Friday, July 03, 2015

Wilber changed his heroes several times

In my opinion, The Atman Project is Ken Wilber's best work, even though it is one of his earliest works. Ken did his homework with volumes of cross-cultural research, and came up with some astounding results in terms of how the individual human develops.

This review is from: Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution
Wilber seems to have changed his main philosophical heroes several times - in "Up from Eden" it's Hegel, in SES it's Plotinus and Schelling, and in both SES and the post-metaphysical works it's Jürgen Habermas (!). On this point, SES seems more logical than "Up from Eden", but its nevertheless fascinating how Wilber uses Hegel to bolster his spiritual case. My guess is that he was deeply moved by Copleston's description of Hegel's philosophy in "History of Philosophy". So was I. Copleston somehow manages to make Hegel sound interesting, relevant and even somewhat spiritual. More problematic are Wilber's references to Da Free John (Adi Da Samraj), the leader of a Tantric sex cult in California, with which Wilber had some kind of association at the time of writing this book.

At the start, Wilber had only a single idea – whether it was the increasingly fragmenting "spectrum of consciousness" of "Wilber I", or the psychological and transpersonal arc and linear evolution of "Wilber II" . While Wilber has totally rejected the former, I find that both of these worldviews are very good, and while neither should be taken literally, either can equally serve as a myth or allegorical story of some aspect or another of Consciousness. In fact, I would say that this very early work was without doubt Wilber's best.

But then Wilber added more and more ideas with each successive iteration of his philosophy. "Wilber II"'s The Atman Project incorporated the Seven Stages of Life from Da Free John, developmental psychology (e.g. Freud, Piaget, etc), and (in Up From Eden) Jean Gebser's concept of history; Wilber III added on Howard Gardner's lines of development to the simple linear pre-trans of II; IV added on quadrants, Truth Claims, and the big Three of Habermas, holons and the holarchy from Koestler, deconstruction from postmodernism, and then later, Spiral Dynamics, and now the nascent Wilber-V has eight perspectives in addition to four quadrants and everything else.[73] Yet with all this increasingly complexity there is no increasing harmony. If anything, the whole system is becoming more unwieldy; for example eight perspectives seems a definite step down from the mandalic elegance of the four quadrants.

However, because Wilber writes so broadly about other thinkers, and his books sell so well, people get the idea that his own intellectual annotations, side-notes, and blind spots really refer to the actual teacher or teaching that he is referring to. This is certainly not the case regarding his interpretation of Sri Aurobindo (see sect. 3-i), and there is a similar pattern of misinterpretation in the way he approaches Plotinus, including in this case, as D. H. Frew points out, deliberate misquoting.[76] Even his tables comparing Plotinus and Aurobindo have a contrived feel about them. Not surprisingly, Wilber also gets Shankara wrong.[77] And while Wilber very often refers to Gebser, as William Irwin Thompson points out[78], there is very little of Gebser in Wilber's work.
David Lane has pointed out that Wilber makes a huge assumption regarding Shabd Yoga.[79] Jeff Meyerhoff has pointed out numerous, across the board flaws in Wilber's thinking and his research claims.[80] And Robert Carroll, Geoff Falk, myself, and Jim Chamberlain have all shown that Wilber, in critiquing Evolutionary science, doesn't even seem to understand what Darwinism really teaches.[81] It seems that everywhere we look, Wilber imposes his own ideas onto the books that he cites. As a result he is not able to put aside his own personal worldview to hear a different, even contrary, one.

by Amod Lele on May.06, 2012
I’ve recently been writing an article on Ken Wilber’s thought, and have come to realize just how much his ideas have changed over the past ten years. His readers, and increasingly he himself, have come to characterize this as a change from a fourth phase of his thought (“Wilber-4″) to a fifth phase (“Wilber-5″). The changes can be hard to spot because the new view is detailed in only one book (Integral Spirituality); the rest of it is found online, in excerpts from a long forthcoming volume. What is most striking in the change from Wilber-4 to Wilber-5 is its post/modernism. Wilber has moved much closer to a postmodern view in which there are only perspectives, which bring worlds into existence rather than discovering them; he has also become more modernist, giving much more prominence to an idea of cultural evolution where the modern age supersedes those that came before.
But as David Harvey has noted, the continuities between modernism and postmodernism can be more significant than their self-proclaimed differences. (In this discussion I will repeatedly use the term “post/modern”, to emphasize the important respects in which the two are the same.) In this case, premoderntraditions play an ever smaller role. Wilber’s earlier thought, in looking at the traditions of the premodern world, had tended to incorporate only mystical experience, but mystical experience still got the trump card – it was able to tell us what ultimate reality is. In Wilber-5, mystical experience needs to be kept in its place, without any sovereignty over other kinds of knowledge. Where Wilber’s earlier thought was all about the relationship between Ascent and Descent, Ascent now takes a smaller role as only one or two perspectives out of many, the rest being Descending and post/modern. Read the whole article. Posted by William Harryman at Thursday, May 10, 2012 

Amod Lele on 23 January 2014 at 9:28 pm said: That’s fair, Patrick. 
I suspect my tone in the comment to Matthew above was too dismissive. I suppose part of it comes out of an article I published last year on Ken Wilber, whose own perennialism is very much like that of the Theosophists and leads him to gross misinterpretations of the traditions he studies – but I say that while being in very close sympathy with the overall aims of Wilber’s project.
Amod Lele on 23 January 2014 at 9:49 pm said: I agree with you that “those who are skilled or expert in a domain of knowledge or inquiry do in fact have a greater qualification in that regard than do other people.” I used “élitist” with respect to the Theosophists’ belief that they were the skilled experts on each tradition out there, as opposed to others well versed in any given tradition who’d spent far longer with it than the Theosophists themselves had. I suspect this may have reflected at least some amount of class prejudice.
It’s fair to say, though, that this kind of attitude is shared by a number of indigenous Indian traditions (especially Advaitins) and by many contemporary social-scientific scholars of religion – not least those who are determinedly anti-perennialist and anti-theosophical. (The common approach that even your fellow scholars, let alone everyday practitioners, are nothing more than “data”.)

The Perennial Quest for a Psychology with a Soul: An Inquiry ... Joseph Vrinte - 2002 - ‎Preview - regarding the nature of human consciousness. Ken Wilber's spectrum psychology does not try to describe the complete spectrum of human experience within one psychological system. He creates an interpretation of human consciousness ...

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