In the beginning of the seventies Chogyam Trungpa wrote an excellent book, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, which has become a classic. Since then we know that most of so-called spirituality, East and West, is just that: spiritual materialism, the feeling/thought that if I do this or that I´ll get, achieve or ad something to myself as an individual. Today it goes hand in hand with consumerism, the core belief of modern society and international capitalism.
Now it´s time for an new Trungpa to write a book on an other but related subject, i.e. SPIRITUAL NARCISSISM which has become an accepted phenomenon in some spiritual circles in the West, especially in the US.
Spiritual narcissism is the feeling/thought that 1) I´m a spiritually advanced being, enlightened, third tier etc. and 2) because of that I deserve love and respect.
Of the outstanding thinkers of today, with whose writings I´m familar, Ken Wilber is an absolute favorite. I have learned more from him than anyone else. And I have follwed him from Ken 1 to Ken 5 with excitement. In spite of this there is no doubt in my mind: KW is a spiritual narcissist and has been so for a long time.
His last outbursts on his critics is just the epitome. As good a proof as it gets. His reaction are pretty much the same as those of the alcoholic who, in general, is oversensitive even to the most stupid criticism, reacts to it by paranoid rage which he or she rationalizes easily and seeks, at the same time, approval for the whole thing from the co-dependents – and gets it more often than not.
This is a sad state of affairs. But it is not a surprise.
The tone of the dialogue in What Is Enlightenment? between the guru and the pandit, Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber, was from the very start: If you admit that what I say is great, I´ll admit that what you say is great, too. Mutual spiritual narcissism.
And before supporting Andrew Cohen who has never been able to accept any criticism in his own sick community while being highly critical of almost all others than Himself and his followers it took Ken Wilber more than 20 years to see and admit that his main guru for a long period of time, Adi Da/Da Free John, was a dubious spiritual narcissist (who would deserve a special chapter in the book on this subject.)
And as can be found in Wilbers own writings: to follow a narcissistic, charismatic teacher for a long time, we have to be unaware of our own narcissim. By following what we believe is great we desire to be part of the greatness ourselves. Secondary narcissim.
Ken Wilber is a revolutionary thinker. It´s therefore inevitable that he gets all kinds of criticism. Some of it is valuable, some obvious misunderstandings, some pedantry and some just beyond the pale, even slander. But what makes this so irretating? Why is the best of all living pundits wasting his time and energy on what he feels stupid?
Sigmund Freud was as outstanding as KW. He was, of cource, only partially right as KW has said about himself and all others many times. But he was tempted to create a movement (based on and promoting his theories) in which dissidents were not welcome and all critics, good and bad, ignored. In the beginning this movement was really promising. But little by little it grew into a belief system, and now it´s just a corpse cared for by a few dogmatics.
After having been an independent scholar and a prolific writer for 30 years, Wilber has now created a movement (based on and promoting his theories) in which dissidents are not welcome, the “good” critics applauded and the “bad” ones blasted. The followers, as in Freud´s case, give their consent for various reasons. And the dogmatics are already in sight.
Why didn´t Freud react to at least some of all the criticism he got during his longstanding carrier? Arrogance? Maybe. But so what? I prefer to believe that he was just responsible enough not to waste his time and energy on the folly of his uncountable opponents. With other words: he never identified his sensitive person with his work to the degree that he saw deadly enemies all around, whom he had to crush for his own sake and that of the movement – fortunately for his great contribution to psychology and the evolution of humanity.
Some of the writers of this website seem to think that everything is evolving except that old bastard Ken Wilber. My point of view is more optimistic and, I think, more realistic. Without being a psychic I see Ken Wilber overcoming his emotional shortcomings, returning to what he is good at and, eventually, writing an excellent book on spiritual narcissism which he will then be able to understand and explain better than anyone.
So in all my sadness there is no lack of hope and good wishes.