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Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

Last post 06-23-2007, 8:49 PM by balder. 31 replies.
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  •  04-04-2007, 8:13 PM 21430

    Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Last weekend, I was fortunate to be able to participate in an ISC-sponsored conference call with Ken Wilber.  That call will be posted here eventually, and the main topic of the conversation (the "spectrum of person-perspectives") can be discussed then.  In this thread, I'd like to talk about an important side-issue that we also discussed.

    In our conversation, I brought up my interest in TSK (the Time-Space-Knowledge vision of Tarthang Tulku) and my belief that it qualifies as a (post)-postmodern, post-metaphysical spiritual vehicle.  Ken agreed with me that it is postmodern in general orientation and that it is freer of “metaphysical baggage” than many other traditions, but he also stressed that it has several shortcomings from an Integrally informed perspective:  Its three levels are not nearly comprehensive enough, and it demonstrates virtually no awareness of the existence or the relative value of structures of development and Kosmic evolution.  (This, at least, is my recollection of his criticism, and what I have been reflecting on since the call.  If you heard the conversation and remember it differently, let me know!)

    During the call, Ken made a distinction that I hadn't heard him make before, but which I found useful:  he talked about two modes of emancipation, the relative and absolute.  Of course, this is an echo of the two truths of Buddhism, but he tied it in to Western and Eastern “liberation” projects, respectively.  The West sees that relative development is valuable in itself – that even for the limited self, there is a false self and a true one; there can be dysfunction and atrophy in egoic growth and psychological development, that there are more or less functional and authentic ways to “be” a self in the world.  The East values absolute emancipation, moving beyond form and structure – a movement which could, on its own, simply leave the world behind; but which, if it resists renouncing samsara, can infuse the relative world with depth and Presence.  The Integral project is to encourage both, and an Integral politics would “hold space” for both and nurture them equally.

    I mention this distinction (which I think is great) because Wilber was suggesting that TSK, along with Buddhism and other traditional paths, downplays or is even unaware of the value of relative emancipation.  He told me that I should be very careful in my “celebration” of TSK as a post-metaphysical vehicle, making sure not to read more into it than is really there.  I think that's a good warning, and I am taking it to heart.

    I certainly agree with Ken that TSK's three levels are hardly adequate to describe the very many levels of vertical, structural development open to human beings.  They are not intended to be used as an exhaustive description of the possibilities open to human beings, of course, but as prompts to deepen inquiry, and invitations (in Integral terms) to “deepen” in state development, from dual to nondual.  As such, they are not opposed to finer distinctions which may be – and in Integral, beautifully are – drawn; they may stand, as modes of “absolute emancipation,” in partnership with “relative emancipation,” moving in mutually enriching loops.

    In my opinion, this potential is actually already acknowledged and encouraged within TSK.  I did not get into this in the phone call, because I wanted to get on to my question rather than quibble with Ken, but I believe that Tarthang Tulku actually describes this mutually enriching relationship in a number of places – and in so doing, demonstrates an AQAL awareness of the relative, structural, evolutionary, culturally bounded lines of development that Wilber suggests he lacks.  I want to share an excerpt from the book, Love of Knowledge, in the next post.  Please let me know what you think – if you believe, as I do, that the elements which Wilber stresses are essential in postmodern, evolutionary spirituality are actually already acknowledged.  In my reading of the following excerpt, I think Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche is actually suggesting a way both strands can be held and nourished in the “womb” of free and open inquiry.  But I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

    Best wishes,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-04-2007, 8:23 PM 21431 in reply to 21430

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Excerpt from Love of Knowledge, by Tarthang Tulku:

    “Inquiry and analysis follow no model, but depend on the path of their own unfolding. Nevertheless, there are several directions that an open, vigorous question­ing might take that would be likely to lead toward a more comprehensive knowledge.

    If we begin at a level that is too abstract, we may come under the influence of theoretical constructs that lack transforming power. But if we look at our own experience to see how the patterns we rely on are estab­lished, insight is directly available. Language, behavior, living conditions, human evolution, the rise of con­sciousness, our own personal development, and the circumstances in which we act and live - these are the subject of our inquiry. Without restricting knowledge to ‘psychology' or ‘anthropology', such an inquiry rec­ognizes that the subject and substance for investigation can be found in immediate, present experience, within and around in all directions.

    We might start by looking at beginnings. The known world is built up on the basis of communication. How did human beings learn to speak? Scientific specula­tions on this point, together with the evidence that sup­ports them, can serve to focus an inquiry that looks at how language functions within our own minds, shaping our intelligence, our perception, our understanding, and our interactions with others.

    Another focus might be the process by which human consciousness changes over time. Different cul­tures have accepted as fundamental realities and ways of thinking that are completely different from our own. Appreciation for such differences can suggest how the changing dimensions of consciousness have given rise to our own ways of thinking, and can loosen the hold that our styles of thought and imagination have over us. Reflections based on our own experience and obser­vation of the culture around us, together with study of findings by historians and cross-cultural investigators can provide a fruitful basis for such inquiry. Literature and the root meaning of the words and symbols we use in daily discourse can also offer valuable clues to the workings of the mind.

    Just as we are ‘positioned' by language and by cul­ture, we are bound by a certain understanding of space and time. This understanding could be traced out his­torically, or it could be the focus of a direct inquiry. Where does space come from and how does it origi­nate? Can anything exist ‘outside' of space? Was there a beginning to time? If so, what was there ‘before' the beginning? If time had an origin outside of time, is a different temporality in operation somewhere else? How might knowledge operate in such an elsewhere?

    Knowledge in Particulars

    Within the social, cultural, historical, and mental pat­terns that shape the ‘known world', a structure operates that is far less solid than we usually imagine. Objects enter our lives in the course of an unfolding series of events, like actors who appear on stage, play a role for a time, and then depart. Despite appearances, the roles that the actors occupy - the patterns into which ‘things' fall and the stories about them - are a matter of interpretation, not substance.

    An inquiry into the inner structure of this world we take for granted begins with our own being and history, and with the ‘things' and patterns with which we inter­act.  Perhaps we focus on a table on which are resting some books or papers. The table is located quite specifi­cally in space and time. It has a history that can be traced back physically, socially, culturally, and economically; it has meaning in our lives that depends on the linguistic structures that let us identify it, the ways in which we have put it to use, and the associations we bring to it.

    In the same way, whatever is now in existence has a history and reflects dimensions of structure, mean­ing, and value. Because these dimensions relate as well to ‘our' being as ‘narrator' and ‘owner', an inquiry that embraces them can teach us where we come ‘from' and where we are ‘going'. We can ask how the past led to the present, how we make models and structure experience, and how we project the past toward the future. We can educate ourselves so that patterns open up, stimulating an active, creative intelligence. Through such inquiry we discover that knowledge is available here and now, freeing us from the need to freeze accumulated under­standing into a position for fear of losing it.

    In conducting such an investigation, we are inquir­ing also into the knowing capacity of the mind. Here the range of what conventional knowledge knows is quickly left behind. Ordinary understanding offers no obvious answer to the question of how the mind exists, and knows no way to measure its potential. The mind seems almost infinite in its power to produce thoughts, shapes, and forms that come and go, interacting too quickly to observe; yet typically this power is dispersed into the endless repetition of unsophisticated patterns of knowledge and action. On the one hand, the mind is creative at its root; on the other this creativity is chan­neled into rigid structures that throttle its vitality.

    It is pleasant to imagine ourselves exercising the innate creativity of the mind in new and fruitful ways, gracefully interweaving thought and action like a gifted musician who takes up a simple theme and shapes it unerringly toward beauty. But when the mind is flooded with content and bound by old patterns, the path of beauty and spontaneous creativity can be elusive.

    Is such proliferation and stagnation a part of mind from the very beginning? Is there a ‘place' within or beneath thought where there are no thoughts and no perceptions, where the spontaneity of the mind operates without restriction? Is such a place, if it does ‘exist', accessible to knowing? Or does knowing originate with a call for positioning that already violates the absolute stillness of ‘no thoughts'?

    Even more basic than mind, it seems, is existence. A non-existing knower could not know; an object that could not be said to exist in some manner could not be known. The polarities ‘subject/object' and self/world seem to presuppose a commitment to existence, so that whatever form the subject's knowing takes, it verifies that existence ‘exists'. Subject and object will point to each other, in a kind of negotiated agreement-a con­spiracy of what is. Is it possible to conceive of a know­ing that would not be bound by such terms?

    Boundless Realms of Knowing

    In each realm of human being, from the particulars of everyday life to the workings of the mind to the basic ‘given' of existence, free and open inquiry will foster clarity in observation and analysis. Bound to no posi­tions, it will take different forms in each new field, shifting in subtle, unexpected ways, so that one form of knowledge feeds back into another. In the psycho­logical realm, it will bring clarity to values, attitudes, feelings, and the sense of quality. In the religious or spiritual domain, it will disclose new facets of our being in its interconnection with the cosmos and with human destiny, encouraging humility and devotion. In the field of reason and logic, it will teach us how these more traditional tools of analysis can be applied to foster an integrated, all-encompassing knowledge.

    Free and open inquiry allows for all these possi­bilities and countless others. There are so many ways of being-so many different worlds, each with its own patterns of arising and becoming. Beneath the world of daily existence vibrates the fantastic world of sub­atomic particles. In the depths of outer space black holes transform the nature of time and place. There are realms of higher energies, realms invisible and visible, realms existent and non-existent.

    As conceptual analysis gives way to more direct forms of inquiry, and such alternative ways of being become newly accessible, we may tap a knowing diffi­cult to put into words. Yet even as we struggle with the limitations of language and thought, we begin to notice that such knowledge is self-affirming, communicat­ing itself not only in what we think or say, but in our actions and our way of being.

    Insight Through Higher Knowledge

    The new knowledge that emerges in these ways can exert a powerful influence. To trace a single instance, suppose that we investigate the polarities and distinc­tions basic to consciousness-the interplay of ‘like' and ‘dislike' or ‘satisfaction' and ‘frustration'. As this analysis deepens, a change takes place quite naturally, loosening the pull of desire and allowing a special sense of freedom to emerge.

    If we continue with this analysis, we will come to a level where emotions and feelings appear as manifestations of a more fundamental energy, car­ried by the experience that comes to us through the senses. At this level, emotions and judgments can be understood as labels applied to this underly­ing energy-labels that could perhaps be changed.

    At the next stage, we see the link between such labels and distinctions and the underlying structures of the ‘bystander-self'. The self has a yearning for happi­ness or pleasure; it is drawn to such feelings as a moth is drawn to a flame. But the self also establishes patterns that make it dependent on circumstances and thus guarantee frustration. These two aspects of the self are mutually conditioned. The result is that the self holds on to its pain or tension or anxiety, because it is unwill­ing to give up the activities that produce them.

    When inquiry has led to this level of understanding, a knowledge begins to operate that makes it possible to move freely between polarities. Because we appreciate the structures of polarity as aspects of knowledge, we can be flexible and open in the patterns that we choose to adopt. As we continue to exercise knowledge, We may grow adept at switching from negative feelings to positive ones and back again. Viewed from a conven­tional perspective, this is a remarkable, even incredible ability. Knowledge itself makes no judgment. Conjoined to no positions by nature, knowledge offers naturally a freedom from the patterns of experience that now bind our highest potential.

    If we carry inquiry still further, another dimen­sion of knowing may open. We recognize that even the energy to which labels are applied can be put into operation in different ways. The distinction between energy and label becomes less definite, with the label understood as a frozen energy and the energy as an active knowing patterned by conventional structures.

    Working at this basic level, we may recognize that even the complex of energy and labeling that bears the identity ? ‘I am' is only another name-a patterned dynamic put into operation by knowledge. We are free to participate in the pattern with new appreciation, as though enjoying the telling of a delightful story that we already know by heart.”  (Tarthang Tulku, Love of Knowledge, pp. 287-294.)


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-04-2007, 8:49 PM 21432 in reply to 21431

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    I'm going to do a little “commentary” on part of his text, trying to comb through it from an AQAL, postmetaphysical perspective.  I'd like to hear your feedback, particularly if you disagree with my reading… but also if you don't!

    Tarthang Tulku:  “If we begin at a level that is too abstract, we may come under the influence of theoretical constructs that lack transforming power. But if we look at our own experience to see how the patterns we rely on are established, insight is directly available. Language, behavior, living conditions, human evolution, the rise of consciousness, our own personal development, and the circumstances in which we act and live - these are the subject of our inquiry. Without restricting knowledge to 'psychology' or 'anthropology', such an inquiry recognizes that the subject and substance for investigation can be found in immediate, present experience, within and around in all directions.”


    Tarthang Tulku suggests an AQAL range of experience and knowledge as the subject of an inquiry which aims at a “more comprehensive knowledge.”  (I highlighted the words which I think comprise an AQAL range of concern.)  As a contemplative, he is interested primarily in the transformative potential of knowledge, and thus stresses that starting from too abstract a perspective will not have transformative power; the knowledge yielded by abstract reflection or research must be wedded to personal experience, which of course is also an integral concern.  I do not believe he is commenting specifically on how individual anthropologists, psychologists, or linguists should proceed – though a number of them have drawn on the TSK vision for inspiration in their disciplines – but rather is suggesting that knowledge from these and other disciplines can be used in the service of deepening TSK inquiry.

    Tarthang Tulku:  “We might start by looking at beginnings. The known world is built up on the basis of communication. How did human beings learn to speak?  Scientific speculations on this point, together with the evidence that supports them, can serve to focus an inquiry that looks at how language functions within our own minds, shaping our intelligence, our perception, our understanding, and our interactions with others.”

    Here again, he is suggesting using LL or UR disciplines (I believe linguistics and related studies would fall in these areas) in the service of UL inquiry and transformation.

    Tarthang Tulku:  “Another focus might be the process by which human consciousness changes over time. Different cultures have accepted as fundamental realities and ways of thinking that are completely different from our own. Appreciation for such differences can suggest how the changing dimensions of consciousness have given rise to our own ways of thinking, and can loosen the hold that our styles of thought and imagination have over us. Reflections based on our own experience and observation of the culture around us, together with study of findings by historians and cross-cultural investigators can provide a fruitful basis for such inquiry. Literature and the root meaning of the words and symbols we use in daily discourse can also offer valuable clues to the workings of the mind.”


    In my view, Tarthang Tulku is not only exhibiting awareness of Zone 2, 3, and 4 disciplines, he is encouraging use of the knowledge of these fields in transformative spiritual inquiry.  He does not appear to be encouraging actual memetic development in the service of relative emancipation, and that would be a short-coming from a fully Integral perspective, but he is acknowledging that structures of consciousness develop in time and history, and is pointing to the “loosening” and opening that can take place when we are able to take our own structure as “object.”

    Tarthang Tulku: “Within the social, cultural, historical, and mental patterns that shape the 'known world', a structure operates that is far less solid than we usually imagine.  Objects enter our lives in the course of an unfolding series of events, like actors who appear on stage, play a role for a time, and then depart. Despite appearances, the roles that the actors occupy - the patterns into which 'things' fall and the stories about them - are a matter of interpretation, not substance.”

    His comments here (and throughout his writings) reflect, to me, at least a postmodern grasp of the fundamental role of interpretation in the establishment of our “worlds,” and a perspective which is consonant with the groundlessness of AQAL space posited by Integral Postmetaphysics.

    Tarthang Tulku:  “An inquiry into the inner structure of this world we take for granted begins with our own being and history, and with the 'things' and patterns with which we interact.  Perhaps we focus on a table on which are resting some books or papers. The table is located quite specifically in space and time.  It has a history that can be traced back physically (UR), socially (LR), culturally (LL), and economically (LR); it has meaning (UL/LL) in our lives that depends on the linguistic structures that let us identify it, the ways in which we have put it to use, and the associations we bring to it.

    In the same way, whatever is now in existence has a history and reflects dimensions of structure, meaning, and value. Because these dimensions relate as well to 'our' being as 'narrator' and 'owner', an inquiry that embraces them can teach us where we come 'from' and where we are 'going'. We can ask how the past led to the present, how we make models and structure experience, and how we project the past toward the future. We can educate ourselves so that patterns open up, stimulating an active, creative intelligence. Through such inquiry we discover that knowledge is available here and now, freeing us from the need to freeze accumulated understanding into a position for fear of losing it.”

    An article by Mark Edwards, I believe, describes developing an “AQAL sensibility” – an aliveness to the multidimensionality of lived experience as it unfolds and evolves in history.  Tarthang Tulku seems to be evoking a very similar sensibility here, describing the fluid responsiveness and sensitivity that emerges when we inquire into and awaken to all of these dimensions of Being, this creative interplay of time, space, and knowledge. 

    Again, because he is writing from the perspective of a particular contemplative/transformative vehicle, his emphasis is primarily on how exploration of these things may affect us personally, awakening a creative and responsive intelligence and deepening our understanding and relationship to time, space, and knowledge (a transformation which I believe Wilber would describe in terms of state access and stabilization). 

    The rest of the excerpt (quoted in the previous post), in fact, deals primarily with the “effects” of engaging in a free and open inquiry into all of these dimensions of embodied human existence in time and space.  Deepening insight into these dynamics – which are multidimensional, mutually enacting, shaped by interpretation, temporally bound in particular structures (which may be opened and transcended) – introduces us directly to the main subjects of concern in TSK, the dynamic, creative, open ground of Being as expressed through the interplay of time, space, and knowledge.

    In my conversation with Ken, while he encouraged exploring and further developing TSK from an Integral perspective, he warned me not to read too much into TSK – because otherwise such an exercise would likely encourage Buddhists to remain complacent about their current perspectives, failing to fully acknowledge or value relative structural development and the trajectory of relative emancipation that entails.  In my view, while TSK, as a vehicle, does exhibit awareness of AQAL space and the postmodern critique of ontology and metaphysics – as I've tried to demonstrate in this thread – its focus is not really on encouraging relative development per se.  An Integral TSK would place more emphasis in this area – and some writers in the TSK tradition have begun to do this* – but I believe the shift would be a relatively small one, since these dimensions are already explicitly acknowledged within the primary TSK texts themselves.

    With that said, I also think that TSK provides one living example of how an “Integrally informed” transformative path of inquiry can wed investigation of multiple fields of knowledge to depth-oriented, “absolute” emancipatory practices in the service of personal transformation.

    Best wishes,

    Balder
    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-04-2007, 10:50 PM 21434 in reply to 21430

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Thanks Bruce,

    As I read the above Tarthang exerpt I was flashing on questions such as, "How has this teacher's mastery of the English language recast the transmitted, multi-generational teachings, re-nuancing with terms also desciptive of a post-post mod., post metaphysical view? Along this line, I'm reminded of Freud's not using the word "ego" and his translator using it for effect on a known audience/market.

    It occurs to me that, as an upaya, a teacher may start with (1)What Is, or, say in this case, What Is from 50,000 ft. up,then(2) acknowledge how a student, or group, addressed polarizes their meaning and value making, then,(3) set up a dialectic using What Is(always already tetra-arising) as the synthesis. 

    I can't speak well to the East/West distinction. My exposure to Buddhism came in an American monastery with a majority of the sangha having some background in psychology. (A tainted sample indeed.) Further, my whole take on renunciation is as a transitional phase within Mahayana training, or, as in the case of hermits, a taking on the task of anchoring states, in part for the sake of all contemporaries, and as an alternative role of active/relative vocation.

    In my own looking for Integral exemplars I've begun to label some Proto-Integral based on aparently complete quadrantial considerations. The more I learn Ken's granularities the more I see that I tend to jump over much en route to my conclusions. I suspect that you may have felt a twinge of that. Whereas I get a Pow- Duh!- y'Wrong alarm-clock kind of correction, it seems your exploration is refining.

    I look forward to whomever weighs in on this.

    All for now,

    kcd


    'takes all kinds.
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  •  04-05-2007, 7:00 AM 21438 in reply to 21434

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Hi, KCD,

    Thank you for weighing in; and I hope to hear from others as well.

    As I read the above Tarthang exerpt I was flashing on questions such as, "How has this teacher's mastery of the English language recast the transmitted, multi-generational teachings, re-nuancing with terms also desciptive of a post-post mod., post metaphysical view? Along this line, I'm reminded of Freud's not using the word "ego" and his translator using it for effect on a known audience/market.

    It occurs to me that, as an upaya, a teacher may start with (1)What Is, or, say in this case, What Is from 50,000 ft. up,then(2) acknowledge how a student, or group, addressed polarizes their meaning and value making, then,(3) set up a dialectic using What Is(always already tetra-arising) as the synthesis.

    Although Tarthang Tulku stresses in several places that TSK is not "Buddhism in disguise," I agree that it is tempting to see it as a "skillful means" of presenting Buddhism.  I've felt that way a number of times – that TSK is a way of making essential Dharma palatable in the postmodern West.  But to say it is merely “skillful means” (treating it as a simple horizontal translation) may miss or at least downplay some of the relative-level developments that it has absorbed, as if it has nothing to say that could not also flow backwards and benefit the tradition (Buddhism) out of which it sprouted.  I think this is what Wilber would argue:  that there are relative-level developments which are valuable in themselves, but which may get brushed aside from the point of view of emptiness (thus preserving certain relative structures and patterns within traditional religion from challenge or examination)….

    That is a subject that deserves more investigation.  Perhaps we can do so here.

    In my own looking for Integral exemplars I've begun to label some Proto-Integral based on aparently complete quadrantial considerations. The more I learn Ken's granularities the more I see that I tend to jump over much en route to my conclusions. I suspect that you may have felt a twinge of that. Whereas I get a Pow- Duh!- y'Wrong alarm-clock kind of correction, it seems your exploration is refining.

    To be honest, I think what I am up to here, in part, is sort of an apologetic exercise:  I'm trying to stir up interest in TSK in the Integral community, simply because I think it is a rich, sophisticated, postmodern tradition that is little known (and virtually un-discussed) in the Integral world, but which I believe is quite complementary to the Integral project as a whole.  However, I recognize the temptation to jump over gaps or discontinuities in order to arrive at my conclusion, which is one reason why I am sharing this here -- to bring these thoughts out in public, for communal "checking."  And continual refining.

    Best wishes,

    Balder

     


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-05-2007, 7:40 PM 21457 in reply to 21438

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Hi Balder, 

    One clarification: when I mentioned upaya I was refering to Ken's as an Integral teacher.

    My prayer: that we in this forum have the patience to respond even when a thread is begun, not with a terse seed, but with a more substantial initial offering.

    Who's turn is it ?

    kcd


    'takes all kinds.
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  •  04-05-2007, 10:00 PM 21461 in reply to 21457

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Thanks for the clarification, kcd.  I had connected the "teacher" in your question in the first paragraph to the "teacher" mentioned in your second.

    I posted this question on a TSK forum I set up and the discussion there, so far, has been a little more lively:  http://pods.zaadz.com/tsk/discussions/view/126206

    Best wishes,

    B.


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-07-2007, 1:54 AM 21498 in reply to 21430

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK


    hi balder!

    it's great to see you again. i definitely want to hear that concall, when it becomes available. i wish i knew about tarthang tulku so that i could respond to your posts. what i do know is that ken frequently refers to the absolute and the relative, emptiness and form. it comes up again in the latest conversation between the guru and the pandit:

    both of them have always acknowledged that their roles are complementary, it appears to me. ken seems to be further clarifying what this means: the guru walks more on the infinite side of the street, the pandit on the relative side; the guru works more with states, the pandit with structures; the guru more with the territory, the pandit more with the map. however, both of them being integral practitioners, especially ken, they certainly don't neglect the other side of things.

    i'm wondering if tulku wouldn't fit somewhere between the two?

    initial thoughts--i need to read this conversation, again, more carefully.

    i'm heartened to see this thread, even if i can't contribute much,

    ralph



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  •  04-07-2007, 8:59 PM 21532 in reply to 21498

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Hi, Ralph,

    It's nice to see you too.  I've been spending my online time at the Zaadz website lately, but I sometimes miss this place and how "happening" it used to be.  I'm tentatively putting my feet back in the Multiplex waters, though...

    I agree that the guru and pandit roles could be seen to be representing absolute and relative perspectives respectively, or at least as giving more emphasis to one or the other.  And I believe Tarthang Tulku does take a position somewhere in between, often pointing to absolute and relative simultaneously.

    Anyway, thanks for checking in, and feel free to add more if you have any thoughts after reading through the posts again.

    Best wishes,

    Balder 


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-07-2007, 10:28 PM 21541 in reply to 21461

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Dear Balder:   I may comment but if I don't, I am reading.  And I may get a question out.  I do have to re-read.  Welcome.  Hope you do come more often. Pattye
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  •  04-08-2007, 3:12 PM 21561 in reply to 21541

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Hi, Pattye,

    Thanks for your post.  Your comments or questions are welcome if you are moved to write anything.

    Here are a few more thoughts I wanted to offer, to kind of contextualize this thread:

    TSK is not intended to be a theory or even a map, which certainly distinguishes it from Wilber's Integral Theory.  But while Integral Theory as a whole focuses more on “mapping” and integrating multiple already-existing disciplines and perspectives, it also offers its own approach to transformation, and it is from the perspective of this approach that I think Wilber was leveling his criticism of TSK (and most other contemplative vehicles of transformation, such as Buddhism or Hinduism).  I only found part of his criticism to be on the mark with regard to TSK, which is why I opened this thread – to explore the criticism, and to show why I think some aspects of it do not apply to the TSK vision.

    Here's the criticism in a nutshell:  Most contemplative vehicles focus on some form of nondual realization, which may involve the dissolution or recontextualization of the “self” or ego such that it is no longer identified with or considered to be separate from Being.  These traditions typically use phenomenological inquiry – bare attention to our immediate experience, watching thought and working with energy, coming to see the “emptiness” of the self, opening to Being in its timeless presence, etc.  According to Wilber, these are all supremely valuable developments:  the fruition of these developments constitutes absolute emancipation, in his terms.  But here's where his argument comes in:  some dimensions of our experience and our conditioning are not open to phenomenological awareness.  These dimensions have to be discovered and explored using other methods of inquiry…methods which are usually ignored by contemplative, phenomenologically oriented vehicles.  For instance, certain things such as cultural conditioning or psychological stages of development cannot be unearthed by “bare attention,” and therefore may continue working in the background (as unexamined presuppositions) even after we have “opened” our experience up and tasted nondual presence.  If practitioners of a contemplative vehicle are unaware of these other methods of inquiry (such as those developed by the social sciences), they may continue indefinitely without unearthing or really dealing with the subtle conditioning imposed by these unrecognized, sometimes unconscious structures.

    On this relative level of structural evolution and conditioning, there may be many stages of cognitive, egoic, emotional, values, or cultural development which are not acknowledged or paid much attention to by phenomenologically oriented transformative vehicles.  This is why Wilber says he finds TSK's three levels to be limited – the levels point towards a deepening of experience toward the nondual, but they do not account for (or adequately “map”) the relative structural levels of development that have been charted by folks like Piaget, Kohlberg, Gebser, and others.

    I agree with Wilber that TSK's three levels do not really account for these things, in themselves.  They are not even intended to, in my opinion.  But Wilber also says that TSK exhibits virtually no awareness of the relative structures explored and mapped by many modern researchers in different disciplines – the many layers of structural, social, cultural, and linguistic conditioning which influence perception (without being directly, phenomenologically available to it), and I disagree with this assessment.  I think TSK demonstrates both awareness of a number of important postmodern philosophical perspectives (see pp. 83-85 in Time, Space, and Knowledge for an example), and also clearly describes all of the dimensions of our conditioning that have been especially well disclosed by modern research (as I believe the chapter I quoted above illustrates).

    Best wishes,

    Balder


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-08-2007, 8:25 PM 21567 in reply to 21561

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Hello balder, pattye, Ralph, et.al.,

    Setting aside the should, re: reading TSK or hearing the concall before saying more, let me bring up another impression.

    As yet, I don't understand the assertion that the pre-Freudian east ( or, in guilt by association, TSK) exhibited no awareness of relative structures and stages of development. What is The Eightfold Path, if not a developmental orientation of/for practicioners? As a practice, The Eightfold Path addresses all quadrants, and supports and enhances translation through stages.

    Even in the old school, the teachings around Samyojana, the factors that establish samsara. Viewing these alongside 1st Tier levels, the factors appear to correlate, in ascending succession, to the challenges and shadow/pittfalls of each (1st Tier) developmental stage.

    Maybe Ken's calling TSK "limited" is a reference to the "Eastern" project's including, in it's popular expressions, only a 1st Tier focus,( not an avoidence or ignorance of relative development per se). That the eastern, and western, modes are thus far pre-integral.

    Maybe this, and a quarter, will get me a cup of something.

    kcd


    'takes all kinds.
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  •  04-11-2007, 10:01 PM 21688 in reply to 21532

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK


    hi balder, kcd and pattye,

    i've ordered the TSK book and, hopefully, when it arrives in a couple of weeks i'll have time to look at it. in the meantime i'd like to play devil's advocate and try to guess what ken wilber had in mind in his comments to you (balder) about it.

    reading your excerpt from 'knowledge of love' from that point of view, i'm led to suspect that tarthang tulku believes that the various limitations of awareness postmodernism has pointed out by means of zone 4 and 2 methodologies can be overcome along the road to absolute enlightenment. if i happen to be correct in my suspicions, then he fails to be post-postmodern on two counts: first of all, he may not be aware of all the work that needs to be done on the relative plane for us to become aware of and work on our UL and LL limitations, nor, secondly,
    that we can never completely do away with these limitations, since they are inherent in sentient being.

    it may be that he has interpreted the insights of postmodernism in terms of traditional tibetan buddhism, that is, without seriously questioning that tradition itself in the way ken is now asking us to. or maybe not, but he would have to be a very remarkable person not to have, more remarkable than anyone i've ever heard of, including ken. i can say that because i feel ken is being true to our western tradition, taken as a whole.

    i also suspect you won't agree with me and that you will explain to me why, which i look forward to. in fact, i'm hoping you, tim, kessels and others will be back for a robust discussion of the introduction to the new edition of TOC, when it becomes available. discussing 'integral spirituality' was a wonderful experience, and you were a very important part of that discussion.

    best wishes to you, too,

    ralph


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  •  04-12-2007, 9:56 AM 21703 in reply to 21688

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Hi, Ralph,

    Thanks for stepping in to play devil's advocate -- I think that's useful in a discussion like this.  I am actually not entirely sure what the answer to your question is.  I can tell you what TSK says, but I can't tell you exactly how Tarthang Tulku feels about it or what beliefs or perspectives he might have behind (or underneath) what he has presented in writing, in the form of this vision.  As a Tibetan lama, I know he still has great respect for Buddhism; but he also feels that times have changed (e.g., time, knowledge, and structures-in-space have changed) and that something like TSK is now called for.

    TSK has terms for "absolute Spirit" -- using words like Great Time/Space/Knowledge, Great Love, and Being -- and it does aim in part towards nondual realization (as do Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Integral), but it doesn't say that there is a perspectiveless, absolute "place" where we are going to arrive as sentient-beings-in-worlds, or that there is a singular, monolithic "real world" behind the veil of illusion.

    Perhaps if you can give some examples of what you are thinking of, I can respond in more detail.

    Because I believe it's relevant and may be of interest in this discussion, I am going to quote a passage from the first TSK book which deals with its perspective on a number of (post)modern positions and views.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

    In making the arguments that I am making here, I am not suggesting that TSK has nothing it can take from Integral in order to make it fuller, more refined, etc.  I think there is -- my particular "project" these days is to realize an Integral formulation of TSK.  I also think TSK has certain things it can bring to the Integral table, which is why I have made efforts to introduce it to this community.

    Best wishes,

    Balder

    ~*~

    Excerpt from Time, Space, and Knowledge, pp. 82-85:

    "To begin with basic aspects of our exploration, a central insight is that inasmuch as everything that constitutes our realm and existence is alike in being a function of a focal setting, everything is inseparably related-'given together'. A tempting, but misleading, inference is that this interdependence gives special prominence to the self or mind, that the self has adopted a viewpoint or focal setting but can also change it. Yet, as we have seen, the 'self' is only a part of what we are calling the 'output' of the focal setting. It has no special status.

    The following list is designed to help clarify the relationships of various conventional views to the perspective of the new vision being presented. Basically, the list refers to subtle presuppositions which may hamper success in 'opening the focal setting'.

    *  Some conventional views posit a subjective idealism or mentalism; but from the view of this new vision, the world is not ‘all in the mind'.

    *  A current thesis about relativity maintains that the linear causal connections and other features of our world are merely 'how things look from a certain vantage point and to a certain type of observer.' But it can be shown that there is a subtle though profound difference between this thesis and what is involved in being 'given together'. As a simple illustration of the difference, we should consider the possibility, according to earlier comments, that there may not be an ordinary 'here', a truly solid vantage point from which to construe the world.

    *  The view that our ordinary faculties of cognition and perception 'make the world' is not affirmed by this new vision. Perhaps these faculties structure and even falsify some features of 'the world', but they do not 'make' it. Ordinary 'knowing'-- as understood by our conventional models -- is not itself the restrictive focal setting, but only a facet of this setting's output. The world is not merely a concept in any ordinary sense.

    *  Conventional views often accord a special primacy to the 'here' or the position of the observing self. But according to this vision, such primacy is attached neither to the 'here' or observing self, nor to the 'here' and 'out there' of an independent or 'objective' world order.

    *  Though various conventional views hold that there was an origin or an original dynamic factor of our familiar world order, the vision presented here holds instead that it is the output of a focus or optional perspective on Great Space. This world order is not a state of affairs that has, in being, been set up on its own, once and for all, even to the extent of being a real falsification of Great Space. Other perspectives or focal settings are possible and, since they remain Great Space under all their various guises, they do not constitute exclusive states of affairs. They are not only possible, but can be actual, in some sense, because they do not block each other.

    The capacity of Great Space is never exhausted or compromised by a commitment to one particular trend or world order. Great Space can let anything appear. There is no level or criterion on or by which the various presentations can be compared and judged to be incompatible or inconsistent. Great Space supports infinitely many choices of perspective.

    *  The conventional acceptance of sense data as being real is challenged by the Space-Time-Knowledge vision. Its rejection of an ordinary 'here', as well as the other features of our observed realm, is not due to any kind of sense-datum theory, according to which the observed world order and 'here' are mere constructs formed from sensa, basic sense data. Sensa themselves are not unquestionably real, just because -- by conventional hypothesis -- they underlie the perceptions and interpretations which constitute human experience. The term 'sensum' belongs to a particular set of epistemological theories, which may be supported by the evidence available within a lower space, but are all subject to the 'no outside-stander' principle.

    Basically, the issue is how experience, or knowledge of reality, comes about. The psycho-physiological model which posits 'emitting regions' in the 'external world' -- with emitted radiation and stimuli crossing distances, impinging upon sensitive surfaces (sense organs), then being processed and interpreted, resulting in the perception of some object or situation -- is perhaps good enough for ordinary purposes. But ordinary 'reality' and 'experience' can be called into question at such a basic level, and in such a thorough manner, that an appeal to explanations which presuppose aspects of that reality are no longer sufficient.

    *  The popular meditative injunction to 'Be here now' is seen from the Great Space perspective as being probably misleading. On one hand, it might be interpreted as invoking the ordinary sense of 'here' and 'the present'. On the other, it might seem to refer to a kind of fleeting, immaculate sensum-like 'here' which must be apprehended. Such orientations are a perpetuation of the restrictive focal setting and its emphasis on locatedness, etc.

    There may also be an achievement and self-orientation involved, to the effect that we are urged to try to 'be here', or to capture something close at hand. Or we might be reassured that everything is fine and that we should just 'let things be'. In either case, the immediate presence 'here' of Great Space, and a true 'opening' to it, are both being missed by clinging to small focal setting counterparts, which are actually counterfeits.

    *  From the view of the new vision, the conventional religious surrender of self and of the world must be carried on in a new way, so that they do not transcend ordinary perspectives only by validating them."

     


    May the boundless knowledge that time presents and space allows illuminate the native perspectives of your original face.

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  •  04-12-2007, 1:00 PM 21706 in reply to 21430

    Re: Absolute and Relative Emancipation in Integral and TSK

    Fascinating, and great to hear from you again here, Bruce.... Smile [:)]

    What I know of TSK is mainly what I've learned from you in the past. I think that you successfully demonstrate in your quotations and commentary that Ken did less than justice to the breadth and depth of TSK.  However, as you say - (though I haven't yet heard the con call either) - I would guess that the main thrust of his critique would be about the need to 'include' before 'transcending' when it comes to consciousness development, and the need for a comprehensive ILP to achieve this, one involving for example Shadow work, which would help to include aspects of the self which can't be incorporated just through personal effort or willpower...etc etc...    As I've mentioned before, I remain sceptical about that whole enterprise, which surely must be unending - how could any finite life achieve such an infinite task?  Further, it seems to presuppose some point at which the relative links up with the absolute, as though meditation, for example, eventually leads to enlightenment in some linear way.  The absolute, by definition, must include the relative, while the relative, by definition, can have no inherent reality and cannot lead to reality.... 'Truth is a pathless land', as Krishnamurti said...

    However, that's a different issue.   I'm not a Buddhist, but I seem always to find myself inclining Eastwards....

    warmest wishes

    ~ D


    'This is all the time you'll ever have'.
    ~ Dr Hannibal Lecter
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