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Panentheism 101

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How is the idea that we are sitting here breathing, communicating, perceiving the world around us also not a magical idea?

 

Magic is an explanation given when reasons aren't sought. Magic occurs when an event has no sufficient cause.

 

And what makes you think I'm seeking "comfortable" ideas?  Or answers, even?

 

I don't think you are seeking "comfortable" ideas. What I do think however, is that it is possible to become comfortable with meaningless terms (like perfect emptiness) and reassuring ourselves that God is ineffable or "beyond knowing". If this is true, let's simply give up the field to every whacko "mystical" concept that any mindless dolt can come up with.

 

I tried to issue a warning that I am FEELING frustrated. I've invested years of my life in the study of philosophy and theology and then to find out that it has all been wasted and that what I should have been doing is sitting on my ass for years in meditation...

 

Ya know, it's not that I don't meditate... and it's not that I don't think that what is gained in meditation is not ineffable...

 

Ah, okay... my apologies, then.

 

I don't want to add to your frustrated feelings, for sure.

 

Please know that I'm doing nothing more than muddling along here as best as I can, knowing that I don't have any real answers. I'm not certain that anything I intuit is correct, by any means; I'm just walking down one tangential road to see what's there.

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Panta - I feel your pain! I spent years reading and trying to understand it all too... then I got very frustrated. At this point, I think the knowledge is valuable (I still like to know things!) and is a form of worship (love God... all your mind...) BUT, I think trying to know it all is a cop out... (ok, sorry, up off the floor)... DOING is where its at. As I've said before - much harder... at least to us knowing types!

 

OMMMMMMM :)

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Panta - I feel your pain!  I spent years reading and trying to understand it all too... then I got very frustrated.  At this point, I think the knowledge is valuable (I still like to know things!) and is a form of worship (love God... all your mind...)  BUT, I think trying to know it all is a cop out... (ok, sorry, up off the floor)... DOING is where its at.  As I've said before - much harder... at least to us knowing types!

 

OMMMMMMM  :)

 

Don't misunderstand my frustration. It's not a frustration in trying to understand it all - I know I'll never be able to understand fully - but when there is a basic failure (from my perspective) to rethink basic assumptions (like the assumption that "God" is infinite) when they lead to logical deadends...

 

I've been in a discussion group for some time which had been monopolized for some time by atheists. Any expression of spirituality was derided - and very, very, very often for good reason. There has been a subtle change in the group over the last year. A little dose of Wilber and Process philosophy has the atheists on the defense. What has really been exciting though, is that many have mentioned how their life has been changed because of the discussions. Some who had lost their faith have regained it in a new and more meaningful way.

 

There are some who have been coming to the discussion though (now that it is an environment more open to spirituality) who aren't interested in the world of ideas. They simply want to feel that the world is a nice cuddly place to be in. They are narcisstic and magical in their thinking. They seem to share different versions of New Age crap. They're into tarot, and UFO's, and books "channeled by Jesus". They substitute meditation for thinking, gnosis for philosophy. They're not into transforming the world through love and dialog, they're into "personal evolution" with the ultimate goal of arriving at Nirvana (deep sleep where there is no suffering, no desiring, just emptiness).

 

I feel caught between these two (what I feel are) extremes. I believe science and spirituality can be - MUST be integrated. But it will require new ways of looking at reality, of examining our cultural presuppositions. I'm convinced that gnosticism and buddhism, etc., have a lot to add to our overall picture of reality - but those forms of thought must be integrated with science and not simply adopted wholescale. This means, that we acknowledge that the ancient mystics were influenced by their culture. Some of what they believed were ineffable experiences (experiences which couldn't be expressed in the thought forms of their day) can be interpreted in the light of current knowlege.

 

If there is another philosophy out there which is as inclusive as process thought then I want to become familiar with it. I will not be convinced though, that all concepts are equally valid, and/or that ultimately life is meaningless.

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I like the middle ground between those extremes here (this board). I think we're all looking for the sharing of interesting ideas with the idea of a practicing theology to take with us into the world. Science and spirituality are more than integrated, they are consistent. As for your last point, life isn't meaningless... I haven't noticed anyone on this board with anything approaching that position. As for all concepts being valid... I think Borg has a good point when he discusses following your path, with passion and heart; Without denigrating anyone else's. (he does except fringe groups). Really, if it works for them, why take the "fundie" position we rant about so often here and feel the need to convert them to your way of thinking? There is a zen challenge - give up the need to prove your position.

Stating it, discussing it, thinkng it through in community is great. We all enjoy/benefit from that or we wouldn't be here.

 

 

The McLaren book I just read "A New Kind of Christian" addresses the issues you raised in your last post. In his paradigm, this is the pain of being postmodern in a modern world. :) The book is not tremendously well written, but it has a lot of good ideas. My favorite is the idea that modern christianity is concerned with personal salvation while postmodern christianity will likely be concerned with being a servant to the world.

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Panta - I feel your pain!  I spent years reading and trying to understand it all too... then I got very frustrated.  At this point, I think the knowledge is valuable (I still like to know things!) and is a form of worship (love God... all your mind...)  BUT, I think trying to know it all is a cop out... (ok, sorry, up off the floor)... DOING is where its at.  As I've said before - much harder... at least to us knowing types!

 

OMMMMMMM   :)

 

Don't misunderstand my frustration. It's not a frustration in trying to understand it all - I know I'll never be able to understand fully - but when there is a basic failure (from my perspective) to rethink basic assumptions (like the assumption that "God" is infinite) when they lead to logical deadends...

 

I've been in a discussion group for some time which had been monopolized for some time by atheists. Any expression of spirituality was derided - and very, very, very often for good reason. There has been a subtle change in the group over the last year. A little dose of Wilber and Process philosophy has the atheists on the defense. What has really been exciting though, is that many have mentioned how their life has been changed because of the discussions. Some who had lost their faith have regained it in a new and more meaningful way.

 

There are some who have been coming to the discussion though (now that it is an environment more open to spirituality) who aren't interested in the world of ideas. They simply want to feel that the world is a nice cuddly place to be in. They are narcisstic and magical in their thinking. They seem to share different versions of New Age crap. They're into tarot, and UFO's, and books "channeled by Jesus". They substitute meditation for thinking, gnosis for philosophy. They're not into transforming the world through love and dialog, they're into "personal evolution" with the ultimate goal of arriving at Nirvana (deep sleep where there is no suffering, no desiring, just emptiness).

 

I feel caught between these two (what I feel are) extremes. I believe science and spirituality can be - MUST be integrated. But it will require new ways of looking at reality, of examining our cultural presuppositions. I'm convinced that gnosticism and buddhism, etc., have a lot to add to our overall picture of reality - but those forms of thought must be integrated with science and not simply adopted wholescale. This means, that we acknowledge that the ancient mystics were influenced by their culture. Some of what they believed were ineffable experiences (experiences which couldn't be expressed in the thought forms of their day) can be interpreted in the light of current knowlege.

 

If there is another philosophy out there which is as inclusive as process thought then I want to become familiar with it. I will not be convinced though, that all concepts are equally valid, and/or that ultimately life is meaningless.

PantaRhea-I believe nearly everyone at various points asks some version of the "what's it all mean" question. You mentioned Wilber and integrating science and spirituality. I've long been involved in transpersonal psychology of which I'd guess you'd say Wilber is 1 of the "founding fathers." Certainly, that discipline has contributed much to our understanding of how to develop a positive or healthy psychology and some meaningful insights into the psychology of mysticism. However, most of these same individuals will tell you that the experiential boundaries they explore are not amenable to science if by that you mean the scientistic/materialistic worldviews and methods of scientific research. In fact, though you seem skeptical of meditative approaches to understanding/gnosis, most of the "research methods" developed to address these areas of interest have more in common in their methodology with meditation than formal philosophical or scientific inquiry. Wilber, for eg, has long spoken of how one cannot clearly grasp the transrational understandings of advanced contemplative states with the "eye of the flesh," but rather the "eye of spirit," what he might refer to as transrational, vision-logic. I doubt though that any of them will tell you that they themselves have come to fully comprehend God, regardless of their methods, nor that their methods of hypothesizing and inquiry are necessarily likely to unlock all the metaphysical mysteries of Life (& beyond). I don't believe we have to have life completely figured out for us to see/believe it has meaning, though each of us must individually work out how we find that meaning in our lives. I do believe the intellect, (the eye of the flesh) can take only so far in our journey-the rest of the way depends on the eye of the heart, (including love and compassion) & the eye of the spirit. I hope your journey will be a fruitful one, Earl

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Earl,

 

I may be mistaken about this, but I recently read something from Ken Wilber which mentioned that he had rejected Transpersonal Psychology specifically because it had refused to be validated by the scientific method.

 

I'll try to look it up again when I have time.

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Earl,

 

I may be mistaken about this, but I recently read something from Ken Wilber which mentioned that he had rejected Transpersonal Psychology specifically because it had refused to be validated by the scientific method.

 

I'll try to look it up again when I have time.

He rejected that term some time ago in favor of his term "integral" but not because his model had "research" & others didn't-in fact "transpersonal psychology" being the term for an entire discipline of study contains numerous models within it, with his being perhaps the leading one. Of course, can't actually "research" his model as like all his models his are transtheoretical integrative ones wherein he builds logical philospohical/hypothetical constructs to weave together multiple strands of research & can't see how one could effectively research a metamodel. I believe he made the switch according to his public claim because he thought his model went beyond those typically associated with the term "transpersonal psychology." Personally, I think he did it for less personally evolved reasons. For years he's tended to rather bitterly, sarcastically attack other transpersonal theorists in public who disagreed with him & has recently gone so far that on a website devoted to him he speaks of how he has cautioned potential students away from attending California Institute of Integral Studies supposedly because they don't "properly teach" his model not because their are some folks there who disagree with him. however, if you follow the whole sordid affair, I tend to think it was just plain old megalo-ego! My aforementioned quote of his was from a 1999 piece of his in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology on his integral model-right before he quit the journal as an editor too! As far as I know, Wilber has long been a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and some of the terminology used in that quote come from the Dzogchen tradition of T.B. & I know he still subscribes to a nondual orientation as his model implies. Of course, Buddhism overtly rejects the notion of a "creator God," but from all the study I've done in buddhism seems to me they simply do not feel the need to grapple with some of the metaphysical issues you've raised. I certainly am not aware Wilber has ever attempted to theorize how anything comes into being-only how people come into greater awareness of Being themselves. As re to one of your other posted replies, curious as to how you see his model re to holons as relating to some of the issues you raised here recently. Take care, Earl

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Earl,

 

I may be mistaken about this, but I recently read something from Ken Wilber which mentioned that he had rejected Transpersonal Psychology specifically because it had refused to be validated by the scientific method.

 

I'll try to look it up again when I have time.

He rejected that term some time ago in favor of his term "integral" but not because his model had "research" & others didn't-in fact "transpersonal psychology" being the term for an entire discipline of study contains numerous models within it, with his being perhaps the leading one. Of course, can't actually "research" his model as like all his models his are transtheoretical integrative ones wherein he builds logical philospohical/hypothetical constructs to weave together multiple strands of research & can't see how one could effectively research a metamodel. I believe he made the switch according to his public claim because he thought his model went beyond those typically associated with the term "transpersonal psychology." Personally, I think he did it for less personally evolved reasons. For years he's tended to rather bitterly, sarcastically attack other transpersonal theorists in public who disagreed with him & has recently gone so far that on a website devoted to him he speaks of how he has cautioned potential students away from attending California Institute of Integral Studies supposedly because they don't "properly teach" his model not because their are some folks there who disagree with him. however, if you follow the whole sordid affair, I tend to think it was just plain old megalo-ego! My aforementioned quote of his was from a 1999 piece of his in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology on his integral model-right before he quit the journal as an editor too! As far as I know, Wilber has long been a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and some of the terminology used in that quote come from the Dzogchen tradition of T.B. & I know he still subscribes to a nondual orientation as his model implies. Of course, Buddhism overtly rejects the notion of a "creator God," but from all the study I've done in buddhism seems to me they simply do not feel the need to grapple with some of the metaphysical issues you've raised. I certainly am not aware Wilber has ever attempted to theorize how anything comes into being-only how people come into greater awareness of Being themselves. As re to one of your other posted replies, curious as to how you see his model re to holons as relating to some of the issues you raised here recently. Take care, Earl

hey, if you want to know where Ken Wilber's at most recently, here you go:

 

http://www.wilber.shambhala.com/html/misc/wheres-wilber.pdf

 

Take care, Earl

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Earl's link didn't work. I think I found the correct page. I'm gonna post the link. Cross your fingers. :P

 

Where's Wilber?

 

PS: Whoo hoo! It worked. The article is from January 2004.

Edited by AletheiaRivers

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The following is (I think) the foreward to the book "The Common Heart", written by (the forward, not the book), Ken Wilber. Wilber's words are quite eloquent.

 

The Common Heart: An Experience of Inter-Religious Dialogue

Edited by Netanel Miles-Yepez

 

Foreword

By Ken Wilber

 

"In 1984, Father Thomas Keating invited a broad range of spiritual teachers from virtually all of the world's great wisdom traditions—Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Indigenous, Islamic—to gather together at St. Benedict's Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado. They kept no records, published no reports, filmed none of the proceedings. In fact, the results of that extraordinary gathering have been largely secret, until now.

 

The Common Heart is the first report of that meeting and several subsequent ones with the same group. It is in almost every respect a rather amazing document. First, and especially, in that it could and did happen; second, and as much, in the results, both startling and reassuring simultaneously.

 

A student once asked me, "Why study the tangled web of the world's traditional religions?" The implication was that the lot of them were old, outdated, and more or less worthless; and further, they all disagreed with each other anyway, so why bother?

 

I replied that yes, they were "old," and yes, they mostly disagreed with each other. "But every now and then, you find profound points of agreement between all of them. And anytime you find something that all of the world's religions agree on, you might want to pay very, very close attention, yes?"

 

This document is an example of some of those agreements and therefore, I believe, something we might want to pay very, very close attention to.

 

I realize that academic attempts to show certain common threads to the world's great religions—from Aldous Huxley's Perennial Philosophy to Huston Smith's Forgotten Truth—have all been attacked by postmodernists as being essentially meaningless, because even though writers such as Huxley and Smith purported to show cross-religion similarities, those similarities aren't real because cultural relativism asserts they cannot be real. Actual cultures and traditions, the charge goes, are all islands unto themselves, with massive incommensurability blocking passage or even communication between them. There can be no universal spirit because nothing universal can be known, or, therefore, said to exist in any meaningful sense. So there can be no agreement between, say, Taoist texts and Christian texts about ultimate reality.

 

But Father Thomas did not assemble texts in a room, he assembled humans in a room, who, quite apart from any help from the postmodern poststructuralists, were able to decide whether their respective spiritual traditions agreed on certain points. And, in fact, these human beings from very different backgrounds and traditions—cultural, linguistic, social, individual—did arrive at several profound points of agreement about what, by any other name, is Ultimate Reality. The wonderful, intense, difficult, playful, and respectful inter-religious dialogues that arrived at these conclusions—of both important similarities and wonderful differences—are the core of this extraordinary book.

 

And so it turns out that, even across different cultures and religions, meaningful human communication and agreement can and does occur, especially when the heart is silent and listens with respect. (And I have noticed, anyway, that postmodernists from different cultures seem to understand each other just fine, a bit of an embarrassment for the whole theory, what?)

 

As for these points of agreement, what are we to make of them? The first one is: "The world's religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality, to which they give various names." I ask because in today's world, there looms a very difficult issue that simply must be addressed: why is it that, at first glance, the world's religions—or the ones the public hears about on the news—seem to be the major source of human conflict, when, on the other hand, dialogues like these show that spirituality could be the primary source of peace among humankind? The disparity between the former and the latter is so large, so jarring, so hard to reconcile, and is made all the worse when beheadings in the name of God occur weekly, bombings in the name of God occur daily, and no world religion has a history totally free of such. I believe that unless we can find a way to understand and differentiate those two extremes of religion, both will be deeply suspect in today's world.

 

Let me suggest one way to think about this, and let me give a frightfully abbreviated version (please see The Eye of Spirit for a more detailed look). Studies in developmental psychology over the last few decades show that individuals tend to undergo an unmistakable trajectory of human growth and development, from pre-conventional stages to conventional stages to post-conventional, or from pre-rational to rational to trans-rational, or from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric. Without pigeonholing anybody or any tradition—because people and traditions can span the entire spectrum—there is a world of difference between those who are acting in egocentric, preconventional, and pre-rational ways, and those acting in postconventional, worldcentric, and trans-rational ways. The latter, having developed and befriended rationality, now transcend and include it; whereas the former are not acting beyond reason, but beneath it.

 

It is the bane of contemplative dialogues such as these that in the common mind, preconventional and postconventional are lumped together, and pre-rational and trans-rational are unceremoniously equated, when they are quite literally poles apart. But for today's conventional, rationally-minded individual, the world's great contemplative and trans-rational mystics and realizers are indistinguishable from irrational fanatics or those seized with infantile oceanic fantasies.

 

This is not only sad, it is a cultural catastrophe of the first magnitude. And yet, until religion itself learns convincingly how to convey these differences and increasingly focus on the best in its postconventional, transpersonal, and contemplative dimensions, religion for the world at large will likely remain either the province of prerational fanatics or rational cynics. Trans-rational dialogues such as these—which embrace rationality fully and then go beyond it into the mystery of the divine and the obviousness of the ultimate—will never gain the deep appreciation and even reverence they deserve.

 

The points of agreement in the following dialogues do indeed spring from that deep space of trans-rational openness and contemplative transparency, where the human heart stands naked to the divine, discovering at the end of that journey into the present a dividing line between them almost impossible to find, a gateless gate to that I AMness that only alone is.

 

And what are the rest of these extraordinary points of agreement? These things about which the world's religions can concur? Please start reading and sharing in these dialogues from the Unborn and Undying, and know that you are indeed on a journey into your very own heart, a common ground that is timeless and therefore eternally present, spaceless and therefore infinitely open, an Ultimate Reality that is reading this page, holding this book in its hands, and looking out through your very own eyes in this very present moment, for where else possibly could the journey begin and end?"

 

Ken Wilber

Denver, Colorado

Winter 2005

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Thanks Earl and Alethia.

 

Here's some of the references Wilber makes to Whitehead:

 

Wilber and Whitehead

 

For example, Whitehead gave the classic explanation of how the interiors of individual holons are passed on as future inheritance: namely, prehension (or prehensive unification). Each actual occasion--or each present moment--as it comes to be, does two things at once: it prehends (or experientially feels) its immediate predecessor (i.e., the present moment touches, prehends, or feels the immediately preceding moment), so that the subject of this moment becomes the object of the subject of the next moment. This means that the present moment is, in part, determined by the nature of its predecessors: it is handed an inherited past as part of its feeling in this moment, a feeling that is therefore a prehensive unification of all ancestral feelings, and this inheritance is the basis of a type of causality exerted by the past on the present (i.e., a causal inheritance of past objects that were once present subjects, or a feeling of feelings). But two, according to Whitehead, the present moment then adds its own moment of creative novelty or emergence--it feels something entirely new--and thus it also transcends the past to some degree. Thus, each moment transcends and includes its predecessors, inheriting a history of feelings (or objects that were once subjects) but also adding a creative novelty found nowhere in the past--but a creative novelty that then itself becomes part of the inherited feelings handed to the future, which will then likewise transcend and include that inheritance.

 

With a few qualifications, I strongly agree with that general Whiteheadian view of the nature of moment-to-moment existence. Whitehead actually discovered the inescapable reason that the Kosmos is holarchical in its very nature: each moment transcends and includes its predecessors, the very definition of holarchy.

 

But we add a crucial item: this is a four-quadrant affair, all the way down--a view we also call quadratic. That is, each holon or actual occasion has subjective (I), intersubjective (we), objective (it), and interobjective dimensions (its)--the four quadrants. Whitehead brilliantly described moment-to-moment manifestation in the subjective and (to some degree) intersubjective dimensions. But we will be adding non-prehensive inheritance in the objective and interobjective dimensions, as well as fleshing out the intersubjective realms in a way that is clearly not found in Whitehead. David Ray Griffin, Whitehead's ablest interpreter, suggested that Whitehead's approach be called partial dialogical and the quadratic approach be called complete dialogical, which seems fair enough [see "Do Critics Misrepresent My Position? Appendix A--My Criticism of Whitehead as True but Partial: The Move from an Incomplete Dialogical View to an Integral/Quadratic Formulation," posted on this site].

 

Nonetheless, the important point is that Whitehead was the first to spot the general features of the microgenetic holarchical nature of moment-to-moment existence, so we are more than glad to be Whiteheadians in this general area.

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Thanks Earl and Alethia. 

 

Here's some of the references Wilber makes to Whitehead:

 

Wilber and Whitehead

 

  For example, Whitehead gave the classic explanation of how the interiors of individual holons are passed on as future inheritance: namely, prehension (or prehensive unification). Each actual occasion--or each present moment--as it comes to be, does two things at once: it prehends (or experientially feels) its immediate predecessor (i.e., the present moment touches, prehends, or feels the immediately preceding moment), so that the subject of this moment becomes the object of the subject of the next moment. This means that the present moment is, in part, determined by the nature of its predecessors: it is handed an inherited past as part of its feeling in this moment, a feeling that is therefore a prehensive unification of all ancestral feelings, and this inheritance is the basis of a type of causality exerted by the past on the present (i.e., a causal inheritance of past objects that were once present subjects, or a feeling of feelings). But two, according to Whitehead, the present moment then adds its own moment of creative novelty or emergence--it feels something entirely new--and thus it also transcends the past to some degree. Thus, each moment transcends and includes its predecessors, inheriting a history of feelings (or objects that were once subjects) but also adding a creative novelty found nowhere in the past--but a creative novelty that then itself becomes part of the inherited feelings handed to the future, which will then likewise transcend and include that inheritance.

 

    With a few qualifications, I strongly agree with that general Whiteheadian view of the nature of moment-to-moment existence. Whitehead actually discovered the inescapable reason that the Kosmos is holarchical in its very nature: each moment transcends and includes its predecessors, the very definition of holarchy.

 

    But we add a crucial item: this is a four-quadrant affair, all the way down--a view we also call quadratic. That is, each holon or actual occasion has subjective (I), intersubjective (we), objective (it), and interobjective dimensions (its)--the four quadrants. Whitehead brilliantly described moment-to-moment manifestation in the subjective and (to some degree) intersubjective dimensions. But we will be adding non-prehensive inheritance in the objective and interobjective dimensions, as well as fleshing out the intersubjective realms in a way that is clearly not found in Whitehead. David Ray Griffin, Whitehead's ablest interpreter, suggested that Whitehead's approach be called partial dialogical and the quadratic approach be called complete dialogical, which seems fair enough [see "Do Critics Misrepresent My Position? Appendix A--My Criticism of Whitehead as True but Partial: The Move from an Incomplete Dialogical View to an Integral/Quadratic Formulation," posted on this site].

 

    Nonetheless, the important point is that Whitehead was the first to spot the general features of the microgenetic holarchical nature of moment-to-moment existence, so we are more than glad to be Whiteheadians in this general area.

Wilber's model is probably the best metatheory of transperonal development we're likely to have for some time, but Panta, unless I've misconstrued your earlier concerns since it was a few posts ago, thought 1 of your biggest concerns was related to how do things come into being? As intellectually satisfying & stimulating as his theory is, Wilber still cannot answer that question, nor do I expect him to-1 of those Big Mystery issues I mentioned. We know when you put together a ###### & an egg you (might) get life-but does that really tell you anything useful beyond the materialistic realm? What is the "breath of God" in each "bit of sod" we call life? I suspect even as re to consciousness, you wouldn't reduce it down to the material of synapses firing away only. What is the essence of Life? What is the essence of "me?" etc. These are some ultimate existential koans that can be fruitfully mulled over in a contemplative way but for which the intellect is poorly equipped to deal with all by its own-thus the eye of flesh must work with the eye of the heart & the eye of the Spirit. To give 1 mundane metaphorical example: 1 can verbally describe an orange, draw an orange, but 1 cannot know "orangeness" without tasting the orange-we engage with it with parts of our being beyond the intellectual. Transpersonal theorists would all basically be in agreement that whatever constitutes the Spirit will only be truly understood/revealed by "tasting" it; by engaging with it with faculties other than/in addition to the intellect. And even with that, I'm sure "God" will allow some answers to go unanswered just to continue to give us something to ponder. Have a good one, Earl

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I understand the frustration you've been experiencing, and I appreciate your sharing it with us in all its "rawness." Now that being said, I'm getting the sense from reading your recent posts, that anything you can't logically comprehend, or that seems to imply a logical paradox in your mind, is patently out, magic, opiate of the masses, hysteria, ######, call it what you will. I don't know, and I certainly appreciate the role of science, philosophy, and logic, as far as weeding out childish dimensions of faith and belief; but I can't seriously believe that an information processing machine small enough to fit inside my skull is capable of comprehending the full spectrum of even the physical dimensions of our existence, much less the mental and spiritual ones. To take the example you keep harping on: I understand that a universe coming into existence out of nothing doesn't seem to make any logical sense; but honestly, neither does a universe that has existed for an infinite amount of time (what does that even mean?).

 

Either way, the "given" existence of the universe has a kind of mysterious quality to it. Why does it exist? -- that is to say, even if you can explain the physical causality of its origin, where does it originate ontologically? That's an even bigger mystery. I banged my head against this stuff, logically, scientifically, philosophically, for a decade, and the only conclusion I can accept is that the universe somehow originates in/from God, derives its being, purpose, and meaning from God, and restlessly seeks its ultimate end in God. I don't know what that implies logically/scientifically (if anything); in fact, I'm inclined to agree with the Eastern and Western mystical idea that all concepts about God are ultimately paradoxical.

 

If I can throw a Ken Wilber notion at you, you may want to consider the possibility that you're committing the pre/post fallacy of confusing magic (pre-rational) with paradox (post-rational), because both are non-rational. If you haven't seen that idea before, it's well worth acquainting yourself with. I credit Wilber perhaps more than anyone else for getting me through this impasse. It sounds like you're very much where I was not long ago, and I hope you won't take that as a condescending statement.

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I am curious though, was Harteshorne included in your philosophical education?

Whitehead, but not Harteshorne. I still need to give Whitehead some more sustained attention, lest I put my foot in my mouth one of these days. :)

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you may want to consider the possibility that you're committing the pre/post fallacy of confusing magic (pre-rational) with paradox (post-rational), because both are non-rational. If you haven't seen that idea before, it's well worth acquainting yourself with. I credit Wilber perhaps more than anyone else for getting me through this impasse. It sounds like you're very much where I was not long ago, and I hope you won't take that as a condescending statement.

 

Thanks, Fred. This is along the lines of what I might have said, had I the presence of mind or the mental energy left to say it.

 

To assume that we should be capable of comprehending all things with the standard issue equipment seems a bit irrational to me, actually.

 

We can consider other species-- let's say an animal which has no color vision. Even if that animal had language and the intellectual capacity to understand equal to our own, I don't think there would be a way to accurately describe "red" to that animal. How could that animal possibly "get it" about "red"when the equipment he's been given isn't capable of processing information about color?

 

From there it's not too far to the realization that there isn't truly a way to describe "red" to anyone. "Red" can only be pointed to. We can explain, in minute detail, how red occurs in scientific terms, how it differs from blue or yellow, but we cannot impart the experience of beholding red to anyone unless they look at red themselves with their own eyes.

 

For the record I'd like to state here that, though I don't have much of a scientific or philosophical education, I have enormous respect for both of these disciplines. I was born into a family that placed great value on academic achievement and my early education was very rationalist. My feeling is that there are no truths that would be unexplainable if we had the capacity to explain them. However, I've come to believe that not everything can be adequately imparted to another, much less measured.

 

***eastern terminology alert***

 

I've been criticized for using the term "perfect emptiness" here, which unfortunately comes from the language I speak best when it comes to matters spiritual. I am relatively new to Christianity, and I'm not very familiar with the common theological language being spoken here, so I sometimes bring to the table concepts that speak familiarly to me but will be unfamiliar to others.

 

Form and emptiness are terms used in zen quite commonly. Emptiness is, as I understand it, the absence of fixed form. It can be seen as a vessel within which the tapestry of life and the flux of the universe unfolds in each moment. Every moment is empty, all phenomena are empty, they have no abiding self-existance.

 

A great deal of hooplah can be made over this concept of no-self (and often is), but all this really means is that nothing is fixed, everything changes, all the time. The "you" that existed at age five is not the same "you" that is reading these words in this moment.

 

Emptiness is essential, for without emptiness there would be no room for change to occur. Things would remain fixed. Within the state of emptiness, change occurs. To put it another way, emptiness is simply the continuum of unrealized potential in each moment.

 

So, when I speak of perfect emptiness, I speak of a state where nothing is defined, yet potential is everywhere.

 

I don't know or profess to know if this sort of "pregnant possibility" would be capable of remaining suspended in a sort of inert, unmoving state. But it is such a state that I envision as possible at the beginning of time.

 

It's perhaps just as likely that such a state is not capable of remaining suspended. I couldn't begin to know.

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Fred wrote: If I can throw a Ken Wilber notion at you, you may want to consider the possibility that you're committing the pre/post fallacy of confusing magic (pre-rational) with paradox (post-rational), because both are non-rational. If you haven't seen that idea before, it's well worth acquainting yourself with.

This sounded so familiar. Hmmm, I wondered why? Oh yeah, I just read Wilber say something similar in the book foreward I posted to this thread last night. :P

Studies in developmental psychology over the last few decades show that individuals tend to undergo an unmistakable trajectory of human growth and development, from pre-conventional stages to conventional stages to post-conventional, or from pre-rational to rational to trans-rational, or from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric. Without pigeonholing anybody or any tradition—because people and traditions can span the entire spectrum—there is a world of difference between those who are acting in egocentric, preconventional, and pre-rational ways, and those acting in postconventional, worldcentric, and trans-rational ways. The latter, having developed and befriended rationality, now transcend and include it; whereas the former are not acting beyond reason, but beneath it.

 

It is the bane of contemplative dialogues such as these that in the common mind, preconventional and postconventional are lumped together, and pre-rational and trans-rational are unceremoniously equated, when they are quite literally poles apart. But for today's conventional, rationally-minded individual, the world's great contemplative and trans-rational mystics and realizers are indistinguishable from irrational fanatics or those seized with infantile oceanic fantasies.

 

This is not only sad, it is a cultural catastrophe of the first magnitude. And yet, until religion itself learns convincingly how to convey these differences and increasingly focus on the best in its postconventional, transpersonal, and contemplative dimensions, religion for the world at large will likely remain either the province of prerational fanatics or rational cynics. Trans-rational dialogues such as these—which embrace rationality fully and then go beyond it into the mystery of the divine and the obviousness of the ultimate—will never gain the deep appreciation and even reverence they deserve.

 

Fred, would "Eye of the Spirit" be the book to read to understand the pre-rational, rational and trans-rational ideas?

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Fred, would "Eye of the Spirit" be the book to read to understand the pre-rational, rational and trans-rational ideas?

It's Eye To Eye. That's where the initial essay appears. But it's all over his stuff now. There's a good dose in A Sociable God as well.

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Ya know, with all my frustration and "rawness" not one person here was condemning, condescending, offensive, or uncool. Is anyone else as amazed at that as I am? :)

 

So, I may be committing the pre/trans fallacy OR it may be that process philosophy is more integral than the Perennial Philosophy or pantheism, or gnosticism. If so, what I am rejecting is the partialness of those views and what we are experiencing is the Battle of the Worldviews.

 

When I was just in the process of replying to AlethiaRiver in the other panentheism topic it dawned on me that Process Philosophy is a SYSTEM of thought; ideas are connected and interdependent. The way we've been going about looking at panentheism is definitely not systematic and therefore we mostly cause confusion and chaos when we try to contribute - because very little is understood in context. And as Wilber points out, all meaning is contextual.

 

What I'd like to do, is to begin presenting Process philosophy in a more systematic way. I may not be the best person to do this (because at times I am scatter-brained) but I may be the one most familiar with it. I would also love to see where the intersections are between Wilber, Gnosticism, Pantheism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Process Thought.

 

Ultimately, what I am MOST interested in, is Wilber's concept of Spirit (which, frankly I don't understand) and Whitehead's idea of two Ultimates - Creativity and God.

 

But, to do this it will probably be best to begin another specific topic. If there is no interest in this, I'm not going to do it.

 

Gee, I've never started a Topic before. :blink:

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Earl,

 

Wilber's model is probably the best metatheory of transperonal development we're likely to have for some time, but Panta, unless I've misconstrued your earlier concerns since it was a few posts ago, thought 1 of your biggest concerns was related to how do things come into being? As intellectually satisfying & stimulating as his theory is, Wilber still cannot answer that question, nor do I expect him to-1 of those Big Mystery issues I mentioned.

 

I believe if you look closely what Wilber had to say about Whitehead's theory you will see the beginning of the answer to how things come in to being. In fact, that's what Whitehead's system is all about. His book sitting in front of me now is titled, Process and Reality, but it could have been titled equally as well, The Process OF Reality

 

To give 1 mundane metaphorical example: 1 can verbally describe an orange, draw an orange, but 1 cannot know "orangeness" without tasting the orange-we engage with it with parts of our being beyond the intellectual. Transpersonal theorists would all basically be in agreement that whatever constitutes the Spirit will only be truly understood/revealed by "tasting" it; by engaging with it with faculties other than/in addition to the intellect.

 

I agree wholeheartedly with this and so did Whitehead. We had discussed whether God was ineffable - well (and this is something Wilber draws attention to also), all of our experiences are ineffable - including tasting an orange - UNLESS tasting of an orange has been experienced by others. At that point we can begin to practice a community hermeneutic.

 

Whitehead was of the opinion that all experiences are of the same reality. Harteshorne said,

 

"God is the wholeness of the world, correlative to the wholeness of every sound individual dealing with the world.... Any sentient individual in any world experiences and acts as one: the question is if its total environment is not therewith experienced as, in some profoundly analogous sense, one. An individual (other than God) is only a fragment of reality, not the whole; but is all individuality (in other than the trivial sense in which a junk pile, say, is an 'individual' junk pile) similarly fragmentary? Or is the cosmic or all-inclusive whole also an integrated individual, the sole non-framentary individual?"

 

If this has any correspondence to reality, we can say that when we taste the orange, we experience God. If two of us taste the orange, we can share our experience of God and form concepts about our experience which we might label as "orangeness". That is all philosophy and theology are about, in my opinion.

 

And even with that, I'm sure "God" will allow some answers to go unanswered just to continue to give us something to ponder. Have a good one, Earl

 

I don't think it is a matter of what "God" allows or doesn't allow. There will always be unanswered questions because new "facts" are always being added and therefore new Wholes are always being created.

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Lolly,

 

Thanks muchly for explaining "emptiness". It helped me a lot, although once you explained it, I remembered understanding the concept. Process would use the term, 'the Primordial Nature of God' and mean essentially the same thing.

 

It's hard to communicate when we don't use the same language, isn't it? If we dialog long enough though, eventually we might become multi-lingual?

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Snipped Panta Fragments  :P I agree wholeheartedly with this and so did Whitehead. We had discussed whether God was ineffable - well (and this is something Wilber draws attention to also), all of our experiences are ineffable - including tasting an orange - UNLESS tasting of an orange has been experienced by others. At that point we can begin to practice a community hermeneutic.

 

If this has any correspondence to reality, we can say that when we taste the orange, we experience God. If two of us taste the orange, we can share our experience of God and form concepts about our experience which we might label as "orangeness". That is all philosophy and theology are about, in my opinion.

 

It's hard to communicate when we don't use the same language, isn't it? If we dialog long enough though, eventually we might become multi-lingual?

 

Oooh oooh. This is what I was thinking the other day when it seemed the conversation was going to hell in a handbasket. I was thinking: If philosophy tells us one thing and mystical "tasting" tell us something else, then is there any way to combine the ideas into a new synthesis? They may seem at first glance to be irrational, but are they? Can the paradox be worked out? Is it not irrational, but trans-rational?

 

That was what I was trying to get at when I said: In the beginning God didn't change and then created and did change, yada yada yada. It's also what I was trying to say when I said I finally GOT the idea of something from nothing.

 

The problem is LANGUAGE and trying to express an experience of God in words. Like Lolly said about the color RED - If you try to tell someone who HASN'T seen red what red is, you WILL FAIL. But like you said - If it is a shared experience, dialog can develop.

 

Your comment about "when we taste the orange, we experience God" is EXACTLY what I mean when I say I'm a "Nature Mystic". However, Ken Wilber defines nature mysticism a different way. Again, language gets in the way.

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Lolly,

 

Thanks muchly for explaining "emptiness".  It helped me a lot, although once you explained it, I remembered understanding the concept.  Process would use the term, 'the Primordial Nature of God' and mean essentially the same thing.

 

It's hard to communicate when we don't use the same language, isn't it?  If we dialog long enough though, eventually we might become multi-lingual?

 

 

You're welcome, PR. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful yesterday; was having one of my woefully inarticulate days. I get those... some days are better than others, and on some days I am utterly incabable of stringing words together to form complete sentences.

 

Yes, it's very hard to communicate (even on my good days :D). Sometimes I am convinced that people argue rings around one another when they often mean the same things, because they just don't understand the terminology or aren't familiar with the systems of thought being used by each other. It's difficult for me sometimes on this site because of my abysmal lack of familiarity with Christian ideas and standard theology, but this is a high quality bunch, and I'm learning. Multi-lingual sounds good to me :)

 

I did have a bit of a chuckle once yesterday when I thought about this conversation. Here I am, the zen buddhist/episcopalian, arguing FOR the possible existence of a creator-god/first cause-- on a Christian website. It seems a bit over-the-top, even for me :D

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I didn't think I was asking the same questions as you did, Aletheia, in the other panentheism thread. I was questioning the use of the term "nonprocess panentheism" more than it's definition, thinking that if there was such a thing as nonprocess panentheism it probably was not called that. Because Borg had said: "process panentheism, a primoridal panentheism, Tillichian panentheism, etc." That metalibrary link referring to "nonprocess" panentheism must have been the rare exception.

 

But then Panta said: "Process New Thought, Process Buddhism, Process Mysticism, Process Panentheism" in the other panentheism thread, so maybe I *am* trying to figure out what makes those all "process" too as opposed to just plain New Thought, Buddhism etc.

 

Fred mentioned Wilber's magic (pre-rational) versus paradox (post-rational).

Earl (other panentheism thread) and Aletheia mentioned transrational.

 

I was thinking that this is similar to Borg's pre-critical naivete, critical, post-critical naivete stages. Also James Fowler's stages of faith.

 

Panta (christology thread) thought "ineffable" was a cop-out. I remembered Hicks didn't like that word either. He preferred "transcategorical" defined as "beyond the range of our human systems of concepts or mental categories."

 

Process Theology: A Basic Introduction, by C. Robert Mesle, John B., Jr. Cobb is supposed to be a lay person's intro to PT. Is anybody familiar with that book and would they recommend it?

 

Aletheia was talking about the definition of "transcendent" in the other panentheism thread. Since I know you have the book, Borg touched on that in God We Never Knew:

Beginning in the 17th C....The meaning of "transcendence" changed from referring to the "moreness" and mystery of God and the inadequacy of all human categories as applied to God, to referring to God as spatially distant from the world.  An understanding of transcendence developed that made transcendence and immanence mutually exclusive opposites. (pg 27)

 

Affirming both the immanence and transcendence of God affects the meaning of transcendence.  It becomes something other than the spatial imaginings of my youth, when I thought it meant that God was elsewhere, out there and not here.  Rather, the transcendence of God refers to the mystery and ineffability of the sacred, to God as surpassingly more and surpassingly other than the world of our ordinary experience, even as God is also immanent and sometimes experienced.  God is the "beyond in our midst." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer  (pg 46-47)

Aletheia mentioned the difficulty in trying to describe experiences of God. William James did exactly that in his classic "Varieties of Religious Experience" which is out of copyright so the full book is available online.

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WindDancer,

 

Process Theology: A Basic Introduction, by C. Robert Mesle, John B., Jr. Cobb is supposed to be a lay person's intro to PT. Is anybody familiar with that book and would they recommend it?

 

Yes, I've got the book and have used it in a discussion group to help others understand Process. Most of the participants felt that it was very valuable.

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