Reflections on Ken Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow
(2017) - Parts
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".
27-year-old Paul Salamone is the editor of The Manifest
e-zine and works as a freelance graphic designer in Boulder, Colorado. His current work includes the aesthetic design of the upcoming Integral University
TEACH US, OH WISE ONE
A Response to David Jon Peckinpaugh's
“Looking Forward to the Great Integral Revolution”
[Note: all quotes taken from "LOOKING FORWARD..." unless otherwise noted.]
If David Jon Peckinpaugh wants to be respected as a Wise Elder by the younger generations of the integral movement, he's going to have to act like one. For whatever truth he may speak to the "naiveté, innocence, gullibility, arrogance, hubris, and disrespect" which infects anyone with an evolutionary orientation towards life, his argument is obviated by the fact that he fails to exhibit any of the positive aspects of the role of "Wise One" he so proudly occupies. What are these positive aspects?
For starters, how about clarity of purpose? First of all it's not even clear who this diatribe is aimed at, assuming it was written for anyone but Peckinpaugh himself. After out-debating his 20-something Straw Boy, Peckinpaugh is content to pat himself on the back for his "realism" and the fact that he's "too damn smart" to fall for the bait of "new philosophies... new post-metaphysics... [or] anything that is a reason for seeming [sic] salvation as a this-worldly affair".
And who exactly comprises the "20-something Integral Core" he refers to?
Let us assume, for argument's sake, that he means we 20-somethings around the world who have read a few Ken Wilber books, subscribe to IntegralNaked.org, and/or are involved with the Integral Institute here in Colorado, which brings us to point two: fairness. For Peckinpaugh's criticisms to be taken seriously by this Integral Core, he should get some of his facts straight.
For one, he is mistaken in viewing Wilber's version of integalism as one of various forms of "so-called 'evolutionary spirituality'". True, there is much talk of “the new, the emerging, the growing, the developed”, but even Wilber himself denies that the AQAL model is entirely evolutionary. When asked if his model was "evolutionary from beginning to end" [see “On the Nature of a Post-Metaphysical Spirituality: Response to Habermas and Weis”, wilber.shambhala.com], Wilber urged caution and summarized his view as "quadrants, waves, streams, states, types, self"--and of those, only waves and streams (or levels and lines) are essentially developmental or evolutionary. The other variables and dimensions are not... And most important of all, the timeless Urgrund does not develop (although its manifest aspects often do)."
Second, while one might agree with Peckinpaugh that a culture with an evolutionary orientation would breed an obsession with youth, to imply that this particular Integral Core disrespects its elders is sheer slander, for in reality the opposite seems to be the case. A casual scan of Integral Naked-- arguably the most prominent public face of AQAL integral at present -- reveals a guest list riddled with suspiciously senex-like luminaries such as Nathaniel Branden, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and Father Thomas Keating.
This is not to say that 20-somethings have no involvement whatsoever: they're behind the scenes manning the cameras, editing the videos, writing the copy, encoding the audio files, and (ahem) designing the websites. Seems like a frightening dedication to seeking out the wisdom of older generations to me.
Third, and most importantly, Peckinpaugh attempts to spoil our “dreams” and “high hopes” with the bitter truth of the eternal return, of the unavoidable dukkha of the human condition, completely ignoring a central tenet of Wilber's philosophy that has already beaten him to the bitter punch: the Hegelian dialectic of progress. All but the most naive members of the AQAL integral movement accept that while integralism is an organized (and largely unavoidable) response to cope with the emerging life conditions of the Twenty-First century, it is by no means an end in itself, a final utopia which will eliminate all suffering here on earth. (And if I actually do hear someone claiming I-I or any other integral organization to be a "new breed of humanity that has come to save the world", I'll join Peckinpaugh in pelting them with the biggest rocks around-- with compassion of course!)
Peckinpaugh's implication is that, because things will always be the same, because "there cannot be but a quick and fatal blow dealt to our this-worldly hopes", it is pointless to place any hope in the integral movement whatsoever. But things DO get better, as much as they get worse, and to not risk the greater disasters as we pursue the greater dignities seems profoundly unethical. What Peckinpaugh couches as "realism" isn't very realistic at all: things will get fucked up, new means memes will emerge, new pathologies will take root, but we owe it to those less fortunate than us to try to improve this world anyway. Perhaps Peckinpaugh pines for a time before dentistry, women's rights and the emancipation of slaves ?
One has to wonder what the heck happened to Peckinpaugh since his previous post to Integral World a few months ago (see “Shut-Ins: A Story On Hermeneutics & The Wilber Inner Circle”), for at least then he retained some sense of hope in the promises of integralism. In fact, in recommending dissent within the evolving ranks of I-I, he professed a profound concern for the shape of integral days to come.
Which leads to our third expectation of a self-professed "Wise One": the transmission of wisdom. For all of his primping and posturing, Peckinpaugh's self-anointed role as the "Granddaddy" fish sitting on the bottom of the integral pond content to laugh at us suckers without teaching us to discern "bait" from actual meal doesn't sound very much like wisdom to me (not everything that breaks the water has a hook attached to it, homeboy). If our true salvation is not a this-worldly affair, as he contends, his duty is both to show us how to find salvation in "that which does not ever evolve, hence, cannot ever possibly degenerate" ourselves AND to help build the institutions which could ground that wisdom in the real world. Integral Institute is one attempt to do just that, whereas Peckinpaugh sitting on a couch at the local Senior Center probably isn't.
To be fair, Peckinpaugh himself is an author of non-fiction books [his Naked Guide to Life and Death currently tops my Amazon wish list], and for all the complaining he does in “Shut-Ins” about the “exclusionary” nature of the nature of the I-I Inner Circle, his recognition of the lineage the integral movement has inherited from Japanese Zen, the Renaissance, and the Samurai could prove to be an important plank in building the bridge between Integral generations of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And if he needs help with the design of INTEGRAL-LINEAGE.ORG, I know just the guy =)