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Input and Feedback from Barry Andrews

 

Barry Andrews (former Unitarian Universalist Minister; Historical roots of the Integral Spirit Cosmology and the implications of its lack of institutional support. (July 22, 2012)

Thanks for sharing your paper with me. I find it to be an elegant, succinct and thought-provoking argument, and one with which I am in full agreement. Every day we see new examples of the ways in which nature is an interdependent whole. An op-ed piece in the New York Times today, "Searching for Clues to Calamity," examines the complex interactions of forces that effect tipping points leading to climate change. Other recent articles reveal that our bodies are not only composed of cells native to us, but also of billions if not trillions of bacteria without which we cannot survive. Evidence for your argument seems to be snowballing at this point.

The weakness, not of your argument, but rather its sustainability lies in the fact that the cosmology of the Integral Spirit has many adherents ancient and modern, but little or no institutional support. Ideas must be embodied in communities in order to survive. Certainly the scientific community supports, to a considerable degree, the cosmology of the Grand Machine, and the monotheistic religious traditions, through their respective creeds and rituals, reinforce the cosmology of the Distant Patriarch. With few exceptions, the cosmology of Integral Spirit has operated on the margins of society and history.

I'm currently reading, "Reconsidering Nature Religion," by Catherine Albanese, Prof. of Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She writes, "An experience in nature can shape and orient a life...but the experience of sacrality in nature does not usually move congregationally. One can, of course, point to Wiccans and other neo- pagan and related groups in our own time. But these are groups with movement status, ever and quickly changing and subject to easy fragmentation; and they are also, in the long Western history of a phenomenon, exceptional. They tend to be ad hoc communities. Their proneness to fracture is not the stuff of which strong organizations are made.... There is no strong mechanism, therefore, to preserve nature religion as religion. Without strongly institutionalized community, without clearly demarcated history, it exists as an inherently unstable construct, and it easily deconstructs into something else."

In my own view, the cosmology of Integral Spirit is a meta-narrative of primal religions and nature mystics, and therefore shares with nature religion generally in the need for embodiment in some kind of institutionalized community. There's the rub, it seems to me. It is sustained by a movement, to be sure, but has, as yet, no strong institutional support. (In a modest but influential way, Unitarian Universalist congregations have provided institutional support for the Transcendentalist views of Emerson and Thoreau, themselves proponents of the cosmology of Integral Spirit.)

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