Archive for the ‘Discourse’ Category

Education is a mess – is there an integrative way to teach?

I have updated an introduction to the SunWALK model of human-centred studies; 

SunWALK: Summary of the main meanings of the components represented in 
the model and its ‘logo-diagram-mandala’ – providing a teacher’s process model 




SunWALK: Summary of the main meanings of the components represented in 

the model and its ‘logo-diagram-mandala’ – providing a teacher’s process model

Give me a brief introduction:

SunWALK grew out of reflection on many years of teaching children and adults and particularly a period of five years teaching in a RC middle school – theorizing my practice via a PhD and practising my theory day-to-day.

SunWALK simply says that the quality of all of our lives will be higher if we undertake all education within the framework of deepening our humanity.  

Deepening our humanity is a matter of developing technical competencies within the chief dimensions of the human spirit; Caring (the Humanities), Creativity (the Arts) and Criticality (the Sciences & Philosophy) – all in local, national and world Communities.  These are the ‘4Cs’ of the model – 3 intra-personal, 1 inter-personal.

We and our one planet will be better of if all of the technical stuff, from learning to read to Masters degrees in engineering, take place in the context of humanization/the 4Cs.  This requires international, national, school & classroom commitment to deepening the best of being human as the context for learning the technical.

We can’t afford to have character and morality and compassion as hoped-for accidental outcomes.  Moral Education, PSME, RE etc. don’t work as bolt-on extras.  They need to be the general context in which competencies are developed.

It is a model based on the energy flow of the human spirit – that is the given. That is physical, mental and spiritual energy that flows through all living human beings.  

That energy, the human spirit, is the true ’stuff of education’.  With the best of the past teachers need to equip children to face tomorrow’s challenges which will always be a mixture of new problems combined with eternally recurrent problems.  Building all education with will be the medium with which the teacher works to nurture and challenge balanced development.

Today we have lost the balance between specialization, and whole-systems thinking and acting – SunWALK model brings into harmony the best of ‘Western’ & ‘Eastern’ world-views. 

OK – so what’s the ‘Sun’ and the ‘WALK in the model’?

The ‘Sun’ = the individual’s spiritual inspiration & values sources – accumulated and ongoing, as operating internally and as expressed in speech and behaviour. 

WALK = Willing & Wise Action through Loving & Knowing – here seen as the general goal for education, and as the interiority, character and behaviour of the student. 

The model/logo combines a range of sub-models including the following:

a) An ‘interior’ model of the human spirit – in relation to ‘the world’.

b) A model for re-positioning education within being & becoming human – in the world with others.

c) A general model of the curriculum – for primary, secondary and higher education.

d) A framework for the analysis and evaluation of teaching episodes or projects.

e) A model of education that makes non-faith-specific spiritual and moral education intrinsic to all learning.



The SunWALK model of spiritualizing pedagogy sees human education as the 


development of 

meaning, which is 

constructed, and de-constructed, 

physically, mentally and spiritually, through 

Wise & Willing

Action, via 

Loving and Knowing – developed in 

Community, through the

‘Dialectical Spiritualization [1]’of 

Caring, Creativity & Criticality processes, all undertaken in the light of the 

‘Sun’ of chosen higher-order

values and beliefs, using best available,appropriate 


These underlined concerns are central components and focuses of the practice and theory in the model. 

This is an intense combination of theory and practice.  It automatically requires the teacher to practice their theory and theorise their practice – dynamically as practice-based research.  It automatically enables the classroom to be connected to the school & community as a whole and to e.g. a relevant department in a university.

It attempts to suffuse all teaching with the demands, challenges and joy of being human in the world with others.  But it seeks to bring together the Whole and the parts, the ineffable and the concepts – not just concepts because as Heschel (1971:7) says, “Concepts are delicious snacks with which we try to alleviate our amazement.”

The diagram/logo/

The outer ring of the SunWALK logo combines two dimensions:

1 ‘Community i.e. the social,interpersonal dimension of interaction with other individuals or groups.

2  ‘Cultural sources’ including such dimensions as the traditions, the political & the legal.  

The three major divisions of the arts,sciences and humanities are here thought of as the stored, yet potentially dynamic, accumulation of knowledge and beliefs and procedures – everything from galleries to written laws of physics that the individual can draw upon or be influenced by. This is the ‘stuff out there’ rather than the interiority of consciousness in which there is the perpetual flow and re-shaping, focusing de-focusing etc. of heart-mind.

In SunWALK everything within the inner circle = a representation of ‘interiority’, i.e. human consciousness – the human spirit. 

The human spirit is presented intra-personally as 3 ‘voices’ – 3 modes of being & of engaging with reality & of knowing.

The three emanate from the singleness of ‘heart-mind’, consciousness.  

They are presented (metaphorically) as the ‘primary colours’ of Creativity (the yellow of inspiration), Criticality (the blue of reason) & Caring (the red warmth of love). 

Creativity is the ‘I’ voice of subjective engagement via an artistic medium – it is concerned with subjective knowing and is particularly related to the core virtue ‘beauty’ and its products are of course ‘the Arts’. 

Criticality is the ‘IT’ voice of objective engagement which enables progress in the Sciences ( & Maths., Philosophy and ‘critical’ studies). It is concerned with objective knowing – and it is related particularly to the core virtue ‘truth’.  The products of course are the sciences and technology  – but also philosophy and critical studies.

Caring is the ‘WE’ voice which enables moral engagement – for progress in the moral domain and in service of others. It is concerned with social knowing – related particularly to the core virtue ‘goodness’ and to ‘the Humanities’. 

All three of course need to be conditioned by the pre-eminent virtue of justice.  All students need to have these ways of engaging with reality developed in a balanced way.  High technical competence combined with moral dwarfism leads to ……

The physical dimension is seen as the instrument for the flow of spirit in all of its forms – e.g. via dance, drama & PE and sports.

Each individual develops her/his I, WE and IT voices, the 3Cs, via socialization, starting in the family, the local community and then later in formal education. A sense of justice is seen as paramount intrapersonally as well as inter-personally i.e. it enables us to engage with that which is beautiful, good or true with balance, clarity & due weight.

The essential process in all 4Cs is multi-level dialogue. In the case of the individual dialogue is seen as meditation, reflection and inner-talk. In the case of groups it is dialectical process via consultation.

The ‘Celtic’ knot that surrounds the central shield indicates that the 3Cs are simply aspects of the one human spirit– the flow of ‘heart-mind’.

The white shield at the centre represents the meditative state in which there is no ‘focused’ engagement via one of the 3Cs – and in which there is relatively little of the interference or chatter that we experience in the unquiet mind. 

This can enable us to ‘go beyond ourselves’, i.e. transcend our normal knowing – any of the 3Cs (I, WE or IT modes), as gateways, can be a pathway to the transcendent and to subsequent improved insight into reality.

The black dot at the centre is the ‘well-spring’ of consciousness. For artists (and great scientists) it is the Muse. For religionists it is the voice of God within (albeit distorted by the dust of self). For non-religionists it is the inner source of spirit as energy & inspiration – the bits of realization and insight that come to us for which we don’t make an effort.

Educating the human spirit is seen as nurturing, and cultivating, the life-force which culminates in the developed human who, through higher-order consciousness, realizes abilities from within Caring, Creative or Critical engagements. 

Teaching is seen as nurturing and cultivating what is normally present, almost from birth, & certainly by the time we go to school – namely the flow of spirit expressed in nascent forms of Caring, Creativity, and Criticality – in Community with others. Holistic Learning takes place when the learner uses Creativity, Criticality and Caring – in Community – inspired by higher-order values – in dynamic combinations such as Creativity providing texts for criticality – which then, via dialogue, produce/attract the spirit for more creativity.

In SunWALK spirituality is not a dimension; it is the model as a whole. In SunWALK moral education is not a dimension – it is intrinsic to all of its praxis. 

The SunWALK logo can also be seen as a mandala, or even as a plan drawing for a fountain or an ‘arts centre of light’!  

SunWALK is a major shift to a process view of the world, of being human and of educating our young people. It rejects a worldview that is limited to the mechanistic, the ‘human-as-computer, the fragmentary and the materialistic; seeking instead modelling that is based on flow/process, holism and the spiritual.   

SunWALK is designed to enable teachers and students to become agents of change to transform a world that is still operated as atomistic, mechanistic and materialistic into one that is holistic, dialogic, and derived from the best processes and products of the human spirit.

The SunWALK logo and model of education Copyright Roger Prentice 1995 & 2009




SEE ALSO these allied blogs –

 Human-centred courses –

 Dictionary of Concepts

Home is HERE i.e. my ‘meta-blog’ -The ´1000 ways …of Celebrating the human spirit




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Getting our I, WE & IT voices Balanced – inspired by Ken Wilber

Getting our I, WE & IT Voices Balanced


Are your voices in a twist? We each have 3 God-given voices to sing different kinds of songs. Imagine if one voice dominates & consequently the other 2 ‘shrivel’ to almost nothing. Where would we be?


Answer – where we and our world are now. This is how Ken Wilber explains our situation.


All great wisdom traditions (and Perennial Philosophy) used to believe in the Great Chain of Being which taught that reality was a rich tapestry of levels starting with matter:








Wilber suggests reality now is best understood as a Great Nest of Being – like a set of ‘Russian Dolls’ – same levels – ‘matter-body-mind-soul-spirit’ but like an onion. (All are forms of spirit?)


He speaks of three historical periods: 1) before the Enlightenment = pre-modernism; 2) after the Enlightenment = modernism; 3) recently = post-modernism.


What did the good side of modernism give us? The good side of modernism = we were able to develop separately the 3 voices of I. WE & IT – I, (Art) WE (Morality) and IT (Science)


I = the subjective voice that we express in the arts (Beauty – and subjective truth)

WE = the moral voice that we express in the Humanities including religion (Goodness)

IT = the objective voice that we express in the Sciences (Objective Truth)


In pre-modern times I, WE and IT were not separate voices. Before the Enlightenment the Church decided everything. It forced Galileo to recant the truth of what he saw scientifically through his telescope. The Church insisted the sun went around the earth. It also decided what was and wasn’t good, and what was and wasn’t beautiful in the arts.


After the Enlightenment modernism gave us three voices developing separately I, WE and IT which were also three separate ways of knowing which I prefer to express thus:


‘I knowing’ = the subjective voice in the Arts (Beauty as pleasing patterns en-formed) -Creativity

‘WE knowing’ = the moral voice in the Humanities inc. religion (Goodness as fellow-feeling) -Caring

‘IT knowing’ = the objective voice in the Sciences (Truth as sorting, measuring, replicating) -Criticality


The bad side of modernism = the domination by the IT voice (‘Scientism’) to create ‘Flatland’. That is the ITness of science has become so powerful that it has caused the other two voices, more or less, to become invalid. This has been called the dis-enchantment of the modern world.



Pre-modernism = science, the humanities & the arts couldn’t develop separate to ‘Church’

Modernism = all three could develop separately (includes separation of Church and State)

Post-modernism means different things to different people a) a reaction against modernism, b) a counter-balance to (Flatland) modernism or c) a continuation of modernism


More narrowly postmodernism = the idea that there is no ‘truth’ only interpretations, and all interpretations are socially constructed (by elites to exploit groups e.g. women or colonies)


Important in pm = ‘there is no grand narrative’ that binds – such as the Christian story. My answer = ‘yes there is – being human in the world, with others, seeking truth, beauty, goodness and justice = the perennial grand narrative’.


The bad side of modernism = the empiricism of science has like a cuckoo forced out ‘I knowing’ and ‘WE knowing’. Inappropriately applying the scientific way of knowing (empiricism) to other areas of life is called scientism . (Creates ‘Flatland’)


Fundamentalism is, in part, derived by rejection of modernism – especially separation of state & religion. Ultimately it = the unwillingness to let the I, WE & IT voices grow separately.


The good side of post-modernism – it teaches us that

1 Reality is not always pre-given, but in some significant ways is a construction, an interpretation. The belief that reality is simply given, is referred to as ‘the myth of the given’.

2 Meaning is context-dependent, and contexts are boundless.

3 Cognition must therefore privilege no single perspective. (SEE Wilber p121)


Conclusion: We still validate science (the empirical and the rational), though we teach it poorly, but we don’t validate contemplation. Contemplation can also be thought of as heart-knowing – which is inspiration that follows meditation, especially the experience of at-one-ment/egolessness.


Our interior self is a flow of ‘heart-mind’. – separating heart and mind has been a disaster that has invalidated, or diminished, the feminine principle in men and women. (Heart-mind is an ancient idea ‘xin’ or ‘hsin’ in Chinese).


I, WE and IT ways need each other. If a person gets inspiration from contemplation (as Einstein did) s/he needs to order it or check it with IT knowing and WE knowing. Science needs I knowing and WE knowing as well. The Humanities need I knowing as well as IT knowing. Art needs WE & IT knowing.


Organized religion has suffered because it couldn’t stay clear on I, WE and IT knowing. It has made a comeback via the arts and ‘pick and mix’ spirituality. Its special domain, like art is I knowing – + WE knowing as inspired by what it sees as the revealed word of God.


Action needed = The world (especially the religions, governments & parents) need to nurture the I, WE and IT voices to achieve balance and concord. Unity, peace & development depend on validating objective truth and knowing, subjective truth and knowing and the moral wisdom that lies at the heart of all of the great traditions. The call is to the balancing of these three ‘voices’ of the human spirit.


My educational model towards this end I have called SunWALK = we need to teach our children, and ourselves, to pursue Wise, Action, through Loving and Knowing guided by the Sun of higher-order values SEE www.SunWALK.org.uk Roger Prentice Email; rogerprentice@bigfoot.com Ver 8.7.06

Adapted from and inspired by the work of Ken Wilber in The Marriage of Sense & Soul


All postings to this site relate to the central model in the PhD. Summaries are HERE


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‘Definition of God’ – and it still leaves us with the job of living with each other through the unity of mystery

The nearest I have ever come across to a satisfactory definition of God is as follows;

God is a circle whose centre is everywhere, whose circumference is nowhere.

Anonymous, ‘The Book of the Twenty-four Philosophers‘ (12thC)

Of course it isn’t really a definition – it’s more like a Zen Master’s ‘pointing’ – but what a pointing!

Of course I like it because it expresses my theological perspective and worldview – that of immanence plus transcendence i.e. panentheism.

Of course unless we lie through assertion or dupe through self-deception we don’t really, unequivocally, know. The best we can have is reasonably high degrees of certainty – and then preferably by combining several ways of knowing including sense observation, reason, intuition and the precedent of community precedents. We in truth live with mystery. As it says in the Koran ‘Man is my mystery and I am his‘.

“We are united by our doubts and divided by our convictions.” Sir Peter Ustinov

Recognition of ignorance is strength not weakness as Saint Augustine pointed out;

I am in a sorry state, for I do not know what I do not know!

Because we have unique histories we have unique worldviews. In fact it is the fact that at our centre we need faith to bridge the gap that exists between knowing and not knowing between finite humanity and that other defining characteristic of God – infinity.

As I suggested elsewhere excesses of certitude cut us off from truth and can lead to horrors of cruelty – the Nazis were certain that Jews, and Gypsies were sub-human.

“Certitude divides and diversity unifies…..We have to elevate religion above politics…..”

H.R.H. Prince El-Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan BBC Newsnight 9th Feb 2006

All desire to be united is as the drop that longs to come one with the ocean – the rub, and the joy, is that the duality through which we learn is the dynamic that exists between oneness on the one hand, via contemplative letting go of the ego, and l-one-ly separation on the other.

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Wilberian Studies; integral and holistic studies that draw on inspiration from Ken Wilber

 I therefore sought to outline a philosophy of universal integralism. Put differently, I sought a world philosophy—or an integral philosophy—that would believably weave together the many pluralistic contexts of science, morals, aesthetics, Eastern as well as Western philosophy, and the world’s great wisdom traditions. Not on the level of details—that is finitely impossible; but on the level of orienting generalizations . . . a holistic philosophy for a holistic Kosmos, a genuine Theory of Everything.        —Ken Wilber (TOE, p. 38).

For my own work, and for the benefit of those with similar interests, I have decided to keep a list of sources that I come across that fall under the category of ‘Wilberian studies’. That is integral and holistic studies that draw on inspiration from Ken Wilber. These include leadership studies, education, philosophy, psychology etc. I am collecting these interesting variations on, and adaptions and applications of Wilber’s four quadrants and three voices of I, WE and IT. – SEE especially Wilber’s The Marriage of Sense and Soul.

My own diagram/application is at the foot of this posting.

Here are the first few other Wilberian ‘four quadrants’ variations, adaptations and applications ;

5 The Promise of Integralism A Critical Appreciation of Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology by Christian de Quincey


4 Intimations of Jung in Integrative Psychology and in Ken Wilber’s Quadrants by John Giannini


3 Integral Spiral Dynamics by Michael Dowd

spiral-integral-spiral-dynamics-by-michael-dowd-four-quadrants.jpg HERE – click to see full size. Click HERE to see the 4 parts of the diagram in detail.

2 Developing Leadership Capacity: Searching for the Integral – by Wood and Hessler-Key


1 Prof Slaughter’s article


My own application;
sunwalk-logothumbnail1.jpgHERE was to suggest that teachers see the raw material of their work as the flow of spirit (the student’s spirit and their own) – that spirit inevitably being socialized in to the three voices of I, WE and IT. Teaching thus becomes the work of nurturing refinement in abilities within the I WE and IT voices. The real concern is the learner and her/his holistic development
The real stuff of education thus is spirit – that uses community and cultural stuff drawn from the Arts, Humanities and Sciences – the Arts being the ‘food’ of the I voice, the Humanities being the food of the WE voice and the Sciences being the ‘food’ of the IT voice. Proceeding like this I have suggested constitutes a) integralization and b) spiritualization i.e. a paradigm shift and one that in my personal experience greatly strengthens the academic concerns of teaching.

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If you’ve struggled with what people actually mean by postmodernism and its relationship to modernism and pre-modernism you might appreciate these extracts from Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychology – I certainly did.


See also my other posting on I, WE & IT and also the posting on Mythos and Logos including Karen Armstrong’s work.


Modernism, pre-modernism and post-modernism

In other words, the four quadrants (or the Big Three) are actually the underpinnings of the modern differentiation of the values spheres of art, morals and science. Where premodernity had tended to fuse, or not clearly differentiate, the Big Three, modernity clearly differentiated them and set each free to pursue its own path. This differentiation was part of the dignity of modernity, which, in allowing each domain to pursue its own truths, allowed each to make stunning and far-reaching discoveries , discoveries that, even the harshest critics agree, set modernity apart from premodernity.


But something else set modernity apart. The differentiation of the big Three went too far into the dissociation of the Big Three : the dignity drifted into disaster, and this allowed an imperialistic science to dominate the other spheres and claim that they possessed no inherent reality of their own (scientism, scientific materialism, one-dimensional man, the disenchantment of the world). Gone was mind and soul and spirit, and in their place, as far as the eye could see, the unending dreariness of a world of its; ” a dull affair, soundless, scentless, colourless; merely the hurrying a material, endlessly, meaninglessly.”


And so it came about that virtually the entire spectrum of consciousness, and certainly its higher levels, (soul and spirit), were reduced to permutations and combinations of matter and bodies. Put bluntly, all ‘Is’ and ‘we’s’ were reduced to ‘its’, to objects of the scientific gaze, which no matter how long or hard it looked, could find nothing resembling the Great Nest of human possibilities, but saw only endless patterns of process ‘its’, scurrying here and there. Integral Psychology P.64



Thus , it seems that premodernity had at least one great strength that modernity lacked: it recognized the entire Great Nest of Being, which is basically a general map of higher human potentials. But premodernity also had at least one great weakness; it did not fully differentiate the value spheres at any of the levels of the Great Nest. Thus, among other things, objective-scientific investigation of the spectrum was hampered; the specific and often cultural expressions of the Great Nest were taken to be universally valid; and the moral injunctions recommended to all were tied to those limited cultural expressions. Giordano Bruno might have experienced many of he upper levels of the Great Nest, but because the value spheres were not fully differentiated at large and their individual freedoms were not protected by law and custom, the Inquisition cheerfully burned him at the stake.


Modernity, on the other hand, did manage to differentiate the Big Three of art, morals and science, on a large scale, so that each began to make phenomenal discoveries. But as the Big Three dissociated, and scientific colonialism began its aggressive career, all ‘Is’ and all ‘we’s’ were reduced to patterns of objective ‘its’, and thus all the interior stages of consciousness – reaching from body to mind to soul to spirit – were summarily dismissed as so much superstitious nonsense. The Great Nest collapsed into scientific materialism – into what we will be calling “flatland” – and there the modern world, by and large, still remains.


Our job, it thus appears, is to take the strengths of both premodernity and modernity, and jettison their weaknesses. Pp 64-65

To re-legitimize other ways of knowing, to work clearly with and between all three I, WE & IT ways of knowing (plus community-tradition) brings the possibility of re-enchantment and balanced development of the individual and of societies!

The model at the heart of this site utilizes Wilber’s triadic structure you can read a summary HERE.



All postings to this site relate to the central model in the PhD.

Summaries are HERE


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“The Self is an ocean without a shore”: Bill Viola, a perfect match of spirit and form?

THE ARGUMENT The past lives only in the present in that our consciousness is marked and shaped by those whose insights we come to re-realize – including those that come from the great spiritual teachers. Memories are like art and sacred writings that are simply marks made – but marks made that can transport us to our own high realization in inspired consciousness. Bill Viola is now re-presenting us through his mastery of one of newest of mediums, video, with access to that spiritual core at the heart of the great world wisdom traditions. Is this a perfect post-modernist match of spirit and form?

In my SunWALK model about ‘what it is to be human‘ and about ‘how can we spiritualize education without the exclusivity of sectarian religion‘ I was inspired by several quotations as well as by Seamus Heaney’s poem Personal Helicon.

Bill Viola from ‘Ocean Without a Shore‘ – click to see full size – Source artdaily

“One of the things the camera taught me was to see the world, the same world that my eye sees, in its metaphoric, symbolic state. This condition is, in fact, always present, latent in the world around us .”
Bill Viola

I was interested to see news about Bill Viola’s recent work ‘Ocean Without a Shore’ (shown at Chiesa di San Gallo, Venice). Viola’s website cites the following two inspirations;

“The Self is an ocean without a shore. Gazing upon it has no
beginning or end, in this world and the next.”

Ibn al’Arabi (1165 – 1240)

From the Viola site we learn;

‘Ocean Without a Shore’ is about the presence of the dead in our lives. The three stone altars in the church of San Gallo become portals for the passage of the dead to and from our world. Presented as a series of encounters at the intersection between life and death, the video sequence documents a succession of individuals slowly approaching out of darkness and moving into the light. Each person must then breakthrough an invisible threshold of water and light in order to pass into the physical world. Once incarnate however, all beings realize that their presence is finite and so they must eventually turn away from material existence to return from where they came. The cycle repeats without end.

The work was inspired by a poem by the 20th century Senegalese poet and storyteller Birago Diop:

“ Hearing things more than beings,
listening to the voice of fire,
the voice of water.
Hearing in wind the weeping bushes,
sighs of our forefathers.

The dead are never gone:
they are in the shadows.
The dead are not in earth:
they’re in the rustling tree,
the groaning wood,
water that runs,
water that sleeps;
they’re in the hut, in the crowd,
the dead are not dead.

The dead are never gone,
they’re in the breast of a woman,
they’re in the crying of a child,
in the flaming torch.
The dead are not in the earth:
they’re in the dying fire,
the weeping grasses,
whimpering rocks,
they’re in the forest, they’re in the house,
the dead are not dead.”
(from David Melzter, ed. Death – An Anthology of Ancient Texts, Songs, Prayers and Stories (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1984)

The Ibn al’Arabi quotations reminded me of my attempt to portray our state in visiting ‘the shoreline’ and encountering the unknowable Whole – in my Personal Myth and the four key qutations (SEE below)

The poetic sense of the dead speaking in the ‘dying fire, the weeping grasses’ etc is secondary for me to how they live on in the consciousness that we possess, because of them. Our spirits continue to live out their consciousness through ours.


The Ibn al’Arabi quotation also reminded me of the inspiration I got from four key quotations in relation to a sense of the Whole and to a panentheistic and Universalist perspective I hoped that they contributed to the leitmotif that made of the thesis parts, a whole;

Text 1)

“The larger the island of knowledge, the longer
the shoreline of mystery.” Unknown author

Text 2)

The search for reason ends at the shore of the known;
on the immense expanse beyond it
only the sense of the ineffable can glide.
It alone knows the route to that
which is remote from experience and understanding.
Neither is amphibious:
reason cannot go beyond the shore,
and the sense of the ineffable
is out of place where we measure, where we weigh…….

Citizens of two realms, we must all sustain dual allegiance:
we sense the ineffable in one realm;
we name and exploit reality in another.

Between the two we set up a system of references,
but can never fill the gap.
They are as far and as close to each other

As time and calendar, as violin and melody,
as life and what lies beyond the last breath.

The tangible phenomena we scrutinize with our reason,

The sacred and indemonstrable we overhear

with the sense of the ineffable.

Heschel A. J. (1971), Man is Not Alone, New York: Octagon Books p.8

Text 3)

Tao, the subtle reality of the universe

cannot be described.

That which can be described in words

is merely a conception of the mind.

Although names and descriptions have been applied to it,

the subtle reality is beyond the description.

One may use the word ‘Nothingness”

to describe the Origin of the universe,

and “Beingness”

to describe the Mother of the myriad things,

but Nothingness and Beingness are merely conceptions.

From the perspective of Nothingness,

one may perceive the expansion of the universe.

From the perspective of Beingness,

one may distinguish individual things.

Both are for the conceptual convenience of the mind.

Although different concepts can be applied,

Nothingness and Beingness

and other conceptual activity of the mind

all come from, the same indescribable subtle Originalness

The Way is the unfoldment of such subtle reality.

Having reached the subtlety of the universe,

one may see the ultimate subtlety,
the Gate of All Wonders.

Ni, Hua-Ching (1997), The Complete Works of Lao Tzu, Santa Monica, USA: Seven Star Communications – Tao The Ching (‘Chapter’ 1)

Text 4)

….set then yourselves towards His holy Court, on the shore of His mighty Ocean, so that the pearls of knowledge and wisdom, which God hath stored up within the shell of His radiant heart, may be revealed unto you….
(Baha’u’llah: Proclamation of Baha’u’llah, Pages: 8-9)

The past lives only in the present in that our consciousness is marked and shaped by those whose insights we come to re-realize – including those that come from the great spiritual teachers. Memories are like art and sacred writings that are simply marks made – but marks made that can transport us to our own high realization in inspired consciousness. Bill Viola is now re-presenting us through his mastery of one of newest of mediums, video, with access to that spiritual core at the heart of the great world wisdom traditions. Is this a perfect post-modernist match of spirit and form?

The mystic inner core of the great world wisdom traditions is incorrectly named as Perennial Philosophy

• There’s a reality beyond the material world:
• Which is uncreated.
• It pervades everything,
• but remains beyond the reach of human knowledge and understanding.
• You approach that reality by:
• Distinguishing ego from true self
• Understanding the nature of desire
• Becoming unattached
• Forgetting about preferences
• Not working for personal gain
• Letting go of thoughts
• Redirecting your attention
• Being devoted
• Being humble
• Invoking that reality
• Surrendering
• That reality approaches you through:
• Grace
• The teacher
• You’re transformed so that you embody that reality by:
• Dying and being reborn

Two views of the structure of Perennial Philosophy are HERE

Viola in our sea of uncertainty, and maelstrom of violence, is helping us re-connect.

Perhaps also Viola is showing us that video can do more fully what photographers – Minor White for example – have longed to do – to ‘en-form’ the spiritual?


All postings to this site relate to the central model in the PhD.

Summaries are HERE

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De-mystifying the mystical and deciding on your definition of ‘mystical’?

What’s your definition of mystical and mystical experience? The one I came up with is as follows;

‘The mystical is positive, ineffable, unitive, experience that enhances insight or knowing – in a spiritual or religious context.’ (My composite definition to use with Hick’s definition below)

This is a composite developed from a range of authorities I looked at. In addition to developing a definition that works for me I want to de-mystify the mystical. Many mystics are presented as rare creatures but I wanted to emphasize that mystical experience is part of everyday life – like philosophizing. There are neutral and even negative such experiences. The essential thing is the experience of being at one with the Whole and losing what Wilber and others call our ego-boundaries of self (ego).

Positive such experiences provide us with deeper insights into reality and the will to do good in the world. This may or may not be in a religious context.

Neutral or negative such experiences – I will leave it to you to decise which is which – include sex, drugs and rock and roll and such experiences as are available via flotation tanks. Music must surely be included.

What proof is there that such experience is part of normality? Perhaps there are clues in everyday language such as the phrase, “It took me out of myself?” or “I was transported…” (rather more 19thC).

I think that the ‘rarification’ of such people as mystics can be part of how a power elite has in the past exerted power over the common people. Fundamentalists are wary of mystics because they might have a view that’s different to the ‘party line’.

Apparently mystics flowered only for a short time in England.

Of course submitting your own experiences to reason and reasonableness helps create a balance.

My slightly adapted ‘John Hick’s definition’ of the mystical is helpful – the mystical is nothing more or less than direct religious experience’. It’s especially useful if combined with the Christian idea that you will ‘know them by their fruits’

The point is the mystical is subjective. We might be self-deceiving – so its a good idea to have some teachers whose ‘living of the life’ and creating of ‘good fruit’ qualifies them to be seen as authorities.

The bottom line is beliefs matter less that action – so why vilify or kill those whose only difference is that they might hold different beliefs?

Of course – but there’s a sting in the tail – there’s room in my world for fundamentalists, but there’s no room in their world for me. Hmm……..


” Mystical experience…..does not seem to me to be anything other than first-hand religious experience as such. This is, however, the core of religion.

…the explanatory function of religion is secondary and derivative. Religion consists primarily in experiencing our life in its relation to the Transcendent and living on the basis of that experience….

…..in terms of Ninian Smart’s six-dimensional analysis – distinguishing the





social and

experiential dimensions of religion

– mysticism is a general name for religious experience together with part at least of the network of religious practices which support it.

…. Brother David (Steindl-Rast) defined mysticism as “experience of communion with the source of meaning“; and he stressed that all who worship, and indeed all who are conscious of the divine, are mystics. ….and Swami Prabuddhananda defined mysticism as ‘the realization of relationship between the individual soul and the infinite reality‘” P423

Hick, John, (1981) Mystical Experience as Cognition in Understanding Mysticism, ed. Richard Woods, London: The Athlone Press


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