"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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra: How I lived out this Star Trek episode

Recently I saw again one of the most famous episodes of Star Trek Next Generation, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra." I sat riveted, seeing with new eyes how this story reflects my adventure with Bishop Thomas and the biblical literalists at Highview.

In the show, Captain Picard confronts an alien race that communicates only via metaphor from its ancient myths--just as my new friends at Highview attempt to solve all problems with stories from the Bible. Struggling to communicate, the alien captain beams himself and Picard to a planet where a beast is loose, and he repeatedly says to Picard, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!" Picard is confused and shivering in the cold until the alien captain offers him fire saying, "Temba, his arms wide!"

Suddenly Picard understands how metaphor is being used. "Temba, his arms wide" is a metaphor for giving and receiving. Then Picard recalls Gilgamesh, one of earth's most ancient legends, a story of how two enemies became friends through hardship. He realizes that "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" must be a similar story, and that the alien captain has risked his own life to open communication between
their peoples by fighting the beast together with Picard. Alas, the alien, Dathon, is mortally wounded by the beast. As Dathon dies, Picard shares with him the story of "Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk." Dathon dies knowing he has succeeded in opening communication with Picard. Picard returns to his ship with enough knowledge to halt the war that is brewing with Dathon's people.

And that is the story in my book, "The Bishop and the Seeker: Wrestling for the Soul of the 21st Century." As a postmodern Integralist and follower of New Thought, I am beamed into the office of a fundamentalist bishop for a year of dialogue where we discover our common enemy: the excesses of postmodernism and alternative religion in which there is no right and wrong. We tell each other stories and learn each others' language. The bishop's equivalent of "Temba, his arms wide" is to offer me the openness to be genuinely interested in learning about my world. In fact, he risks his reputation among some of his own hardliners by telling me he believes I am saved, even though I do not call myself Christian.

I return to my ship to bring the message. We can work with these people, they can be friends. Instead of focusing on our differences, look at the good work we can do by focusing on our common aims to bring truth, beauty, and goodness to the world.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bringing A Wilber Meetup Back from the Brink

Gail Taylor
How many Integral Coaches does it take to save a Meetup group about integrating all perspectives? Last night Integral Coach Gail Taylor facilitated a meeting I would have said had very little chance of success. Tensions had been mounting for years in the DC Ken Wilber Meetup, a group with a vision so broad that aspects of it are at odds with itself. In a group about "transcending and including" all values, a split had evolved roughly along lines of age, with the younger members more focused on transcending and the older on including. (This is an over simplification, because we're experiencing tension on the other AQAL poles of stability/change, interior/exterior, and autonomy/interdependence with everyone committed to all those values but showing preferences roughly matching age groups.) Most similar groups around the world have dissolved over the kind of tensions our group was suffering. Dissolution was imminent.

But within two hours, Gail's facilitation brought us back from the brink. Not to say our problems were solved, but I would say we established a minimum level of trust for moving forward for three more months at which time we'll reassess.

Holocracy to the Rescue

How did she do it? Much of her approach stemmed from her training in Brian Robertson's Holocracy.  She started by asking us what level of facilitation we wanted from her, and most of us said, "medium." She put on the wall a series of prepared "cheat sheets" for how we'd proceed, including speaking from our "core values" and taking a breath before responding to each other. As we surfaced our issues, she did two things extraordinarily well: she put on paper a one-sentence summary of  everyone's input on a given topic, and she acknowledged tensions as people spoke, coaching individuals to rephrase something as a request or to notice a contraction in what they'd requested. She did this with an open-hearted humility that felt contagious. I felt heard and looked out for--and this was particularly noteworthy because prior to the meeting Gail had been working with the "transcenders" and thus could have found it difficult to present herself as neutral.

How Many Integral Coaches?

Another factor in the evening's success was how well prepared we all seemed to be. Everyone worked hard to communicate constructively and be transparent. In the days preceding the meeting, several of us got coaching from some of the other top Integral and Holocracy coaches nationwide. In a flurry of two-hour phone calls, several of us spoke with each other interspersed with calls to Gail and Beena Sharma; Ron spoke briefly with Brian Robertson, and Ron invited us to track the process Deborah Boyar will be using in working with California's Bay Area Integral.

And the Result is..

Here is the initial vision statement Gail wove together for us in 14 minutes of our three hour meeting:
“We are a community of practice (and more) in service to the broader integral community, offering great events around Ken Wilber’s (and related) work. We value fostering learning, balance, and the integration of perspectives and visions (including allowing for different perspectives and visions).”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Integral Transformational Practice Groups: Support for Embodying Enlightenment

I'm excited about an integral, small group process developed by James Jones for embodying enlightenment or "Christ consciousness:" Transformational Practice Groups. These are similar to groups for Integral Life Practice, but organized around the six domains of spiritual practices identified by Roger Walsh in Essential Spirituality and sequenced in a way informed by Ken Wilber's Integral Theory.

I've been in a group for two cycles of six weeks and am fascinated by its potential. I'll write more about this later, but that's my group shown above. We are supporting each other in doing practices every day that remind us to embody all the lofty goals we talk about as the fruits of Enlightenment or Christ Consciousness.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Plato, Climate Change, and the Cathedral at Chartres

In a last minute stroke of genius, Ron persuaded Jim Turner of the Transpartisan Center to give opening remarks prior to last night's compelling manifesto on Plato, climate change, and the Cathedral at Chartres by Jim Garrison.
[note: this is my personal report of the March 1 meeting of the Ken Wilber Meetup of Washington DC.]

About 40 of us crowded congenially into the somewhat awkwardly long and narrow second floor of the old townhouse that is Bistro Tabac on U Street. (Those of us who stayed for dinner afterward ascended the castle stairs to gasp in delight at the romantic, glass-walled, rooftop with soft candlelight setting off a glittering view of the monuments.) Along with a dozen or more guests in town for Wisdom University (where meditation and art classes are required alongside academic analysis) we also had several newcomers to our Meetup who we are eager to see again.

Both speakers started by acknowledging their debts and close relationships with Ken Wilber: Jim T consulted with him recently and found him in good health; Jim G said history will compare him to Plato, after whom all philosophy since has been only footnotes.

Jim Turner's remarks practically had me leaping to my feet from my little red mushroom stool as he described politics as lurching from walking solely on one's left foot, becoming exhausted, and then walking solely on the right foot until exhausted again. He called for a recognition that each of us has politics as individual as our fingerprints, but under-girding our views are the same competing poles: particularly of freedom vs order. And we're not going to get anywhere until we can address the concerns of both poles in a way that frees them to recognize their own need for the opposite pole. This is very much a theme of my own work in dialoguing with fundamentalists and thus resonated strongly. Where do I sign up?!!

Jim Garrison, board member of Wisdom University and founder of the State of the World Forum, called us to wake up to the fact that 90% of humanity will be wiped out within 40 years if we don't act immediately to cut carbon emissions by 80%. When a questioner challenged the doability of that, Jim compared hesitation to hanging one's head in despair as a fire is breaking out in the kitchen. STOP EVERYTHING and fight it, he said. He also told us that corporations can reach the targets with cuts in their profits of only one third, and that he is finding foreign corporations more receptive than American, with Brazilian firms replanting the rain forest and Chinese firms leaping out front in developing green technology. He also did the anti-corporate greed thing, warning us that all information contrary to this dire view is paid for by corporate interests just as was the campaign that cigarette smoking is safe. He called for counterweighing the American tendency to colonial avarice with a re-integration of the divine feminine principles portrayed in the movie Avatar and in the "Taj Mahal of France," the Cathedral at Chartres with its origins in a vanished mystery school and its stained windows portraying the zodiac and universal oneness. (My family's native village of Belleme is an hour south of Chartres. Road trip anyone?)

At the end I felt an overwhelming desire to integrate the passions of our two speakers. As Ron asked at dinner afterward, how can Jim G's message be communicated with Jim T's insight about what is needed to reach people with a very different worldview? I was also confused by the followup remarks of Jim Garrison's colleague that sustainability will create prosperity. While that is clearly true in the long run, how does it square with Garrison's call for a one third cut in corporate profits? Doesn't that mean a one third cut in my retirement fund, setting my thermostat to 40 degrees, and walking the ten miles to work? I am willing to do that if that will save the earth. But I suspect (and here I am editorializing) that much of the resistance to believing in climate change is really fear that the cure is almost as bad as disease. How do we speak to that?

Big thanks to Ron for putting together this provocative and inspiring evening and to the Meetup core group whose teamwork made everything work smoothly.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Boomeritis" vs. "36 Arguments for the Existence of God"

I was only a chapter in to the smash new novel "36 Argurments for the Existence of God," when I realized how much it has in common with Ken Wilber's "Boomeritis"--and with my own true story.

I had dashed out before a looming blizzard to get "36 Arguments" as my snowed-in companion. From the dust jacket, it might be mistaken for a Dan Brown thriller:
"After Cass Seltzer's book becomes a surprise best seller, he's dubbed, "the atheist with a soul" and becomes a celebrity. He wins over the stunning Lucinda Mandelbaum, "the goddess of game theory," and loses himself in a spiritually expansive infatuation. A former girlfriend appears: an anthropologist who invites him to join in her quest for immortality through biochemistry. And he is haunted by reminders of the two people who ignited his passion to understand religion: his mentor and professor--a renowned literary scholar with a suspicious obsession with messianism--and an angelic six-year-old mathematical genius who is heir to the leadership of a Hasidic sect. Each encounter reinforces Cass's theory that the religious impulse spills over into life at large...."

As in "Boomeritis," some of the action in "36" takes place as our hero is listening to a lecture on "The Myth of Moral Reason" while flirting with a comely anthropologist and flashing back on transcendental experiences he had as a child. In both novels, these experiences are really, really well described, such that they may recreate such experiences for many readers. I sure floated out there.

But the first paragraphs of "36" told me that author Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is also fascinated by the same trend of retro religion that Wilber mines and that has ignited my life. She writes
"Something shifted, something so immense you could call it the world.

Call it the world.

The world shifted, catching lots of smart people off guard, churning up issues you had thought had settled forever beneath the earth's crust. The more sophisticated you are, the more annotated your mental life, the more taken aback you're likely to feel, seeing what the world's lurch has brought to light, thrusting up beliefs and desires you had assumed belonged to an earlier stage of human development.

What is this stuff, you ask one another, and how can it still be kicking around, given how much we already know? It looks like the kind of relics that archeologists dig up and dust off, speculating about the beliefs that once had animated them, to the best that they can be reconstructed, gone as they are now, those thrashings of proto-rationality and mythico-magical hypothesizing and nearly forgotten.

Now it's all gone unforgotten, and minds that have better things to think about have to divert precious neuronal resources to figuring out how to knock some sense back into the species. It's a tiresome proposition, having to take up the work of the Enlightenment all over again, but it's happened on your watch."
Ken Wilber's Integral Theory also concerns itself with how religion expresses through the levels of human development and is currently re-emerging in its magic/mythic forms. And from just the first chapter of "36 Arguments," I smell that Newberger Goldstein is pursuing a variation of Wilber's rallying cry: that postmodernism has thrown out the baby of Truth-Beauty-Goodness with the bathwater of mythic religion and thus set itself up for a rebound bigtime.

And that rebound is what I am still living through as told in my book, "The Bishop and the Seeker: Wrestling for the Soul of the 21st Century." Dan Brown's novels feed the desire to replace traditional religion with something more like the metaphysical New Thought movement I followed for 20 years. Whereas my experience of stumbling into an amazing fundamentalist church taught me to re-value and include the good parts of traditional religion while transcending the rest.

As I continue reading "36 Arguments" I expect to have a lot to say on the comparison between my experience and the novels of Wilber, Goldstein, and Dan Brown.