Question: Is THEE Spiritual?

Warren Kinston 23. December 2012 12:00

Christmas is time for some philosophizing. When I ask whether THEE is spiritual, I mean apart from containing spirituality-related entities as taxonomic elements (as explained in my last blog).

spiritual enlightenment psychosocial reality THEE

Answer: Yes, in a way. So let's now look at that way. 

A taxonomy uses categories to order what exists within a particular field. Until there is taxonomic clarity, it is very difficult to make sense of a field. You don't know what's there and you don't know what it's like. Try imagining chemistry without knowing the chemical elements or the periodic table. 

The field of THEE is one part of how people get on in life. Getting on in life has two parts, the biologically determined and instinctual realm, and the psychologically determined and creative realm. You and I are creative in so far as psychosocial reality is concerned. Or I should say that we are potentially creative. It is certainly possible to live largely in a zombie-like fashion, embrace conformity, and when in doubt herd, imitate and defer to others. Probably such a person would be uninterested in THEE as a creativity-enhancing ethical design technology.

This emphasis on being creative and ethical raises the issue of spirituality as a fundamental feature of THEE, because creativity and the need for goodness are produced by the human spirit (whatever that may be!)

If THEE does engage with the spirit of humanity in its deepest sense, then it can be viewed as a form of spirituality. But what form?

I find the categorization of Andrew Rawlinson illuminating. It seems to get to the essence, which always appeals to me. It allows us, for example, to identify several distinct traditions within Buddhism and understand conflicts within overarching religions.  I suspect his classification is located somewhere within THEE.

In his 2x2 TET-like system, there are four historically effective spiritual traditions corresponding to the four quadrants. Of these four, THEE seems to be a cool structured spirituality.

Cool: It is cool in that it encourages you to find what you need in yourself. It is just a matter of realizing. THEE does not offer or explicitly encourage direct encounters with God or God's love—which would be hot.

Structured: It is structured in the sense that there is an inherent order in the human condition that can be discovered. THEE has the hierarchies so common to spiritual traditions old and new (cf. Wilber). By contrast, unstructured spiritualities have no map or method, and assert that "everything is available now": so no progression, or learning or development is needed.

As would be expected in a TET, adherents to one tradition may try to assimilate others. There is evidence of a natural antagonism or rejection between diagonally opposite quadrants: you can see me behaving like this in what follows.

It is evident to me that my overall approach follows the principles of the cool structured tradition. I find myself arguing that liberation lies within oneself, but it depends on a degree of disciplined practice. My notion of awareness is dispassionate, its path is restrained, its use is ordered and gentle. Detachment, alone, brings freedom. The message in THEE spirals is that everything happens in the fullness of time: all that is required is learning by reflection on experience and constant efforts to make progress.

In using THEE, no one can do it for you and there are no recipes or scientific fixes: judgement, balance and timing are absolutely essential. Rawlinson says that the teacher is a clear discriminator and guide. Becoming enlightened involves learning how to use a map that is open, ordered and complete. His examples include: Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, Theravada Buddhism, Upanishads, Aurobindo, Plotinus.

Rawlinson describes the spiritual quality in such traditions as unpretentious, simple and responsive to the needs of beings. A great advantage is that it is easy to start and there is no disgrace in being a beginner. I think that description also fits THEE well. There is another advantage: Rawlinson notes the advocacy of "clear-cut distinctions that are public and subject to discussion" (p.135)—surely this is the basis of any scientific approach?

It is natural that spiritual teachers start from wanting to promote spirituality. But that was far from my purpose then or now. I want to meet human needs—but in a rational validated fashion. Reference to spiritual stuff is simply a consequence of that. It's not my fault. I'm innocent. (I have noted that this attitude seems to be a feature of the reality-centred mindset.)

Those who are into spirituality are into nonduality. By contrast, THEE is resolutely dualistic. Dualities appear to be part of the human condition. THEE frameworks aim to help you handle dualities so as to better construct your personal and social life. I suppose my bottom line is: submerging yourself in divine bliss is great now and then, but we live practical lives and God helps those who help themselves. Bliss, alone, doesn't solve the world's problems. Tools and technologies do. In that case, THEE might be viewed as a «spiritual technology» that is also a source of many varied «intellectual technologies».

Nevertheless, I have regularly found that awareness of a particular THEE principle or framework can be a shattering experience, while at the same time it can generate a feeling of peace and enlightenment. Does that matter?  

I think so. I am inclined to believe that reduction of most horrors in today's world can only occur through individuals becoming more enlightened. Not necessarily via divine inspiration, but being spiritually enlightened in the cool sense of being ready to use their own intelligence and their own awareness to act sensibly and responsibly. If so, they will use THEE-based methods either intuitively or deliberately. As with any technology, deeper understanding and careful design usually gets better results.

It can be arrogant and dangerous to strive for utopia or claim perfection.  Spiritual masters disappoint because they seem to fall into such traps.  THEE implies it is better to be modest and just aim for an improved state of imperfection.  The key tools that THEE identifies for the 21st Century Enlightenment are spiritual without being in-your-face hot divinity. They are autonomy, as promulgated by the 18th Century Enlightenment, reflective awareness as promoted by all wisdom traditions, and responsibility—the implicit core of purpose.

Surely there is nothing wrong with that. 

The way I put it all together is that a cool spiritual orientation (the context) is required to discover and develop THEE, and that ultimately shines through. However, the process of formulating and validating taxonomic frameworks (the content) remains essentially scientific.

With those thoughts, I wish you all a peaceful, enjoyable and productive 2013.  See you again there.



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Warren Kinston is the creator of the THEE-Online website as an open forum for the further discovery and development of THEE. He writes this blog as an escape valve for the excitement and frustrations of the work. More info here.

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