Brian L. Wheeler, M.A. is a doctoral student in the East-West Psychology program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). Near completion, his dissertation proposal is tentatively titled “Intimations of a Sustainable Future: Paradox, Alan Watts’ Cosmology, and the Nature of Life,” which focuses on the philosophical implications of mystical experience and Watts’ cosmology. Brian received an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion through CIIS’ Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program, and his B.A. from Western Washington University’s Fairhaven College for an interdisciplinary degree titled “Writing, Worldviews, and Experience of the Self.” Currently the editor of AlanWatts.org, his former career involved magazine editing, freelance journalism, and copywriting in the kiteboarding and wakeboarding industries—sports that he has been practicing for decades. Devoted to exploring the mysteries of life, human potential, and cosmic connection, he writes from the ground of inquiry, experience, and scholarly creativity. Based upon the life and works of Alan Watts, Brian is working on his first book: Cosmic Fruit — Awakening to a New View of Life. For more info, or to contact him, please visit www.BrianLWheeler.com
Overcoming Materialism Through Participating in Paradox
The central problem addressed in this presentation is the myopic nature of modernity’s cosmological orientation (i.e., materialism). Framing materialism within a continuum of ontological possibilities, this presentation asks the question: What are the different types of ways, beyond materialism, in which a finite human being can relate to and participate in the seemingly infinite, ever-evolving whole of existence? Organized into a seven-limbed typology, the spectrum includes mystical and nonmystical ways of participating in such a paradox. The limbs consist of ignorance, denial, deferment, bypass, transcendence, resolution, and dissolution. Materialism falls under the first two limbs, which on their own can appear to create an insoluble paradox of existence, while mysticism deals with the latter three limbs. In between lies Grof's understanding of addiction (i.e., as an unrecognized, innate drive for wholeness/transcendence), which relates to limb four: bypass. Assuming a ubiquitous cosmological paradox in which all aspects of existence are distinct and integral to the whole, this study examines how varied mystical traditions address or “solve” this ontological puzzle of wholeness. While materialism ignores or denies such a paradox, numerous mystical traditions recognize distinct ontological paradoxes – which can be transcended, progressively resolved, or dissolved in a multitude of creative and ontologically unique ways. Another key proposal of this presentation is the postulation of paradoxum perennis, which posits that paradox may be a “common core” aspect of mystical philosophy, and therefore perhaps a missing piece within many religious dialogues and the universal quest for wholeness.