For several years, something that’s been “up” for me has been the evolution of practice: the actual emergence of new dynamics (“life conditions”) and capacities relating to the process of growing to higher levels of consciousness.
Lots of things are changing—especially the teacher-student relationship. In 1973, when I got serious about the spiritual path, there was one way to do it — find an amazing awakened master, and devote yourself to a transformative practice with that teacher’s community. Today, gurus are very much out of fashion. And many new guides have emerged. Most spiritual aspirants also consult therapists, coaches, mentors, and additional teachers of inner and outer transformation. A whole “ecology” of helping roles has evolved, and most aspirants are growing not just in relationship to a single teacher but in relationship to that whole ecology — we now see an entire culture and marketplace of wisdom offerings, public conversations, peer-co-creativity, and transformational creative projects.
I focused on this emergent dynamic in the thesis I wrote for my M.A. in Consciousness Studies at JFK University (2007.) Earlier this year, I decided to revisit that issue and expand on those themes in my presentation at this year’s Integral Theory Conference — it’s entitled, “Toward the Emergence of Integral Evolutionary Spiritual Culture” and it’s posted here on this site.
Then, in April, I received an email from a dear friend with the subject “You’ve Arrived!”
I opened it to find that my friend was letting me know that I’d lost a certain kind of web virginity. Previous to that day I had not experienced public attack. But I discovered that a young fellow who had become offended and inflamed by stories alleging that Andrew Cohen had put extreme pressure on certain students (as per my blog post below) had decided that anyone who cooperated with Andrew or his students was also “enabling abuse”, and had named me (among many illustrious others) as a complicit party.
Although the blogger viewed this whole matter in simple black-and-white terms, the points he raised could be answered satisfactorily only via a very nuanced conversation. In the echo chamber of the blogosphere, answering such a post only empowers it, and raises it to an implicitly equal status. Although it made no sense to respond to that expression of irresponsible negativity, I do have a lot to say relative to the subject. After all, how indeed can Integral spirituality avoid the fate of the “green swamp”? Don’t we need to discriminate between higher and lower, better and less-better, healthy and unhealthy, and abusive? I began living with this question as a vital “koan”: how will the Integral evolutionary community find a way to have the more nuanced conversation that is obviously called for on this topic?
An answer wasn’t long in coming. In late May, I heard from Dennis Wittrock, the go-to guy at Germany’s Integrales Forum, the central coordinating group convening and providing services to over two dozen local Integral study groups in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Their steering committee had written and translated a well-reasoned “Position Paper” that attempts to set forth some standards for evaluating the legitimacy and conduct of spiritual teachers.
This Integrales Forum Position Paper had an entirely different thrust and purpose, but it overlapped in some significant ways with parts of the article I had just written (at almost exactly the same time). It much more thoughtfully raised similar questions that had been raised in the blog post attack, but in intelligent, thoughtful, responsible, and Integral terms, in a way that attempted not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. This paper invited a dialog; Dennis sent it to me and a few other integral spiritual teachers, requesting responses. I felt inspired to write a fairly substantial and passionate response posted here on this website. Immediately following that piece, I wrote my my previous blog post, replying more directly to the issues raised in the attack piece,
Because there are many pages in all these pieces of writing, I have excerpted a few vivid paragraphs from each on the website pages for each of these articles. I hope my contributions will help deepen our conversation about the emerging ecology of the Integral evolutionary spiritual meta-path.
I expect the consideration will develop and continue from this point forward, while touching on many nuanced principles, distinctions, issues and dynamics.
I want to again express appreciation to our German Integral friends for bringing their unique style of leadership and transparency to this important conversation!