December 8, 2016

Reply to Spiritual Teachers Concerning Their Responses to the Integrales Forum’s Position Paper

Dear Andrew, Annette, Helmut, Marc, Richard, Sebastian, Terry, and Thomas,

The Integrales Forum started the ongoing discussion with their publication of their position paper in April 2010 concerning a school and science of integral evolutionary spirituality and developed criteria for an enlightened spirituality by providing a checklist and/or framework for spiritual teachers to provide orientation. We submitted this paper to a number of spiritual teachers in English and German with the request that they respond. To our delight many teachers who were ready for this dialogue replied and it is to you (and all other teachers who wrote to us) that we would like to respond now.

First of all we would like to provide an overview revealing the topics to which we received responses, where there was consensus but also to diverse issues that were emphasized and even differences in opinion expressed. Finally, we would like to make suggestions as to how this discussion can be continued.

The diversity in the presented perspectives enables us even now to take a more comprehensive view of this topic. In this way, and working together with you, we can increase and sharpen our awareness for an enlightened spirituality in the 21st century and at the same time humbly, yet radically, devote ourselves to the great mystery of our own being and becoming. The current events happening in the world today make us even more aware of the urgency of this undertaking.

Part 1: Review and Summary

Status Report and Chronological Review

Up to today (end of March 2011) we have received written commentaries to the position paper from the following teachers (in alphabetical order of surname):

Andrew Cohen (AC)

Helmut Dörmann (HD)

Marc Gafni (MG)

Sebastian Gronbach (SG)

Thomas Hübl (TH)

Annette Kaiser (AK)

Terry Patten (TP)

Richard Stiegler (RS)

Due to the fact the responses were submitted consecutively within a time frame of almost 12 months, those who wrote later were able to respond to earlier submittals – a beginning discourse of teachers amongst themselves. The replies (translated into German) from Andrew Cohen and Terry Patten were published in Issue 24 of the Online Journal “integral informiert” of the Integrales Forum. Both teachers answered at about the same time in May 2010. We thank Terry and Andrew very much that they got actively involved in this dialogue at such an early stage. They really got the ball rolling. Six more responses were submitted from the end of 2010 to March 2011. Together with this paper, these commentaries will be published in the upcoming Issue 28 of the Online Journal in April 2011.

The entire process shows that the path towards a school and science of an integral evolutionary spirituality is on the right track. We are very pleased about the response to the paper and the diversity of perspectives that supplement our first draft and expand and deepen the dialogue along the way.

The present cultural context, which was often referred to in this discussion, plays an important role. Spirituality has been marginalized within the modern and postmodern societal development. The current “alternatives” are either a discredited magic-mythic framework that the traditions have to offer or a postmodern esoteric market. The purpose of our discussion therefore is to revive an essential aspect of our human existence as well as to find an appropriate form of spirituality that includes the best of the traditions, that incorporates the modern and the postmodern and to set all of this into a philosophical, enlightened and integrally informed 21st century context. This requires a new spiritual culture and a new role for spiritual teachers – not only as applied to the individual but particularly in view of the creation of a new community, a new sangha and meta-sangha and a new meta-school. This would be a school that would honor individual spiritual directions and traditions and create the space (locally as well as culturally) needed for them to evolve. The different teachings and teachers would be enhanced and enriched in such a setting, commonalities and differences would become clear and bridges could be built to the academic as well as the political mainstream. Each method and teaching approach could show itself with its full potential, become aware of its limitations and be finally freed from the burden to be able to explain “everything”.

We extend our thanks to all participants involved in this ongoing discussion as well as the translators for their commitment. The importance of such a discussion – amidst all the differences within the individual assessments – has been acknowledged and highlighted. This encourages us to continue on this path.

In addition, we have received several e-mail commentaries and verbal feedback. The position paper has been published on various occasions, e.g. in the issue 2/2010 of the magazine Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy. Representatives of the Integrales Forum took part in a (non-public) symposium hosted by the German Collegium for Transpersonal Psychology and Psychotherapy (DKTP) that took place beginning of April 2011 in Hanover with the title “Quality in Professional, Transpersonal and Spiritual Work”. Even the editor of a planned book in the USA has asked us about publishing the position paper.

Concerning the Subject Matter of the Responses

Not all teachers responded to all aspects of the two-part paper. As a reminder: it was deliberate that the paper have two parts. The philosophical framework for an enlightened spirituality in the 21st century that would honor the treasures of the traditions as well as the wisdom found in the modern and postmodern and then transcend and integrate them respectively was presented in the first part. In particular, those questions were raised that contained different ethical implications and could lead to a deeper humanity. Part 1 ended with a strong plea for an enlightened spirituality that would reconcile the enlightenment (in the western sense) and enlightenment as part of the process in waking up and growing up. This plea would help start a peer-to-peer dialogue of spiritual teachers and pundits with the goal of a trans-confessional community or a meta-sangha. The second part of the paper presented concrete criteria for validation of teachers as well as their critics including competence, integrity, responsibility, realization, reflection and transparency.

The connection of the two parts did not play a big role in the discussion up to now and we will return to this issue when working through the questions in more detail. Most teachers explicitly agreed with, or at least were not in opposition to, the first part of the paper. A specific criticism to the first part did come from Andrew Cohen and Thomas Hübl to some degree. It has to do with the relationship between the Absolute and the Relative – a topic to which we shall return later.

We would now like to present a few of the many meaningful aspects that we culled from the responses without however claiming to be complete. First of all, we will focus on the subject areas and present them so that they can be pooled together and evaluated. Finally, we would like to draw some conclusions for further dialogue.

1. What Do Spirituality and Realization Mean?

Some of the commentaries and references have to do with the subject of spirituality in general. What is spirituality today? The relationship between relative and absolute reality plays a role here, the place of the personal and impersonal within the enlightenment process (MG) and the aspects of development and evolution (AC, TH). The importance of an all inclusive, i.e. “integral worldview” as it has been developed and continues to be developed by Ken Wilber and others, was stressed as well (AC, HD, AK, MG, TH). Furthermore, the “perspective” of our awareness as an element and prerequisite for how we interpret our world (AC) is of importance.

In this context, “awakening to the ever-unreasonable nature of Spirit” (AC, TH, MG) was mentioned as something that surpasses all perspectives. In the final analysis, life remains a mystery in the face of all knowledge and awareness and should be encountered with trust, humility and respect for this mystery and reflect dignity for all mankind (SG). It is important to connect the divine and the human, to be in the world but not of the world and at the same time express your own enlightened awareness with your own unique perspective (MG, SG). If one differentiates between horizontal (typological) and vertical (transformative) spirituality, then one arrives at the translative and transformative aspects of spirituality (AC). The first stabilizes and gives support and orientation at any particular level of development, the second transforms and challenges time and time again. A hierarchy of being (AC) is created by the vertical stages of development. A contemporary spirituality is all together enlightened and integer (RS).

2. The Spiritual Path

In the responses from the teachers, spirituality was defined as a way of life that takes place in the presence of every moment and in a world that is evolving (AK). As a psycho-social-spiritual evolution (AC), this spiritual path, with its different horizontal and vertical aspects revealing state-oriented and structure-oriented possibilities is full of dangers and no picnic. As a hero’s journey and spiritual adventure, it requires a long-term commitment and a rare degree of dedication. It’s about nothing less than bringing BECOMING and BEING together (HD). Psychology and therapy also play a key role here (HD).

How can you recognize if you’re “on the way” or have reached a dead end? What are the criteria that show if my “being on the way” is bringing about change?

“From time to time each practitioner should examine his own way to determine if he is truly evolving, if his heart is being transformed. This is quite easy to do: Is there more peace, love, and wisdom in my everyday life, in the relationship to my partner, the family, the office, or with my neighbors? Am I more tolerant, more respectful, or can I do better in dealing with other people? Has my heart become more open so that the entire world, all humans, all animals, all beings find a place in it? And what am I doing specifically as a world citizen? What is my contribution to that which is inseparably one and transparent at the same time? These questions can be of help to determine if I have found the right spiritual path” (AK).

Another fruit of the way is social practice as an expression of love (SG). There are no “pre-given templates” (SG), but many supportive techniques and methods. An “orientation towards the highest” is supportive and in this connection the term “soul” also plays a role (SG). Individual destiny and personal realization are just as important as a sense of humor and an attitude of not-knowing when on the way (SG). When looking at certain trends such as New Age, goodwill is just as important as setting boundaries (SG).

Of particular importance are pitfalls and “shadows along the way” that can arise from one-sidedness. On the basis of “the three faces of God”, each of these perspectives or orientation can develop its own shadow particularly if the other faces are not taken into consideration or even denied (AK).

3. Approaches

Approaches that teachers can offer range from “finger-pointing” to the unspeakable, on to concrete psychological and therapeutic assistance, and even practical life style options. One way to differentiate could be: approaches that teach either how to empty or expand the awareness plus an integral consciousness training (AK). The teaching methods themselves can have either a supportive or demanding character, be gentle, overwhelming or startling and confronting. The choice depends on the stage of development of the teacher and student and their respective typology.

4. Concerning the Student/Teacher Relationship

What is the relationship from student to teacher and vice versa and what constitutes a good student/teacher relationship? It has to do with the “resonance of the heart” (AK) and careful listening and weighing and investigating that which was heard in the heart (AK). Student self-responsibility is important, they must follow their own “inner light” (AK). Once a student has made a decision to work with a teacher, then they should do it “wholeheartedly” and the student/teacher relationship can be seen as a “companionship along the way” (AK). An inner fire, endurance, courage and fearlessness is required (AK) to achieve this. The approach towards the teacher should be one of respect, a cult in any form is refused (AK). The student/teacher relationship is marked by the incomplete understanding of the one not enlightened and its respective limitations but can be worked on in a positive way by seeking a consensus (TP, TH). On the other hand, it must be possible to question and even criticize the teacher. Authoritarian structures and personality cults are not acceptable (RS). The question remains if something such as a “spiritual democracy” is possible within the student/teacher relationship and what this would look like (AC).

A further aspect concerning the student/teacher relationship is the meaning of the cultural context in which discussions take place. A reference is made to the “virulent anti-cultism of postmodern culture in McCarthyesque style, where all spiritual teachers and authorities and anyone who’s been seen associating with them are angrily excoriated” (TP, MG, AC). “The common context of modern and postmodern popular culture is itself a great “cult” of unconscious unenlightened defenses, anxiety, greed, and consoling illusions that fiercely and viciously defends its epistemic closure” (TP). The tendency to refuse anything that is somewhat different from what you’re used to can still be found today. Anything that is different appears to the mainstream already as “cult” (TP). Just as important when evaluating any group is how they seem themselves and their psychology: “Group psychology is powerful; small spiritual groups can become cults, especially when they have a charismatic leader and an overarching mission” (TP). “Groupthink is always dangerous and always stands as the counter force to genuine spiritual evolution and enlightenment (MG).

Finally, the student/teacher relationship remains a secret, however not as secretiveness but simply as a part of the miracle of being together that permits discretion and a safe place for relationship to develop (SG and MG). Transparency, however, is not an absolute must, divine secrets require a protected and intimate space to develop. “The demand for utter transparency by all teachers levels, or at least effaces, the critical distinction between public and private, between the esoteric and the exoteric, a distinction that has rightly been a cornerstone of spiritual teaching for at least a thousand years”(MG). Teacher transmission plays a major role in the awakening of the student (TH, MG), however applies only “within the limited container of these certain sacred moments” (MG).

5. Concerning the Spiritual Teacher’s Role: Spiritual Guide/ Mentor/ Coach/ Master

A decisive question is: What is the level of attainment of the teacher? (AC). Where does he have something to say and what are his limitations? Where does he cross the line within traditional or postmodern understanding? “Overreaching that specialized gnosis and authority is equally problematic for the church as it is with the spiritual teacher” (MG). Does the teacher know the entire spectrum of spirituality and is he aware of his own strengths and weaknesses or those of other teachers? Is he a catalyst and a mirror (AK) for his students? Can he operate under different functions such as master, teacher or coach? Not everyone who has achieved spiritual attainment is necessarily and automatically a good teacher. That’s why it is important to differentiate between roles and expectations (RS). A distinctive mark of a good, and in this sense integral, teacher are the “fruits” of his being. What can be observed in what he says and does (HD)? The development of a student can be strongly influenced by the teachings of the teacher (MG with the example of the authentic self and the unique self). Perhaps the term “teacher” is not even correct and one should rather speak of a spiritual mentor (RS). Another factor concerning the different roles of a teacher has to do with the teacher as a public personality (with a role) and the teacher as a private individual (RS). Being in the public eye can itself be a challenge and can awaken tendencies of narcissism and self aggrandizement in the teacher. Of course teachers are also human beings and have the right to develop (TP). They are also “seekers” but not equals among equals (HD, TH). Teachers should seek exchange and dialogue among each other (HD, TH, AK), and they should respond to the challenge when it comes to self-disclosure or interviews which can often be interpreted as the most difficult questions for a teacher (HD). The need for “a culture of integral evolutionary spiritual teacher” and adequate forms of supervision is expressed (TP). In this context, a “protected space” and working out respective standards play a role (HD). Four essential touchstones (not only) for the integrity of teachers are: money, possession, sex and power (AK). The desire exists that spiritual teachers get into contact with one another (AK). In one metaphor, a spiritual teacher is described as a gardener (HD). However, spirituality remains an adventure and a mystery in spite of all scientific credibility. That’s why there can be no “profession of spirituality” in a strict sense and even less a “domestication”. However, ethical standards for teachers remain an important issue (TP, TH, AC, MG).

6. Student Responsibility

Several teachers particularly emphasized the personal responsibility that adult students carry for their own spiritual development (MG, RS, TH). Also, the selection of a teacher was highlighted. This includes a close evaluation of the teacher and a decision concerning whether it is possible to trust and work with this particular teacher (AK). While students in the earlier, authoritarian, traditional context once needed to be protected from the misuse of power by the teacher, the situation in a postmodern context and in the age of unregulated internet use has increasingly resulted in cases of teacher abuse and a victim-culture of students combined with a deconstructive lack of trust against any form of authority that is often directed against spiritual teachers. It is essential here to draw the line and to protect teachers against unfounded attacks (TP,MG). Any ethic that applies to teachers must be expanded in any case to include students as well (MG).

7. Personal Background and Relationships

The biography and background of a spiritual teacher and his teachings play a big role. HD tells of his spiritual roots in Christianity and contemplation and mentions Willigis Jäger as his spiritual teacher with respect to Buddhism and Zen. Furthermore, institutions themselves can have a great influence on the life and work of a teacher which is the case with HD and the Würzburger School of Contemplation (WSdK). SG describes anthroposophy (Rudolf Steiner) as an anthroposophic and humanistic training and mystery path with the respective methods and practices and is not only his background but present affiliation. Coming from the Sufi tradition and in a very personal way, AK depicts her path and relationship with her teacher, Irina Tweedie. MG describes his deep connection to his teacher, Mordechai Lainer in the Jewish mystical tradition of “holy seduction” of the Spirit and at the same time pleads to hold the “special medicine” coming from the different traditions in high regard. RS has developed and is in charge of a transpersonal school of consciousness and respective training. TP talks about his relationship to his teacher, Adi Da Samraj, with whom he had an inexpressibly grateful but at the same time critical relationship being a practitioner of defiant devotion. Based on the background of these experiences, TP wrote about and published criteria and qualifications for an integral coach or teacher. As part of his response to the position paper, TP submitted a comprehensive reply to the criticism of AC, himself and other teachers and talked about his relationship to AC.

8. A School of Integral Evolutionary Spirituality – A New Meta-Sangha

Most of the teachers are very enthusiastic about our initiative proposing a school or meta-sangha (TP, AK, HD, SG, TH). Attention is drawn to the fact, however, that differences in competency or degrees of realization when constituting such a group must be taken into consideration (TH, AC). It is not exactly clear what criteria is to be used when determining competency or degree of realization. The following provides a possible answer to the question of selection criteria: When “competence recognizes competence” (TH) or when an energetic presence can be perceived (TH). Neither is it clear if vertical (growing up) and horizontal (waking up) can both be prerequisites when making a choice in respect to both development and basic competence.

9. Critical Responses to the Position Paper (PP) – Its Application and A Validation of Teachers in General

(Integral) thinking and the use of the intellect are a great perceptional aid but can also be a hindrance along the way. “Paradoxically, these evolved capacities for higher cognition and rational discernment, while illuminating so much of the interior and exterior of our cosmos to us, can also obscure some of its deepest and highest dimensions (AC).” Apparently it is a part of German nature to “hammer everything out in great detail”. (TP talks about “Habermasian rigor” and MG about a “somewhat tepid” and “sanitized description of the teacher-student-relationship”). Therefore, an open and light-hearted handling of the PP is to be recommended (HD). The principles of the PP as “orientating generalizations” are generally well-known and accepted; they should however not be used in a repressive way as rules and serve as a control instrument. A light-handed approach is recommended – “And the principles you articulate could be applied well or poorly, with potentially great good or bad consequences” (TP). This is tied to the question: How can teachers be validated? “But neither your documents nor mine has tackled the sticky problem of defining the “adequacy” of those doing the validating (TP, TH). Humility is required when applying the criteria for validating spiritual teachers (TP). A PP, such as the one presented here, is suitable when it comes to preventing and avoiding abuse; it should however not be used to inhibit “creative intensity” (TP, AC, MG, TH).

Part 2: Outstanding Issues and Future Outlook

In the following section we are going to bring the topics together and concentrate on some major issues as an invitation for further discussion. This consists of suggestions than can be supplemented and expanded.

1. Character of the Paper as a Framework for Orientation

Some teachers referred to the character of the paper and suggested that it be seen more as an “orientation paper” instead of a position paper and to rename it accordingly (HD). Correctional concerns could be to remove some of the “rigorous” touch (TP) that could hinder new emerging or creative teaching methods and the holy paradox (MG) or to emphasize the great mystery in teacher-student relationships more (SG). The path to enlightenment of our deepest being cannot be achieved without risks or dedication to the unknown and not-knowing. There is no fully insured way to enter this great mystery and every individual must enter and go through this adventure on his own. Teachers who are familiar with the territory and live accordingly can be an important guide and leader.

In this first phase of discussion we would like to exchange the term “checklist for spiritual teachers” with the more adequate and open term ” framework for orientation “. This expresses more clearly the respect and humility accorded to this holy paradox, the paradox in which we need to and want to describe something comprehensibly and rationally when it has to do with something that is essentially “indescribable” (trans-rational) and transcends reason itself. Spiritual teachers can help us navigate this terrain, to be firmly grounded in it and yet at the same time express the best of mankind in everyday life. Simultaneously, the important question of what exactly distinguishes a genuine and good spiritual teacher from a teacher who is not so genuine and not so good remains part of the agenda.

2. What Does Integral Evolutionary Spirituality Mean?

Spirituality is mentioned in many different ways in the responses that were received:

  • as a great secret or mystery that cannot be known but only pointed at
  • as an individual line of development or competence
  • as a higher vertical stage of consciousness – “growing up”
  • as a horizontal stage structure (gross, subtle, causal, nondual) “waking up”

In addition, the definition includes different accentuations of meaning: “nondual” is understood as the realization of the ONE in evolution as the “authentic self” (AC), but also as the evolutionary realization of the ONE in the individual perspective of the “unique self” (MG). The “unique self” is not part of the separate self and goes beyond the Absolute itself revealing the paradox of unity that includes the Absolute with the individual perspective and thereby expresses oneness and diversity at the same time.

In his book, “Integral Spirituality”, Ken Wilber points out that all these terms can be used in describing spirituality. It is important, however, to make clear exactly which aspect of reality we are referring to. Why is that so important and not just splitting hairs? Simply because reality, including the spiritual reality, has many different depths and dimensions. One example is “aware” as opposed to “awakened”. If you follow the phenomenological description of many enlightened ones in different cultures and traditions, not just awareness in the gross body state and subtle state is referred to, but also the causal state is mentioned which is the witness of all states (turiya) and then the oneness of this witness which can be continually awake or aware through all stages as they change back and forth (turiyatita). Just what exactly does one mean when he or she maintains that they are awakened/enlightened/realized?

Different teachers have their strengths in different areas, everything is spiritual but yet different. Some are great teachers of mindfulness in every day practice, others are masters of the subtle, others have their focus on emptiness and the perfection of each and every moment, others recognize SPIRIT in the Absolute and Relative (emptiness is form, form is emptiness), and yet others focus on the evolutionary development of the ONE in form, others emphasize that we can only realize the Absolute and the Timeless within our own individual perspective (unique self). These all are different interpretations und realizations of the ONE in our time. It becomes quite obvious that what we understand as enlightenment or waking up is quite different and in the process of development itself. That which can be called further development or that which reflects diversity should play a role in our dialogue with one another.

There was unity amongst all spiritual teachers that an integral evolutionary spirituality consists of Absolute and the Relative dimensions; that they must be actively lived in our daily lives, and that they must be life-affirming and not transitory. These dimensions must lead to an increase in human dignity and the presence of more love in the world.

Outstanding questions that need to be discussed could be:

  • What does integral evolutionary spirituality mean?
  • What role does an integral life practice have to play?
  • What is the relationship between horizontal (stages) und vertical (structures) of development or between “waking up” and “growing up”?
  • What does awakening/enlightenment/realization/attainment mean?
  • What role does shadow work play in spiritual development as a (necessary?) “trip to the underworld”?
  • Should these paths (way of structures, way of stages, way of shadow) be practiced simultaneously or one after another?
  • What is the relationship between the Absolute and the Relative?
  • Is the Absolute basically higher than the Relative?
  • What is the relationship between personal and impersonal?
  • What role does the individual essence (individuality) play?
  • How do the teachings of the unique self differ from those of the authentic self?
  • Do they complement one another or are they alternatives?
  • Should the individual be ontologically understood as a divine spark or only as a product of individual or social conditioning?

3. The Approach “Bring it Into the world” and its Manifestation and Resulting Actions

The agreement among all teachers was that spirituality has to lead to a more conscious and loving life in the world. This love can be supporting and demanding.

The following needs clarification:

  • What do transcendence (not of the world), transformation (as development) and translation (as horizontal expansion) mean?
  • How can Eros (as love ascending to always higher manifestations) and Agape (as love descending in the form of devotion, grace and giving attention to that which exists and has developed) be integrated and lived?
  • How does one’s own worldview (“the map”)influence how to act in the world?
  • In what way am I aware of my own map?
  • Which talents, capabilities and tools do I have at my disposal for my living in the world?
  • How do they relate to one another?
  • Which teachers have particular specialties and in which areas?
  • Are the teachers aware of the importance of all three areas mentioned above?

4. Strengths and Dangers of an Integral Evolutionary Philosophy and Life Practice

As with the different aspects of reality (inner world, outer world and we-space), the integral philosophy helps us to integrate the individual perspectives. Only by situating and limiting them correctly can they be set free. Ken Wilber mentions this time and time again.

Questions in this respect could be:

  • What are the strengths of an integral philosophy and where do dangers lie?
  • What role does the intellect play (different intelligences) on the spiritual path (discernment as a mental practice and experience)?
  • What role does feeling (as an open heart and emotional intelligence) play on the spiritual path?
  • What role do actions play (as determinative force and manifestation of possibilities) on the spiritual path?
  • What is the relationship to the map (as contextualization) to the territory (as experience)?
  • What are the strengths of a spiritual path but without a map?
  • What are the dangers of a path when a philosophical context (without a theory and unreflected practice) does not exist?
  • How can integral philosophy and the different spiritual traditions and their respective representatives be mutually beneficial?
  • How could they work together within a school of integral evolutionary spirituality?
  • What are the minimum requirements on both groups?

5. School and School Culture

Almost all teachers explicitly expressed their interest in a meta-sangha whereby the criteria for selection of the teachers involved still needs to be clarified. Important questions to be considered when founding such a school is the relationship of understanding integral evolutionary spirituality as it relates to the cooperation of teachers within the framework of the school (teaching team) and the student-teacher relationship.

  • What basics (role models, philosophy, precepts) should an integral evolutionary school have?

a) The teaching team

In our view the following questions are of importance:

  • Which teachers should belong to the school?
  • Are the teachers prepared to evaluate their strengths and competences in an “integrally informed” way, be a mirror for one another and support each other in their own development (freedom through limitations)?
  • How do they view an addition of different applications and methods (“medicine”) coming from different traditions?
  • How do the teachers see shadow work and the question of ongoing self development?
  • How do they see self-assessment and external assessment (intervision, supervision)?

b) The student/teacher relationship

  • What does the teacher-student relationship look like with the individual teachers?
  • What is the effect of this relationship to the own teaching (e.g. authentic self or unique self)?
  • What is the relationship of the personal responsibility of the student to the trust and dedication to the teacher.
  • In what areas does the teacher have authority? Where and when does his authority stop?
  • What is the student responsible for?
  • What lies within the spiritual responsibility of the student (unique self)?
  • What does the student need to be protected from?
  • What does the teacher need to be protected from?
  • What area of the teacher-student relationship is public, which intimate/confidential?
  • What is the relationship to groups of students with different levels of development (beginners, advanced, inner circle? Is there a student hierarchy?)
  • What could the relationship of a teacher in different contexts look like (teacher, colleague; friend)?
  • What are pathological and sacred secrets?
  • What do teachers need to know about the student-teacher relationships (psychodynamics of pairs, group dynamics)?
  • What value and/or dangers can be found in such relationships?
  • What does a teacher need to know (spiritual didactics) when it comes to the transmittal of teachings (dharma)?

c) Teaching methods

The majority of teachers were in agreement that the teaching methods are multifaceted and need to be adapted to the serve the goal of awakening in general and for each individual student in particular.

The following needs to be clarified:

  • How are “non-practice” (the Absolute) and “practice (in the Relative) related with one another and how does the teacher employ them?
  • What methods are helpful and which purpose do they serve (size and limitation of any method)?
  • Are the teachers familiar with several different methods?
  • How far, or is it even possible, can purpose and method be united without bureaucratically limiting the creative potential of the moment?

These questions just set first priorities that will be further developed as the discussion continues and at some point be drawn together to forming basics.

6. How to continue/perspectives

Where do we stand now with our discussion and how can it continue?

a) The discussion has begun

We have already seen that this dialogue was welcomed by all the teachers and we hope that their willingness to continue has remained even after a longer period of time. By preparing the responses to the position paper in written form, those interested have the opportunity to become familiar with the responses that the teachers gave.

b) Dialogue and exchange with teachers

In the same way the exchange of teachers among themselves has already begun. This was and remains an important goal. That is why we have and are having all responses to the paper translated either in German or English so that each teacher can have a copy of each response.

c) Publications

We are going to publish the teacher responses that have not yet appeared in the Online-Journal in the April edition together with this overview and next-step priorities. Furthermore, we will make the responses in both languages accessible on the Integrales Forum website.

d) Teacher responses

On the basis of this present paper, all teachers will have the opportunity to once again and in written form respond to the ongoing discussion with respect to the entire context and in particular to the questions that were raised in Part 2 of this paper.

e) The discussion continues

Some teachers have already informed us that they will submit further responses which will be brought into the discussion as soon as they are received.

f) Further development of the position paper

Based on the original idea of our position paper and under the influence of the reactions to it, we, the undersigned, are going to prepare a new draft called “Orientation Paper” as a possibility and invitation to find a common ground for an integral evolutionary spirituality that takes the aspects of different spiritual teachers into consideration but that shows what it is or could be that connects them together.

g) Seminar

For those teachers involved in this discussion, we intend to organize a seminar in Frankfurt/Main the end of 2011 or in the spring of 2012 and invite a small circle of the competent who will be chosen by Integrales Forum and the teachers involved. The goal of this retreat is to lead a discussion based on the new Orientation Paper (see f. above) concerning the contents and goals of an integral evolutionary spirituality.

h) School of integral evolutionary spirituality

Each culture and community initiative needs a respective organizational form and we would like to therefore encourage the development of a school of integral evolutionary spirituality. It should serve as a basis for a regular exchange between the teachers involved and their work. This includes joint activities such as seminars, publications and projects. This school of integral evolutionary spirituality is targeted to open by the end of 2012.

i) Book project

We plan to publish the results of this dialogue in book form in order to make it available to a wider public. A final date for this has not yet been set.

For Integrales Forum,

Sonja Student, Michael Habecker, Helmut Dörmann

March 2011

We live in a context where many of us have outgrown traditional forms of religion. This means that pre-modern, ethnocentric versions of our world’s traditions no longer have the capacity to meet our modern and postmodern needs. The integrative space of a World Spirituality allows our great religious traditions to evolve from ethnocentric to world-centric, and even to kosmocentric consciousness. World Spirituality allows us all to move forward together, beyond the limitations of traditional religion, while still embracing all of the valuable insights and gifts of the past.

That’s why we are delighted to invite you to World Spirituality Annual Practice Retreat of Love and Activism – Evolutionary Integral Relationships with Dr. Marc Gafni, Sally Kempton, Warren Farrell, Terry Patten, Mariana Caplan, Decker Cunov, Dustin DiPerna, & Marcy Baruch, July 17th – 24th in Berkeley, California.

Our annual practice retreat of love and activism is itself an example of World Spirituality practice: it is designed to engage you cognitively, inter-personally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We will employ a balance of theoretical and experiential, as well as individual and group, learning sessions—all woven together into a vital, comprehensive, and balanced awareness.

We will also focus on helping you develop and strengthen your own World Spirituality practice. Each day will consist of deep engagement in dharma (spiritual teachings), practice, and experiential and relational exercises, including:

  • Meditation
  • Prayer Reloaded
  • Chant & Kirtan
  • Yoga, Psyche, & Movement
  • Sacred Text Study: An Integral Approach
  • Practice of Enacting a “Higher We”


Register with a friend to receive an even deeper discount!

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