Saniel and Linda Bonder - Experiments in Awakening
January 21, 2009 16:46
Waking Down. Part 3. Experiments in Awakening.
Saniel Bonder, Linda Groves-Bonder, and Ken Wilber
Written by Corey W. deVos
For several generations now, American spirituality has been experimenting with new forms, techniques, and interpretations of timeless spiritual truths, translating and updating the innermost teachings of the world's religious traditions for today's world.** These experiments have helped to preserve these crucial spiritual insights in the modern and post-modern world, at a time when whole blocs of civilization have moved beyond the rituals and myths that have traditionally sustained these teachings, becoming highly critical of these interpretations of spirituality—and, in many cases, of spirituality itself.
We have begun to move beyond magic and myth, and new worlds of human experience have since emerged—worlds of science and reason, worlds of pluralism and postmodernism, worlds of integration and unification, and even faint whispers from worlds beyond—all of which have made this sort of spiritual reflection, re-contextualization, and integration one of the most crucial ongoing experiments of our time.
As Ken, Saniel, and Linda make clear, any of today's conceptions of spiritual realities must acknowledge the evolutionary nature of spirituality if it hopes to survive the intellectual rigors of the modern and postmodern worlds. Our philosophies of Spirit must take into account the mysterious unfolding of the physical and intra-physical universe, from the Big Bang to this present moment, understanding the full complexity of the manifest world and its inherent drive toward more novelty, more freedom, and more fullness. Furthermore, spirituality must also be seen to be itself forever evolving, as timeless and ever-present states of consciousness find new forms of expression within a succession of ever-emerging structures of consciousness—each more complex and more complete than the last; each containing more possibility than the last.
The simple fact of the matter is, none of these considerations could have been fully appreciated until now. We simply did not have the comprehension, the language, or the methodologies to take the full range of human experience into account—which is precisely what makes this such an exciting time to be alive. We now have unprecedented access to all the world's accumulated knowledge, an immeasurable wealth of collective scholarship, skill, and mastery to be found just a few keystrokes away. This massive body of knowledge, growing every second, is culled from an almost inexhaustible reservoir of perspectives, experiences, and worldviews. The world is rapidly becoming more integrated—moment by moment, piece by piece, byte by byte—an ongoing synthesis of knowledge and experience that is beginning to reveal the deepest patterns of the human condition, fertilizing the soil for an entirely new wave of spiritual practice and philosophy. And many of today's most cutting-edge spiritual teachers have already begun to notice.
These sorts of integrated approaches to spirituality have the potential to initiate a second "Axial Age" of history—a term coined by Karl Jaspers, referring to the 600-year period just before the birth of Christ when, all across the world, "the spiritual foundations of humanity were laid simultaneously and independently... foundations upon which humanity still subsists today." They are the same foundations upon which this new vision of Integral spirituality is built, transcending and including the very best of premodern, modern, and postmodern worlds—consciously adapting to the relentless emergence of newer and newer forms, while finding new words to wrap around the timeless and ever-present Mystery. It's not that a single universal religion will be created, replacing the great spiritual traditions of history, but that these traditions will themselves become more integrated, taking a more comprehensive view of physical and spiritual reality than ever before possible. Once separated by immense chasms of language, custom, and distance, the ancient religious foundations of the world become isolated no longer. Slowly we recognize these solitary pillars for what they are: Rosetta stones to help previously secluded cultures decipher their own human and spiritual experiences, and mighty columns of human potential that, in actuality, work in tandem to support a single heaven, while bringing us ever closer to it.
**In referring to America as a sort of psycho-spiritual laboratory for these "experiments in awakening," we are not at all suggesting any kind of cultural or spiritual superiority of one country over another—far from it! Nor is it to say that this sort of spiritual integration is not occurring anywhere else in the world—it most certainly is. Rather, it is a simple recapitulation of the great American cliché—which, for a variety of historical reasons, has typically acted as a "melting pot" of ideas, beliefs, and identities; a crucible of human experience in which all the world's knowledge, wisdom, and compassion is allowed to mix, interact, and eventually catalyze new forms of spiritual expression for the future. In this sense, Ken Wilber can be seen to be a distinctly American philosopher, one of today's finest embodiments of a rich American legacy toward integration—transcending and including pioneers like William James, James Mark Baldwin, Clare Graves, and Abraham Maslow.
In the very same way, Saniel and Linda Bonder stand together in this extraordinary confluence of consciousness, culture, and technology, intentionally designing new interpretations, new practices, and new ways of enacting ancient wisdom in the 21st century. For a full list of current offerings from Saniel and Linda, be sure to check out their contributor pages, located here and here.