to the spiritual journey, according to an interview with the artist on

“The idea behind the ‘Moon Reflection’ can be linked to a typical Muslim’s life during Ramadan. The circles emphasise the moon and the letters inside indicate what a person does during Ramadan. In Ramadan, people always try to clear themselves from any sins by reading the Quran and so the different phases of the moon – changing shape from small to big then back small again – indicate that [spiritual] movement,” he added.

Bin Lahej also pointed out that the reason he made the first phases of the moon in silver and bronze and the last phase in gold is because “gold is the achievement or reward from God and it also marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid.”

Bin Lahej describes the purpose of his work as integrative:

“Art is about getting people integrated and not reaching out only to specific people. My target is to reach everyone and I like my work to speak for itself.”

Read the whole article.

Mystic Jocelyn Woods plumbs the depths of spirituality, eroticism, and disability



One of the most inspirational stories you’ll read about, right here, by Ken Picard in Seven Days. Jocelyn Woods, 27, of Vermont has not only battled a perplexing neuromuscular disease since childhood which leaves her mostly bedridden, she is also a cutting-edge artist with powerful creative visions which are defying stereotypes about disabled people and sexuality. Woods does so without resorting to politically correct message-driven art (which she detests), but by calling up the power of her True Self, the “vast eternity” which she came to identify with.

Picard writes:

Woods was born in Florida but moved to Vermont at age 10. An only child, she was homeschooled by her mom through high school, which she completed at 16. Woods traces her spiritual awakening to an existential crisis she had at age 4, when she brought her mother into the bathroom and stood there crying because she didn’t believe the little girl in the mirror reflected her true, infinite nature.

“I felt like I was sitting on the edge of this vast eternity,” she recalls, “and didn’t know how to process that as a child.”

Woods’ creativity also blossomed early. At 3, she asked her mother for piano lessons, and was playing by age 5. At 15 she was composing and performing her own classical pieces, and at age 16 Woods recorded a solo album titled A River’s Journey at Charles Eller’s studio in Charlotte. She expected to pursue a career as a concert pianist until her poor health intervened.

A severe bout of influenza when she was 18 robbed Woods of mobility and dexterity, including her ability to play the piano. She was left semi-bedridden and took years to recover. Today, her health has stabilized, but she undergoes daily physical therapy and Pilates sessions to maintain her strength and muscle tone. She also experiments with alternative therapies and takes singing lessons to strengthen her diaphragm.

In June 2012, Woods contracted a severe respiratory illness that nearly claimed her life. This time, it triggered what she calls a “shamanic experience” that inspired much of her recent work.

“It was quite frightening, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would emerge from that,” she recalls, “because I felt as though I were suspended between the two worlds of life and death, the soul realm and the physical realm.”

Read the whole article.


Are We Entering A Post-Mormon Moment?



Joseph Walker at the Deseret News writes that a Mormon university president spoke of the religion entering “the post-Mormon moment.” Here’s an explanation:

Utah Valley University President Matthew S. Holland said Tuesday that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are learning to swim in contemporary religion’s mainstream during what he referred to as “the post-Mormon moment.”

“It’s one thing to think about loving others and getting along with people from different faith perspectives when you are insular and existing outside the main body of faith,” Holland told a classroom full of students and professors during his appearance as a guest lecturer for UVU’s special “Mormonism in the American Experience” class.

“But those questions,” he continued, “become very real, very challenging when you are suddenly in the mainstream and part of a society in which we interact more regularly and are more connected globally.”

And that is precisely where Holland believes Mormonism is as a result of the so-called “Mormon moment,” which he said consisted of an extraordinary set of situations and circumstances — from the two presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney to “The Book of Mormon” on Broadway to the LDS Church’s own “I’m a Mormon” media campaign — that put the church and its members squarely within the bright light of intense media scrutiny.

Read the whole article.

Whether or not one likes the term “post-Mormon moment”, Holland is pointing to something real, I think: a heightened visibility of the LDS Church which results in greater integration within American mainstream society. This is in a sense becoming more integral: integral to the mainstream society, and so long as that results in identification with positive cultural values then that is a sign of progress.

But it is not the same as saying Mormons are truly becoming more Integral — coming to a sense of their own identity which transcends their “ethnocentric” identification with their religious subculture or society at large. A more Integral Mormonism could be seen by signs such as more Mormons moving past the fundamentalism which locks their doctrine or beginning to challenge the identification of Mormon culture with American corporate values. More Mormons will have to become more postmodern before they can become post-postmodern. Will we ever see LDS missionaries in tie-dye T-shirts and Birkenstocks, or Mormon theologians leading the World Council of Churches? Will it be commonplace for Mormon scholars to be leading the vanguard in integral interdisciplinary studies?

I’m sure there are signs of these things happening, but I don’t see the media reporting on them. Instead they are talking about something routine, a sect becoming more socially acceptable. Once we see the LDS Church and its leadership becoming more Green and Teal, then we can start talking about a real “post-Mormon moment”.

“Between Holiness And Humanity, He Was A Man’s Man, Handsome And Strapping”



Sojourners reports in “A Thoroughly Modern Mystic Makes His Way to the Big Screen” on big news for fans of American Catholic mystic Thomas Merton: his life story — or at least a love affair which played a significant role — is coming to the movies.

Cathleen Falsani writes:

Merton’s voice was unique in the way he lived in the awkward no man’s land between holiness and humanity. He was a man’s man, handsome and strapping, like a rugged Spencer Tracy with a tonsure and cassock. He had been around the block a few times, both before he moved behind Gethsemani’s cloistered walls and after. Which makes him more accessible and authentic than many other giants of the faith.

Merton was saintly and serious. He also was sexy and a little bit dangerous.

“He is so human, real and relatable to me,” Eisner said. “I am convinced that what he so eloquently and vulnerably wrote about is perhaps more relevant today than it was in his own day. … I just can’t wait to introduce this beautiful person to a whole new mass of people who have yet to be smitten by his wit and wisdom.”

The way Eisner and Miller have written the romance between Merton and his M isn’t tawdry or voyeuristic, and it leaves to the audience the (highly debated) question of whether their relationship was ever fully consummated. The details of what happened between the sheets are the least compelling part of their unlikely coupling.

“Dear, I have a terrible desire for fidelity to what has been far greater than either of us,” Merton wrote to M in the Midsummer collection. “And not a choice of fidelities to this or that, love or vows. But a fidelity beyond and above that to both of them in one, to God; to the Christ who is absolutely alone and not apart from us, but is the dreadful deep hole in the midst of us, waiting for no explanation.”

Looking forward to it. God bless the filmmakers and their production. I hope they find a way to make Merton relevant and exciting especially for today’s young people.

Muslim Congregations Show Civic Activism On Eid



Sermons on Eid khutba, the observance which one Muslim described as “like the State of the Union address”, addressed many topics. Omar Sacirbey of Religion News Service leads with this summary: “[M]any imams across the country noted a growing climate of acceptance in America but urged Muslims not to forget the problems facing their communities in the U.S. and overseas.”

Sacirbey’s “What imams talk about during Eid” has its finger on the pulse of Muslim congregations in America during Eid:

Generational transmission:

“Our community is at a unique crossroads,” [Suhaib] Webb [of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center] said, issuing a call for older Muslim generations to allow younger generations to have greater roles in community affairs. “There are a lot of young people with a lot of excitement, and a lot of old people with a lot of fear. And that’s not a healthy thing.”

Civic involvement including activism around immigration, government surveillance, and anti-racism:

Muzammil Siddiqi, the imam at the Islamic Society of Orange County (Calif.) and a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, urged Eid worshippers to be involved in civic affairs. He said they should support pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, protest government surveillance policies, and participate in the NAACP’s anti-racism program.

In a progressive Islamic congregation, services were led by an openly gay person:

Some congregations celebrating Eid were much smaller but showed an increasingly diverse Muslim-American landscape. The Los Angeles chapter of Muslims for Progressive Values was expecting several dozen worshippers at its Eid service, where the khutba was going to be given by a young gay member of the community.

Read the whole article.

A report by Voice of America tracks the Eid celebrations worldwide, which were peaceful except in Pakistan:

Worshippers gathered in mosques in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, to begin the celebrations Thursday.

Celebrations are going on in much of Asia and the Middle East, including in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites.

Crowds of worshippers prayed and celebrated in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, while Egypt’s interim leaders attended prayers at a mosque in the capital.

U.S. President Barack Obama wished Muslims a “blessed and joyful celebration,” citing the traditions of Ramadan as ones that serve as a reminder to be grateful and compassionate.

Photo Credit: modenadude via Compfight cc

Aura Researcher: I Have Found Someone At The Zenith Of Spiritual Perfection



Skeptics dismiss the existence of auras as disorders of the optical nerves, eye fatigue, or migraines. But cross-cultural spiritual traditions have affirmed their reality and spiritual potency, and any Integral theology needs to be able to make room for them and ask how they can help us. Perhaps researchers too can bring together Integral research with Indian scholarship to learn how auras are connected with levels and states of consciousness.

A report, “Science Concedes the Power of Shaktipaat”, by Dr. Hira Taparia Aura of Mumbai is interesting in that it claims scientific validation for the existence of auras… and he also writes that he has found someone so advanced spiritually that his aura is beyond the capacity of his machine to measure. Certainly this scholar’s claims merit serious analysis and replication, if such efforts have not already been made. Here is the report:

I started to study the science of analysing aura in 1962. It took me six years to complete the study of this science. Thereafter I carried out research on this subject for several years. I am the first person in the world to receive ISO 9001: 2000 Certification. I have delivered lectures to students at Moscow Medical University six times.

A person’s aura extends to an area of 3 inches to 30-40 metres around him. Even insentient objects have aura. I have so far studied the aura of about seven lakh people including some one thousand distinguished persons – like saints, VIPs etc.

As I studied the aura of Sant Sri Asaramji Bapu, I found it so powerful that anybody coming near him would be overwhelmed by his luminous aura and would always remain under its compelling influence. (Aura photo on title page 2)

One of the colours of Bapuji’s aura is violet, which shows that Bapuji is at the acme of spirituality. This type of aura is found only in Rishis, in perfected Masters. The red in the aura indicates that Bapuji transmits spiritual energy into others (Shaktipaat); takes away their negativities, weaknesses and replaces them with his divine energy. The sky blue colour in Bapuji’s aura indicates the high celestial regions to which Bapuji’s aura extends.

Of particularly great importance in Bapuji’s aura is the potency of transmitting divine energy. In other people’s aura I found the capacity to receive energy from others. But the notable thing I found in Bapuji’s aura was the potency to destroy the negative energy of one coming into contact with him and to bestow positive energy on him. Another peculiar feature of Bapuji’s aura is the potency to transmit energy to anybody even from far off.

When I went to Bapuji’s satsang, I found that Bapuji’s aura gets stretched like latex and envelops the entire gathering…

Read the entire article.

Modernizing Mascot Names Is A Worthwhile Endeavor, So Is A Conversation About Reforming Sports



In this blog I sometimes point out instances of political correctness gone awry, but I also don’t hesitate to call for greater sensitivity and cultural diversity when it is genuinely needed. Changing sports team mascots is an example of an important change to the symbolism that defines our civil society, one which could have a significant impact on how people think. Just getting people to talk about the reasons for the name and logo changes would produce a lot of good consciousness raising.

However the situation with the Washington team bearing a name which is slightly to somewhat to moderately offensive to Native Americans raises another topic: We wouldn’t have to be having this debate if we reformed the ownership structure of sports teams. What would be the social benefits of eliminating private ownership of sports teams and replacing it with a public-private partnership or a system of non-profit organizations organized in the interest of the public welfare? More about this post-capitalist idea after giving readers a bit of background on the naming controversy…

David Plotz of Slate explains the need for the online magazine to no longer refer to Washington DC’s football team as “The Redskins”:

For decades, American Indian activists and others have been asking, urging, and haranguing the Washington Redskins to ditch their nickname, calling it a racist slur and an insult to Indians. They have collected historical and cultural examples of the use of redskin as a pejorative and twice sued to void the Redskins trademark, arguing that the name cannot be legally protected because it’s a slur. (A ruling on the second suit is expected soon; the first failed for technical reasons.) A group in the House of Representatives also recently introduced a bill to void the trademark. The team has been criticized from every different direction, by every kind of person. More than 20 years ago, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, no politically correct squish, urged the team to abandon the name. Today, the mayor of Washington, D.C.—the mayor!—goes out of his way to avoid saying the team’s name.

Why, then, has nothing changed? Because the choice of the team’s name belongs to one person, Washington owner Daniel Snyder. He has brushed off the controversy with arm waves at “tradition,” “competitiveness,” and “honor.” He recently told USA Today, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER—you can use caps.” Earlier this year, some Redskins flunky was assigned the job of locating high school teams around the country called Redskins, and found 70 of them, which proved very little except that the Redskins are capable of spreading a bad example to the young. (A Google search of “Redskins” “nickname” and “high school” turns up story after story of schools dropping the nickname.) And this May, the team pathetically trotted out a guy named Chief Dodson to explain that his people were “quite honored” by the Redskins name. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell cited Dodson’s support in a letter to the Congressional Native American Caucus, apparently not realizing that the supposedly Redskins-loving Dodson wasn’t a real chief.

And then Plotz explains that his publication doesn’t approve of the monicker (“While the name Redskins is only a bit offensive, it’s extremely tacky and dated…”) they aren’t waiting for the team’s owner. They’re just going to stop using the offensive term.

Andrew Sullivan has an extensive series of posts giving opinions about whether sports teams should modernize their dated and racially insensitive mascots. I find the topic interesting but also a diversion from a more difficult economic structural problem.

Daniel Snyder, like Donald Trump or Warren Buffett, has free reign in the U.S. economic system to run his enterprise largely as he sees fit, charging sky high prices, making fat profits, and giving the teams names as offensive as he wants. But if sports teams were quasi-socialized or mutualized, the decision-making authority would be handed over to an individual or group working in the public interest. Mutual insurance companies organize this way — their policy owners are literally owners, and profits are redistributed to them through premium refunds.

Mutualized sports teams could hoist a wide rage of benefits to the public good and social justice, lowering outrageous athlete pay sometimes in excess of $50 million for football players for instance and lowering ticket prices. How many sports fans would be interested in actually owning a piece of their favorite team, showing their loyalty and getting reduced prices on tickets as a result?

I would wager a whole lot. Sports fans would become more invested in what is happening with the team and participate in decision-making through their voting and election of officers. And the billions of dollars that taxpayers pay to fund new stadiums could actually be restructured to give taxpayers stock ownership in the teams which would use the stadiums.

From an Integral standpoint, I have to wonder if mutualization or quasi-socialization of sports teams would not raise the consciousness of many sports fans, turning Red towards Amber for instance, just as promoting an employee to a stockholder would increase their sense of participation in something wider than themselves which participates in the larger whole.

Spirituality isn’t just about connecting the little self with a God far removed from the world, but expanding the self’s sense of loyalties and concerns and caring to broader and broader communities. And in Christian terms, spirituality certainly is about more than individual salvation; it’s about our collective embodiment of the Reign of Heaven come.

On The Spirit of an Elm Tree



Have you ever wondered why it is that you can be unmoved by the sight of a homeless person on the street but want to cry your heart out when you see a TV commercial featuring an abused puppy or hungry child half way around the world? Or why it is that in order to feel more connected to other people you need to spend time away from them, off in a secluded wood or empty park for a little while?

I suppose no one answer fits every person’s way of seeing the world. But I know for me that I have often experienced my deepest heart openings at times when I have been lonely and in places where I have been alone. Not totally by myself, but absent other people or soft fuzzy needy animals. There my companions have no reptilian or mammalian brain systems — they are principally the trees and the stones.

My connection to trees is one to which I ought to pay more attention. For most of my life I didn’t think a lot about trees as I walked through the city streets unless I had some practical reason — say, a downed branch cutting across my path. That wasn’t very connected of me, and too often it’s still a shortcoming. So I’ve been working to become more mindful of my relationship with the world of trees in particular, one genus at a time.

Elms are of particular interest to me at the moment. Looking at pictures of elm trees, they are so very different in appearance.  The “Preston Twins” in Brighton, England, are absolutely wondrous. Other varieties are no less intriguing. And the “Biscarrosse Elm” in France is horror-movie scary with branches appearing like bony arms stretching out to grab you.

It’s no wonder that in Western mythology there have generally been two different traditions with regard to the elm tree (if you can believe Wikipedia’s entry on Elm). The positive tradition elevates the tree to the level of Paradise, admiring it as connected to the blood of life, the roots of the vineyards. And in the darker tradition poets link the tree with death, writing verses about elm trees upon gravesites and telling of superstitions that the tree is an ill omen because it doesn’t bear edible fruit.

It sounds about right that we have such different perspectives about the elm tree… and there’s something about both the golden and shadowy views of the elm tree that resonate for me. In times when I want to be alone with the trees, the elm gives me the feeling of being with an older person moreso than many other trees. There’s something about its shape, opening out from a sturdy trunk, that is human-like. The spirit of the tree seems connected to that of the Elder — even the names Elm and Elder start the same way. Elders may be wise and gentle and kind … or crotchety and cranky. And so trees too have personalities connected to them, which we intuit from their appearance.

Our relationship with an old tree may begin with the realization that from their perspective, we are but lads and lasses. They have been around longer and have the bark rings to show for it. We may speak of them wanting things from us or for us; many want our well-being and growth. Others, as Tolkien observed, seem to bear anger within their trunks and branches. Those trees also have lessons for us, and we can gain insights by observing them as if the Earth itself were speaking to us (which he/she/it is).

Nature spirits are real. Trees have lessons to teach us. Spiritual enlightenment does not force us to grow out of animism, it teaches us that we must grow beyond our exclusive identification with animism. Once we learn of the intelligence and personality within the Earth and its living beings that is a face of the proto-personal essence of the divine, we forget this lesson at our peril. At the very least, we may lose track of the simple ways that trees can open our hearts, connect us deeply to our grief, and generate longing for connection to the Source of All.

Photo Credit: John Constable, ‘Study of an Elm Tree’ [1821]

Prayer Addiction Is Real, Says Scholar



T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford, says prayer addiction may very well be an actual disorder. Evidence she cites in a guest column for The New York Times:

There are, indeed, evangelical organizations that teach people (often young people) how to identify and destroy demons. I met one young woman after she came back from one of those summer camps. She returned to college with a sense of purpose, and would pray intensely for hours. She would walk into a restaurant and sense an immaterial, sulfurous evil and feel that she had to pray powerfully against it. It was as though the world were drenched in darkness that no one else could see.

Soon, she found herself crying while praying; she felt God’s love so deeply that she wept with the grief of being human. But this intense need to pray also began to frighten her. “It is so crazy,” she told me. “It’s like we’re addicted.”

Eventually, she stopped. It was just too exhausting. Some weeks later, she remarked: “It’s so strange. You get into that zone, and you know that the students around you think about things completely differently, and you really do wonder whether you are crazy.”

Read the whole article. Much of the article is actually attempting to show that people believe prayer is beneficial, even an atheist she profiles. Very interesting.

That nugget alone is hardly a scientific analysis of “prayer addiction”, but it does open the door to a good conversation about how to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy prayer. And it does raise the question: How many of the saints, sages, and mystics of the past may have suffered from “prayer addiction”? William James is not alone among psychiatrists identifying a connection between the “sick soul” and deep religious experience. By no means does this disqualify religious experience, it deepens our understanding of its varieties, calling us to wonder what is so wrong or unhealthy with feeling God’s love so deeply that one “weeps with the grief of being human”?

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Does Religion Cause More Wars Than Secularism?



Writing at America Magazine, Catholic theology professor William T. Cavanaugh makes a strong case for doing away with the simplified notion that religion causes violence. In point after point, example after example, he builds up to this:

The crucial point is this: people devote themselves to all sorts of things. People treat all sorts of things as their religion. With regard to the question of violence, people kill and die for all sorts of things; there is no good reason to suppose that people are more inclined to kill for a god than for a flag, for a nation, for freedom, for free markets, for the socialist revolution, for access to oil and so on. In certain contexts, ideologies of jihad or the sacrificial atonement of Christ can lend themselves to violence. In other contexts, belief in the free market or in Greater Russia or in the United States as worldwide liberator is what releases killing energies. If the biblical critique of idolatry is on the mark, there is no essential difference between the two, between religious and secular causes. There is no religious/secular distinction in the Bible. In the Middle Ages, the religious/secular distinction was a distinction between two types of clergy; it meant nothing like what we mean by it now. The way we now use the religious/secular binary is a modern, Western invention; it does not simply respond to the nature of things.

Instead of saying that religion causes violence and secularism doesn’t, Cavanaugh argues for a blame-everyone alternative which is “empirical” and “case by case”:

It must be repeated—though it should go without saying—that nothing justifies the violence done in the name of Islam or any other faith. My point is simply that nothing justifies violence done in the name of secular faiths either, and that there is no essential difference between the two kinds of faith. Both are based on pre-rational narratives of belonging and deliverance. A sound approach to violence avoids making sweeping statements about religion, as if we knew what that was, and adopts a more empirical, case by case approach, on a level playing field between religious and secular ideologies and practices.

I agree wholeheartedly with Cavanaugh’s logic in “The Root of Evil” — there is no way to blame religion as such or secularism as such for violence while exonerating the other one. But at the same time, it doesn’t follow that one must remain silent about religion leading to certain kinds of violence much more than secularism, and secularism leading to certain kinds much more than religion. Or noticing that there are different levels of consciousness, some of which are more prone to violence than others, particularly if they are at the Red stage of cultural evolution, whether they are secular or religious. Tribalism is tribalism, and people in a survival-of-the-fittest mindset will act violently when pushed whether they are surviving in the name of a god or ideology or nothing in particular. At the same time, there is a form of pacifism which is distinctly postmodern, and it can be found among secular hippies and liberation theologians. It makes sense to analyze the pacifist’s predisposition towards violence by means of the common Green qualities.

What Cavanaugh doesn’t completely do is look beyond the binaries he opposes, he simply sets them aside for a moment and then asks that we pick them up again and hold them a little more lightly and play with them more carefully. That’s fine, but it’s still comparing religion to secularism. It’s when you begin to see both religion and secularism as varieties of an evolutionary spiral of unfolding — completely balanced with the empirically rigorous attention to keep our feet planted on the ground — that you might take a giant leap towards peace and progress.

Statistical Analysis: Pope Francis’s Signature Theme May Be “Mercy”



John L. Allen Jr. of National Catholic Reporter writes:

In a recent essay for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Enzo Bianchi, founder of the celebrated ecumenical monastery of Bose, offered a statistical analysis of the words used most frequently by Francis since his election. He found that the single most commonly used term was “joy,” more than 100 times, followed closely by “mercy,” which the pope has used almost 100 times.

Francis made mercy the heart of his first homily at the Vatican’s parish church of St. Anne’s on March 17, and he returned to it later that day in his first Angelus address.

“For me, and I say this humbly, the strongest message of the Lord is mercy,” Francis said at Mass.

Reflecting on the accusations directed at Jesus in the Gospels of consorting with sinners, Francis said: “Jesus forgets. He has a special capacity to forget. He forgets, he kisses, he embraces, and he only says, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.’ ”

“The Lord never gets tired of forgiving, never,” Francis said. “We are the ones who get tired of asking him for forgiveness.”

Read the whole post.

Divine mercy is also key to my own belief system, itself forged in a tolerant Catholicism. To recognize one’s need for forgiveness from the higher power, one puts humility first and awareness of one’s failure to love and be all one can be, and then receives love from God which transforms one’s failure into acceptance and ultimately into hope to be a better human being. Without divine mercy, there is no point in asking forgiveness.

Mercy may be mapped from an Integral lense parallel to Agape — it is hugely important to the divine’s embrace of humanity.

(Hat tip: Daily Dish)

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Spirituality and the Creation of Historical Fiction



The Los Angeles Review of Books featured this month “Bringing Harmony and Sense: on Spirituality and Creativity”, a dialogue between writer and Yogini Naseem Rashedi and Ron Hansen, the Gerard Manley Hopkins Professor of English at Santa Clara University. The topic included the intersection between spirituality and his creative writing process.

His specialty is writing historical fiction and among the revelations were the fact that he didn’t know he had such a deep spiritual need until he tried to write historical fiction. To educate himself he enrolled in a theology class and kept going until he earned a Master’s degree, finding that he was “feeding and enriching a hungry aspect of my personality that lived”.

Also he doesn’t find so much that faith shaped his creativity as the opposite:

RR: How has your faith shaped your literary sensibility?

RH: Maybe it’s the other way around: in writing about vexed people and crucial events I have been forced to focus on last things, on the eschatological, and ask the questions that loom as we approach crises or death. There are, of course, many novelists with no religious faith, who may have even discarded what they grew up with, but my own favorite writers are those who have looked heavenward and struggled with theological mysteries.

Read the whole article.

City Officials Ban Use of Words “Dinosaur” and “Halloween” To Avoid Offending Religious Groups



In Integral circles, this sort of thing is sometimes called the Green meme running amuck (in other words, postmodernism’s excesses creates silliness out of excessive feelings). If you work for some cities the U.S., please avoid using the word “dinosaur” because it conjures up thoughts of evolution which could be offensive for religious fundamentalists who don’t believe in it. And don’t use “Halloween” either because that could hurt the feelings of pagans. That is a reality in New York according to an article on

The New York Post reported in March 2012 that the city’s Department of Education avoids references to words like “dinosaurs,” “birthdays,” “Halloween” and dozens of other topics on city-issued tests because they could evoke “unpleasant emotions” among the students.

Dinosaurs, for example, conjures the topic of evolution, which could rile fundamentalists and birthdays are not celebrated by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Halloween, meanwhile, suggests an affiliation to Paganism.

Read more:

Recently Seattle banned words deemed offensive to African-Americans and undocumented workers. According to Fox News, the city banned the words “brown bag” and “citizen” — also arguably excesses of the Green meme.

Integrally-informed diversity training programs may include efforts to educate workers about the impact of their actions, but generally don’t get hung up on language in ways which create an environment of overzealous political correctness.

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Does Buddhism Oppose Self-Defense?



The crimes against Jyoti Singh Pandey and the aftermath for Buddhists are discussed in an essay by M. Sophia Newman from Religion Dispatches. A range of perspectives on self-defense arise in Buddhism and its critics after the watershed rape and murder after women begin to enroll in self-defense classes. On the one hand are Buddhists who cite the Buddha’s opposition to anger and violence as a reason to stay out of self-defense classes:

In the Pandey case, however, one leader spoke against self-defense. Amid calls for stiffer penalties for rape, religious teacher Asaram Bapu proposed a different deterrent: “The girl should have taken God’s name and could have held the hand of one of the men and said, ‘I consider you my brother’…Then the misconduct wouldn’t have happened.” Bapu later flatly blamed Pandey for her own rape, a sentiment with which some government officials agreed.

Twenty-five centuries earlier, in a scripture called the Kakacupama Sutta, the Buddha had also advised passivity: “Even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered, even at that, would not be doing my bidding. Those who hurt me are impelled by my actions…. It is I alone who harm them, and they are my benefactors. Oh wicked mind, why do you misconstrue this and become angry?”

Some Buddhist scholars trace the origins of the belief in absolute non-violence to the doctrine of no-self:

[Read more…]

Quote of the Day: Clare Graves



“I am not saying in this conception of adult behavior that one style of being, one form of human existence is inevitably and in all circumstances superior to or better than another form of human existence, another style of being. What I am saying is that when one form of being is more congruent with the realities of existence, then it is the better form of living for those realities. And what I am saying is that when one form of existence ceases to be functional for the realities of existence then some other form, either higher or lower in the hierarchy, is the better form of living. I do suggest, however, and this I deeply believe is so, that for the overall welfare of total man’s existence in this world, over the long run of time, higher levels are better than lower levels and that the prime good of any society’s governing figures should be to promote human movement up the levels of human existence.”

— Dr. Clare W. Graves

Photo Credit: CatMan! (Flickr)

World Spirituality: We Have Enough Truth Between Us To Get To Work



Our family and our home, the human family and its civilization, are at risk. There are too many concerns which plague us as a planet and global collective which are too serious to ignore and too complex for our present level of consciousness to handle. It is a dangerous time, and we need to face it with courage and insight and the spirit of a genuinely new world philosophy.

Fortunately it isn’t necessary to create a worldview out of thin air. There is already a potential candidate at hand: Integral World Spirituality (by whatever name finally emerges). As Marc Gafni so eloquently said in “Spirit’s Next Move”:

For the first time in the history of planet earth, in the history of consciousness, a world spirituality is utterly possible and utterly necessary. A world spirituality is one that transcends, ends the trance of any particular religion and nationality, that weaves together the best medicines of  every great system of spirit and knowing into a larger whol,e in which we understand that that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us, in which we understand and live the common truths and calls and obligations that are laid out by all the great systems of spirit and we also experience and benefit from the unique gifts of the different systems of spirit woven together into a larger, gorgeous tapestry that gives us a system to live by, and that all peoples of earth can find themselves as citizens of a world spirituality. That is a possibility that exists today in a way that never did before in the history of planet earth. This vision is a necessity today and was never possible at any other time in the history of the planet.

This blog will spend lots of time discussing integral spirituality (including contributions by its pioneering thinker Ken Wilber) and there is no need to introduce the topic today in a comprehensive fashion. Let me just say three things:

First, that an integral world spirituality is not a pipe dream, but a substantive reality which is already here. I have what may be called an integral spirituality and many thousands of people do (I know; they’re my Facebook friends; they congregate in conferences and conventions and meetups; sometimes they come over for dinner). When Marc Gafni says world spirituality is already possible, he might also have said is already happening.

Second, an integral spirituality will probably not become a new religion, even if sociologists eventually categorize it as such in order to track its observable features. Instead it is most likely to flourish as a “common language” which unites people from around the world regardless of their religious belief or lack thereof based on a shared way of talking about and thinking about the realities of spirit.

Third, world spirituality cherishes the uniqueness of persons — our unique selves — and it honors the distinctiveness of each religion and system of knowing. It does not like to divide people up into “more developed” and “lesser developed” as if those things mattered to Spirit. They don’t, though developmental thought is honored for its contribution to helping us understand our individuality and commonalities better.

And so there you have it. We are here. We are learning to see beyond the boundaries of conventional religions and spiritual systems which haven’t been able to hold us. There are common truths to be known and felt, truly catholic openness to Truth itself, knocking on our door. We don’t know the Truth perfectly, but we are sure that you don’t either but we all have enough truth between us that we ought to be able to solve the problems we face as a civilization.

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GetReligion: Desmond Tutu is a Mere “Celebrity” and “Historical Figure”, So Media Be Warned


Archbishop Tutu of South Africa speaks during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen

In George Conger’s “The moral (and news) authority of Desmond Tutu”, GetReligion exercises what moral and journalistic authority it has today to announce that Desmond Tutu’s better days have past and he is a “historical figure” important for his work decades ago and a mere “celebrity”. This is there way of speaking in “journalistic code” that they resent the fact that newsrooms treat the American civil rights fight, the anti-apartheid fight, and the gay rights fight as comparable, when they would much rather see a firm line separating the racial struggles with the gays’ rights.

And so it is GetReligion that finds itself a lonely voice, the resentment of the anti-gay religionism strained of its overtly theological nature and funneled into a narrow channel of criticizing the press for not realizing Tutu is basically a “has-been” and demanding that evidence be cited of how much he is not “universally beloved”. I’m sure the U.S. and U.K. news media had something to do with Tutu’s image, but George is missing the angle. In super-anti-gay Africa, where religion is largely a force of hostility to the gay rights struggle, Tutu is a lonely voice speaking the conscience of the world — and the voice of God — to a people oppressed by homophobia even if many of them don’t know it.

That makes him a powerful moral figure towering high in the present, not just the past, according to a reasonable standard. Conger makes this mistake presumably because his moral worldview is rooted in Amber traditional opposition to gay rights and he just “doesn’t get” the Orange modernist / Green pluralist perspectives, so he wants to push skepticism of gay rights into the press through the backdoor.

Arguably the former Archbishop’s moral authority and influence is becoming greater now than ever before, and it matters not that he is not “universally beloved”. Prophets seldom are. History will judge, and inclinations are that it is moving rapidly in the direction of understanding that gay rights is part of the human liberation struggle.

Photo Credit: Africa Renewal via Compfight cc

Robert Augustus Masters: It’s Not Enough to Feel, We Must Know Our Emotions



Robert Augustus Masters, PhD announces his new book Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of Your Emotions. I haven’t read it, but it has won some powerful endorsements from some folks who have. It is time for an integrally-informed book about emotional intelligence.

A excerpt:

To be alive is to feel, and to feel is to experience emotion. Whether our emotions are overwhelming or subtle, fiery or chilling, dark or light, they are always present, finding expression in an extraordinary number of ways. Our emotions are ever-moving wonders, bringing together physiology, feeling, cognition, and conditioning, allowing us to connect and communicate in more ways than we can imagine. The more deeply we know our emotions, the deeper and more fulfilling our lives will be.

However anatomically complex our emotions are, they are simple in their felt immediacy, providing us with the opportunity to participate more fully and more consciously in them so that we might make as wise as possible use of them. For all too many of us, emotions remain a largely untapped source of strength, freedom, and connection. They are so much a part of us that we tend to take them for granted, losing touch with their sheer mystery and with the marvelously varied ways they transmit our inner workings, facially and otherwise.

How well do you know your emotions? To what degree are you at home with them? How do you view them—are they more ally or foe? Do you distance yourself from them, or get lost in them? Do you keep them tightly reined, or do you let yourself get carried away by them? Or do you cultivate intimacy with them, however dark or unpleasant or disturbing they may be?

[Read more…]

Don’t Be Afraid Of What A Psychic Will Predict



In a guest post on Llewellyn, author Debra Robinson speaks from her own experience regarding psychic predictions of death. She writes:

The week before my twenty-four-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver, he asked me for a reading. I was in a hurry, so I looked at his palm and did a quick tarot layout. And I didn’t see his death. I interpreted what I saw as a huge change coming, which fit with what was going on in his life. I’m grateful I didn’t understand what I was seeing; it would’ve been unthinkable. Now, I think that my interpretation wasn’t too far wrong. The biggest change we’ll ever undergo is our transition to the afterlife; I just didn’t realize it was James’s time to make that journey. I’m glad I didn’t see it—it was better left unseen. Maybe God in His mercy holds back our gift at times like these.

My story and his are detailed in my book, A Haunted Life: The True Ghost Story of a Reluctant Psychic. The uncanny “coincidences” leading up to his death and his own clairvoyance about it (the pictures he painted of a giant heart; the song lyrics he wrote—”As close to tortured as I’ve ever been is lying here wondering, if my heart might beat away and away and away”—they all fell into place when we met the man who received James’s heart and he uttered James’s favorite phrase: “It’s all good.”

She adds that despite her belief in uncanny clairvoyance only a Higher Power, not a psychic, can truly know the time of your death. And wow–a man who received a teenager’s heart uttered his own favorite phrase. Wow.

Photo Credit: Unknown

To Remedy Poverty, What About the Kingdom of God?


How does Christianity — the religion whose founder said “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) — respond to the plight of Americans in poverty? Hardly speaking in a catholic voice, Roman Catholicism is divided along ideological grounds, represented by seemingly polar opposites Rep. Paul Ryan on the right and a fiesty nun on the left. They each got their turn to speak today on the record.

According to an article at Religion News Service, Sister Simone Campbell testified at a U.S. House Budget Committee hearing today:

[Paul] Ryan, himself a Catholic, has been criticized by fellow Catholics and even the hierarchy for his previous budget proposals, though he has defended his views, including during a controversial visit to Georgetown University last year when he was Mitt Romney’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket.

On Wednesday, Ryan argued that the nation has spent $15 trillion dollars on the “war on poverty” and yet 46 million Americans are currently living in poverty, and 20 million Americans earn an income that is less than half of the poverty level.

Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that 58 percent of households receiving SNAP have someone who is employed and in 82 percent of households on SNAP one of the family members finds work within a year. He said that shows what a crucial support the program provides to working families.

He called on Campbell to comment about those who need a little help from food nutrition programs “not so they can be in a hammock, but so that they can try to pull themselves and their families out of poverty.”

Campbell responded that for her the issue is wages — that minimum-wage jobs are “insufficient to support a family” and that SNAP is, just as intended, supplemental.

Campbell has been working with the interfaith community in Washington to craft what religious progressives call a “Faithful Budget” that they say advocates “reasonable revenue for responsible programs,” as well as accountability in making sure those programs work.

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., asked Campbell what the church is doing wrong that it needed to reach out to the government to “do something that is so directly their nature,” adding that Christianity is about serving the poor.

In response, Campbell said that the issues are so big and charitable dollars aren’t sufficient. So there is “a government responsibility to ensure everyone’s capacity to eat,” she said. “We do the charity part.”

The ideological divide will not be bridged until those on the left acknowledge the importance of individual subject motivation and actions and those on the right acknowledge the importance of collective systems and culture to create the chains which bind people in poverty no matter how motivated they are to escape. Are they still talking past each other? According to this report, Ryan merely defended his views that government ought to do less and Campbell saying it ought to do more.

Integral solutions must look beyond the Lower-Right quadrant towards approaches which raise consciousness and coordinate cultural/religious responses and socio-economic structures. Nobody seems to want to talk about the possibility that humankind has the potential to overcome this problem once and for all, but it will take a revolution in consciousness — the fuller coming of the Reign of Heaven of which Jesus preached — to see it happen.

Photo: Religion News Service

An Atheist Criticizes Atheists Over Symbolic Blindness



Daniel Fickne, an atheism blogger at Patheos, has written a hearty criticism of extreme elements within the atheist community who have opposed the creation of a Holocaust memorial in Ohio on account that it includes the Star of David. Hard to believe that such a defense is necessary, it is good to see atheists policing one of their own, so to speak, in the interest of, well, let’s listen to Fickne’s own words:

But I am aghast, livid, embarrassed, ashamed, and offended to report to you that Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation has written a letter opposing this memorial under the false charge that it is exclusionary and violates the principle of the Separation of Church and State simply because it features the Star of David on government property and (only allegedly but not actually) omits other victims of the Holocaust…. n doing so they show an outright offensive inability to understand the multivalence of symbols and their different meanings in different contexts….

This monument is not an endorsement of the Jewish religion. It is an endorsement of the right to exist and thrive and prosper of one of the groups of people most heinously and relentlessly demonized and abused in all the world. That Star of David in this context is a symbol of the longest fighters for religious freedom, the people who endured in defiance of Christian theocracy (both formal and informal), the people who represent defiance against unbearable efforts towards marginalization like no one else in the European mind.

Assuredly a Holocaust memorial ought not be opposed on “separation of church and state” grounds; there are many legitimate state interests in publicly opposing genocide and reminding the public that such atrocities must never happen again. And it surely is good to oppose an Orange-hued (i.e., modernist) atheism which hews to overly reductionist readings of religious symbolism. But it is notable that Fickne cites the “multivalence of symbols”, a perennial Green observation, without noticing the fact that Teal gets so readily: symbols are not merely multivalent in a way that means all symbols are almost arbitrarily assessed, but symbols are perceived differently across a spectrum of levels of consciousness.

The real news here is not that a Green-speaking atheist opposes Orange-speaking atheists, but that the clash of levels of consciousness in the public sphere continues day after day without nigh a mention by the media. Atheists need more thinkers who not only see the multivalence of symbols, allowing them to respect differences of opinion with religionists, but thinkers who understand that symbols are embedded in evolutionary contexts of emerging wholeness and reconciliation. In this way, atheists might just move beyond not only beyond the theism but beyond the a-; beyond the antithesis which rejects the thesis of theism into a synthesis which understands things just a bit more holistically.

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Is There a Spiritual Crisis Among Young African-Americans?



An editor at Sojourner’s thinks there’s a Black crisis caused by the “promise of integration”. A provocative commentary published by Anthony A. Parker is called “Whose America is It?”:

The effect this loss of control has had on my generation is devastating. Growing up in “integrated” America has established a pattern of cognitive dissonance among young blacks. Inoculated with secular values emphasizing the individual instead of the community, and progressive politics over theology, young blacks rarely recognize each other as brothers and sisters, or as comrades in the struggle. We’re now competitors, relating to each other out of fear and mistrust.

The decay of culturally specific institutions in the black community has meant the supplantation of concrete programmatic policies designed to alleviate our worsening condition in America. Whereas black America once had a unique platform from which it could (and did) address issues, we are now reduced to angry rhetoric. Without ownership of black institutions, our best interests will never be served, our leaders will not be held accountable, and the only vested interest we will have is in our problems. And they are legion. Black-on-black violence, drug abuse, high school drop-out rates, teen pregnancy, single-parent households, high rates of incarceration, crime, homelessness, and inadequate health care, just to name a few.

WHO ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE GOING? And how are we going to get there? We can no longer answer these questions. Indeed, we have stopped asking them. But just as the future of blacks seemed to be in peril when integration was introduced decades ago, our future as a viable racial and ethnic group in this country will be greatly diminished unless a new model for racial and cultural development is established.

Let’s just say this much: ASSIMILATED DOES NOT EQUAL INTEGRAL. Assimilated means the particularity gets left behind in favor of the universal. Integral means that both the particular and universal are affirmed. And “integrated” is just a confusing term one ought not use if one really means Integral or Assimilated.

For what it’s worth, the article is based on something the author wrote in 1990. I remember that time well, my senior year studying Comparative Religion and Philosophy at Harvard. It was postmodernism’s heydey, the Green revolution. How well has it aged?

Pope Francis: Who Am I To Judge?



Pope Francis’s unscripted comments about gay people (or perhaps just gay priests) – “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” is what it is. As a bisexual man and person of Catholic religious orientation, I enjoy the well-deserved attention it is receiving in the media.

Just when I thought: “Finally there’s a bit of good news in the world about religious traditionalists changing their minds and opening their hearts and setting a new tone that can usher in a new era in reconciliation between the straights and the gays!” wouldn’t you know it, a comment on the Facebook page for from a reader who says:

He’s just another puppet for profit, his words mean absolutely nothing to me…

Out of context, that’s just closed-minded and mean. The man is the pope, for God’s sake, and he’s just made a landmark shift in tone that could change the shape of gay spirituality forever. And all you can do is call him a “puppet for profit”?

But in context… well, that’s the thing. I don’t know that man’s context. I don’t know what he’s suffered at the hands of homophobia and religious indoctrination. I can’t put myself in his shoes because I don’t know what abuse he’s gone through and why apparently he hasn’t healed from it yet to the point where he knows that the pope’s words deserve at least as much respect as the guy he would meet over the deli counter at lunch. Just because he’s the pope doesn’t mean you can call him a “puppet for profit”! Ouch.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

What Would Jeremiah Do?


Featured today on BeliefNet is “Jeremiah: The Fate of a Prophet”, an excerpt from a book by Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau. Writing about Jeremiah, Lau says:

The words of the prophets have been preserved for us, their distant descendants, so that we may learn what is right in the eyes of God and man. But in their own days, in real time, there is hardly a prophet who has redressed the social, religious, or political wrongs of Israel; the prophets barked, but the caravan kept moving. Moreover, when a prophet dared to deviate from his usual message of morality and challenged the existing order, he was declared an enemy of the people. Thus, the prophet Amos was banished by the priest of Bethel, Amaziah, in the name of King Jeroboam: “Get thee out, seer!” (Amos 7:12).

Rabbi Lau encourages public critics today to see themselves not merely as commentators but as prophetic voices, even if it means paying a personal price for the vision. Jeremiah was one prophet who did, one about whom it could not be said that he told the people what they wanted to hear.

I’m not comparing myself to Jeremiah, but it is no revelation to my readers that I have been guided by angels and have taken the name (at least in spiritual matters not yet as a day-to-day appellation) Kalen O’Tolán, One Who is Buddha, Boson, and Book. I am a self-declared and Self-declared Prophet of God. And I have suffered the indignity of a few strange eye rolls from onlookers who heard me say that in person! Because that is just the sort of thing people today don’t want to hear and don’t expect to hear, not even from an Integral world spirituality blogger. Trust me the strange eye rolls weren’t all that bad.

We live a strange world. It is scandalous for a religion blogger to proclaim He is a Prophet of God, for surely that is a sign of insanity or at least mental instability. But in the world which I inhabit (I just call it reality), it is scandalous for a religion blogger to NOT be a prophet of the Sacred speaking out loud. What sort of insanity would it be to set one’s self on a soap box called a blog, write about the word of God, and yet to believe that one is NOT one’s self the Self speaking through the divine instrument?

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Dharma Talk for Tuesday: Jeff Foster

About Jeff Foster

Jeff Foster studied Astrophysics at Cambridge University. In his mid-twenties, after a long period of depression and illness, he became addicted to the idea of ‘spiritual enlightenment’ and embarked on an intensive spiritual quest for the ultimate truth of existence.

The spiritual search came crashing down with the clear recognition of the non-dual nature of everything, and the discovery of the extraordinary in the ordinary. In the clarity of this seeing, life became what it always was: intimate, open, loving and spontaneous, and Jeff was left with a deep understanding of the root illusion behind all human suffering, and a love of the present moment.

He presently holds meetings, retreats and private one-to-one sessions around the world, gently but directly pointing people back to the deep acceptance inherent in the present moment. He helps people discover who they really are, beyond all thoughts and judgments about themselves, even in the midst of the stress and struggle of modern day living and intimate relationships.

His website is

Rick Warren Returns to the Pulpit, Media Coverage Returns to the Rote



Get Religion may get a lot about religion and they may get a lot about the media, but only at a level of consciousness which numbs the mind of an Integral journalist such as myself. I’ve been reading the Terry Mattingly-helmed publication on and off since its very debut, mostly off in recent years to speak the truth. But that’s about to change if my latest experiment in the blogosphere, World Spirituality Post, becomes the blog that it could be.

After one season in which I could hardly find a Get Religion post to praise, Terry himself once called me a “heckler.” So now I heckle again, though I prefer to call it harmless criticism and praise. The reason I praise is simple: when I want to learn who is saying what about an important occasion in world spirituality — say, Rick Warren returning to preaching for the first time after the death of his 27-year-old son from suicide — I turn to them.

Get Religion has a schtick, and I use the term lovingly because it’s appropriate. I said so in my 2007 blog post on on religious journalism. They analyze news media to find the religious ghosts. And by “ghosts” they don’t mean Holy Ghost, they mean the ways in which religion isn’t being portrayed quite the way religious conservatives would like to see it portrayed: as a system of meaning with doctrinal truths which because they are believed have real life consequences and therefore the doctrines must be faithfully represented and explained theologically order to ascertain the real significance of the news event. “The media just doesn’t get religion!” they say; it’s their signature.

There will be much more time to comment on Get Religion. It’s just disappointing to me to come back to their site and see that their schtick hasn’t changed in a decade. “Results vary as media follows Rick Warren’s return” by Bobby Ross Jr. is rote for them, and judging from their links to other coverage it’s also rote for the rest of the media covering Rick Warren. For one thing, nobody asks the parent of a suicide victim “why?”, even if they are a world famous preacher with fire in the belly, especially not the mainstream media or Get Religion. No ghosts there.

About Rick Warren, the story about his son’s suicide moves me more deeply than I can say at this time. My heart goes out to him and his family at this time of unbelievable heartache. I pray that Pastor Warren’s teaching is moved in transformational ways.

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Audjuga Nub. 5: The Imperative of a World Auxiliary Language


Abstract: Hadith No. 5 previews the Lingua-U, Language of Subtle Energy, to be debuted later this year on Beginning with a discussion of the state of language evolution and efforts to preserve linguistic diversity, the author holds that there is a need to respect linguistic diversity by honoring the Sacred Word traditions, not merely cataloging words and grammatical structures. Tolkien’s view of Esperanto is contrasted to the author’s, who is sympathetic but who believes that conlangs are not useful for the purposes of uniting the common patterns of Sacred Word traditions or bringing together linguistic universals at a subtle energetic level. Examples of the usefulness of Lingua-U are given by means of reflections on the meta-words for God and Christ. The author claims that Lingua-U may constitute a Violet technology for Integral Spirituality, meaning that it offers value that no other altitude of consciousness can deliver while incorporating their various perspectives as stations of life.

[Read more…]

Dream of the fallen war hero

fallen-war-heroesIn a dream this morning, a great Church is in need of a new leader. The difficulty is that they need not one person, but two, a team. So they go on a search for war heroes.

If the executive search team has turned up any candidates, it’s a secret. Prospective candidates are expected to hit the road and journey to the place of appointment.

There is one war hero who lives in a town near mine, but he fell in battle and has never been the same since. Dispirited, he has not even heard the news that there is a search going on.

I have heard the news and think he would be an ideal candidate, so I plan a trip to visit him. He lives not far away. I bring a copy of his book to sign, since he wrote a famous book telling of exploits in battle.

Before I get to the book signing, I fall into an inexplicable sleep. I am resting in bed at my mother’s house.

My spirit goes to visit the war hero where he is and tells him about the executive search. He realizes that he’s a good choice, but he is worried because he doesn’t have any friends in the area.

At this time, his fans at the book signing come forward and many reccognize me. They tell us that I am very famous: I just completed a tour of duty in which I vanquished a powerful foe and saved the Church.

As they tell me, I begin to remember the battle. It was as they said. I returned with much valor and renown.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” asked the fallen war hero.

“I don’t know. I guess it was because I was drafted and I put the uniform on, did my service, and then took it off and never looked back.”

“That’s not the whole truth,” he said.

Memories of being tortured flash in my mind and in his. He was flogged. I was starved. There’s more, but that’s all I remember. He feels what I feel, and I feel what he feels. He saw in his mind what I saw in mine, and vice versa.

“I will go with you on the road,” he says.

“But first I have to take you home to meet Mom,” I say. At this point, I realize I’m still in my spirit, and need to retrieve my body before the journey can begin.

That’s when I wake up.

Accept Everything


In a dream last night, I am talking in a town marketplace with a friend of mine about enlightenment, a woman with a deep understanding of Goddess spirituality.

It seems unremarkable that this is somewhere in a city of the Holy Lands from thousands of years ago. Possibly Jerusalem.

Our conversation veers into the nuances of enlightenment-speak in discourse philosophical and intellectual. A passerby, a simple man in the street with a dirty face, asks me to speak in a language he can understand.

“I’m a simple man,” he says, with a sly glint in his eye.

I reply, “What I have to say is very simple.”

A small crowd has gathered around.

“There is only one teaching that you need to take away, only one teaching you need to remember, not many. And that is ACCEPTANCE. Practice radical acceptance of everything that arises. Accept that which seems good and bad alike. Accept yourself in all circumstances, in all ways, and accept others as you accept yourself. Acceptance makes all things possible. There is nothing acceptance cannot reveal. You don’t accept? Then accept your lack of acceptance. You want to change yourself, make the world a better place? Then start by accepting yourself and everything else. There is nothing more complicated you need to know or do than this. Only in this way is the veil of this world lifted and the Divine nature of Yourself and All Things revealed.”

The dream goes on, shifting to a different world.

You are authoring

A writer once struggled with the question, “How much do you write every day?”

And then he finally realized that his answer had to be “Every minute of the day, I’m either writing on paper or in my head.”

If you have had a thought in the past minute — or chosen to remain instead in a meditative state — you are authoring. And to author is to receive the song of the Universe, allow it to enter your breath and thought, owning it and releasing its power.

Authorship is the pure creative energy, the fullness of God in the most expansive sense of the word. It is an ethical impulse, but whereas the oughts of human life tend to end with a can’t or a won’t or wouldn’t, authoring is wetter, bathing in a depth of awesome creative energy which can alone satisfy the thirst of existence.

Photo by Photochiel

Evolution beyond the exclusive identification with ego

Enlightenment is not evolution beyond ego, but evolution beyond the EXCLUSIVE IDENTIFICATION with ego. And by “enlightenment,” I mean the process of identifying with All-That-Is, the Absolute Reality that calls to us and obligates us to be one with — in all dimensions, states and stages*

When we are ready to say, “I AM ___” and fill in the blank with something outside of our comfort zone, then we are evolving.

No wonder that the great liberation movements of modernity and post-modernity — anti-slavery, anti-colonial, feminism, gay liberation, and so on — are stepping stones towards enlightenment. They strip our individual and collective egos of exclusive identification with that which is dominant.

And having won a measure of success, there is the danger of identifying exclusively with that which was once repressed or oppressed.

In attempting to consciously evolve beyond exclusive identification with ego, it’s understandable that we seek out new attachments: more embracing and inclusive philosophies (such as Integral theory) or spiritual paths (such as an evolutionary or world spirituality). While there’s always the risk of re-identifying our ego with such attachments, it is also possible to enjoy new philosophies and spiritual movements which feed not the ego, but the Self beyond ego.

Identification such such philosophies and spiritual paths strengthens the Unique Self, so that every time you go deeper you are solidfying your identification with the Self and weakening your identification with ego.

* In other words, AQAL: All Quadrants (individual and collective dimensions, interior and exterior aspects), All Levels, All Lines, All States, All Types. See the work of Ken Wilber and others.

Photo Credit: Peter Cartwright

Response to Andrew Sullivan: In defense of the Qur’an


Today on the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan asks his readers a fair question, crudely stated:

“If there is an argument for why the Quran is so good, please bring it forward. I’ve read the Quran several times and it’s not that good. In fact, it’s conspicuously bad as a moral map, and a spiritual map. You can wander blindfolded into a Barnes & Noble, and the first book you pick off the shelf will have more wisdom than the Quran. The Quran is uniquely barren of wisdom relevant to the 21st century. It’s got a few good lines about patience and generosity, and the rest is just vilification of the infidel,” – Sam Harris. Can any readers counter?

To which I responded today:

Dear Andrew,

The Qur’an is a classic of world spiritual literature far exceeding the disposable drivel that you will pick off the shelf in the vast majority of the books at a Barnes & Noble. I would have thought you know this and could have written a defense yourself. In any event, as non-Muslims, there are many people better qualified than you or I to give a defense of the Qur’an’s merits as a guide to Islamic life and culture.

My own defense as an enthusiast of a world-centric spirituality enthusiastically inclusive of Islam would start with the observation that a classic is to be judged not by reference to its compatibility with the New Atheist mindset of a small minority of people in early 21st century America (i.e., Sam Harris and his readers), but by its enduring influence over well more than a millennium. The claim that the Qur’an is “so good” begins by noting that many millions of people have for many centuries thought it so good, and that in a world of constant cultural evolution it is hermeneutically garbage to assess their aesthetic and spiritual opinions crudely by certain contemporary standards.

You can’t throw the Bible out as barren of wisdom because it sanctions social practices we find offensive today, and you can’t judge spiritual depth simply by how frequently a text enjoins virtues such as patience and generosity. You need to judge the Qur’an more holistically and as a mystical vision, not a self-help tome spouting chicken soup platitudes nearly everyone today will agree with.

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What is an authentic World Politics?


World Flag

In truth, there is no division between spirituality and politics that can be found in The Way Things Are. If you believe, as I do, that there is only one True Self and that every unique individual is a completely whole and infinitely valuable Unique Self which is one and the same as that Ultimate Identity, then how can there be a separation?

In an Integral view of ethics, care and justice evolve in ever expanding reach from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric to kosmocentric levels. Ultimately, there is a sense of self-identification with responsibility and empathy for all sentient beings in all times and places. Thus, politics — which I define broadly as the expansion of our circle of concern to ever wider levels of embrace — is deeply wedded to our sense of self and our understanding of the nature of reality.

Spirituality and politics are distinct aspects of our human existence, but not separate ways of being. In other words, every spiritual act is also a political act, and every political act is also spiritual. But if spirituality is related as Paul Tillich formulated to our “ultimate concern,” then politics relates to concerns that individuals share with other individuals in their community.

There are family and tribal/organizational politics, there are national and international politics. And as plans in recent decades for human colonization of other worlds has demonstrated, there is even a politics of the relationship between the inhabitants of Earth and everything extraterrestrial. Politics is inescapable, no matter how apolitical one’s views.

If you scan articles written about politics by members of the World Spirituality, Integral Spirituality, or Evolutionary Spirituality communities, you may come away with the impression that most people are progressive. After all, among those in the U.S. you will frequently hear praise of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Barack Obama — all Democrats. You will hear support for remedying income inequality, addressing climate change, and legalizing same-sex marriage.

But read more closely and you will find a more complex picture.

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Why The Avengers convinces that Thor is a (mythic) god


Whatever your taste in movies, it’s hard to deny that Hollywood does a brilliant job of selling comic books to the world, illuminated with dazzling computer-powered, imagination-dazzling on-screen effects. Many adults find these action packed movies to be a guilty pleasure, and we ponder whether they have a redeeming educational or morally transcendent worth beyond a day’s entertainment. Given their prominence and durability, let’s hope that they do.

The first thing I want to say about The Avengers, Josh Whedon’s latest superhero summer blockbuster, is that it at times provoked in me surprising delight. The interactions among Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, the Black Widow and Hawkeye were intriguing in unexpected ways. These superheroes each inhabited their own excellence, their own uniqueness, with superb effortlessness … and they frequentlly argued, fought, and learned how to get along.

Superheroes, like all heroes of myth, wear their interior self on their external nature. The spirit of their uniqueness is writ large, thanks to the power of myth. Hulk’s raw, primal, Kali-like power of creative destruction; Thor’s instinctual, impulse-driven, noble brand of heroism; Captain America’s truth-oriented, duty-driven, God-loving brave soldier warrior; Iron Man’s postmodern, quip-slinging, irony-noticing, eco-technologist playboy billionaire, for starters. And all of them coordinated by the mastermind strategist of Nick Fury, the man with the power to deliver Manhattan from a nuclear blast while operating behind a veil of mystery.

The symbols embodied by the heroes fall all along the spectrum of human developmental capacities from pre-modern magical to mythic to rational to integral as spelled out in the Integral Framework, though there’s room for debating precisely how the symbols align. Personally I didn’t find myself identifying strongly with any of the characters, so much as with the feeling of the cosmic drama itself, I think, but I most admired the cunning and chutzpah of Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. If there is Integral Consciousness on display among these characters, it couldn’t be better embodied than by Fury.

But that doesn’t stand in the way of my gushing over Chris Hemsworth’s hyper-masculine performance as Thor, god of Thunder. I find Whedon’s portrayal of the macho macho god as a being of almost child-like innocence to be an endearing expression of the ego-less, enlightened nature of the authentic power of the Unique Self. If Thor passes muster as divine, it is only because we believe that is is truly being himself — that he simply cannot be any other way — that he is not holding anything back, and that he wields power not for its own sake but only for an ideal greater than himself: the protection of the Earth and realms beyond.

Joe Perez and Stuart Davis in Dialogue: The Future of Art and Integral

Stuart DavisOriginally posted on Spirit’s Next Move.

Last month, I engaged in dialogue with Stuart Davis, a contemporary American musician, actor, and stand-up comic. With over 10 full-length music albums to his credit, including the brand new Music for Mortals, Davis has bravely brought depth and spirituality into popular culture — including the topics of God, sex and death — crafting them into lyrical and memorable pop songs.

This is the first of a three-part series of posts. In this section of the interview, I speak with Stuart about the topics of the future of Integral, spirituality, celebrities and popular culture.

Part 1: The Future of Art and Integral

(or: What if Kim Kardashian Endorsed World Spirituality Tomorrow?)

Joe Perez: As an introduction to this interview, let me say that I did a board retreat for the Center for World Spirituality last month [February] and met a couple of dozen of people contributing to World Spirituality in different fields working in this area that nobody even knows about. The more I am exposed to that, I think, there really seems to be something bubbling up in the world right now. And then there is the article by Terri [Patten] and Marco [Morelli], “Occupy  Integral!” that people are talking about… Did you read that?

Stuart Davis: I think I did read that, a couple weeks ago.

Joe: Their basic idea being that there is something about Integral that hasn’t completely entered the cultural consciousness yet, and so there’s a discussion around what needs to happen, where are we at, what is this moment, and how can we best rise to the potential of the moment. What’s your take on all that, Stuart?

Stuart: I couldn’t agree more for starters. To go back to the initial, for me when this first started, the passion about integral entering the public consciousness at large, however you want to frame that, let’s say crossing over the threshold into something that’s bigger than our own private club, whatever that means in different domains. When I first encountered Integral, I encountered something that many people probably do, and I didn’t realize what it was. But when you get that initial hit of Integral and you begin to crackle alive in that regard, you have this sense, almost tactile, not just an idea or a promise, but you can feel it in your gut. And that promise is Integral taking its place and inhabiting its portion of the body of humanity, growing, being a truly emergent, novel dimension coming to life. And we all sense that.

SESAnd what I think has been interesting to navigate and process is that when I first felt that, I felt it was just a few years away. I felt it was just a few years away. It was 1998. When I first read Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality and first met Ken [Wilber]. I just had this certitude that it was pregnant, that we were giving birth, and it felt to me that the baby was crowning. Right, so I began, much in the fashion that people who think the apocalypse is coming, and that’s been going on for centuries, I began to prepare and anticipate and behave and conduct myself as though that promise was emergent and it wouldn’t be long, it would be just a few years, that you could turn on the NBC, or feel it coming from the White House, that it was going to enter into every domain.

I was really intoxicated for many years, and I was really wrong about a lot of timelines. I’ve felt the same certitude that I felt back then. It’s either inevitable because we’re talking about human development here. Either this is coming down the pipeline… or there won’t be humans around. Because we’ve never seen humans not develop. But on the other hand I will fully admit that I was really wrong about the timeline, what it was going to take, and specifically in the realm I can speak most precisely from, which is entertainment, because where I work is movies and film, television and books. I felt an immediacy that has turned out to be much more difficult. This inevitable process occurring I way underestimated in the people that I work with. I would say the way that I feel about it is that: Yes, I read that article and I have felt ever since day one that it’s occurring and I would qualify it by saying I’ve also been wrong about the timeline and how hard it would be. “Hard” in quotes. It’s a beautiful difficulty. It’s tough.

Joe: I was reading an article recently about youth today – specifically 18-to-19-year-olds. They’re less political, less concerned about the environment, and they’re turned off by organized religion, thinking it’s become very judgmental. But what’s most interesting in what I noticed is in what they ARE engaged with. If young people are to be recruited into politics, they said, it will be from selective use of entertainment media, celebrities, Facebook, Twitter and mobile technologies with forms of participation limited in their duration, sophistication, and intensity. You’re closer to this than I am. Do you think entertainment, celebrities, and social media can help to reengage youth into a developmental path?

TrendingStuart: What a great question. That brings to mind the pop song. That has been my experience with the pop song since day one. The greatest triggers and invitations I have experienced have come through these brief, concise, but potent pop song type piece of pop art. Some of them literally pop songs.  I have had moments of mystical insights that were unrivaled, more effective than anything I learned in church … Does that mean that pop songs are more effective, or is it just my typology, or something about how I’m put together? I do think that there is in a deeper place, my conviction is that art existed before organized and conventional religion, and it will exist after.

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How not to explain the QWERTY Effect

Cross-posted from my Facebook Page.

Andrew Sullivan today passes along a link to a study on the QWERTY Effect with a false, inane comment.

Here’s my reply to him:

These authors of the QWERTY Effect have identified a valid phenomenon, but they are utterly clueless as to the explanation (as I wrote the other day on my blog when I first read the report). Just think about it: does it make *any* sense at all that letter combinations on the right side of a keyboard are “easier to type” and therefore words that contain those letters have a more positive feeling? It’s preposterous.

It’s an utterly thoughtless hypothesis to explain something whose explanation would have been obvious if the authors had considered one shred of evidence from the study of sound symbolism or phonosemantics. (Google “sound symbolism” or Margaret Magnus, Ph.D., the MIT-educated linguist who demonstrated the essential validity of Plato’s sound symbolism hypothesis that’s 2,000 years old in her groundbreaking doctoral dissertation.)

Even if you only accept a weak version of the phonosemantic hypothesis and not a strong version (e.g., quasi-Platonic), it’s more than adequate to explain the QWERTY effect. There are more vowels on the right than the left, and vowels generally are more positive than consonants, with unrestricted airflow giving the sounds a more Divine quality according to sacred word traditions in various esoteric religious traditions.

The letters on the right hand side of the keyboard have sounds which happen to be associated with more positive affects (the soft, more precise, particular, and peculiar unvoiced labial “p,” on the right contrasted to the brutish, bawdy, and blasting sound of the voiced “b.” The words which are comprised of sounds carry an emotional or subtle resonance with the sound’s symbol — e.g., stopped consonants tending somewhat to refer more to endings and disruptions and glides tending to refer to sustained patterns.)

You don’t have to be a Kabbalist to see the ridiculousness of this paper’s explanation (although the Kabbalists know a lot more about sound than these scientists seemingly ignorant of the relevant literature).

I’m giving you, Andrew, a break because your post consisted in only one word — “Explained” — but it was a very poor choice of word.


Marc Gafni and Joe Perez in Dialogue, Part 2: Where is the World Spirituality Movement at Today?

CWS Board Retreat 2012

CWS Board Retreat 2012

This is the second post in a series on Awake, Alive & Aware featuring short dialogues with some of the leaders of the World Spirituality movement. Today there is a transcript of a telephone call with Marc Gafni, Director of the Center for World Spirituality.

Continued from Part 1: “Marc Gafni and Joe Perez in Dialogue: What is World Spirituality?”

Joe: Where is the World Spirituality movement today?

Marc: The World Spirituality movement has many expressions in the world. There are many people practicing World Spirituality not in an organized way, not in a theoretically consistent way, often not in a dharmically completely sound way, but they have this core intuition and they are grasping and looking for ways to express it. At some point, we are looking to develop means to allow this grassroots world movement expression, and the book you’re working on, The Rise of World Spirituality, I hope will at least in part, the way you described it to me which sounds really exciting, you’ll be able to point to this, that it’s already happening.

The leading institution in the movement is the Center for World Spirituality. We just finished our second annual board meeting. I want to give you a sense of where we are because it’s really exciting. We’ve decided that our mission, our mantle, is to shift something in the source code of consciousness. The evolution of the source code of consciousness is our core mission statement. Some of our board members, Tom Goddard and Kathleen Brownback, are heading a group to work on this. It’s a fantastic board of people from around the world.

What we’ve done is identify what we’re going to do. We identified two things at the meeting. One, what is the theoretical framework of World Sprituality? And two, what are the action items? The theoretical framework is different, so I’ll talk about the action items.

Joe: So by “action items,” just so my readers are clear, you’re talking about this organization, called the Center for World Spirituality, you’re talking about what this organization has in store for the near future. Is that right?

Marc: That’s correct. The Center is one I founded a few years ago with Mariana Caplan and Sally Kempton, and Ken Wilber was involved as a very important member on the Council, and any number of fantastic leaders and teachers from around the world. We’re partnering with our friends who have a Global Spirituality website and we will be integrating that into the Center in a very deep way.

The center is both a lower-left and lower-right expression, actually an all-four-quadrant expression now that I think about it, whose prime purpose is to articulate the dharma of a World Spirituality and to evolve the dharma of a World Spirituality. That’s the job of the Center. The job of World Spirituality itself is to evolve the source code of consciousness.

What are the methods for doing this mission? We’re focusing on three major areas.

First, the Center has decided to focus on acting as a think tank / publishing concern. We actually chartered approximately 12 – 15 major projects of different natures.

Joe: I’m glad you were able to keep track of them. There were about 25 different people in attendance, and just about all of them committed to some sort of project or other key way of supporting World Spirituality. That’s more than I expected. I heard that too from some of the other board members, the newer ones who didn’t know quite what to expect. Once we engaged with the rest of the board, we got a feel for the caliber of the people in attendance, our expectations were exceeded, and we ended up feeling more optimistic than when we sat in our first meeting.

Marc: That’s great feedback to receive. Even though I knew going into the meeting all of the different pieces, but just hearing all the pieces spoken aloud into the room, hearing the interaction of the board community. Of the 20 projects, if the top 10 happen, we’re in really good shape. The top 10 include a book on The Rise of World Spirituality, a collection of essays on the Enlightenment of Fullness. There will be a major book on World Spirituality based on Integral Principles with Ken Wilber. There will be a book on shadow work – Lighten Up. There will be a World Spirituality practice book. Without going down the entire list, there’s … people like yourself, to Kathy Brownback, to Ken Wilber, to Warren Farrell, Wyatt Woodsmall, Helen, Tom, Mariana. And there were some board members who weren’t there who all have fantastic contributions to make. So we’re very excited about the think tank / publishing dimension.

The second dimension is training. We’re working on creating a new series of trainings which are rooted in World Spirituality and Unique Self technology.

And third we are calling “community lab.” Instead of creating one big World Spirituality Center or Church, there will be smaller circles meeting around the world, circles of people. That’s a big deal, that’s exciting, that’s good. At least at first, those circles will be circles of study – whether in Holland at Venwoude or Shalom Mountain or San Francisco, perhaps in Seattle something will emerge.

And finally a very strong Web presence which we are going to be working on in the next six months. I hope by six months from now the Web presence will reflect this vision of World Spirituality, its five-part theoretical framework – which we won’t get into on this phone call – but which is a beautiful, modular way of understanding the core principles, which you can understand on a popular level and a deep mystical level, will appear as the core of the website as the core module of all the books. It’s a lot.

Joe: We’re running out of time today. On this topic, we could drill into detail on all of these and talk much longer, so we’ll need to look for updates on the CWS website, watching for news as it develops. I know there’s a lot of information coming in the future. But if somebody wants to get started today practicing World Spirituality in Toledo, Ohio, or the jungles of the Amazon, what are they to do?

Marc: We’re not completely yet prepared to fully receive that question, meaning, the framework is not yet completely articulated. I would say, go to the website, go to the teaching tab – “Core Teachings” – and they’ll be able to read the basic principles of World Spirituality, which will give someone a framework for practice which they can immediately implement.

Joe: What about the book Unique Self which we’re all waiting for?

Marc: I don’t have a final word. But the last word I have as of a few days ago is that it’s supposed to come out in mid-June or July. The latest it would come out is the fall. We’ve just completed the transactional pieces of that book. We’re very excited that Your Unique Self: the Democratization of Enlightenment, will be out by the summer. And there’s already some key pieces on the Web. On our website, there’s a keynote address I gave at J.F.K. on Unique Self, and there’s the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Vol. 6, 1, on Unique Self. There’s a core article there, a 40 or 50 page article there, which gives you the core of the teaching, which is already available and will be fully fleshed out over the book. We hope over the next 18 months there will be about 5 volumes coming out covering these dimensions even as we’re writing the next stage for the library.

Addition: I found an additional post by Marc Gafni called “Notes on comparing Interfaith spirituality, inter-religious diplomacy, Dalai Lama’s views, interspirituality, perennial philosophy, and world spirituality” that are relevant in this context.

Joe: Thank you for your time today. I’m excited to be working with you on this movement.

Towards a new theology of gay marriage

Wedding Rings

In “Out and Ordained,” Brett Webb-Mitchell tells of his journey as a gay Presbyterian pastor and offers his prayers for the Church. In 2011, the Presbyterian Church formally allowed openly gay and lesbian ministers. Now, there are new challenges ahead:

Webb-Mitchell writes:

In order to become more inclusive, there are many “next steps” to be taken in righting past wrongs. For example, as more states permit LGBTQ people to wed, churches will need to craft a theology of marriage that includes LGBTQ congregants.

To this, I offer my prayer that theologians in the Presbyterian communion realize that their work is not to be done in isolation, looking mainly to the Bible and the Westminster Confession.

We live in times in which people in every religion are awakening to see their sacred texts as historically conditioned and requiring much discernment to see how their authority can be reconciled with recognition of the dignity of gays and lesbians and others.

A theology of marriage must not rest content with looking to old texts to seeing how they have been misinterpreted; we must be willing to see our knowledge of God evolving over time in the fullness of history. A theology of marriage inclusive of gays must be one which acknowledges spiritual evolution, or it will only be a stopgap, an ethnocentric adjustment made at a time when what is most needed is a worldcentric transformation.

Affirming the sacredness of gay marriage isn’t about people embracing diversity for diversity’s sake, but finding in committed same-sex partnerships a new and essential expression of the Divine Love.

That’s why the perspective I staked out in Soulfully Gay is so relevant to the future discussion about the sacramental worth or sacredness of gay marriage.

In my book I take a step beyond the “diversity for diversity’s sake” rationale offered by postmodern religionists for affirming gay marriage, staking out an argument for gay marriage based on a philosophical and spiritual anthropology (that is, a vision of human nature) which describes how understanding the proper nature of gay love is essential to understanding the nature of God’s love for creation.

Theologically, affirming gay marriage is an evolutionary step forward in humankind’s understanding of the nature of Divine Love, a gift from God for all people, not just a tiny minority. The love of Same to Same is viewed as theologically distinct from the love of Same to Other, one giving us a mirror to self-immanence and the other a reflection of self-transcendence. Heterophilia gives us a picture of how humanity loves God; homophilia gives us a picture of how God loves humanity.

Such a vision is not merely a Presbyterian theology or even a Christian vision. It’s a philosophical-spiritual statement about human nature that can be affirmed by integral Christians, integral Jews, integral Muslims, integral Buddhists, integral Hindus, and even — by looking at self-immanence and self-transcendence as biological drives situated within a general theory meta-theory of evolution — integral secular humanists.

World to U.S. Occupiers: Stop whining, you are also the top 1 percent!

Occupy Los Angeles

Occupy Los Angeles

Last fall, the eruption of the Occupy Wall Street movement in protests in major cities across the U.S. and elsewhere focused attention on income inequality. At the time, I expressed my support for the cause, when it is viewed not as a power play between haves and have-nots, but as a movement of integration towards greater fairness and balance in the world’s evolving consciousness.

From Spirit’s perspective, as I noted at the time, we are all the 99% and we are all the 1%. But there’s a much wider global lens that I did not speak to, which is now being observed by writers including Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Kenny says:

First things first: America’s rich are really, really rich. U.S. Census data suggest every man, woman, and child in the top 1 percent of U.S. households gets about $1,500 to live on each day, every day. By contrast, the average U.S. household is scraping by on around $55 per person per day. But the global average is about a fifth of that.

So by global standards, America’s middle class is also really, really rich. To make it into the richest 1 percent globally, all you need is an income of around $34,000, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic. The average family in the United States has more than three times the income of those living in poverty in America, and nearly 50 times that of the world’s poorest. Many of America’s 99 percenters, and the West’s, are really 1 percenters on a global level.

Why are so many Americans in the world’s 99th percentile of income, and much of the rest of the world poorer? Not owing to merit, continues Kenny:

Nor did the Western 99 percent “earn” most of their wealth, any more than the top 1 percent “earned” theirs. It’s the luck of where you’re born, according to the late Nobel Prize-winning economist Herbert Simon, who estimated that the benefits of living in a well-functioning economy probably account for 90 percent of individual income.

Based on the notion that there is no moral reason why some people make more than others, economist Herbert Simon argues for radical global wealth redistribution:

“On moral grounds,” he wrote, “we could argue for a flat income tax of 90 percent to return that wealth to its real owners” — i.e., everyone else in the country. That radical suggestion makes the Occupy Wall Street crowd look like a bunch of free-market libertarians.

Kenny doesn’t go so far as to back Simon’s plan, but he is definitely not giving comfort to the Occupy movement in the U.S. which feels indignant about wealth inequality when it concerns people richer than themselves, but feel nothing about their own relative wealth compared to the rest of the world. Kenny continues:

Plus, taxing the West’s obscenely rich to help a Western middle class that is merely very rich doesn’t seem like the highest of priorities, frankly. We need to deal with inequality all the way down to the bottom of the income pyramid, for everyone’s sake.

IMF research suggests that countries with high levels of inequality are far more likely to fall into financial crisis and far less likely to sustain economic growth. But this is not just about taxing the richest 1 percent to help the middle 60. It’s about taxing the middle 60 to help the bottom 20. And ensuring that rich and poor alike worldwide have access to basic health care and education, with their well-documented effects on income and productivity, will work to the benefit of the Western middle class. If Americans and Europeans want to export their way out of recession, they need rich consumers elsewhere.

So stop whining, Occupiers. It is high time for the richest 1 percent to help the rest catch up. But don’t fool yourself — if you live in the West, you probably are that 1 percent.

Read the whole thing.

To repeat, if you make more than about $34,000 a year, YOU are part of the 1%.

So now, tell me again how angry and resentful and hateful you got as you stood outside the Wall Street sign, broke the windows of banks, and hollered to the moon about the evil rich millionaires and billionaires?

Sorry, I goofed. That wasn’t you; it was somebody else. Never mind.

Income inequality deserves to be a topic high on the agenda for discussion in the U.S. and around the world, as part of a larger discussion about global economic development and the best relationship between government and private sector initiatives. People making $4,000 or $14,000 or $24,000 or $34,000 a year don’t deserve nutritious food, quality health care, and college educations any less than those of us in the top 1%.

Taking an integral perspective means trying to look at the income inequality topic sympathetically from as many different perspectives as possible, and not simply resting content with one’s own opinions and prejudices. By challenging ourselves to see the world from the view of both the 1% and the 99%, and looking at ways that we can increase the level of love and compassion all the way around, we can avoid falling into some serious mistakes.

There is reason for urgency around this. Everywhere in the world, there are people who have no clean water, no job, and no hope for a college education for their children.

World Spirituality tells us that as we find our Unique Self, we understand increasingly that there is only one True Self anywhere in existence. We are all the True Self, and being kind and just to both the 1% and the 99%, and seing through the illusions that seem to divide us, is all part of our urgent work of Self-love.

An unexpected twist in John Craig’s journey with a chronic disease

Craig Photography

John Craig

Last August, we walked with John Craig as he disclosed that he was living with a debilitating and progressive chronic illness. John Craig’s amazing journey with a chronic disease has taken a twist that he wasn’t expecting.

Today’s must read, from his Craig Photography Blog:

As I write this it has been six months since I told the world that I have been living with a chronic disease (you can read about it here). I am at the start of my seventh year of living with Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO).  A disease that I will never be able to spell….This is my journey towards a radical reversal.

When I was diagnosed I was convinced that everything I loved was being taken away from me one-by-one. First my legs would go numb, weak and tingling as if they were permanently asleep taking away my love of walking through the woods. Next my right hand would go numb, stiff, clinching into a fist taking away my ability to playing guitar.  Then my vision would go in my left eye, fearing my right eye would go soon taking away  my livelihood of taking photos, not to mention the overwhelming fear of not seeing my daughter grow up or to enjoy a smile from my wife.  Then the left side of my mid-section of my chest would go numb causing muscle weakness taking away range of motion to practice yoga (my personal workout of choice).  To end the list of “Poor Me” is the electrical shocks that will randomly attack me by zapping me out of restful sleeps (and right out of any chair I happen to be sitting in at the moment).

The reason that I am sharing my story with you is because there are very few success stories out there for people living with a chronic disease.  My intention is that you will share this will everybody.  When finding a success story it is usually attached to some snake-oil sales pitch.  Buy this, take that, place this trinket on your head, travel to this island for special treatment…the hope is always a giant leap of faith, money and a lifetime away. It is always directed at the desperate needing for you to have to place your faith in somebody else, which turns out more times that not to be a scam. This is not about purchasing! It’s about doing!

When I chose to no longer be guided by the prophecy listed in the medical propaganda, when I chose to no longer look for “what to expect” ghost symptoms in my life got better….

I began to observe my story, to observe myself, to discover that I am not a disease or a symptom. I observed what is true and no longer identified myself as having a disease.  That was a breakthrough moment when I could say:

“I still have all of the symptoms listed above. What I no longer am is a person who identifies with being sick. I am not infallible…I get sick for periods at a time, I get flare-ups and attacks, I have an illness without a cure, I live with the effects that this disease has over me, but I am not sick. I live a well life. A life filled with effort and purpose by living a healthy and creative life.”

Today I not only walk without the aid of cain but I run, and run far.  I have a new love for trail running, my enjoyment of the woods is back.

Today I not only play guitar but I play better than ever. It does hurt to hold a guitar pick so I switched to  a picking-style that I enjoy more than my previous years of playing.

Today I daily see my beautiful wife and daughter and not only am I taking photographs but I am creating the best work of my life (so far)…

Read the whole thing.

Beautiful. Amazing. Wonderful. Thank you, John.

P.S.: You’re looking good in the new picture! I like the short hair.

The study of comparative religion ought to be mandatory for high school education

High School

Photo Credit: dave_mcmt (Flickr)

“Religious education is a necessary antidote against fundamentalism and extremism,” says BeliefNet columnist Dr. Arne Kozaz in a profile of James Morrison, a courageous high school comparative religion teacher in Minnesota.

Kozak continues:

“Religious education should be part of normal human discourse. Information is not the enemy. An inability to handle information is the culprit. Epistemology is, no pun intended, humanity’s salvation. If we can’t think clearly, intelligently, and critically, nothing else will really matter.”

Indeed. I want to join the chorus of those few advocates of mandatory education in comparative religion for high school students. Alternatively, students could be offered the choice of taking a course in contemporary perspectives on spirituality or perhaps comparative anthropology and psychologial anthropology, looking at a diversity of world’s cultures through a lens which encouraged stepping outside of a narrow ethnocentric paradigm.

Some parochial high school courses in theology could serve a similar function, if they were truly oriented towards critical thinking as opposed to indoctrination, but so long as the course were narrowly focused on a single religious tradition or simply presenting one religion’s view of other religions it is unlikely that it would serve the students’ need for development from ethnocentric to more worldcentric frameworks of meaning. On the other hand, it could still be a valuable experience in its own right.

It’s almost a diversion from the main point, but I have to share this. Along the way, Kozak’s article relates one of my favorite stories from the Buddhist scriptures:

“It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and kinsmen were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded, whether he is of the warrior case, or a brahmin, or of the agricultural or the lowest case. Or if he were to say, I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what name of family the man is; or whether is is tall, or short, or of middle height; or whether he is black, or dark, or yellowish; or whether he comes from such and such a village, or town or city; or until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a chapa or a kodanda, or until I know whether the bow-string was of swallow-wort, or bamboo fiber, or sinew, or hemp, or of milk-sap tree, or until I know whether the shaft was from a wild or cultivated plant; or know whether it was feathered from a vulture’s wing or a heron’s or a hawk’s, or a peacock’s; or whether it was wrapped round with the sinew of an ox, or of a buffalo, or of a ruru-deer, or of a monkey; or until I know whether it was an ordinary arrow, or a razor-arrow, or an iron arrows, or of a calf-tooth arrrow. Before knowing all this, verily that man would have died.” Majjhima Nikaya)

Read the whole article.

An article by Kathy Brownback on the Center for World Spirituality website discussed a recent class in Mysticism offered to high school seniors which employed Dr. Marc Gafni’s Unique Self teaching.

The important difference between a feeling and an emotion

Ocean Cliff

Photo Credit: RejiK

In a Facebook status update tonight, Robert Augustus Masters writes:

Once we really understand that there is no true escape from feeling, including unpleasant or distressing feeling, we may start, at last, to consciously and consistently turn toward such feeling, like a loving parent turning, with full presence and compassion, toward their just-hurt or badly frightened child…

I struggled to express whether I agreed or disagreed with this sentiment and ultimately concluded that much depends on the sense given to the word “feeling.” The word “feeling” is often seen as a synonym for “emotion,” but the two words have a different feeling to them, don’t they? Maybe they even create subtly different emotional responses in you?

A “feeling” is closely connected to what we perceive through the fingers. The first definition in the dictionary says it’s related to the “function or the power of perceiving by touch.” Feelings tend to be warm or cold. Feelings are not responses that are linked to sight, hearing, taste, or smell; thus, feelings have less precision than emotions. Feelings are often vague, and more frequently flow down than up, just as liquid flows downhill but never uphill. People feel bad more than they feel good. They feel pain more than they feel pleasant. Feelings are rarely complex.

On the other hand, “emotions” are very complex. Like feelings, they are connected to the life force or chi; however in emotion, the chi is more directly referenced, not mediated through touch. Emotions take life energy and move them from one place to another, swaying like the tides in the ocean from incredible, tsunami-like highs to waves crashing against cliffs. Emotions involve such things as joy, sadness, fear, hate, love … emotions that may be loosely called “feelings,” but which are much more complex than more tactile feelings like warm and cold, good and bad. Emotions can be easily agitated, and once disturbed they tend to flow in negative or neutral directions.

Yes, “feeling” and “emotion” may be roughly equated, but there are subtle differences. From a spiritual perspective, we must understand that both emotions and feelings enact a process which directly or less directly stirs the life force, making it loose and liquid as with feelings or putting it into motion in ocean-like waves as with emotions.

You may hear spiritual teachers tell you that there is no need to escape from feelings, no matter how unpleasant or distressing, but this is subtly off base. Feelings can be avoided if they are unpleasant or distressing, much as you would remove your finger off a hot stove or remove your foot from an icy pool. There is no need to wallow, no need to lose peacefulness unnecessarily.

It is the emotions that can’t be avoided, and ought not be.

Emotions begin with chi, unmediated, not with an ephemeral bit of friction. It is their nature that they must be encountered; there is no getting around them whatsoever. The only question is where they can be moved, not whether.

Like the ocean, they can rise to the surface or fall to the depths; they can stay out in the wide blue yonder or crash upon shore. And when they crash, they may find their way to soft, sandy, white pristine beaches or jagged, mountainous fjords.

With Robert August Masters, I believe there is wisdom in not bypassing emotions. But I do not see the point to “consciously and consistently turn toward … feeling,” which would do little good but to distract our equanimity with pointless diversions. It is emotion that we must consciously and consistently turn towards, so that we may open ourselves to Love and allow Spirit to move the oceanic waves within us to their most auspicious resolution.

Marc Gafni and Joe Perez in Dialogue: What is World Spirituality?

World Spirituality as a Symphony Conductor

World Spirituality as a Symphony

Awake, Aware & Alive will be featuring short dialogues with some of the leaders of the World Spirituality movement. Our first dialogue is with Marc Gafni, Director of the Center for World Spirituality.

Joe: Let’s limit our dialogue today to about 10 minutes so it won’t overwhelm readers of my blog. I sent you a few questions earlier to get us started. With that in mind, let’s begin by talking about your vision of World Spirituality and go from there.

Marc: Fantastic. It’s great to be with you on the phone, as always. You sent me three different questions: What is World Spirituality? Is World Spiritualilty a new religion? And what’s the difference between World Spirituality and the interfaith movement?  Those are awesome questions and I understand why you limited it to 10 minutes; we could easily talk for eight hours on just these three questions.

World Spirituality is not a new religion. A new world religion is exactly what we don’t need.

Particularly in the World Spirituality framework where Unique Self is a key lodestone, we have a realization, not only a belief, but a realization, that every human being has a Unique Self. And that every religion has a Unique Self. Every great system of knowing, pre-modern, modern, and post-modern, is a unique epistemological expression of Knowing.

We use a number of images to describe this. One is a symphony in which each instrument is playing its own music, recognizing that the essence is not the instrument but the music, but the uniqueness of the instrument is irreducible and each reveals a different dimension of the music. In that sense, the great systems of knowing in the world are music. Each great system of knowing is approaching the knowing asking different questions, using different methodologies, enacting different inquiries, and those different instruments produce different faces, dimensions, notes in the music.

Joe: Are you suggesting, Marc, that each of the world religions is like a musical instrument or a band, and somehow World Spirituality steps into play like an orchestra conductor might?

Marc: Exactly. That’s right. … Each system of knowing is a unique instrument in the symphony of gnosis. The job of World Spirituality is to act precisely as the conductor and help these different instruments find their right tone, find their right relationship to the other instruments, and ensure that each instrument is listening to the others, so that what emerges is not noise but music. That’s what World Spirituality is. Not heaps, but wholes. Not noise, but music. It’s a grand symphony with enormous texture and depth in which the integrity of every instrument is honored and yet a larger whole emerges from it.

Joe: That’s fine, Marc, but you know there are people who don’t want that. They would say that if every religion is like an instrument, then each individual is his or her own symphony conductor and they don’t want some holistic framework or universalizing narrative to enter the scene which can become another competing instrument. They want every individual to be her or his own orchestra conductor, not to look to some outside authority. How would you respond to that?

Marc: That is green [post-modern] thinking, classical green thinking. Green thinking says there is no canon, no authority, and so everyone does it in their own way and they’re all equal. That’s not true. It’s impossible for even the wisest person to swallow whole all the great systems of knowing, and be able to independently navigate them, find the right weight of each one, etc We need an operating system. An elegant operating system to allow us to get what we need from each, establish right relationship, etc.

Now that doesn’t mean that the operating system is the one eternal authoritative voice. It’s an evolving operating system. You could have open source code. People could participate, share their insights, and more deeply evolving what World Spirituality is. But at its core, it’s a “framework/symphony” in which the job of World Spirituality is to create an ability for people to see the patterns that connect the dots. An individual is practically and epistemologically usually unable to do. It’s an evolving system.

One last point. To take issue with one word you said: you referred to the world religions. As you know, when we talk about great systems of knowing, we aren’t just talking about world religions. They are almost exclusively pre-modern, with exceptions for Mormonism and a couple of small exceptions. We are talking about a framework which includes modern: for example, science and psychology, which come out of modernity; and post-modernity, which is this deep understanding that context is essential, the crucial recognition of development and finally the great insight that everything arises and develops within an evolutionary context.

We want to take all the great systems of knowing, give them all an appropriate place at the table, and then show the patterns that connect. What are the deeper structural understandings that will allow us to live in a context of meaning? That’s what World Spirituality is. It’s to create a shared framework of meaning in which an individual can realize the full gorgeousness of their Unique Self, in which every great system of knowing can be honored, reverentially received … and evolved.

Joe: I think you’ve begun to answer my question about interfaith. At least one way that World Spirituality differs from the interfaith movement is that interfaith leaves out of the picture science and post-modernity. They’re interested in inter-religious dialogue. What are some of the other distinctions?

Marc: That’s an important distinction. That’s distinction one. First off, interfaith has made an important contribution. We bow to it. It’s critical and necessary.

There are two versions of interfaith: version one — what I call “soft interfaith” — says, “Hey we’ve been killing each other. We need to respect each other. That’s not helpful. We need to respect that we’re all doing our best, we have good intentions, we are all engaged in spirit in some sense, so let’s respect each other and love each other if possible. And so we need dialogue.” Clearly important.

A second, what I would call a “hard interfaith” says that the depth structures are identical, even though the rituals and other surface structures may be different. The same core practices and core understandings are shared. Another name that has been given for what I’m calling hard interfaith is perennial philosophy.

Perennial philosophy is a version of hard interfaith. World spirituality transcends and includes. It negates the problematic elements of each one of these, to borrow Hegel’s phrase, including both soft interfaith and hard interfaith. In that, clearly we need to respect each other.

Clearly there are shared depth sstructures. But the next step is to recognize that actually there are evolving depth structures. The cosmos is evolving and everything is evolving at the same time. Everyone is tetra-evolving. All four quadrants of reality. Everything Spirit is evolving. We don’t want to reify what we know today and freeze it. We wan to recognize that in a thousand years from now these depth structures will have evolved.

World Spirituality is perennial philosophy in an evolutionary context.

Joe: We’re out of time. I think that’s going to have to be the end of part 1 of our conversation. Let’s continue next with a discussion of where we are at today in the development of World Spirituality as a distinct movement.

Photo Credit: haglundc (Flickr)

The stunning rise of “I’m BOTH spiritual AND religious” in America

Church at Sunset

Photo Credit: cmiper

A fascinating analysis of data on American religiosity today shows the rise of a new ethos in the United States: a stunning 48 percent of Americans now describe themselves as BOTH spiritual AND religious, with another 30 percent preferring the “spiritual, BUT NOT religious” formula.

Now here’s the stunner: only 13 years ago, a majority of 54% of Americans described themselves as religious BUT NOT spiritual. If these surveys are correct, we are witnessing a hidden sea change whereby Americans have now largely accepted a divide between the religious and the spiritual, and the spiritual is winning in spades.

Author Diana Butler Bass sees the day coming when religion in the U.S. will virtually come to an end. In the Huffington Post today, she writes:

In a 2008 survey, Pew research found that one in 10 Americans now considers themselves an ex-Catholic. The situation is so dire that the church launched a PR campaign inviting Catholics to “come home,” to woo back disgruntled members. There was a slight uptick in Catholic membership last year, mostly due to immigrant Catholics. There is no data indicating that Catholics are returning en masse and much anecdotal evidence suggesting that leaving-taking continues. Catholic leaders worry that once the new immigrants become fully part of American society they might leave, too.

She does not talk about the developing world, however, where there are few signs of secularization. After describing the American decline of Protestant denominations as well as Catholic, she continues:

The religious market collapse has happened with astonishing speed. In 1999, when survey takers asked Americans “Do you consider yourself spiritual or religious,” a solid majority of 54 percent responded that they were “religious but not spiritual.” By 2009, only 9 percent of Americans responded that way. In 10 years, those willing to identify themselves primarily as “religious” plummeted by 45 percentage points.

In the last decade, the word “religion” has become equated with institutional or organized religion. Because of crises such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Roman Catholic abuse scandal, Americans now define “religion” in almost exclusively negative terms. These larger events, especially when combined with increasing irrelevance of too much of organized religion, contributed to an overall decline in church membership, and an overall decline of the numbers of Christians, in the United States.

[Read more…]

When You Answer “Who Am I?” With “I Am GOD,” You’re In For A Bumpy Ride

Kevin, a reader of Awake, Alive & Aware, writes:

“Spirituality? Questions? Who am I? Yes. Yes. And yes. I would add the search for meaning and a willingness to risk change. Getting anywhere with these very personal matters requires a very personal approach. [Read more…]

The Story of Enlightenment, Part 1: Marc Gafni’s TEDx talk in Las Vegas


Photo Credit: Wonderlane

Today I’ll begin a regular series of posts discussing my own views of the Story of Enlightenment, an important theme in the thought of Marc Gafni, one of the world’s brightest lights in terms of awakened consciousness.

Gafni’s pioneering work on the Enlightenment of Fullness — a vision to be set forth more fully in upcoming books and workshops and trainings — has the potential to revolutionize the world’s view of enlightenment. It is already catalyzing a World Spirituality movement based on integral and evolutionary principles. One of its core ideas, a teaching extended from the Kabbalah tradition, is about understanding the distinction between separateness and uniqueness.

Let’s begin with a 20-minute video on “The Future of Enlightenment” from which outlines the essentials of the vision.

Here’s a quote from one section near the middle of the talk:

The great [religious] traditions are beautiful, they’re holy, stunning, they’re deep. But they’re pre-modern. So if we are going to actually be guided by the shared depths structures of pre-modernity, we’ve made a regressive move. We’ve gone backwards.

So a World Spirituality has to integrate the best and deepest insights of the pre-modern, the modern, and the postmodern. We have to weave those together in a vision that actually allows for a shared story that we can actually transmit  and hold and live in.

It’s not that the story knows everything. There’s so much we don’t know. We hold the uncertainty, we dance in the mystery. But there’s also that which we know. That which we can feel. We know it not because of faith. We’re not interested in faith. We know it not because it’s a dogma someone has told us. We know it because we have first-hand, first-hand experience after having done experiments in Spirit. Having done them in double-blind structures all over the years for thousands of years. We’ve gathered the results. We’ve checked them with the community of the adequate, which is precisely the scientific method, and we have revealed using the faculty of the Eye of the Spirit a shared story, which actually is one which can unite us.

Marc’s first point is that the great traditions are pre-modern. Straightforward enough. Or is it?

Look around at the traditions called “World Religions,” we see that at around 2000 BCE, there were was Judaism and religions in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Brahmanism; Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism emerged close to 500 BCE, Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, around 0 CE, give or take a few hundred years. The last great tradition was the founding of Islam around 610 CE, to say nothing today of the important faiths to emerge in the last 200 years.

[Read more…]

Rune Soup makes the case for magic: “You Are Made Of Books”


Photo Credit: JohnGoode

Science cannot give us omniscience, but it can clarify how we see things through the power of observation (whether by the naked eye or as extended through scientific apparatus). It does become a problem when coupled with the arrogant attitude which dulls the imagination and disenchants the universe.

The Rune Soup (Adventures Beyond Chaos Magic) blog is running a series of posts to make an intelligent case for believing in the power of magic. A quote from the latest one:

DNA: Your real autobiography

A single strand of your DNA is only ten atoms wide but stretches for over two feet. It is 120 times narrower than the smallest wavelength of visible light. This single strand is contained inside the nucleus of one of your cells. A cell nucleus is roughly two millionth of a pinhead. String the DNA from all your cells together and it will go around the earth five million times.

Here’s a quote from the classic pseudohistorical DNA text, The Cosmic Serpent:

All living beings contain DNA, be they bacteria, carrots, or humans. DNA, as a substance, does not vary from one species to another; only the order of its letters changes. This is why biotechnology is possible. For instance, one can extract the DNA sequence in the human genome containing the instructions to build the insulin protein and splice it into the DNA of a bacterium, which will then produce insulin similar to that normally excreted by the human pancreas. The cellular machines called ribosomes, which assemble the proteins inside the bacterium, understand the same four-letter language as the ribosomes inside human pancreatic cells and use the same 20 amino acids as building blocks. Biotechnology by its very existence proves the fundamental unity of life.

Each living being is constructed on the basis of the instructions written in the informational substance that is DNA. A single bacterium contains approximately ten million units of genetic information, whereas a microscopic fungus contains a billion units. In a mere handful of soil there are approximately ten billion bacteria and one million fungi. This means that there is more order, and information, in a handful of earth than there is on all the surfaces of all other known planets combined. The information contained in DNA makes the difference between life and inert matter.

So there is a ten-atom-wide, universal coding language inside every living thing that suddenly appeared one day a few billion years ago, whose double-helix shape was probably discovered while high on LSD, that absolutely refuses to be replicated in lab settings.

Don’t listen if they say it has been. Balls of fatty acid built on PNA rather than DNA, splicing short genomes into empty bacterial cells… this is just moving the building blocks around a bit and saying you’ve discovered where building blocks come from. I call shenanigans on that! Clearly it isn’t just pseudoscience that speculates beyond the data.

To quote New York University chemistry professor, Robert Shapiro, on the most famous ‘recreating DNA’ experiment from the University of Chicago… it’s like accidentally producing the phrase to be by banging randomly on a keyboard. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of Hamlet is going to follow. “Any sober calculation of the odds reveals that the chances of producing a play or even a sonnet in this way are hopeless, even if every atom of material on earth were a typewriter that had been turning out text without interruption for the last four and a half billion years.”

This is an example of what Rupert Sheldrake, one of Britain’s best wizards-at-large refers to in a recent interview as science’s “recurrent fantasy of omniscience.”

Sheldrake talks a good deal of the fact that, as all good Brian Cox viewers know, 83% of the universe is now thought to be “dark matter” and subject to “dark energy” forces that “nothing in our science can begin to explain”.

Despite this, he suggests, scientists are prone to “the recurrent fantasy of omniscience”. The science delusion, in these terms, consists in the faith that we already understand the nature of reality, in principle, and that all that is left to do is to fill in the details. “In this book, I am just trying to blow the whistle on that attitude which I think is bad for science,” he says…

via You Are Made Of Books: The Whisky Rant (Part 5).

M. Scott Peck on Love: A Critique


Photo Credit: Steve-h

“Love is not a feeling. Love is an action, an activity … Genuine love implies commitment and the exercise of wisdom …. love as the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. True love is an act of will that often transcends ephemeral feelings of love or cathexis, it is correct to say, ‘Love is as love does’.” — M. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled

Actually love is a feeling, I believe, but as a feeling it is only one part of something central and radiant at the heart of all things in the universe … and to the extent that it is a feeling, it is only showing its fleeting and furtive face, not its essential nature.

True, love is an action, an activity. But activity is not its origin or its essence, but its final realization. Its end is activity in the same way that the end of forgiveness may be to mend a divided friendship or the end of giving is to release greatness. The expression is important and conclusive, but it is not really what Love is about.

True, commitment is at the heart of love. So too is communication. So too is communion. So too is understanding. So too is enough-ness.  Luck is at the heart of love. Luster is at the heart of love. Luxury is at the heart of love. So too is the Sun itself, a radiant source of Light and Luminescence, taking us to higher realms above. So much is implied by love that what can we say about it is to point, as the Buddhists say, to its suchness.

I believe that the exercise of wisdom is connected to Love, but the connection may be more elusive than M. Scott Peck said. Very often love seems closer to loopiness than intelligence. When the power of love is too strong, when its sunshine comes too soon, when its fun turns to foolishness, and when its course is run and it becomes ruined … that’s when love is not at all skillfully expressed. The Sun of Love leaves with lustrous loss; the Moon of Love remains with mournful loneliness.

Is the will to love really about extending oneself for the purpose of another’s spiritual growth? That may be so, when one is looking at love as something one person does to another person. But it looks quite a bit different when one looks at Love as what one person is as his Full Self and what another person is as her Full Self, and that One Self which they have in common.

When One is Love as opposed to one self doing love, the will expressing itself is not his or hers, but Ours; the purpose finding itself too is Ours; the nurturing is the We feeding Us; the spiritual growth is nothing but the finding of our True Nature.

Is it so, as M. Scott Peck says, that love is as love does? I would rather say that love does as Love is and as Love evolves. Love is not something which requires a purposeful act; it is a surrender to the power of Light and Aliveness at the heart of all things, a surrender to God.

A reader comment on stretching sexual boundaries


Photo Credit: ElvertBarnes

As much as I notice all the things that Facebook gets wrong, it’s worth pointing out something that it gets very much right. In terms of the user profile, it allows members to select a sexual preference without forcing them to select a particular label (gay, bi, queer, etc.), but simply by choosing to indicate whether they are interested in women, men, both, or unspecified. Simple and useful.

One thing it forces the average straight guy or gal to do is to consider stating publicly that they are ONLY interested in members of the opposite sex (or at least implying that much). Having to check the box next to “Interested in:” raises the possibility of sexual fluidity in a way that can be awkward especially for men.

Women indicate an interest in women many times more often on Facebook than men indicate an interest in men, even though some research suggests that homosexuality is more prevalent in men than in women. This is probably attributable to the higher degree of social stigma for men to indicate an interest in men. But increasingly today, men who are predominantly heterosexual are facing the choice of indicating a bisexual interest whenever they choose for as long as they choose. The social stigmas are fading, and indications are that in the U.S. at least there is increasing tolerance for men to experiment sexually.

I last addressed this topic with two posts in October on my own efforts to reflect on sexual fluidity in my experience. I suggested that “Fluid” might emerge as a new term to replace older terms for sexual orientation such as gay and straight:

Fluidity is not merely about the gender of one’s sexual partner. It’s about appreciating the nuances and complexities of attraction, a willingness to follow one’s attention into spontaneous enjoyment of whatever arises, without preconceptions. It’s about purity insofar as it insists on a moment-to-moment innocence and friendliness to discovery. It’s about worth insofar as it is grounded in the source of all worth, the sacred force of all life in the cosmos.

As a practical matter, the use of Fluid as a label for sexual identity may face obstacles. Unlike, say, “Bisexual” “Poly,” or even “Pansexual,” the term is a new use of an old word, a usage not recognized in the culture today; and if the term is used in connection with sexuality, as I have noted it is generally thought to refer to the ability of some women and men to be attracted to different genders at different times in their lives (an aspect of the Fluid identity which is not the most important thing).

However, the lack of general awareness of a Fluid identity could be beneficial. The label could be taken up as a moniker especially well suited for post-conventional sexual identities, a way of describing sexual identity not in gross terms (i.e., by the genitalia of one’s object of desire), not merely in subtle terms (i.e., the masculine essence or feminine essence of one’s partner), but in causal terms (i.e., identification with the ground of Being) and nondual terms (i.e., the indistinct force of Eros itself expressing itself through the uniqueness of one’s object of desire).

This post caught a readers attention. He writes:

I was interested to read your post on sexual fluidity in men. It strikes me as true for myself as a man engaged in opening his mind to the world.

I always considered myself straight, and spent a lot of time in life engaging with women as lovers. I was married, since-divorced, and afterwards began to give voice slowly to thoughts I had about being sexually attracted to men. After several years of this questioning, I began to speak it aloud recently, and I have opened a pandora’s box of intense feeling with regard to other men – alienation from them, attraction to and admiration of their bodies, fear, desire, and fundamentally the glimmerings of a closer intimacy with them – and my own father – than I had ever had in the past. In the process I myself feel more like a man in many ways, more intense, more sexual – and not only towards men but towards women.

[Read more…]

Hallelujah! It’s gay marriage for Washington State!

Lesbian Wedding

Photo Credit: stevendamron

Today my home state of Washington becomes the seventh state in the USA to legalize same-sex marriage. I am grateful for the wisdom and discernment of Gov. Christine Gregoire and the state legislature, including many Democrats and some Republicans, who have given me and many thousands of fellow citizens equal rights on this day.

I almost didn’t vote for her in 2004 because I hated her stand against gay marriage.  I’m glad I did. What I didn’t realize then was how important it is to keep forgiving and giving our political leaders a chance to change their hearts and minds. With time and lots of work and the grace of God, miracles happen.

They made a courageous choice, for sure, but not perilously so. The governor conveniently opposed gay marriage until a few weeks ago, when polls had accumulated showing that gradually public opinion in the state turned decisively towards equal marriage rights.

I don’t know when I will get married, and can’t even be certain that such a day will arrive for me, but if it does then I know that I am free to follow my God-given path without having to experience irrational discrimination from the government. Hallelujah!

To many people with a traditional worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a terrible sign of the decay of modern culture into wickedness and perversion, proof that we have entered into a New Dark Age.

To many people with a modern worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a good sign that the liberating state, focused on individual rights, is finally becoming separated from the control of oppressive religion.

To many people with a postmodern worldview, the rise of gay marriage is a terrible sign that Queers have forsaken their rebellious, bohemian queerness with its potential to critique the bourgeois, patriarchal, and oppressive sexual institution of marriage, which really needs to be jettisoned altogether in favor of an anarchic paradise of “vive la différence!”

Let’s not kid ourselves. Parts of each of these worldviews probably lives in each of us to some degree or another, if we have listened to other people and tried to give them a fair hearing. But from an integral worldview, no one of these worldviews is adequate.

Our vision is evolutionary, inclusive, and spiritual. Gay marriage is an evolution of culture and society in all its dimensions — a sign of God and Spirit in our midst — a holy and good thing not merely because it lets gay people have hospital visitation rights but because it is an expression of the inherent dignity of gay people as equally manifestations of God.

Our view is not anti-liberal; it is pro-liberal. It is not anti-conservative; it is pro-conservative. Gay spirituality includes both conservatism and liberalism and transcends them (as I wrote in 2004).

We make room for parts of traditional, modern, and postmodern worldviews, because these views have lived within us at one time in our own development, and to hate these views in others is also to reject a part of ourselves. We allow for difference, but we do not say that all differences are okay; differences evolve ever towards our True Nature, uniquely expressed.

We celebrate a victory which brings greater justice to a minority population. Today’s victory in Washington is a victory for the human spirit, that gayness which lives in all of us, whether we are homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual … because we are all members of the Catholic Church, the Universal Sangha, the Universal Mosque, the Universal Synagogue, and the divine fellowship of humankind.

A true World Spirituality affirms the dignity of all people and will not rest in complacency so long as justice remains to be delivered for so many people around the world.

Joe Perez is an author who has published books on Gay and Bi Men’s Spirituality.

Martin Lindstrom predicts how brands will become more ethical in the future


Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom

World Spirituality as I understand it includes a practice of right livelihood, conscious business. The overarching perspective gives us the framework in which we recognize that the ethical center at the heart of work is Love, the force of evolution itself. It is from this capacity that our own individual work lives have an ethical livelihood and from the collective ethos of an organization that it has (or fails to have) an ethical brand.

The world may be evolving better, more ethical, businesses. How, specifically? One possible future: the Internet will empower consumer to hold brands responsible to ethical standards by punishing those which do not deliver. Businesses, anticipating a shift in power in relationship to consumers, will begin to act with greater responsibility rather than be punished.

Martin Lindstrom, once named one of the “World’s 100 Most Influential People,” by Time Magazine, tells us that the world of product branding is changing. In an article in Fast Company, he says that he predicts that Wikileaks sorts of organizations will emerge in the future which are focused on keeping brands honest. Smart people in business today have to realize the importance of putting ethics first. He writes:

Last year, I began a study of 2,000 consumers in which I asked for their ethical perspectives [on branding]. Their advice proved invaluable. We would be wise to take note of it:

  • Don’t do anything to kids and consumers that you would not do to your own children, friends, and family.
  • Every time you launch a campaign, a new product, or a service, secure an “ethical” sign-off from your target group. Develop your own independent consumer panel (a representative target audience) and disclose the perception of the product, as well as the reality. Let the consumers make the final call.
  • Align perception with reality. Your talents might very well lie in brilliantly creating convincing perceptions, but how do they stack up against the reality? If there’s a mismatch, one or the other must be adjusted in order for them to be in sync.
  • Be 100% transparent. Nothing less. The consumer needs to know what you know about them. Furthermore, they must be told exactly how you intend to use the information. If they don’t like what they see, they need a fair and easy way to opt out.
  • Almost any product or service has a downside, so don’t hide it. Tell it as it is. Be open and frank, and communicate the negatives in a simple and straightforward way.
  • All your endorsements and testimonials must be real–don’t fake them. [Read more…]

Love is a path to God. But is it enough?


Art Credit: piker77

In nature, animals learn how to be their true nature by watching how their parents do things and trying to do things the same way, sink or swim. Humans too learn through imitation, not only in worldly ways but also in spiritual pursuits.

I love Jesus Christ’s new Facebook status update, a selection from the New Testament:

Ephesians 5:1 – 2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Too often Christians confuse the spiritual imperative to imitate God with the all-too-human imperative to obey human traditions and institutions. But World Spirituality suggests that imitating God — or Enlightenment, from a different perspective — is our highest calling.

As I see it, the imitation of God is about growing our consciousness, inch by inch, habit by habit, thought by thought, until we understand that our True Self is one with God … as was Jesus’s own Supreme Identity.

What does that look like? It won’t have the same feeling for everyone. At a very general level, there are principles and ways of looking at God-consciousness that can help to draw distinctions. For example, Ephesians also tells us to walk in love and to be selfless in the work we do in the world. Being God-like isn’t an act one puts on. It’s not a demeanor. It’s not an attribute of the personality. It shows up in self-less love, and whenever Love is present, so too is God.

[Read more…]

Change one article of clothing, change your life

David Beckham

David Beckham

I picked up the latest issue of Men’s Health at the newstand the other day — the one with David Beckham on the cover. I was struck by something I read in the opening to the Spring Style section:

Sports and style have been playing partners since men first pulled on a uniform. (The ancient Greeks used to compete naked, so the uni was real progress.) Over time, athletic apparel and street clothes blended — athletes became fashionable, and fashion became sporty. Today the two camps draw mutual inspiration…

How we dress is spiritual. It is making beauty. It is expressing our essence. It is a way we have to integrate diverse strands in our culture — conflicting ideals about what it means to be human, to be a child of God, to be an evolving being.

Every sporty element we add to our attire communicates something, even unconsciously, about our relationship to athleticism. Every tattoo. Every piercing. Every time we wear business attire (or refuse to put on a suit and tie!), we say something about our relationship to the economic structure of civilization. Every time we don religious jewelry or attire, we tell the world something about our relationship to our religious heritage.

Some of my most interesting spiritual experiences have consisted simply in choosing an accessory or shirt that I felt really good about and enjoyed wearing. Even a simple T-shirt with a minimalist design says something interesting. I don’t want to convey the impression that I analyze my optimal fashion according to a mathematical formula or anything like that; it can be a very intuitive process.

Cowboy Boots

Cowboy Boots

Like the time I bought my first pair of cowboy boots as an adult (about seven years ago). They hurt my feet like hell and I rarely had the opportunity to wear them, but I felt good when I was in them. And pretty soon I realized that I wouldn’t be able to “pull them off” very well with my existing wardrobe. Gradually as I replaced old clothes I started replacing them with new clothes that fit the new accessory, and over time eventually my entire look changed. It wasn’t planned; it just happened.

A few years ago, I remembered that when I was a child I wore cowboy boots probably until I entered kindergarten. I remembered that my Dad wore cowboy boots all the time (probably something he did all his life, since he grew up working on farms and continued to do so until soon after I was born). I used to watch him shine and polish the boots and I forgot how much I loved the smell of shoe polish.

My brothers and I all wore boots for years, and I don’t recall when or why exactly I stopped. Probably I just needed a more conventional shoe for school. I don’t know why I stopped back then, but today I have a choice. And on my birthday last year I got a new pair of cowboy boots that are so comfortable I can wear them everywhere, every day, and even walk for miles in them. Really.

In the past several years, I reached the age that my father was when I was growing up. Looking at pictures, I can see a strong resemblance. In my twenties, I wanted nothing to do with him or the way that I was raised. In my thirties, I reconciled myself to my childhood and realized that my adult life was what I made of it. I could no longer blame anyone else for my problems; I had to do my own work on my self.

Now, having entered my forties, it seems I’m rather literally walking in my father’s (style of) shoes. Without even trying, I’ve integrated a part of myself that was underloved and underappreciated, and included it in a wider embrace.

To change one article of clothing can lead to a sea change in a wardrobe given enough time and inclination; it can even change our relationship to diverse aspects of our human nature, such as the athletic and the professional sides (or in my case, helping me to find my “inner cowboy,” that tough-loving, honest, straight-shooting, free spirit side).

And that’s how spiritual integration works, too. We can change one habit and then slowly without even realizing it we find ourselves different on the inside.

What does the world most need now?

Illumined World

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs

Some say the world needs more peace and others say the world needs less complacency.

Some say the world needs fewer carbon emissions and others say the world needs more jobs.

Some say the world needs less hunger and poverty and others say the world needs more gratitude.

Some say the world needs a cure for terrible diseases and others say all disease is in the mind.

Some say the world needs equal rights for women, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities…and others say the world needs to recover a social order from ages past.

Some say the world needs more conservative solutions to problems, and definitely more individual liberty. But others say the world needs more progressive solutions to problems, and definitely more cooperation.

Some say the world needs people to feel more and get “out of our heads.” But others say the world needs people to be smarter, more rational, and moved less by irrational feelings.

Some say the world needs nothing: that it is perfect just the way it is.


The fundamental Integral principles teach us that every one of these answers has a part of the truth. They all see the world from a different point of view. But not all windows on the world are equal; they don’t all have an equal part of the truth. There are many different levels of truth, as there are many different layers of an onion…and peeling back the easier, superficial answers isn’t for the faint of heart.

Also, the Integral toolset gives us a great starting point for organizing ideas about what the world needs now: it can help us to visualize how each of these issues involves many different dimensions, and it can tell us a great deal about how different people with different psychological profiles and intellectual worldviews make sense of these needs.

But in itself, the Integral platform does more to specify a range of possible answers to the question and frame the potential answers than actually answer the question. It requires the addition of an empowering and ennobling and wise spiritual vision within which to work its magic. And it is this vision that people in the World Spirituality movement from around the world are articulating, learning about, putting into practice, and building community experiences around. It is one way God is speaking and Spirit is working in the world today.

World Spirituality is, as Marc Gafni says, about democratizing enlightenment. It is to affirm that no task is more important right now than Enlightenment…and that this is not just a project for cave-dwelling monks but the highest and most profound calling direct for each and every one of us.

It also suggests the HOW of Enlightenment in a wide variety of ways that do justice to all the complexity and developmental perspectives. This is important because it helps us to avoid making mistakes like lapsing into fundamentalism, scientism, postmodernism, or any other ideology masquerading as the Total Truth. And one of the most central insights is that we all have a divine Unique Self; therefore we must all be our highest and wisest and truest self, and not try to hide or diminish it.

So the answer to the question, “What does the world most need now?” begins with YOU. Only and uniquely YOU. If you are living from your True Self, you are not selfish and egotistical or just concerned about the ideals of people just like you; you are concerned about every sentient being and want the best for everyone and all creatures.

You need not concern yourself with all perspectives on the question, only enough perspectives to help you move forward step by step from where you are right at this moment. You need not be paralyzed by worrying that you won’t do the perfect thing.

THE NEXT THING YOU DO is what the world most needs now, if you are practicing a genuine World Spirituality. 

What is Integral? What is World Spirituality?

Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber

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.


Truth from a World Spirituality perspective


Photo Credit: koppdelaney

I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to have had a good education in philosophy, theology, comparative religion, psychology and sociology of religion, and so on. This has given me the chance to see how the brightest minds, past and present, have addressed the fundamental question in philosophy: “How am I to live?”

Those smart people haven’t always agreed. In fact, the study of these subjects in college is pretty much an exercise in learning the different schools of thought and how to argue one side against another. In ethics, there are consequentialists and Kantians. In psychoanalysis, there are Freudians and Jungians. And then there are about a million different views of religion.

It wasn’t really until over a decade after I finished my formal study of religion that I encountered the work of the philosopher, psychological theorist, and mystic Ken Wilber. His work was remarkably different because he didn’t care less how exactly one thinker disagreed with another thinker. He was only really interested in what they had in common. How were they looking at the world in such a way that he could understand that in a way they weren’t really disagreeing? He saw that they were only talking past each other, comparing apples to oranges.

For Ken Wilber, there really is something that you might as well call Truth with a capital “T,” to distinguish it from all of the various perspectives that people have about truth. He doesn’t think we ever really are able to talk about Truth or grasp it intellectually without diminishing it to truth with the lower-case “t.” There is Truth. And then there are perspectives on Truth. And we are always, everywhere, taking a perspective.

The most important thing Wilber helped me to realize is that just because we can’t know Truth without taking a perspective doesn’t mean we can’t know Truth fully and absolutely. We absolutely can know Truth, he assures us…and I believed him…because it was something I already knew. The Truth we know fully and completely and confidently is the Truth of our real nature. Ken Wilber sometimes calls this our Ultimate Identity, drawing on an important term from the Hindu spiritual masters and people they’ve influenced. Another important integral thinker, Marc Gafni, drawing on the Hebrew enlightenment tradition, calls this our True Self.

And one thing Ken Wilber, Marc Gafni, other integral thinkers, and the entire lineage of mystics and enlightened sages, points us to is the same Truth, each putting that Truth into perspectives…turning that Truth into truths. Because that Truth is something we know with our whole being integrally — body, mind, soul, and spirit — not just intellectually. And we can’t express Truth without taking a perspective because that Truth is always communicated with language in societies that are evolving — biologically, culturally, socially, spiritually — and so every religion and philosophy colors that truth in different and interesting and unique ways.

The Truth of enlightenment is that there is a True Self — our Ultimate Identity or Absolute Spirit — and that there is only one.

So it’s no wonder that Wilber’s integral worldview lacked an interest in dividing the world according to methodologies, philosophies, religions, ideologies, and so on. From the integral vantage point, such divisions could only tell us relative, partial truths…disguising the path to Truth. He saw that the deeper you looked at all of these divisions in thought, the more their boundaries began to blur and hidden patterns of unity began to emerge. Constructing a map of those common threads became his dharma, a pandit’s work that has already produced over 20 major books.

Sean Esbjörn-Hargens reviews Wilber’s dharmic path as follows:

In 1977 American philosopher Ken Wilber published his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness. This groundbreaking book integrated the major schools of psychology along a continuum of increasing complexity, with different schools focused on various levels within that spectrum. Over the next 30 years he continued with this integrative impulse, writing books in areas such as cultural anthropology, philosophy, sociology of religion, physics, healthcare, environmental studies, science and religion, and postmodernism. To date, Wilber has published over two dozen books and in the process has created integral theory. Wilber’s books have been translated into more than 24 languages, which gives you an idea as to the global reach and utility of integral theory. Since its inception by Wilber, integral theory has become one of the foremost approaches within the larger fields of integral studies and meta-theory. This prominent role is in large part the result of the wide range of applications that integral theory has proven itself efficacious in as well as the work of many scholar-practitioners who have and are contributing to the further development of integral theory.

(For a great concise overview of Integral Theory, see this paper.)

There are many potential uses of Integral theory in academic studies and practical applications for people working in a variety of fields (business, law, organizational development, coaching, psychotherapy, etc.) But what concerns me most in Awake, Aware & Alive is the application of integral principles in the realm of World Spirituality.

It is far too dangerous for our world to ignore the many difficult issues we face together. We’re all in this life, this world together…because we are all ultimately one. The root of the problems we face, I believe, is that far too few people know this truth, believe this, and put it into practice. We act as if we are separate beings, when the truth is that we are not.

As Ken Wilber, Marc Gafni, and many other people have taught me, an authentic World Spirituality needs to grow out of an integral worldview because no other worldview can do better the task that most needs to be done: show us how we are all really, truly connected and one at a time when vast billions of people act blindly as if we weren’t.

Mitt Romney, poor people, and creating an authentic World Politics

Romney Dollar

Mitt Romney, American candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, always seems to be trying hard to say the right thing to get elected and inadvertently saying what he really thinks. People will be talking for months about Mitt Romney’s many flubs, including his latest remarks about poor people in a CNN interview:

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN. “If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.” Host Soledad O’Brien pointed out that the very poor are probably struggling too. “The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor,” Romney responded, after repeating that he would fix any holes in the safety net. “And there’s no question it’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor .?.?. My focus is on middle income Americans … we have a very ample safety net and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. but we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor.”

via The Washington Post. This is shocking, isn’t it?

He’s concerned with the American middle class because they are struggling, but he’s not concerned with the poor because…aren’t they struggling too? Does their having a safety net mean they’re not struggling whereas the middle class is? He seems to be admitting in a backhanded sort of way that he has written poor people off as hopeless, and put them beyond the scope of government. Who can really believe that he wants to “fix” the safety net, when his policies propose cuts that would force massive cutbacks?

This is really not cool. Democrats know it’s not cool, and they also hope it’s bad politics in a post-Occupy election year. That may be true, though more Americans than they might think don’t care about the very poor either and don’t mind a politician who they can like because he who won’t give them a liberal guilt trip. But really Democrats too have sold the very poor out, if not always in policy then in messaging, aiming their sights squarely at the middle class and trying to avoid giving swing voters the impression that they are coddling welfare recipients.

I don’t think Americans actually want our politicians talk honestly about their real views of the poor, because they would rather not think about a subject that they can comfortably avoid. We want Republicans to talk about the importance of poor people lifting themselves up by their boot straps and Democrats to talk about the importance of the safety net, and maybe to give a little bit to charity, but that’s about it.

Americans want self-empowerment rhetoric from conservative and progressive alike, and what minimum safety net that can maintain the status quo without them having to take too much notice of the very poor. Where a more integral approach begins to look different is when it talks about the chief aim of ethics as protecting the health and well-being of all levels of the world’s Spiral of Life — in plain speech, ensuing that nobody gets left out of the opportunity for living healthfully and having their best chance at education and higher development.

We do this not simply because it’s a good thing, but because who we are is a We — a We that includes all beings, a We that exists in a world that denies this unity in a multitude of crazy, painful ways. Ultimately, We are concerned about the very poor because We are concerned about Us.

Top 10 Signs Your Spirituality Might Be Integral

Unlike traditional religions, spirituality can be as individual as you are. And when that spirituality is founded on Integral principles, it opens the door wide for expanding human potential for rich inner development, cultural progress, artistic creativity, and spiritual renewal. But how can you tell if your spirituality is really based on integral principles?

If your spirituality is integrally based, it’s a way of being in the world as who you truly are, giving you a roadmap to finding yourself, clarifying your values, facing and healing your shadows, and eventually losing yourself again in the bliss of identity with the driving force of evolution itself: Love. It’s that simple and elegant.

An integral spiritual worldview shows you the divinity of humanity mirrored equally in both our particular and universal identities: male and female, rich and poor, black and white, gay or straight, adult or child, mature or immature. It does not blur differences into a blah sort of fake uniformity, but allows us to be uniquely ourselves, fully human, and fully capable of realizing our divinity.

In fact, maybe you are Integral without even knowing it. Here are 10 signs that your spirituality might be integral:

10. You don’t find yourself easily offended by slights to your ego, subculture, or group identification; therefore “political correctness” has little appeal to you (though you intuitively tend to avoid causing others unnecessary pain through your words or deeds). You look for signs of agreement with others and try to mediate or negotiate solutions whenever possible. You realize that there are more ways to work for justice than complaining that people are being insensitive. You don’t try to silence or shout down those who disagree with you.

9. You have come to a compassionate stance with regard to religious fundamentalists and conservative zealots because you recognize that their own stage of evolution may be less than your own. You know that everyone has a part of the truth. You know that many of the worst problems in the world are caused by people who think they have the full truth when they only have a part. You believe sacred texts such as the Bible are a source of wisdom, even if they contain many teachings which aren’t useful today. You pick your battles for justice carefully and strategically, not by reacting out of anger or fear.

8. You don’t think spirituality and religion are antithetical: Whether or not you have found a spiritual community, you know that being fully human is not strictly an individual affair. You know no person is an island. You may even admire the strong bonds of commitment and devotion shown by the religiously orthodox or traditional, and you long for deeper relations with people in your community and — through virtual communities and/or travel — around the world. When someone asks if you believe in God, before you say yes or no, part of you wonders what they mean by “God” and questions whether you are both talking about the same thing.

7. You don’t look for “explanations” of religion as strictly a subject of interest to biologists, psychologists, anthropologists, social historians, or theologians, but seek comprehensive approaches that include individual and collective dimensions of spiritual experience in subjective and objective perspectives. You believe not only in biological evolution but you are at least open to the possibility that cultures and societies undergo a sort of evolution. You don’t think science and spirituality are opposed. You don’t want to stay “stuck in your head” all the time; however, at the same time, you want your spirituality to be intellectually rigorous, not anti-intellectual.

6. You are non-judgmental not because you want others to like you or you because you seek to avoid being judged by others, but because you recognize your own shadow in everything you judge. You don’t think spiritual people have to be nice all the time. You know that anger — even rudeness — can have a healthy place in the spiritual life. You are skeptical when you hear of spiritual people blaming sick people for causing their own illnesses. You want to be free of shame, but still take responsibility for mistakes and shortcomings without blaming every problem on other individuals or classes of people.

5. You reject beliefs that insist on classifying people into victims and perpetrators, because you know that ultimately Spirit knows no such distinctions and every person has light and dark within themselves. You understand that many -isms such as classism, sexism, racism, and so forth, are wrong and need to be addressed; at the same time, you know that these socio-cultural conventions emerged in the context of a world evolving in greater degrees of Spirit and reflect the concerns of earlier stages in religious and cultural development. You believe strongly in human liberation, but think the ways that most people think of liberation are too limiting.

4. You reject overly simplistic answers to complex questions, and realize that our beliefs about ultimate reality should not seek to diminish, sentimentalize, or rationalize the mysterious and awe-inspiring nature of life. Likewise you try to avoid supposedly certain answers for understanding the mystery of death. Whether you believe in heaven and hell, reincarnation, or are agnostic about the afterlife, you know that human life is purposeful and our actions make a difference in this world. You understand that denial of death is the hallmark of an ego that doesn’t understand its true nature, its higher Self.

3. You are concerned about both ecology and justice not only in your community, but for all people around the world, part of your concern to alleviate the suffering and contribute to the holistic development of all sentient beings. You may have evolved beyond thinking only about people in your community or ethnic group or nation. You may have discovered a worldcentric worldview, one which realizes that in the 21st century it isn’t good enough to only think locally but also to think globally. You are deeply concerned by environmental concerns and protecting the natural world for future generations, but you know that technology isn’t the root of all evils; it can sometimes be the solution.

2. You recognize that Eros pervades every dimension of the world, and you celebrate erotic energy as well as spiritual energy because they are ultimately one. Nevertheless, you give sex a unique role for encountering beauty, expressing blissful play, exercising ethical behavior, and for giving and receiving love. You aren’t afraid to talk about subtle energies of yin and yang or masculine and feminine. You know that our gender and sexual roles are biologically, culturally, and sociologically conditioned; at the same time you recognize that there are meaningful cross-cultural patterns and universals that we can benefit from understanding.

1. You aren’t afraid to see your own divinity, inside and out. You may worry about arrogance sometimes, but you don’t think pride is the worst sin. You know that having self-esteem is important and that it is only genuine when it is based on recognition of your intrinsic worth, gorgeous uniqueness, and inner divinity. You know it’s safe to “come out of the closet” about both your shadows and your light, and doing so is central to your spiritual journey.  You strive to overcome all limited conceptions of who you are into a fully authentic sense that accepts everything that arises in an integral embrace as not distinct from your own highest Self.

If you look at your life and beliefs and see some or all of these signs, then you are discovering that you may already have an Integral worldview. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about the Integral philosophy of life and World Spirituality. Follow me, Joe Perez, on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about my approach to spirituality on Awake, Aware & Alive.

Can language change biology?

Amazon Tribe

Photo Credit: pierre pouliquin

Cultural differences, including language, may be a possible driver of biological evolution, research implies. An article in Discover Magazine reports on research involving the Xavánte, an Amazon aboriginal tribe, and concludes:

Hostile neighbors still tend to exchange genes (e.g., kidnapping of women for brides, or slaves which are eventually assimilated into the enslaving tribe). Only a small amount of gene flow is necessary to prevent the accumulation of group-level differences. So you need strong between group selection to maintain those differences. In contrast, cultural differences can easily manifest in large between group variation, and little within group variation. An accent is the most obvious illustration. A tribe can easily have a distinctive accent which immediately separates it from its neighbors, and only manifests modest within group variation (e.g., along generational lines). The model posited here is that these between group cultural differences are powerful enough to driven biological differences. Are they? I am not sure that they are at this fine a scale, but am open to the proposition.

via Culture evolves our bodies! | Gene Expression.

Languages love multiple meanings like a dog loves to grip a Frisbee

Dog with frisbee

Photo Credit: Reina Cañí

Sometimes I wonder why I (more than occasionally) read Language Log. In a lengthy post ostensibly on the word “draft,” Mark Liberman offers a memorable simile for people who like etymology.

He writes:

[H]umans who love to explore etymology are like dogs avidly smelling the crap that other dogs have rubbed into their fur.

By way of explanation, he quotes Tom Davis’s book Why Dogs Do That:

There are couple of theories, by no means mutually exclusive, that explain why dogs take such obvious and unabashed delight in rolling in stuff that makes us gag: excrement, carrion (the older and fouler, the better), anything and everything that is rotten, putrid and deliquescent. And they don’t just roll in it; wriggling joyfully on their backs, they do their damnedest to smear it around and rub it in. The specific hypothesis suggest that dogs roll in stinky stuff to mask their own scent, and thus gain an edge over prey species […] (Contemporary human deer hunters do much the same thing when dousing their clothing with various bottled scents.)

The other theory, more general in application, holds that it’s a way for a dog to tell other dogs where they’ve been and what they found there. A dog streaked with excrescence is viewed by his brethren as a storyteller, and canine society hold storytellers in high esteem.

Much as I find Liberman’s simile, um, interesting, I think he runs far afield of the essential point about polysemy — the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase — in language. He begins by wondering if, as Geoff Pullum says, languages love multiple meanings like a dog rolling around in fresh grass. But then he gets lost, well, maybe like a dog who rolls around in mud or feces, shifting from a discussion of the preoccupations of language to the preoccupations of etymologists.

The pleasure of etymologists in relishing ambiguity is pretty carnal and passionate. Language, however, is dispassionate regarding polysemy.

From a cultural evolutionary perspective, polysemy varies from time to time, place to place…and it is not altogether clear whether it is an evolutionary necessity or artifact.

If we spiritual evolutionaries are correct in our belief that language is evolving into greater degrees of congruity and uniformity with underlying subtle principles, then polysemy may increasingly fade as it becomes less efficient or useful for the sorts of communication becoming increasingly important in the 21st century and beyond. I can’t say for sure if decreasing polysemy is an evolutionary by-product, but it would at the very least be a worthy subject of linguistic research.

In that case, languages embrace multiple meanings according to their usefulness at any given stage in evolution. Languages love to be helpful. They hold multiple meanings like a dog clutches a Frisbee in her teeth, gripping them so long as it is fun and stimulating…but eventually the stress becomes exhausting.

Is Every Electron in the Universe a Unique Facet of the Same Particle?

Electron - by MohammadHasan - flickr

Photo Credit: MohammadHasan – flickr

Ever heard of an old soul? According to one theory making the rounds among physicists, virtually every electron in your body may be more than a googol years old (10 to the 125th power), much older than the universe itself, if I understand the premise correctly.

A fascinating article at io9 by Alasdair Wilkins imagines that every electron in the universe is a single particle:

As Wheeler pointed out, each electron traces out a unique path through spacetime, which is its world line. He simply connected all the forward-traveling electrons and backwards-traveling positrons into a single gigantic world line, imagining a particle tracing its way back and forth through the history of the universe to become every electron and positron we had ever observed. And that was why all electrons were indistinguishable.

The implications of this would be absolutely tremendous. Current estimates suggest there’s about 1080 atoms in the observable universe, so let’s use that same figure for the number of electrons. (Actually, since the vast majority of those are one-electron hydrogen atoms anyway, that isn’t much of a stretch.) The universe is already nearly 14 billion years old, but it will last far, far longer than that, although the ultimate age of the universe depends on which theory of its final fate you subscribe to.

Since we’re really only going for a rough estimate anyway, let’s just use 4.6*1026 years, which is the lower limit for the lifetime of an electron before it decays (assuming it actually decays, which isn’t a certainty). So then, if the one electron universe is correct, that single particle has traveled through the universe 1080 times, with each journey taking 460 septillion years, and you can double that for all its return trips as a backwards-going positron.

That means, by the end of its journey, the electron is 2*4.6*1024*1080 years old, or just about 10105 years old. That’s ten-thousand googol years old. That also means that 99.99% of the electrons in your body, and indeed everywhere in the universe, have already been traveling for over a googol years…assuming this is true, of course. I don’t know about you, but I suddenly feel weirdly ancient.

It’s going too far to call the idea of a one electron universe a full-fledged theory, or really anything close too it – it’s more of a gloriously unconventional thought experiment. But that doesn’t change the fact that, from a strictly theoretical perspective, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Sure, your intuition probably tells you that this is very, very unlikely, but classical world intuition doesn’t mean anything in the quantum world.

via What if every electron in the universe was all the same exact particle?.

The article goes on to explain some very good reasons why the One Electron Theory isn’t very likely.

Likely or not, I can’t say from the physicist’s perspective, but I do feel that the whole existence of the universe at all strikes me as pretty damn unlikely.

On Chinese phonosemantics (or: why does “cop” mean the same thing in many unrelated languages?)


It’s always interesting to read articles on phonosemantics and related fields when they come out, especially one that examines a language that I don’t read. Linguist Victor Mair looks at a few recent efforts to identify the underlying phonosemantic patterns in the Chinese language, including this one:

William Rozycki has written a stimulating article (“Phonosymbolism and the Verb cop”) in which he attempts to show that various presumably unrelated languages around the world have independently chosen the syllable kap, or some close variant thereof, to convey the following meanings: “take, grasp, grab, seize, capture”. He is able to cite an impressive amount of evidence in favor of his contention.

Rozycki explicitly states that he makes no claim for the universality of phonosymbolism, yet the manner in which he presents his argument leads him to come dangerously close to making such an assertion. Here is the distillation of his thesis:


I will present both historic and areal evidence that a tendency or force is at work in the connection of the phonetic shape [kap] and the semantic range of ‘catch, seize, snatch.’ Like suprasegmentals in relation to the workings of phonology, this phonosymbolic force is another dimension, not yet clearly understood, that exerts influence on the process of word formation.

Rozycki, William. “Phonosymbolism and the Verb cop.” Journal of English Linguistics, 25.3 (September, 1997), 202-206.

and this one:

Below are Howell’s big picture conclusions about Proto-Chinese.

The language is phonosemantic in nature.

Seven concepts (Frame, Continuum, Concealment, Supple, Spread, Small / Slender, Straight) generated all its terms excepting onomatopoeia and a handful of loan words. Each concept corresponds to an initial consonant (K L M N P S and T, respectively). When secondary concepts (Extend; Encompass, Adhere / be proximate; Press; Continuum; Cut / Divide / Reduce) were to be conveyed, this function was performed by the consonant within the final (-NG -M -N -P -R and -T respectively).

The y?nf?? (“sound note”) in xngsh?ng z ???(“phono-semantic compounds”) was intended to suggest not only the character’s pronunciation but also its meaning, again with the exception of onomatopoeia and loan words.

All compound characters created in Proto-Chinese that traditionally have been assigned to the huy z ???(ideogrammic compounds) category were devised as phono-semantic compounds (???). Apparent anomalies in compound characters owe to 1) transposed, abbreviated or otherwise altered elements, 2) sound notes the independent character forms of which dropped out of use, and 3) pronunciation changes owing to consonant shifts in either the initial or the final.

Consonant shifts in derived terms, occurring in both the initials and the finals, correspond to shifts in meaning, and these follow the conceptual associations noted above….

[Victor Mair’s critique of the thesis omitted; see original site.]

Howell considers his phonosemantics to be a type of phonosymbolism, but I believe that his system is far more comprehensive in its scope and has been developed with greater attention to the specifics of the Chinese writing system. Nonetheless, for the reasons outlined above, I am not convinced that the Howell-Morimoto scheme can explain the origins and development of the Old Sinitic lexicon.

For those who might wish to judge for themselves, Howell’s data (as noted at the outset) may be accessed online (no charge); they are also available through the site in book form as Kanji Etymology….

via Phonosymbolism and Phonosemantics in Chinese.

Cards on the table. I’m a sort of universal Kabbalist. My own philosophical/mystical presupposition informs me that OF COURSE there must be phonosemantic connections in Chinese and in every language under the sun because God/Spirit emanates through all languages in patterns that are inherently meaningful and evolving (not random chance).

However, the state of academic knowledge about what those patterns are, and how buried they are, and an understanding of how much they can be identified and reconstructed at all, is embryonic.

That these connections exist to a certain degree is perfectly clear from what limited cross-cultural phonosemantic research has been done; it’s the “how much is this true?” and the “so what if it is true?” questions that are most perplexing.