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The Presence of the Infinite: The Spiritual Experience of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness Paperback – October 1, 2015
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"McIntosh has written another important and groundbreaking book. The Presence of the Infinite helps establish the central significance of the beautiful, the good, and the true as the foundation of human wellbeing. By shining the light of integral philosophy onto the subject of spiritual experience and spiritual leadership, McIntosh convincingly describes the future course of humanity's spiritual evolution. Reading this book is a spiritual experience in its own right." --John Mackey, Co-Founder and CEO of Whole Foods Markets, and Co-Author of Conscious Capitalism
"In the Middle Ages, great Christian theologians developed a range of rational arguments for the existence of God. Many of those arguments have been discredited in the centuries since Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Freud, Einstein, and Hubble. As a result, belief in God or spirit, or any transcendence at all, has been slipping away, often leaving a reduced and empty world in its wake. Steve McIntosh is a leading philosopher seeking to rediscover transcendence--not apart from scientific evidence, but by interpreting it afresh. I find his work--especially The Presence of the Infinite--helpful, stimulating, and inspiring in my own work as a Christian thinker, writer, and activist." --Brian D. McLaren, Author of A New Kind of Christianity, and host of brianmclaren.net
"Spirituality is evolving, and The Presence of the Infinite is proof. This book is required reading for any serious student of evolutionary spirituality. Steve McIntosh passionately and meticulously gives his well-trained and inspired intellect to his work as a philosopher, seeing philosophy's role in evolving a new worldview as an absolutely critical undertaking, with a mission to balance and integrate our rapidly-evolving science and spirituality. Your understanding of your own spirituality will be challenged and clarified if you read this book with a serious heart." --Terry Patten, Co-author of Integral Life Practice and creator and host of the online teleseminar series Beyond Awakening
"The Presence of the Infinite represents a unique contribution to the East-meets-West philosophical dialogue. Uncovering the common oversimplifications and misconceptions inherent in both theism and popular nondualism, McIntosh invites us to consider a broader religious synthesis that affirms and begins to unify both the ancient impulse to transcend and the contemporary impulse to evolve. An important book for anyone tracking the evolution of spirituality in our time." --Craig Hamilton, Founder, IntegralEnlightenment.com, and CEO of Evolving Wisdom transformative education
"With The Presence of the Infinite, McIntosh has established himself as one of the leading intellectual authorities in progressive spiritual culture. Erudite, uplifting, and provocative, The Presence of the Infinite is written by a heart filled with love for Spirit and a razor sharp mind determined to illuminate and integrate theistic and non-dual visions of the sacred. Few people have the courage or insight to ask the questions that McIntosh does and see the evolution of culture through such a magnanimous lens. This is a book that will change the way you think about spiritual experience and the direction of our religious and secular future. Take notice--evolutionary spirituality has an eloquent and formidable new champion." --Carter Phipps, Author of Evolutionaries and Co-founder of The Institute for Cultural Evolution
"Steve McIntosh has become our leading voice for making the case that human beings can evolve far beyond the levels we've so far attained. By telling the story of spirituality through the Platonic notions of truth, beauty and goodness, he grounds the evolutionary journey in a specific path we can each walk. More broadly, he defines a new and inspiring method for reconciling the polarization and paralysis that divide us as we try to navigate the future of our imperiled planet." --Tony Schwartz, bestselling author, and founder and CEO of the Energy Project consulting firm
"In The Presence of the Infinite, integral philosopher Steve McIntosh shares his infectious passion for evolutionary spirituality. As McIntosh shows, once we begin to recognize that the science of evolution actually presents a profound spiritual teaching of its own, this can help us reinterpret and reaffirm humanity's deepest religious insights. In this extraordinary book, McIntosh brilliantly lays out a "Higher Synthesis" of Eastern and Western spirituality that is both deeply instructive and profoundly inspiring to anyone whose soul is craving to take the next step. Highly recommended!" --Andrew Cohen, Author of Evolutionary Enlightenment and Founder of What Is Enlightenment? magazine
"As spirituality evolves, it places increasing emphasis on spiritual experience. And now, our understanding of what spiritual experience is and how it works is being expanded and deepened by the work of integral philosopher Steve McIntosh. In his new book The Presence of the Infinite, McIntosh charts a compelling trajectory to a post-postmodern spirituality that can help us have spiritual experience more abundantly, and use it more effectively to empower our work in the world. I'm especially impressed with the way McIntosh integrates the experience of nondual emptiness with the experience of a loving Creator, showing how these alternative conceptions of ultimate reality can actually serve to "true each other up." This book is a historically significant masterpiece that should be read by every serious spiritual practitioner." --Jeff Salzman, host of The Daily Evolver program, and Co-founder of Career Track Training adult education company
About the Author
Steve McIntosh is a leader in the integral philosophy movement. He is co-founder and president of the Institute for Cultural Evolution (ICE) think tank. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Southern California Business School. His website is www.stevemcintosh.com.
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I had the sense after reading The Presence of the Infinite that I needed to return to page one and begin again - from the new place at which I had arrived. Steve McIntosh's love of Spirit and love of Reason shine through this book. He speaks for many when he writes that "in its essence, the evolutionary impulse is the desire for the transcendent itself." His compassion for the many is grounded in his commitment to the ongoing work of "creating perfection within our midst."
I highly recommend The Presence of the Infinite. You will feel the evolutionary impulse of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
Mary Reese Folger
I would say that McIntosh has succeeded in showing that the values line of development in the Wilber model should get a higher profile. Wilber has been adamant that it was just one line among many in the personal quadrant of his model, and it seems that was a mistake.
But Wilber did succeed in adding God, spirituality in the second person, to his model. His Three Faces of Spirit was a natural and elegant addition. The McIntosh proposal, a development double spiral of nonduality and theism which ‘true each other up’, seems awkward and contrived to me.
In any case, I don’t think theism has the strength to ‘true up’ nonduality. Wilber makes a good example of what I’m getting at. Nonduality is foundational to his model, but nevertheless he easily added God to the model and you quite often hear him say something like “It’s all God”. But you will never hear Ken Wilber say something like “It’s all molecules moving about in space”. He would gag if he tried! It seems only the hard sciences have the strength to really ‘true up’ nonduality.
And nonduality needs some serious criticism because it gets a free ride in Wilber’s work; if any issue comes up, typically he will just throw a Nagarjuna quote at the issue. I think the best part of this book by McIntosh is the balanced but cogent criticism he directs towards nonduality. I would say McIntosh has succeeded in showing that nonduality is only a postmodern level of spirituality, rather than being spirituality at the integral level -- an impressive achievement!
The problem is that I don’t think McIntosh offers a viable alternative view of spirituality. For one thing, he does not clearly distinguish between spirituality as such and spirituality as a cultural/personal phenomenon. That distinction is a breakthrough strength of the Wilber model.
Also, in the McIntosh model theism is cast as half of a developmental double spiral. But I don’t see how theism can really be compatible with development. The essence of theistic development would be that instead of being ‘had’ by God, you develop so that eventually you ‘have’ God. But in true theism, that development would be impossible by definition.
In contrast, it is perfectly possible in Wilber’s model. The God of Wilber’s model is basically there to help you develop; you surrender to that God in order to tame your ego and become nondual. The issue of whether that God is real is not even relevant in Wilber’s model. But in true theism that issue is of the essence.
I was also disappointed that McIntosh did not make any serious effort to deal with the obvious criticisms of his own proposals. For example, he makes the provocative claim that drug experiences offer true and important spiritual insights that cannot be obtained by natural methods such as meditation or prayer. So does that mean Gautama Buddha couldn’t have been fully enlightened because he never took LSD? Was Jesus Christ spiritually inadequate in some important way because he never took ayahuasca?
As another example, it may be that McIntosh has successfully argued that evolution implies the existence of some sort of Creative Principle. But then he takes a gigantic leap and tries to claim that Creative Principle is actually a God who knows and loves you personally! And he takes the fact that God’s love will not prevent awful things from happening to you as a ‘proof’ that there must be an afterlife! He then apparently attempts to deflect the inevitable criticism by claiming he’s not trying to prove the existence of God. Very disappointing.
In summary, I would say this book by Steve McIntosh offers some much needed heavy weight criticism of Ken Wilber’s view of spirituality. But I don’t think The Presence of the Infinite offers a viable alternative.