Monday, 26 March 2018

Jeff Salzmann critiquing Jordan Peterson on the Daily Evolver

Jeff Salzman of The Daily Evolver and Integral theory thinks Jordan Peterson is a "traditionalist" which is two or three stages behind integral as a development. I disagree.

Here's the link to Jeff's piece -

Jeff (JS) says Jordan Peterson (JP) is "traditional" and believes in "good and evil". But he's also "modern", and "green". And then he admits that JP may be integral, but isn't using the right words. Kind of patronising. I wonder how much JS has read or listened to. He seems to have read "12 Rules" - with none of which I disagree, especially don't bother children when they're skateboarding, and put your own house in order. Not sure about stroking cats, but I don't know what he's referring to, which is apparently rule 12.

And JS misses what JP is really saying about religion and myth.

JP talks about development theory (e.g. Piaget). Just because he's never heard of or refers to Ken Wilber and Integral Theory doesn't mean he's not integral. (And Integral doesn't necessarily have all the answers - assume everyone you talk to knows something you don't - rule #4 or something).

Is JS just hung up on JP's language? The first thing I picked up on when reading Ken Wilber 15 years ago was his attack on post-modernism, moral relativity, boomeritis, flatland - all the things which JP is attacking. He's not traditional (even if JS cannot get past his language) - he's post-post modern, just like the rest of us. He's saying we cannot live without values and meaning.

Is Integral (a la JS) in danger of being worshipped as an ideology?

Does KW/JS have a problem with JP's idea that hierarchies are a) natural and b) do actually reflect reality? (i.e. that people rise to the top of hierarchies because of virtue (in a genuinely equal opportunity situation, which of course begs a lot of questions).)

He DOESN'T say make a religion of your ideology (if anything, he says that's the problem with SJWs and post-modernism).

JS doesn't think the jihadis (et al) are like the Huns and Vandals. Or he thinks they're unimportant / irrelevant. There are an awful lot of (potential) jihadis out there - the poor and dispossessed of the world, who may not want to be reasoned with, and may be losing patience with things as they are (even if they have no idea where to go other than backwards).

And I would give JP 8/10 on the Integral Level score card (as displayed in the video) - I think he is precisely everybody's friend and no-one's fool. He's attacking post-modernism and Marxism, not people. And is prepared to talk / argue with anyone / everyone.

I doubt that JP has ever hit anyone. That's not his point. He's saying we have a very deep in-built cultural bias against hitting women, but not men. So that men are thereby constrained when arguing with men (don't behave outrageously, because that may end in violence). And yes, we can walk away from crazy people, but in today's interconnected always on world, where people are screaming Nazi and other abuse, how do you deal with that, and the lies they peddle, which are believed. I have lost count of the number of people who tell me JP is a right wing ideologue, who have never listened to or read anything by him, but believe the abuse that is thrown at him on the internet. How do you counter that? KW and JS don't get that reaction (I think / assume, if they do it's very low key) because they don't have a million hits on their youtube videos.

Will there be no police in the integral kingdom? Will everyone be nice? (Part 2, 43 mins)

"Its truer than true, it's true with a capital T" (Christianity) says Jeff, but criticises JP for saying the same thing, but being honest and humble enough not to know exactly how one squares the Truth with scientific truth (and is also maybe being very careful with the sensitivities of his audience). JP's key point is that myth encapsulates the accumulated wisdom of humanity from very early times - it cannot be taken literally, it's possible for example that no such person as Christ ever existed, but the figure of Christ represents an ideal, a way of being, that we can aspire to.

Jeff says he knows how Christianity is true (and all other religions) - has he seen the light? Jeff and I may have an idea how to integrate Christianity into our lives, world view, integral philosophy, but I think this statement ("I know") is on a par with JP's tweet about slapping the book reviewer for calling him a fascist mystic. BTW, why is JP a "fascist" mystic? And I didn't know Jung was a fascist. Ban all uses of the word Nazi or fascist from intelligent discourse, please. Does JP want to gas Jews?

52 minutes - right on. Why does JS think that JP thinks we should take it literally - where does he say this (or even imply it)? JP is arguing for a much richer understanding of the myth than I think JS allows.

The virgin birth is (maybe) equally about the creation itself - the Big bang - something from nothing. And the cosmos is our divine mother inseminated by the creator, whatever he/she/it is.

56 mins. Why does JS think JP doesn't think evolution is continuing? JP talks all the time about our needing to be our own hero, about straddling the boundary between where we have come from, the known, and where we are going, the unknown. Not hiding in the known, cosy, but going on this great adventure - isn't that what Integral is all about?

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Pond Life 6 January 2003

It was the first Sunday of the new year. Soon after I woke up I was overwhelmed with anger, with someone I love, but who I feel no longer loves me. I had the day before me but did not really know what I wanted to do with it.

I had a pot of tea in bed, and a bath, and then sat down to meditate for an hour.

After a while, I felt myself to be sitting or lying at the bottom of a pond, looking up at the surface. It was choppy and disturbed, so that the light in the pond was subdued, as on a grey overcast day. I realised, as I looked at the surface, which seemed far above me, that it was my anger, confused and disturbed. Yet I felt completely calm; it was quite separate from me. Although I could feel it, or remember how it had felt a half hour or so before, it didn’t touch or affect me - as if I was watching a surgeon cutting my flesh under a local anaesthetic. Not like that really, because I did not feel numb or drugged, just that it was distant, happening outside of my self. A sort of haiku popped into my head, which I wrote down in my journal after the meditation had finished.

When I got up, I had breakfast and a cup of coffee. I decided I wouldn’t go to mass at 9.30, but that I would try to find the Friends Meeting House in town, which I had been meaning to go to for some weeks. The meeting was due to start at 10.30. I got up to leave at 10, still sort of undecided, not quite sure where the Meeting House was, or where I could park the car. When I had spoken to someone about the times of meetings before Christmas, he was very particular to say I was very welcome but that, if I came, I should arrive before the Meeting started. I decided to leave it in god’s hands - if I found a parking space, and if I found the Meeting House, and I arrived in time, I would go to the Meeting - if not, I’d go to Asda and do some grocery shopping.

As it happened it was easy - a parking space appeared and I followed my nose (I had a vague idea where the Meeting House was as I’d been there for a sort of seminar two years before) and I arrived at the house a few minutes before 10.30.

As I stepped through the door, into a hall crowded with people, and stood looking about, an elderly lady came up to me and asked me who I was, and offered her help. I explained I was a visitor and she gave me a few leaflets about the Quakers. I felt how friendly Friends seemed to be - there was a warmth and liveliness in the hallway that was very warming and reassuring.

We all trooped in to the room where the Meeting was to be held. The Meeting House itself looks Georgian, but the room is a sort of annex, modern, hexagonal, with large windows letting in the brilliant winter sunshine, and comfortable chairs arranged in circles around the room. A large bearded man got up and apologised for the loud drilling noise, and assured us it would soon stop, which it duly did, and everyone sat in silence around the room. I closed my eyes, and assumed most of the others did also. Somewhat to my surprise, and pleasure, the meeting proceeded exactly as I’d always heard they did. There was no leader, there were no readings, or hymns or rituals, just about twenty people sitting quietly. After a while a woman got up and asked us to remember a friend who was appearing in Clacton Magistrates Court for refusing to pay part of his taxes - the part that he estimated was paying for a war in Iraq. After a while a man got up and talked about old age, and a bit later another man picked up the same subject and said a few words more. All the time, the room was filled with sunshine, warmth, and the sound of birdsong from the little garden outside. I sat in my chair and meditated.

I then had a very clear visual experience. Occasionally when I meditate this happens. When I first began, many years ago, it would usually consist of a dark background, with a bright glowing golden disc in front of it, or occasionally a sort of doughnut. The disk or doughnut looked like molten gold, a brilliant rich yellow colour, slightly blurred around the edges, and the darker background generally looked like clouds, grey and dark and brilliant white where the light caught them with here and brilliant edges of gold and silver where the sun caught them. The background might vary but the disc or doughnut was nearly always there. I read some time later in a book called A Meditator's Diary, by an American woman who had stayed in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand to learn to meditate, that this was a nimitta, and that each person had a different one, and that this tended to change over time as they meditated. The visual experience never lasted very long - it’s hard when meditating to know how much time has passed in any case, but it usually seemed to last for only a few minutes, perhaps only seconds, and frustratingly, because it was always very beautiful, if I attempted to look at it, it disappeared even more quickly. As if by grasping at it, I had chased it away.

I stopped regular meditation many years ago - there never seemed to be enough time - and only very occasionally made an attempt to do so, and I usually ended up feeling frustrated. Then my marriage failed and after several months on my own I started to meditate again, every day, for an hour, usually straight after I had got up and bathed. On the odd days when I missed it, I felt uncomfortable and insecure. Ironically, I missed it most often on Sundays, when I got up too late and didn’t want to miss mass at 9.30. During the week, as I work for myself, I would simply go to my office that much later in the morning, if I woke up later than usual.

When I resumed regular meditation, I did so in quite a different spirit than on those few occasions when I had tried over the previous twenty or so years. Then I had often felt desperate, or very depressed, and needy for some dramatic experience, which never came, so I gave up frustrated and discouraged. Now, despite all the anguish over the preceding months, I came to it without any expectations, just a feeling that this was something I should never have given up, and that I should persist, patiently, and trust in God I suppose, to let whatever was to happen, happen. And nothing very much did happen. I found it relaxing, deeply so, and as the months went by, it became more and more important to me that I made the effort every day to put the time aside for it. That was the only effort - meditation is about the contradictory state of trying (to meditate) without trying, which can be confusing, and disheartening. But that was also part of the benefit - not to be disheartened, to accept whatever happened in meditation as intended, part of the process. Sometimes after an hour of trying to still my thoughts, continually focussing on my breath coming in and going out, or simply on being aware of my surroundings - the bird song outside, the warmth of the sun on my face - it would seem as if I had done nothing but daydream, one endless stream of thoughts about anything and everything chasing their tails around my mind, and, only for a few seconds in the hour, actually being aware of the moment. But I began to realise that this was not time wasted. For a start, although trains of thought came and went, I wasn’t interested in them, or what they were about. Although not perhaps aware in that pure sense of the moment, I was very much aware of how these thoughts arose, and each thought led to another, and another, and another, in an endless silly cycle of mental chatter. At times it was like watching a hamster scurrying round its cage, running in its wheel or up and down its little ladder, endless motion, without going anywhere. So even if I wasn’t stilling my mind, I was at least becoming aware of its separate existence, and for such a lot of time, its futility. And oddly, sometimes after the most frustrating sessions, feeling deeply relaxed and secure afterwards, as if the part of me that was observing the mind, was really relaxed, and was quite separate from the thoughts themselves. Sometimes the thoughts were quite disturbing - violent, or fearful, or angry. I didn’t try and suppress them, or change their direction or mood, just constantly tried to pay attention what was actually happening in the moment.

After a while I began to have visual experiences again - I am deliberately not referring to them as visions, because they aren’t - more akin to the effect of pressing your fingers against your eyeballs with your eyes closed, which makes you see bright flashing lights, or what you see if you’ve been looking at a bright light and then close your eyes and you can still see the after-image. This time they were different. The background is light, varying from a silvery grey to bright white light like hazy sunshine, and in the foreground, a tiny dark fragment. If you imagine the background as a sheet of white A4 paper, the object in the foreground measures perhaps only one or two millimetres square. It looks most like a small fragment of paper ash, very sharply in focus, with the colour varying from jet black to a soft grey. It often seems like the focus of the whole field, as if everything is being drawn in to it. I also sometimes think it may be the “blind spot” at the back of the retina where the optic nerve leaves the eyeball and there are no rod or cone cells to detect light - that is as if with my eyes shut what I am aware of is that part of the brain that processes the signals from the retina.

To return to the meeting. As I sat there meditating, I was once again sitting or lying at the bottom of the pond looking up at the surface. Now the light from the surface was much brighter (probably the effect of sitting in the sun filled Meeting room, even with my eyes shut) when it seemed quite suddenly that two things happened. Firstly my nimitta was no longer a piece of ash, but a water boatman swimming on the surface of the pond. I could see with pin sharp clarity each of its legs, moving frantically, and so clearly that I could see the depressions in the meniscus that its body and legs were making. And at the same time I could see that the surface was completely flat like a sheet of glass, mirror smooth, through which I was able to see the sky completely clearly. And then, suddenly, as I was looking at the water boatman, it suddenly shot off out of view over my right shoulder, and I suppose I sort of came to.

What was so wonderful, funny ha ha really, or funny ah ha!, was the way in which this experience complemented and completed the experience I had had whilst meditating at home that morning. What the little boatman signified, if anything, I don’t really know or care about. Perhaps nothing, perhaps the last vestiges of my anger, perhaps me, the little me that wanders about the world supported on this perfectly clear, perfectly still, pond of water. But I felt wonderfully answered, completed, satisfied. I wanted to stand up in the Meeting, but something held me back, and I said nothing.

Once the hour was up (I heard no bells or alarms so I suppose one or more were looking at the wall clock) everyone sort of woke up, and shook hands with each, and after a bit of business (upcoming events and announcements, just like the priest gives out at the end of a service) we all went back into the hallway for coffee, and I chatted with one or two of the Friends, and borrowed a book from their library. After about half an hour I went off to Asda to do my shopping, and then to the village pub for a couple of pints and a bit of social life.

Towards the end of the week, on the Friday, I got into a bit of a panic about the amount of work I had to do, and having slept late, rushed off to the office without meditating. In the event I got there no earlier than I normally do, and although I worked away all day, did no more than I often do in two or three hours. I went home at the end of the day, having worked until nearly 9 pm, feeling nervy and frazzled, and determined that tomorrow I would not miss out.

I thought I had the Saturday to myself, and was relaxing in bed with a pot of tea, smoking a cigarette and reading from the book I’d borrowed from the Friends’ library the previous Sunday. I was looking forward to my bath, and an hour’s meditation, when the ‘phone rang. As this doesn’t happen often, I didn’t want to miss the caller, and hopped out of bed and rushed down to answer it before the answering machine picked up the call - it wasn’t an old friend, or one of the family, as I’d hoped, but someone from the gliding club, asking me why I wasn’t there to do my winch duty. Somewhat confused, I said I wasn’t there because I was on duty the next day (Sunday) but it turned out that the man who’d done the winch driver’s rota had got his dates muddled and that in fact I was due at the club this morning at 9 am for a 3 hour shift. As I had in any case wanted to go to the Friends Meeting again, I was quite pleased, and in any case it was too late to try and get someone else to do the shift in my place, so I said I’d be there as quickly as I could. So I finished my tea and got dressed, and rushed out without either bathing or meditating, deciding that I would do both when I got home again after my shift was over.

I then spent three hours driving the winch, launching gliders into a clear blue sky on a beautiful clear and very frosty morning. When driving the winch, one is generally alone and, for a lot of the time, just waiting for someone to call you on the radio to ask you to launch the next glider. In the intervals I tried to meditate, but I found it hard to concentrate. I then had a very powerful insight, a sort of visualisation. Although not in that meditative state that I had been on the previous Sunday, I saw myself again, now looking down. I was in air rather than water. And all I was was an observer, just consciousness. And below me, quite separate from me, was the rest of me - David really - the full set of vices and virtues, my past, my personality, everything of me that makes me me as distinct from anyone else, apart from my consciousness. And I had this wonderful perception of how completely innocent that entity was, how what David is, how he behaves, responds, acts and reacts, how he thinks and feels, is all contingent, all arises out of where he was born, his parents, his upbringing, his genes - that he is utterly helpless to change any of this. Even that the boundary between himself and the world, where his autonomy begins and ends is almost a construct, that he is part of a continuous chain of causes and effects which he both suffers and transmits. And that this David has come into being, at his birth, and will disappear utterly with his death. That if anything continues, it is simply this awareness. As I am describing this, it may sound as if I’m describing a chain of thought, but it wasn’t like that - it was all bound up with the visualisation or vision, apprehended immediately, although the implications worked out over the next few hours.

It was wonderfully liberating - no guilt, suddenly seeing what is meant by action without acting - David is part of the flow of events, continuously responding to the things that happen to him, and this disembodied self floating above him, the will, now wills nothing, desires nothing. And David is no more special than all those other personalities he’s interacting with, that they are all equal, and equally unimportant - that what matters is the self behind and above and beyond each of these personalities, and that’s how it’s possible to love your enemy - ironically easier to love your enemy’s true self, because you don’t even like the personality - that all there is to love is the self (whereas to truly love our friends and lovers and children is much harder, because as personalities we love their personalities or perhaps what we see in them that is of us, or complements us). The Dalai Lama talks about this in his little book On Transforming the Mind - that we need to learn to see particularly those we love without attachment, to realise that the thing we are loving is transitory, not really real.

The experience is also horrifying, as The Gospel of Thomas (apparently) says “. . when you find that for which you are seeking, you will first be horrified and amazed . .” because suddenly all these things from which all my happiness has seemed to come, are nothing. It’s not lonely or depressing, it’s just so different.

And then seeing so clearly what I’ve been told and sort of intellectually understood for years, about our desperate searching for happiness and fulfilment in the world, but really seeing it and understanding it - that it is the self trying through the personality to find the satisfaction in the world and its abundance and riches, in relations with others, the satisfaction that only the self can provide. That the world is wonderful, but as soon as we begin to believe in it, we are lost to it, and to our true selves.

And more of the same, to the point where I feel myself on top of a very high mountain, and very much afraid that I shouldn’t really be up here at all, and that I will fall, and it will hurt terribly. I shall probably go home soon, and get drunk.