Deepening Our Explorations of Reality

Bruce Alderman, poet, mystic, and spiritual explorer, is also an integral scholar and pioneer of the emerging field of metatheory, looking at how to put our disparate fields of information—spiritual, psychological, philosophical, environmental, scientific—together and integrate them into a useful whole. Here Bruce tells the tale of how he was drawn into an experiential exploration of different worldviews, how he came to find the value in navigating different spiritual traditions, and how he discovered how to integrate mystical experiences, Asian spiritual teachings, and Western education, science, and psychology. Bruce’s unique understanding of interreligious relationships and their potential for meeting current challenges informs his call to the global community of spiritual practitioners to dialogue, critique, deeply listen, and reap the benefits of reflecting back to the other a view that takes them deeper in their understanding of their own position. Bruce also shares a brilliant vision of leadership training practices for developing the skills leaders will need to navigate the unfolding global crises of our time. This program will take form in the upcoming Blue Sky Leaders program at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Bruce is beautifully eloquent on many levels, sharing insights on intensifying our intimate experience of Being, trusting our dialogue with Being to bear fruit, and finding coherence while holding multiple paths. Bruce describes his turn towards scholarship and academia as “dancing on the subtle plane,” and thinking as one spiritual practice among many—a practice of union. There are so many gems of wisdom here, relayed in Bruce’s gently humorous, humble, and erudite manner. Bruce also inspires on how each of us can become a change agent simply by being integrous with who we are.

Recorded December 6, 2023.

Topics & Timestamps: Part 1

  • Introducing spiritual pioneer, polymath, and master of metatheory, Bruce Alderman (01:38)
  • How Bruce was drawn into an experiential exploration of different worldviews (04:06)
  • Bruce’s first mystical experiences (07:17)
  • Traveling in Asia, studying music & meditation, not wanting to have to choose one tradition to the exclusion of others (08:37)
  • How to integrate mystical desert experiences, Asian spiritual teachings, and Western education, science, psychology? (11:16)
  • Finding the value in navigating different spiritual traditions and coming face to face with the contradictions between them (14:45)
  • Practicing more than one path at once can cause anguish, incoherence, and also has distinct benefits, and how some traditions can hold the one and the many at the same time (19:55)
  • As A. H. Almaas also came to, the recognition of co-ultimacy of multiple ultimates (22:20)
  • Opening oneself to as much as one can: psyche and existence are self-awakening (23:56)
  • Hungry for the stories and experiences of humankind and all of their engagements with Being (25:59)
  • The concept of generative enclosure: that consciousness is embedded in the environment and embodied in the body—our experience of the world is mediated by our own context (29:47)
  • Spiritual practice, focusing our enclosures, can invite an intensification of our own experience of being (31:32)
  • Generative (en)closures, bubbles, and magic circles (33:29)
  • Language is an enactment of being (34:22)
  • Metaphysics tends to look at things with nouns, but what’s coming forward is prepositional modes of being/thinking, intercontextuality, and adverbial thinking—recognizing that being unfolds in different ways at different times (35:34)
  • With/in (with, in, and within) a holographic, nondual recognition, the world is in you and you are in the world, I am with you, you are in me, I am in you (37:46)
  • We of the global community of spiritual practitioners owe it to each other to dialogue, critique, and deeply listen (41:33)
  • There’s no one final point: we call the idea of an ultimate holon the ass holon (44:26)
  • Leadership: we can each become agents of transformation, healing, and insight by being integrous with who we are (46:25)
  • The Blue Sky Leaders program is designed around the question, How do we navigate the deep challenges of our time? (47:29)
  • Different styles of leadership: emperor or servant-based (50:36)
  • Ryan Nakade’s platinum man model: making it a practice to be able to reflect back to the other a view that takes them deeper in their understanding of their own position (52:24)
Topics & Timestamps: Part 2
  • The wild knot as symbol for a human being or culture: we are threads of a relationship that don’t have a final terminus (00:53)
  • The challenges of our time and the need for entangled deep listening (01:59)
  • A leadership training program that includes ongoing contemplative inquiry & practice, and also looks at cultural, political, ecological & spiritual dynamics and new cosmologies (02:26)
  • Hyperobjects: you can’t see climate change, economic collapse, or evolution from a local point of view—it demands collective vision to perceive and apprehend it (04:13)
  • Bruce’s vision for leadership development and the Blue Sky Leaders program empower people to serve in the great issues of our time (06:13)
  • The bodhisattva ideal is both empowering and self-canceling (10:07)
  • The metaphor of light, salt, and leaven for anyone wanting to be a change agent and serve the flourishing of life (13:23)
  • Krishnamurti’s idea of “living in learning” and a program that is “deliberately developmental” (16:42)
  • What are the specific practices essential for cultivating leaders to navigate the crises that are unfolding? (22:00)
  • We evolved to be optimally functional on a much smaller level—without proper grounding, facing world problems can cause existential crisis (26:13)
  • Holding a loving center, living and learning together (28:28)
  • Back to interreligious practice: how interfaith dialogues and encounters have typically been handled: exclusivist, inclusivist, pluralist (33:24)
  • In making room for multiple paths of spiritual practice, there is a danger of moving into instrumentalism, thinking practices are mere recipes (36:31)
  • The grit to do the practices and the humility of opening to grace (39:36)
  • What are Bruce’s practices today? (40:21)
  • Bruce’s TSK practice (attuning to time/space/knowledge) that leads him to deep integration (41:35)
  • Nonfinality: how each awakening leads to yet another, sacred secularity (45:35)
  • How did Bruce enter into his exquisite scholarship? Philosophy and academic work is just another way to dance on the subtle plane (49:41)
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There is a lot in here. Different listeners will want to focus on different parts of it.

In the categories of “growing up” and “showing up” much of the conversation is about interreligious dialog. Very near the end of the second part, Bruce discusses the “yoga of objectivity” and how he got interested in Western philosophy after being inspired by Ken Wilber’s postmetaphysical turn. An English translation of a fairly recent book on postmetaphysical philosophy by Jürgen Habermas has become available with direct application to interreligious dialog and more generally, the relationships between science, philosophy, and different historical religions. I’m working through that book now, but it seems like Bruce is dancing around in a lot of the same spaces.

On more of the praxis side of things, the Blue Sky Leadership program at CIIS sounds awesome. I’m trying to figure out how to promote more on-the-ground, local community-centric education programs like that. Best wishes to all engaged with the Blue Sky Leadership effort!

Finally, I loved what Bruce shares about his TSK practices. (A “waking up” sort of thing). All that resonates also. The idea of objects as “ripples” is exactly how I see things.


No matter how deep and expansive our maps and models have become at the end of the day we must let go of them! The more advanced and complex our mind becomes the more challenging it can be to realize that the “The Map/model is not the territory!” Ken has said this many times and has discussed how getting stuck in the Map/Model is a phenomenon that Integral thinkers can be subject to. Just wanted to throw that in the mix! Bruce is awesome by the way and I’ve enjoyed listening to him over the years!

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