Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Sri Aurobindo’s remarkable capacity to hold Paradise Lost and the Mahabharata in his mind at once is an integral gesture

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
Daniel Gustav Anderson
INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2
Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics
I mean something very specific by integral theory. Broadly speaking, the integral part of integral theory seeks to address the problem of everything (Wilber, 2000b),3 and to propose means of transforming it: [...]
3 As a cultural matter, integral theory is in this sense one heir of a project initiated by early-modern pedagogues such as Pierre de la Ramee (Petrus Ramus, 1515-1572) and Jan Amos Komensky (Comenius, 1592-1670)—that of organizing many discrete problems into a schematic, spatial theory of everything. Ong (2004) offers a now-classic analysis of this project. [...]

Uncompromisingly novel interventions have been challenging in just this way, historically. Consider the riot that greeted the debut of Igor Stravinsky’s prophetic-voiced Rite of Spring, most meaningful in the context of all ballet that had come before it, or the difficulty James Joyce’s Ulysses must have presented to a reader accustomed to the much less demanding narratives of Walter Scott or Charles Dickens.10

This is not to imply that my work is analogous in significance to Stravinsky’s or Joyce’s, or that the oeuvre of any integral theorist (Aurobindo, Gebser, Krishnamurti, Wilber) is analogous in importance to that produced by Dickens, Scott, or Tchaikovsky. Rather, Ulysses and The Rite of Spring are examples of how the novel appears first as an unacceptable or impenetrable surprise, but then over time transforms its milieu—again, a double intervention. The present inquiry aspires to such a transformation in integral practice (see Thesis Eight).

I humbly ask my readers’ indulgence with the stiffly-worded passages, on the promise that, insofar as I have been successful, the effort one invests in parsing a given thesis ought to be rewarded in kind with conceptual, and therefore practical and transformational, clarity. I have also suggested ways in which these theses relate to and recontextualize each other parenthetically, giving some texture and space for the reader to work with imaginatively. The structural and stylistic features of this text are intentional and purposive.

As a practical matter, I invite newcomers to explore this essay in order to become acquainted with it, at least for a first exposure. Because major points and many minor motifs are cross-referenced to other relevant material in the essay, one can follow threads and skip around at a self-directed pace, as desired. In fairness to the work, however, if one intends to really understand any one part of this proposal, one will need to work through all of it systematically, because it expresses a systematic strategy. This is an integral theory, after all. One must be responsible for the totality (see Thesis Two). [...]

27 For example, Hampson (2007) observes that Wilber is dyspeptically disissive of multiculturalism (p.163), a cultural moment that makes real integral inquiry possible in the first place—as a properly contextualized, respectful, and intelligent appreciation of world values and traditions (see Thesis Seven), akin to respect for human dignity (and appropriately, it is the third commitment made by the California Institute of Integral Studies in its mission statement).

Aurobindo Ghose’s remarkable capacity to hold Paradise Lost and the Mahabharata in his mind at once is nothing other than a multicultural gesture, an integral gesture; but this contradiction in Wilber’s work, between monoculture and multiculture, is but one example of a contradiction in an articulation (the articulation "Wilber’s work," numbered as it is in consecutive waves). I would like to suggest that as coherences spiral into increasing complexity, the odds increase that contradictions, inner tensions, will arise, and that these tensions can be wedged open productively by critique into new coherences.

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