Friday, July 30, 2010

Roger Walsh - The Ethics of Integral Living #itc2010

Roger Walsh is one of the rock stars of the integral community, author of many books, master of many subjects. His books on shamanism were seminal for me in introducing the topic to young people and his book on Essential Spirituality is excellent.

Here is the abstract (the paper was not posted on the ITC site):

Roger Walsh, MD, Ph.D., D.H.L, Faculty, University of California at Irvine: The Ethics of Integral Living.

Each of the world’s great religions regards ethical training as essential for anyone who would develop spiritual maturity, live wisely and well, and contribute effectively to others. As such, ethics is a central issue for integralists. Yet ethics is little understood in contemporary culture, conventional and post-conventional distinctions go unrecognized, and the painful results include moral confusion and culture wars. “Rare are those who understand virtue” sighed Confucius. This session will explore post-conventional ethical perspectives and practices. Prior to attending, participants are invited to reflect on the question, “What does it take to live without regrets?”

Roger Walsh is professor of psychiatry, philosophy, and anthropology, and adjunct professor of religious studies at the University of California at Irvine. His publications include the books Paths Beyond Ego: The Transpersonal Vision, The World of Shamanism, and Essential Spirituality: The Seven Central Practices.
There were maybe 10 people in the last presentation, which is unfortunate, but this one is packed, confirming his status in the community.

Roger gave a very interesting and useful talk. He's less about theory and intellectual stuff than he is about, "How do we do this, put it into practice." He did some cool experiential stuff, which really brough this home for me as a somaticly inclined person.

Some main points . . . .

Stages of ethical development:

Conventional - maintaining norms
Post-conventional - listening to one's own discernment
Trans-conventional - beyond ego, worldcentric
Nondual - kosmoscentric - Rumi:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing, and rightdoing there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about."
"What we resist persists - and what we resist runs our lives." - This may be the best personal justification for facing shadow stuff and living an ethical life.
  • Ordinary people make a mistake, feel guilty, then repeat the mistakes.
  • Wise people make a mistake, learn from it, and do not repeat it.
Guilt is a stage-appropriate emotion in development, but not useful for adults.

I'm not sure I agree with this, but on the other hand, his definition of guilt is closer to mine of shame, and he does not like the "shame" word in that it is too often misused.

I'll have more on this later on, including practices for the Contemplative Ethics framework he outlines: Right speech, Right action, Right mind.

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David said...

Did Roger Walsh really use the Rumi quote to describe Kosmocentric ethics? The quote is usually used by nondual moral relativists to argue that kosmocentric ethics are really "ignorance" from the perspective of nonduality (though I am, of course, not saying that Walsh is a moral relativist; I just think he might be misusing the quote or confusing state realization with ethical development).

With kosmocentric, ethical consideration is extended to all sentient beings in all realms. I love Rumi, but I don't think that is what he is describing in that poem. In that poem, it sounds like he is confusing state realization with higher ethical realization.

It is true that kosmocentric ethics transcends and includes/negates conventional ideas of right and wrong doing, but that doesn't involve lying in the grass because the world is too full to talk about. Aurobindo gives a better description of kosmocentric ethics here:

"It is this secret psychic entity which is the true original Conscience in us deeper than the constructed and conventional conscience of the moralist, for it is this which points always towards Truth and Right and Beauty, towards Love and Harmony and all that is a divine possibility in us, and persists till these things become the major need of our nature. It is the psychic personality in us that flowers as the saint, the sage, the seer; when it reaches its full strength, it turns the being towards the Knowledge of Self and the Divine, towards the supreme Truth, the supreme Good, the supreme Beauty, Love and Bliss, the divine heights and largenesses, and opens us to the touch of spiritual sympathy, universality, oneness."

william harryman said...

He did use that quote for the nondual stage - kosmoscentric was my addition.

I think the confusion with that poem is that we have an amber/orange altitude person trying to describe a nondual state, but being where he is developmentally, metaphor is the only way he can do so.

I'm just thinking out loud - I could be full of it.

The Aurobindo quote is excellent, by the way.


David said...

Hi, William. Yes, I think you're exactly right about Rumi, that he is interpreting nonduality from somewhere in first tier. I think he is just taking the right-hand turn to nonduality on the Wilber-Combs Lattice at some point.

I think kosmocentric is a great addition. Putting nonduality at the height of ethical development doesn't sound quite right. Even if Supermind involves realizing nonduality as a stage, nonduality can also be experienced and realized as a trained state at earlier altitudes.

I am very happy you like the Aurobindo quote. It is one of my favorites. :)