Consciousness Culture, Tech, Mind and the Future

Roy Bhaskar Discusses The Modern World and Philosophy at ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

“At the July 2013 Integral Theory Conference in San Francisco, Giorgio Placenza met with Roy Bhaskar, well known ontological philosopher of Critical Realism and Keynote Speaker at the Conference. Bhaskar was a founding member of the Centre for Critical Realism and the International Association of Critical Realism. He is currently employed at the Institute of Education in London where he is working on the application of CR to Peace Studies. Placenza has published in Integral Leadership Review and has maintained a wide-ranging interest that impinges on various aspects of reality, aspects such as the mind-body problem, philosophy, cosmology and physics.”

Jakob Böhme Crash Course – BPH/HHP Webinar

by Jeremy Johnson

Originally posted on Heterodoxology:

There is another webinar out from the collaboration between the BPH and the HHP in Amsterdam. This time, Wouter Hanegraaff gives a one-hour crash course on the wonderfully obscure and fascinating German Silesian Christian theosophist/mystic/pietist (or however one wants to label him) Jakob Böhme (1575-1624). This cobbler from Görlitz was the author of some fairly heterodox theological texts, written in unsystematic, poetic, highly symbolic and mythologizing style. In this webinar, Hanegraaff focuses mostly on Böhme’s cosmogony – or rather, his theogony. In stark contrast to Christian orthodoxy, Böhme held that God was not eternal nor really transcendent, and certainly not immaterial or purely “spiritual”. To the contrary, he was obsessed with “the birth of God” from an original, primeval, unknowable chaos, the Ungrund (“un-ground”). Materiality and corporeality are always highlighted.

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Podcast Episode 9: Sister Jeanne Ranek and Dr. Neville Kelly Discuss Christianity, Tradition and Integral Theory.

by Jeremy Johnson

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In spite of a busy schedule, darting into one presentation and then out to another, I managed to squeeze in an enlightening conversation with Sister Jeanne Ranek and Dr. Neville Kelly during a lunch break at the conference. Sister Jeanne is the first woman monastic leader to participate in the Integral Theory Conference, and Dr. Neville Kelly is an Adjunct Professor (and former Visiting Assistant Professor) of Religious Studies and Philosophy at Mt. Mary College.

You’ll hear the podcast begin with Dr. Kelly responding to the criticisms being raised at the conference about integral theory’s tendency towards cognitive abstractions (raised by Sean Esbjorn-Hargens himself at the keynote).

What strikes me now, re-listening to this conversation, is what Sister Jeanne says about tradition: “Genuine in-touchness with tradition should really empower one to development.” During our conversation, I began to consider the possibility that it’s not only the monastic community work that might provide a model for planetary culture and inter-theoretical discussions, but also theology, which might provide insight to evolutionary thought (thinking along the lines of Teilhard de Chardin and Omega Point).

There were some lovely responses and critical observations by Dr. Kelly and Sister Jeanne that convinced me of the importance of tradition in our post-postmodern playground of meta theories.

Please listen and enjoy.

This Episode’s Related Links and Information:

Dr. Kelly will soon be published in her latest work: Reweaving the Threefold Cord: Integral Theory and the Christian Tradition-An Introduction.

Dr. Neville Kelly’s Website

Dr. Kelly’s Integral Course. Balancing Your World: An Integral Theory of Getting it Together

Roots and Ladders: Benedictine Monasticism and the Integral Christian Future. A pre-conference workshop by Dr. Kelly and Sister Ranek I covered here.

Podcast Episode 11: #ITC2013 – Integral Spam. Trevor Malkinson, Trish Nowland, Jeremy Johnson

by Jeremy Johnson

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The fates had aligned at the Integral Theory Conference. Trish Nowland, Trevor Malkinson, and myself were about to go to bed. Lights were dimmed, sleeping bags rolled open, our friend Nathan Hohmann was sleeping.

But we kept talking. Inevitably I turned on the microphone, and clicked record. You’re listening to evolutionary-esoteric pillow talk. Consider it a philosophical riff on Roy Bhaskar’s Critical Realism, or one too many glasses of wine, or as the giggling ecstasy of newly kindled friendship.

Join us! As we discuss creation mythologies, spiritual emanation, integral spam, the evolution of archetypes, dopplegangers, celestial twins, and even metal bands.

This podcast is rated PG-13.

Podcast Episode 10: John Thompson and Sean Wilkinson Talk Integral Sports

by Jeremy Johnson

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“All the tennis sessions were based in integral life skills… self-awareness, teamwork, taking responsibility.”

In this episode, I talk with John Thompson and Sean Wilkinson about their presentation at the Integral Theory Conference: The Birth of Integral Sports. John and Sean have a fascinating success story to tell about the fusion of Integral Theory – and practice – with sports. Together they started a Tennis Academy, grounded in integral principles. It wasn’t long before it became a kind of integral “community center” for the whole neighborhood. Even parents ended up benefitting from workshops… and integral coaching! Despite the fact that many of them would never have otherwise known what it was.

John and Sean practice “Circling,” which is an interrelational reflective practice, a form of shared mindfulness where you note the thoughts and feelings going on within you as you relate to another person.

Circling had a huge impact on the children’s development, as you’ll see. Listen in and hear their story.

This Episode’s Related Links and Information:

Parents in Sports: An Integral Coaching website for parents of athletes.

John Thompson and Sean Wilkinson’s website on Circling

Lines of flight: Deleuze and nomadic creativity

by Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson:

Reblog post of the day goes out to “Philosophy for Change,” a great space I discovered while through a Google search for “Lines of Flight,” a term by philosopher Gilles Deleuze to describe counter-movements to the status quo, or “bolts of pent-up energy that break through the cracks in a system of control and shoot off on the diagonal… It is our desire to escape the status quo that leads us to innovate.” Thought this post was some excellent Sunday food-for-thought. What do you think? Does this clarify your understanding of counter-culture and creativity?

Originally posted on Philosophy for change:

prisoner (1)‘I am not a number – I am a free man!’ Thus cries Patrick McGoohan in the 60s cult-TV series, The Prisoner. McGoohan plays a British spy who is held captive in a strange village on an island controlled by a faceless authority. The prisoner, known only as Number 6, has resigned from the secret service. It seems to be his crime. In the opening sequence, we see him burst into his spy chief’s office and passionately submit his resignation; he is subsequently drugged, kidnapped, and whisked off to the Village. We never find out why he quit. The authorities are as perplexed we we are. The prisoner will remain interned on the island until he has explained his actions to Number 1. But the prisoner refuses to do so. Instead, he seeks to escape. Insistently. In fact, the prisoner’s whole tenure on the island (the entirety of two…

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Daniel Pinchbeck Launches Mind Shift, a new Talk Show:

by Jeremy Johnson

Daniel Pinchbeck, whom I’m a long-time reader of, has just started a new talk show called “Mind Shift.” Think Real Time with Bill Maher but with mystic-artists, psychedelic authors and counter-culture philosophers. The first show rounds up Michael Muhammad Knight, Alex Grey, Howard Bloom and Jay Michaelson. Sounds good to me!

The FB page says:

“This is not a talk show about politics, and this is not a talk show to plug the latest books or movies. This is a talk show about the big ideas that aren’t talked about in the mainstream media. Big ideas that may scare some people but will inspire others.”

Take a look at what CULTiE said about the first show.

From CULTiE.com

I’m highlighting Michael Muhammad Knight’s discussion here because of his unique subject: Islam and psychedelics. He has a new book out called Tripping with Allah: Islam, Drugs, and Writing.

Why, that’s my favorite writing recipe right there! Religion, mysticism and literature.

Take a look at what CULTiE wrote:

What happens when a traditional religion like Islam meets psychedelics?

Michael Muhammed Knight, author of Tripping with Allah, answers the question. He details a lurid psychedelic visitation with the naked Fatimah, daughter of Muhammed. Knight sought the feminine within what is generally a male-dominant religion and got what he wished for when he took Ayuasca. Fatimah’s apparition told Knight, “The Koran is for the boys,” and insisted that her body was the door to the mosque. He proceeded to enter.

Knight describes walking into a traditional mosque the day after the experience, doing the all the usual things, but with a new expanded understanding of his religion.

Added to my wishlist. And when I’m visiting New York, since Mind Shift is filmed in front of a live audience, I’ll blog about it!

PS: Check out CULTiE’s about page:

CULTIE (‘kʌltɪ) —short for Cultivator—spotlights Art, Design, Technology, and Thought Leadership inspired by Philosophy and Spiritual Cultivation.

Sounds like a sister-site to EL! Great design to boot. Add them to your blogrolls, people.

Beyond Religion by William Irwin Thompson, A New Publication

by Jeremy Johnson

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Lindisfarne Press, an imprint of Steiner Books has just published William Irwin Thompson’s latest book: Beyond Religion: From Shamanism to Religion to Post-religious Spirituality (Thompson was also on my blog for a video podcast).

Here is an excerpt from Beyond Religion:

“If religion is an expression of the evolution of consciousness and the growth of the animal into the human mind, then fundamentalism is the metastatic cancer of consciousness – a malignant growth of mind that displaces a healthy sense of humor, ambiguity, compassion and tolerance for a violent commitment to a literal reading of a sacred text. In the theory of “cognitive dissonance,” when you are asked to believe something patently absurd, it generates a need to proselytize, for if you can convince others that your religion is acceptable, it stills your own inner doubts and the ontological terror they generate.”

This was from the book’s Foreword. Beyond Religion also features chapters like “From Shamanism to Religion,” and “Our Contemporary Cultural Evolution of Spirituality: Modern Integral Tantra Yoga.”

I’m currently also reading my friend Amir Nasr’s own book, My Isl@m: How Fundamentalism Stole My Mind—and Doubt Freed My Soulwhat Clay Shirky calls a “love letter to freedom of speech,” and features Amir’s personal struggle out of his faith, into atheism and secular thought, and finally back into an example of Thompson’s “post-religious” spiritual practice. This one also comes highly recommended by yours truly.

Amir was moved into his renewed spirituality by the work of Ken Wilber and his book, The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. For the curious about Wilber’s approach, that would be a good place to start, but lately Thompson’s writings on spirituality come highly refreshing, backed up with decades of experience he’s had working with poets, scientists, and mystics at the Lindisfarne Association (including Lynn Margulis, James Lovelock and Francisco Varela). But decide for yourself. After all, as Thompson says, “post-religious spirituality” comes with no center, no single leader:

“We are now in another era of crisis in which catastrophes and new visions have come forth to shift humanity from a militaristic and materialistic industrial civilization to a new planetary culture. Appropriately, this post-religious movement from nation to Emanation has no single leader, but is an emergent domain – an ecology of consciousness in which diversity is its most striking feature and strength.”

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps also of interest to my readers is The Coming Interspiritual Age, a book by Kurt Johnson and David Robert Ord which has recently been making the rounds in the integral network.

Happy “post-religious” readings, seekers and wanderers of the Way!

Related Links:

William Irwin Thompson’s homepage.

Bridging Worlds of Myth and Science” An introduction to Thompson’s work on Beams and Struts.

William Harryman’s blog about my interview and Thompson’s work, at Integral Options Cafe.

Sources of the Good: Toward a Complex-Integral Ethics for the Planetary Era – Sean Kelly #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

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Sean Kelly’s presentation brings Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Edgar Morin’s Complexity together to consider ethics in the planetary age.

Intrinsic to planetary awareness is an ethical engagement with the world, social oppression and environmental destruction. What I like about Kelly’s presentation is that his point of view naturally makes you aware of social responsibility. “We need to revive the idea of the global commons,” he says. Planetary awareness, complexity thinking, invites a truly engaged, complex and compassionate communion with human societies and the larger biosphere.

“Nobody should own rights, to water, to soil, to air. Nobody should be allowed to carry on an activity which toxifies the global commons, which in some way prevents you from having healthy air, water, soil, to grow food and nourish our children. Anything that impinges on the global commons is intrinsically evil. We need to identify it as such, and use that moral conscience to guide our policies and our decisions at the political, national, level and so on. This plays into our renewed sense of nature as a good.”

For Kelly, planetary ethics directly addresses the current world crisis in the global commons. It calls us to action:

“We live in a state of global apartheid… where the 1% own the majority of the world’s resources. There’s a massive power difference, in the nature of oppression. If we’re serious about raising our level of consciousness and our ethical development to the level of the planet, once we have started with the “I” and our individual, and we’re moving out into the “we” – this is what suddenly hits us. Look at all this suffering, this oppression. What do we do about it?”

Furthermore, a planetary ethics develops in us a sensitivity to distortions and abuses of power, and invites us to cultivate a sensitivity to how structures of authority are developed:

“We need to look at how structures of authority are created at an institutional level, a social level, a political level… These are the kinds of things we need to do if we want to reclaim the “We” and make it ethically integral. We need to start identifying the oppression, the exchanged distortion, happening at all levels of complexity.”

Commenting on planetary politics and spirituality, the “universal we need to appeal to needs to be a concrete universal. And what is that, but the Earth?” He leaves room for the “transcendent” orientations of the past, but encourages us to de-emphasize them. We have a spiritual reality, and concretely, its form is our shared planet. A third kind of religion, as Edgar Morin suggests, as “citizens of Homeland Earth.”

“If you’re serious about your non-duality… then where do you see that Spirit? You cannot see it other than here and now in this common planet that we share in.”

More later!

 

 

 

Saturday Night Keynote – Paper Awards, Honorable Mentions, and Edgar Morin! #ITC2013

by Jeremy Johnson

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Tonight’s presentation started with an awards ceremony for the best presentations, academic papers and honorable mentions. There was a beautiful little moment where all of the women were invited to stay on stage, after which Sean asked us to give them a round of applause. He acknowledged that so many of the presenters on stage have been men. So, it was great to see the women of the integral world properly recognized – especially Neville Kelly’s award for best theoretical paper, uniting integral theory with critical realism.

8:00PM: Now we’re introducing Edgar!

“What is a complex society? It is a society with the greatest possibility of freedom.”

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It’s difficult to fully understand Morin, but he is being so beautifully passionate right now. Transmitting his insight and lifetime of wisdom. He’s over 90 years old but he came to life suddenly upon reaching the stage. Hands waving and eyes engaged with members of the audience. It’s really inspiring. I hope there is a a transcription of this talk to share with you all. Sean Kelly is on stage but quietly listening. Edgar’s moment to shine, even if this ultimately can’t be about the words.

What follows is my best understanding of Edgar’s speech.

I think it would have been a better idea if Sean Kelly worked something out with Morin about translating with him on stage. Nevertheless, it’s amazing to see him do his thing, and I can just make out what he’s saying.

“Complexity is not a solution,” he says, “it’s a challenge.” Nice way to start – and a break from the blatantly “theoretical heavyweights” we’ve been watching over the course of the conference. Morin has been a continuously refreshing presence, and I’ll get back to why in a minute.

Next thing. “Complexity is not a theory,” he says, “it is a comprehension of reality. It is a way to see.”

Earlier today in Alfonso Montuori’s “The Epistemology of Complexity” presentation (Morin was also present there), a similar idea was broached by Allan Combs. Complexity, like the rise of perspectival thought in art and physics (Gebser’s work is great for this insight, but I think the idea is common enough, check out Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light by Leonard Shlain) arises not as a set of ideas but a new set of eyes. A way of sensing the world.

Morin also recognizes that the theoretical meta-systems we’ve been discussing over this weekend are, themselves, diverse ecologies of thought systems. (There’s more than one way to skin a… meta theory? No, I don’t think this joke works).

Complexity is also something more than a “system.” Life is self-organizing, it needs energy and takes energy from its environment, in which it is dependent on. Morin seems to be relating complexity to dynamic processes in nature. He has a lovely part where he says all of theses systems need energy to happen, like our body, and so complexity is really about how dependent everything is on each other. Yes, more than a system. Complexity is life.

An important characteristic of complexity is that you have to work with contradictions. Opposing systems, ideas, beliefs, energies, religions, organisms. Morin is saying though, that these are actually, totally fine. Contradictions are O.K. You can’t avoid them, but often we like to “cut reality into little pictures… it’s impossible to avoid contradictions, because they are in fact complementary to each other. Not only in the complexities of life, but in human complexity.” Here Morin brings up an interesting cultural example: the Holy Trinity in Christianity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit – a seemingly contradictory affirmation of faith, one God being these three beings, is actually an example of this ability to hold contradictions in one’s mind. “They make each other, become each other… You are the individual, the society. You are spacious. The individual and sociological.” I love how he is stretching our definitions, our assumptions – our mental inertia. He gets the mind dancing.

“The part is in the whole, and the whole is in the part. The world is in the part. Inside of us is the society.”

This really resonates with me. I wonder if there is significant wiggle room in all our theorizing to make room for this notion – that the whole society is in us. That not only are there 4 quadrants but, in a sort of fractal way, you can look at the individual and through that looking, you can see the whole reflected. You don’t have to glance over to another category, another quadrant – that separates you from seeing the immediacy of connection present in a person, the immediacy that reveals that person as wholeness. I think an integral worldview needs this. Last night, we spoke of Bhaskar offering Integral Theory “gifts.” Well, this is Morin’s gift.

Seeing the person as the whole society also calls you to action. You are intimately wound up in the social. Last night, Jordan discussed the integral community’s resistance to becoming socially engaged – staying “neutral” – well, Morin’s view is implicitly suggesting that you can’t. Even a neutral scientist is affecting his, or her society. We are called to responsibility and engagement, even if what we end up choosing for our engagement is dis-engagement. Something to really consider.

There were also some heated and inspirited moments. At one point Morin exclaimed (or more like, disclaimed) “complex thinking cannot eliminate the mystery of the universe, but it is no better to specialize, fragment ourselves in the dominant technocratic age that dominates our minds today!” The audience whooped and clapped for that one!

Towards the end of the talk, Morin began to speak about “the poetry of life,” which I strongly feel is actually another iteration of what he means by complexity. He ties this idea to the imperative of social engagement:

“What is the poetry of life? It is love. It is communion. We need deeply to have a political life… The poetry of life is the connectivity of the human mind to produce goodness. It is, in another sense, spirituality. It is the integration of self in something greater, something beautiful.”

A contemplation of the complexity and interconnectivity leads one to a kind of spiritual metanoia, a call to empowered action and political activism, and most of all a “communion” with life. This is Edgar Morin’s Complexity Thinking.

“We can have a discipline,” but, he warns, “we cannot be closed in a discipline. We have to be trans-disciplinary, like Integral or Critical Theory, it is necessary.” 

Finally, Morin stressed that we had to connect the humanities and the sciences. A difficult task if there ever was one, but this weekend provided some possible avenues towards that realization.

This, however, really is the crux of Complexity Thought:

“What is a complex society? It is a society with the greatest possibility of freedom. A complex society needs liberty. It is necessary that each person has an inner sense in his mind of his solidarity to the community and society. Once you have communion and solidarity, you will have a complex society, a progressive society.”

What I liked most about Edgar Morin’s presentation, in spite of the fact that it was difficult to make out everything he was saying, was that he brought us through to a very dynamic, enlivened, impassioned perspective – without much use of, well, systemization or theorizing. Somehow everything he was saying was connected to our lived experiences. The man is a shining example of imbibing brilliance with social activism – a Marxist, a WWII French resistance fighter, and an active political thinker in his country for many decades. He was able to flex our minds by being who he is. In this sense, I think, while Morin is the least emphasized in this conference (in my experience anyway, Bhaskar was sort of the emphasis throughout the panels and presentations I went to. Admittedly I couldn’t got to them all), he has the most important contribution to Integral Theory’s new direction of social engagement. But are integral theorists willing to embrace the kind of metanoia Complexity Thought actually offers? Morin’s notion of Complex Thought, and the approach he takes to understanding and grasping it, is by far the least “meta-theoretical” in the sense of singular theories. He had what I described as a “permeable” theory – a theory that leaks, and good ones leak in context that they are tools to open and extend one’s mind into reality in new ways, and not the reverse effect. Montuori asked us in his presentation earlier today: “Do you have the theory, or does the theory have you?”

Well, in my mind anyway, we need to open up Morin’s work more, so it can open us up.

Goodnight everyone. See you tomorrow for the final day of the conference!

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