Thursday, June 5, 2014
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I've been pondering how to respond to this for a very long time. I've probably written this blog entry five times and trashed it. I've decided to take another go at it. I think I owe it to the small number of people in my community who might find themselves reading this blog in the future to be honest and clear about my take on these events. This is a subtle and difficult subject. You might disagree with me. I don't think you're a bad person if you do. I don't even necessarily think you're incorrect or misguided if you do. The answers here aren't clear. It’s hard to know the good and the true. The beautiful in this case, I'm not so concerned with. It might be the easier perspective to take - because regardless of where you stand I think most would agree that this was ugly.
This is a complex topic and it’s easy to make incorrect interpretations of what anyone might say. I'm going to post short versions and long versions - if you find that you disagree with me vehemently, you might want to read the long version to make sure you really understand my intent.
I want to be clear that I am a skeptic and critic of Gafni. I don't write as a supporter or defender. But it’s very important to be fair. My personal suspicions and opinions are obviously not the ultimate arbiter here.
My opinion on the ethics of what I understand Marc did and did not do.
Bottom line, I don't think that Marc did anything obviously wrong here. There is no widely agreed upon ethical standard for polyamorous relationships and there's also no widely agreed upon standard for the ethical behavior of post-traditional spiritual teachers. Marc has been public about his beliefs on these matters and he's acting in accordance with those beliefs. I don't know of any testimony or evidence that Marc was abusive in any of these relationships or that he was acting in bad faith with regard to any of his relationships. What we have is a woman, Tami's friend, who was uncomfortable or even deeply troubled by her secret, though apparently fully consensual, relationship with Marc - and that knowledge of her emotional discomfort undermined Tami Simon's provisional support for Marc Gafni - provisional in light of earlier allegations against him having nothing directly to do with these events.
Based on all of this, I really can't make a strong condemnation of Marc's behavior in good conscience. These were all consenting adults and the woman who seems hurt by her relationship with Marc is not one of his students that I can tell. At worst, what Marc has done is to make a bad choice for a relationship partner - someone who really wasn't up to the complexity of the kind of relationship Marc offered.
At the same time, I really can't fault Tami's behavior. Sounds True is her business. She can publish or not publish whoever she wants to. If Marc's behavior undermined her trust in him, then that is just what it did. Whether Marc was guilty of any ethical violation or not, Tami was no longer comfortable working with him.
In general, my personal opinion is that Marc's behavior is not giving due consideration to dual relationships. I think that there should be an ethical standard of behavior for spiritual teachers and I think Marc should be expected to sign up to it - but that's just my opinion.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
A friend of a friend on FB compared his actions to Gafni in a positive way, lauding Genpo for handling this with integrity while reviling Gafni. I tend to agree with her but I wonder about the dependence on context and reaction. Can one's actions after the fact really exhonerate one? Is the original sin so terrible?
So lets be clear. I understand that Genpo is rumored to have had an affair and that this is the reason he is stepping down. He did this once before in Maine, I have read. In general I am indifferent. An affair is a private problem between spouses, although it certainly damages a teacher's ability to expound on sexual ethics unless he finds a way to integrate the transgression honestly into his teaching. It becomes more complicated if the affair is between Master and student. I don't know what the standard Zen position on this is. I suspect that in a deeply traditional way, Zen tolerates this as the purview of the feudal community leader. But I don't know. I do know that its inappropriate in the postmodern world. We know too much about human relationships and power dynamics to believe this is ok. If a spiritual teacher has a sexual relationship with a student, at the very least they have to forsake one of the roles. Either the sexual relationship ends or the teaching relationship ends. Honestly I doubt that this minimal response would be sufficient, but its at least necessary. So, not knowing the details of Genpo's situation, I speculate that he may be taking this minimal step.
Or he may be acting to satisfy our more puritanical urges, paying homage to our inner traditionalism.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
His status was:
"Is integral thought in danger becoming "clubby" and "orthodox"? Do you believe that integral thought and progress have the greatest opportunity for authentic fleshing out as open source? - as "radically free". Or do you feel that commercial gatekeepers/commodifiers to integral dialog and discussion is the right turn to make?"
Forgive the disjointed nature of this post. I wrote a lot on Bruce's thread and gathered it together here. Hopefully it makes some kind of sense. The last few paragraphs are new, so my friends from FB can just jump to the end.
The integral subculture can't skip stages, regardless of the individual development of some of the participants. Our social structure is Red/Amber - not even Orange. Consider whether the leaders of the integral subculture are beholden to any communal standards of ethics or behavior. Is there any body to which members of the integral subculture may appeal in case of dispute? There really isn't. We're kings, courts, and serfs. The kings cooperate because it suits them to. When it no longer suits them, they will go off on their own.
Perhaps the more relevant question is whether we can escape being a subculture. I'm not sure we can.
Getting to the point of critique is important. I have strong areas of disagreement with Wilber as well, however I'm probably not the best person to pursue the debate. More I am aware of them as i pursue applications. The metatheoretical view is very helpful to differentiating and contextualizing Wilber's work. I think it ends up being simultaneously more powerful and less powerful than many realize. Bonnie has said - and I follow some of her line of thought on this - that much of what she's doing was consciously and subconsciously implicit in Wilber's work all along. I think there's a lot of great work here to be done.
Still - that doesn't have much to do with the social holon that is the integral community. Our individual development, opinions, etc. do not necessarily determine how we interact. Its both a function of our individual social lines of development and the social structures we put in place. To the extent that we *are* putting social structures in place, they are pre-democratic, imho.
But back to the commercial aspect of this thread - how's this for a reframe - a guy's gotta eat. Nobody in the integral community is cleaning up on these products. Robb Smith, CEO of II and I Life, works for free. Integral coaches, counselors, and consultants work for a fee. Ken's books have never been free. So what does Open Source mean? If someone builds an expertise as a skilled conveyor of integral concepts, they deserve compensation for their services and payment for the educational materials they've created.
I think another mistake might be to think about things like ISE and Integral Life as places where the work of developing integral theory and practice is going to happen. Where its going to happen is at ITC, at JFKU, at Fielding, in JITP, and in the other integral journals. ILife and ISE are forums for propagating knowledge, not developing and debating it.
As for orthodoxy - I think yes its certainly in danger. Studying the underlying source material helps a lot to head off the reification of Wilber's model. Take the evidence for Third Tier for instance - its very thin - its a speculative take on some interesting case studies more or less, at least to the extent that I understand it. Then look at Kegan - in Kegan's work he makes explicit reference to social learning as a means to transform, something Ken makes very little reference to except in the most implicit way. Kegan also makes very little distinction between Green and Teal, viewing Green, Teal, and Turquoise as sub-stages of 5th order, while Orange is 4th order and has similar sub-stages that just aren't spelled out in Wilber's spectrum. This is less to play gotcha with AQAL and more to reinforce the limits of metatheory. There are very important details about developmental theories that are just lost at the AQAL metatheory level - I think its arguable that its not a good enough meta-model given the degree to which the details of the underlying theories are obscured.
To me, my experience with Mark Edward's metatheory class at JFKU left me quite concerned that our primary task at this point in the integral experiment is to prevent integral theory from going the way of Marxist and Neo-Marxist orthodoxy. We need to stay open and stay in dialogue with the "non-integral" world as well as all the other integral currents and projects in the world that have little to do with Wilber.
I think when we express concern about the behavior of our leaders and the institutions around them we need to be specific about our concerns. Really, the biggest criticism I can make about the various practices of the I-I, Ilife, ITC, ISE, etc., is that I am always skeptical about spiritual teaching that costs a lot of money. Well, that and I think some of the 'teachers' attending are of questionable character. Still, ISE isn't any more expensive than any other conference, so its not the charging money for a conference that's the problem - the problem only arises when the word "spirit" gets added to it. Its really, in my case, a reaction to the long history of religious shysters conning old people out of their pennies. God isn't short of cash - to paraphrase Bono.
But for the rest of it? It costs money to teach people. It costs money to provide a place where people can come together. The only reason we can have this "free" dialogue here on FB is that we allow ourselves to be bombarded to some extent by advertising. That's hardly "free" and is hardly superior to paying membership dues on I-Life. (Not to mention the frequent risks to our privacy).
Further, I think we have to be careful not to conflate Ken's lack of social graces with some kind of institutional nefariousness. I know from listening to the folks on the ITC critiques panel that people were treated unfairly, dismissively, and impolitely in the early days of I-I. Interacting with Ken its pretty clear he really doesn't seem to know how to relate to people. And this had something to do, I'd expect, with the demise of all the various I-I endeavors, the transformation to I-life, and the export of Integral University to JFKU and Fielding. Ken doesn't lead anymore. He hasn't for years. Its not his sweet spot. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to hold this period against integral theory and the various wilber related institutions. I don't think we have to forget. But we should forgive. Good critique of integral theory is actively sought now. It was clear at JFKU that one of our tasks was going to be creating good critique where so much of it hasn't been.
So I think its good to reflect on the integral products that we are being offered and to realize that going to expensive conferences isn't going to advance integral theory and application. But I also think it would be a mistake to equate these products with the integral endeavor in general.
In short, final response to Bruce's thought provoking status.... No I don't think integral thought is in great danger of being closed off and commodified. I think its getting more open than it has ever been. But I do think we, the integral public, are in danger of mistaking products for something else.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
In brief a relatively short list of distinct areas comes to mind:
metatheoretical claims - this would be the most current metatheoretical structure Wilber has offered in which he sythesizes multiple theories into his overarching and unifying claims - roughly speaking this would be his AQAL, IMP, and IPM structures, however he may offer metatheoretical perspectives that do not fit neatly into these categories. It seems likely that the substance of these core metatheoretical claims should be Wilber's primary intellectual legacy and it is critiques of this core that are the most essential and relevant. Critical inquiry might address the degree to which integral theory successfully orients one toward individual fields of study, the degree to which anomalies or conflicts are resolved by integral theory, or the universality of its key elements.
theoretical claims - At times, Wilber allows his speculation to descend out of meta-theory and into theory itself, perhaps because he sees an implication of his metatheory that has not been metatheoretically realized, or perhaps because his understanding of his source material has led him to some position on is own. Both of these are valid areas for him to attempt. One might argue that his unique expertise is more suited to the former than the latter and one might also be justifiably skeptical of outright theoretical claims made from this secondhand standpoint without direct access to raw data and injunctions of the various theorists. If we consider the metatheoretical claims as the object of needed critique, then simple theoretical implications would be analogous to the predictions of simple theory that are tested with empirical data. The validity of those predictions are a valid test of Wilber's metatheory.
factual and theoretical support for those claims - Theory and metatheory take data and theory, respectively, as their object. One must build arguments based on those objects for the validity of theories and metatheories. It is always possible to critique a theorist's data, their injunctions for generating it, their interpretation of it, etc. Wilber's case is no different. The objects of his theorizing and metatheorizing are open to criticism and some may turn out to be invalid or weak, in which case we have to consider whether Wilber's theoretical constructs based on those objects are invalidated or weakened in turn. It does not automatically follow that this would be the case. A theory is not inexorably dependent upon the validity of every data point in its view. But problems of this kind also can't be dismissed out of hand.
rhetorical structure and implications of the above - similarly, the manner in which theories are communicated, recorded, delineated, and argued may be examined. Data may be sound, theory may be sound, and yet the structure and surface of the arguments advanced in support of the theory may be weak for any number of reasons. Some easy targets in Wilber's work have been his rhetorical flourishes which may be argued to be irrelevant or even perhaps counter-productive through offering insult to his audience. While it is easy to get distracted by these surface features, they alone do not invalidate integral theory and while they may be essential critiques of Wilber's literary offering, they may not qualify as essential critiques of integral metatheory.
postmodern critiques of bias and structure - While not directly a critique of theoretical content, these critiques are valid and relevant. What is the worldview that produces integral theory? What are its biases and weaknesses? How are those weakness embodied or overcome in the theory itself? What are the implications of the metanarrative integral theory offers? How might a conscious or unconscious adoption of that metanarrative affect power and justice in the world? What are the strengths and weaknesses of a worldview informed by this metanarrative? What perspectives are excluded in spite of the integral ambition to enfold and include all perspectives? What might the cultural consequences of this metanarrative be?
institutional and personal embodiment - related to the postmodern critique might be a direct critique of the persons and institutions informed by, and involved with, integral theory. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How are they revealed in embodied action and experience? How are those related to integral theory itself? What might those real consequences reveal about integral theory itself? For instance, one might critique the behavior and consequences of institutions, staff, and programs of JFKU's Integral Theory program, Fielding's program, Integral Institute, Integral Life, EnlightenNext, iEvolve, Integral Coaching Canada, Pacific Integral, etc. This is subtly different than a critique of applications of integral theory. It is more a look at how human beings and their organizations manifest, develop, and behave when attempting to realize an integral application or to propagate, develop, or study the theory itself. How has integral theory actually manifested in human life and interaction? What might that say about integral theory itself?
applications - subtly different from the institutional and personal critiques above, critiques of applications would have to be twofold - firstly, one could criticize an application according to many of the same lines outlined above for integral theory, then secondly the degree to which the application faithfully followed the principles of integral theory would have to be examined. If an application failed to withstand critique in an important way, was that failure related to its use of integral theory? If so, was its use of integral theory faithful and etc., or did it suffer from some key failure to apply integral theory properly?
Probably the most direct and relevant areas in which essential critiques will arise are in the metatheoretical claims, the support for those claims, and the postmodern view of the metatheory and its claims. Critiques of the rhetoric of integral theory, the excursions into simple theory, and the embodiment and application of integral theory, while important to greater and lesser degrees, are not the indispensible critiques that the community of integral scholar/practitioners must pursue to establish the validity of integral theory.