When Proposing Nothing But Individualism!
Using A Belief:
an Unfortunate Scheme of Pseudo-Science

Is this Persuasive for Unitarians?

It's All about Your Search for Truth and Meaning, Not About Our Belief System.

I bought this book directly from the co-author, Rev. Dr. Hans le Grand, after a presentation of the basics of this book on Sunday 22nd October in Hull Unitarian Church. He is a Dutch national recognised on the United Kingdom Unitarians General Assembly Roll of Ministers. Rev. Tina Geels is also Dutch, with a Remonstrant background, and of the Freedom Reformed in Delft while living in Utrecht.

le Grand, H., Geels, T. (2016), trans. Kruyne, F., Schieberlich, I., It is All About Your Search for Truth and Meaning, Not About Our Belief System: A New Perspective for Religious Liberalism, self-published with support from Het Nicolette Bruining Fonds, Vrijzinnig-Religieuze Stichting Seniorenhuisvesting 'Zuid-Veluwe', International Association of Religious Freedom.

In Hull Hans le Grand introduced himself as having a background in Physics - his Ph.D - and in international finance and then turning to Theology. He was without a religious upbringing, but a girlfriend with a conservative Roman Catholic background led him to think that he was missing something but it was not Roman Catholicism. When he encountered the Unitarian Universalists in the United States, the effect was a "coming home" that had not been met back in Holland. He stopped his ministry training in another Church, and took on a particular distance learning package from the British Unitarians and became an International Minister on the United Kingdom General Assembly Roll of Ministers. So now he takes odd services and lectures here and there, and seeks a full time engagement with liberal religion.

He said that in the UK and Holland we see declining congregations. It worries him if there is no replacement of numbers 'from the bottom'. He wonders why decline is happening and what can be done. So he wrote an essay that was penned in Dutch and later translated, copies of which were for sale. I bought one for nine pounds. The upshot is that Tina Geels and he have a vision that it is not going to be about a belief system and not a specific route to to enlightenment [salvation] (also book, 2016, 13).

However, they do draw upon the ideas of Ken Wilber. Wilber is one of those ‘how you can know the knowledge of the world’ authors (Wilber, 2006) with charted interactions of Eastern mysticisms, psychology and knowledge (e.g. Wilber, 2000). It is commonly thought that if belief is individual, then there is little to say collectively. But Wilber disagrees, and we can say things. Indeed, applied to congregations, the approach of le Grand and Geels affects everything, including services and ministry (for example).

He referred to a study carried out by the University of Lancaster that included all congregations in Kendal (a project that ended in 2002, see: Heelas, et al., 2005)

[This is not included within the book. David Ward (2001) reported on this in The Guardian: with hard, medium and soft churches; "Soft churches include Unitarians (according to The Guardian growing fast, perhaps because of a broad approach to doctrine) and Quakers." There is movement towards humanisation and liberalisation and personal subjectivism.]

Hans le Grand stated that the study found a "Chinese wall" within Kendal Unitarians between the theological and the holistic. Ken Wilber, he stated, is on the holistic side of the coin. He is "an American philosopher" who has looked at religions and their patterns (also book, 17).

The rest of the lecture was very similar or the same as the book. So I focus on the book, although it is more of a published essay that is index lacking.

The basic idea is this. Ken Wilber has produced a colour scheme on which can be placed stages of religious development for individuals that, according to le Grand and Geels, can also be used with congregations as they each have a dominant narrative of these. Individuals on achieving one higher stage in the colour scheme cannot hardly ever go backwards: there is a conveyor belt at work.

As it happens, le Grand and Geels extract from Wilber most of his key colours, and the conveyor belt, first to explain and then to use congregationally with the introduction of pillars in between these colours. The colour scheme is derived from but also different from Spiral Dynamics: it is his own scheme closer to the rainbow, although a quick comparison shows it is not the rainbow. They refer frequently to Wilber, so it is his scheme, his 'science', they draw upon (17-19):

1. Infrared: archaic, sensoricmotoric.
2. Magenta, Magical-animistic (17-18) (ignored in the lecture)
3. Red: magical-mythical, with power thinking.
4. Amber: mythical, traditional, conformist.
5. Orange: rational, pragmatic, progress-thinking.
6. Green: pluralistic, multicultural, postmodern.
7. Blue: integral/ universal.
8. Indigo: para-mind.

Magenta is mythic, as in Father Christmas being real (17). The ones of repeat interest are Red and above. Red is mythic too. In Amber the group myth is central and people conform to it. Orange is like in the nineteenth century, after the Enlightenment, going away from conformity and away from the magical. Progress thinking at this time is moving towards a superior truth. With Green there are many truths; society becomes multicultural because there are different cultures and peoples and you can't put them all into one truth. There are multiple choices and we all do our own thing. The Blue phase involves integrating and linking together. Diversity is accepted but items relate. Indigo is the phases where there is detachment because even common matters no longer fit together. The world is unfair but you seek out freedom within it.

Red thinking is defending against evil in the outside world; rituals are of magical effect; red consciousness is Mediaeval Knight culture or a dictatorship (18). Amber has people adapting to the environment, which represents the highest truth, as in Calvinist society. Orange is like the university - rational, pragmatic, logical and pragmatic. Green has several truths co-existing, yet is also postmodern. It is OK to disagree in a Green grouping. (Indeed, they do disagree within universities, don't they?) As regards Blue, examples given include Karen Armstrong and "the spirituality of the Unitarian Florence Nightingale" (18). Indigo is to be freed and detached, with examples like Genpo Roshi, Thich Nhat Hahn and Nelson Mandela (19).

So these represent religious and spiritual progress - along the conveyor belt.

An organisation is often Orange for rational outcomes. Yet many groups are Green. North West Europe including the United Kingdom is mostly postmodern. Pluralism is accepted where I do my thing and you do yours. Blue integration is very difficult to achieve.

Now a religious group is contemporary if it has a dominant discourse that matches society. If it does not, the group cannot act as a conveyor belt (30). So this keeps to the Wilber scheme, sans Magenta.

There are examples of religious groups in the various colours (21-22).

Where Red is dominant in the religious group the conveyor belt runs to Red society only. Myth has a literal, magical meaning. Ethics are determined by the group. This was strong up to 1500 CE. A group still like this cannot operate a conveyor belt up to Green society. Thus the spirit houses in Bangkok Buddhism offering protection from bad spirits cannot relate beyond this; the premodern Church cannot offer the conveyor belt.

The Amber Church is also premodern, seen between 1500 and 1750 and an example is Calvinism. There is a strong Amber element now in Christianity in the Mid-West of the United States.

The Modern Church is the Orange Church, with a rejection of power thinking, of literalism and of conformism. Instead there is the effect of the Enlightenment, science and progress thinking. Often, Unitarianism has not moved beyond the Orange stage, and where not it cannot help meet the requirements of Green society.

Green is the postmodern Church that is pluralistic and individualist, he said, and has the example of the Unitarian Unitarian Association.

As for Blue, the Baha'i Faith is an example, as are Karen Armstrong's writings (on which, see below).

From these collective types, come the four pillars, with a diagram (21). The pillars support the conveyor belt.

There are five awarenesses either side of each pillar: so Red is premodern, but premodern Amber is removed (although the colour in the book is more amber than orange!). Orange is the modern stage, so in between comes "critical reflection" - which is still rather early, surely, suggesting anything from 1500 to and after 1900. Green is postmodern, Blue is integral and Indigo is super-personal.

The four in-between pillars are presumably nothing to do with Islam, but quite what they are for is unclear. Between Red and Orange, then, is Pillar 1 of critical reflection, rather than at Orange or beyond. Pillar 2 is pluralism. Then comes Pillar 3 integration. The final Pillar 4 is super-personal awareness. (21)

This is inconsistent with prior points, and the reason is probably due to dependency on the scheme provided by Wilber - "the full spectrum of Ken Wilber should be included" (20) - when the full spectrum is not here (and has not been earlier either).

Pillar 1 then is with science, with a critical view of the Bible, and itself progress thinking (28-29). Why does it have Red to the left, when it could have been Amber?

Pillar 2 or Pluralism is Western and Eastern, old and new wisdom, and both philosophy and psychological. This raises the question of when they not psychological - there are parallels with Piaget to be investigated, which is all about psychological and educational development. (29-30)

Pillar 3 or integration asks what religions have in common, along with "A story of life". This is universalistic. For many in Green, Blue looks like Orange, except Blue is many truths. (25-27)

Pillar 4 of Transpersonal Consciousness is the liberaltion of transcending your self. The book discussion (27-28) is individualistic, so one wonders about the role of groups here.

So here is the point: pluralism is a higher stage of consciousness (accepting difference, postmodernism) than a commitment to liberal Christianity (an example of progress thinking). Liberal Christianity is valued as one option among others, without privilege.

Pluralism, it states, is like this:

Only if our religious community is a place where this [radical] diversity is available, people with different frames of reference and religious interests will feel at home. (24)

The key change is clearly Orange to Green. Running through a potted history (32-38) is the more than implication that churches have declined because they have become culturally disconnected regarding their messages. le Grand and Geels state, for The Netherlands:

It is striking that the above mentioned congregations with a Green or Blue discourse do well in terms of growth of numbers and average age. They often grow slightly, and on average they are clearly younger than groups with an Orange discourse. (37)

Young people engage sporadically, but not with long term commitment (48). The answer to this is to create a community that does not tie, but loosens - it takes the search seriously, but not what you find. It suits both the happy and unhappy (?) (48). So we have three conditions suggested, based on the humanistic client-centred psychology of Carl Rogers: these being 1) personal genuineness and not needing a facade, 2) unconditional postive regard, and 3) empathy (understanding).

Compassion, we are told, is important, but given that it is not unique to religious liberalism it should not therefore be a core concern regarding the progress of such communities. It is not the distincive element although it should be there as empathy for others (53).

And then there is a return to considering Christianity. The book states again that it should not be emphasised because of its origin or existence as a tradition. It is no more true than any other religion. It should not be emphasised simply because it is deep in Western culture. But religious liberalism should uphold Christian liberalism because many of its members are deeply inspired by it and because it is an essential part of their search for truth and meaning. (55)

The final sections of the book are more practical, moving on to the bread and butter matters of organising whilst based on these mind matters.

Communities have their own local flavour, derived from the members and friends themselves. Leadership is of light impact, although the committee provides for some continuity (57). A church may do well when its people only do things they like. One useful activity replaces another that has become less useful, in a natural way. However, flexibility is often difficult. (58) Activities are (principally?) derived from wisdom and religious traditions (58-9).

Thus enters Alain de Botton (2012), for drawing on others' rituals to find meaningful themes for atheists. This in the book becomes religious partners contact, but partner contact is not to engage in others' rituals directly. They shoudl be expropriated.

The contrast is made of a minister in the Orange group telling the old story in a critical manner, and then the Green pluralist group rejecting that and often preferring to exist without a minister or reducing the ministerial functions. The Blue Pastor tries to integrate the group (60). This raises a question as why a Green pastor cannot do this; presumably the group isn't ready. Supposedly an Indigo Pastor gives up - these varieties 'don't fit' - but this is not mentioned.

Higher stage ministerial roles include the Green the life-coach facilitating the search process, the Blue to integrate and operate the conveyor belt towards greater consciousness and to make contact with representatives of other traditions. (Why - if they are Red, Amber or Orange?) (61-62).

The regional specialist means having a common pool of professionals geographically to assist these processes and provide celebrations. More on collaborative ministry would have been of further use.

The Sunday morning gets more extensive treatment (62-66). Beyond Orange, varieties happen on Sundays - whatever works. The Blue Group tries to tie these together. The theologically resourced Orange service is replaced by questions among the gathered and what resources can be drawn on to meet such existential questions.

The service greeting opens out, either multiple pluralism based on experience or some sort of effort of integration.

As for ministry to youths (65-66), the authors again draw on the life-coach idea in a region (resource) and Alain de Botton's notion of empathy developed in social life.

The building (66) won't be furnished and filled like an Orange church, but have a variety of scriptures up front (say), an absence of Christian symbols can inspire (?), and seats can be in a full or half circle. Christians have of course arranged seating that looks inward, as in a modernism that emphasises immanence - the best example being the (Red?) Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool.

As for outside (67-68), the Orange Church notice boards might suggest: not having to believe so much, thinking for yourself, that the minister does not prescribe belief, it's the symbolism of the Bible stories, there are no dogmas and the finding of the essence of faith. These don't form a good basis for a Green or Blue church and hardly attract. Instead notices should say: it's your search and not our belief; with us you can be who you are; you receive support for different individual searches; the minister is a life-coach sharing religious knowledge; there's access to the "rich world of beliefs and rituals" to suit (68); we learn from your experience; welcome exists whether believing in God or not or not knowing; critical thinking is joined by feelings, intuition and experience; we try to develop an integrated view; we want to learn the essence of what we do not understand; we promote tolerance, respect and justice.

Joining international liberal religious bodies inspire to renew within, to engage with globalisation. (69-70)

The conclusion refers to Dutch religious liberalism, that it is mainly Orange. As such it is difficult to appeal to younger people. Those that change towards Green and Blue do better. (71)

And to show that this is programmatic, there is a checklist provided for whether the community is up to date. This covers the community, programme, celebrations, the minister, the building, and external communications where the stress on a church website is Green or Blue content. (73-75)

So, having gone through the book, the question is what to make of it.

The answer is, I am afraid, not very much. This is a shallow and repetitive book, based on a pseudo-science scheme - a belief - and in the end is a dressed-up faction fight from pluralists over those of a more traditional Unitarianism. It is saying in all effect that the Christian Unitarian does not match contemporary society, and cannot recruit to match pluralist society, whereas the Pluralist group can do this, and indeed integrative and Para-mind get beyond society and bring society along. Any theologian (even of the most advanced kind!) would find this book shallow. Here is why:

The absence of actual research is evident in the simpler errors and misleading aspects of language choice. When I first read page 39 I took it that Karen Armstrong was within Unitarian Universalism. I knew she is not, and this seemed misleading.

Popular authors within present day UUism include Karen Armstrong and UU theologians like Forrest Church, Paul Rasor and Rebecca Parker. For these authors, integration is a key concept. This indicates that the dominant discourse of UUism is shifting from Green to Blue.

I have asked other people to read this passage, and they all took it to mean Karen Armstrong is UU, until of course they realised why I was asking.

The material on the Baha'is is simply misleading. They are not one of the world's fastest growing religions. They don't count properly the people who leave. The expected army of converts has not happened. What is stranger is that this book did not ask ex-Haifan Baha'is who come to Unitarian Universalism for their views, many of whom have no idea why they were deemed Covenant Breakers. Haifan Baha'ism is not some pluralist body attempting integration, but a body that is literalist regarding sacred texts. The Baha'i Faith interprets other religions its own way. They all lead up to the Baha'i Faith. The authorities require its authors representing the faith to undergo censorship. It is not even 'modernist'! It may claim that men and women are equal, but the Universal House of Justice is open to men only, and, this democratic centralist body is intended to be both secular and religious for the world. There are no election campaigns: simply the highly conservative feature of each level voting for the next level up, whilst decisions are absolute. Another example is the Faith tells that there is no conflict between religion and science, and yet the Faith deems that evolution is insufficient as an explanation for developing life.

Whilst promoting the Baha'i Faith as advanced, this book boxes in Roman Catholicism as Red.

From the vision of Ken Wilber, in a Red consciousness, the Sacraments of the Church are seen as magic acts. (20)

In so-called Red religion, the primary focus is on a magical interpretation of faith. ...Inside Red Christianity Jesus is primarily seen as a miracle worker. As an example of a Christian community with a red dominant discourse one can think for example of the Roman Catholic Church in which bread and wine, are "magically" transformed into the body and blood of Christ. (31)

Of course this is very selective. Early Unitarians like Joseph Priestley regarded Jesus as a miracle worker. Early Unitarians were not biblical critics but read the text from the page: the biggest miracle was the core resurrection event. Were they also Amber, like Calvinists?

Boxing in Roman Catholicism as Red on this basis is like saying Anglicanism is defined by the Thirty-nine Articles. (It does not mention Anglicanism: despite making references to British Unitarianism it does not consider the religious environment of Britain.) Even Roman Catholicism accepts evolution, and far from being Red in thinking it pursues astronomy right in the Vatican and has a highly developed social theology relating to capitalism. It produces a very wide variety of theologians.

The book is so crude in its terminology. Calling Roman Catholic ritual 'magical' is actually offensive. For Roman Catholics, and traditionalist Anglo-Catholics too, the Mass or Eucharist is a participation in the one passion of Christ at the crucifixion, for which the priest is a channel of order via which this elemental transubstantiation is said to happen. This is supernatural. (And let's not forget that Lutheranism - Amber, supposedly - doctrinally believes in Consubstantiation, a kind of both-and real presence.) The Theosophy related Liberal Catholics illustrate the difference between the magical and the supernatural. The Liberal Catholic co-founder Bishop Leadbeater claimed, along with Bishop Wedgwood, that the priest has a power to make the Eucharist the presence of Christ, which he correctly understood as magic. This is why Leadbeater was able to be partly Hindu and partly Buddhist in his theology of ritual - an example of pluralism, after all, but one based on magic.

It's as if Vatican II never happened or that the Church lacks a sophisticated life. If tolerance is a virtue, then let us have informed tolerance of others.

This reference to colours and points in Christian and otherwise historical development simply do not relate.

Red is not about fighting off evil. There is a misunderstanding here about Church and Sect. The model of the dominant Christian Church, as argued by the sociologist and historian Ernst Troeltsch (1931) forms wider culture and is maintained by broader culture: it is why individuals are baptised into it as a matter of entitlement. Sects form and social distance appears, and many of those fight off evil. We must not forget the relevance of Mysticism in Troeltsch's scheme: it is an Enlightenment and afterwards organising of religious individualism.

We can think profitably of Max Weber's charismatic, traditional and (rationalising) bureaucratic forms of authority. But then we can think of systemic and human relations forms of authority. This is where management theory and ecclesiology coincide.

Ken Wilber uses "systemic" to identify Blue consciousness. As Peter Rudge (1968, 1976) proposed, systemic seems to be a model of dispersed expertise that undermines a top-down bureaucratic triangle like Weber's bureaucracy; as such systemic is a Pauline integrated Christian Church and this is to be contrasted with the more human relations authority of Elton Mayo (1933). Mayo's is the liberal, dispersed grouping - like religious liberalism. And indeed the point is that the systemic clearly relates to Orange and even Red in the le Grand and Geels book.

How on earth is Florence Nightingale an example of Blue thinking (18)? First of all, she was not Unitarian. In summary, she was a universalist Anglican (God was ultimately merciful; much liturgy was infantile) but had asked Cardinal Manning if she could become Roman Catholic. He advised against, because of her beliefs. She saw herself as a kind of 'Cassandra', the prophetess of 'a female Christ, who will resume in her own soul the sufferings of her race' (Cupitt, 1972, 138). She did enter a nuns-run hospital but left after getting ill. She took Anglican and Catholic nuns with her to the Crimea, and the Anglicans thought she favoured the Catholics. She practised the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, which she learned in a Catholic convent in Rome. She bonded with the Mother Superior, Mary Clare Moore, of the Sisters of Mercy and stayed in touch. (See Webb, 2002, and various sources.)

Why should one mention this at length? Because it shows the essay is shallow. The examples are tossed out. So Indigo is to be freed and detached, with examples like Genpo Roshi, Thich Nhat Hahn and Nelson Mandela (19). Why Nelson Mandela is not explained, but one can suppose many a Buddhist pursues detachment - although later the book refers to Thai Red Spirit Houses as Red (31).

There is no consideration that there might be a vertical arranging of religion: historically, intellectual and philosophical religion that is cosmopolitan and contrasted with local and mass popular-magical - especially rural - religion.

The book says that these development stages for individuals are not linked to a certain age (19) - which would be in denial of many development and education theories. How does a child achieve Green, Blue or Indigo without reaching ever higher levels of abstract thinking that come after puberty? Aren't many prodigies actually autistic or has autistic signs: what of them?

Then with groups there is this casual association of pluralism and postmodernity.

This seems to me to ignore the fact that pluralism is part of modernity, as in the Isaiah Berlin sense of competing but objective claiming truths. Jurgen Habermas deals with the collective conversation rationality side of pluralism (Habermas, 1981). Peter Berger the sociologist discussed pluralism without having to go further into postmodernism (Berger, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1977). Postmodernism is about relativity and the loss of the objective-subjective division into some sort of hyper-reality.

Blue integration is very difficult to achieve.

The principle was claimed that a religious group is contemporary if it has a dominant discourse that matches society. If it does not, the group cannot act as a conveyor belt (also le Grand and Geels, 2016, 30). So this keeps to the Wilber scheme, sans Magenta.

Then one asks how to be ahead of society, and as such one would look at the postmodern Church. [But where? Not in Green society, surely?] These repetitive crudities are not the main complaint.

And it is on this point of not accepting evolution that one comes to the more important matter of the scheme on which this whole presentation and essay/ book depends. Again and again this material relies on Ken Wilber for its one-direction conveyor belt scheme of changing consciousness with group impliations.

For individuals, these stages are irreversible: once you have reached a certain stage of consciousness, according to Ken Wilber, you will almost never fall back. (19)

"Almost never" is a qualification, of course. So what is this scheme that starts with Red (or Magenta), and becomes Amber (except for the pillars) and then Orange, then Green, Blue and Indigo. Are they like typologies provided by James Fowler (1995) and Robert Bellah (1964)?

The answer is no, because Bellah for one is subtle enough to know the limitation of classifying for the purpose of intellectual contrasts.

Evolution in the sphere of religion is traced on three levels. First and most central is the evolution of religious symbol systems which are described as moving from "compact" to "differentiated." In close conjunction with this evolution religious collectivities become more differentiated from other social structures and there is an increasing consciousness of the self as a religious subject. Five ideal typical stages of development are posited but it is recognized that these stages are not inevitable, that there is a wide variety of types within each stage, and that actual cases present many important features which cannot be neatly characterized in terms of any one stage. The close connection between religious evolution and other aspects of socio-cultural evolution is assumed but not explored. (Bellah, 1964)

In his scheme there are five stages of religious development. The first stage is Primitive Religion where ritual binds people and mythical beings together. This is categorised "in an unusually restricted sense. Much that is usually classified as primitive religion would fall in my second category, archaic religion." As religious functionaries gain importance space appears between people and myth at the second Archaic Religion stage. At the third stage Historical Religion of the main world historical religions, transcendence and other-worldly salvation theologies develop building opposites of institutional religion and secular society. At the fourth stage Early Modern Religion, functionaries become less important and a more personal salvation by faith takes over. At the fifth stage for Modern Religion this-worldly ethics replace the importance of the next world.

It seems that the two earliest categories relate to magic and then magical religion. What comes after is institutional, but in Early Modern those institutional functionaries weaken.

But we have seen how all this is qualified by the tentative basis of categorising and summarising.

A different and more psychology based approach was provided by James Fowler (1995):

Stage 1 with Intuitive-Projective faith (ages three to seven) is characterized by the psyche's unprotected exposure to the Unconscious, and marked by a relative fluidity of thought patterns. Religion is learned mainly through experiences, stories, images, and the people that one comes in contact with. Projective unrestrained fantasy comes with the first self-awareness with taboos and possible terror. Here is Concrete operational thinking

Stage 2 with Mythic-Literal faith is mostly found in school children and generates a strong belief in the justice and reciprocity of the universe, and deities are almost always anthropomorphic. Metaphors and symbolic language are often misunderstood and taken literally with surface meaning.

Stage 3 with Synthetic-Conventional faith arises in adolescence and is characterised by conformity to authority and the religious part of personal identity. Any conflicts within one's beliefs are ignored at this stage due to the fear of threat from inconsistencies. New significant others going beyond the family force conformity, ideology and authority, but teenagers clash with adult authority.

Stage 4 with Individuative-Reflective faith usually happens at the mid-twenties to late thirties and it is a stage of angst and struggle. The individual takes personal responsibility beyond significant others for his or her beliefs and feelings. As one is able to reflect, there is an openness to a new complexity of faith, but this also increases the awareness of conflicts in one's belief. One's own critical system pluralises and self-history impedes.

Stage 5 with Conjunctive faith is a kind of mid-life crisis that acknowledges paradox and a transcendence-relating reality behind the symbols of inherited systems. The individual resolves past conflicts by a complex understanding of a multidimensional, interdependent "truth" that cannot be explained by any particular statement. So the Self and ideology join up. One recognises that the world is untransformed even if the vision is integrated

The final optional stage is Universalising where the Self transforms itself by incarnating into fully inclusive universalising love. This can be threatening to institutions. If this stage happens at all it is after any mid-life crisis and is the final transition.

(Fowler, 1995, 133-134, 149-150, 172-173, 182-183, 197-198, 200-201)

I would suggest it is better grounded in research; either Bellah or Fowler would have been better used than the rigid Wilber system.

Both these schemes are still open to criticism: they suppose an evolution from the more magical and supernatural religion through to the Liberal Protestant and individualist. It all looks ideological. Are these schemes, in the end, post-Christian constructs and into the secular? Why can we not say, instead, that the essence of religion is the supernatural and magical, and that all else is departure. Christianity grew, we know, until it was institutionalised and married to the State, from below, by charismatic enthusiasm and by reputation among traders.

It is almost as if Liberals say, "We're better than you," by one perspective evolutionary scheme after another. And on this matter it is suspected that the Wilber scheme is yet one more of these, that this time it is used so that one set of pluralist and integrative Unitarians can tell the more Liberal Christian Unitarians that they haven't developed as far forward as the pluralists and integrators. It is a faction-fight by theory.

Meanwhile it happens that in 1998 Robert Bellah spoke to the Unitarian Universalists in a friendly but highly critical manner.

I am a trinitarian Episcopalian with a strong ecclesiology. But I also have some enduring associations with your tradition. James Luther Adams was my mentor when I first started teaching...

...if it means that "common worship" is least important in what holds UUs together, then my anxiety level does indeed rise. For it is my understanding as a sociologist of religion that it is common worship that creates the beloved community for which many UUs yearn.

...without good institutions there will not be good communities and without good communities there will not be good individuals.

(Bellah, 1998)

Christianity as it grew was highly communal, but its beliefs in a cross-cultural condition that rapidly escalated Jesus from a human messiah to something towards the binitarian was from below. A looking-forward religion was later institutionalised into looking back, but in modernity people look into the present (this-worldly, with low expectations that religion causes cosmic change). What is missing from the Wilber scheme transferred to communities is any theology of the Church, any maintenance of the collective identity that comes through a memory-narrative transmitted by institutions (Hervieu-Leger, 2000). It just descends into personal beliefs and the space is to allow them to be supported.

Indeed, placing postmodernism and pluralism together misunderstands that postmodernism includes the functioning of shared language via institutions - churches, advertising agencies, politics, architects). There is a transition from clashing pluralist objective values into relativity and yet then speech creates realities at the collective level - the linguistic turn. Religious symbols and rituals become symbols of play where the meaning is in flux and negotiated. It is not unexpected, therefore, that postmodernism gives space for postliberal 'drama according to pre-set standards' (Protestant) and countermodernism (mainly Anglo-Catholic).

But beyond all this, what is this Red, (Magenta,) Amber, Orange, Green, Blue and Indigo? Is it spiral dynamics? It seems that Wilber looked at the colours of so-called Spiral Dynamics, using insights from colour psychology (Beige, Purple, Red, Blue, Orange, Green, Yellow, And Turquoise) and thought it would be better to have the colours of the rainbow for his own scheme. Except, of course, the colours of the rainbow in so far as they are separated are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Wilber invents Magenta and Amber and removes Yellow. Indeed, in his full scheme, Beige is replaced by Infrared, Purple is replaced by Magenta, Blue is replaced by Amber, and Yellow is replaced by Teal (Visser, 2017a). Third Tier colours get added. Only Red, Orange, Green and Turquoise were kept. So Wilber's scheme is to go from mainly warm, reddish colours to cooler bluish colours, ending with ultraviolet and white, so there is a kind of psychology involved. Clearly le Grand and Geels have selected some of Wiber's colours for relevance in their persuading project.

Are these rainbowish colour categories like Bellah's ideal types, thus 'heuristic' means to an end to then discuss congregational development? Apparently not. They turn out to be part of a denial of evolution.

These are based on pseudo-science and therefore with super-realist implications.

Frank Vissper, as above, a critic who has made himself something of a specialist regarding Wilber, and quotes him, writes (2009):

From the various ad hoc pronouncements Wilber has made over the years, we can however speculate on what his actual position is. Though he has distanced himself from the Intelligent Design movement on various occasions, the structure of his arguments, his strategy when writing about evolutionary theory, is very close to those of the ID-proponents.

So what of these colours (2017a)? He picks up on Wilber using involution and contrasts this with evolution. Involution has various meanings, but he quotes Wilber to show that Wilber means evolution to mean "the movement away from Spirit" (the "unfolding of maya") and involution to mean "turning back toward Spirit." For Wilber, nothing can only ever produce nothing, there is no something out of nothing. Wilber is also quoted as saying one cannot, logically, ontologically, or metaphysically derive the higher from the lower.

There is a fallacy among critics of evolution, that the lower form must contain what the higher form produces.

And thus, states Visper, in this highly religious view of 'evolution':

Spirit is not only the source and the goal, but also the driving force behind this whole cosmic drama. Eros is the involutionary force that drives evolution along. (2017a)

This is not scientific. Science says that in any particular local environment, mutations produce small comparative advantages that through comparative death leads to species development and change. It's a sort of chaos theory with then a systemic interaction between all the various forms of predator and symbiotic relationships.

There is no driving force or secret of the Spirit. This is pseudo-science, indeed a belief.

For Wilber, the pseudo-science explains why dirt can end up writing poetry. Yet this is precisely what evolution does claim. So Wilber, according to the le Grand and Geels approach, is of premodern thinking. Indeed Spirit-in-action to explain the Eros driver is surely the intervention of God, is it not, available globally, in what others see as evolution, which happens locally.

Into this, then, go the colours that Wilber employs: the driver within - indeed why it is a conveyor belt and people cannot go backwards.

So it makes me wonder whether le Grand and Geels have actually appreciated the belief implication of using Wilber.

It seems to me sad that their essay/ book should rely on such a scheme when, just as well, they could have used other 'evolution of faith' schemes. So not only is there a criticism that comes from that - the superiority of the liberal, the pluralist, the integratist - but also the criticism that the colour scheme implies a belief in a spirit force that denies evolution as science.

Yet beyond all this is the inadequacy of considering the collective role of religion, that a progressive church it is just space for individualism.

Robert Bellah, the sociologist of religion, is also an Episcopalian, and he said this to Unitarian Universalists in justifying his more collective theology:

But the Holy Spirit fills us; we are the church. That's what Vatican II was saying about the people of God. The church is not something over against us, any more than God is over against us. God in Christ is with us; the Holy Spirit fills us; we are the church. (Bellah, 1998)

Surely postmodern Unitarians should attempt to develop an ecclesiology that is more than simply space.

I have a Christian friend, who is, as far as I can tell, fully part of the present-day world. It simply is not good enough for her that she is entitled to some individual belief: belief has to be collective and supported by revelation. What role, therefore, revelation? I was once told that my varied liturgical expressions were "out of date" because (I take it) they were of defined packages and not some sort of vague spiritual oversight welcoming individual beliefs.

Yet Wilber's own 'spiritual oversight' turns out to be yet more belief. He pursues his own myth. Is this the secret myth opening out in the more supposedly advanced congregations?

Principally the book is fundamentally opinion about Dutch religion (although it ignores the Old Catholics, with its origins in The Netherlands), and then on being impressed by American Unitarian Universalism. It contains comments on British Unitarianism, but does not take into account its religious and secular environment. But the argument is made for British Unitarianism to consume as well.

One wants such writing to make its case, but this does not. It looks like what it is: a schematically faulty justification to promote one kind of Unitarian congregation over another: that one is almost 'scientifically' better than the other, because it delivers consciousness to a new level inside a supporting congregation. But the basis of it just unravels. Using well-worn sociology of religion, rather than pseudo-science, at least employs the implications of a changing sociology of knowledge.

I finish with a quotation from an Anglican faction-fight in theology. How would this fit in with the book's boxed-in categories?

This dialectic may well involve more diversity of understanding in doctrine and ethics than we kave known hitherto. This, as we have seen, for one reason particularly: our minds and our hearts will be trying to witness the sheer diversity of God as given: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our thesis then is diversity and dialectic: tradition and discovery, revelation and reason, dogmatics and experience. If this appears a rather clumsy and messy business, there can really be only one answer: God is not monochrome. If we have stressed Pneumatology rather than Sonship we have done so only to redress the balance. (Linzey, 1998, 56-57)

And yet...

One of the reasons why it is necessary at the present time to offer a robust defence of theological diversity is because is precisely because now, as possibly never before, it is clearly under serious threat. (Linzey, 57)

Thus can be made one reason for the Unitarian witness: for freedom, and across a wide range. Not, however, this scheme of le Grand and Geels, which has little to say about a Church, other than the demand to pluralise and integrate and then to go ever above to para-mind based on a dodgy colour scheme.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful



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