Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Joe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Integral Mythical-Vision of Genesis, the Fall from Innocence, and Redemption
In other words, there is a necessary reason why this configuration of self and society rather than some other one came to be dominant.
In the beginning was the Word, the utterance that spoke the Kosmos into existence from the seed pattern of the Unknown, the Mystery, the Unconscious Impulse. Out of Nothingness came the dimensionalities of the four directions of the universe, and the four forces that would become body, mind, soul, and spirit, and then eventually the modern self and its cultural and societal apparatus.
But in-between the first moments of the universe and now there appeared from the four forces and through the developmental processes of emergence and evolution, the archetypal templates of Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and Justice, which are also the grammars of instrumental, aesthetic, moral, and strategic rationality, respectively.
Now, by the sheer thermodynamics of the system whereby equilibrium is sought among the disequilibrium of the parts, the different rationalities were set upon one another to compete for prominence in the configuration of individual and collective human forms, and over the past 500 years or so, one combinatory configuration of rationalities gained dominance over the many other possibilities of different combinatory configurations in the formation of self and society. That victory went to the rational autonomous ego and its institutional expressions in the modern state and capitalism. However the emergence of this configuration was not accidental or a random haphazard occurrence, but rather was a historically conditioned possibility. In other words, there is a necessary reason why this configuration of self and society rather than some other one came to be dominant.
At a certain point in the development of western society, the decoupling of the strategic power of church and feudal state from moral, aesthetic, and instrumental truth claims allowed each sphere of rationality to start developing free from the overarching power of traditional constraint. Science and technology, politics, trade and commerce, art and philosophy, and moral and legal rationalities (and their corresponding institutions) were all allowed to flourish and thrive separate from the dictates of church and feudal authority. Unprecedented developmental advances were made in each sphere of rationality now set free to spread its wings. But they would thus develop only under the tutelage of a new master: not the priest and feudal overlord, but the scientist and the bourgeois owner, the midwives to the modern state and capital.
This configuration of self and society was a developmental advancement over previous forms insofar as it eliminated superstition and material scarcity, in addition to expanding cultural and social freedoms based on the developmental separation of the different rationalities. Nevertheless, the liberation thus achieved was limited by class, race, gender, and other built-in biases, and more importantly, it was fatally flawed in its assumption of unlimited growth based on the self-interested pursuit of individuals. Therefore, modernity would prove not only to be a bigoted configuration of self and society, but a spiritually barren and suicidal one as well. What had begun as an enlightenment project of reason to liberate humanity turned into its opposite as an iron cage of strategic-instrumental rationality in the form of the rational autonomous ego and its shadow forms of the mad scientist, the economic scrooge, and the political tyrant.
Then, at a certain point in the development of global society, there began a return of the repressed rationalities of a post-colonial and post-modern sensibility, the silenced voices within modernity that were never given a proper seat at the table of empowerment and just reward. Some of these voices would be co-opted into modernity without radically challenging its premises, its grammar of life and configuration of rationality oriented toward profit, growth, efficiency, quantification, and control, and thus they would help perpetuate and prolong the injustices of modernity into its final days. Others would reject the advances that modernity had given us in toto, in praise of an inchoate mix of plural identities whereby no collective direction or meaning or purpose could be gleaned, and thus they could only offer the nihilism of individual regression and tribalism, the perfect conditions for the operations of a predatory neoliberalism.
Fortunately, a third alternative emerged in opposition to modernity in the form of a configuration of rationality that grounded moral-communal priorities of the good life in aesthetic-therapeutic goals of beauty and bliss, with strategic-instrumental means used as a servant rather than a master to achieve these goals within moral-communal parameters. This configuration allowed for the unification of collective and individual interests, while at the same time prioritizing the development of the interior lifeworld (oriented toward creative enhancement of collective and individual well-being) over the technical and political-administrative means to achieve fulfillment of subjective and intersubjective ends.
Of course, such a configuration of self and society was no easy task. But as the disequilibrium crisis of modernity became more pronounced the battle lines were drawn against the rational autonomous ego. No longer would individual self-interest in pursuit of unlimited material growth by strategic-instrumental means be the action-orientation of self and society. Machines and Artificial Intelligence could now do the heavy lifting and dirty work of creating abundance in a post-scarcity economy, but now in a more streamlined and efficient way once individual profit, technical ignorance, and fossil fuels were removed as obstacles. Individuals were now set free to develop themselves independently of the rationality of instrumental necessity and its strategic concerns. Strategic-instrumental rationality, once the center-piece of the self and its societal expressions, would become secondary and subordinate to the interior lifeworld.
Under these historical conditions of possibility, there began a veritable Cambrian explosion in the formation and development of the self in a post-capitalist, post-postmodern social landscape, where diversity in unity was allowed to flourish and thrive for the first time in the history of the species, where what it means to be a human being in all its potentialities was explored to its fullest, within the parameters of a collective universal human interest to survive and thrive in creative wonderful bliss.