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21st Century Spirit-uality — an Integral Post Modern View
by Ronald Bell — CEO, Collaborative for Positive Integral Change
It is my assumption/belief that the word-symbol “spirit” is intrinsically resistant to precise measurement, quantification and definition. Such words as spirit and soul are powerful and useful symbols, precisely in part, because they refer to and make possible our communication and reflection about individual-social reality and how it fits into a larger context or ultimate “big picture” of meaning and existence. John R. Searle (in The Social Construction of Reality) refers to our amazing (though often taken for granted) powerful human ability to symbolize:
“With consciousness comes intentionality, the capacity of the organism to represent objects and states of affairs in the world (other than itself) to itself.”
We have the capacity for being conscious of being conscious! Yet no matter how exquisite or elegant or evolved our state or stage of consciousness, such is limited by perspective and is partial at best.Word-symbols such as “spirit” and “soul” simultaneously reveal and conceal , enjoining meaning and mystery.
Meanings which I attribute to “spirituality” are continually evolving. Contextual to mypresent conceptual meta-framework of understanding “spirituality” is my alignment with the theories and writings of Ken Wilber (Integral Spirituality, etc.) and Marc Gafni (Unique Self) – which areintegral, comprehensive, and integrative of Eastern & Western approaches, ancient wisdom & contemporary science, traditional & postmodern metaphysical perspectives, and based on evolutionary consciousness and developmental conceptual maps (Clare Graves/Don Beck). What one “sees” depends on where one stands — I presently stand in these mapped perspectives andsee through these wide-angled, multifaceted, integral lens.
I embrace a post-postmodern perspective which realizes all perception has perspective.
Even perspective itself, can be seen or understood from multiple perspectives. (Perspective can imply methodology, ontology or epistemology, etc.)
Ontology and epistemology are of necessity enjoined — direct objective experience of “reality” is impossible. Nothing enters consciousness whole. Science can help us explain and make sense of the going-on-ness we call “reality”, but it’s picture is mythological and metaphorical — as is all knowledge. All our observations and perceptions are subjective by nature, so our pictures may be helpful or more or less accurate, but not necessarily true. They are also partial at best.
Marc Gafni says : “Unique Self enlightenment is a genuine possibility and therefore a responsibility for every human being. For there is no separation in essence. Every unique expression of essence is part of the seamless coat of the uni-verse. Seamless, but not featureless. … For to love God is to let God see through your eyes. Through the unique perspective of essence which is You. And remember, the god you don’t believe in doesn’t exist. God is the eros of evolution — the love intelligence and love beauty — that animates and drives all of existence to higher and higher levels of complexity, consciousness and love.” (page 23 Unique Self)
Gafni continues: “And, the Unique Self teachings confirm that enlightenment is not a loss of individuality. It is the reclaiming of your infinite individuality as the unique expression of Essence that lives in you. To be enlightened means to realize your True Nature as an utterly unique perspective and manifestation of consciousness. It is to live at the energized edge of your evolutionary creativity and your capacity for becoming that is both indivisibly part of the greater One, and, at the same time, ecstatically You. This is sanity. This is what it means to live in a larger context as an evolutionary lover. This is enlightenment. This is your true identity. Enlightenment and sanity are one.” (page 27)
Within our 21st century post modern world, present and future, are minimally three challenges:
(1) BEing in trans-rational, post-metaphysical spiritual state of consciousness.
After experiential realization (waking up spirit-ually) to at-one-ment with uni-versal unlimited omnidirectional essence of Love, and (waking downsoul-fully) to personal, part-icular, embodied Unique True Self, we relax all beliefs as required ground for spiritual communion and devotion. Such involves saying “yes” to life with the deep radical insight that our lives “end”, relaxing into aGround beyond paradox and contradiction, beyond striving and letting go, beyond life and death. (See Wilber,Integral Life Practice, pp. 291 & 372)
(2) DOing en-joyable personalized spiritual integral life practice, customized for uniqueness, which engages body, mind, spirit and shadow.
Wilber says: “ILP is post-metaphysical. … no perspective on reality is merelygiven to consciousness. Every perspective is enacted. … you have todo something to see something.” (ILP, p. 23) Doing practices involves paradox of journeying being already arrived.
(3) Discovering and contributing one’s unique gifts needed in our evolving world.
Spirituality involves purpose and contribution to community and Kosmos. One 21st century challenge lies in cultural lags and conflicts among groups and nations at differing levels and stages of key lines of development (religious, political, socio-economic, cultural, etc.). Paradoxically, evolution seems slow, yet when thresholds are reached, evolution leaps and shift happens.
In fulfilling one’s life purpose, service becomes self-fulfillment. Frederick Buechner says one discovers a place“where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet”.
You are a “critical mass” in shift happening!
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