Monday, December 22, 2008

Leveraging Spirit: Ethical Questions for Naturalistic Religion III

Part III

I get the sense that Fox (1994) and other theologically oriented academics try to protect spirit via sacredness. These arguments seem to say awe and mystery are necessary for spirit’s emergence. A collective repudiation of sacrilegious acts are required to maintain a sense of sacredness (Atran, 2002). In a pluralistic society such norms are hard to generate and enforce. Society, increasingly, does not want moral watchdogs. Sacrilege grows from the ashes of good intentions.

The more I investigate change dynamics in education the more I come to value the work by Willis (2004). He argues that organizations naturally oscillate between rigid, bureaucratic, overly rationalized states and unfocussed, grass root controlled chaos. During repeated oscillations collapse is likely. Figure 3 illustrates this idea.

I see a parallel process in community building. People oscillate between desire for community and disillusionment at its formation. I think Briskin (2001) articulates this well in his case study of an infighting women’s organization. Hierarchies are an essential reality and need. However, they are tied to both a history and future of inevitable abuse. In addressing this issue, Naylor & Ostendberg (1996) propose workplaces need slow, committed growth with adaptive feedback. This fits with Deal & Peterson’s (2000) view that things being changed can’t be known superficially. Knowledge must be on a deep enough level to formulate complete explanations of what is really going on. Every action or event has more to it than is apparent on the surface. However, complexity theory suggests most human interactions can never be fully known. All causal variables can’t be prestated and all interactions can’t be anticipated (Kauffman, 2008). As a result shadow systems will always emerge. Sacredness as an emergent class may survive, but the specific content guarded won’t. Guarding spirit in community by fighting for its sacredness may be a noble battle, but I suspect it will be settled on unfavorable terms.


sigob said...

A larger question remains for me. If scientific approaches for generating spirit triangulate with established spiritual or religious approaches, should we be worried? The explicit ability to leverage spirit has a disturbing sense of power. Is this yet another way we attempt to play God? However such questions seem to emerge with every inroad science makes with human nature. Genetic biology, medieval medicine, and even changes to the feudal order generated similar issues. To me, friction comes when not everyone has access to the same tools. When extra power, like explicit spirit making, is in the hands of a few, the masses are ripe for abuse. However, inoculating people against the leveraging of spirit requires explanations which may well destroy beneficial belief. It may also lead to increased fundamentalist retrenchment. In confronting the issues of leveraging spirit, it seems every answer has a shadow.

sigob said...

Atran, S. (2002). In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. USA: Oxford
University Press.
Briskin, A. (2001). The stirring of soul in the workplace. San Franciso: Jossey-Bass
Deal, T. E. & Peterson, K. D. (2000). Eight roles of symbolic leaders, In, The Jossey-Bass reader on
Educational Leadership (pp. 202-216). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Groen, J. (2004). The creation of soulful spaces and the organizational context. Organization Development
Journal. 22(4). p. 19-30.
Hargreaves, A. (2008, October). The fourth way of leadership and change. Paper presented at the Learning
by doing conference, Victoria B.C.
Janet (2008). Spirituality in vocation discussion board. Retrieved November 1, 2008
from University of Calgary Web Site:
Fox, M. (1994). The reinvention of work: a new vision of livelihood for our time. New York:
Harper Collins. (p. 91 – 129)
Kauffman, S. (2008). Reinventing the sacred: A new view of science, reason, and religion.
Philadelphia: Basic Books.
Naylor, T., Willimon, W. & Osterberg, R. (1996). The search for meaning in the workplace. Nashville:
Abingdon Press. (p. 75 – 92)
Ploeger, A. Van der Mass, H., Raijmakers, M. (2008). Is evolutionary psychology a metatheory for
psychology? A discussion of four major issues in psychology from an evolutionary developmental perspective. Psychological Inquiry, 19(1), pp. 1-18.
Smith, D. (2004). Why we lie: The evolutionary roots of deception and the unconscious mind. St. Martin’s
Press: New York.

Stout, H. & Cormode, D. (1998). Institutions and the story of American religion. In Sacred Companies,
N. J. Demerath III, P. Hall, T. Schmitt, R. Williams (Eds.) Oxford University Press: USA.
Willis, R. (2004). A complexity and Darwinian approach to management with failure
avoidance as the key tool. In P. Andriani & G. Passiante (Eds.), Complexity theory and the management of networks: Proceedings of the workshop on organisational networks as distributed systems of knowledge (pp. 74-88). London: Imperial College Press.
Wilson, D. (2002). Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, University of
Chicago Press.