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
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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.
New Human Species or Unbounded Egoism or Wishful Thinking?
But one needs to ask if this is “science” or merely wishful thinking. And I must honestly say that I am too subjectively involved to truly know the answer.
Frank Visser wrote two stimulating Integral World evolutionary book reviews in 2012 , regarding the much acclaimed in evolutionary circles books Evolution's Purpose by Steve McIntosh and Evolutionaries by Carter Phipps. Having now read both of these books, I can say that I am in essential agreement with Frank in his analysis of McIntosh and Phipps (cf. ).
I agree with Frank that McIntosh's major premise that we as a species are motivated to “purposefully” continue evolving through the noble trinity of truth, beauty, and goodness is certainly a “feel good” philosophical argument, but as Frank points out—where is the science behind this? The “truth” is that there is no discernable science behind this—at least not any that McIntosh provides in his book, as Frank describes very well in his review (cf. ).
And as far as Phipps is concerned, his book is certainly an entertaining and informative read about the various evolutionary luminaries who have made themselves known in evolutionary circles, but once again—Frank is correct in that the argument from science for a “new human species” is not at all apparent. And I will add that I think Phipps has quite a blind spot to the highly questionable ethical conduct of his own guru, Andrew Cohen, as described in a number of Integral World essays .
This whole question of progress and purpose in evolution is one that I recently experientially jumped into in my Agents of Conscious Evolution (ACE) course with Barbara Marx Hubbard , who is one of the evolutionary luminaries that Phipps describes in his book (cf. ). My early initial concerns about my ACE course are documented in two of my 2013 Integral World essays regarding my adverse reaction to seeing how much praise Hubbard was bestowing upon Andrew Cohen, and how prominent a role Cohen appeared to have in my ACE course . However, as my course progressed, this glorious focus on Cohen did not continue in the way it did for the first few weeks, and I wonder if perhaps this had something to do with my own communications to Barbara Marx Hubbard and the ACE network about my concerns. But what I am now left with is the same essential question that McIntosh and Phipps allude to in their books: are we evolving toward a new human species?
It is certainly comforting to think that we are in transition to the next level of humanness, “the universal human” as Hubbard describes it, or if one prefers more scientific/technical language: “homo universalis.” But as much as I would like to believe this, the reality of the continuous disasters in our world—from climate debacles to terrorist attacks to rampant murders to economic robbery of the masses to unchecked selfishness and greed to continuous wars and atrocities to killing of innocents with drones, etc.—all this and more make it very difficult for me to believe that we are evolving to a “new human species.” But of course Hubbard and company qualifies this new human species claim by saying that things could go either way—i.e. we will either evolve to a new human species or we will become extinct—and that there is not much time left. Well as much as I hate to say this—and believe me I do hate to say this—if I were to put my money on which direction things are likely to go in—well you can fill in the blanks.
I genuinely like Barbara Marx Hubbard. I don't think she resembles the narcissistic, egocentric, and abusive personality characteristics of Andrew Cohen (cf. ) in any way at all. I believe that Barbara is an idealist in the extreme, and she needs to believe what she believes. She is 83-years-old and her beliefs and promotion of her philosophy regarding our potential emergence to a new human species is not going to change. And I must admit that the idea that our individual creative development enhances our evolutionary development, as described wholeheartedly by both Hubbard and Cohen, is an attractive one to me—and I must in all fairness give Andrew Cohen credit for so passionately promoting this idea in his book Evolutionary Enlightenment .
As I said above, McIntosh's “truth, beauty, goodness” philosophy is a “feel good” philosophy, and it does make me “feel good” to think there is a purpose to all of this and that my creativity is a part of the “progress” of evolution. But one needs to ask if this is “science” or merely wishful thinking. And I must honestly say that I am too subjectively involved to truly know the answer. But I do not see the “scientific” signs of human goodness and kindness in our world. What I see is more and more technology, and people becoming greedier and greedier with less and less time available to be “human” to each other. Perhaps we are moving to a “new human species,” but I don't see this as anything that demonstrates “progress” in evolution—at least not in regard to a human being becoming more of anything resembling an authentic “human” being.
So why is it that many of contemporary evolutionary leaders believe we are potentially moving toward a new and “higher” human species? Could it be because it makes one feel “superior”? Could it be a function of unbounded egoism? Certainly it helps to make meaning of our world if we can believe that we are progressing to the “new order” and that we ourselves are the creatures who will make this transition possible. But once again I believe that the horrors of our super fast-paced world that appear to me to becoming increasingly devoid of “humanness” speaks for itself.
When I think of egoism, I think of cults and gurus—as I have described in my Modern Religions book . I was therefore curious to experientially evaluate Barbara Marx Hubbard and the ACE network through the most useful cult dangers evaluation scale that I utilized in my analysis of various new religious/spiritual/philosophical groups, including Ken Wilber's Integral Institute . I won't go through the details here, but suffice it to say that my use of what I have referred to as the Bonewits Cult Danger Scale resulted in Barbara Marx Hubbard and ACE being placed in Neutral territory—i.e. not posing any significant cult dangers though not qualifying as a “beneficial” religious/spiritual group, based upon my own experiences. I gave Hubbard and ACE high ratings for dogma, recruiting, and political power, but all my other ratings were relatively low. So “unbounded egoism” does not appear to me to be what is going on here—at least not in the case of ACE and Barbara Marx Hubbard.
Rather, I would venture to guess that what is going on here is more along the lines of “wishful thinking”; wishing to believe that we have the potential to transform the human race into something of a higher order. I certainly don't want to make an authoritative claim that this is not possible, but I wish I could see some “scientific” evidence that this is truly happening. Perhaps I am missing the evolutionary boat and I will eventually see the light—but for now this is how I must leave things.
 See Frank Visser (2012), Platonic Evolution: Review of Steve McIntosh's “Evolution's Purpose” (2012) and Frank Visser (2012), The Evolution Religion: Making Sense of Evolution: Review of Carter Phipps' “Evolutionaries” (2012). Retrieved from www.integralworld.net; see Steve McIntosh (2012), Evolution's Purpose: An Integral Interpretation of the Scientific Story of Our Origins. New York: Select Books; and Carter Phipps (2012), Evolutionaries: Unocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea. New York: Harper/Perennial.
 See William Yenner (2009), American Guru: Excerpts and an Update; Be Scofield (2010), Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen and the Culture of Evolutionary Enlightment; Elliot Benjamin (2013), Andrew Cohen's Mis-Integration of Spiritual Philosophy into Life. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
 See http:www.acecommunitywebsite.com/group/ace-training-7
 See Elliot Benjamin (2013), Andrew Cohen's Notable Supporter: Conscious Evolutionary Barbara Marx Hubbard and my Dilemma and Elliot Benjamin (2013), Andrew Cohen's Mis-Integration of Spiritual Philosophy into Life. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net
 See Andrew Cohen (2011), Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening. EnlightenNext.
 See Elliot Benjamin (2013), Modern Religions: An Experiential Analysis and Exposé. Natural Dimension Publications (current version available at www.lulu.com).
 See Elliot Benjamin (2006), On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analytsis; retrieved from www.integralworld; and see Elliot Benjamin (2013), Modern Religions (reference above).