Metamodernism seems to be a cultural term of reference for an attitude or zeitgeist that is supposed to replace postmodernism (which itself is supposed to have replaced modernism). On the wiki article (about metamodernism) it quotes an art theorist describing this attitude as “the mercurial condition between and beyond irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness, relativism and truth, optimism and doubt”.
In ‘spirituality’ circles the metamodern approach seems to have been embraced by people associated with the so-called Integral theory of Ken Wilber and others. So I’m guessing that this is what you mean by using the word “integral”, right?
Making or showing awareness of reference to oneself or to the activity that is taking place, especially in an ironic or comic way.
One definition of this Greek word is transcending, or going above and beyond. In the computer field, it defines things that embrace more than the usual. For example, a metafile contains all types of data. Meta-data describes other data. See metafile, metadata and meta tag.
Going beyond or higher, transcending.
Change in position or form, alteration, transposition.
According to my dictionary the word (from its proto-Indo-European etymology) originally meant “in the middle”.
It came to have 3 further related meanings:
“after, behind; among, between”
A third later meaning - “higher, beyond” - apparently came about because of a misunderstanding.
A work by Aristotle dealing with the first causes of things was organised by a later compiler as coming “after” another of his books dealing with physics (it is unclear whether this organisation of Aristotle’s books was supposed to be chronological or thematic). So this book became known as his Metaphysics (the book that came “after” his work on “physics”).
Because the book itself dealt with matters that were speculative and theological, the “meta” in the title was taken by later people as meaning “trans”, as in “transcending physics, beyond physics” - which is how we ended up with the word metaphysical as we understand it today.
Consequently, the word has come to have all kinds of ambiguous and related meanings (“transcendent”, “inclusive”, “self-referential,” “ironic”, etc) - so much so that even Facebook has trademarked it for its own ambiguous purposes! - which is why some kind of context for its use is essential to understand its meaning.
As far as the word meta-modernism is concerned, it is very clearly a socio-cultural term (applicable to literary theory, art theory, etc), where it is referring to what is “after”/“trans”/“inclusive” of modernism (and its derivative movements, like postmodernism, etc).
To some extent, the integral inclusive approach in particular. There’s a group of people who are trying to create a metamodern “non-religion religion” and I keep an eye and sometimes join in on their progress.
Yeah when people use the term ‘integral’ (in this context) they’re generally referring to Wilber’s integral theory. I use it in a more nondenominational sense: any worldview that seeks to embrace the whole.
I don’t have any criticisms of this per se, but from what I’ve seen or read a lot (or most) of integral theory is concerned with mapping the scientific discoveries about physical evolution (of matter, organic life, sentience etc) onto cultural history and consciousness. This is where there seems to be a whole host of over-generalisations that blur what is genuinely integral (such as an ecosystem) with short-hand sociological or cultural labels (like “modernism” and “postmodernism”) that are clearly constructs.
In integral theory they talk a lot about the developmental stages involved in adult formation (taking into account the ideas of people like Piaget), and then extend this model into cultural studies and various maps of consciousness. While the former is arguably based on the empirical study of infants and neurology, the latter extension seems to be largely speculative and ‘pop’.
There is an obsession with map-making and librarianship, an attempt to collate the whole knowledge output of the world into neat rows and clearly marked labels (“archaic,” “magic,” “mythic,” “rational,” “pluralistic,” “integral,” and “super-integral”), as if this collation were itself integral - when both the map-making and the map-maker are a major question mark in the whole enterprise.
Does integral mean an ‘ascent’ of human beings through more and more complicated mental models of the world?
Your doubts about Integral Theory are imo for the most part valid. Like any all inclusive integral system it has its blindspots. Taking stage/developmental theory too literally, for example.
What I really like about it is its multiperspectivism. If you use the four quadrants of AQAL, individual collective / interior exterior, as the basis of an inquiry/analysis, it forces you to take things into consideration that you probably would have ignored. Try it with the Russia-Ukraine situation!
If we were diplomatic strategists of some kind or another, directly involved in a seeking political peace, then perhaps this AQAL analysis (“all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types”) might be useful up to a point. But even then, we can never have complete knowledge of a situation (which is all that AQAL is), because life is fluid, people are not completely predictable, and one’s knowledge is always a shadow (a fragment) of the real integral whole.
The integral approach seems to be particularly questionable with regards to ‘spirituality’. It seems to be assumed from the start that ‘enlightenment’ follows a developmental sequence that has been set down by tradition, and that one simply has to move (as though one were being conveyed by a theme park train) from a “gross” level of consciousness to a higher level of “subtle” and then “causal” and “non dual” consciousness. The model of evolutionary “stages” is in fact very traditional, and is itself highly questionable (relying as it does on hearsay, scripture, knowledge and memory - aka psychological time). So I’m surprised why so many people seem to accept it (though maybe you don’t)?
Eclectic it may be - and the community around it might be open and thriving - but there remains a fundamental question at its core. Which is:
Is the evolutionary (or developmental) construct we employ in our study of physics, biology, child psychology etc, tenable in relationship to the mind in meditation?
It is noticeable that despite mentioning Krishnamurti in his writings, Wilber never takes Krishnamurti’s rejection of a developmental evolution of insight seriously.
For sure, much of Wilber’s ‘evolutionary’ (developmental) analysis refers to human culture - including the degree to which religious personalities (gurus, rimpoches) can be trapped at earlier stages of cultural development (causing harm to themselves and to those influenced by them). Integral theory is relatively benign here.
But when Wilber touches on ‘spiritual’ evolution (development), he (and others influenced by him) assumes so much. He essentially synthesises aspects of Mahamudra and Yogacara Buddhism with Sankara and Patanjali, to create a so-called universal template of ‘spiritual’ or meditational progress - from the gross level, to the subtle, and then causal and non dual - which is his model for spiritual evolution. Both the means to arrive and the arrival at the goal are assumed as starting-points in integral theory, so that all one has to do is (through traditionally pre-established meditative practices) watch it all unfold from the bird’s eye view that Wilber’s map provides.
Even according to integral theory, thought is responsible for almost all the adult stages of ‘developmental consciousness’; and yet the question of whether such a conceptual map has any meaning in meditation never seems to arise for integral theorists. But because both the map and the map reader are part of the process of thought (and psychological time), they must be transcended to attain even the first tier of the so-called higher functions of awareness. In which case (even if we could be guaranteed that the map was accurate, which we cannot), what is the point of such a map in the first place?
For Krishnamurti, meditation is not about measurement - and yet (as far as I can make out) measurement is precisely what integral theory is all about.
Your issues around Integral Theory sound like they’d apply to all path-based approaches. Though wary of pathfulness, I am for the most part quite comfortable with it. I get stuck with pathlessness, the flow turns in on itself. Being okay with paths might sound strange in a Krishnamurti forum, but there it is!