"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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thank God for Michael Dowd: Evidentiary Mystic

Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd
Beyond the "save the planet" message of evolutionary evangelist Michael Dowd, it is his way of being that may role model our best hope for the future. I had the privilege of spending time with Dowd and his wife, science writer Connie Barlow, at an event yesterday. The were in the DC area finishing up a six-month, cross-country march for climate change. Dowd spoke at one of my spiritual communities, Celebration Center for Spiritual Living, Falls Church. on "Coming Home to Reality: The Future is Calling Us to Greatness."

Dowd and Barlow demonstrate a belief-busting bundle of contradictions.

Is Dowd a hyperactive nine-year-old or a highly disciplined samurai for goodness?

Is Barlow a bookish intellectual or a warm passionate activist?

Is their marriage a mission trip or a love match?

The answers are Yes! Yes! and Yes! Polarities reconciled. "Both-And" held in precise, dynamic flow.  Is this what second tier looks like?

In fact, it's polarities as far as the eye can see with these two. "Thank God for Evolution" is the title of Dowd's best-known book. He and Barlow travel the country in a van adorned with an image of the Jesus and Darwin fishes kissing. She is a self-described atheist in alignment with the Unitarian churches where they most often speak, yet she arrived early to our New Thought service expecting mystical music that feeds her, (she got it).

I  am eager for answers in the forthcoming "Evidentiary Mystic," the lead article Dowd has contributed to the latest issue of ONEing,  the journal of Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation.

Action and contemplation.

That's it. These two people integrate being and doing in a big bang's worth of passionate energy that fills the space around them with a background radiation of love, purpose, and integrity.

Integral Name Dropping
After the event, my Integral Emergence Meetup buddies hosted Dowd and Barlow for a meal at a Vietnamese Buddhist restaurant, aptly named Present. ("Be careful not to over-emphasize the present," Dowd had said. "If you are in love with time, you will equally honor the past and the future.")

Dowd spoke fluently of knowing every big name in the human potential and Integral communities.

He used to teach the Spiral Dynamics developmental model. Now he argues with his good friend Jeff Salzman that human progress is not inevitable.  He feels himself a soul brother with Terry Patten, who also questions the inevitability of progress but passionately advocates holding nature as sacred. He argues with Ken Wilber that a Buddhist metaphysics penetrates Wilber's supposedly metaphysics-free Integral Theory. There is no evidence that consciousness precedes existence, Dowd says.

And yet, this man who says he has "no belief in anything supernatural," radiates the sacred.

Practice as the secret?
How does he do it? I may have found the answer when I rushed home to read chapter 11 in Dowd's book on practices for building evolutionary integrity. Dowd lives by his practices. In the set-up before the main event and in the lunch afterwards, I saw him practice at least three of the "practices" recommended in his chapter. Whether ordering a meal, managing a conversation,  expressing gratitude to a host, or sharing stories about the management of sex and addictions, the man walks his talk. And that, more than anything he said in his eloquent and passionate presentation, is what sent me away feeling hopeful and inspired.