There has been an increasing interest in addressing the global crisis faced by humanity through new methods of knowing, understanding and finding common grounds. Spirituality has taken a beating in the modern and postmodern cultures, thanks to the emergence of nihilism, materialism, extreme relativism and aggressive fundamentalism. Wilber takes up the subject of Integral Spirituality in his book, Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World published in 2006. The book analyzes the current status of spirituality and the modernist/post-modernist take on the same. This article will explore in depth on the subject of Wilber’s Integral Spirituality, including the main concepts, the Wilber-Combs Lattice and the new set of eight primordial principles proposed by the book. Inspired from Frank Visser’s criticism on the book, the article will also highlight the pitfalls of the work, right from lack of integration of ideas to incoherent or inappropriate substantiation of arguments with research or real time examples.
Integral Spirituality: With every field being over taken and analyzed through the integral lens it is but appropriate to see spirituality in the integral light. Wilber’s earlier work, Integral Psychology (2000) met with lot of criticism owing to its slipshod presentation, failure to address areas of controversy and the recent advances made within psychology. But Integral Spirituality is different. It comes under the perennialist tradition and hence, much was expected from Wilber. The main argument of the book was expected to be â€“ can spirituality survive the modernist and postmodernist era? Or is it doomed because of its mythical literature and metaphysics? What needs to be done to develop an Integral Spirituality? What lies at the core of such spirituality and what will be the outcome of one?
Integral Spirituality, as you might have guessed, would put an end to religious fundamentalism and fragmentation in the name of God. As Thomas P Maxwell of the University of Vermont puts it, â€œAn integral spirituality will recognize the universal transcendent core of the world’s spiritual traditions while simultaneously embracing the multiplicity of religious practices and beliefs. It will provide an integrating framework, grounded in spiritual experience, which unites the disparate theological systems by representing each as a unique but partial view of the same infinite divine reality.â€ Though all of the above is true, the question is, what is the need of the hour to rescue spirituality from damnation? Wilber answers with a post-metaphysical religion.
Religion post-metaphysics: Spirituality has to come to terms with the demands of modernity and postmodernity to survive. But this can be done only if religion/spirituality pays a price â€“ metaphysics. Yes, Wilber argues that only a post-metaphysical religion can meet up to the terms of the current and future eras and only then can spirituality be â€œbrought up to date with the findings of modernity and postmodernityâ€.
In other words, this post-metaphysical approach is the â€œmore adequateâ€ treatment of spirituality/religion. But how do you know that post-metaphysics is the need of the moment? Wilber points fingers at culture studies. He opines that the greatest enemy of religion is not science (as both do not intersect often) but â€œculture studiesâ€, a field dominated by postmodernity for the past decades.Â And what does this culture studies bring to light? The stubborn belief of religion in the simple truths and â€œmyths of the givenâ€. To abolish the belief and cleanse religion off metaphysics, what is required is a re-interpretation of spirituality. Only a re-interpretation will do justice to the realms of spirituality itself, stating the possibility of co-existence of religion, culture studies and science.
To give a re-interpretation, one needs to look at what â€œcrimesâ€ spirituality/religion has committed so far, from the view point of culture studies. First and foremost crime would be the question of rationality. Religion has been taught to children by parents and generations of believers have grown up believing in one religious denomination or the other. And everything in religion is taken up as â€œabsolute truthâ€ without question or analysis. There is no mental grinding of truths or facts, just passive acceptance of things as they are. This is a primitive and pre-modern trait and hence, the postmodern world cannot accept it as it is. Owing to this reason only, religion has to be cleared off its outdated metaphysical beliefs and pre-rational ideologies, including pre-rational fundamentalism, mythic-literalism and mystical concepts. This â€œpost-metaphysicsâ€ proposal for religion is the thesis of Wilber’s Integral Spirituality.
Frank Visser, one of Wilber’s greatest critics, critiques on the disappointing style and content of Integral Spirituality in his article, â€œLord, Give Us Integral, But Without Hypeâ€. Commenting on post-metaphysical approach, he opines, â€œOne wonders if ‘postmetaphysics’ is that much of a revolution, considering the fact that every modern day preacher no longer believes in heaven. He or she has accepted the fact that religion is just a this-worldly, psychological affair. So is Wilber reducing the perennialist tradition to a (post)modernist, psychological outlook?â€ Though the postmetaphysics approach appears contentious to a certain extent, Wilber proves it is the best way out with his advancedÂ integral theory. From the four quadrants of AQAL, Wilber now moves into eight primordial perspectives.
Primordial Perspectives: In Integral Spirituality, everything is a matter of perspectives. The four quadrant theory of Wilber is subdivided into eight â€œprimordial perspectivesâ€.Â A typical thing ofÂ Wilber Phase 5, the idea of perspectives is predominant, thanks to the new dimensions in the development of consciousness and spirituality. Frank Visser describes Wilber’s eightÂ perspectives, â€œWilber’s refinement into eight perspectives demonstrates, for example, that the individual-interior domain, can be studied in two very different ways: from the inside (what he terms zone #1), as a personal, existential feeling of self, and from the outside (so-called zone #2), as a more objective, theorizing effort. It’s only the latter approach, Wilber contends, that has discovered the stages of development, which are invisible to the introspective eye (One could add: zone #1 itself can be studied from the inside, introspectively, and from the outside, by theorizing about introspective experience (which is not the same as theorizing about structural stages).â€
Visser also hints that this new perspective-take on integralism is an indication that all was not well with the earlier AQAL or Four Quadrant theory. It is the inconsistencies in the core integral concepts that make Wilber shift his focus to perspectives, Visser opines.
The core argument of Integral Spirituality is the Wilber-Combs Lattice. We will discuss it in detail in our Part II of the post.
1. Frank Visser’s â€œLord, Give Us Integral, But Without the Hype: A Review of Integral Spiritualityâ€
2.Â Thomas Maxwell’s â€œIntegral Spiritualityâ€
5. Frank Visser: â€œMy Take on Wilber-5â€