"Transcend and include... this is the self-transcending drive of the Kosmos—to go beyond what went before and yet include what went before... to open into the very heart of Spirit-in-action." Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if a group of people somewhere were for something and against nothing?" Ernest Holmes

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Beliefs Don't Matter

Are you out of your mind, Teri? you just spent 20 years learning from New Thought that you can "Change your thinking, change your life." What do you mean beliefs don't matter?

It's not the content of the belief, its the response to the belief that matters. That's what I witnessed in my two years living among a group of high-end fundamentalists.

Let's say I believe the world will end through global warming. My neighbor believes the world will end when Jesus comes to slay non-believers and take believers to heaven. My response to my belief is to buy guns to fend off the hordes of beach dwellers I expect to swarm my upland property. My neighbor's response to her belief is to stock up canned goods and plan to share them with all comers in the last days.

Which one of us is more spiritually advanced?

Without getting into the distinctions between the ethical line, the spiritual line, and the congnitive line of development, I'll just say for myself, I'm glad she's my neighbor! (For fans of Ken Wilber, the four possible definitions of "spiritual" are on page 101 of "Integral Spirituality")

And yes, mythic beliefs are often correlated with ethnocentric behavior. But not always. And I believe that distinction is key to relieving some of our prejudices against each other and thus making room for new responses. It can often be easier to change a response than change a belief.

Change your response, change your life.


Teri Murphy said...

P.S.--Of course our responses are controlled other beliefs: "Will there be enough canned goods to share; if they run out will something replenish my supply?" But I wanted to keep it simple above that mythic beliefs don't necessarily correlate with actions to protect only my own group.

Karl Higley said...

Beliefs have practical consequences because we respond to them. Amen.

What's interesting to me is that we seem to have some choice in our beliefs -- at least as much as we seem to have in our responses to our beliefs. This element of choice incurs some measure of responsibility; to some extent, we are then responsible for our beliefs and their practical consequences by way of our responses to them.

So, for example, believing that integral includes everything and is universally applicable has some practical consequences along these lines. One common response to such a belief is to neglect other useful tools and theories that provide particulars to go with integral theory's abstractions.

I think Beena was warning us about that when she said that "integral is not enough." If you listen between the lines, this is also to say that it is worth using integral in conjunction with other ideas and methods such as it does not already contain.

Or, in KW's words, it is to say that integral theory is "true, but partial" and that there are some things which integral does not "transcend and include." But you knew that, and I digress.

In any case, wholly agreed that beliefs have consequences by way of our reactions to them. Indeed, in-deed. In deed. ;)