Monthly Archives: November 2014

Re: Atlantic Article on “New Atheists” and trying to come to grips with the movement from an Integral Perspective

Dear Readers,

What follows is a fairly raw reaction to the recent piece from The Atlantic about the “New Atheist” movement. (  I’ve mentioned them before in the context of a Bill Maher quotation, but this time I want to investigate it in greater depth.  The writing which follows, while somewhat raw and far from complete, is designed to reflect the broad sweep of the history of consciousness within which I wish to place the New Atheist movement.  The militancy of the New Atheist movement, especially in the United States, is unique compared to, say, the much more quiet religious indifference more characteristic of their more thoroughly secularized culture.  I think that the New Atheist movement, though characteristic of the kind of neotony all too typical of the American academy, the intellectual chattering classes, and their rather odd shared worship of a kind of Cartesian materialist orthodoxy which governs the “hard” sciences.  Therefore, I think it wise to place New Atheism within a broader spectrum.

Speaking from a perspective informed by Integral philosophy,  I think there is a need to demystify some aspects of religion.  As scholars as varied as Ken Wilber, Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, and William Irwin Thompson have suggested implicitly in their work; there’s a need to expose the ethnocentrism of the Abrahamic monotheisms.  And by ethnocentrism I don’t mean race specifically (although in some cases there is a strong racial component).  Rather, I mean the idea behind the Greek root ethnos—meaning “nation.”  In a 21st century world where we need a planetary civilization and an ethical circle of care which extends to cover the entire globe, it’s important to remember that most of the world’s organized religious traditions, especially the Abrahamic monotheisms, are creatures of the Axial Age which preceded Christ by 5-6 centuries and featured the Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Confucius, the Hebrew Prophets, Classical Athenian Philosophy  among others.  The religious movements during and after the Axial Age, many of them trending towards monotheism even if remaining officially henotheistic, reflected the early incipient cosmopolitanism of the epoch.  Moreover, these Axial religions coincided with the post-Bronze Age political consolidations of kingdoms around monarchs and emperors.  Local peoples on the periphery of these new Axial polities found themselves at the whim of forces beyond their control, and hence their local deities diminished in relevance or were heretofore abolished.   New political, spiritual, and cultural loyalties were needed—if for no other reason than to allow for the greater bureaucratic and economic integration reflective of these Axial Age kingdoms to function more smoothly.  On the other hand, Axial Age Empires needed to use the new spiritual insights of Axial Age philosophers—specially suited to organizing ancient cosmopolises and addressing social injustices that had built up in the chaotic aftermath of the Bronze Age—as tools for arranging political and mythical legitimacy of new regimes.  Hence, the concern with Man’s ultimate relationship to Nature (for Buddhism it is Samsara and the Noble Truth of Dukkha, for Lao-Tzu it’s the impermanence and endless changeability of the natural world and its processes, for the ancient Hebrew prophets it was about Yahweh raising His Chosen People above the “chosen peoples” of other nations and their gods because the Chosen People embrace Prophetic Justice, and for the Greeks it was about fealty to the Logos and the Forms which exist beyond the gods and heroes) elevated the drama of the Supreme Being and his relationship to the spiritually enlightened communities above other social and cultural narratives which bound people together (in the sense of how religiō in the Latin refers to the functional role of religion in binding people in a community together around beliefs and rituals).

Loyalty to the Supreme Being (however monotheistic or henotheistic) in the Axial period necessitated the creations of paradises in the world-to-come for those in the Sovereign Deity’s good graces, or hells of unimaginable gnashing torture for those who pass away in a state of enmity with God.  The truths of the perennial religions linked more closely with local environmental conditions, the endless recycling and rejuvenating of Life as it cycles through the four seasons with the cooperative participation of the Four Elements (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire), and the sense of the eternity of the world as such gradually became lost (a good example of this being how the question of the eternity of the world so central to Aristotle and many Pre-Socratic Greek philosophical traditions was blithely discarded by the Medieval Scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas which borrowed so heavily from Aristotle—indeed modern science with its Big Bang cosmology is uncomfortable with admitting how dependent that cosmology is upon Latin Christianity’s doctrine of creation ex nihilo).  In short, as humanity had ventured further into the grasp of the political economy of an even more heavily urbanized Iron Age agrarian-based civilization; much of the earlier Neolithic and Post-Agricultural Revolution sense of intimate connection with Nature and Her Gaian rhythms were lost.  Only the esoteric traditions, especially those like Egyptian Hermeticism, various Jewish and Christian Gnosticisms, the ancient practices of divination and astrology, and Mystery Traditions in the Classical West; retained a living memory of this pre-Axial period.  Through this Axial Age forging of a new religious consciousness, a deeper and wider mythical consciousness construct permeated most of the world’s great civilizations.  To be sure, local village / town / community / clan / familial identities had always been a major part of human communities and their anthropologies, but these local beliefs and practices still had to contend with the major truths inscribed and reflected in the perennial traditions.  Now these once localized mythologies became much more subsumed within broader political and commercial arrangements under new and more powerful kingdoms—Alexander, Ceasar, the later Zhou Dynasty, the great Vedic kingdoms, etc.—themselves resting on Axial Age spiritual technologies and the attendant new myths and cosmologies.  The more horizontal connections stretching and ultimately bending along the curvature of the surface of the Earth that united us all into a spherical Gaian planetary egg within the womb of the Cosmos became de-emphasized or even outright displaced by a vertical consciousness.  There is now a Heaven above, an estranged Earth between, and a terrifying Hell within the depths.  The Axial Age individual, especially one not endowed with the carefully cultivated skills of the sage, mystic, or philosopher; is caught between two axes which pull him apart as the greatest astrological avatar of the Axial Age—the human figure of the Divine Son of Man, Jesus Christ, strung out between the community of humanity his arms would struggle to embrace and the terrifying spectacle of an unfathomably distant yet glorious Heaven Above and the even more horrific Hell Below.  Where once the rival community, culture, or city-state competing for access to trade routes, strategic resources, commodities, and/or luxuries was merely composed of minions following a rival local deity of approximate power and equal godly caprice; now such a rival was a threat to an entirely new civilization with Its Supreme Being enthroning an imperial vizier over His Pilgrims on Earth.  And such rivals held similar conceptions of their opponents in turn, with oddly similar monotheisms pointing to the deeper Axial-Age archetypes which were congealing as the Age of Taurus gave way to the Age of Pisces.  The individual of Axial Age Rome, India, Greece, China, Persia, etc. could not but feel the need to cling closely to the God of his/her new polity and the myths giving that god ultimate cosmic sovereignty.  In this newer, deeper, and much more dualistic substage of the mythical level of human consciousness the sublime peace of dwelling with God coexisted by necessity with the definitive “un”-humanity of those who dare fall outside of God and His earthly Kingdom’s spiritual and temporal domain.  The most influential of these Axial religions—those following from their Biblical-Koranic patriarch Abraham—have variously subjected the entire planet to their mythologies, thereby de-mythologizing and flattening the entire world of its infinite spiritual diversities as would cutting down a virgin forest strip the land of its biodiversity.  Paradoxically, and in turn Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have fought each other using inquisitions, crusades, pogroms, holy wars, holocausts spread by hysteria and fear.  For a God who saves so few people in a dead, dis-enchanted, stripped bare world dominated by militarism and reduced to the values of commerce cannot bare the existence of barbarians spawned of demons threatening to turn Earth into a bastion of vice, blasphemy, and spiritual-mythological pollution.  Perhaps the violence the Axial Age Empires inflicted upon peoples linked to the pre-Iron Age Perennial Traditions has only been exceeded by the violence Axial Age Empires have inflicted upon each other.  And so the de-mythologizing that the Axial Age religions—and here especially the politically and doctrinally orthodox forms of hierarchical Christianity perhaps most particularly (as the Piscean archetype is especially Christian in nature)—conducted against non- or pre-Axial peoples needs to be thoroughly de-mythologized in turn.  We need a rational consciousness that recognizes the value of all peoples as stemming not from the law of a capricious soteriological God but rather from the innate Divinity residing within the manifest form of the human person.  From this, the Piscean Myth can be reborn and be used as a vehicle to revivify the perennial faiths and their tie to Gaia and Her rhythms, to which fealty from human beings gives Her great comfort and soothes her wrath at the destructiveness of industry and agriculture in the service of human overpopulation to the detriment of the Web of Life.  From there, we also need to recognize from that rationality the plurality of human experiences—the 7 billion plus worlds expressed in Psyche’s incarnated avatars who share human form and personality.  Thus, the spiritual core of the great Axial Age religions may be integrated under the umbrella of a new civilization, an Integral creation where the questions of Heaven and Hell themselves become publicly heretical.  We need a spiritual reality of a revolution of consciousness where the questions of determining Jew vs goy, Christian vs heathen, Muslim vs infidel become the ultimate taboo so that the utopian dream of unity in the Body of an Integral Cosmic Christ vaguely prefigured in some of the Epistles of St. Paul becomes closer to a human reality.  The myth of Heaven and Hell enforced in the psychic split within the soul quivering before a capricious Sky Father-God eager to reward the chosen few and punish the lost masses needs to be replaced.  It is these DEEP political realities which are splitting off people into the depths of despair in the collapsing late industrial capitalism of the 21st century that are the real myths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and the rest of the Axial Age religions that need healing.  It is these myths which need mythologizing—and it is to the need for rationality that the New Atheists appeal with such apparent force compelled as they are by the bitterness felt by questioning why such Father Sky-Gods need worship or can even claim credibility—much less existential and political legitimacy.

But the New Atheists must grow and mature.  For Reason  alone can’t discern what such a Sky Father-God would do; nor, can we prove what He says or does much beyond an intimation that a Divine Presence extends beyond the Cosmic Deep from where the anima mundi seems to appear as a babbling fountain of consciousness.  Such a rational consciousness compels societies to give formal recognition to individual rights, but even more importantly to individual differences.  Humanity is a many-faceted kaleidoscope whose only unifying trait is its seemingly endless variety as expressed in each and every individual human person.  And it is only here, in the Integral space which morally, spiritually, and creatively affords the freedom to really evolve both horizontally across to greater human connection and interpersonal intimacy and vertically to encompass the deep cosmic space above and the necessity to implant rhizomatic roots below which affords the beginning of the creation of a new World-Picture.  So, yes, in short, there is a crying need for de-mythologizing the world’s religions—but, only so that human beings can evolve spiritually to reach integral levels of personal consciousness and inter-personal relationships so that new structures of human relations may be born from amidst the dying ashes of an old order.

Nicholas T. Dahlheim

Major November 2014 Transits

Most Important Upcoming Planetary Transits: November 2014 By Nicholas T. Dahlheim

Planets in SignsSun  

Sun in Scorpio (♏8°29’10” on November 1, 2014 GMT 12:00 AM) The Sun will spend the first 22 calendar days of November in Scorpio. As the Sun traverses the final 20 degrees of Scorpio, the second and third decanates (periods of approximately 10 days) of Scorpio will exert stronger influence. Autumn has been fully present for over five weeks since the fall equinox in late September. In the temperate latitudes, most of the deciduous trees and shrubs have trees whose leaves have changed color and many trees are also beginning to lose their leaves. The bright, fresh autumn air experienced during the Sun’s time in Libra is giving way to the emotion-laden time of recollection and reflection signaled by the Sun’s entry into Scorpio. Here at the midpoint of autumn, winter is not so far away in the future, so there is an added urgency that lends intensity to finishing the projects of the year. This is also a great time to explore sexuality, as Scorpio has a uniquely powerful connection to everything erotic. The second decan of Scorpio, beginning November 2, is the Pisces Decante and is influenced by dreamy Neptune. The elemental power of water is especially prominent here in the second decanate as both Scorpio as the fixed water sign and Pisces as the mutable water sign are at work. Neptune can provide a fertile ground for the imagination, but there is a strong temptation under Neptunian influence to seek escapism or to fall into and/or relapse into addictive patterns. Persons who have struggled with addictions to objects like drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, etc. ought to exercise particular caution in the opening days of November. Oftentimes the desire to escape into fantasy, which is only partially and tantalizingly fulfilled via addictive behaviors, indicates a heart that is vulnerable and in need of spiritual soul-work. Awareness of the weaknesses that impel one to seek escape are also invitations to grow, but grow “down” and plant deeper roots. Just as trees in arid steppes and deserts in need of water grow roots which are long and deep, so should people look for opportunities to grow “down” and root themselves deeper in their own individual souls. People should seek out people in their lives who can show tenderness in the midst of personal vulnerability. Take those people who can keep a secret into your confidence, and avoid those who gossip about mindless trivia as they may not guard another person’s emotions with the appropriate care. Pay attention to planets present in Pisces in the natal chart. Additionally, pay attention to aspects in the natal chart that Neptune makes with other planets. The energies and dynamics of Neptune most accentuated by these aspects will be most active in the Psyche. The third decan of Scorpio, beginning November 12, is the Cancer Decanate and is influenced by the decanate rulership of the Moon. The elemental power of water is prominent as the cardinal water sign Cancer lends its lunar energy. Manifestation and moving closer to fulfilling one’s “destiny” are strong themes for this period of the month. The emotional pull here is actually stronger in this third decanate thanks to the Moon. Emotional intensity will be greater and impel from the depths that a person move in a true direction. However, where that emotional intensity is inflected by strong memories of home—whether they are of genuine nostalgic over-attachment or of the trauma from unmet needs for security and acceptance—there is the potential for struggle. Emotional resonances with the experiences each individual has with their mothers or primary care-givers early in life vibrate strongly during this decanate. During this time, the individual’s own emotional intensity can be magnified by the Moon’s tendency to cause excessive absorption (often unconsciously so) of the moods of others. In a fast-paced, often manic, 21st century consumerist society where attention becomes the currency and where desire is inflamed for the purpose of circulating commodities, society is bathed in the presence of the collective’s anima, what Jung described as the truer aspect of the other side of the dual self unexpressed by the public personae people wear out in the world. The upside of all of the watery energy and the powerful influence of the Moon here is that the lingering energies from the powerful October 23 total lunar eclipse (albeit one which was more visible in the Eastern Hemisphere) under a New Moon lends a kind of freshness. Past and present emotional turbulence can be viewed with a new clarity and, as such, the enhanced power of the Moon offers an opportunity for developing a deepened emotional intelligence. Purified from emotional turbulence, navigating the collective unconscious and modulating the absorption of others becomes easier. Continue reading