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Philosophical Context: Integral Evolutionary Spirituality
An integral evolutionary understanding of spirituality enables us to clearly differentiate between the eternal truth of Being that is not affected by evolution because it is beyond time (sometimes referred to as "horizontal enlightenment" or “Shiva”) and the development or Becoming of Spirit from the One to the Many towards an ever increasing consciousness and love, depth and complexity (often called "vertical enlightenment" or “Shakti”).
An evolutionary spirituality takes both aspects of spiritual awakening into account: the absolute and timeless aspect of emptiness or Being and the relative and evolutionary aspect of higher development or Becoming. Emptiness and Form, Being and Becoming are One in a non-dual understanding. Due to the fact that Form develops in time, we need the best possible map of knowledge dealing with the development of Form. This map can provide an orientation as to how we can become an ever more conscious and creative part in the evolution of the ONE through the MANY.
However, the map is not the territory so we hold our philosophical frameworks lightly always testing our conceptual understanding gainst our own evolving understanding. An integral philosophical context is only meant as a guiding set of orienting generalizations, not a fixed interpretation of reality.
The following differentiations and suggestions appear to be of great importance to the development of an integral evolutionary spirituality:
Transcend and Include, Eros and Agape
One of the most important insights belonging to an evolutionary spirituality is knowledge of the principles of development. The development of structures in the process of transcending and including leads to an ever increasing depth, to ever increasing developmental horizons and to higher complexity. These structures are broadly indicated by the terms, magic (tribal), mythic (traditional), rational (modern), pluralistic (postmodern), toward integral/evolutionary stages.
A healthy development retains and protects the advances attained in former developmental levels and adds new qualities to them. Any kind of one-sidedness in either one of the developmental dimensions encourages fragmentation, fundamentalism and pathologies. Should one only "include", then transcendence is inhibited from stage to stage. Should one only "transcend", then previous levels are split off and not added to the new developmental stage.
Spiritually the aspects of inclusion and transcendence could also be defined as Eros and Agape, meaning two aspects of Love. Agape represents love from the higher to the lower, which embraces and includes that which was in each previous level. Agape refines and brings those developments into alignment with the next higher unfolding of spirit in form. Eros represents the energy and drive involved in evolution that brings each individual and culture to ever more consciousness, creativity, goodness and truth. Eros and Agape can be understood as the masculine and feminine faces of God, two aspects of the ONE in its manifestation.
The Authentic Self
The Authentic Self is the unity of Absolute Self and Individual self.
Transcending and including also affects the relationship of the personal and absolute/transpersonal. The aspect of transcendence means that we recognize the transpersonal Absolute as Being, which allows us to live in freedom from this world.
The aspect of inclusion or immanence means that we also recognize the transpersonal Absolute as Becoming / Creation, which allows us to participate in the unfolding of spirit-in-action. The aspect of inclusion recognizes that we are not just the embodiment of Spirit but also human, and not just any human but a very specific unique human being that actualizes the Absolute in unique ways in time and space as an individual.
Seen in this way Enlightenment or Awakening then means to be one with all that is and to achieve the highest degree of development of our individual humanity that is possible in our time.
I, WE, IT: The Three Faces of God
A further, important integral insight developed by integral philosopher Ken Wilber, is the difference in the development of the Kosmos between I, we and it/its. Development takes place in interiors and the exteriors, individually and collectively. All dimensions must be taken into consideration and here it is important to avoid fundamentalisms.
We can experience the I AMness, the first person of God (along with all the challenges that being an individual can bring). In the interpersonal sphere, concretely in the other person, as well as in humility before That which is greater than ourselves, we experience the YOU ARE as the second person of God (along with all the challenges that communities and relationships bring), and in the things of the outer world that surround us we discover the IT IS as the third person of God, the Great Web of Life (next to all the challenges that things and events in the outer world cause us).
Simply put embracing all the 3 faces of God means that we can potentially and simultaneously:
Embrace a non-dual recognition that there is only “I” and the entire manifest creation appears in me as the Absolute Subject.
Embrace a sense of our relative individual self in alignment with/surrender to an infinitely greater mystery and also experience inter-subjective non-duality with others.
Embrace a perception of the outer world and universe as an expression of the Divine intelligence in form.