This weeks ISC offering looks at Reverse-Engineering the Kosmos. It features Ken Wilber talking about The Myth of the Given.
At the second gathering of the teachers of Integral Spiritual Center, Patrick Sweeney famously asked Ken Wilber, “what can we do to stay out of Appendix III of Integral Spirituality?” In “The Myth of the Given,” Ken surveys some major modern approaches to spirituality, and demonstrates via AQAL their partiality—and how that partiality might be remedied.
It’s sobering to consider that so many of today’s most eminent teachers are partial! But as Ken points out, Appendix III (and the Integral approach in general) is meant not so much to point out that partiality as to highlight expertise in a highly specialized area. AQAL is an incredible tool for both situating various approaches and for understanding how they are related to each other. To the extent that the conclusions of these approaches fall within their area of expertise, they are most assuredly true. But to the extent that their conclusions overstep their area of expertise, a broader context such as AQAL can be enormously helpful.
The potency of AQAL to situate various approaches derives from its own formulation. Take, for example, the field of psychology. Ken points out that there are six major schools of psychology, each advanced by brilliant researchers who pioneered a particular approach to the field. Ken’s approach was to ask “what must be the characteristics of the human mind, such that the major conclusions of each of these schools could hold true?” His goal, rather than to work within one of the major schools to further its particular conclusions, was to reverse-engineer the human psyche—indeed, the entire Kosmos—altogether. The result of that inquiry was AQAL, perhaps the most complete map yet of the Kosmos we inhabit and the awareness in which it arises.
“The Myth of the Given” highlights a number of otherwise brilliant modern approaches to spirituality that fail to take into account the insights of postmodernity, thus unwittingly perpetuating the myth. Postmodernity, Ken demonstrates, deconstructed not only the mythical formulations of premodernity; with the same ferocity, it deconstructed the rational formulations of modernity! Postmodernism shows—rightly so—that nothing is apart from its context. But in doing so, and especially in its more recent turns, it throws out both the premodern and modern babies with the bathwater. Context, contends the integral approach, is not everything—but it is something! The integral approach is the first to take the truths of premodernity and modernity, consider their context as postmodernism necessitates, and locate them in a larger map. Once this blind spot is acknowledged, says Ken, it is easily remedied, leaving us with enduring truths, properly contextualized, and situated in a greater whole. And that changes just about everything….