Urban Dharma Newsletter... August 27, 2002
Evolving Mind: buddhism, biology & consciousness
Ken Wilber: Online
3. Book Review: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit
4. "Wholes and Parts" ...Rev. Sam Trumbore
6. Temple/Center of the Week: The California Institute
of Integral Studies
1. Evolving Mind: Buddhism, Biology &
life on Earth evolved, the human species emerged from the animal
kingdom with a new kind of consciousness. But has evolution
stopped with the human mind? Or could spiritual growth be the
continuation of biological evolution? In this book Robin Cooper
asserts that there is a next step, involving not further biological
development but a radical transformation in consciousness. It
is here that the great traditions of science and religion come
together. As both scientist and Buddhist, Cooper has a unique
perspective on evolution, and his detailed accouont of this
meeting between two apparently different worlds makes an entirely
new contribution to the field of evolutionary science. Building
upon an increasingly respected theory that animal consciousness
might somehow have directed the course of evolution, he traces
the development of the mind from the primitive responses of
simple organisms to the illuminated awareness of the greatest
sages. For the first time, too, evolution is explored from a
Buddhist perspective, for the traditional teachings of Buddhism
offer us a way of taking evolution into our own hands. Cooper
suggests, without compromise, that both science and Buddhism
are essential for understanding the evoluting mind.
Ch. 1 of The Evolving Mind, by Robin Cooper
animal or lower evolution, new ways of being arise through a
number of mechanisms, as we shall see in the next three chapters.
With human beings, a quite different method of self-transcendence
becomes possible: conscious choice. Every human life has its
habitual routines which express the status quo, and every
human personality provides standard responses to familiar experiences.
So my friend believed that if he did not fight, he would have
to run away. Yet, as he did then, one often faces opportunities
for rising above the routine.
chance to open a quite new direction for one's character, such
as responding to provocation with equanimity, may come infrequently.
But tiny opportunities for conscious self-transcendence arise
all the time, hard though it is to recognise them. In such moments,
a new, creative response is accessible. If one only has the
confidence, one is presented with a genuine choice.
think that this power of conscious choice is a vital human endowment.
It allows meaning to enter one's life, since one can decide
on the course one's life should best take. It ensures one is
not impelled down instinctual roads of action, but can search
out and adopt a new solution to any dilemma. It permits artistic
creativity and the opening up of new styles of life, and it
even permits progress to human enlightenment in the Buddhist
sense, by means which we shall explore later.
significant image of self-transcendence in the Buddhist tradition
is the `going forth', in which an individual is seen leaving
behind all that is familiar and secure to strike out into the
unknown in search of freedom. The classic picture is of the
founder of Buddhism galloping away from his sleeping wife
and child, letting go of wealth and power, to don the rags of
a hunter and live as a wandering ascetic. For an aspiring Buddhist,
the going forth might be a process of disentangling himself
or herself from inner emotional attachments, but it also usually
involves a radical change of life- style, with a drastic reduction
in worldly responsibilities.
the heart of the Buddhist system is an unending `inner' self-transcendence.
Human life is not satisfactory; the human world is obsolete
in some respects and needs making anew. As well as having the
means to make the same old mistakes in updated ways, people
have a potential for creativity. With sufficient awareness,
the existing state of affairs can always be the basis for a
better one: a wiser man, say, or a more compassionate government.
According to Buddhism, one can learn self-transcendence. In
particular, the Buddhist teachings show how awareness can be
enhanced progressively by conscious choices, so that one's actions
become more effective and more realistic. Each type of consciousness
is transcended, yielding a higher type which encompasses more
has an evolutionary vision, and so does Buddhism, perhaps alone
among the world religions. Biology concentrates on lower evolution,
while the main concern of Buddhism is higher evolution. It suggests
methods and viewpoints designed to open one to self-transcendence,
methods consolidating the self-reflective level of consciousness,
particularly by mindfulness practice and ethical awareness.
It also offers approaches for establishing types of awareness
that are in a sense super-human, using meditation, contact with
the wise, and the purging of selfish biases from one's mind
so that one can contemplate deeply the significance of one's
experience of life.
this may sound very fine, but the possibilities described in
Buddhist texts need to be manifested in real people's lives
if they are worth anything in practice. Indeed the Buddha asked
his followers not to take what he said on trust, but to test
it against their personal experience, as a goldsmith tests the
purity of a piece of gold. With a book such as this, a reader
can do little more than assess the cogency of its arguments
and the reasonableness of its evidences. It is too easy to imbibe
vast quantities of second-hand experience from the written word,
rather than choose a suggested course of action that appears
reasonable, and test it thoroughly for oneself.
Ken Wilber: Online
Wilber is the author of over a dozen books, Including Sex,
Ecology, Spirituality; The Spectrum of Consciousness; Up from
Eden; and Grace and Grit. The Spectrum of Consciousness,
written when he was twenty three years old established him as
perhaps the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our
times. Credited with developing a unified field theory of consciousness--a
synthesis and interpretation of the world's great psychological,
philosophical, and spiritual traditions--Ken Wilber is the most
cogent and penetrating voice in the recent emergence of a uniquely
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution
...by Ken Wilber
One of the great thinkers of our time brings together
sex and gender issues, ecological wisdom, and spirituality into
a coherent vision for our times. In a tour de force of scholarship
and vision, Ken Wilbur traces the course of evolution from matter
to life to mind, answering the critical question: Can spiritual
concerns be integrated with the modern world?
"Wholes and Parts" ...Rev.
Sam Trumbore- I am one of those unusual Unitarian Universalists
who have grown up with the faith and remained. My card carrying
Humanist parents raised me in a small Unitarian fellowship in
reading comes from the first page of the introduction to Ken
Wilber's book, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of
is FLAT-OUT strange that something--that anything--is
happening at all. There was nothing, then a Big Bang, then here
we all are. This is extremely weird.
Schelling's burning question, "Why is there something rather
than nothing?," there have always been two general answers.
The first might be called the philosophy of "oops."
The universe just occurs, there is nothing behind it, it's all
ultimately accidental or random, it just is, it just happens--oops!
The philosophy of oops, no matter how sophisticated and adult
it may on occasion appear--its modern names and numbers are
legion, from positivism, to scientific materialism, to linguistic
analysis to historical materialism, from naturalism to empiricism--always
comes down to the same basic answer, "Don't ask."
question itself (Why is anything at all happening? Why am I
here?)--the question itself is said to be confused, pathological,
nonsensical, or infantile. To stop asking such a silly or confused
question is, they all maintain, the mark of maturity, the sign
of growing up in this cosmos.
don't think so. I think the "answer" these "modern
and mature" disciplines give--namely oops! (and therefore
"Don't ask!")--is about as infantile a response as
the human condition could possibly offer.
other broad answer that has been tendered is that something
else is going on: behind the happenstance drama is a deeper
or higher or wider pattern, or order, or intelligence. There
are, of course, many varieties of this "Deeper Order":
the Tao, God, Geist, Maat, Archetypal Forms, Reason, Li, Mahamaya,
Brahman, Rigpa. And although these different varieties of Deeper
Order certainly disagree with each other at many points, they
all agree on this: the universe is not what it appears. Something
else is going on, something quite other than oops….
book is about all of that "something other than oops."
think many of us would like to believe, perhaps already do believe,
that there is a Deeper Order to the universe than mindless random
processes. The reading from Ken Wilber's book Sex, Ecology,
Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution is the first part
of a trilogy which synthesizes from many different scientific,
religious, and philosophic disciplines a thread of Deep Order.
Wilber is a voracious reader. Roger Walsh, reviewing this massive
800 page book, reports that this first part of the trilogy results
from the integration of some 300 books on feminism, 300 on ecology,
and more than another 400 on various topics such as anthropology,
evolution and philosophy. Since his first book in 1977, Spectrum
of Consciousness, a synthesis of Western and Eastern psychologies,
Wilber has been reading widely, seeking the patterns which connect
disparate fields and ideas together, seeking the Deeper Order,
seeking "something other than oops."
pattern that Wilber presents in this book, is the idea of holons.
Everything you see and everything you can't see - all that exists
in time and space - are holons. You and I are holons, the chairs
you're sitting on, your dog or cat, the Walter Vi-burn-um tree
we just won from the Pine Cone tree raffle, the rocks
in our sanctified bird bath, the dust mites crawling on your
clothing, the oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules we are breathing
in and out, everything is a holon.
holon has two fundamental properties which define it. It has
a "part" nature and a "whole" nature. Thus
the title for this service, "wholes and parts." Because
each holon has some kind of boundary which defines it in the
first place, this is where it gets its "whole" nature.
A cell has a membrane which surrounds it. We have our skin which
encloses our bag of bones, connective tissue, muscles, organs
and sea water. Molecules are discrete entities which have their
holon may have a boundary that defines its limits but it does
not exist alone. Holons of the same type tend to interact with
each other; thus they also have a part nature as well. The cell
of a tree leaf may have its own identity but it is part of something
much larger than itself. Human beings are very social and create
numerous social organizations, be they tribes or political parties
or Fellowships such as this one. No child can survive birth
without a social network (usually his or her mother) to support
it. Molecules can be highly interactive with each other. The
relationship between a holon's whole nature and its part nature
is of course not the same for each holon. An ameba does not
have the same part nature as a skin cell. A president has more
part nature than a hermit. A polymer is not the same as a water
is a tension between a holon's part nature and its whole nature,
between the individual and the social. This is most obvious
with human holons as we try to build up a society that protects
individual freedom while also integrating people together to
support the well-being of all. If a holon wants to be mostly
a whole and not a part, this can lead to a pathology of alienation
and repression. If a holon wants to be mostly a part and not
a whole this can lead to a pathology of fusion and indissociation.
This is most easily seen in the stereotypical eternal struggle
between the sexes with men wanting more autonomy and women seeking
more connection. If we lean too far toward autonomy, the weak,
the young and the vulnerable suffer greatly. If we lean too
far toward the social, freedom and creativity are restricted
for the good of the whole.
is interesting about holons is that this part vs. whole struggle
has no resolution at one particular holonic level. The only
resolution found is the creation of a greater holonic level
which encompasses that level and adds something more. This is
the process of evolution.
human being is the masterpiece of evolution. Our bodies are
made up of an enormous number of parts which cannot survive
on their own but do quite nicely as part of a larger whole.
If my heart, brain or liver are removed, all of us will die.
The heart cannot survive on its own, but as a part of a larger
whole it thrives quite nicely. While in the body, all the organs
communicate with each other constantly, using chemical messengers
in the blood stream. The organs in the body are both wholes
and also communicating parts which function together to create
a larger whole. Cells are also wonderful examples of collections
of individual parts, molecules, which function together to create
something larger which has its own identity superseding the
parts. Even the complex molecules, such as a strand of DNA,
are made up of smaller cooperating molecular amino acid base
most interesting properties of holons is their ability to organize
socially in patterns which support the creation of something
greater than the individual parts. We are made up of billions
of cells but we are much, much more than the individual parts.
Thus reality is hierarchical, built up of levels
of holons which support greater holons being created through
differentiation and cooperation. The greater or higher level
holon may be superior in its powers to the holons which support
its existence but no holon can continue to exist without the
support of all the layers of holons underneath. Something as
small as a virus or as large as clogged arteries can bring the
human holon crashing down to dissolution.
only do holons have a hierarchical nature, but also an interior
as well as an exterior nature. Even the simplest cells have
the ability to sense their surroundings and modify their behavior
based on some kind of inner analysis of the situation. Probably
one of the more sophisticated holons in the cellular world are
found in the immune system; they are able to detect and neutralize
intruders while not harming friendly cells. The need for a holon
to have an interior quality is well illustrated by Wilber in
deer sees me approach. It sees my exterior form, my shape,
and registers all the appropriate physical stimuli coming from
my form to the deer. But what do they mean? Am I the
friendly fellow with the food, or the hunter with the rifle?
The deer must interpret the stimuli in the context
of its own worldspace and how I might affect it.
And this is not just a matter of seeing: the deer sees just
fine. But it might be mistaken in its interpretation;
I might actually have the rifle and not the food. All the physical
stimuli are hitting the deer fully (that's not the problem);
the problem is, what do they actually mean? The surfaces
are given, but what is lurking in the depths? What are
the intentions lying behind the surfaces?
Wilber's distinction of interiority and exteriority, I thought
the best way to understand it might be thinking of neurons or
brain cells as holonic communities which could, as parts, network
together to create greater holons which in turn could network
as groups and create even greater holons. You can slice open
someone's brain and not see them, rather they can only be understood
in the exchange of energy. You can open up a computer and see
the individual computer chips but not understand the patterns
of ones and zeros which create the beautiful picture on the
the hierarchy of holons built up out of each other together
with the individual and social nature of holons and their interior
and exterior qualities, you get the cover of your order of service
which is Wilber's paradigm of everything. If you want to understand
the individual levels and how they relate to each other, please
come to our adult education class at 9:00am for the month of
March as we unpack this and many more of Wilber's interesting
morning I will only be explaining the quadrants which he describes
as follows. The upper half is the individual and the lower half
is the social. The left side is the interior and the right side
is the exterior. The four quadrants of the diagram describe
basically four qualities or dimensions of all holons. The individual
dimension of the holon has a visible network of structures of
holonic levels which supports the development of the capacity
for awareness and an interior or a psychological dimension which
gives the holon consciousness. The social dimension of the holon
breaks down into an interior dimension which supports the development
of patterns of relation between holons, or culture, and the
external observable patterns which build up greater and greater
holonic networks. Some simplifications of this chart are as
follows: The right side, the external, tangible side, can be
thought of using such questions as: what is it?, what does it
do?, how does it work? The left side, the internal, intangible
side, can be thought of using the question, what does it mean.
The right side can be described using the word "it".
The upper left side with the word "I", and the lower
left side with the word "we".
is a whole lot more to be said about these quadrants, how they
are ignored by one theory or group and celebrated by another,
which we do not have the time for this morning. Wilber uses
this theory of reality as a way of tackling thorny problems
and contentious factions in the intellectual community today
as well as in history. His primary complaint is against the
thinkers of today who want only to look at one of the holonic
levels and ignore the rest or collapse all the levels into one
not recognizing the hierarchical development at work in time.
He calls them flatland thinkers. We might call them reductionists,
fundamentalists, and fractured holistic thinkers. Rush Limbaugh
might call them environmental wackos. To learn more about this
critique, again, come to the 9:00am class this month.
real question though, is: What do holons have to do with the
question of oops or something else?
the law of thermodynamics which requires everything to wind
down seeking lower and lower energy states of less and less
order, the arrow of holons is pointed to greater and greater
complexity and order of higher power and scope. Wilber argues
forcefully that in the development of science during the enlightenment,
we lost the left half of the picture, the interior, as scientists
focused upward at the stars using telescopes and downward into
the microscope and relegated the interior to the realm of religion.
It is only within the last hundred years that psychology has
recovered the interior, the "I" and anthropologists
are exploring the cultural, the "we". Wilber believes
that in focusing on the external, the measurable, the quantifiable,
we have lost this interiority or the life of the Spirit.
hierarchical levels of holons, Wilber claims, are similar to
the Greek idea of the Great Chain of Being which springs from
an energetic, overflowing Spirit which constitutes every level
of existence. We need not seek this Spirit enshrined in some
church, protected in some temple, or hidden in some esoteric
writings. We are this Spirit; everything we do and are is a
manifestation of that Spirit from which we cannot be separated,
for there is nothing else but Spirit. Only as a holon evolves
into greater and higher forms does it begin to become aware
of its nature.
each holonic level, the holon seeks greater wholeness and connection
which eventually creates the next level of holons. Intrinsic
to this process is the desire for integrity and union. Wilber
tells us that the struggle of how to solve the holonic conundrum
goes on forever in increasingly higher and higher levels. What
seems to break through the conundrum is actual holons existing
fully in all four quadrants; in the "I", in the "we",
in the "it", or to use an analogy to Plato, in the
beautiful (I), the good (we), and the true (it). Actual holons
will eventually evolve to a point of self- awareness which will
allow them to realize their real nature and origin as Spirit,
as free of space and time, and undivided from the timeless,
the eternal. This is evolution's goal which it strives for relentlessly
and unknowingly, to know itself and find peace.
gives us a message of hope that more is going on right now than
our feeble attempt to take over God's job and begin running
the new world order. For all the messages and predictions of
doom and gloom we wrestle with in today's world, Wilber sees
signs, many signs, of evolution driving us forward to the next
holonic level. Even if we destroy the human race, the spirit
in evolution, the very atoms in the rocks, will not rest
nor give up - it will strive on trying again and again to know
positive, hopeful words and powerful ideas which bind together
many different areas of thought come none to soon as we suffer
the onslaught of the millennialists predicting the end of the
world and the fundamentalist wanting to reverse the arrow of
time back into history. He persuades us that, yes, there is
something else going on and it includes us, goes beyond us,
and is part of us. It is our very self. Ultimately we can relax
into what is, trusting the goodness of existence and our rightful
place in it.
surprise, surprise, as we relax into what is, accepting ourselves,
each other and the world, we find the transforming love, the
spirit, the indwelling divinity, the spirit of which we are
made and we become part of that transformation for the good
good news is that there is something else.
bad news is we haven't evolved enough to fully realize it.
that evolution is possible and is happening right now.
we open our minds to greater experience, wisdom and connection.
we look inward, seeking the spirit of which we are made.
we all realize the beauty, the goodness, and the truth which
is our very nature.
in peace, make peace, be at peace.
The California Institute of Integral Studies
Haridas Chaudhuri, philosopher, educator and humanist, was born
in May 1913 in Calcutta, India. At the invitation of Dr. Frederic
Spiegelberg of Stanford University, Dr. Chaudhuri came to the
United States in 1951. During his visit to India, Dr. Spiegelberg
had requested Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) -- poet, philosopher,
political activist, and sage of India -- to recommend a philosopher
who would travel to the United States to bridge the gap between
West and East. Sri Aurobindo recommended Dr. Chaudhuri. Prior
to coming to the United States, Dr. Chaudhuri was a member of
the educational service of the Government of West Bengal, and
the chair of the department of philosophy at Krishnagar College,
Bengal. Dr. Chaudhuri founded the Cultural Integration Fellowship
(CIF) in March 1951.
1968 he founded The California Institute of Integral Studies,
then known as the California Institute of Asian Studies. From
1968 through 1974, the Institute functioned as the educational
arm of the Cultural Integration Fellowship. Since Dr. Chaudhuri's
passing in 1975, Bina Chaudhuri, his wife, has continued to
be an inspiration to CIIS; she continues to serve as president
1981, the name of the school was changed to the California Institute
of Integral Studies to indicate the Institute's commitment to
a unifying vision of humanity, nature, world, and spirit. This
use of the term "integral" stems from the integral
yoga of Sri Aurobindo and from the integral philosophy, psychology,
and yoga of Dr. Chaudhuri, who extended Aurobindo's work.
Institute's original emphasis on Asian religions and cultures
has evolved to include comparative and cross-cultural studies
in philosophy, religion, psychology, counseling, cultural anthropology,
organizational studies, health studies, and the arts. Although
the Institute continues to grow, it remains committed to small
classes, a personal learning environment, and a strong sense
of community shared by students, faculty, alumni, and staff
Mission and Educational Philosophy
California Institute of Integral Studies is an accredited institution
of higher learning and research that strives to embody spirit,
intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities,
and the Earth.
Institute's Seven Ideals:
Practices an integral approach to learning and research
Institute facilitates the integration of body-mind-spirit. It
values the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, creative, somatic,
and social dimensions of human potentiality. Students are encouraged
to take an interdisciplinary approach to learning by complementing
their specialized program of study with courses in other departments.
Institute is committed to the study and practice of multiple
spiritual traditions and to their expression and embodiment
throughout all areas and activities of the Institute community.
Commits to cultural diversity
a dialogue of difference, the curriculum reflects a commitment
to the diversity of the world's cultures and spiritual traditions
while seeking their holistic integration.
Fosters multiple ways of learning and teaching
Institute honors many learning modalities and ways of knowing–intuition,
body-knowledge, creative expression, intellect, and spiritual
Advocates feminism and sustainability
Institute embraces intellectual, cultural, and spiritual traditions
which further the effectiveness of emancipatory movements such
as feminism, social and political liberation, cultural self-expression,
and ecological activism.
at the Institute is understood to be founded upon an underlying
core of values which affirm shared understandings and differences,
scholarly efforts, and humane concerns. Such community is a
vital part of the Institute's effort to provide an effective,
visionary, and nurturing environment for study and training.
Strives for an integral and innovative governance
Institute recognizes the importance of a mode of governance
which would eliminate, or at least reduce, the polarities and
fragmentation which typically plague institutions. As with other
ideals, integral governance is difficult both to formulate and
to practice. This ideal stands among the seven as a constant
challenge and encouragement to try new forms, procedures, criteria,
and language as aids to a more shared and collaborative decision
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