Thursday, June 22, 2006

While the Cat's away, the mice will play.

Buried in an earlier post, here, was the information that Blogmandu Roundups are on hiatus through the summer.

They will be back, in full force and refreshed on Saturday, Sept. 23, the first day of autumn, reporting on the Buddhoblogosphere for the week of Sep 17-23.

I am happy to find that tinythinker of peaceful turmoil is taking up the slack, at present, bringing roundups for the last two weeks.

Please check out his excellent roundups of June 15 and June 22. And while you're there, check out the other delights of peaceful turmoil and consider adding pt to your blogroll and RSS reader.

I hope tinythinker keeps up his swell roundups! I don't mind the whiff of competition; the idea is to increase the connectivity between blogs!

-- Tom

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ken Wilber ... Madness

At the end of the film “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” Major Clipton surveys the dead from the battle downriver and the destruction of the bridge and train and repeats one word, slowly, “Madness! … Madness! …”

Ken Wilber puts up his follow-up to his two earlier Earp-Test posts [1] & [2] that features a kiss-ass email that he considers to be kick-butt. The mad Wilber titles this new post “The Unbearable Lightness of Wyatt Earpy.” He seems to be pursuing a movie theme.

Wilber doesn’t talk about it, but “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” is a romance, of sorts, that takes place mostly in the Czechoslovakia capital during Prague Spring, in 1968, and includes the Soviet invasion that put an end to a short bout of freedom. To my mind, the tight control that Wilber wields over Integral, the cult of personality that sweeps through his online presence, his unwillingness to engage in non-conforming dialogue at iN, and his elitism overlay that must certainly be a contortion of the true 2nd Tier, makes him an ugly taskmaster in that story of liberation. By making himself central instead of his insights; by controlling the levers and making his iterations of changes to Integral the line of acceptable dogma, he and his soldiers are a tank squadron presence in the Streets of the Spiritual. Perhaps we all should be so light in our being in the world that the tanks don't matter. But that wouldn’t excuse an effort to dampen down dissent.

In his new post, Wilber presents an email he received from Geert Drieghe that is gushing in praise of Wilber and that insult act in his first post. Here is part of that email:
I think it's a great example of a multilayered post that really addresses several meme levels at once, a feat which is not lightly done. When I read it I feel like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind where he is taken into a FBI facility to read encrypted texts and where all the relevant words show up. For somebody at green all the cuss words and the rants show up, but for somebody at turquoise the lightness shines out, different words and strings of words light up. It would be really interesting to analyze how you did that.
Here is part of Wilber’s response:
[It was] meant to convey what I believe are extremely important ideas, and thus indeed it was written with multilevel meanings, and that multilayered writing was something I worked at quite hard, especially as it went through several drafts, and thus it is what you call “a piece of art” …
“A Beautiful Mind,” the movie, was for the most part a bad adaptation of an excellent biography of the same name about mathematics genius John Nash. But the film does do a good job focusing on Nash’s descent into madness, an important theme in the book. Quickly, Nash is of no aid to the government as he begins to read false messages everywhere. It is, perhaps, too much to hope that Geert is sending Wilber a message that he should be able to find among the email's lines: “Hey, Wilber, you're losing it.”

In David Berreby’s book Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind, there’s a chapter “Them, We Burn.” It talks about how we learn the standards and rituals of our culture and how we need a network of unwritten regulations and performance cues to act in a society and to understand one another. We all have “an innate knack for learning ‘our’ [the tribe’s] rules.” These things teach us what to eat, when to eat it, when to be emotional and when to be blasé. We understand others better if they are using cues similar to our own. One reason we can enjoy a foreign country and find it particularly exotic is if the culture is undergirded by a set of cues curiously different from our own. Part of what we learn is how to react to cuss words.

I would contend that Wilber isn’t having any insight about grand spiritual advancement relating to ego loss and oceanic acceptance; he is, instead, rather pitifully, creating new societal/tribe rules – rules that are only rather arbitrary and only conveniently contrary to the great society in which he functions. By doing this, he manufactures a loyal, willing tribe of folks that are all too obsequious. They have to be obsequious because one of the rules of the crawlspace, fake 2nd Tier that he writes the rules for is that Wilber is never wrong and that questioning him or failing to praise his every burp is likely to get you remanded to the dreaded 1st Tier.

In some societies you find people who are 'set off' by disrespect or by utterances of cuss words. This is learned behavior that lingers. Certainly, degrees of tolerance which becomes acceptance which becomes radical acceptance is involved in spiritual advancement. And these more-liberal cultural cues begin to replace what might be the conservative cues of one's culture and upbringing. But these "group bonding" cues are not the story of spiritual climb. Indeed, group bonding is tribal [purple meme] and causal for friction between people. [As I wrote in an earlier post, "kind" scientists have shown that it isn't friction that causes people to form groups; it is grouping that causes friction.]

So, Wilber's hot inauthentic posts about feather ruffling are really acts of tribe creation. Wilber is creating a tribe in his own likeness. And looking at Him, we are all supposed to see the Face of God.

Madness! … Madness! …

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Rattlesnake post was NOT A TEST

The following is one of the more controversial posts on this
site. Please enjoy but with a warning: without giving too much away, please be
advised that while Tom is definitely serious about the basic content and ideas,
both the tone and the language were selected for a reason, so don't get your
feathers ruffled. Read on....--The Editor

Contrary to what I said in my prior post, "Is Zaadz a Den of Rattlesnakes!?" was never intended as a test and I was never in contact with Ken Wilber.

Is Zaadz a Den of Rattlesnakes!? is a rambling, poorly constructed statement of what I believed at the time I wrote it and I support what it says now. It is about groups and that a scientist who studies groups tells us that the insular nature of groups creates friction rather than what we suppose -- that friction within society creates a need for insular groups. It is also about some creepy groups that remind me a little of Zaadz - which has a mission and plan that are cartoonish. I have no doubt that the way I wrote my essay, and defended it, tags me for being first tier. But my post has the virtue of being an authentic, straightforward statement of what I think on a topic and a situation which I believe is important. It is true that when I wrote my essay I also had I-I in the back of my mind.

I am somewhat sorry I wrote the post “The Rattlesnake post was A TEST.” The devil made me do it. But "Is Zaadz a Den of Rattlesnakes!?" is a test - an authentic, unintended one - as much as was Wilber’s semi-fraud of a post, using bloggers as guinea pigs. The response to IZaDoR!? was as feather ruffling as Wilber’s Earp post, only instead of revealing possible deficiencies and spiritual weaknesses in integral-interested bloggers, it revealed nastiness and groupthink in the heart of Zaadz. There’s no getting away from it. The lesson – it seems to me – is that groups that endeavor to be insular create groupthink that intensifies discord. We see this in Wilber's 'Real Meaning' post, where Wilber finds, naturally, that a majority at I-I agree with any fool thing he wants to do. The integral-interested blogosphere, more laudably, is a rabble of independent thinkers, swimming in the Internet Ocean instead of some inland, walled-off social-networking zoo or Maoist temple.

To the credit of the integral-interested blogosphere, in which I include myself as a marginal member, I don’t know any one of us who have committed statutory rape, and, other than ~C4Chaos, none of are insiders to a cult of personality. Also, none of us sign our names with an unlucky number and only one of us carries an octopus on his shoulder.

I am fully aware that that last paragraph, and most or all of this post, is ordinary-minded, not Big Minded in the way it's written. But I think y'all can handle it without getting your feathers mussed.

I think it is sad, but in the end a good thing, that Wilber's Earp post is chasing Bill Lalonde, Bill Harryman and me, each in different ways, away from Wilberism. I think that the Earp post and its followup is a failure from any perspective, but it would be impossible for anybody close to Wilber to tell him this.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Rattlesnake post was A TEST.

Ken Wilber has emailed me and says that now I should let you all know.

My Rattlesnake post of a few weeks ago, Is Zaadz a Den of Rattlesnakes!? was all a test to separate the first-tier from Integral second- and third-tier folks.

As many of you know by now, Wilber revealed in his blog today that his post on Jun 8, What We Are, What We See, was really all a test. [See the follow-up post What We Are, What We See, Part II.]

Ken contacted me and said that he also wanted to test and play with some other people he works we, so I worked with him to develop the Rattlesnake post. It was a great, great honor to be contacted by him for this project. I had exchanged emails with him a couple of times over the years, and I know he was aware of my blog -- but just imagine my surprize.

So. The deal with the Rattlesnake post and your reactions to it are the same as with Wilber's 'What We See, What We Are' post.

Here is how the assessment works:
This is Bill Maher on the type of awareness that pervades this country—and, of course, its blogosphere.
I wouldn’t ever say there’s censorship in this country. But there’s a lot of peer pressure. Because when anybody says anything that’s the least bit feather ruffling, everybody just goes nuts. If anybody in this country is forced to undergo a single moment of discomfort, the person who caused it just must go away.
Maher is probably right about perhaps 98% of this gosh darn country, and its blogosphere, where, if feathers are ruffled, out come rants that are depressingly predictable in structure, tone, and form. But the reason I love the blogosphere is for the 2% that are not predictable, that do not merely rant against the moment of discomfort (and its cause), but rather stand above the herd mentality and post from second tier. I’ll come back to that 2% in a moment. Because if you are in that 2%, I’d really like to speak with you.
So, if you are part of the crusty 2%, be aware that Ken will be contacting you. If not, you know where you are.

Peace and high regards,

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Mighty Ken Blows

“… every once in a while it gets so bad you just have to blow off steam, because it really hurts, ya know? And like I said, every decade or so, I blow.”
-- Ken Wilber in KenWilberBlog,
‘The Wanger’ post*, 6/8/06

A storm of commentary swirled in the Integral section of the Buddhoblogosphere after Ken Wilber posted a bitter, raunchy 5,000-word post in his blog on 6/8, intended, it seemed, to bring pain to his enemies. The essay, which B'du has dubbed 'The Wanger' post*, seems to be, in the main, a rather non-substantive denunciation of Frank Vissar’s May 2006 essay at the website Integral World, “Talking Back to Wilber,” that chides The Ken for not responding to the many critical essays that have amassed of Wilber’s theories at Integral World. Vissar concludes his essay, “I am looking forward to a future with many integral journals and conferences, where integral concepts are openly discussed – both as to their strengths but even more so as to their weaknesses, both online and in the offline world. That's the only way it can mature beyond the limitations it currently has. Without it, integral might very well end up as an ideology.”

In his blog post, Wilber identified with Wyatt Earp – because, Earp was, in Wilber’s estimation, like him in being the leading figure in his field and in having gun-slingers out there filling his ass with lead. [Actually, Earp was a courageous and sometimes ethics-challenged lawman and businessman whose ass stayed remarkably unmarred. See wikipedia listing. But, be that as it may.]

Wilber uses course language several times, at one point telling a critic, “simply suck my dick.” He also says that anyone who disagrees with his course phrase is necessarily a backward green memester. {He softens this later, writing “I’m not saying that anybody [who finds this post repulsive] is green; just that anybody who is green [will find it repulsive].}

Integral bloggers’ reactions to W’s post were mixed, with many either alienated by Wilber’s post or disappointed with it. Others, wondered if it is a test or, in B'du reporter's case, a mean-green satire of some sort. And a third segment, Wilber sycophants, delighted in its freshness, humor and joy-filled decadence. Of course, members in this third segment might be in on the hoax, if there is one. But, in any case, the bloggers’ reactions proved that Derrida lives! Deconstructing Wilber’s post somewhat became all the rage.

A question B’du reporter has: If Wilber did join the Dark Side of the Force, what would we expect to see from him in terms of a blog post? Wouldn’t we expect a first act to be an attempt to blow up Integral World with its snakepit of detractors, much as Darth Vadar blew up a world that resisted his powers? And doesn’t ‘the Wanger post’* seem to attempt to do precisely this!

But in his post “Integral Wild West,” Dashh is surely onto something, if all his references make sense. [I say this because it is hard to trust anyone when hoax possibilities are with us.] Dashh writes,

The more I think about it the more I wonder if it just another attempt at an SD [Spiral Dynamics] integral Voight-Kampff Test ala Blade Runner ala the essay written to gauge responses of David Deida's Ken Wilber is a Fraud essay years back. If you are 'blue' you reacted this way...if you are 'orange' this is the typical response...I'm sure it is only a matter of days before the posts at integral blogs and maybe even Wilber's start to analyse and frame everyone's responses in terms of SD.

Happily, B'du reporter is expecting that, in accord with Wilber 6.0, this here post will show that this reporter is in the clear meme which is third tier, rising above yellow, coral, teal, indigo and muave.

One reason to think that Wilber is pulling a hoax or spoofing something or poking his readers is that W recently posted a review of V for Vendetta, backdating it to March. It is perhaps the case that Wilber and Annie McQuade are taking the roles of V and Natalie Portman's character in a terrorist act of blowing up parliament [Integral World]. But if Wilber and McQuade are goofing on people or are testing people, it surely might say something uncomely about them and where their spiritual heads are at, under the masque.


* I am calling KW’s instantly famous post “The Wanger Post” since wanger means the male member, someone who jerks off and/or anger AND wanger begins with a W [for Wilber and Wyatt] and ends in a-n-g-e-r. Also, Wanger is the name of the composer of “The Ride of the Valkyries” to someone who has dyslexia. Somewhat like Wilber – to a few folk, maybe – Wagner is someone whose work you can love, but you kind of want to ignore the person behind it.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

This is This isn't There but Here and That is That

A couple of matters, dear readers.

Cliff Jones’s wonderful blog This is This is a little lost.

Seems that Cliff packed his bag of electrons and moved his Blogger blog to a new and quite appropriate domain, all its own –

But having left his old blogspot home at unclaimed, someone else – Angel Richardson, this complete stanger – moved in! So, the redirect to Cliffy’s new home was up for only a modest couple of days.

So, it may seem to many fans of Cliff Jones and This is This that his blog has jumped off a cliff – but this is not so.

So, whether you are a This is This lover, or not one but willing to become one [It is an excellent, entertaining, expertly well-written blog. Blogmandu says check it out. THIS recent post, which can also be found HERE, is one of the best blog posts I have ever read, anywhere.] Please find Mr. Jones’s blog here, at Oh, and be sure to bookmark the new location, and change your RSS for This is This to this, and update your blogroll. And so … that is that.

Second item on the agenda: Blogmandu Roundups is tired and will be taking the rest of spring and the whole of summer off from its weekly regimen of posting a roundup of wonderful Buddhism-flavored blog posts. We hope to be back in the Fall, refreshed with more of the same old, same old. Meantime, much as was taken over by a complete stranger, Blogmandu will be fully taken over by Tom Armstrong’s evil twin, the fist-waving do-gooder, posting angry fix-the-world-or-else essays for the next ten weeks. Ah, yess. MUCH better. Tom Armstrong’s evil twin is to Tom Armstrong what Buddy Love is to the nutty professor.

Update on the Gafni Imbroglio

Gafni photo that ran with 5/26 JJGLA article.  Faces in the audience were blotted out to hide their identities.While the Integral blogosphere, including Ken Wilber, has been quiet on the Gafni scandal in the last two weeks, the Jewish press and community of bloggers have been pursuing past and current allegations, which have become extraordinarily alarming. Jewish leaders in Israel and in the United States have been condemnatory of Rabbi Mordechai Gafni [aka, Marc Gafni] after a quarter of a century during which many of them had excused or forgiven him, brushing aside enflamed behavior and claims by girls or women of being abused.

Hokai D. Sobol of Hokai’s blogue is the most recent of blogs Blogmandu follows to post on the Gafni matter. Hokai found wisdom in Wilber’s May 15 post on Gafni, ending the first paragraph of a two paragraph entry with these words:

I hope [Gafni will] be back with us in near future, more integrated. May merits generated through our prayers and blessings go to the people he has hurt and him equally in these most difficult times.

But Hokai’s second paragraph begins, “On the other hand…” and ends with this sentiment …
[His] behaviour creates serious disturbances in relationships for a long time. Trust is the key word, and that has been broken.
Current Charges and Past Complaints

In early May, three women in their twenties, all of whom were members of Bayit Chadash, a prayer and study center in Jaffa, Israel, filed complaints against Rabbi Gafni with the Israeli police. Gafni – variously reported as being 44 or 46 years of age – was a founder and worked as a teacher or spiritual guide at Bayit Chadash. The woman each claimed he sexually harassed them during Torah lessons, promising each that he would marry them later in exchange for sexual access.

Some reports say that a fourth woman who was an associate of Gafni’s in Israel before he founded Bayit Chadash had also come forward to witness to abuse she had suffered. The manner of her maltreatment and whether she filed a complaint with the police is not clear. She is reported to have spoken to a Bayit Chadash investigatory committee.

Subsequently, two American woman emerged with their longstanding complaints of being abused by Gafni when they were minors and he was working as a youth leader in Florida.

Gafni admitted committing statutory rape of a fourteen-year-old girl in a 2004 interview with New York Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt. Gafni was a nineteen-year-old rabbi at the time of the deed. He said of the girl, “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.” But reports that Ynet news service says are unconfirmed tell the girl’s side of the story, that she was a virgin that had never seen a naked man; she psychologically shut herself down as he molested her; and she was then pressured to manually bring him to climax. Gafni was not prosecuted for the crime because by the time the interview was in print the statute of limitations had expired., the English-language online presence of Yedioth, Israel’s largest media company, reports regularly on developments on the Gafni scandal. Gafni had been a columnist with the organization. Their May 26 report included comments from men in authority who worked closely with Gafni in Jaffa.
“Yaakov Ner-David, who founded the Bayit Chadash community six years ago in Jaffa, said of co-founder … Gafni, “For years we supported him despite the allegations, but now we know the truth. This was a blow to many people.”

Bayit Chadash Director Or Zohar said, “I protected Gafni and forgave him for verbally assaulting and manipulating me, because I thought to myself that although he is not perfect he does do good in this world … I noticed the problems, I sensed that a lot of dark things were taking place, but I could not even imagine the extent of what was really going on.”

Rabbi Ohad Mizrahi, director of the “Hamakom” community, worked in close contact with Gafni for several years. [He said], “The problem was not his alleged sexual addiction; it was that he preyed on women from his own community. … he was actually employing brain-washing methods...”
The Canonist and a candidate pathology that may be Gafni’s problem.

Steven I. Weiss's Jewish blog Canonist posted the whole of a text written by Gafni, in the form of an open letter, addressed “to my holiest of friends,” that was printed in the New York-based Jewish newspaper the Forward. The post generated comments running the gamet – from one reader saying that Gafni should seek Christ; to belief that the letter was self-involved; to belief that the sentiment was appropriate and sincere; to hope that Gafni will return to teach.

One reader, Nanne, commented with extensive quotes from Harvard psychologist Martha Stout’s 2005 book “The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless vs. the Rest of Us.” This is a book your B’du Reporter recently read. Indeed, Gafni fits the profile of a sociopath in all the ways that Nanne identifies. The best identifier, Stout says, is that a sociopath will appeal to people’s sympathy when caught. [In his confessional letter that was in the Forward; in getting woman to not compain about his behavior; in successfully getting Jewish authorities to look the other way and minimize in their minds the extent of his misdeeds, Gafni fits the profile.]

Too, Nanne quotes this from Stout’s book: “The intense charm of people who have no conscience, a kind of inexplicable charisma, has been observed and commented on by countless victims, and by researchers who attempt to catalog the diagnostic signs of sociopathy. : ‘He was the most charming person I ever met,’ or ‘I felt like I’d known him forever’, or ‘He had an energy about him that other people just don’t have.’”

And there’s this, “sexual seduction is only one aspect of the game. We are seduced as well by the acting skills of the sociopath. Since the scaffolding of a life without conscience is deception and illusion, intelligent sociopaths often become proficient at acting.”

And this, “In addition, we are distracted from a person’s actual behavior when he represents himself as in some way benevolent, creative, or insightful. We do not suspect people who claim to be animal lovers, we give extra leeway to those who identify as artists or intellectuals, in part because we attribute any departures from the norm to eccentricities that we, as ordinary people, could not possibly understand. Worse, our respect for people who appear to be inspired and benevolent leaders can be abused—has been abused many times—-to cataclysmic ends.”

The Sociopath to Buddhists and on the Dynamic Spiral

Dr. Stout’s work involved reconstructing the lives of victims of sociopaths, and this can have engendered some bias in judgment of sociopaths whom she deplored with bitterness. But from knowledge gained in her profession, she gave no hope to constructing a conscience in a person born without the possibility of having one or whose early childhood was such that a conscience did not develop or thrive.

She doesn’t say this directly, but from reading her book you get the idea that having or not having a conscience is as fixed in life as a sexual orientation.

For Buddhists and Intergralists, the problem is an interesting one, in the abstract. A person without a conscience can feel no shame or know of love. He has no drive except one of feeling power, and thus an intelligent sociopath will channel himself into positions where he has power over others. His life can become a game of twisting situations to get what he wants while being gleefully aware of how easily a ‘normal’ trusting person can fall prey to being fooled or manipulated.

I think that a Buddhist can develop a troubling empathy for a conscienceless sociopath. Without 'normal' restraints and no access to feelings of love, What else could an intelligent sociopath do? We see it all the time: an unfettered, unrestrained, undeterred ego feeds on the world. That's its job -- just as a vulture naturally eats carrion, a big black cloud naturally drops rain, and a big purple dinosaur naturally dances with little children. A sociopath has no counteracting agent to ego enlargement.

In the Buddhist canon, there is the story of Angulimala, a mass murderer who made a necklace from the fingers of the people he killed. Buddha is supposed to have used his considerable powers of love and reason to reform Angulimala who we are to believe changed his ways and became a disciple of the Buddha.

Of course, we don’t hear the story from Angulimala’s perspective, which, based on current understanding of sociopaths might lead us to think Angulimala merely seduced the Buddha into believing he was reformed, all the while checking out Buddha’s hand for a future charm to add to his necklace.

Dabrowski, whose work meshes with the Dynamic Spiral, considered criminal psychopaths to be at the lowest layer of his Level 1 – persons who are ‘integrated’ in their moral perspective. That is, their moral perspective is hardened at the lowest of levels.

Wilber’s Curious Perspective

It is not the purpose of this post to diagnose Gafni, but it is appropriate to bring into question the overcautious response of Wilber regarding Gafni’s behavior.

While compassion is a pinnacle element of Buddhism and Integralism, it is clearly misplaced when a serial abuser is inadequately confronted and where the complaints of the abused continue to be treated lightly. Wilber wrote in his May 15 blog post, regarding response to the allegations against Gafni, “This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions.”

It seems from what is now widely known -- and from what Wilber must have known mid-May had he been unblinkered by friendship for Gafni -- that the psychological troubles of the now-former Rabbi are severe, whatever they are. Characterizing those who express extreme anger at Gafni as piranha is bizarre, under the circumstances.

Wilber’s prognosis for Gafni seems wildly optimistic and lacking in any obligation to protect those who look to him for wisdom and leadership. Wilber wrote that Gafni should not teach “at this time.” And he wrote that Gafni should continue writing.

It would seem more reasonable not to hold out hope to Gafni that he should continue teaching. It is clear that Gafni needs to find some other line of work.

In addition, it certainly calls into question Wilber’s ability to teach and understand others. In his online presence, Wilber is exhibiting narcissism and great pleasure with his status as a quasi-“cult leader.” It certainly seems that Wilber has lost ‘the common touch’ and any empathy with the suffering horde that nobody knows. Wilber should, perhaps, examine himself to see if he has been carried away by status and attention such that his interests are now exclusively with what he imagines are the elite.