Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In Defense of Integral Eclecticism

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Image taken from What Is Integral Spirituality?, (click to enlarge).

The choice is often tough: choose one tradition and totally immerse oneself in it, following all the rules and reading all the scriptures of that path; or take a little of this and a little of that from whatever we find that serves our own unique path.

Jay at Pagan Bodhisattva is pondering that question in a recent post, Traditionalism AND Integral Eclecticism. After weighing the benefits of each choice, Jay asks: "Why can’t we have both attitudes, embodied in different practitioners?"

This is my reply, slightly expanded from what I left in the comments at his fine blog.

I think we can have both in the same practitioner. Using the language of Spiral Dynamics, each meme in our meme stack has its own needs as far as spiritual expression is concerned, so how we address those needs will look different at each level. If we are fully first tier in our religious/spiritual development, then we will likely choose one path and stay with it, until we reach Green, when all things become relative and we then might want to do some meditation, go to mass on high holy days, observe the major pagan celebrations, and chant some Sufi prayers -- or whatever combination someone might choose.

For example, I feel a kinship with shamanism that feeds my Purple and Red memes. Some of the shamanic practices and ways of being in the world support a sense of being connected to all things, to being part of the web of life.

However, my primary practice is Tibetan Buddhism, which feeds my Blue structured/traditionalist meme and my Orange individual/rationalist meme. Those specific memes need stability and structure for my practice (Blue), a sense that there is a higher order to life in the Kosmos (Blue some more), and a path that allows me some freedom and self-expression (Orange) while working in a system that makes sense to my rational mind (Orange some more).

I also do a lot of stuff based in humanistic and transpersonal psychology that feeds my Green meme. This meme also sees the whole bountiful offering of spiritual traditions and feels fine taking a little of this and a little of that -- whatever feels (Green is all about feelings) nice to me.

The whole collection of practices feels integral to me and feeds my Yellow meme need to use whatever works to get me to the next level. As one enters into second tier, especially the individualistic Yellow meme, the focus is on whatever can make sense of a chaotic world. This meme wants to find a synthesis of ideas that feeds my need for spiritual growth and still honors each of the lower memes' needs for expression.

As I attempt to become more integral over time, my practice deepens, and I feel as though I am making better progress on my path. I think those who have known me well over the past two years or so (since I've really focused on growth) can see the difference. I can't say this would work for everyone, but it seems to be working for me.

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