INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Giorgio Piacenza is a sociologist student in the Certificate program leading to a Master's degree in Integral Theory at JFK University.
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PERSON OF GOD
AND NEW POSSIBILITES FOR INTEGRALISM
Can recognizing a “Second Person” relationship with God be part of an “Integral Age?”
Many moderns, post moderns and integralists feel a rejection toward intolerant, strict visions of God-as-second-Person, visions elicited during Amber developmental stages. Nonetheless, as I see this situation, God as “Second Person” brings to mind a more generous concept, the concept of INTERMEDIATION and I would say that, yes, a Second Person relationship with the Infinite is possible and even necessary for an “Integral Age.” Let me try to explain. If we take Infinite God to be unconditioned, can this Infinite establish a relationship so as to appear as finite to an experientially conditioned being? Can this finite understanding also point toward the Infinite beyond words? Probably a key idea here is this relationship between infinite and finite. Probably that which allows the so called "we" space (and thus relationship in multiplicity and “otherness”) is this original relationship between what is and what appears to be. God's absolute Being is perceived as an understandable God by our finite illusory selves which, nonetheless, can also be understood as established in (or by) an unshakable, unconditioned, absolute essence of Being. If Absolute Being (what IS) transcends and includes its relative conceptual contradiction (what is not) because “what is not” also is, then Absolute Being may include a way to manage the apparent, contingent reality of non being and be experienced as a formless vacuity or as a mediating God with qualities. God's Absolute Transcendence would allow for this level of freedom to be both the non qualifiable Mystery and the guiding, loving Heart of the Mystery.
SINS, EVIL, OUR HUMBLING INCOMPLETION AND GUIDANCE
I also think that God as non duality brings about the "we" relationship as long as our finite selves and God's Infinite Self are experienced in the illusion of difference, a difference that requires agency and communion, incompletion seeking completion. From an absolute perspective relative self and infinite Self are the essentially the same simply because THEY ARE. In terms of the experiences from the perspective of a conditioned existence, relative selves can be one with the absolute Self which includes them as an appearance or illusion. The Second Person of God allows for this inclusion of the illusory or relative by expressing in a relative “pretend” mode of being while also being fully functional and grounded in a non relative mode along with Godhead. In a way, this Sacred Other is like a "prism" of creation (and of duality based tetra arising) for that which can be metaphorically called "undivided" or "undifferentiated Godhead." Thus the Second Person of our experience of God transmits the sustenance of all relative beings by connecting their non illusory (but illusion bound) natures with their One real, transcendent Being or undifferentiated Godhead. Since this Sacred Other is both infinite and, duality bound, apparently finite, this Thou is able to be act as the sustaining intercourse of understanding for all relative beings. Second Person is creative-sustaining verb, creative-sustaining word; the Logos whose being is found in the unshakable essence of all relative beings. This Sacred Other can be partially connected with through symbols in doctrines which the mind may exclusively use with conviction and with greater or lesser levels of inclusivity, but the simpler and more direct a person can be in this essentially trans verbal recognition beyond words, the more that this Sacred Other will enliven his or her spirit with an understanding beyond the comparisons of the relative mind. There's indeed much room to transcend and include beyond the literal exclusive symbol-in-doctrine understandings of amber awareness. In fact, with a growing Integral understanding, there's freedom to deepen into certain amber- period generated symbol-into-doctrine understandings, perhaps shedding new light into ideas such as “sin” “atonement” “Evil” “sins of the flesh” “salvation” “prayer” “divine intervention” etc. If there are elements of Truth in these ideas, my understanding of them will continue to evolve as my understanding of God as the Second Person or Sacred Other continues to evolve. This may be particularly so if I keep discovering within myself that the Mystery of all that is is unending, thus allowing with openness and humbleness that Sacred Other to bring me further along, guiding and illumining out of my incompletion. Thus, unless I am absolutely realized, there will always be a Sacred Other to bring forth into me a higher degree of being and understanding.
INTELLIGIBILITY, THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE NOUS
I think that -in connecting Being with Intelligibility- the Sacred Other also plays THE fundamental role. Our recognition of what is in the Kosmos (as well as transcendentally) may also be mediated by this Sacred, Significant, humbling or “ego busting” Other. A further connecting expression of the divine maintaining a connection with the world of form (in all possible realms of partialness and duality) would be Mythic Amber-Greek Orange compound entity, so called "Holy Spirit," which, for me, represents the root of intelligibility and understanding, connecting all stages of cognition/relative reason and all forms of experiential meaning with specific and multi level partial understandings of Godhead. The Holy Spirit's disclosures of intelligibility would permeate the entire evolving-devolving Kosmos panentheistically-like (like the Sacred Other as Second Person Being, being-sustaining “Prism”) but also as a nudging offer of understanding at all levels of pansychic relative being. So, perhaps this Second Person as “Holy Spirit” wouldn't be so much the “prism of Creation” through which the beingness of relative (or existing) selves is sustained but a soft voice of experiential guidance, providing individual sentients (themselves with greater or lesser degrees of free will) with grander or lesser degrees of inclusive intelligibility. This Holy Spirit has also been called the "3rd person of the Trinity" in most Christian traditions but could also be seen as another expression of the Sacred Other. We could also call this Sacred Other the "NOUS" as in the “Nous” explored by Anaxagoras of Clazomenae and other important foundational Greek philosophers (some of whose essential insights are still valid and need a fresh new look in our hopefully incipient “Integral Age”).
In relation to probing into these matters by using words, there comes a point in understanding in which the postmodern critique of the incompleteness and biases in the use of words as representations is transcended and included in relation to transrational ideas. These may be purer, wordless ideas that shed a well grounded, intuitive light of understanding upon the relation between infinite non duality and finite duality. There comes a point in which all words and concepts are understood as metaphors. There also comes a point in which sliding signifiers and comparative-associative questions on the relativity of expressions such as “infinite non duality” can be suspended for the disclosure of an experienced ground of meaning that makes all intelligible dual comparisons possible. This may be Derrida's posited “transcendental signifier” which allows for any kind of basic understanding, even if this understanding is incomplete. This may be the Sacred or Significant Other as well, a Second Person required for the permanence of being in the impermanent and also for the evolving intelligibility of experience.
THE PRINCIPLE OF IDENTITY
In my view, the permanent, transcendental aspect of this Sacred Other is also revealed in the most fundamental Law of Thought called “The Principle of Identity” which says that “What is is.” I think that this Principle manifests while being participates intelligently in the world and that it emboldens us with an intimate, non verbal understanding of BEING or of what is or can be in any possible number of ways (as specific quadratic expressions or as integrating trans-quadratic expressions), even while relating to being in dual terms, within a world of dual experience. The Principle itself may be an expression of the relational God as Second Person, a God that “is comfortable” with the Absolute and the relative. This Principle which shows a unitary relation between Ontos and Episteme transcends and includes all limited, partial understandings and we could say that its undeniability (what is is) has one handle in absolute certainty and another handle in dependent, or even, incomplete certainty. This Principle of Identity can be used to demonstrate the impermanence or emptiness of concepts, to demonstrate that God “plays dice” or doesn't “play dice” in the Universe, to demonstrate determinism or indeterminism, to demonstrate that form is non other than emptiness or to reach the limits of discursive thought in order to understand that there's a Transcendental, non dual Ground toward which all symbols and concepts point. Even modern logics which, for instance, have varying understandings of intimately related fundamental derived inferences (like “The Excluded Middle”) cannot escape the need to use Identity to formulate some non Aristotelian, flexible logics and explanatory systems in an attempt to relate to the life world in more realistic ways. All of the main First Tier, partial metaphysical philosophies devised to explain the word (materialism, idealism, emanationism, creationism, Vedanta, dualism, emergentism, etc) also arrived at their coherent conceptual bodies by using the Principle of Identity.
In fact, anything that can be thought of, in Second Tier thinking, including Integral Theory and a complementing (and preceding) theory “Organicism” (developed by Emeritus professor of Philosophy, Archie J. Bahm) also makes use of the Identity Principle of Thought (Please don't confuse this theory with Whitehead's “Philosophy of Organism” or with W.E. Ritter's own “Organicism”).
The important point here is that with “Organicism” Bahm arrived at an essentially non dual, integrating, deductive metaphysics (Organicism) by using the Principle of Identity while analyzing complementary polar categories in an unsurpassed, rigorous manner. Rather than reaching an aha! moment by inductively noticing four piles of answers on how the world is divided and explained (as our friend K. Wilber), Bahm arrived at the basis behind the Four Quadrants using deductive necessity (Common Dimension, Duality, the One Pole (Self) and the Other Pole (not Self)) from an analysis of duality manifesting as complementary polar opposites. Once again, he did this by using the Identity Principle in a most exhaustive inferential manner and then moving on to an extensive philosophical development with many Second Tier philosophical consequences. To me this also shows that there are recognizable, intelligible ways which connect the finite conceptual representation, forms, contrasts and incompletenesses (brewing within finite, dual understandings) with a non dual Ground that –even if “basking” in formless freedom- “reaches out” to maintain mediating intelligible connections with all being s. Our relation with this “reaching out” (perhaps heeded by our humblest, all-embracing, innermost openness) also is our developmental stage-interpreted recognition of the Second Person. Moreover, God's ability to be as dual while remaining non dual, may also dwell within our innermost openness.
By extension, we could also make a case that the Second Person, doesn't just act as a connector of the Infinite with the finite, of Absolute Being with relative being, of Being in general (Ontos) with Intelligibility/Understanding (Episteme), but also as a unifying link between the Undifferentiated Oneness of Spirit and Multiplicity. This Sacred Other connects the illusion of what is not (or multiplicity and separation in duality and contingency) with what is One, Eternal, Absolute and, thus, makes all relationship possible, bridging the gap between one Being/Agent and the experiential appearance of multiple, independent beings/agents. If the “we” space is an indivisible, essential communion among multiple independent beings/agentic, sentient holons, the shared understandings of these different world-creating consciousnesses might be mediated by the unifying Second Person, whose Being and Knowing strides both in the Absolute and in the relative worlds, providing a common, relational foundations. Thus, we could consider with sufficient basis that the “we” space is maintained by this also “panentheistic” God-as-Thou entity treading between the dimension of Godhead and the God in world of form. Finally, if the Sacred Other is also the center or pivot that supports all perspectives, we cannot ignore this verity if we are to develop an Integral one.
The so called “Big Three” modes of understanding (the Good, the True, the Beautiful) could also be integrally related with our relational Second Person God but I think that this could be a matter for further development in another essay.