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Posted by ken wilber on Apr-14-01 1:08pm on the Wilber Forum (in reply to: Response to Ken posted by Robert McDermott on Apr-13-01 10:20am)


Response to McDermott

Ken Wilber

I appreciate the time that Robert McDermott has taken to defend himself and CIIS. I'll try to respond briefly to his major points.

McDermott claims that, after I invited him to contribute to Kindred Visions, he eventually submitted a piece. He says he never heard back from me. This is true. He never heard back from me because I never received the piece. I am not saying he didn't send it; I sometimes get several hundred pieces of mail a week and things have been known to fall through the cracks. However, by McDermott's own accounting, his piece was submitted something like one year after the deadline. During that year, McDermott had neither the decency nor the kindness to inform me that he would not in fact be submitting a piece in a timely fashion; I had to hear from mutual acquaintances that he was "furious" and was trying to "punish" me by withholding his piece. Be that as it may, had I received his piece at any time I would of course have contacted him and thanked him genuinely; after all, I had happily accepted essays from Michael Washburn, Jorge Ferrer, Jenny Wade, Stan Grof, and 75 other critics, sympathetic and otherwise. For McDermott to imply that his withholding of his essay was just a silly little mistake strikes me as disingenuous.

As for CIIS, McDermott paints a picture of a free and open-minded atmosphere where my work is discussed with academic respect and fairness. All I can do is listen to the reports that I get, attempt to balance them as best I can, and get as many different perspectives as possible. I can state the results very simply: over the past few years, I have received perhaps one hundred different types of communication about the reception of my work at CIIS, and not one of them has been positive. Some students, told that my work was freely used at CIIS, signed up for the program, only to have to drop the program because, as one of them put it, "The hatred of you and your work is so palpable I was getting physically ill. I had to leave."

McDermott suggests I consult "counselors" who can give me feedback on the situation at CIIS. I have, perhaps a half-dozen all told, and again, the advice from all of them has been unanimous: "Stay away from CIIS, they despise you." I repeat, I have not heard a single positive statement about the reception or treatment of my work at CIIS. And believe me, I have asked lots of people, many of them long-time friends of McDermott.

On the basis of these dozens and dozens of communications, I have felt duty bound to warn students that in my personal opinion they should not attend CIIS. I will continue to make this recommendation until I receive believable evidence to the contrary.

Obviously, if this is a slanted perception, I would very much like to hear about it. So I invite anybody who has had a positive experience of my work at CIIS to email me at Frank Visser's site and let me know about it. (A "positive experience" would definitely include criticism of my work if it is done accurately.) I very much want to present a fair and decent account of what is going on there, and any positive feedback is more than welcome. Should I receive even modest evidence that I have been mistaken, I will be the first to apologize to CIIS and seek to make public amends. I should note that nobody from CIIS has yet extended this elemental courtesy to me.

McDermott wants to know what other institutions would discuss my work as openly as CIIS? Dozens of places, actually, and I am more than glad to work with any institution that wants to present my work and accurate criticisms of it. I have been talking with JFK faculty about how to bring truly integral studies to several departments. ITP is sending 35 of its students to Boulder to spend a day-long seminar with me, discussing new ways to implement integral psychology. I continue to meet with hundreds of students at Naropa. You can get a PhD at Harvard, UCLA, Texas, Yale, and two dozen other leading universities using my work (Calgary has already produced 8 PhD's in all-quadrant, all-level studies); PhDs on all-quadrant, all-level feminism are coming out of UCLA; the recent Journal of Contemporary Law and Criminal Justice has devoted half its pages to an all-quadrant, all-level reformulation of the criminal justice system; a sitting President and Vice-President of the United States have publicly endorsed this work. Forgive me for having to blow my own horn, but to listen to McDermott you would think the only place they discuss my work is in the free and open atmosphere of CIIS.

In the meantime, I can only respond to the reports that I continue to receive from objective observers. Just last week, Emanuel Sferios, founder of DanceSafe, had a meeting with CIIS officials to discuss a join venture between CIIS and DanceSafe. DanceSafe is the largest and most effective drug information organization in America, and Emanuel wanted to partner with CIIS in creating a nationally recognized center for responsible harm-reduction drug policies. This could be a model program with a profound and far-reaching impact. Emanuel reports that CIIS was very excited at the prospect and eagerly set up meetings, until, during the first meeting, they discovered that his program was based on my work. The atmosphere instantly turned cold, he was regaled with tales of my "evilness" (quoting), and was politely shown the door. "They really hate you over there, don't they?" is how he summarized the overall experience.

I think, if McDermott wants to paint a picture of CIIS as having open, decent, fair-minded scholars—and me as reacting unfairly to the situation—that somebody should continue to present both sides of the picture so that nobody gets the impression that either I or CIIS is being fair and balanced in our response. "They really hate you over there" is the single phrase I hear most about the situation, and I think until CIIS assumes at least some mature responsibility for actively contributing to this atmosphere, things will continue to be adversarial. I have this adversarial stance with no other institution on the face of the planet, so to continue to suggest that this is some sort of neurotic pattern on my part simply does not wash with fair-minded observers.

I simply think it is important that people realize that both I and CIIS are involved in unfortunate practices, that neither side is being fair or neutral, that both sides have contributed equally to this animosity, and that until that atmosphere resolves itself, students who want to study my work, or any truly integral approaches, might be wise to choose another institution. In the meantime, the slander coming out of CIIS continues to come from people who have not met me and do not know me, and to present it as anything other than that strikes me as duplicitous.

I, for one, am ready and willing to reverse my opinion the moment I get any substantial positive accounts of a fair treatment of my work at CIIS. I await any email that anybody would like to send, and I will gladly and publicly apologize to CIIS if and when my perceptions are shown to be substantially false.

Thanks, Ken

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