As we seek to build vibrant community for ourselves, it is inevitable that conflicts will arise, such as the common conflict between intuition and reason. If we are a bit idealistic about the idea of community, it can cause a real crisis of faith when these first struggles come up.
One very common conflict we encounter in modern society is between secularism and religious or spiritual attitudes. I’ve seen this particular conflict send young community transformation leaders into instant burnout, or even their own crisis of faith. And I’ve seen it destroy multiple community projects that otherwise had tremendous potential.
I’d like to introduce you to a philosophy that has helped me transcend this barrier personally, and connect and include people who might seem to be in opposite camps. This tool is Ken Wilber’s Pre-rational/Rational/Post-rational model for human and societal development.
This model shows why this particular conflict is such a common cause of passionate disagreement in our society today.
According to the model, individuals and society begin to understand their world through INTUITION and myth, and explain things like the thunder by imagining very loud super beings in the sky! Floods are the result of an angry river god.
But eventually, these answers fail our reason, so we transcend to a rational worldview.
Typically when we do this, we reject intuition entirely as superstition, and may become quite passionate in trying to wake others up from their irrational beliefs! Science or atheism can themselves become a religious dogma.
Remember, usually the opposite of a bad idea isn’t a good idea, but another bad idea.
So eventually, as Karl Jung pointed out, this worldview fails us too. Because it denies the powerful meaning-making and insight that we get from embracing intuition.
When this happens we are thrown back into a groundless crisis and many people revert back to their pre-rational worldview, doubling down on religious faith and rejecting science and reason.
Such people may try to impose their faith on everyone else using force, laws, and social coercion, because a rational worldview is a threat to their belief!
But there is another path, which is to transcend the rational worldview to a post-rational one which embraces the benefits of both reason and reclaims intuition.
This is not a rejection of science at all! But instead it is a full embracing of science, which has given us very good documented evidence that a spiritual path can contribute to happiness, that intuition can indeed give us insight, that practices like meditation and yoga have proven benefits, and that complex systems like ecosystems can exhibit “an emergent property” that sounds like spiritual mumbo-jumbo to those trapped in a “rational” worldview to the point where they actually reject this science! To reject these research based statements is actually a rejection of science in favor of dogma.
This is the powerful emergent edge I have seen again and again in those leading community transformation work.
People on this same path may identify as Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Taoist, New-Age, Pagan, Secular Humanist, Atheist, or many other ways. As we develop a post-rational worldview we increasingly use science and reason to solve the physical problems of the world, rather than create policy based on what we think some god or another wants us to do.
But we also become open to experiencing the intuitive, and using it to solve problems of meaning and community, and creative expression and problem solving. This is especially vital for any kind of good design.
It is the integration of reason and intuition that is the cauldron of wisdom.
Bare in mind that to a Western mind, this may sound as though white western society is leading this transformation, but this is mere ethnocentrism to assume that ancient indigenous cultures have no reason or science. In many cases, these societies have long ago transcended this crisis in their own ways, and have well developed spiritual technologies and ceremonies to guide individuals through this fundamental experience. It is only that we in our young western culture lack any spiritual or philosophical tools for making it through this hurdle to maturity.
I have found that most of the folks at the leading edge of transforming society are emerging into this last stage. Often they are well-versed in the sciences, especially the biological sciences of botany, ecology, physiology and human health, but have also experienced sacredness in nature, or through their own bodies in a practice like yoga. Often, we share a sense that the global crises we face today have a spiritual cause, a lack of meaning that compels us to seek “the meaning of life” in consuming the stupid corporate crap we know is destroying the planet.
This model is very practical in that it can help us see that others in our communities may be in different places on this spectrum, but that we’re all on a similar journey of transcending this crisis of intuition and reason. That invites us to ask “what is valid about this person’s experience” instead of immediately rejecting it as wrong or assuming that we are exclusively right.
Instead of attacking the other’s experience, once we consciously embrace a post-rational identity, we can invite each other to continue our transcendence along this path together and seek what is wise and life enhancing about each perspective.
As we adventure towards a better world and better lives, if we seek to invest in both sides of the coin together, we are investing in wisdom and completeness.