Friday, March 1, 2013

"Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do." Aldous Huxley

"When a person rediscovers that his deepest Nature is one with the All, he is relieved from the burdens of time, of anxiety, of worry; he is released from the chains of alienation and separate-self existence. Seeing that self and other are one, he is released from the fear of life; seeing that being and nonbeing are one, he is delivered from the fear of death." Ken Wilber 

Ken Wilber is highly regarded by many contemporary thinkers worldwide, for creating an integration of unprecedented scope among a variety of schools of psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and religion. He is also the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages. Michael Murphy the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, and a key figure in the Human Potential Movement, maintains that, along with Aurobindo’s Life Divine, Heidegger’s Being and Time, and Whitehead’s Process and Reality, Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality is “one of the four great books of this [twentieth] century.” Tony Schwartz, former New York Times reporter and author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, has called Ken Wilber "the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times." Jack Crittenden, the author of Wide as the World: Cosmopolitan Identity, Integral Politics, and Democratic Dialogue, has said that the “twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber.” Larry Dossey, who is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on mind-body medicine, and author of ten books on the role of consciousness and spirituality in medicine, has described Wilber's book, "one of the most significant books ever published."
When such praise is being offered by several credible authorities, it should be justifiable that Brooklyn Book Talk critically explore Ken Wilber’s thoughts, and evaluate their relevance for personal and cultural growth.  
So please join us here for a discussion of his best-selling book, A Brief History of Everything, which contains wide-ranging topics--from Big Bang to Postmodernism--and perennial issues, which concern us all: truth, goodness, beauty, consciousness, growth, and development. 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What Wilber would call transcendental, scientists would interpret as ‘regressions to union with the breast,’ ecstatic states would be considered ‘narcissistic neurosis,’ enlightenment would be dismissed as 'regression to intrauterine stages,' and meditation will be seen as 'self-induced catatonia.' Is there a scientific proof of Wilber’s philosophy?

Anonymous said...

It's a very interesting book in which Wilber talks of all those very things we have read about in different history, mythology, religious and scientific books but gives a different sort of perspective. Reading the book was like peering at world through a prism, seeing multiple sides.
However, 'going post modern' seems like an unattainable dream to me at the moment. Whole of the world needs to want to transcend for that to happen, and as Wilber himself has pointed out, we are holons, parts of wholes which themselves are holons ... it seems more and more unattainable. I don't think a move from one age to another occurs through a rational thought process on people's part. f consciousness is moving beyond mere rationality, then, how many of us can claim to even have gotten somewhere near that state of consciousness. How would we move to that post modern era when are consciousness is stuck on the 'rationality' of our age. We are proud to be so much superior than the people who came before us. We have accumulated so much knowledge, discovered so many great things, come up with all sorts of useful inventions, and all that by being 'rational'. How do we move past that rationality and transcend to a higher state of consciousness?
How many people after all are acquainted with the four quadrants?
There's great food for thought here though. And like Wilber says, all interpretation depends upon the context. It would vary from situation to situation, so we may never quite attain the whole, just holons of answers

Nomi said...

When it comes to development and evolution, one can argue that where matter is favorable, life emerges; where life is favorable, mind emerges; but here Ken Wilber would add-- where mind is favorable, soul emerges, and where soul is favorable, Spirit emerges.

In this developmental sequence, from matter to body to mind to soul to Spirit, things can go wrong at each “rung of the ladder of development” but they can also go right. Hence, when they go wrong, there indeed can be “regressions to union with the breast,” or “narcissistic neurosis,” or “regression to intrauterine stages,” or “self-induced catatonia,” and so on.

To understand why things go wrong at any rung of development, Wilber would first refer to the most fundamental element of his theory: the holon. According to Wilber, Reality is not composed of “things” but of holons. A holon is both a part of a larger whole, and it is itself made up of smaller wholes. For example, molecules make up cells, and they are made up of atoms; cells make up organisms, and they are made up of molecules etc. Evolution is a holarchy, i.e., emergent holons transcend but include their predecessors.

Furthermore, each holon possess four drives: agency and communion, self-transcendence and self-dissolution (regression). In other words, Wilber notes that at each rung in self's growth and development, it has these four basic choices about which way to go in its development. Any imbalance--too much or too little of any of those four drives--and the self gets into “pathological trouble,” and the types of pathology depend upon which of the rungs the trouble occurs at.

No wonder why in Buddhism’s Noble Eightfold Path to transcendence, there is emphasis on the word “Right”--Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration—because there is always a possibility of going “wrong” in the application of the Eightfold Path.

Wilber also argues that when development moves “rightly” from one stage to the next (from gross to psychic to subtle to causal to nondual-- each stage unfolds and then enfolds its predecessors), we get some of the rare and the most gifted individuals in human history, who rose above the average mode—often at great cost to themselves—and disclosed higher or deeper modes of awareness (the shaman, the yogi, the mystic, the saint, the sage etc). He also adds: “The great and rare mystics of the past (from Buddha to Christ, from al-Hallaj to Lady Tsogyal, from Hui-neng to Hildegard) were, in fact, ahead of their time, and are still ahead of ours. In other words, they are not figures of the past. They are figures of the future.”

Anonymous said...

Ken Wilber has used Don Beck's Spiral Dynamics in his theory a lot but lately I hear that Beck and Wilber are not on talking terms with each other. Did Wilber have a change of heart regarding Spiral Dynamics?

Nomi said...

Ken Wilber recognized the many limitations of SD, and has consistently expressed criticism from the very first thing he ever wrote on the topic. But he usually wrote that criticism in the footnotes and endnotes in his several books. That is why he says that people who think he has changed his mind about SD are those “who haven’t read the footnotes.” There are at least three full pages of endnotes criticizing SD in his A Theory of Everything, which was published in 2001.

Nomi said...

One of Wilber’s major criticisms of SD is that it is bound up with the discredited and "deeply confused" theories of memes.” There are several theories of memes but they all basically claim that memes are the "units of a type of natural selection process operating in the mental and cultural realms."

Some of his other objections regarding theories of memes are as follows: memes are units that are explained in third-person it-language, so they fail to capture the subjective, phenomenological dimension; by reducing consciousness to “it-units,” memes lead to "scientific materialism" and “gross reductionism;” theory of memes lacks "operational specifications," which is also why vast majority of scientists reject the concept; memes also fails to grasp that every unit in existence (other than heaps or aggregates) is a holon (a whole which is simultaneously a part of another whole).

Hence, in Wilber's view, memes are simply the units of the mind and culture as "conceived by flatland (that is, memes are distorted and inaccurate two-dimensional pictures of four-dimensional holons)." He also notes that memes are pictured as "one-dimensional viruses that move forward in a second dimension of time, selected for survival by the sole criteria of functional fit." Whereas in reality, asserts Wilber, there are at least three-dimensional holons—i.e., they possess the dimensions of I, we, and it, or an interior (I), an exterior (it), and a shared interior (we)—moving through the fourth dimension of time, and selected for survival according to the validity criteria of all three dimensions. He also predicts that when theory of memes ceases to be the "intellectual fad that it is, it will likely take down all those theories associated with it."

Nomi said...

Wilber has also suggested that spiral dynamics has no developed notion of self-system, does not “sufficiently” include states of consciousness, does not sufficiently distinguish between enduring structures and transitional structures, does not cover transpersonal structures, has no theory of the relation of states and stages, has no “believable” theory of repression, confuses stages with multiple-intelligences which have stages, and hence as an actual psychological model, SD is a “disaster.”

Nomi said...

Wilber also argues that SD as a system fails to appreciate work done by several other well-respected researchers in human development. For instance, SD does not include Bill Torbet’s “action-research,” Charles Tart’s “states of consciousness,” Robert Kegan’s “orders of consciousness,” Susan Cook-Greuters’s “self-development, and “structure-stages” of Jane Loevinger, Robert Selman, Helen Perry, Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, etc.

Nomi said...

Wilber has also asserted that there is nothing linear about overall development; the notion that spiritual experiences are available only at the higher stages is incorrect; an individual can have an altered state or a peak experience at virtually any stage of development. But in spiral dynamics, Wilber notes that there is not “enough sensitivity to the empirically demonstrated fact that different developmental lines can be at different levels in the same instance.” Thus, it is not that a person can be using a red meme in one circumstance and an orange meme in another, but that a person, in the same circumstance, can be cognitively orange and morally red.

Furthermore, in Wilber’s system, there are numerous different “modules,” and “lines” proceeding relatively independently through the basic levels or waves; and individuals can be at a relatively high level of development in some modules, medium in others, and low in still others.

Nomi said...

In conclusion, Wilber would suggest SD as a simple introductory tool but always in the overall context of Integral theory, and can be used for the “levels of values adaptive intelligence,” which can be mixed and matched to various life conditions, but do not in themselves cover other intelligences as defined and discovered by other researchers.

Anonymous said...

According to Ken Wilber, Spirit is present at every stage of development-- it is the ground and the goal. But I find it so confusing when he says that the kind of pathology that shows up during development, also characterizes the stage one is stuck at. As self-identity moves from physiocentric to biocentric to egocentric to ethnocentric to
worldcentric to cosmos-centric, an "accident" at any of these stages produces a pathology characteristic of the stage where the accident occurs (psychosis, borderline, neurosis, script, etc.). So my question is, why does Spirit get stuck?

Nomi said...

"Why does Spirit get stuck?"

Perhaps it is the "ego" that gets stuck, not Spirit. Wilber uses the idea of involution to grapple with the gap between ego and Spirit. Gap is a necessity. Without the gap between is and ought, there will be no goal, and hence no need for movement.

So the process of Involution means “to get involved, entangled, enmeshed.” And using the term this way, Wilber suggests that it is best to speak of involution as Spirit's “descending into” and getting “lost” in or “entangled” in the manifest world.

In involution, Spirit goes out of Itself, alienates Itself, creates a manifest world of otherness and manyness, and becomes (illusorily) entangled and enmeshed in that illusory world.

However, involution is not the end but the beginning. Then, in the second movement, Wilber argues that Spirit begins the return to Spirit, as Spirit; it grows and evolves and develops, from matter to body to mind to soul to Itself. And this movement is then properly called evolution: Spirit is rolling out or turning out from its illusory involvement with Otherness.