INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Looking Forward To The
David Jon Peckinpaugh
We can expect amazing discoveries. We can expect many hopeful scenarios to arise on the collective scene. There will be political hopes, social hopes, cultural hopes, economic hopes, medical and technological hopes. There will be scientific hopes. There will be no room at the inn for a shortage of hope. Hope will surround us. Hope will swell like a rising tide over a parched humanity. We will all have reason to rejoice.
Rejoice, though, for but a day… and hour… a week… a month… a year.
This is how it cannot help but be. Because of the nature of the Progressive vision owed to secular dreams—and which it is argued by those like Marty Glass and Mircea Eliade, Rene Guenon and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, has supplanted the Traditional vision of cyclical return—there cannot be but a quick and fatal blow dealt to our this-worldly hopes. Perpetual innovation assures us of this. Novelty emerges just when things have been all put in their place. Our children come to overthrow our regime.
Forgive me for being so stupid and out of touch, but it has not always been this way. It has not always been that children have wanted to overthrow their father's regime, usurp their ancestor's vision. But as I have been arguing here, the very tenor of the times dictates that children come to see preceding generations as intellectual dullards, as un-evolved doo-fusses, as inept socially, politically, environmentally, and educationally.
So… so much for 'thou shalt respect thy mother and father.'
According to the tenets of evolution and various forms of so-called 'evolutionary spirituality' one cannot possibly respect 'thy mother and father,' or their ways. Again, the whole ethos of the 'new paradigmers' is that we are evolving beyond what preceding generations were able to attain; so what could preceding generations possibly give to us of value and worth; so what could possibly be noteworthy in their experience for us.
Evolutionary spirituality—if you can call it that—breeds a 'youth-obsessed culture.' Why? Because the evolutionary wave-front is forever deemed to belong to the young, the adolescent, the new, the emerging, the growing, the developed. Evolution is not for those old and wizened by too many years here in this-world. Evolution is for those who are a strange mixture of naiveté, innocence, gullibility, arrogance, hubris, and disrespect.
Older generations know better. Older… and yes, wiser… generations realize that as much as things appear to change, they also stay the same. Political corruption. Greed. Avarice. Hatred. Suffering. Dukkha boys and girls. Dukkha. It's here to stay. It is part of the human condition. It is part of the serial nature of sentient existence. Yes, there are all of these new plot-lines developing. There is all of this hope regarding the marriage of sense and soul, science and religion, nature and culture. But just as in the soap operas we see on TV, the marriage full of high-hopes becomes a nightmare of unexpected proportions. Tragedy strikes. The unexpected invades our sanctified spaces. Everything comes undone. Everything that can be annihilated is annihilated. Which is why the older generations… and yes, wiser… suspect that the youthful fixation on evolution and development and growth and emergence and novelty is really much ado about nothing.
The young shoot back, 'Ooohhh… you cynical bastards!'
Senex retorts, 'Cynical? How about realistic? How about, been there, and done that? How about… me yawning when I here about your plans to remake and refashion this-world in the image of your integral longings and dreams? How about that!'
Puer aeternus returns the volley with, 'Ah, you are just old and bitter. Maybe even a bit jealous. Dying. Watching your world disappear. You want to deconstruct mine. You want to shoot down my dreams. That's sad. Really sad. I feel sorry for you.'
Senex thinks to him- or her-self, 'We'll see about that. We'll see. Someday… provided you live long enough… you will stand in these shoes of mine. After all, I have already been in yours, though you don't like to acknowledge this fact. So one day you will know what hope and the death of hope is. You will know what it is like to dream and feel those dreams live in the depths of your soul's very structure and you will also know what it is like to lose those dreams—to watch those dreams co up in smoke and how high hopes are the unacknowledged congenital twin of despairing depths. You will see. And when you see, then you will take all the 'envisioning of brighter futures' brought to you by your local ISP (Integral Service Provider) with more than just a grain of salt. You will be singing along with The Who about how your new boss is just as same as the old boss.
'In other words, about Integral Corruption, about Integral Greed, about Integral Suffering—meaning, about all that the Integral was supposed to upend and overturn. You will see your hopes fail you. You will see that your secular dreams and spiritual yearning cannot be joined in the way that you now suspect. You will see that your True Hope rests not on the vagaries of novelty and evolution… emergence and birth of new orders… but on that which does not ever evolve, hence, cannot ever possibly degenerate.'
A youth-obsessed culture will tend to be a culture formulated upon the ideological structure provided by our notion of Progress that is the central core of the Secular Vision that gives us hope with one hand while taking it away with the other.
But there are so many problems—unnecessary problems—that arise within a culture steeped so much in Progress, Secularity, and Evolution. First and foremost is the dismissal of wisdom. Once you have experience you are considered obsolete. Once you have experience you are considered too conditioned to adapt. Once you have experience you are considered too 'locked-into a worldview.' Once you have experience your are considered 'not flexible enough.' Once you are experienced you are basically ostracized from the youth-obsessed culture that worships at the altar of the 20-something.
The irony here is especially noteworthy; given that the very voices that could provide a youth-obsessed culture with a bit of restraint and pause for concern and contemplation tend to be the very voices that are dismissed as 'too backward,' as 'too old.' (And has anyone noticed that the word 'old' is both taken/used as an insult now? How strange is that?).
But back to our point here. The very fact that the elders of a youth-obsessed culture are dismissed tells me that we cannot expect anything other than a 'repeat of history.' This has to be due to the fact that 'history' is made available to us through our elders. So that, 1) to the extent that we dismiss our elders as inconsequential, we will 2) fail to learn from history, such that 3) we will end up being doomed to repeat it.
Time for the new boss… same as the old boss.
Of course, the naiveté of the young and innocent provides them with the assumption that they are going to be a little bit smarter than their fathers and mothers were, a little bit quicker on the take, a little keener in regard to the times that they are living in, etc. and so forth. And the theories of evolution rationalize this view for the young. The theories of evolution feed the strengths of the youthful and adolescent to the point, perhaps, where those strengths become fatal flaws. Because when the young here a voice of wisdom—in the guise of someone older and more experienced—they may tend to presume, 'Ah, what the hell do you know?'
Which, in case you missed it, is also a disguised insult that really says, 'That may have happened to you and your generation. But only because you all were so under-developed and unevolved. Not like me. Not like this Integral Core of 20-somethings. Not like this new breed of humanity that has come to save the world.'
Somewhere, upon hearing that, Saturnine-senex laughs his wrinkled ass off the couch he is sitting on in the local Senior Center.
Saturnine-senex has seen too much to be so easily taken in. Saturnine-senex is what I call a 'Grandaddy': a wise, old fish that is too damn smart to take the artificial bait and lures of those up on the surface trying to hook him and reel him in. He is old… not merely because he has been lucky, though that may play a part in it too… but because he has been smarter than many of the other fish who took the bait, all the while suspecting a nourishing meal and a fulfilling result, only to end up someone else's nourishing meal and fulfilling result.
The bait = new philosophies. The bait = new post-metaphysics. The bait = anything that is a reason for seeming salvation as a this-worldly affair. The bait = a whole new series of promises… promises… promises. Political promises. Socio-cultural promises. Economic promises. Romantic promises. Educational promises. Integral promises even.
The young, the puer aeternii, see the bait and how juicy it looks to the eye and the I. What they don't see though is the hook that bait conceals; or the artificiality of the lure. What they don't see is that their reason for hope is the Wise One's reason for caution.