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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.


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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hi all

I've come in a bit late, and also am pressed for time so haven't been able to give this material and valuable discussion the close reading it deserves. Apologies therefore if I inadvertently go over points already discussed.

Basically, I'm coming at this from a rather different perspective (perhaps) to the rest of you.

But before explaining, I should say that In the spirit of open source collaboration there is no contradiction between my approach and the "Open Source" consesnus, nor am I interested in, nor would I want, others to adopt what I am saying, unless of course it is meaningful to them. I completely agree with the sentiment of rejecting external authority figures and cultism of all sorts. That doesn't mean that one should never have a guru or spiritual teacher or already established path, only that any such choice of guru or teacher or path is dependent on one's own inner inspiration and guidance, not something enforced by society or peers.

So, to proceed. For me, spirituality means something completely different to what is discussed here. I suppose I could use an alternative word, like Sadhana, but that has teh disadvantage of certain cultural nuances that, while highly meaninglul to me, may not be so to others. So I use "spirituality" with the proviso that this has nothing to do with religion. Religion is something that is imposed or adopted from without; essentially a set of dogmas, social mores, and so on that are based on conformity to a particular scriptural or eclesiastic authority.

This is not to deny that a religious person can be spiritual, but an atheist can equally be just as spiritual as well (in the same way that both a religionist and an atheist may equally enjoy watching TV, or physical exercise). So, religion, spirituality, no relation.

By Spiritual then, I mean (to quote from the current definition in the glossary of my current biook in progress, Integral Metaphysics and Transformation)

orientation of the consciousness (q.v.) and action (q.v.) of the individual self (q.v.) to a transpersonal (q.v.) divine (q.v.) reality, resulting in the transcendence, dissolution, or transformation of the ego (q.v.), so that the being becomes the Participant (q.v.) of a larger and more encompassing field of consciousness and activity.

Sorry for not including the further definitions like divine etc, but to define them i'd then need to define what they relate to, I'd need to quote the entire glossary, impractical!

Now, my personal criticism of what has been discussed so far is that it is very much revolving arpound (a) individualism and (b) intellectual analysis. ( I also agree with Simon that it slanted to teh external, although this might be taken as a byproduct of point b)

The problem here is that individualism is the product of "ego" (i.e. a center of consciousness in dualitistic relation to the Whole), and intellectual analysis only one possible modality of consciousness, which is privelaged by Western academia and also by groups like the Wilberian Integral movement; in contrast to, say, the New Age which is feeling orientated

For me Spirituality means going beyond the bounds of human limitations, as well as not being restricted to rationality. For example, states of higher consciousness variously called gnosis, jnana, Enlightenment etc are more expansive than rational analysis. And , or spiritual aspiration is more expansive than emotional reactionism

This is not to denegrate reason; gnosis does not replace reason. Rather it constitutes a wider mode of functioning that reason can supplemment, and vice-versa. I appreciate and value reason and intellectual analysis as a wonderful tool for interacting with and understanding certain aspects of material reality (such as those aspects of the universe that is comprehensible to science).

When discussing these things it is important also not to have some sort of secularist-inspired knee jerk reaction against traditional modes of yoga, mysticism, sadhana, and spirituality. I have observed in the Wilberian Integral movement for example an excessive scepticism and anti-metaphysicalism that seems to be the result of too much postmodernist (relativist, pluralist) analysis. There is a same thing here. I'm not saying any of this is bad, only that it perpetuates the ordianry state of human consciousness in modernity (i.e. rationalism), what Gebser calls the "Mental-Perspectival".

For what it's worth I'll give my comments now on the four principles discussed here, for what they are worth

1.) On Its Prime Focus

Lawrence talks about the Perennial Philosophy (a la Frithjof Schuon, Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, and Ken Wilber) with its premise of a common core essence of all religion (behind the exoteric distortions) in the the Ever Present Origin of All Reality. Others here have rejected (a la Postmodernism, A. H. Almaas, and Jorge Ferrer) that there is any common element. My position is that you are both right :-) There is an Ever Present Origin, as to deny it would be to fall back into relativism and agnosticism. But that is not to say that all the religions (and note my comment on religion - it is dogma, not spirituality) and yogas and spiritual paths (and science and philosophy abnd psychology and all the rest) are discissing the same thing. They are discussing different, sometimes overlapping things. My favourite metaphor hre is the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

2.) On Diversity

I have no problem with any of the wording, indeed i find all this most admirable

3.) On Personal Spiritual Choice and Authority

I would replace the word "individual" in the second sentence with reference to the Inner Guide, Inner Light, Inner Inspiration.

The first sentence is also problematic. In this context, a "mentally sound" sceptical materialist can be far less knowledgable and spiritual than a "divine madman" (I'm not talking about abusive gurus, i mean the real deal, which some abusive gurus try to use to justify their behaviour)

4.) On Organizational Spiritual Authority and Revelation

If by "spiritual authority of the individual" is meant the Inner Divine principle just referred to, I agree. If by that phrase is meant the surface consciousness and rational mind, you are back to square one. An individual outside a church (or academic or scientific establishment) may be just as ignorant as one inside a church (or academic or scientific establishment) .

In short, my objection to the last two points is that there is no distinction made between the ordinary consciousness - the egoic individual with its surface mind and surface feelings and the associated subconscious and lower and middle unconscious support and inertia of the former - and the the Divine Center (here I'm being simplistic because there is not one Divine Center, but a number of aspects of the being).

These two faculties are very different. The surface being and ego includes external mental abilities (reason and analysis and all the rest), but as with religion these have nothing to do with spirituality (or at least with my definition of spirituality :-)) Only through inner inspiration, receptivity, humility, can the "still small voice" of the Divine Center be heard.

Not everyone has this level of inner development; that is why so many still need to follow external authority figures, and why open source spirituality can only work for those with the required spiritual, emotional, and mental development. In this regard I agree with the Wilberians and Spiral Dynamics people; Spirituality only makes snese when you have already attained a certain level of consciousness to begin with. This isn't elitism; because if it is assumed that the stream of consciousness perpetuates itself indefinitely and hence is immortal, than one day everyone will be a buddha

If it is said, in response to all of the above, that (a) I am making essentialist or metaphysical assumptions (I find in some academic discussions that metaphysics has become a dirty word and/or is considered "New Age"; Huston Smith discusses the reason for this - the collapse of the "great chain of being" and rise of materialism with the secular enlifghtenment) or (b) am assuming a privelaged perspective (gnosis), my reply to the first is yes so what, to the second, all that I am saying is the truth as I know it at present (which may or may not change in the future), it is not intended to be imposed on others (but others can accept or reject it some,. all, or none if they so want).

Finally, it is very hard to condense a whole worldview into a few paragraphs (and I haven't even attempted to do so). In my book Integral Metaphysics I'll hopefully explain all these things in more detail and with more arguments (although i find too many arguments tiresome and counter-productive; it isn't the rational mind that can grasp these things, but the higher intuition and inner gnosis), not to get people to believe it of course, but simply to contribute further ideas to the expanding noosphere.

Okay, so much for my comments :-)

best regards
Hi Alan,

happy you took the time to respond to the OSIS piece, and thank you for the 'quick sketch' of what you consider to be your spirituality. After reading this, "My position is that you are both right :-) There is an Ever Present Origin, as to deny it would be to fall back into relativism and agnosticism," (when considering if there is or isn't an Ever Present Origin, EPO) I thought to myself, "The universe, and even more so the cosmos, the all, is so much more boundless than I could ever imagine or even know, so how do I dare say that it has no center, no EPO?"
Well, I don't know, except maybe: "Even though I don't know my original face I know how to smile." (Stephen Levine in a poem). So in this case it seems that to be agnostic is something I fall forward into rather than fall back on.

So then I test what happens on a 'whole body' level, meaning that I be open for all impressions, feelings, thoughts etc., when I hold the thought that there is an EPO, and when I hold the thought that there isn't.
When I hold the former thought I feel a wonderful sense of well-being, a silent joyousness, a belongingness.
Letting go of that thought and than holding the thought that there really is no EPO there is a sense of loss (prob. because I just held the alternative thought), and then there is a 'deep smile', a sense of freedom, a feeling of everyone-and-everything-is-just fine (not wanting to use the word 'perfect').

Thinking about how I could possibly hold both thoughts at the same time I don't come to a result. It's like with this famous picture - I simply have not managed to hold both views (It's a vase; it's two faces) at the same time. So maybe flip-flopping between both thoughts would be a possibility...

From this little experiment I come to the conclusion that holding the conviction that there is no EPO doesn't need to lead to either relativism nor does it entail an agnostic stance. At least not by necessity.
I think the idea that one falls back on r. and a. if one drops the idea of EPO is probably an artifact of playing around with Wilberian Intregalists too long ;-)

And one more sentence jumped out in your contribution to this conversation, "This isn't elitism; because if it is assumed that the stream of consciousness perpetuates itself indefinitely and hence is immortal, than one day everyone will be a buddha." when proposing a hierarchy of levels of inner development.
Is it saying that it would be elitism if there is no indefinitely perpetuated, immortal stream of consciousness? Is it saying that an understanding of spirituality needs to include 'levels of development' where the one is more encompassing that the other, and that this makes it so that one person is on a 'higher level', and thus part of an elite, than another?

Being a father (and now stepfather to a 14 year old girl) it is very obvious to me that there are levels of development when growing up, and it makes sense to me that -- once having grown up -- there is much development going on in some people and very little in other people. But only if we have defined (or know for certain through, for instance, gnosis) what the mountain is, can we propose people to be on higher or lower levels.
And even then... some people want to climb to the peak, some love the exercise of climbing some and walking around - they would never want to do the heroic "reaching the top"; and some people just love the company of people on a mountain (and there are many more possibilities).

I think in this thread I've stumbled upon a new-for-me distinction between the content of a spiritual way (it's Source Code so to speak) and the 'lay-out' if you like. And I'm with those who concluded that an Open Source Spirituality (OSS) is really about the co-creation of a context (the Emerging Spiritual Commons) that enables/encourages people to state
(somehow ning cut off the rest of my post... so reconstructing:)

Open Source Spirituality (OSS) is really about the co-creation of a context (the Emerging Spiritual Commons) that enables/encourages people to state the source code they implement in their daily life.

Kind regards,
Hi Mushin

I had more time to read and finally reply to your very inspirational post. And yes, re the vase and face, I agree totally. You are right re my refernce to literalist integralism and also postmodernist-inspired relativism - e.g. Jorge Ferrer - who adopts a rather agnostic position while still going beyond the strict contextualist position (btw I love Ferrer's book on Revisioning Transpersonal Theory and agree he makes some very important points). According to the relativist/contextualist position - Buddhists and Vedantins are discussing very different experiences, because the language they use (no-self/shunya vs self/atma) is totally different. But I would say they are talking about the same thing, and here your vase/face analogy is again. But this common Reality they are both discussing can only be realised experientially, after one has gone beyond the need for or the attempt to create applicable definitions That's what gnosis/jnana/insight is all about.

Also there is individual predispositions and quirks. Fior me, to hold teh thought that there is an EPO is in no way limiting. But I know that the Reality is beyond both the belief/experience "there is an EPO" (vedanta) and the belief/experience there isn't (shunyata)

ere elitism and persisting stream of consciousness - and fully and totally agreeing with what you say about some people wantring to climb the mountain, others preferring to just walk around it or remain at the base - if we agree with the "consensus paradigm" of Western modernity (and exoteric abrahamic religion) that we are finite beings of three score and ten years, then there is a fixed hierarchy, because some people are simply more talented, aware, insightful etc than others, and any development within that short span can only be limited. So I prefer the Theosophistr and Western Buddhist Christmas Humphries's saying (erroneously attributed to traditional Buddhism) that "even a blade of grass can attain Enlightenment", while at teh same time acknowledging that (if you'll parden the anthropomorphisms) maybe the blade of grass would rather do or evolve intos omething else. But if the blade of grass did want to become a Buddha, it shouldn't be limited or prevented from fulfilling that possibility, even if that possibilitty cannot be actualised in its present life time.

Also i agree with you and others here that an OSS and everything it involves is a very positive development.
Just want to thank alan for bringing in a precious new view on the subject.

Also, I am in agreement with your distinction of two aspects of the individual, where only one, the inner guiding light, is concerned with spirituality, and the other would be concerned with religion and, perhaps, also with open source spirituality, at least with its organizational and normative aspects...

Hi Sepp,

we of course have different aspects of ourselves, but is it wise to 'dis-connect' them. Clever Catholic mystics were hailed, others were burned at the stake, because the existing social structures could not accept their particular conceptions. Any person which achieves some kind of excellence, and acquires a following, is necessarily involved in a particular social and 'organizational' context. So open source spirituality is quite essential for creating a social context which can honour everyone's spiritual aspect, so that it can be shared and thrive, in a way that today can be more appropriate than traditional religious organizations. Does OSS replace traditional organisations? For some it will, but personally, I believe that despite their flaws, they all do carry specific spiritual DNA and lines of experience, which it would be foolish to forget. So in other words, people with an open attitude can still join them, freely process what is valuable, and hopefully have a positive influence within them.
Hi Michel,

not dis-connect but only recognize that the spiritual is distinct from the rational. Separating different aspects of ourselves is not to imply that both cannot be useful, or that they should not collaborate and respect each other.

Open source spirituality may provide an environment where the spiritual in us can unfold without invalidation, and that would be a very useful function.
Hi Alan,

I'm not sure where your assumption that the discussion here is individualist and based on intellectual analysis. For the latter, sure we are making intellectual arguments here, and so are you, but it is predicated on the full set of spiritual experiences we all may have had in our lives. And the use of the word 'individual' by Larry and others, does not mean individual-ism. So I think that indeed you glossed over rather quickly over the discusssion here.
hi everyone, thanks for the feedback. Can only reply very briefly to Michel for now, will try to write a longer reply later (especially to Mushin's thoughtful comments)

Granted that the full set of spiritual experiences are implied in the (intellectual) discussion, i did feel that the tone of the discussion tending towards an overly intellectual as opposed to intellectual-intuitive-"gnostic" (or jnana or whatever term you prefer) tone, but that's just me :-) So I'm not trying to cancel or reject the main theme of the discussion, but rather add a further dimension to it

The status of the Individual is one of those really sticky questions in esotericism, mysticism, sadhana (spiritual practice) etc. And even though it may have been implied that what is being referred to is the spiritual / Divine / always Enlightened / choose your own jargon aspect of the Self (or No Self if you're a Buddhist), this was not expliciately specified, and hence the premises could be (mis)-interpreted as referring only to the exoteric or outer self (as in humanism, atheistic existentialism, etc). Hence I felt a clarification was necessary; again not to reject what was already written, but to enhance it and remove ambiguity
Please note the new version of open spirituality principles by Lawrence Wollersheim, which takes into account many of the remarks in this dialogue:





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