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Reconciling the Irreconcilable: Facing the Problems of “Integral” Theory and PracticeThe “integral” tradition as represented by Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri’s life and work gives the widest possible scope for life, spirituality and the human future. There is in it a spacious openness that affirms in every direction, offering a tolerance broad enough to reconcile, potentially, the deepest divisions in the world, and overcome barriers to individual and human advancement that in simple mental or rational terms might seem insurmountable.

The viewpoint seeks nothing less than the reconciliation of the irreconcilable (in Marxist terms the resolution of all contradictions). But here the very freedom and openness that seems intellectually so satisfying can present real problems in practice. With a philosophy that is based on a radical penchant for inclusion, how do we develop criteria for necessary exclusion? We want to extend diversity to its farthest boundaries, for instance, but what do we do, then, when we meet up with those who seem to oppose the notion of diversity itself? Maybe this is just the “integral” version of the problem of evil, but it is a serious matter and deserves serious consideration. It is all well and good to, as the Mother says, “bring conflicting ideas into a higher synthesis,” but what if the idea presented that opposes us comes in the form of a person with a gun who wants our life?


Jim Ryan, Ph.D. is Director of the Asian and Comparative concentration in the Philosophy & Religion Program at CIIS. Jim’s general interests are in the culture, history, and philosophies of India. He is specifically interested in the various forms of Hindu Tantra, particularly the Kashmir Shaiva traditions and the tradition of Sri Aurobindo. A secondary interest is in Jainism and the historical interplay between the non-theistic philosophical traditions and Hinduism. Jim is a Sanskrit scholar and co-author of Encyclopedia Of Hinduism.