The 123 of Relationship to Ken Wilber Pt II

Written by 

 ken wilberIntroductory Note: This is the second part in a two part series on this subject. Br. Juma wrote part I. Mine is below.  Juma's piece has very quickly struck a chord which has resonated deeply with lots of folks. This was our sense and our hope when we sat down to write these pieces.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive and we are very grateful that many folks have found it helpful.  Our experience mirrors that of a goodly number of other folk.  Nevertheless, this pattern we articulate isn't in any sense normative or the only pattern possible.  We encourage folks in the comments to articulate other formations, other perspectives and patterns of relationship and development in regards to what we are speaking about here.   


Stage 1: Childhood

The first time I ever heard of Ken Wilber was in 2001. Looking for some article online (I can’t remember what now), I came across a visual depiction of Wilber’s theory and a short summary of his philosophical outlook.

I had an immediate and quite visceral feeling of loathing, disgust, and intense anger, bordering on rage, upon seeing this image. I rolled my eyes at what I saw as the arrogance of someone out to create a ‘theory of everything.’ Now this kind of reaction is not my normal one; I’m a pretty mellow, easygoing guy. So I figured I better look into this—why did I respond so intensely, so negatively to a picture?

I went to the nearby library and took out every book they had by Wilber. They had a decent selection: A Brief History of Everything, A Theory of Everything, The Eye of Spirit, and Integral Psychology.

I approached these books with the rather hubristic intent to dethrone its author. I read them in order to prove the author wrong. I devoured those four texts in a short period of time and to my surprise (and initial horror) found nothing I could disagree with in the books. I discovered no “in” to tear down this philosophical system.

sex, ecology, and spirituality

In a number of these books, Ken refers to another text of his as the most developed of his theorizing then to date. That book was Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality. So I went to the bookstore, bought a copy of it and sat down to read the thing. It’s pretty mammoth. I became quite engrossed in the book and ended up reading the main text (minus footnotes) over a weekend. I entered a kind of other mind-state. My mind felt profoundly open, natural, and clear. Once again I found nothing to criticize. Quite the opposite—I found myself increasingly inspired by the whole of the text: its ideas, story, tone, and vision.

I finished the book, closed it, and then shut my eyes. I felt transported to somewhere else. This experience is very hard to describe and I’m embarrassed at how weak my words sound. I felt out of the normal sense of time. I felt a sense of the whole, a kind of vision or change of perspective. I felt a sense of The All.

As this experience faded and I returned to my conventional sense of the room and myself in it, one thought entered my mind: Things are different now.

I didn’t understand then (or even now) the full implications of that statement, but I did realize from that moment that my life was now fundamentally different in some sense. I knew in my core that what I was here for was different than I had previously imagined. A new world had opened up and I was now somehow responsible to it, as well as excited to explore it.

Like Juma, I had a sense somehow of Ken speaking the words that somehow resided within me that I couldn’t yet articulate. There was some sense of familiarity, of having found something I had been looking for my entire life.

In Wilber’s terminology what had occurred that day was a transformation from a postmodern identity to a post-postmodern or integral identity. While it was certainly an intellectual awakening, it was also a spiritual, emotional, and ethical one for me as well. It was a very graced experience.

But I immediately felt deeply alone. There was no one around me who I could talk to about this experience—who had a connection to this world. I went into the closet as it were. This inner world became a sort of escape and truth for me as I lost contact with the outer world a bit. My relationships suffered as a result.

I proceeded over the next year or so to read every book of Wilber’s published up to that point.


In this first stage I think it’s fair to say I couldn’t see the world except through this lens. At that point in my life, I worked and existed in a world dominated by postmodern values. Consequently I suffered through a great deal of inner turmoil. I was in what Wilber calls the transcending or negation phase, not yet having reached the inclusion or preservation phase. I was breaking away from my postmodern self and I became very disoriented. My sense of self was largely tied to how I fit in within that postmodern culture. This stage was breaking free of that world and its limitations and as a result I didn’t know how I fit in anymore.

I was in the first stage because this integral thing was the new truth. As I said I was not proselytizing. I was more closeted. My understanding of the nuances of the whole of the theory was still pretty green—by green I mean fresh, young, and not ripened, not postmodern.

It was at this point that Ken released what are now known as the Excerpts and the beginning of so-called Wilber-5 or the post-metaphysical philosophy. I sat for many hours with these texts—I had a hard time taking them in at first. It was a kind of second intellectual death and rebirth Ken was calling forth from me.

During this time I had the privilege of meeting with Ken on a few occasions, including a couple of times he graciously hosted me in his home. He was always very supportive, loving, kind, and full of humor to me.

Ken became a kind of big brother or Uncle or mentor figure to me and to many others I knew. There was a certain child-like magic about it all. This is the hallmark of the first stage, its beauty as well as its flaws. In Ken’s language, its truth as well as its partiality.

But you can’t stay a kid forever…or you become a fundamentalist with this stuff. Like parents, the mentors eventually reveal their flaws—they can never be the idealized figures we make them out to be as children. The infant has to grow up and assert him/herself. They must find their own way. Things get confusing.

Welcome to adolescence.

Stage 2: Adolescence

Adolescence is rebellion.

I’ll frame my thoughts in my integral adolescence under three categories: intellectual (theory itself), marketing, and dialogue.

I’ll start with the intellectual theory side. Readers not as interested in this side of things, feel free to skip to the next section.



I was drawn from the beginning by Ken’s injunction: Everyone is right. If that is true, the question then is how to find a way to hold all the rights in the best way. I also resonated strongly with Ken’s insistence that integral was a broader set of theories and people than his version of integral. His own radical and profound re-creation of his theory in his work on perspectives already started me on this trajectory.

I started reading other integral thinkers and became more open to other perspectives. The ones who I connected with the most however were those who saw themselves as aligned in essentials with Wilber (and integral more broadly) but offered nuances, modifications, additions, clarifications, expansions, friendly critiques, and so forth.

Names like Mark Edwards, Katie Heikennen, Zak Stein, Terri O’Fallon, Jeff SalzmanSean Hargens, and Tim Winton.* Beams and Struts is part of this larger group as well, including voices like Bonnitta Roy, Gail HochachkaDaniel O’Connor, Olen Gunnlaugson, and Steve McIntosh.

Meanwhile a lot of ink is spilled against Wilber, which seems to me to miss the main point that integral theory has developed well beyond Ken, though it is deeply influenced by him of course. I think the development of integral theory as a whole is a wonderful thing. But there is still a strong tendency (both pro and anti) to equate integral theory with Ken’s writings.

Lack of Dialogue and Integration of Postmodernism

the other

Nevertheless, the theory does have enormous concrete effects.

For example, I think it’s been a major mistake to use the word ‘integral’ to cover both the theory and the hypothesized next stage of human consciousness. What that dual use of the word did is allow people to think once they knew the theory they were automatically more structurally advanced in terms of human consciousness. This conflation has led to a great deal of arrogance and hype in the integral world. At Beams we’ve always preferred the term post-postmodern to refer to the next cultural rising. Our site is a collective inquiry into that cultural formation. And we see integral as a profound tool to help navigate in this new world.

Another example. Mark Edwards argued (correctly in my view), that Ken’s description of 2nd person perspective is flawed. Ken tends to equate 2 person perspective (“I and You”) with 1st person plural (“Us”).

Now this may seem like some rather arcane and minor point in integral philosophical esoterica. But actually it has major practical implications. If a person or group predominantly treats the 2nd person perspective as 1st person plural, then the tendency will be only to talk with people who are already within one’s relational world. The 2nd person perspective is the space of dialog and relationship. Only some people really truly ever enter into a 1 person plural space with you and I and become an Us. Often—perhaps more often—we experience a 2nd person or persons, that is someone with whom we are relating but with whom neither person would claim they are in a full ‘we’ space.

One of the hallmarks of the postmodern world is a sense of deep respect for The Other—for the 2 person who is not in our “We” field but who nevertheless deserves respect.   A 2nd person relationship according to the great postmodern philosopher Emannuel Levinas is one characterized by hospitality and friendship, rather than romantic love (1st person plural) or efficiency or “use” to me (3rd person).

The sub-culture that formed around Ken too often become an insulated, self-referential one. It was practicing 1st person plural (We/Us) over 2nd person modes of being. Like any insulated, self-referential sub-group, the use of sub-culture insider jargon proliferated. In the integral world this became the magic secret decoder ring language of colors. I felt then and continue to feel that using a color system to label intellectual opponents and their ideas is not a helpful way of entering into the hermeneutic circle. As Ken himself points out the biting rhetoric aimed at postmodern relativism in Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality was meant to stir up the pot. It was a rhetorical move. It had some pluses. It had some definite minuses.

Too many folks with modernist perspectives came into integral and then exploited Ken’s post-postmodern critiques of postmodernism to tear down postmodernism—having themselves not actually developed into postmodern forms of being. Thereby these folks have reduced integral to an exclusively modernist progress-oriented, self-esteem, individualist perspective.

Which leads to the question of marketing and who is the audience for integral.



I became really turned off by the increasing marketization of Integral (with a capital I) as a brand and a series of products. I should say I’m not against making money. I do think there should be a stronger sense of open-source (wherever possible) in the integral world and less energy spent on trademarks. That’s not a hard and fast rule by the way. I mean there’s an appropriate place for some intellectual property rights, but loosely held. As a positive counterexample, our friends at Buddhist Geeks have a monetization platform I find very congruent with their purpose done in what I find to be a tasteful manner.

But by and large the marketization of integral as Integral and its branding has left me rather disgusted.

All of these various factors—as well as others like scandals—led to a certain alienation for me in relation to integral. Alienation is a hallmark experience of adolescence. In that sense, I think it was good to go through all this. I tasted personal defeat and self-criticism. Individuation and separation occurred.

But it all came at a high cost. People I knew got burned out, others became cynical (including me at points). People I admired and respected fell.

The second stage is marked by ambiguity. And I certainly felt that way towards integral for a long time. Parts of me still do.

Stage 3: Mature Sweetness

i heart ken

Stage 3 does not mean the rejection of all of Stage 2. I still have my intense distaste for the branding and self-help marketing of too much in the integral world. I’m turned off by excessive egotism. There have been serious scandals to rock the community which I feel still have not really sunk in for a number of folks. I think the integral world (so-called) doesn’t think about how it is perceived by those on the outside. People I know and care about have been hurt. Nobody is without blame. Including me.

When I talk about sweetness I mean it in the sense of Paul Ricoeur’s second naivete. The first naivete is being naïve, that is stage 1 in our three stage model. Then comes the critical phase of stage 2. In stage 2, the initial naivete is broken. There’s more realism and yet more a certain edge. Ricoeur used the term “suspicion” to characterize the 2nd stage.

Stage 3 is the second naivete--or better second simplicity. A simplicity, a certain kind of sweetness.   The sweetness is in a sense putting down’s one arms and dropping the suspicion. It is becoming suspicious of the suspicious mindset. There’s a coming home feeling.

This response in relation to integral has a great deal to do with the state of Ken’s health. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone I love dearly suffer so greatly.

I think back to experiences and insights he shared with me. I remember how as a young (and full of myself) 25 year old, I went on a Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhist retreat. It was at that retreat that I was graced with an awakening. I came back from this retreat, blissed out on Consciousness, and wrote a long flowing email to a circle of friends and family. It was a paean to the merits of Enlightenment and the Perfect Nature of all arising reality. I had originally meant to send the note to friends and family first and then separately and individually to Ken. But somehow I ended up sending it to Ken as well. Ken then hit ‘reply all‘ and wrote very simply:

“Nice letter. Nice experience. Now get on with your life.”

He had sent that to everyone :).

I got a note from this friend of mine who had read some of Ken’s books (and actually held Ken in some awe): “Dude, why is Ken Wilber sending me an email about you?”

Ken later wrote a follow up to me personally to tell me I was ‘stinking of Zen.’ I was still massively full of ego (still am actually). Now things were actually a little worse since I thought I was enlightened. In one moment, he burst the bubble of my supposed enlightened self. He pointed out to me that I would “come back to earth”--which is precisely what happened. I ended up in an extremely painful place in my life.

I would send Ken notes every so often updating him on what was going on. He always graciously replied with things I needed to hear.

ken wilber

My deep love for Ken and gratitude for all he has given me has helped steer me to where I am now. As I said no one is perfect, Ken included. I don’t defend everything he’s ever said or done. My experience of him is a human being--not Ken Wilber the media image. As a loving, kinda out there, wonderful human.  A human being full of light (en-lightened and en-lightening).  

So while my personal connection with Ken has played a major role in this 3rd stage unfolding, other influences have as well.

The founding of Beams and Struts has also helped move into this third stage. I remember the precise moment Trevor shared the idea with me and asked me to join--it was at Br. Scott’s wedding (now Scott has a child!). Because of Beams, rather than sitting on the sidelines grousing about what others are doing wrong, I’m helping contribute. I’m making my stand here with the founders and the ever-growing family. The 2nd stage is about deconstruction. The 3rd stage is about (re)construction.

In the last year I’ve been forming strong bonds with groups like C-Cam and The Integral Living and Leadership Institute crew. We are working the creation of what friend of Beams Michael Richardson calls, ‘second wave’ integral. Second generation integral. Those who have grown up through adolescence and early adulthood with these teachings and whose life purpose is to manifest it in the world.  But those of us who ride this second wave would never be where we are if not for our ancestors and that is especially true of Ken.  To mix my metaphors, Ken has set the beat to the tune, the rest of us need to dance.  

In the 1st stage we load our mentors with the burden of having to save us.  In the 2nd stage we blame them for not doing so--an impossible task to begin with that they never asked us to place upon them.  Interestingly, in the 3rd stage there is a kind of salvation. There is deep healing and liberation, but it is not the way we imagined it would occur from the perspective of the 1st stage.  In the 1st stage we project authority onto an external figure and make them The All-Knowing, Perfect Savior.

In the 3rd stage we realize that all of us come from The Ultimate Savior which is so far beyond yet most intimately embraces all. It is The Ultimate Mystery of the Divine, within which we arise, that saves.  Within that arising, all of us have to play our parts. Each of us has a role to play in this Divine Drama.  I believe Ken to be one of the most profound vessels of that blessed reality.  He, of all people, has had a most Unique Self and Role in this crazed and wonderful unfolding.  For that we may all be grateful.  

Related items

Join the Discussion

Commenting Policy

Beams and Struts employs commenting guidelines that we expect all readers to bear in mind when commenting at the site. Please take a moment to read them before posting - Beams and Struts Commenting Policy


  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Wednesday, 12 October 2011 11:37 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Wow. While my experience of Ken Wilber (and the surrounding phenomenon of Ken=integral) is quite different than what you and Juma relate, I do recognize that the pattern/process exists among many people like yourselves -- but unlike your selves, few people can make the generative leap that you are presenting here, and I really appreciate the love that grounds your story, -- it seems to me that you are manifesting a love that is inclusive of Ken and "his world", Ken the person, the outlying community of "integral" that is both past, present, and in process, but also of the person you were, naive then, and super-naive now. Oh, and the "sweetness" here is exquisite. Greatly appreciated, and deeply grateful.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Wednesday, 12 October 2011 12:15 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    I've said before, because my experience with Ken Wilber has not traced this particular trajectory, but also because I have been immersed in the Ken-Wilber phenomenon since participating in a yahoo group after I first read his collected works (put out by Shambhala in 2000)-- and then being affiliated with several "waves" of people entering and exiting II and Ken's immediate circle -- I have felt like a kind of anthropologist on Mars, studying the greater phenomenon that surrounds the Wilber-centric integral community. For me it has been problematic in the sense that early on, when I would give a class or workshop on my own work, no one in the audience would stand up and shout "how can you say that about the esteemed philosopher from Leipzig" when I would examine Kant's categories, but when I would subject Wilber's categories to examination, there was certainly to be a major outburst waiting for me. Interestingly, therefore, I was caught up in a kind of counter-reaction to a reaction, and found I could not move forward without first couching everything I wanted to discuss within a kind of "security blanket" around people's experience of Ken and his work and world. This phenomenon was interesting but not too little annoying, and by the time I was invited to the first ITC conference, I was tagged as a "Wilber critique" which does not represent my motivation for philosophy in the least (with respect to the integral community, I would like to bring more process thinking into the theory). I encountered Wilber's work at the long end of over 20 years of working on my own philosophical inquiry, having recently worked through Shoepenhauer and Whitehead, I looked to Wilber to address some of the unresolved issues. It was through Wilber and the people in the discussion groups that I came to read non-western philosophy, and I can say that this saved my life, because I had been trying to understand certain states of consciousness and a certain meta-view of reality that I had, that was, until that time, held by me in deep privacy, since I knew of no other people asking these kind of questions or living into this level of inquiry. What saved my life, was by the time I was deeply immersed in Wilber and Whitehead, working toward a culmination of 20 years on a theory I called "telos" which was a grand narrative explaining the inherent teleology in the universe at all levels and scales -- and dialoguing with various Wilber fans, I was headed for a 13 days of non-sleeping causal awareness that hit me like the bolt that shattered Saul's skull on the way to Jerusalem. On the 13th day my horse died in my lap, and then rose again, and I witnessed the complete and irrevocable seamlessness of being and non-being, afterwhich driving home in my truck, on a snow-shrouded road at 3 am in the morning, I peaked at eternity from 3000 feet above my body-mind, cluelessly navigating the winding country roads below. I had been one, I had been two, I had been none. So... to make a long story short, why Ken Wilber saved my life, is that after this experience, I read my first non-western philosopher, and that was the book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Trungpa. This book saved me from myriad types of spiritual bypassing -- right at the moment when I was just about to get started! What a hoot it was to hear Trungpa talking about Monkey building his house. So from then on, I was very wary of this kind of phenomenon around theory, models of all sorts, egoic hubris about state-experiences of various types, ... So this is part of my story, which is different than yours... but maybe similar too (?)

  • Comment Link Stuart Davis Wednesday, 12 October 2011 16:21 posted by Stuart Davis

    Thank you. It is so heartening to feel the honesty, love, and balance in your post. May this kind of reflection and depth characterize more and more of the dialogue around these subjects. I felt both posts increase the sanity and clarity. Grateful for & to you both for taking the time & putting yourselves out their. Kosmic hugs-

  • Comment Link Lincoln Merchant Wednesday, 12 October 2011 18:16 posted by Lincoln Merchant

    Thank you both Chris and Juma. I am right there with you.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Thursday, 13 October 2011 03:00 posted by Chris Dierkes

    Lincoln and Stuart,

    Thanks for the comments. Juma and I are really heartened to hear that our intention has really come through for folks and has resonated for them.

  • Comment Link Chris Dierkes Thursday, 13 October 2011 03:05 posted by Chris Dierkes


    Thanks for your reflection. Thanks for the comment around the sweetness--the I Heart Ken t-shirt is one of all my all time favorite image finds I've ever done here.

    The piece you mention relative to Kant and Schopenhauer and the distinction vis a vis critical engagement with his work---I wonder if in their day, when they were alive, Kant and Schop. & co. had defenders (even knee-jerk ones) like Ken has had? Certainly Hegel spawned the Hegelians of different stripes. I don't know, just wondering.

    I've read some of your work on process integral as well as some of the pieces around Dzogchen/perspectives. But I don't think I've ever read any of your telos work--is that out there somewhere? Have you come to some conclusions around that? Given that I was very interested in your critique of some of the use of evolution vis a vis spirituality (and in general) around integral, I would be really interested to read about how you conceive of a proper use of the telos frame.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:32 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    Hi Chris,
    Yes, Kant was revered but not well understood, whereas Hegel was loved by the people and scorned by his contemporaries in their day. Schopenhauer was a misanthropist, who buddied around with Wagner, in high society, and didn't have any friends. I think you put it right in your tagline - Wilber is both a living philosopher of great merit, and a man who is loved. I remember the only time I saw him actually in person, in NY with Traleg Rinpoche -- by that time I had already seen hundreds of hours of him on video, so there was no ahha there, but I was fascinated by the quality of Love that Colin Bigelow had for him, assisting him on stage (this just after Wilber's first serious fall that broke his ribs).

    Regarding the telos, this is a very big question, and I know we keep returning to it, but it needs a great deal of space. My experience over the course of those 13 days, made everything I had been working on up until that point, no longer valid or needed. It was as if my entire life I was looking for something, and now that I could truly *see*, I could see that the gap that existed between what I was looking for and working towards, and trying to find or what I was trying to understand were a result of deep existential dynamics in *me* and that absent them, an entirely new view had arisen. To speak about this is tricky, to write it in a comment section, well dern near impossible for me. But hey, you asked. I'm trying to find a brief, but adequately significant way to say what I know now that I didn't know then. It has a lot to do about trust -- the kind of trust that completely eliminates fear. In Miphams great song, he calls this the Beacon of Certainty (but he is definitely not talking about epistemological certainty!). But the trust is not "out there" somewhere in an historical, evolutionary or transcendently guided future. It's in here, right here, right before our eyes in a very precise and clear and basic way (except we don't see it). Intellectually it can be parsed as the process notion of immanent transcendental (as some do); likewise with respect to telos, the deep purposefulness is not "out there" in some conceptualized system, or theory of justification of the processes of the universe, but in here, in each event and atom, enfolded in every breath, in every dynamic, however small. In a sense, you begin to see the entire evolutionary project whole, in every moment, fulfilled and fulfilling, and then again in the next moment. You might imagine that something beautiful in your spiritual understanding of an evolutionary enlightenment might be lost, but I can only say, from my experience-- it is exactly the opposite, because everything you can conceptualize is gained, in the right here, the right now including the deep purposefulness, including the creativity, the dance and the novelty. It is all grace, and effortless. With deep trust there is no need for hope. When you have it, right here, in a very basic yet extraordinary way, there is no need for faith. In summary, I came to see that my telos project was a projection that took the form of a quest, of what I could not see right in front of my eyes, except that I was farsighted, and the truth that was closest to me, I couldn't see. Now what I was looking for, hoping for, has the quality of the rain outside my window this morning. It is just there, and as real, and it touches everything, and brings life and is the stuff of my tears.

  • Comment Link Bonnitta Roy Thursday, 13 October 2011 10:37 posted by Bonnitta Roy

    oops. not sure why that duplicated itself. maybe admin can delete one.


  • Comment Link Jeremy Johnson Thursday, 13 October 2011 14:43 posted by Jeremy Johnson

    Hi Chris,

    This was a heartfelt and bravely honest piece (I mean this for both you and Juma). Thank you for putting yourself out there, out here, for us.

    I guess I will put myself out here too. My experiences with him were different. I discovered Ken's work in freshman undergrad. I had already been reading Krishnamurti, some philosophy books, and Daniel Pinchbeck's writings on psychedelics. My intellectual bent had always been artistic, bordering on philosophical. I was deeply intrigued by the imagination, the mystery, and mystical.

    When I discovered Ken's "theory of everything," I was instantly off-put by his seemingly arrogant attitude and machine-like organizing of charts and maps of consciousness. But I picked up his books anyway. Pretty soon I was reading just about everything he put out there, and although I had differences, I was engulfed by the sheer size and volume of his work and his synthesis. That was a period of about 2 years.

    That time was also important for me developmentally. I was young, coming into myself and my identity as a young student, discovering what I was like in romantic relationships and living in a city for the first time (NYC). It was a turbulent time for me, and I had this wonderful community of books, artists and scholars on Integral Naked that was my muse for a while. Stu's music, for example, was particularly inspiring (Tool as well). This was stage I for me.

    It was during this time that I had a few mystical experiences. The only way I can really describe them was a "dropping away" of my identity and the roles I had been playing, and putting upon myself daily. It was an ecstatic release, remembrance, awakening, a permeating bliss that lasted a few days (the most intense was a few hours). It slowly faded and I was back to the grind. Funny enough I forgot about it shortly after it happened. But to know it was possible to be that open, flowing, connected, and yet self-knowing (A self-knowing-bliss) was deeply inspiring for me. I got a taste of it.

    So that was during my Wilber phase, where I was in the midst of learning his material and reading his work. Later on in undergrad I moved onto other philosophers as I learned about their work. I got fascinated by science fiction and the singularity, Teilhard's writings on evolution, and more postmodern writing like Deleuze and Manuel DeLanda (though they are materialists). I think this is how I can relate to your stage II. I began to come back to integral philosophy with my own ideas and differences that did not appear to be reconciled by the community. I also began to learn about Adi Da, Cohen, and the recent blogging uproar over Ken's emotional response to his critics (the Wyatt Earp incident). Spiral Dynamics began to fade from my language as I learned about Marshall McLuhan and read Teilhard and Gebser directly. I was, in some ways, surprised about the interpretations Wilber had of some of these theorists. They were very unique interpretations, and often (arguably) extremely selective. I drifted from integral philosophy.

    What brought me back to integral (partially) was appreciation (as mentioned in the first article). Wilber's health was failing and it was clear in the videos he was having trouble speaking, etc. So I softened my criticism towards him and the community. Are they still very insular? Sure. I can't feel comfortable hanging out in the forums (Integral Life) without getting a whiff of dogmatism and religiosity (not in a good sense). In the words of Mirra, the mother, "For heaven's sake, no more religion."

    Now I have an appreciation for Wilber's philosophy and the community he has inspired. But it is still partial to me. I don't see Wilber as the singular lineage holder, so to speak. The works of Gebser, Teilhard, and Aurobindo deserve to be read in their own terms, not necessarily sent through the bottleneck of Wilberian theory. A lot of their insights will be lost that way. So in many ways I hope, and I encourage a more polycentric view of integral: Let Wilber be the first of many integral theorists who may or may not come from his line of thought (AQAL, SD, etc). For example, as Trevor noted and asked me to write about, Bill Thompson's work exemplifies an entirely alternative theoretical work, inspired by Teilhard, Whitehead, Gebser, Aurobindo and others. I think it's fine to see Wilber in regards to our lives as a cause for inspiration, spiritual growth, and awakening. He catalyzes many people to start thinking about these important issues, he recognizes the validity of spiritual experience. These are all good things and I can't be critical of him for that. But he is certainly partial. Missing from mostly all of his works is an appreciation for the (what he would call) lower left quadrant: art, poetry, myth, tradition. If you crack open Gebser's book, it's layered with poems and images from the different cultures of the ages (to demonstrate different structures of consciousness). If you crack open SES, you get a visionary, yes, but more highly abstracted version of the evolution of consciousness. I kind of see Wilber as one far end of the spectrum (very left-brained so to speak). He tries to be poetic, sure, but that does not make him a good poet. :-)

    But on the other hand, Wilber's works are extremely accessible. They're like textbooks for consciousness studies. They're easy, and read like a magazine. Sometimes they are more complex (like Integral Spirituality) but he has a casual and fun style (and dare I say, being a writer myself, I can almost sense the joy he takes in BEING a good writer, maybe a little *too* self consciously ). Anyhow, it just goes to show... Accessibility is what Wilber offers. A starting place. We need more of that. So we need more folks, these second generation people, from Wilber's "lineage" of thought or otherwise - that make these ideas accessible and applicable for our modern world, which so desperately is in need of a transformation. We're all participating in the Work.

    Thanks again for your insights, Chris & Juma.


  • Comment Link Jill Thursday, 13 October 2011 15:31 posted by Jill

    HI Chris,
    I particularly like your last 2 paragraphs. I think it parallels the experience people have with any good therapist. Initially you want them to save them from your life, then you blame them because they can't and then the 3rd phase requires you to step into the responsibility of your life and if they are a good therapist they continue to stand by to let you do that. Like a parent. I wonder if some people have been able to use God to be that mentor (thus the reference to God the father or Mother Earth) and some people, like me, need a therapist for God to work through. I have also seen those three stages in people being treated for cancer. Initially they require the doctor to save them, the doctor is not able so they blame the doctor/system and then in the best situation, they are able to negotiate how they have to manage stepping into death given that reality. I have not sorted how some people manage that 3rd phase better than others but some people really do and they have a beautiful, loving death. They seem somehow to embrace the mystery of life as it really is and rest with that uncertainty in love which releases anybody else of blame for who they are and what is happening to them and they transcend that person. If the person who dies was an extrovert often they may have a tribe of people drawn to them who want to witness their death and give thanks for their life. If they were an introvert, they may have just one special person whose life the person changed sitting vigilently by their side to witness their death.
    What i don't understand is that people who get into Integral stuff seem to embrace it with such passion but it seems to me to be explaining what has been going on for a long time. I seem to be missing something about it that could make me more enthusiastic to get through some of Wilber's works. What am I missing that people get so excited about the Integral approach?

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Thursday, 13 October 2011 15:37 posted by Philip Corkill

    I think it's well worth reading twice Bonnitta ;-)

    That goes for the initial pieces too, Chris and Juma, and I'll probably be reading them a few more times yet.

    "In the 1st stage we load our mentors with the burden of having to save us. In the 2nd stage we blame them for not doing so--an impossible task to begin with that they never asked us to place upon them."

    Yes. Parts of me are still going through a similar thing in a different context. Although, it's largely unconscious i.e. I never would have said or thought that I was asking to be saved. It comes to light with the disillusionment and disappointment that there must have been some illusions and wishful appointments there somewhere.

    I'm not sure I've handled things with as much spirit as you and Juma but then I'm not through with it yet and I'm being as honest as I can with myself. Time, process and life will tell. There is certainly an underlying gratitude there.

    Thank you people very much for what you share.

  • Comment Link William Harryman Friday, 14 October 2011 00:42 posted by William Harryman

    Thanks Chris - excellent article and beautiful perspective! You and Juma did a great job of telling both a personal and (for some of us) community story. I never met Ken, likely never will, but I felt a lot of connection to the wider issues you and Juma offer. Much appreciated.

Login to post comments

Search Beams

Newest Discussions