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My essay of Integral and God

Last post 12-01-2007, 1:14 PM by zneval. 2 replies.
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  •  10-21-2007, 7:53 PM 30441

    • Sirenia67 is not online. Last active: 10-21-2007, 8:09 PM Sirenia67
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    My essay of Integral and God

    What is God?

    By Rich Graff

     

     

               Philosophy asks the question, “Is God real?” Indeed, humans have been grappling with the idea of God since human’s conception. It is only relatively recently in the western world, since the Enlightenment and the progress of science, that people have begun questioning en masse the idea of God and of challenging the belief that there is a God. In order to get to the question, “Is God real?” we must first clarify and ask the question, “What is God?”

               My own definition of God is that God is reality. God is in effect the universe, but my definition of God states that it is beyond all that. God encompasses all realities. Humans are in effect, the universe trying to comprehend itself. The universe is the unconsciousness of God, and we are the consciousness of God. We are like the neural synapses of God. An analogy of this would be as if the cells in our body gained awareness of themselves. I wouldn’t say that “I am God,” because that definition doesn’t include all aspects of God. I would say, “I am an aspect of God”.

               This is not Spinoza’s theory of God or pantheism. There are fundamental differences. Spinoza would say that the whole substance of reality is God or that “All (is) God”(Vel.289).It reduces everything in the physical universe to one lump sum, and doesn’t take into account the realm of spirit or embrace hierarchy. Rather my view is more like panentheism, but it is based on Integral Theory.

     

                A person can think of reality as “The Great Nest of Being” (Wil. Being 69). Each level “transcends but includes” (Wil. Being 69 ) another level. Think of the concept as spheres within spheres.

                         Each successive level does not jettison or deny the previous level, but rather includes and embraces it, just as atoms are included in molecules, which are included in cells, which are included in organisms. Each level is a whole that is also part of a larger whole (each level or structure is a whole/part or holon). In other words, each evolutionary unfolding transcends but includes its predecessor(s), with Spirit transcending and including absolutely everything.

                         This arrangement-Spirit transcends but includes soul, which transcends but includes mind, which transcends but includes body, which transcends but includes matter-is often referred to as the Great Chain of Being, but that is clearly a very unfortunate misnomer. Each successive level is not a link but a nest, which includes, embraces, and envelops its predecessor(s). The Great Chain of Being is really the Great Nest of Being-not a ladder, chain, or one-way hierarchy, but a series of concentric spheres of increasing holistic embrace. ( Wil. Being 69 )

               Each level of reality is seen with a different “eye” or mode of knowing. The eye of body, mind and spirit are used respectively at their own levels(Wil.3). The “eye of contemplation”(Wil.6) or eye of spirit comprehends gnosis (Wil.6) or spiritual insights, creative insights, infinity and beauty.  The problems occur when one eye tries to see into another eye’s domain. This is called a “category error”(Wil.7 ). The “eye of reason”(Wil.17 ), tries to see what the eye of spirit is seeing and tries to see into the realm of spirit(Wil. 10). It finds it cannot and when it tries it “only generates paradox”(Wil.19 ).             

    Plato said we can never know the actual forms of existence, we can only know the ideal form( Vel.146 ). Plato, I believe, was right in his world of forms, except that I believe that instead of separate perfect forms for each thing (Vel.146), all physical forms try to reach one perfect form (God, Spirit), and that that form is formless, or unmanifest. God is in a similar way the highest ideal. We don’t have any physical evidence of God, so we can only know the ideal. Aristotle said we can only know things by knowing the characteristics of things (Vel. 152 ); What are the characteristics of God? “Theologians have ascribed certain attributes to God, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect goodness, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. These attributes were supported to varying degrees by the early Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Scholars, including St. Augustine, Al-Ghazali, and Maimonides, resepectively. All the notable medieval philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God, attempting to wrestle with the contradictions God’s attributes seem to imply” ( “God”  ).

               Let’s look at one of the properties of God logically, the characteristic of omnipresence. God is defined as being everywhere. If we take the idea of God as being everywhere, then there is nowhere God is not. If God is everywhere, it would have to exist simultaneously with matter. We can’t have matter and God separate. That would mean God is separate. If God is able to affect everything, God would have to be everywhere, including inside us. God in effect, has to be everything to be everywhere. Suppose, for example, God were a separate conscious deity. That would mean God would exist separately from his creation. Such a deity might exist in reality, but would be governed by reality and would not exist as either all-encompassing or all-powerful. It would be a lesser God.  God would be reduced to something like a Greek god, one who affects some parts of reality but not all. The ancient Gnostic Christians thought of the God of the Old Testament as one of these lesser gods of the divine and called him the “Demiurge”(Pagels 47,57 ).

               What about the idea of infinity. Does the infinity even exist? Evolutionary theologian John F. Haught in an interview says this:

                         For Augustine and for many religious people throughout the age, the best evidence is the utter restlessness of the human heart. You could extend that also to the restlessness of the intellect itself. We all realize that no matter how much we know, there is yet more to know, there is yet more to be known; we all realize that no matter how much we get in life, how much we have, how much we possess, we are never fully filled up by it. So there is, in a sense, a God-shaped hole at the heart of our being. That’s what Augustine was saying-our hearts are restless until we rest in the infinite.

                         Now the way we become aware of the infinite is not so much by knowing it as by allowing ourselves to be grasped by it. This often happens without people realizing it. For example, even a scientist is grasped by the value of the truth and surrenders his or her life to the pursuit of that truth. Whether they say so explicitly or not, I think many scientists, if not most have made a commitment to something much larger that themselves that is inexhaustible. They realize that no matter how much they probe, the horizons will keep on receding. I associate that very closely with what theology refers to as religious experience. So we come in contact with this infinite horizon-which Augustine referred to as God- in very subtle ways we are not aware of. Religion simply tries to make us more aware of, and especially grateful to, that horizon of depth, that horizon of an infinite future, a horizon of infinite beauty and truth that keeps calling us, that keeps addressing us, that keeps summoning us. And in doing so, it gives us vitality, life and meaning (Haught, 104).

              

               We can compare this idea of infinity with the Protestant Tillich saying, “He who knows the depth knows about God”(Vel. 314 ). Tillich is talking about the depth of infinity. In order to “see” this depth though, we have to use what Ken Wilber calls the eye of spirit or contemplation. This has its own injunctions and validations apart from only using rational means of proving God ( Wilber,34 ).  Similarly Kierkegaard maintains that God is not subject to rational, objective analysis (Velasquez, 313).

               Both secular and religious philosophers were making all sorts of rational statements which they claimed were making all sorts of rational statement which they claimed were claimed were about ultimate realities and ultimate truths. Thus, Thomas Aquinas had put forth rational “proofs” for the existence of God; so had Descartes-and Aristotle and Anselm and others. Their common mistake lay in trying to prove with the eye of reason that which can only bee seen with the eye of contemplation…This was Kant’s brilliance. He himself did indeed believe in God, in a Transcendent Ultimate, in noumenon. And he correctly believed that it was transempirical, transsensory. But he demonstrated that anytime we attempt to reason about this transemprical reality, we find that we can create arguments for either of two completely contradictory views with equal plausibility-and that plainly shows that such reasoning is futile…But here were all these philosophers and theologians cranking out rational statements about God (or Buddha or Tao) and about ultimate reality as if they were speaking directly and actually of the Real itself, whereas in fact, as Kant demonstrated, they were speaking nonsense. Pure reason is simply incapable of grasping transcendent realities, and when it tries, it finds that it’s contradictory can be put with equal plausibility...One of the reasons for this-if I may speak poetically-is that, as disclosed by contemplation, the Ultimate is a “coincidence of opposites” (Nicholas de Cusa) or as Hinduism and Buddhism put it, advaita or advaya, which means “nondual” or “not-two,” a fact that cannot be pictured in logic. You cannot, for instance, picture a thing being itself and not being itself at the same time. You cannot see it raining and not raining at the same time. You cannot see it raining and not raining at the same time in the same spot. You cannot picture nor reason accurately about nonduality, about ultimate reality. If you attempt to translate nondual Reality into dualistic reason, then you will create two opposite where there are in fact none, and therefore each of these opposites can be argued with equal plausibility…What Kant demonstrated was that-as Wittgenstein would later put it-most metaphysical problems are not false, they are nonsensical. Not that the answer is bad, but that the question is silly…It is supported by a category error: The eye of reason is trying to see into heaven ( Wilber, 18-19).

    So if we can’t reason our way to God, how can we get closer to God?

                         Knowledge in the transcendent realm is gained in precisely the same way: it has an injunction, an illumination, and a confirmation. In Zen: zazen, satori, and imprimatur. There is no Zen without all three strands; there is, in fact no real esoteric or transcendent knowledge without all three. On first takes up the practice of contemplation, which may be meditation, zazen, mantra, japa, interior prayer, and so on. When the eye of contemplation is fully trained, then look. Check this direct illumination with the teacher or guru. Checking with the guru is like checking math problems with the teacher when one is first leaning geometry.

               This final and highest proof is ultimately a proof of God or Buddha Nature or Tao-but it is not an empiric proof, and not a rational-philosophic proof, but a contemplative proof. “Our whole business in this life,” said St. Augustine, “is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.” To restore that eye is to train that eye, thereby becoming adequate to the knowledge “which is unto salvation”.

    It is sometimes said that mystic knowledge is not real knowledge, because it is not public knowledge, only “private” and hence it is incapable of consensual validation. That is not quite correct, however. For the secret to consensual validation in all three realms is the same, namely: a trained eye is a public eye, or it could not be trained in the first place; and a public eye is communal or consensual eye. Mathematical knowledge is public knowledge to trained mathematicians (but not to nonmathematicians); contemplative knowledge is public knowledge to all sages. Even though contemplative knowledge is ineffable, it is not private: it is a shared vision. The essence of Zen is: “ A special transmission outside the Scriptures [that is, between Master and student]; Not dependent upon words and letters[the eye of mind]; Seeing into one’s Nature [with the eye of contemplation] and becoming Buddha.” It is a direct seeing by the contemplative eye, and it can be transmitted from teacher to student because it is directly public to that eye. The knowledge of God is as public to the contemplative eye as is geometry to the mental eye and rainfall to the physical eye. And a trained contemplative eye can prove the existence of God with exactly the same public nature as the eye of flesh can prove the existence of rocks (Wilber,34 ).

               This is in effect saying we can “see” God, by heightening our consciousness, and that this knowledge, although not traditionally thought of as real, is equally valid, and has been taught by the nonduality schools, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, etc. The knowledge is not subjective but intersubjective, and a “shared vision”(Wil.34) because both teacher and disciple are apprehending the same thing, i.e. enlightenment.

               So we can only perceive our own consciousness. But our consciousness is an aspect of God. So where did the idea of God originate from? We could trace the myths and stories of God in writing or pictures, but it’s much simpler if we imagine how the rise of consciousness likely contributed to the idea of God. In doing so we can imagine how the concept of God was objectified or how humans objectified their environment. This leads us to what Ken Wilber calls the “three faces of God”(Wil.89). This is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is how we view God. We view God from the same perspective as we view the world. That is, we see God “in first person perspective, or second-person perspective or third-person perspective”(Wilber & Cohen, 87).

                As human consciousness arose, we realized that there was an environment around us, one that surrounded us with animals and water and people. We objectified this reality and from third-person perspective called these things It. The highest form of It as Spirit is “the Kosmic evolutionary process, the Web of Life”(Wilber,89 ). Humans also saw themselves as being dependant on other phenomenon, such as the sun and weather and phenomena such as time and death, and so we formed the second-person perspective and called it Thou. The highest form of worship of Thou is “something that is immeasurably greater than you could ever possibly be in your wildest imagination, before whom surrender and devotion and submission and radiant release and gratitude is the only appropriate response, and from whom all blessings and all goodness flow unreservedly”(Wilber, 89). Humans also realized that they had a mind that was different from other humans, so they called this mind, this first person perspective, I. “God in 1st person is the true Self, Buddha-nature, the eternal ‘I Am’” (Wilber,89 ).

               The best way that I can contrast how various philosophers have dealt with God and existence is by telling a story I created; “A man trips and stumbles in his household, and breaks a vase containing water onto the floor. Spinoza the pantheist, would say that the whole substance or puddle on the floor is God (Vel.291,292). Aquinas, in his ontological argument, would say that the person who knocked the vase over is God (Vel. 284). The pragmatist would say, “ How do I clean this mess up”(Vel.200-205)  The idealist would say, “ The accident was only real in my mind”(Vel. 193,194).The materialist would say that “Only knocking over the vase is real, it doesn’t matter what the person thinks”(Vel.186). The existentialist would say, “I have freewill, therefore it is my fault” (total responsibility) (Vel.228). The creationist would say, “Somebody had to have designed this, look at how the vase fragments are arranged”(Vel.287,288). The empiricist would say, “All I know is that I saw the vase break,”( Vel.379). The rationalist would say that by thinking about the incident, they will come to realize the truth (that they caused the vase to break) (Vel.83). The mystic, on hearing the sound of the vase drop, has his ego dropped and realizes enlightenment, and that there are no boundaries in reality.  The mystic then looks at the puddle on the floor, doesn’t say anything, and instead sees in his reflection the universe (God, The Absolute, Brahmin, etc…) looking back at itself. The mystic realizes that the reflection and the person are not separate (nonduality). The mystic would then realize that it was himself who made him stumble in the first place to get his attention (Karma, the Tao, the search for Spirit).”

               In order to integrate any belief in our lives it has to “transcend but include ”( Wil. Being 69) ourselves. It has to resonate with and include our previous beliefs that we already believe in, and it has to transcend ourselves, which means it has to inspire us, and allow us to become more or have a better understanding. This I think is why the philosophers take so many different approaches to reality. They only take only one of their own viewpoints, one that is personally valid for them, and they don’t include any other viewpoints within their own. They don’t see how any other view is valid and don’t include it in their philosophy.

               As humans move into the twenty-first century, I believe a new paradigm shift has to occur. One that includes all other truths, and creates a new truth. Ken Wilber, the modern day philosopher of Integral theory and Andrew Cohen, the editor of What is Enlightenment? magazine, are pioneers on what I believe is a new paradigm shift of expanding consciousness. Humans need to transcend their own beliefs and create a new stronger view in the world, one that is holistic and includes all other things in it. Only then can they transcend to a new level of consciousness and let God become the journey and the destination. This to me is the true nature of God. 

     

              

    Works Cited 

     

     

     

    “God.” Wikipedia.org. 30 March 2007. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 31 March. 2007

     

     

    Haught, John F. “A God-Shaped Hole at the Heart of Our Being.” Interview with Amy Edelstein. What is Enlightenment?  Jan- Mar. 2007: 103-109

     

     

    Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Random House, 1979.

     

     

    Wilber, Ken.  Eye to Eye: The Quest for the New Paradigm. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1983.

     

     

    Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen. “The Guru and the Pandit: Dialogue XIII-Part 2 God’s Playing a New Game: Integral Spirituality, Evolutionary Enlightenment, and the Future of Religion…” What is Enlightenment? June-Aug 2006: 66-95

     

     

    Wilber, Ken. “Spirit-in-Action” The Simple Feeling of Being: Embracing your true Nature.  Ed. Mark Palmer, Sean Hargens, Vispassana Esbjorn, Adam Leonard. Shambala: Boston, Mass. 2004.  66-110.

     

     

    Velasquez, Manuel. Philosophy: A Text with Readings. 9th ed. U.S.: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.

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  •  10-28-2007, 11:48 AM 30827 in reply to 30441

    • storchs is not online. Last active: 01-13-2008, 6:25 AM storchs
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    Re: My essay of Integral and God

    Rich, nice work summarizing the integral position in light of traditional western views of god.  If it was for a philosophy course, you should have gotten an A.

    Storch

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  •  12-01-2007, 1:14 PM 32868 in reply to 30441

    Re: My essay of Integral and God

    stumbled upon this. this seemed like a very well researched paper. it is obvious you have not only spent time with integral but also with augustine and others. i appreciated these most. i feel like you have a better grasp on this topic than you let on in this paper, however. i think you could have summarized things with your own thoughts, especially on the wilber quotes. i don't think that we need to always be quoting ken when we are simply talking about the three faces of god. integral has not stumbled upon something new, it is simply a (relatively) (more?) accurate lens in to the timeless. 1st person, Son; 2nd person, Father; 3rd person, Holy Spirit. i am not saying this is true or arguing for this. what seemed odd with the paper is that you prove to us that rational arguments for god are a bit off-topic, and then go on to discuss integral theory as if it is a saving grace. perhaps i am being too rough here, i am really only talking abuot the conclusion paragraph. my primary problem (if you could really call it that) is that the essay was titled "what is god?" and your conclusion talked more about a paradigm shift and a critique on how "they" only take one viewpoint and don't take other's into account. i find it dualistic, which is fine for any other paper because any other paper is rational. but here you have told us of the non-dual nature of god, and then dive back in to a dualistic world even before the paper's end.

    [This is less addressed to you as it is to the general integral community. it seems a real tragedy that we give off an air of superiority, claiming that our theory embraces all viewpoints while touting it as the best viewpoint, under the guise of "transcend and include." at this point the only remedy is to not take ourselves so seriously. the truth is endless generations of "belief-carrying people" have acted in concourse with god's will. there is no superiority here, that is precisely what integral is teaching us.]

    aside from this, i really enjoyed the reactions of all the philosophers over the vase breaking-- very humorous and genius! i took this as a reminder of how subjective everything is, and i hoped you were going to follow on this theme. i was also surprised to not see the hindu concept of "neti, neti" show (it follows: "what is god?" "not this, not this"), in that no matter what a man points to or experiences can never comprise the WHOLE of god, if we allow ourselves to speak in those terms. perhaps i hoped you'd gone on to say that god would watch all these philosophers confused over a broken vase and just laugh with utmost compassion with them and the absurdity of their confusion. [laughter really is a non-dual thing. i have heard that we laugh at things because they don't make logical sense to our brains. and anyone in a state of peaceful bliss knows how easy it is to get laughing hysterically...]

    well i hope i haven't come off as offensive. this is an endlessly engaging topic! the non-dual nature of god allows for conversation over that question, "what is god?" to be eternally diverse. we can be thankful of this, i think, as being engaged with spirit is experiencing god, at least to the extent we are capable. if you are interested in some other theories of "what is god?" check out (if you haven't already) "God Speaks," by Meher Baba. I am not endorsing by mentioning, I hope, but he has some very interesting theories as to the nature of god, including some of the "beyond-beyond" aspects of god, as well as some 'divine themes.' well, i feel you would be interested at any rate. once again, this is a great paper. I am not going to give it a grade or anything. I would have like to seen a clearer thesis, more staying on the topic, and less quotes/more of YOU. anyways, this is divine work. "We" appreciates "It." god bless you on your ways,

    tim

    "identity which is not convulsive ceases to exist" ---breton

    Nine Ways Not to Talk about God
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