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Comment upgrades on Integral Spirituality 2010-Jul-04 at 15:00 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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My friend Lauren (yogapoetics on the right-hand side of your monitor) shared yesterday’s blog post on her Facebook feed, and I got the following comment over there from Daniel Schulman:

This is getting into very subtle territory, requiring nuanced examination. On the one hand, a facile ‘my guru is better than your guru’ scenario is of course, potentially suspect. It could just be nothing more than camouflaged tribal/team conditioning expressing itself. On the other hand, it is the very deep implicit nature of post-modernism (which we are all very very steeped in) to recoil from the challenge of vertical discernment. The flatland of non-judgmentalism and the avoidance of doing the hard work involved in teasing such things apart. So it may be a game for some and for others it may not be a game. Candid and thoughtful examination usually makes it pretty clear what motivations are involved in one’s position on such matters.

Ted had some similar distinctions in his comments on my blog yesterday, and I think they’re worth addressing.

Another point I want to make is we should be careful about becoming relativists in regards to teachers and paths. They are not all the same, and some may be pointing to something higher than others. Again, I have no problem with anyone choosing their ice cream flavor, but even at an integral level of consciousness there will distinctions that will need to be made from time to time in a developmental context. Again, I think people should choose what works for them as long as we don’t fall back on a postmodern aperspectival way of seeing these things. Many thanks Scott!

I started writing my own comment, but then it got long, so I figured I’d upgrade the comments into another post instead. :-)


I appreciate your responses, and the care with which you made them.  And I completely agree that we have to avoid a flatland, post-modern, non-hierarchical perspective on spiritual paths, or confusion will set in quickly.  What I’m suggesting is simply that I notice that, energetically, some people are attracted to certain types of spiritual teachings, and some are repelled by the very same ones.  It seems to me to make sense that one should use that facility — simply noticing whether something makes you feel more coherent, or less coherent — as a guide to deciding which spiritual paths to choose, even if those paths might be ranked by some as perhaps less effective or less authentic than some others.

Really, in terms of Integral theory, what I’m suggesting is that it’s interesting to look at this phenomena not just from a hierarchical, levels-of-development perspective (and it IS interesting AND useful to look at it from that point-of-view), but that it’s also possible to look at it from a typological point-of-view, with at least some validity.  This assumes that we’re staying in the general area of a second-tier spirituality, or one that includes the irreducible reality of a non-dual awareness, and so I’m trying to limit the scope of this idea so that levels don’t have to play out.  It would be interesting to attempt, at least, a typological study of who is attracted to which spiritual teaching, one that would look far beyond something like MBTI, and would reflect the intricacy of the Integral perspective.  I hope that I’m not holding a flatland perspective when imagining that.

Or I could be totally wrong.  But I’m going with it for now.

There will be those who find it important and interesting to dive into the Comparative Dharma/Techniques debate, and I’ll look in on them from time to time.  Ultimately, though, there’s another perspective that says: Just get everyone going on some sort of path.  And, this time, let’s not make it painful to get on that path.  Let’s allow people to be attracted to the teachings that they are attracted to, and let them nest there.

Both perspectives are valid.  Both contexts are important.  And I’m going to choose among those contexts… and simply ask people to go where they’re called to go, and to trust that.

I’ll take tens of millions of people doing that in the next twenty years, and others can have picking which path makes the best Satori Sauce.  I’ll take my side of that any day of the week, because I believe that mainstream forms of Integral Spirituality are the only thing that gets the Integral movement scaled up fast enough to make the impact on the world that we need to make.

And we already know that some of the forms that a mainstream Integral Spirituality will take will be scoffed at by some as not being rigorous or authentic enough, or not breaking down the ego structure thoroughly enough, or whatever.  That debate is inevitable in the Integral wave of development.  And I won’t let it stop me from supporting the greatest depth for the greatest span of people, rather than the greatest depth for a smaller span.


And – seriously – thank you to everyone holding up the other side of it, too.  So many will seek your guidance, and need your kind of careful sifting, during their own search for a path, as I did, and many souls will find their way through your efforts.

Blessings on all views of the truth.



1. Scott Arbeit - 2010-Jul-04 at 15:15 PDT

And, after I wrote this, Lauren again contributed a brilliant comment that I wish I could have written myself. It says, in part:

“Hi Daniel, thanks for your comments. Agreed that post-modernism is allergic to the making of vertical value judgments, and that the allergy is a problem. I would have to say that Scott does not have that problem. Ha! But that would not necessarily be apparent from this blog post, and I value what you’re saying. The point for me is that if one attends to their own coherence/radiance/balance, and is committed to and successful at organizing their actions around that priority, then discernment is accessible. And the more coherent a person gets, the more developed and nuanced their discernment will become — if by discernment we mean the capacity to recognize and take right action in any given moment.

I believe that it is true that there is value in analysis, in inquiring into what’s “off” in any given situation, in mapping out its nuances to understand the pathology — whether that is about determining the relative value of a teacher, a teaching, a practice community, a discipline, a political strategy, a philosophy… understanding, wisdom, and power can all be developed in the process, and that is a good thing. But what I notice is that most projects that organize themselves around naming and exposing what’s out of integrity, as well intentioned as they often are, are themselves fatally flawed. I say this as someone who has the tendency to get stuck in analysis; I am familiar with this from the inside as well as via my observations of others. A (body)mind that is continually engaged in ranking, analyzing, breaking it down is often a (body)mind out of balance, trapped in polarization, unable to access its own depths and deepest coherence.”

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