Putting the "Integral" Back in Integral Strength
When I started this blog several years ago, it was with the intention of making it an “integral” blog – hence the name “Integral Strength”. At the time, I was quite enamored with Eastern philosophy – Buddhism in particular, having practiced strains of both Theravada and Zen for some time – and so I thought it would be a great way to combine my love of lifting weights and philosophy, not to mention martial arts – a passion of mine that has existed since childhood – into one website. Add into the fact that I was also reading quite a bit from the “integral” philosopher Ken Wilber at the time – some of my earliest posts that you can still find on here attest to this – and you can see why I thought that Integral Strength would be such a cool, not to mention accurate, name. (Let me say this right off the bat, however: I don’t care much for Wilber or his philosophy any more. I think it is, on the whole, quite reductionist, and actually has many of the problems that plague fundamentalist religion – especially Christianity of the sort that espouses things such as “intelligent design” or other strains of “theistic personalism”. To further this problem, Wilber tends to distort philosophers and their thinking in order to align them with his personal “AQAL” line of thought. He does this the most, I think, with the great philosopher, and founder of what came to be known as “Neo-Platonism”, Plotinus. As someone who has slowly become something of a Neo-Platonist, I find this quite annoying.)
But things change. We are not static individuals, or shouldn’t be at least. If you believe in adulthood the same things that you believed in childhood, that is, sad to say, just, well, sad. Even when I started this blog, I was beginning to have doubts about many of the philosophical strands of thought in both Buddhism, and, even more so, in the other Eastern philosophies. I was growing – or to put in a more decidedly Christian point-of-view, I was being led not away from Eastern philosophy per se, but into the very depths of which Eastern philosophy intuits: the Logos of God. And the more that I read of Greek philosophy, and then of Christianity as it was (is) practiced in the ancient Christian East, the more I decided that I must become Christian. Or become Christian again, you might say, since I grew up with a rather evangelical Southern Baptist upbringing, a form of Christianity I had almost entirely rejected by the time I was 18.
Due to a “crisis of faith”, or something very similar, I stopped writing on this blog for quite some time – more specifically: almost for one year, between July of 2011 and June of 2012. During that time, I converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. It was really quite a natural thing, since I found in Orthodoxy a form of Christianity that still adheres to a “Classical Theism” philosophy of ancient antiquity, and still practices a form of contemplative, or “mystical”, philosophy as it has done since the early centuries of the Church.
But when I returned to writing on this blog – which, since June, 2012, I have tried to do more or less ever since – I was reluctant to write much on philosophy or (and especially) anything “integral”. I decided to focus almost exclusively on strength training posts/articles until I could work out my philosophical thinking in more depth. Don’t get me wrong, I will never stop growing philosophically, nor should any of us. But I think, at this point, I am ready to once again include some philosophy, especially as it pertains to the intersection of philosophy, contemplative practice, and lifting weights/building muscle. There is, after all, something very “spiritual” about lifting weights, as anyone with years of training under his/her belt should be able to tell you. (And, for those of you who don’t think Christian spiritual practice can be combined with bodily practices, then you need to study your ancient Christianity, specifically that of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. There was a time when, to be a Christian contemplative, it meant forms of prayer that included standing, walking, working, prostrating, crossing – you name it.)
The only exceptions to this lack of philosophical output has been my select few posts on Stoicism, which I enjoy writing about, practicing, and including on this blog because I think that it has such a direct influence – or can, at least – on lifting weights. However I also believe that Stoicism has its limits, hence I do not consider myself a “Stoic” per se, even though I espouse, on occasion, some very stoic philosophy in my personal life (or on this blog), which still makes me rather integral.
Which finally brings us around to the subject of this post. I’m still an “integralist”. Although specifically an Orthodox Christian, I am still very fond of Greek philosophy – specifically Neo-Platonism – as well as Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. (What I am not, and what I will never be again, is a syncretist. I believe ancient Eastern Christianity to be the fulfillment of all other philosophical cum religious systems.) And so I am, once again, going to include “integral philosophy” on this blog if I think it will be of interest to the readers, who primarily come here for stuff on strength and power training, or bodybuilding. It’s just that the integral philosophy I espouse will be (and is) influenced by the fact that I’m also a classical theist.
With all of that being said, if anyone is interested in anything specifically theological or philosophical to be written about here, please email me about what it is you would like for me to write about, or you can post your thoughts in the “comments” section below. It’s time to put the integral back in Integral Strength.