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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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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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.