FAQs about Adi Da & Adidam > Other Traditions > Adidam and Postmodernism: Part 1

Adidam as a Post-Postmodern Tradition

Chris Tong, Ph.D.

Question: How does Adidam compare with postmodernism? Doesn't postmodernism reject the view that there is an Ultimate Reality, whereas Adidam is oriented around the view that there is an Ultimate Reality?

Brief Answer: Adidam is a post-postmodern tradition. Like postmodernism, Adidam rejects all egoic viewpoints as limited. But this is because it identifies the ego as the source of all limited viewpoints (which postmodernism fails to do). The immediate (and profoundly consequential) implication is that there is a Viewpoint that is not limited: if one transcends the ego perfectly, then "limited viewpoint" is also transcended in the Prior Unity that is revealed. Thus, unlike postmodernism, Adidam claims that there is a Prior Unity, and an ego-transcending (non-separative) Viewpoint associated with the Consciousness that is that Prior Unity. Also, unlike postmodernism, Adidam is not just a philosophy; it provides a means for Realizing that Consciousness (and Prior Unity) directly (not merely "knowing" it egoically, or forming limited viewpoints about it), and consequently, for transcending egoity altogether and all the limited points of view so greatly criticized by postmodernism.

This article contains the following subsections:
  1. Adidam and postmodernism
  2. Philosophy combined with practice
  3. A historical progression
  4. Postmodernism, integral theory, and post-postmodern traditions
  5. Criteria for a progressive post-postmodern cultural tradition

1. Adidam and postmodernism

Where Adi Da and the postmodernists agree is on the virtue of identifying limiting points of view and their sources to "raise them to consciousness" so as to help free oneself of the limits they represent. As author and art critic, Rajesh Shukla, puts it: "Adi Da is postmodern in this sense, because he knows the very locus from where things appear." Where the postmodernists might use "skepticism" as their means, practitioners of the Way of Adidam use a form of free and unrestricted enquiry, to supplement their direct devotional response to (and increasing awareness of, communion with, and ultimately Realization of) Reality Itself.

Where Adi Da and the postmodernists part ways is this: the postmodernists don't believe there is anything but limited point of view (just less limited points of view, perhaps); whereas Adi Da does describe and distinguish an unlimited, non-egoic Point of View, the Point of View of Consciousness, that is unmediated by the body (and its senses) or the mind, and that cannot be known (through the mind hence Adi Da refers to it as "Divine Ignorance"), but can be Realized (and as such, Adi Da refers to it as "Perfect Knowledge").

Like Adidam, postmodernism rejects the traditional "objective" notions of truth. In the view of Adidam, "objectification" involves an observer dissociating himself or herself from an "observed", and the egoic act of separation involved in that objectification dissociates one from the nonseparate Prior Unity which, according to Adidam, is the Truth. (In Adidam, Truth is not the same as factuality.)

But postmodernism then goes on to presume that the only other alternative to a single "objective truth" is an infinite variety of limited, subjective truths. In contrast, Adidam holds that Truth is that which is always already the case, independent of viewpoint: Reality Itself. Semiologist Jacques Derrida, one of the founders of postmodernism, writes:

Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida

The entire history of the concept of structure, before the rupture of which we are speaking, must be thought of as a series of substitutions of centre for centre, as a linked chain of determinations of the centre. Successively, and in a regulated fashion, the centre receives different forms or names. The history of metaphysics, like the history of the West, is the history of these metaphors and metonymies. Its matrix [...] is the determination of Being as presence in all senses of this word. It could be shown that all the names related to fundamentals, to principles, or to the centre have always designated an invariable presence – eidos, arche, telos, energeia, ousia (essence, existence, substance, subject), aletheia, transcendentality, consciousness, God, man, and so forth.

Jacques Derrida
Structure, Sign and Play, in Writing and Difference

But Adidam does not merely speak of "a center" (of which there are countless viewpoints, as Derrida rightly points out), or merely conceptualize a Divine Person to be Realized, or recommend an Aletheon to be read. Adidam agrees with Derrida that a purely objective truth is an impossibility. But Adidam doesn't stop with talk or viewpoint. Unlike postmodernism, Adidam isn't just a philosophy. It is one more philosophy, but it is not just one more philosophy. It provides a means for Realizing Reality Itself — which has no center, no "object", and no separative, limited, or egoic viewpoint whatsoever. In this sense, Adidam could be called "Perfect Philosophy" (to use Adi Da's phrase), in that it doesn't merely talk about Ultimate Reality, but it also provides the means for Realizing the Ultimate Reality it describes.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Avatar Adi Da Samraj

In [Divine Enlightenment], there is no surface, no dimension, no center, no size. There is perfect rest at the surface and at the center. There is no definition to the being. There is perfect expansion then, which is not equivalent to having achieved a point above or outside or inside, but which is the same as having achieved no point whatsoever, having perfectly penetrated the whole affair that defines the being. The natural disposition in [Divine Enlightenment] is perfectly formless, without quality, without world, without relations, without size, without dilemma — absolute freedom from all the implications of birth and death, survival and transcendence, inwardness and adventure.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, "May All Beings Run to This Mere Truth"
The Way That I Teach

2. Philosophy combined with practice

Thus the key distinction between Adidam and postmodernism is this: postmodernism is a philosophy; Adidam is not only a philosophy, but a spiritual and transcendental Way.[1] The postmodernist belief that there is no "absolute reality" and there is nothing but limited points of view is a philosophical presumption built into postmodernism. It is not a conclusion reached by exhaustive observation or experience of the nature of reality. In contrast, the view of Adidam — that there is an Ultimate Reality, That which is always already the case — is testable, and the Way of Adidam is given as the means for testing that claim. (Indeed, no one can even become a devotee of Adi Da, or take up the Way of Adidam without having first received the direct Revelation of the Divine Reality. The practice of Adidam deepens that Revelation, and enables it to become Realization.) In this sense, postmodernism is susceptible to a criticism similar to the one Adi Da makes of scientific materialism:

Scientific materialism is a strange philosophy for everyone to be attached to . . . Why should it be the preferred philosophy? Of all the philosophies, it’s the one that allows the least hope relative to any matter whatsoever! If it were so — well, that’s that, that’s the way it is. But why should one hope that it is the one that turns out to be so? Why should one so much want it to be so that one is moved to presently affirm that it’s already so, even though you haven’t really found out that it’s so yet? . . . Rather than just willing to have it be that way or whatever way it is, but here just to find out the way it really is, and not anything other than that.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Drifted In The Deeper Land

In other words, if one had a choice between a philosophy (like postmodernism) that simply presumes up front that there is no Absolute Reality, and a spiritual Way that offers a means for finding out whether there is an Absolute Reality (and moreover, a means for Realizing the Perfect and Eternal Happiness of that Absolute Reality), which would you choose?

This is why it is so important to not merely study philosophy, but to also study the Great Tradition of spiritual and transcendental practices throughout history. Western philosophy has had a long tradition (and bias) of valuing conceptualization over practice, dating back to the idealism of Plato, two and a half millennia ago. But mere conceptualization is limited by the point of view of the body-mind, which can only be transcended through practice, not thought alone.

The "limited viewpoints" that postmodernism presumes are an inherent aspect of all human communication are actually the by-product of an identification with a limited form (a limited body-mind): its limited awareness, senses, limited conceptualizations, etc. Dissolve that identification with the limited body-mind (through spiritual and other practices) and the limited viewpoint is dissolved as well. Such practice includes fundamental changes in the habits of the body-mind that are purposed toward freeing up energy and attention for the sake of Revelation — that is, they cut into the body-mind's obsession with its usual "mundane" objects (money, food, sex, and the like) so that it has the potential for coming into contact with Something Greater. Whether it is the rigorous ascetic disciplines undergone by monastic Christian mystics or native Americans on a vision quest, or the life-positive, God-Communion-supporting practices of the Way of Adidam, all these practices transform the practitioner's body-mind into a different kind of instrument more suited for greater-than-material discovery and Revelation and the greatest such practices place one in Consciousness Itself, directly aware of Reality, rather than one's awareness of Reality always only being mediated through a body-mind.

Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas

Philosophy about the nature of reality without practice (and without being able to directly confirm one's philosophical presumptions through the Realization that comes with practice) is something like scientific theory without scientific instruments and experimentation using those instruments (to test the theory). Creating, refining, or integrating ideologies is a rather dull enterprise when compared with receiving genuine Revelation! [5] As Thomas Aquinas, probably the greatest and most brilliant of the medieval Church fathers, put it: Mihi videtur ut palea — "All my words are mere straw" — when at the end of his life of fleshing out the core of Catholic theology (particularly in his Summa Theologica), he experienced an actual spiritual Revelation.

You should investigate all "considerations", line them up to Ultimate "Consideration", and make sense out of it all. This is the function of philosophy.

Many Realizers have been philosophers. I am a kind of philosopher, not an academic philosopher, but a philosopher in the traditional sense. Philosophers traditionally have not been academic philosophers. Academic philosophy is a specialized development of philosophy and has its own limitations. Philosophy means "the love of wisdom". And, what is the best way to love wisdom? Some may professionalize their endeavor to speak to a certain dimension of humankind and become rather academic or philosophical in a rather professional sense. And many of those never Realize. Academic philosophers are, in fact, notorious for not Realizing, not doing ego-transcending practice, but just thinking and talking.

Academic philosophy is (one might say) part of the content of the "talking school", then. So, what is better? Yes, it is fine to be discriminative and intelligent and even "consider" many matters in a very sophisticated fashion. I do this Myself, sometimes. But, if Truth is your "consideration", then you must also do what you have to do to Realize. You must necessarily become a practitioner, a person who does ego-transcending practice. You must become an ecstatic, necessarily. You must do Yoga. You must transcend yourself for real.

So the import of philosophy is Realization, and the greatest of philosophers are Realizers.

And how many of them were also academic philosophers or something like it? This is not to say that there is no usefulness in very discrete philosophical "consideration". It has a certain usefulness. But it must not bar you from Realization. It must not bar you from the real practice. And, however you exercise your intelligence or your intention, it will tend to perpetuate itself. It is a conditional enterprise. Therefore, if it perpetuates itself, it will tend to deny you Realization.

So, one must be very mindful of how one uses attention. If one is to perform a service, to speak intelligently to others, well, good, do that. But do the practice. Transcend yourself. Realize. You are "considering" Truth, so the matter at hand is to Realize the Truth, whatever your daily service may be. If your daily service involves being something like an academic philosopher, or a scholar, and so forth, fine. But do the practice. Others may not have that particular specialty of service. Maybe they just are carpenters or plumbers, and so on. But they should do ego-transcending practice, too. All must Realize.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, October 31, 1987

3. A historical progression

From a historical viewpoint, Adidam is rightly understood as a new, post-postmodern tradition:

  1. Modernity began with the Renaissance and flowered during the Enlightenment period. Modernity exceeds its predecessor, medievalism, in presuming that there is an objective reality which can be discovered with certainty through observation and reason. Modernity provided (what postmodernists would call) a set of "grand narratives", including Isaac Newton's model of the physical universe, the Enlightenment era notion that democracy is the most enlightened form of government, etc.

  2. Modernism arose at the end of the nineteenth century, and lasted until the mid-twentieth century. It represented a rebellion against the conservative values of realism and tradition, and an emphasis on freedom of expression, experimentation, radicalism, and primitivism. While modernism was historically coincident and resonant with Einstein's theory of relativity, Freud's notions about the unconscious, etc., modernism largely expressed itself through various new movements in art and literature, including art that rejected the traditional notions of perspective, surrealistic art, abstract expressionism, pop art, minimalism, jazz, etc.

  3. Postmodernism (dating from the mid-twentieth century) provides a methodology for questioning (or deconstructing) any viewpoint that claims to be objective, "privileged", or absolute — including all the grand narratives of modernism and modernity altogether (along with the religious "grand narratives" of medievalism). Its strength is that it can expose limits of traditionally embraced viewpoints. Its weakness is that it simply presumes there is nothing but limited viewpoint (and that there is no Ultimate Reality beyond limited viewpoint) — which presumption is itself yet another "grand narrative" worthy of deconstruction (see, for example, Habermas [2]). Because its primary tool is skepticism, postmodernism's primary mood is nihilism and despair, and the culture that has formed around postmodernist thinking reflects that mood.[3]

  4. Post-postmodern Adidam agrees with postmodernism in critiquing the simplistic notion of an objective reality. Like postmodernism, Adidam rejects all egoic (i.e. separative) viewpoints as limited. But this is because it identifies the ego as the source of all limited viewpoints (which is something postmodernism fails to do). The immediate (and profoundly consequential) implication is that there is a Viewpoint that is not limited: if one transcends the ego perfectly, then "limited viewpoint" is also transcended in the Prior Unity that is revealed. Thus, unlike postmodernism, Adidam claims that there is a Prior Unity, and an ego-transcending (non-separative) Viewpoint associated with the Consciousness that is that Prior Unity. Adidam also provides a means for Realizing that Consciousness (and Prior Unity) directly (not merely "knowing" it egoically, or forming limited viewpoints about it). It is in this precise sense that Adidam practitioners engage in "Perfect Philosophy" and Realize "Perfect Knowledge":

    Except for "Perfect Knowledge", all "knowledge" is mere ideas, the fantasies of "point of view", entirely imperfect, intrinsically limited, partial, and insufficient, altogether not-Truth, not-Divine, not-Reality, not-Freedom, not-Happiness, and a merely mortal, unnecessary, and egoically "self"-deluded occupation of human mummery. All imperfect "knowledge" is bunk. . . . In general, people do not understand that they are (literally) living in an egoic illusion of mind. . . . "Perfect Knowledge" Is Intrinsic Freedom from all bondage, all of mind, all of egoity, all seeking, all sorrow, and even all of death and loss.

    Avatar Adi Da Samraj, Perfect Philosophy

Because postmodernism undercuts the ultimate significance of anything (by fiat, not by actual investigation), it tends to leave in its wake people struggling to find meaning. A typical conservative backlash to the confusion, nihilism, and relativization of values associated with postmodernism is the attempt to find meaning by returning to traditional, pre-modern religions and belief systems: hence the rise of religious fundamentalism around the world (including in the United States).[4] In contrast, Adidam accepts and acknowledges what has been culturally and practically useful in the historical period (from the sixteenth to the twentieth century) associated with the questioning of traditional religions and values (along with their subsequent decline), and the rise of scientific materialism in the wake of the demonstrable success of technology and its accomplishments. Like postmodernism, Adidam is critical of mere belief systems. However, unlike postmodernism (which presumes all there are are belief systems), Adidam raises the further question: why settle for mere belief systems (or for merely criticizing them), when there is a greater alternative: the potential for Realizing Reality itself (beyond all limited point of view), and for creating a Reality-based culture (rather than a belief-based culture)?

Postmodernism is a process of disillusionment — the stripping away of illusions. But Adidam does not stop there. The Way of Adidam is a process of positive disillusionment: it strips away illusions at the same time as it Reveals Reality Itself.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

Postmodernism resonates well with the familiar maxim, "question authority" — which has its right place in human maturation, as well as the maturation of civilization altogether. Indeed, one of its earliest proponents was Benjamin Franklin, who said: "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." But "question authority" remains merely (and petulantly) adolescent, if one never finds an authority or organizing principle to which one can submit oneself and one's life. In other words, such a person is "questioning authority" because he or she reacts to and rejects authority altogether, in adolescent fashion; in contrast, mature "questioning of authority" is always constructive, and in service to the finding and/or creation of appropriate authority, understanding that a meaningful life requires an organizing principle.

This is so for each individual; and the same is true of a civilization in toto. Civilization is, by and large, still in its adolescence, characterized by adolescent, reactionary philosophies (like postmodernism, whose very name is a reaction), adolescent ideologies (like the political notion of the "sovereign state", when used by a state — most commonly, by Russia and China — as a hedge against "intervention" by other states in the international community that is aimed at protecting the human rights of that state's citizens), and adolescent attitudes.

A global transformation is now required in human culture — after the devastation, or collapse, of ego-civilization in the twentieth century. Something entirely new is required — something comprehensively right.

My entire life has been spent working to establish the basis for a "radically" new and "radically" comprehensive culture. My image-art is a summation, in artistic terms, of all the work I have done. Similarly, the books I have written are a summation, in literary and philosophical terms, of that same lifetime work. My lifetime of work has always been about the rightening of human existence and the transcending of what is binding human beings and leading them on a destructive course.

Therefore, the images I make and do — like the books I have written — are intended to establish a new paradigm of human civilization. The images I make and do are about an entirely different — and altogether ego-transcending — mode, not only of picture-making, but of living and understanding.

What is now required is an epochal change in the history of human endeavor. Just as the Renaissance represented a profound summation of transformation in human endeavor, so now a new kind of transformation is happening.

The "modernists" [in art] were moving toward this transformation, but they were also making images in the midst of the virtual collapse of world-civilization in the twentieth century. Since that collapse, it is no longer possible to return to a tradition that idealizes the human ego. Indeed, what happened in the twentieth century was the definitive failure of Renaissance-originated civilization, which civilization was based on the idealization and glorification of the ego and on the wholesale adoption of the ego's perspectival view of "reality".

The Renaissance was the collapse of the "God"-civilization that preceded it — the civilization based on mythological presumptions of what is traditionally conceived to be spatially and temporally "behind" and "above" the world. The Renaissance destroyed that earlier form of civilization. With the Renaissance, "God"-myth-based civilization was replaced with human-based civilization, or ego-civilization — or the civilization based on the myth of the human ego-"I". That ego-civilization came to its essential end in the twentieth century.

In this post-ego-civilization era, the only right basis for human existence — now, and into the future — is the establishment of a civilization that is no longer based on idealization of the ego, but also no longer based on "God"-mythologies. True and right life is neither "God"-myth-based nor ego-based. True and right life is intrinsically ego-transcending. True and right life is the life of intrinsically egoless coincidence with Reality Itself. True and right life intrinsically transcends all mythologies — whether of "God" or of "Man".

The fundamental (and heretofore, perennial) great disposition that must now be universally retrieved is the disposition to exceed the limitations of mortality, egoity, and gross existence altogether. That disposition is the right and true and necessary domain of right and true art, and (altogether) of right and true culture. The world-culture of humankind as a whole needs to become re-oriented now — away from its "meditation" on the downward spiral into darkness and the myths of "endtime", and profoundly toward the disposition that would transcend all limitations.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, Transcendental Realism

The true adulthood of human civilization lies in an actually life-transforming practice capable of finding Reality Itself (beyond all the limited viewpoints postmodernism rightly criticizes), wedded to a post-postmodern philosophy (or "perfect philosophy") which calls and inspires everyone to bring themselves into alignment with Reality Itself and to make Reality Itself one's ultimate Sanctuary, Authority, Organizing Principle, and Guide. This allows the heart-felt Prior Unity of Reality Itself to guide humankind in manifesting a cooperative and compassionate "new world order" — which reflects that Prior Unity by serving and benefitting all its members, not just a few that are singled out by wealth, religion, nation, race, gender, or any other form of limited identity. (See Adi Da's Not-Two Is Peace for more.)

Stages of Civilization: Postmodernism and Post-Postmodernism

In this sense, Adidam points the way to a future beyond the bleakness of postmodernism.[7] Adidam provides a means not merely for the enlightenment of individuals, but for the development of an entire, ego-transcending, "Reality-based" human culture that is not based on any limited, egoic viewpoint, but founded instead on direct awareness of (and abiding in) Reality Itself:

I Am Looking for men and women who will live free of every kind of seeking, attendant only to the consciousness of universal prior unity, who will constantly devote themselves to the responsible cooperative management of individual and collective human life in the Indivisible Form and Logic of Reality Itself, rather than the egoic and separative form and 'difference'-bound logic of egoity and illusion.

Such men and women are the unexploitable human presence of Reality Itself. . .

They will actively function in the Intrinsic Pattern of Reality Itself, turning themselves, and all of humankind, and, indeed, all things into unconditional relatedness and balanced well-being.

They will everywhere remove the effects of previous separative action, and restore the form of life to prior unity and indivisibility.

They will design and enact every kind of stability, and they will constantly re-discover the Beautiful Itself.

They will everywhere establish the presence of undivided peace. . . .

They will always promote and uphold the universal wisdom of egolessness, in which right understanding of prior unity is the always public foundation of existence.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
"I Am Here to Awaken A Bright New Age of Global Humankind"
in Not-Two Is Peace

4. Postmodernism, integral theory, and post-postmodern traditions

One way of viewing integral theory is as an attempt at a constructive response to the criticisms of postmodernism: how can one evolve a conceptual framework that doesn't suffer from the liabilities of "viewpoint" identified by postmodernism? Integral theory's answer: keep adding, or "integrating" to the theory, to address any liabilities due to incompleteness. For this reason, some advocates of integral theory have even suggested that integral theory is itself a post-postmodern tradition, for example:

Integral Theory is integral in a multiple sense. It integrates spirituality and science, or more precisely the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern ways of knowing thus creating a post-postmodern stance.

The Integral Academy

Of course the primary liability that both postmodernism and integral theory share is that they are both primarily working in "idea space", not Reality Itself.

Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber
There is perhaps no one more skilled today at refining, integrating, and syncretizing ideas and ideologies than Ken Wilber. That competence (and personal value) is even reflected in the name of his creation, "integral theory". If someone has an idea that isn't currently in his "integral theory", and he runs across it, he'll "assimilate" it ("Borg"-like, for those familiar with Star Trek) into his theory. He's a kind of one-man, conceptual vacuum cleaner! Ideas, rather than reality itself, are the primary focus of this enterprise.

For this reason, there is a huge difference between developers of conceptual frameworks (like Wilber), whose primary impulse (on the face of where they spend their time and energy) is to create an ever more inclusive theory (and, ultimately, a "theory of everything" [8]); and a Realizer and Transmitter like Adi Da, whose primary impulse is to directly transmit the Revelation — the direct awareness — of what He describes in His conceptual framework, for the sake of liberating all beings. For the former, the conceptual framework is everything. For the latter, the conceptual framework is a necessary nuisance, words and concepts that need to be developed for, and communicated to a culture that lacks direct spiritual sensitivity. Hence Adi Da's description of "the Ancient Walk-About Way", in which the Realizer is recognized, the Revelation is received, and, ultimately, the Realization is Realized through spiritual practice, all with minimal verbal exchange or conceptualization. Few words are needed because of the practitioner's initial, and then ever-growing, spiritual sensitivity. There is an "assimilation", but it is not the assimilation of concepts into a conceptual framework. It is the assimilation of being that is associated with the sacrifice of the separate self (i.e., the awakening from the illusion of being a separate self) and the Realization of the Divine:

The Reality-Way of Adidam Is Divine, Holy, Set Apart, Unique. I Am here. You must enter into My Divine Domain. I Assimilate you and all your differences vanish in Me.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
from spoken communications,
"The Divine Intrinsically Stands Apart and Prior to all Traditions"

It is worth comparing the scientific method with postmodernism, integral theory, and Adidam. The scientific method has three key steps that form an ongoing feedback loop:

  • Formulate a theory or hypothesis.
  • Test the theory against reality. Formulate criticisms of the theory based on the results.
  • Revise or refine the theory, based on the criticisms.

Postmodernism is a tradition that has just one of these three "steps":

  • Formulate criticisms of the theory [via deconstruction, incredulity or irony regarding grand narratives, parataxis, pastiche, etc.]

Integral theory adds a feedback loop, but one which does not explicitly integrate with reality (or Reality):

  • Formulate a theory or hypothesis.
  • Formulate criticisms of the theory [largely by comparing it with other not-yet-assimiliated theories].
  • Revise or refine the theory, based on the criticisms.

By way of contrast, the process by which Adi Da evolved and refined the Way of Adidam has the following steps, and — like the scientific method — does involve reality in its feedback process (and goes beyond the scientific method by involving Reality Itself):

  • Formulate a theory of Reality (and the ultimate nature of everything) and how to Realize Reality [based on Adi Da's Own Realization].
  • Formulate criticisms of the theory [largely on the basis of observing where devotees are not actually advancing in their own Realization of Reality].
  • Revise or refine the theory, based on the criticisms. Also: re-incarnate the Divine Reality (re-integrate the Divine Reality with the body-mind, as Adi Da did several times during His lifetime) in a way that makes the Way of Realizing the Divine Reality even more accessible.

Thus, in not including reality (or Reality) in its feedback loop, and restricting its evolutionary process to the space of ideas, integral theory is not actually a "post-postmodern tradition", but rather a "constructive" form of postmodernism.

5. Criteria for a progressive post-postmodern cultural tradition

Medievalism, modernity, modernism, and postmodernism form a clearly recognizable cultural progression, even (as we suggested earlier) with clear parallels to individual maturation (with modernism and postmodernism analogous to adolescence and the development of discrimination). While there are many movements now that are a reaction to postmodernism and an attempt to move in a new direction — and in a strictly literal sense are thus "post" postmodern (insofar as they are occurring chronologically after the peak of postmodernism) — many of them are not progressive; they do not necessarily represent a step forward.

When we refer to Adidam as "post-postmodern", we do mean that it is a step forward in the progression, not just a sideways step (or even a backward step, as in various attempts to return to modernism). Thus we use the term "post-postmodern" in a prescriptive (not merely descriptive) sense, with the following distinguishing criteria:

  • A Viewpoint beyond limited viewpoint. A post-postmodern cultural tradition must not merely aspire to the "greatest possible viewpoint" (through conceptual accretion or any other means), but must present a viewpoint that directly reflects Reality Itself (and in so doing, transcends all limited viewpoints).

  • Realization beyond mere conceptualization. A post-postmoderm cultural tradition must do much more than have a "theory of everything".[8] Its core must be a means for directly Realizing (beyond conceptualization) the true nature of everything.

  • Self-transcendence. A post-postmodern cultural tradition must not merely avoid language or focus on experience over and against words (for example, as in Eshelman's "performatism" [5]), since self-involved experience has its own range of limitations, just like language and viewpoints expressed through language. A post-postmodern tradition must be grounded in the absolute self-transcendence represented by Ultimate Revelation, since, short of complete self-transcendence, the self or ego is the source of all limited viewpoint, whether verbal or experiential.

  • Reality-based participation. A post-postmodern cultural tradition must not merely be participatory and relational in its generation of meaning (for example, as in Alan Kirby's digimodernism [6]). A meaning that comes out of the combination of "self" and "other" (author/reader, artist/viewer, etc. — two egos, no matter how you cut it) still suffers the limitations of egoity (which creates the sense that "self" and "other" are separate) in general, and the egoity of its participants in particular. But a post-postmodern cultural tradition will be participatory in a self-transcending manner: in a way that dissolves the sense of separation between self and other because it is grounded in the Divine (Reality Itself), the nonseparate Source Condition of all beings and things.

  • A means for transcending limited viewpoint altogether. Postmodernism characteristically places great emphasis on language. For this reason, many would-be post-postmodern traditions shift the emphasis to another modality, as we have seen (for example, experience or participation). But a limited viewpoint shows up in all these venues: expressed in language; felt as experience; or felt in relationship to others. A real way beyond all limited viewpoint of every kind necessarily must provide a means for identifying and locating the very source of "limited viewpoint" (egoity itself) and fully transcending it. This is the purpose of the Way of Adidam.




And further, among spiritual ways, Adidam is a way that claims a final Realization (of Ultimate Reality), beyond which no further Realization or Awakening is possible. This is in contrast to other traditions which hold a contrasting view of endless evolution and progress without any final endpoint. The Gurdjieff work is one such example:

The Gurdjieff work emphasizes the necessity for profound effort, the absolute and conscious work of evolution. . . . It does not emphasize such work for the sake of "enlightenment" (or some single, perfect, and liberating Realization that is the ultimate goal of striving). It posits the endlessness of that work in the direction of an ever higher evolution of Knowledge and Ability that will have direct consequences in human life. . . . However, in my own case, Spiritual life always had a specific and uncompromising Purpose. It was to Realize the supreme Knowledge, the Knowledge of fundamental Reality that makes all the difference and ends the search.

Adi Da Samraj, The Knee Of Listening

[2] Jürgen Habermas, "Modernity versus Postmodernity", New German Critique, No. 22, Special Issue on Modernism, pp. 3-14, 1981.

In some sense, because its methodology is to repeatedly critique viewpoints and find their limits, it could be said that postmodernism is a cousin of the Vedantic method of neti-neti ("not this, not this"), or indeed any of the via negativa traditions from East or West. Neti-neti aims at relinquishing all forms of false or limited identification (with the body, with the mind, with the senses, etc.). By stripping away all false identities, neti-neti aspires to find one's True Identity (as what remains). In contrast, the methodology of postmodernism only deconstructs and rejects; it has nothing "higher" or "absolute" to aspire to, since it rejects these too as mere viewpoints. (We might call it "the methodology of 'no'".)

It is interesting to compare postmodernism and neti-neti with Adi Da's description of His spiritual practice prior to Re-Awakening in Steptember 1970 (in His autobiography, The Knee Of Listening). There is a superficial resemblance insofar as Adi Da systematically experienced each of the great Realizations described in the Great Tradition — from savikalpa samadhi to nirvikalpa samadhi to jnana samadi — and rejected each in turn as not being an ultimate or final Realization. However, the resemblance with postmodernism ends there, because both the means and the ends differ. Rather than the postmodern means of criticism, Adi Da's "means" was prapatti — unconditional surrender and submission to each Way and Teacher — to the point of first attaining the fullest Realization offered by that Way; and then concluding the non-ultimacy of that Realization, not by intellectual means, but by experientially exceeding and "outshining" that Realization. Just so, the ends differ as well: postmodernism has no "end" per se; it is unending in criticizing every viewpoint. In contrast, Adi Da's spiritual practice was a series of "no"s (not by intellectual rejection, but by outshining each Way and its fullest Realization), concluding in a final and ultimate "Yes": the seventh stage Realization.


See, for example:


See, for example, Raoul Eshelman, Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism, Anthropoetics 6, no. 2 (Fall 2000 / Winter 2001).


See, for example, Alan Kirby, The Death of Postmodernism And Beyond, Philosophy Now, Nov/Dec 2011.


Others are pointing in a similar direction. For example, Sam Harris, author of the widely read book, The End Of Faith, strongly criticizes religious belief systems, particularly for the negative impact they often have on society (for example, societies often go to war on the basis of religious belief systems). But he is not merely critical of belief systems. The End Of Faith also is forward-looking in suggesting that empirically based spirituality — experience of the greater-than-material reality — is the right historical successor to belief systems.

And much earlier, Albert Einstein made similar points:

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. . . .

The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness. . . .

The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.

See, for example, Ken Wilber's book, A Theory of Everything.


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