The Ken Wilber Meetup and Christianity

Last night for the second time I attended the Atlanta Ken Wilber Meetup. About 20 of us convened at the Moe’s Restaurant in Ansley Park for dinner, conversation, and discussion about Wilber’s philosophy, using his mosts recent book (Integral Spirituality) as our jumping-off point. It’s a wonderful group of folks, including full-time artists, counselors, computer geeks and alternative healers among others.

Last night the conversation got lively when one of the group facilitators mentioned that learning and applying Wilber’s integral theory to his life was enabling him to be able to deal with the church he had grown up in – and left behind when its values and teachings no longer made sense to him. Thanks to integral theory, he was able to approach the members of his old faith community with compassion rather than defensively. Several people responded with their own hopeful stories along this line. One woman who grew up in a communist country talked about how after she came the US she found meaning in rediscovering the contours of a spiritual world that had been denied to her by the atheist/scientific-materialist culture in which she was educated. Another man recounted how he had rejected Christianity in favor of atheism as a youth, only now (as a breathwork healer) to learn a new way of thinking about Christianity when one of his clients had a profound mystical experience and interpreted it as an encounter with Christ. By being open to this client’s spiritual awakening, the healer has now accepted an invitation to work with an entire small group of Christian men who are interested in discovering mysticism for the first time! As this conversation unfolded, some of the usual suspects of progressive Christianity came up: Thomas Keating, the proponent of Centering Prayer who works with Ken Wilber; Brian McLaren and the Emergent Church, for their visionary work at reinventing what the structure of Christianity looks like; and of course the great mystics, from Meister Eckhart to John of the Cross to Teresa of Avila to Thomas Merton…

Wow. I didn’t talk a whole lot (at least, compared to how I usually run my mouth), so I didn’t inflict my own story on the group. But it’s a similar tale: how my interest in spirituality led me away from Christianity-as-an-institution, only to a decade later lead me back. Of course, my entire relationship with the structure and form of the organizational church is entirely different. Hopefully, my consciousness is at least a wee bit higher than it once was. It seems that taking responsibility for nurturing consciousness can help us do almost anything. Even deal with a religion we once rejected as inimical to that very consciousness.

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