Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.
AN INTEGRATIVE/NON-INTEGRAL PSYCHOTHERAPY MODEL
In my recent Integral World articles: “Integral with a Twist” and “IntegraL vs. Integrative,” I argued that Ken Wilber's Integral psychology lacks the conviction of an impactful central focus . I suggested combining a comprehensive overview with a dominant theme and central focus, such as humanistic-integrative, existential-integrative, etc. Indeed this kind of focused overview has been effectively utilized in the humanistic and existential integrative psychotherapy context, as can be seen from a number of current illustrations . In particular I would like to focus upon an integrative psychotherapy model that I believe encompasses nearly all of the major current divisions of psychology: behavioral, cognitive, psychodynamic, humanistic, existential, and transpersonal, but does so with a thrust of impactful force in its dominant focus. The integrative psychotherapy model I am referring to is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, abbreviated as ACT (ACT is said as one word, not initials), and was originated by Steve Hayes, Ph.D in the mid 1980s . Although Hayes has been a prominent behavioral psychologist who has authored/edited over 360 articles and 27 books, his Acceptance and Commitment Therapy goes way past the confines of behavioral and/or cognitive psychology. Hayes' central focus is in the humanistic/existential/transpersonal realm; it is closely aligned with the self-actualization focus of Abraham Maslow, the humanistic psychology visions of Carl Rogers, and the existential psychology ideas of Rollo May . Hayes utilizes the integrative connections of behavioral and cognitive psychology in order to effectively accomplish his central humanistic focus of helping a person gain contact with his/her deepest self and actualize this self in the universe.
This central humanistic focus, where I am thinking of “humanistic” in a wide sense that includes the realms of existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology, is not something I am generally able to find in Wilber's comprehensive Integral psychology . Wilber's conception of integral appears to me to be a way of choosing alternative and complimentary therapies without making a commitment of dominant focus (c.f. ). This is in stark contrast to Hayes' ACT therapy, as I would like to describe more specifically. In many ways, ACT therapy reminds me of the essential ingredients that can be found in two modern spiritual organizations:
Werner Erhard's est from the 1970s and 1980s, and Harry Palmer's Avatar that originated in the 1990s and is still currently popular . This essential ingredient is the skillful incorporation of Eastern spirituality experienced as a deep meditative state of awareness, after the ineffective, disconcerting, and painful properties of using the mind too excessively are impactfully pointed out to workshop participants. In ACT this distressful overuse of the mind is convincingly demonstrated through the use of numerous academic research studies in behavioral and cognitive psychology, focusing upon the entanglements of language regarding the inner world of the person. However, unlike traditional behavioral and cognitive psychology, the essence of ACT therapy is to “accept” these mental problem areas, not to change them. The emphasis of ACT is to look at these mental problem areas in perspective, and the most important perspective is one of contact with one's deepest self, which is engaged thru the spiritual depths of meditation, visualization, and mindfulness. Once this authentic spiritual self perspective is achieved, a deep sense of true inner values is contacted, and a commitment is made to live one's life in accordance with these deeper values, while accepting the previous mental problem areas in the context of the authentic spiritual self. In other words, the same initially disturbing mental thoughts and feelings may still be present, but the context of the person is now infinitely larger, and these initial mental problems are put in perspective as not being anything to get overly concerned about.
I have recently done a week long ACT workshop with Steve Hayes, and I experienced the personal impact of his fascinating therapeutic perspective. In addition to the difference of humanistic central focus in ACT therapy vs. no central focus in Integral psychology, based upon my workshop experience I found Hayes (who happens to resemble the large frame and bald head of Wilber) to be delightfully open to other points of view and apparently not egocentrically involved in what he has created. This is in stark contrast to the concerns many people have voiced about Wilber and his Integral Institute, as can be seen in numerous essays on the
Integral World website (www.integralworld.net), although I still give Wilber the benefit of the doubt in this department as I have done a year ago in my essay
“On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analysis” . However, I do have a problem with the lack of focused direction of Integral psychology, and it is heartwarming to me to discover what I believe is a truly integrative psychology (not “integral” by the particular definition Wilber has given to integral), utilized in the therapeutic context of helping people to effectively deal with their mental problems by going deeper into their authentic spiritual selves.
1) Elliot Benjamin, “Integral with a Twist” (Integral World website; May, 2007); Elliot Benjamin, “Integral vs. Integrative” (Integral World Website; June, 2007); www.integralworld.net
2) Kirk Schneider, Jim Bugental, J. Fraser Pierson (editors), “The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology” (Thousand Oaks, CA; Sage Publications, 2001); Kirk Schneider (editor), “Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy” (New York: Routledge, 2007).
3) Steve Hayes, Kirk Strosahl, Kelly Wilson, “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change” (New York: Guildford Press, 1999); Steve Hayes and Kirk Strosahl (editors), “A Practical Guide to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy” (New York: Springer, 2004); Kara Bunting and Steve Hayes, “Language and Meaning: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the EI Model” in “Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy” (pages 217-234; see reference 2).
4) Carl Rogers, “On Becoming A Person” (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961); Abraham Maslow, “The Farther Reaches Of Human Nature” (New York: Viking Press, 1971); Rollo May, “Love And Will” (New York: Norton, 1969).
5) Ken Wilber, “Integral Psychology” (Boston: Shambhala, 2000).
6) Harry Palmer, “Living Deliberately” (Altamonte, Springs, Florida; Stars Edge International, 1994); Elliot Benjamin, “Modern Religions: An Experiential Analysis And Exposé˘” (Swanville, Maine; Natural Dimension Publications, 2005; available by contacting the author at email@example.com);Elliot Benjamin, “On Avatar” (ICSA E-Newsletter; vol. 4, no. 2, 2005; http://cultinfobooks.com).
7) Elliot Benjamin, “On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analysis” (Integral World Website; July, 2006; www.integralworld.net).