One of Sam Harris’s great gifts is the tremendous urgency he brings to discussions like these. As he points out with such alarming clarity, mythic-literal fundamentalist religion is quite possibly the single most destabilizing force on the face of the planet. Not only is each religion at war with the other religions, but they are also at war with the modern world as we know it. Listen as Sam and Stuart explore the many challenges faced by religion in the 21st century.
Just a few minutes into the dialogue, Sam makes an incredibly clear statement regarding some of his views on religion and spirituality in today’s world:
“We need more than simply a criticism of the waywardness of our present situation. We need a positive statement of human possibility, human potential, and the spiritual experience, which takes the place of Iron Age philosophy and these bogus ideas… Ultimately we need a coherent presentation of ritual and all the other features of religion that people may still find necessary, but we need all of that to be presented in a form that does not require any unjustified belief, any endorsement of divisive superstitions.”Sam Harris
Indeed. These are incredibly important points. An Integral Approach to spirituality would go on to supplement these truths with a few other truths found in the AQAL map, and together we can hopefully arrive at the most complete picture possible.
“We need a positive statement of human possibility, human potential, and the spiritual experience, which takes the place of Iron Age philosophy and these bogus ideas…”Sam Harris
Absolutely. Among other things, integral metatheory is an attempt to index all known human possibilities, potentials, and experiences, and then show the patterns that connect. The Integral Approach doesn‘t tell you what to think, but it does say if you want to be comprehensive, you should touch in with these five elements that appear cross-culturally (Quadrants, Levels, Lines, States, and Types). And so, looked at through the integral lens, it’s not that Iron Age philosophy is “bogus,” it was a level of development in the story of humanity’s development, the broad contours of which every man and woman born today must find a way to navigate (because we are all born at square one). This kind of mythic-membership orientation is not to be discarded, but rather transcended and included in a more comprehensive, inclusive, and up-to-date framework (of which integral metatheory is one example).
“Ultimately we need a coherent presentation of ritual and all the other features of religion that people may still find necessary, but we need all of that to be presented in a form that does not require any unjustified belief, any endorsement of divisive superstitions.”Sam Harris
Yes, a coherent presentation is precisely what is needed when it comes to religion and spirituality in the modern and postmodern world.* However, because an Integral Approach recognizes different developmental stages of spirituality, what qualifies as an “unjustified belief” changes at each level (because there isn’t simply a given, monological world “out there” waiting to be seen correctly; all world-spaces are in part co-created with the perceiving subject). So rather than try and eradicate certain sets of beliefs, AQAL would instead offer healthy versions of each of those beliefs, and always with the invitation to further growth.
For example, there is a magic Jesus, a mythic Jesus, a rational Jesus, a pluralistic Jesus, an integral Jesus, and so on. There is no single “true” or “correct” Jesus. There is stage-specific Jesus, and one form could only be said to be more “true” than another in terms of how much of reality that Jesus embraces, and therefore the higher stages of Jesus are indeed more comprehensive, compassionate, and inclusive. Likewise, a modern-rational demand for empirical 3rd-person evidence is clearly a developmental step up from the unquestioned adoption of mythic dogma, but that does not give modernity the right to trash the entire premodern corpus of humanity (the same principle applies for postmodernity in relation to both modernity and premodernity). Transcend and include. All true development is also envelopment, without which transcendence turns into dissociation.
One of Sam’s great gifts is the tremendous urgency he brings to this discussion. As he points out with such alarming clarity, mythic-literal fundamentalist religion is quite possibly the single most destabilizing force on the face of the planet. Not only is each religion at war with the other religions, but they are also at war with the modern world as we know it!
As Sam and Stuart agree, this is not an issue we can afford to fall asleep on, and we invite you to join in and find out why….
Text by Colin Bigelow
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About Sam Harris
Sam Harris is the author of five New York Times bestsellers and the host of the Waking Up Podcast. His books include The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Moral Landscape, Free Will, Lying, Waking Up, and Islam and the Future of Tolerance (with Maajid Nawaz).
About Stuart Davis
Stuart Davis is a longtime friend of Integral Life and Ken Wilber, and has acted as guest host for many Integral Life dialogues over the last decade. With fifteen full-length albums to his credit, Stuart has carved out a unique wavelength in the musical spectrum. Taking the topics of God, sex and death, and crafting them into inimitable pop songs with lyrical flair and unforgettable hooks, Stuart also works in television, film, painting, and books.