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Discussing the principles of an open spirituality

Lawrence Wollersheim has published a substantial text proposing some general principles for developing and practicing an open source spirituality.

The text is very long and is pubished here at http://www.integralworld.net/wollersheim3.html, and because of its lenght, I propose to discuss them in batches, so here are the first four.

TEXT:

1.) On Its Prime Focus

The most important focus of open source integral spirituality is the common core and essence of all religion. It is one's continually expanding and deepening direct personal experiences with the Ever Present Origin of All Reality, improving one's balanced practice of the virtues, and achieving spiritual completeness. (Spirituality is the innermost and most critical essence of all religion as opposed to religion's outermost characteristics such as its social beliefs, doctrines, rituals and organizational structures, authorities and hierarchies.)

2.) On Diversity

This is an open source movement! It encourages many individuals, organizations and teachers of spiritual wisdom to contribute their wisdom to the open source integral spirituality collaboration.

This diversity is essential to an unending search for additional and broader spiritual truth and is vital for making spiritual wisdom accessible to the great variety of personalities, learning styles, psychological developmental levels and cultures. Though different in abilities, all are equal in spiritual dignity and can act as co-creators of the global spiritual commons. –

3.) On Personal Spiritual Choice and Authority

Every mentally sound person already possesses the internal means to be their own highest spiritual authority for discerning spiritual truth for their own spiritual path. This implies that each individual is their own highest spiritual authority. –

4.) On Organizational Spiritual Authority and Revelation

In the global spiritual commons and in the open source integral spirituality movement it is necessary that there are no highest Popes, Bishops, Avatars, Gurus, Rabbis, Imams, etc. or, any religious hierarchy of final spiritual authority or religious orthodoxy outside the spiritual authority of the individual. No one spiritual source, spiritual teacher, founder, leader or organization has the universal or final spiritual authority on what is authentic or appropriate spiritual wisdom, spiritual truth or spiritual law for anyone other than themselves.

From this date of this original declaration's creation forward, the above paragraph naturally infers that there is also no longer recognition of special, exclusive, ongoing or final spiritual revelation being presented by the Ever Present Origin uniquely or solely to one individual or to one organization that is applicable to or for anyone beyond the specific individual who received it. While we do accept the possibility of unique personal revelation/guidance in terms of the communication quality possible within the relationship of the individual to the Ever Present Origin, we do not hold that this unique personal revelation/guidance can or should be held out as authentic or final religious or spiritual truth, law or authority for anyone or any organization except possible for the individual who received it and, then only if they themselves judge and accept it to be religious or spiritual truth, law or authority for themselves.

Religious revelation intended or decreed as final, authoritative or as religious law for anyone or any group other than for the unique, single individual who received it is an area of religion and spirituality historically fraught with abuse and misuse and the source of much of the current religious strive in the world today. Furthermore, by its very claim to be authentic or final religious/spiritual revelation for a group or mankind there is not only no real objective way to disprove it, there is also no real objective way to prove it either.

Revelation because it cannot be proven or un-proven, has most often been something that not only divides people, but often historically has served as the rational for violence against disbelievers of some particular revelation. Revelation that confers special or exclusive privileges, rights, roles, responsibilities, religious law, authority or property on or over a select few or special group is even further suspect in that the message of the revelation is not inclusive, universal or just and, by its nature congruent with those prime qualities within the Ever Present Origin.

If you do believe that Divinity will in fact, continue to disclose more of its infinite self and aspects to humanity in revelation as time goes on, maybe the Divine when the time was right has always intended to eventually disclose more of itself through a new multi-religious open source, co-creative process where the combination of insights and wisdom from all religions will offer a bigger, broader and, more clear and accurate picture of Divinity than the revelational perspective of any one religion. Maybe, at this time in history we have finally now both become and really are all vital spiritual and moral partners who are equal-opportunity, (open source) co-revealers of the endless and expanding truths about Divinity.

Maybe for our post-postmodern times, the revealing of the endless and expanding truths about Divinity is now better executed by a continuous and collaborative group effort rather than by only a progressive or exclusive single revelatory effort by any one religion. Maybe, continuous group efforts to accelerate the revealing of the expanding new truths about Divinity is the appropriate evolutionary step ladder now needed for these times for our new revelations where later revelations are no longer viewed as either final or even necessarily superior to earlier revelations, but instead new revelations are viewed as a just another beautiful pearl to be added to a string of pearls that can grow into endless strands.

Maybe, from the very beginning of our spiritual history (although we did not know it then,) the endless expanding truth about infinite Divinity has always been far, far too great for any one religion to hold. And just maybe, while the absolute truth of Divinity may always be one, we still may need the many different religious paths to start us out, but then it will be the combined best wisdom from all the religions that will keep us on our way most effectively and efficiently to the greatest spiritual heights possible.

In dealing with all previous spiritual claims by individuals or religious organizations that that they have received a special, exclusive, ongoing, authoritative or final spiritual revelation that does or does not bind or confer special or exclusive privileges, rights, roles, responsibilities, laws, authority or property on or over a select few or special group (other than over only the unique individual receiver of that revelation) the open source movement intentionally does not at this time address the validity of such claims and takes no official position toward such claims of past revelation. The global spiritual commons will provide additional insights on this, but we leave this for each individual to work out as an issue of personal faith for themselves.

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Principle One: Is there a common core to all religions?

Let me first say that I find the approach proposed by Lawrence to be very productive, but I do think the first principle is not formulated correctly.

My proposal is that commonality and diversity have to be treated together, and that presupposing a common core is actually counterproductive. Now, it is obvious that there are commonalities in structures, beliefs, experiences. But is it one commonality that is equal in all religion. Is there just one mystical experience? Is there one overall progressive structure of experiencing truth.

The answer must be an unequivocal no. The differences in spiritual experience, amongst religions, within religions, and within religions across time, give very different answers. They are developed from very different basic choices. Assuming that there is a common core, is also assuming that there is a unique and common objective reality out there. It takes out the co-creative work by differrent humans groups in creating social and spiritual realities.

Above all, it creates the following supreme danger: a scarcity of truth, since it becomes then imperative to create a correct interpretation of this common reality. This can give rise to dangerous, totalizing and colonializing interpretations a la Wilber. It creates a pre-given structure that belies the openness.

Could we therefore formulate the first principles differently?

Here is my proposal:

The most important focus of open source integral spirituality is an open-ended investigation of both the commonalities and differences in the many individual and collective paths in the spritual search and experience of human kind. The search for commonalities can be beneficial for creating harmonious co-living of humanity in the totality of the universe and its myriad beings, while the differences enrich our experiences and understanding of the universe in which we live. This understanding is in a constant process of collective co-creation that is co-evolving with humanity itself.
Michel, I fully agree with your affirmation that open source spirituality is about an open-ended ongoing collaborative co-creative inquiry into both commonality and diversity among the many individual and shared spiritual paths of human kind.

Here is one possible approach to the development of open source spirituality. If any of us in a local node in the emerging spiritual commons want to spread around the world our node’s Code 1 (basic beliefs and practices) or any aspect of it, then (a) we apply it fully in our own node, (b) share on our website openly and in detail how we apply it and how it works for us, and (c) acknowledge that it is neither a prescription, nor even a recommendation, for any other node or person, but a contribution to the commons pool of experiential data, which others may find of interest. Then it is simply up to them whether or not they integrate in any way any part of it or the whole of it, within their own Code 1. This allows for varying degrees and kinds of hybridization, cross-fertilization, between different nodes.
Thank you John for this most concise way to show a path towards a global spiritual commons. Actually with this very clear agenda, if anybody feels so called (and as my time allows I'll participate in it), many spiritual bloggers and others that are on the web could participate...
Thank you Michel,

for posting this thought provoking piece from Wollersheim. It meshes well with my personal philosophy, which gave rise to my personal by-line:

The individual is supreme and finds its way through intuition.

There isn't (or rather there shouldn't be) any religious "authority" apart from the individual him/herself.

Which brings me to another thought. Our protection of "freedom of religion" is not complete. There should also and more importantly be a protection of "freedom from religion".

We should not only protect the rights of "believers" of all kinds but also, and perhaps even more importantly, the rights of "non-believers", individuals who do not subscribe to any one system of spiritual thought but wish to learn and decide on their own.
Thank you Michel, for calling us in to discuss these principals. It is hard for me to keep on reading an article whose very "Prime Focus" I cannot agree with. If, and here I must make an assumption, that focus is at the heart of all 'Integral Spirituality' than however much we open source it, it is simply going to mull around an emperor that has no clothes on (if you don't mind that metaphor).

The core sentence of the 'Prime Focus' is: "The most important focus of open source integral spirituality is the common core and essence of all religion."

Let me put this matter in the context of a metaphorical statement that shows what I call the 'main flaw' of present day and traditional spirituality, "The most important focus of astronomy is the sun as center of the universe."

To show a bit more about the difficulty of the claim that there is one common core and/or essence to all religion (and spirituality, I presume) let me ask if anybody ever heard of a Buddhist monk having a revelation of Jesus Christ in his meditations or of a Christian monk seeing the 'Green Tara'?

There might be overlapping practices and forms of worship, there might be similarities between, say, meditation and silent prayer; we might even say that probably in deep spiritual experiences (call them mystic, if you like) similar brain areas can be shown to be stimulated, but to then state that they have one common core or essence is "jumping to conclusions". And as Michel already pointed out, this creates dangers; very real dangers as we can witness daily.

I very much like Michel's proposition of a 'Prime Focus', although it is slightly slanted towards investigation and understanding. I would add a bit of practice by restating Michel's suggestion like this:

The most important focus of open source integral spirituality is an open-ended and in practice investigation of both the commonalities and differences in the many individual and collective paths in the spiritual search and experience of human kind. The search for commonalities can be beneficial for creating a harmonious co-living of humanity in the totality of the universe and its myriad beings, while the differences enrich our experiences and understanding of the universe in which we live. This understanding is in a constant process of collective co-creation in the reflections, conversations and many practices of spirituality and religion that are co-evolving with humanity itself.

--------------------

By the way, Sepp, I also regard individualism as a form of spirituality, and that some of its tenets, like the one you propose, protect the individual too much against the interests of larger groups in which they are embedded. I think, actually, that the kind of individualism we had in the last 200+ years in the West plays an important role in co-creating the world-wide challenges we are facing as humanity.
And we do not need to protect the rights of 'non-believers' as they are also believers, only in different principles and ways. Wishing to learn and decide on your own is a wish that is very closely connected with a belief in the intrinsic independence of 'your own mind.' And I very much doubt that this really exists.
Mushin,

how do you define individualism?

And why do you believe that individualism in the West played an important role in co-creating the world-wide challenges we are facing as humanity?

It is true that non-believers are also believers, but when I see what passes for protection of religious freedom in our countries, I don't see anyone standing up for those who don't fit into one of the pre-defined schemes of "religion-that-is-worth-protecting".

Perhaps we don't need to protect non-believers, but then we should protect ALL kinds of believers, including those who believe in what others wouldn't necessarily recognize as religion as it isn't similar to their own. In other words, we would be talking about a very extensive "freedom of opinion".
Individualism describes an outlook that stresses human independence and the importance of individual self-reliance and liberty above all else.
And it is this "above all else" that I see at root in a running amok capitalism that only cares about an individual's profit and doesn't care very much about the losses for the masses (including non-human beings).

Regarding the "freedom of speech" and the "freedom of religion" (includes the freedom of spirituality in my view) I think the American way goes a bit too far (see the Nazi & KuKluxClan and other hate-websites) or look at Scientology which is officially a religion there.

I'm absolutely for civil liberties and the human rights etc., which are all fruits from the beautiful tree of individualism; but I think we can now go beyond that developmental stage which is so much about my happiness, my freedom, my enlightenment etc.

So in 21st Century spirituality we need to drop the idea of a central or essential "Ever Present Origin" and the independence of the person, both are fictions that offer no path towards the kinds of solutions we need, and most likely move into a multi-verse of different "centers" and the basic interdependence (divisibility) of our being; I would use the term co-being or being-with.
My "the individual is supreme and finds its way through intuition" is in no way rooting for individualism or capitalism in a sense these are understood in our political landscape.

I am pro self-reliance and individual liberty but not "above all else" as you have in for instance the US patriot movement.

My by-line was formulated as a kind of antidote to organized religion. I wrote it down one day after I realized that most of our trouble - wars and violence in a planetary context - are induced by the fixed ideas and the inflexibility that is inherent in Christianity and other organized religious activities, particularly those of the Judeo-christian-islamic tradition.

It is meant much in the way Wollersheim states in point 4:

No one spiritual source, spiritual teacher, founder, leader or organization has the universal or final spiritual authority on what is authentic or appropriate spiritual wisdom, spiritual truth or spiritual law for anyone other than themselves.
Mishin,

when you say

Regarding the "freedom of speech" and the "freedom of religion" (includes the freedom of spirituality in my view) I think the American way goes a bit too far (see the Nazi & KuKluxClan and other hate-websites) or look at Scientology which is officially a religion there.

I think you are opening a pandora's box. If we do have freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of opinion, how can we then say that this freedom applies to this but not to the other?

What would be the criterium that properly distinguishes - let's say - Scientology from Buddhism?
Sepp,

thank you for clarifying what individualism is for you.

re: opening Pandora's Box when distinguishing between, for example Scientology and Buddhism, yes - that is so. Actually, it is already open ;-)
Let's take Osama Bin Laden for instance; now it is very much part of his opinion, no conviction, that killing infidels like you and me, is quite okay - no, it is even demanded by the Highest Authority.
He would be an example we might easily agree upon - but Scientology and Buddhism?

That is more difficult, much more. I can't come up with a criterion that would stand up against a critical eye - my brain doesn't easily function that way anymore - but my gut feeling is clear. Nevertheless I do not say to forbid any spirituality or religion unless it is proven harmful (we can say that about certain types of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, for instance), and even then I do believe more in a liberal stance and good education.
I do not say to forbid any spirituality or religion unless it is proven harmful ... and even then I do believe more in a liberal stance and good education.

I agree with you here. We should not think about banning religion (or ideas for that matter).

Instead we should separate the issue of freedom of thought and religion from the issue of criminal deeds.

So any religion and any religious thought is protected, while actions are what may get you in trouble. We are altogether too easily persuaded that this or that religion (right now it's islam) is bad and must be opposed. Well no, what is bad are deeds, actions that go against the law of the land and that is the only thing to be opposed.

Individuals commit actions, not religions.

No one has proven, by the way, that Bin Laden has had anything to do with the disaster that happened on 11 September 2001. Bin Laden has been a fighter for the Americans in Afghanistan, he helped defeat the Russians there and has always worked closely with the CIA. There is NO evidence that he had a hand in the twin towers disaster.

This is not to say that I like him, but that we should look at and act only on evidence, not hearsay...
It may be so that nobody has proven Bin Laden to be involved in 9/11 but he has claimed to be so involved. A very interesting book - written almost like a thriller, but all researched very well is "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright.
Bin Laden might have been in Afghanistan when the Russians were kicked out, but didn't play a role in that; actually he and his 'arabs' were regarded as foreigners that weren't liked by the Mujaheddin. They only tolerated him because he brought in some money and contacts to weapons. But all he and his 'arabs' experienced in that period were disasters...
He never really worked closely with the CIA except where the CIA could provide him with weapons that upped his position towards the Mujaheddin.

It all depends what you regard as evidence - if you take what he says on tapes and what he writes, and guys like him, as a good indication of what they want to do if they can do it...

Terrorism is a very real happening that we need to deal with - not with military solutions generally (except that to bomb a boot camp of Al Qaida seems like a good idea to me) but with intelligently helping populations that are maybe prone to recruiters...

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