INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University.
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Giorgio Piacenza Cabrera
Because I'm interested in the integration of the esoteric and mystical understandings of the world's religions, I'm interested in Rabbi Isaac Luria's "Tzimtzum" (Klein, 2000). It is an idea that approximately means “contraction” and that tries to reconcile the Bible, Jewish mystical exegesis and tradition, Aristotelianism and Platonism. I also think that –in today's interconnected world- the Semitic idea of "Creation" and the more Easterner idea of "Emanation" (like for Plotinus) can be and need to be harmonized. This "Tzimtzum" is the idea that God's radiant, infinite plenum was purposefully withdrawn by God, thus forming like a “conceptual space” or, rather a “halal” or “vacuum” which allows for contingent, imperfect creatures to exist as if in their own imperfect world as self conscious co-creators. I find it a very interesting idea. As beings, we would all continue to be within God's Being but inhabiting an apparent vacuum while sustained and connected with the One Source through a living thread and while seemingly existing within various hierarchically-related degrees of ontological separation under the appearance of duality. It could be argued that the emptiness of the “Tzimtzum” (formed by God retreating His radiant plenum to allow for possibilities to manifest as if on their own) is akin to a “nothingness” devoid of the infinite radiance with which God had occupied all possibilities. In any case, specifically understanding the complementarity between Creation and Emanation may assist future generations (for instance, of kabbalists and of mystically-esoterically inclined “Integral” Catholics) to appreciate, respect and dialogue with each other (especially as the need in a culturally more interconnected world requires).
As far as I know, some Jewish interpretations of Genesis seem to suggest that there was no "ex nihilo" creation, as there already was like a formless something that God organized. Genesis I,2 says “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Various authors, 1971, p. 1).
This particular level of God as an “organizer” (like a pottery maker) would not correspond to Kabbalah's “Ain,” connected with an Absolute, Non Dual understanding. It rather would be the level of the God of being. Now, borrowing information from metaphysician Fritjoff Schuon (Schuon, 2000) I'll say that this less transcendental "God level” (while Absolute in relation to Creation/Existence/Manifestation) might correspond to an aspect of God already participating in contingency. In other words, it would correspond to the Absolute God in relation to Existence, more specifically, to our unique Cosmic Creation and not to His own deepest nature, the God Beyond-Being (which, in turn, would be the “Absolute” in relation to the God of Being). This God Beyond-Being has been called the “Essence,” the God of “All-Possibility,” perhaps Kabbalistically corresponding to “Ain” (meaning, “no” or “no-thing”) and to “Ain-Soph” ("Ain" and its infinitude before manifestation). So, “Ain,” the highest, the deepest, the most transcendental God aspect in Kabbalah would also correspond to the God of mystical, “negative” Catholic theology, to Vedanta's “Nirguna” (without attributes) Brahman and to Buddhism's “Paranirvana.” These are commonalities that an “Integral Theology” ought to work with.
Also, there are fundamentals that I think that Integral theorists ought to take into consideration. For instance, perhaps within our human understanding of fundamental divine polarity (a polarity which applies to the generation of the Quadrants recognized in Integral Theory), the Infinite aspect of God reflects God's Feminine and the Absolute aspect reflects the Masculine. The Feminine, forms exteriors and the Masculine, their corresponding Interiors. In Existence (Being already as an apparent duality), the Feminine becomes the Akasha-Prana mentioned by Lama Anagarika Govinda in Foundations of Tibetan Buddhism. It becomes the Universal Aether of manifest existence, that (for lack of better words) space-structuring substance forming the exteriors of all realms and levels which may be hierarchically closer or farther from the One Source (according to their degree of objective separation, exteriority, multiplicity and form).
In order to develop an “Integral Theology” we might need to delve into the esoteric-mystical roots of religions. For, instance, perhaps, the so-called "Catholic Trinity" (while still eternally transcendent and non dual but conceivably of a hypostasis corresponding to the Kabbalist Ain Soph Aur) coincides with the preceding information as follows: The grammatical first person, the subjectively intimate, the Platonic "Beauty" is or corresponds to the (Trinity's First Person) "Father;" the grammatical Second person, "you"-we (the I-Thou of Buber), the relational, Platonic "Good" is or corresponds to the (Trinity's Third Person) "Holy Spirit"; the grammatical Third Person "it" (allowing the rational discourse about logical objects), the word-defining, actualizing Platonic “Truth,” is or corresponds to the (Trinity's Second Person) "Logos" or "Son" (through whom all things were created). In Integral Theory, the first list of correspondences is Interiority; the second list is Plurality/Collectivity; the third list is Exteriority. Moreover, that second list also relates the first and the third and, by this relation, four quadrants are “born,” so to speak.
What we understand as the “quadrants” in Integral Theory are briefly referred to by Fritjoff Schuon as “the quaternity” (Schuon, 2000, p.21) and as coming in a series of numerical conceptualizations after the Trinity. In sets of two, they are called “Purity” or “Rigor” (which, I think, correspond with the Exterior-Individual quadrant); “Life” or “Gentleness” (which, I think, correspond with the Inter-objective-Systems quadrant); then, “Strength” or “Act” (which, I think, correspond with the Interior-Subjective quadrant). Finally, we have “Beauty” or “Goodness” (which, I think, correspond with the Interior-Collective quadrant).
We have seen that the One generates the Two; the Two generates the Three; the Three generates the Four. Now, in relation to Vedanta's three word expression “Sat Chit Ananda” representing “Saguna Brahman” (God with form), "Sat" would correspond to Being, to power (as the power to be, to actualize being). Sat would also correspond to the third grammatical person “it,” to the Logos (the Second Person of the Catholic Trinity) through which all things were created “in the beginning.” Furthermore, "Chit" would correspond to Consciousness, to Beauty, to that which is beyond words to explain, to the first grammatical person, to the "Father," (the First Person of the Catholic Trinity). Finally, “Ananda” would correspond to the joy of relation, to communion, to the second grammatical person, to the relational “you” that implies the “we.” Thus, “Ananda” would also correspond to the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Catholic Trinity), immanently and lovingly advocating and assisting God's creatures involved in various degrees of materiality (the Holy Spirit is the eternal product of the love between the Father and the Son in Catholic theology).
Ken Wilber's Integral Theory has generally emphasized that objects manifest simultaneous qualities but, to understand how the model may become more scientifically predictive, we may have to learn how the realms of existence causally relate and interact with each other also in terms of the metaphysical and ontological hierarchical principles sustaining them. A starting point for a more integral approach would be to understand the divine hierarchies and hypostasis whose relations should prefigure the rules and dynamics of physical and inter-realm interactions, applicable both to qualitative and to quantitative quadratic manifestations as previously suggested.
Govinda, Anagarika (1959). Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism. London, Rider Weiser Books.
Klein. Eliahu J. (2000). Kabbalah of Creation: The Mysticism of Isaac Luria, Founder of Modern Kabbalah. Berkeley, North Atlantic Books.
Schuon, Fritjoff (2000). Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism. Bloomington, World Wisdom Books.
Various authors (1971).The Holy Scriptures: A Jewish Bible According to the Masoretic Text. Tel Aviv, Sinai Publishing.