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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Anthony Galli (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a degree in psychology, with experience in mental health and education. He currently works for a non-profit corporation. His personal website can be accessed at: http://tonygalli.tripod.com
A Fair Response
The Golden Rule of Master Kung Fu-tze (Confucius), China's “first teacher,” is a universal nugget of wisdom. Different prophets and sages have taught some version of it. It is simple statement on reciprocity, but difficult to practice.
In my own assessment of Islam, was I being unfair to Harris? Was I unfair to the victims of Muslims in the past and present? I may have been, but in my writings I certainly tried to follow the golden ethic. Indeed, my essays were written to lend fairness to the topic. My interest is not in proclaiming which side is better or worse, nor is it about what would happen if the shoe were on the other foot. We do not know for certain what would have happened if the tables were turned.
In brief, I will look at a few instances where I may have been misunderstood and seemed to hold Islam, or Muslims, to a different standard, when in actuality it was simply a matter of examining his claims from another point of view. Fair enough?
Tony assumes that Christian Europe forgot this bit of history when in reality it never did. There had long been dreams and plans to take Jerusalem back. What has to be remembered here is that Jerusalem is the most important holy site for Christians. If we apply the principle of reciprocity we should ask Muslims to honestly answer this question: what would they do if Christians conquered Mecca and built a church on the site of the Ka'aba, just as Muslims built the al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount? Let's not be coy here – the al-Aqsa mosque was built as a statement of conquest and contempt; 'Islam has conquered the Christians and the Jews'. We only need to see the reaction of al-Qaeda to US troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia, far from Mecca, to understand what might happen if Mecca was conquered and occupied by Christians. If the Muslim world is in turmoil now due to Islamist political violence, imagine the turmoil if the Ka'aba were desecrated?
What I was looking at is whether the first Crusade was launched as a defensive or offensive operation.
I'm sure Muslims would fight back if Makkah were taken over by members of another religion. Even when other Muslims took control of the Hejaz, it has caused major problems. I am quite aware of the impetus behind Bin Laden.
Let's back up. Harris argued that Muslims were more intolerant in their spirit of conquest, relative to others, and he traces this to their beliefs. He then argued that Christians were primarily victims of Muslims, and the Crusades were merely a matter of defense.
That Saladin gained the respect of Christians says a lot. Maybe it just shows that the Christians were better able to appreciate their enemy than those arrogant Muslims. Maybe it was a matter of enjoying the challenge he presented (I guess you would call that the red meme ethos – loving a good fight). Or maybe Saladin really was honorable, relatively. Most likely, it was a bit of each. So were Muslims really the bigger tyrants in the situation?
Arabs sub-human desert dwellers? This is a crude attempt to paint me as a racist. Tony cannot deny that the Arabian peninsula is still a traditional society based on tribe and family and that Mohammed was a tribal Arab.
Comparing the “barren” culture of one group with the sophisticated cultures of others is bound to be misconstrued unless you clarify your position. No where did I deny that the Prophet Muhammad was a tribal Arab. What I deny is that Islam, as a whole, is impoverished because the climate it was born in was/is impoverished.
Islam certainly does have an impetus for conversion. Can this really be doubted?
It's funny how a single word can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Perhaps I should have made myself clearer. What I wrote is: “Islam does not have a 'large' impetus for conversion.” There are many Muslims who seek converts, which is true of some from other religions as well. In context, what I was referring to is a lesser drive for conversion in relation to the level of Christian evangelism, which is what Harris was comparing it to. Even Daniel Pipes admits as much. But so what? Islam has many other problems. Whether political, religious, or whatever, that Muslims in positions of power want to dominate non-Muslims is bad enough.
Indigenous Australians went completely naked for the entirety of their pre-contact history. The fact is that we started out naked and as clothing developed we developed body shame and prohibitions on nudity; the Abrahamic religions being the most absurd (with the burqa being the most extreme form). Is Tony suggesting that for the tens of thousands of years of their history indigenous Australian men were in a constant state of arousal at the sight of naked women - victims of their biology? Or might being constantly surrounded by naked female flesh, even nubile, adolescent flesh (sisters, mothers, cousins, clan-kin) just become normal, unremarkable and non-arousing in itself? After a time the naked form just becomes a form of clothing and arousal is stimulated through other means. Clothing as modesty is a relatively recent invention.
I admit that my statement on an enlightened society in regards to gender relations must have appeared as though it came out of nowhere. I am a young writer; I will get better at focusing my paragraphs as my skills develop.
Here is what I had in mind. His statements on sexology triggered a memory of what one of my psychology professors said, which was that in a mature society, it would not matter what women wear, they would not feel unsafe because of it. Even if women walked around naked, it would not be a problem because men would have sufficient self-control. That a rape victim can be dismissed because of what she wears (“she was just asking for it”) is unacceptable.
This does not take away from the fact that there is plenty of evidence that men, in fact, do get sexually aroused at the sight of a naked female. That's just common-sense. Combine lack of emotional maturity, the politics of gender relations, and men being exposed to naked female bodies without sufficient preparation, and biology goes awry, no? Men are visually aroused by the female form for particular reasons; I would say it is because of bio/psycho evolution. Given that there have been norms of modesty in many societies for so long, it becomes an issue of what to do when men and women decide to forgo such norms. To me the answer is straightforward – intelligent sexual education.
Those who grow up around naked women are obviously in a different situation from those who do not, so my statement had no bearing on Australian Aborigines. As Harris points out, norms of modesty are quite recent within the total time-span of Homo sapiens; norms which the Abrahamic faiths adopted with gusto. So what do we do now? Outlawing women from covering up does not address the issue at all.
Since Harris has brought the issue of sex to the integral plate in his "Integral Sexology", I would like to end on this topic as I have my own thoughts on the matter. What does sexual health entail?
Cirese and Wade (1991) have outlined a checklist of qualities that, according to sexologists, constitute a healthy adult:
Since these qualities should naturally result from a sexually healthy upbringing, Cirese and Wade (1991) furthered outlined what a sexually healthy society might look like, with the following characteristics:
You will notice that these standards apply to biology, psychology, sociology, and technology. In other words, they broadly touch on each of the four quadrants. Therefore, I would hold them as the minimum of necessary conditions for a healthy, integral sexology.
Cirese, S. Wade, C. (1991). Psychosexual Well-being from Human Sexuality (2d ed.), 713-717. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.