The Search for an Integral Vision of the Encompassing Reality


The Search for an Integral Vision of the Encompassing Reality – Images

Towards an Integral Vision of the Encompassing Reality – Chart

For as long as I can remember I’ve been in search for the Big Picture, the Comprehensive Perspective, the Universal Gestalt, or, if you will, “an Integral Vision of the Encompassing Reality.” Several years ago  I read George Santayana’s book, “Three Philosophical Poets,” where he used Dante, Lucretius and Goethe as three representatives of the Metaphysical, Naturalist and Humanist dimensions of reality and perspectives on experience. Santayana envisioned a day in the future when a new “philosophical poet” would find a way to creatively integrate these three horizons. He himself was attempting to do just that in his own book.

What I have outlined in the attached Images and Chart (at the top of the page) follows Santayana’s schematic of the Metaphysical, Naturalistic and Humanistic dimensions of life, or if you like, the Transcendental, Immanent and Relational domains. It seems to me that most people tend to fixate on one or at the most two of these dimensions while minimizing or dismissing the third as in some way illusionary or merely epiphenomenal. Yet I see no reason which we can not and ought not to take all these dimensions seriously without resorting to any dismissive reductionism. Both the dualist and panpsychist worldviews attempt to acknowledge the metaphysical and the naturalistic dimensions. The Dualists do so by viewing them as two separate realities and not worrying about whether or how they might be connected. The panpsychists (alone with panexperientialists, panentheists and neutral monists) do so by viewing them as two necessary and complementary aspects of a single Greater Reality that encompasses both Mind and Matter, Consciousness and Cosmos without either splitting apart or reducing one aspect to a junior partner of the other. But that perennial philosophical debate we can set aside for our present purposes.

Philosophical Idealists will take the metaphysical dimension serious but tend to regard the naturalistic dimension as ultimately illusionary or “maya.” Philosophical Materialists will take the naturalistic dimension seriously but regard the metaphysical dimension as psychological projection and wishful thinking. And assorted humanists will tend to live somewhere between these two mind/body polarities while being conflicted about them, perhaps leaning to one side or the other – describing themselves as either Spiritual Humanists or Secular Humanists. For them it is often the unfolding drama of human history that takes center stage, along with exploring individual human potential — “the further reaches of human nature.”

The Metaphysical Perspective will be attracted to The Ineffable Mystery, The Transcendental Ideals, and The Ontological Categories.

The Naturalistic Perspective will be attracted to the Macro-Cosmic World, the Micro-Cosmic World, and the Living Earth, including Relativity Theory, Quantum Theory, and Evolutionary Theory.

The Humanistic Perspective will be attracted to The Whole Person, The Life Systems, The University Mind, as well as the Historical Past, Historical Present, and Historical Future.

I will not attempt to further articulate these diverse perspectives in the present blog since the attached images and chart provide that information. What I will do is suggest that for those of us who are involved in contemplative practice, philosophical reflection, multi-disciplinary studies and conversational salons that a “meta-worldview” such as this one that encompasses the metaphysical, naturalistic and humanistic dimensions of human knowledge and life experience can serve as a useful map, especially if we remember that “the map is not the territory.” Let us speak the words and thoughts we know while respecting the limits of knowledge and language. Beyond the rational-empirical languages of philosophical analysis and scientific examination are the intuitive, perceptive, visionary and ecstatic “uber-languages” of music, art, myth, poetry, movement, dance, wonder, beauty, serenity and silence.

Whatever our path toward wholeness and integration may be, there is wisdom in the words enshrined upon a vision of the rising Sun: “Your heart must become a sea of Love. Your mind must become a river of detachment.”


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