By Marshall Glickman
Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution
By Ken Wilber
524 pages, $40
Anyone who is open to eastern spirituality and has read Ken Wilber knows that he is a national treasure. Wilber possesses the rare combination of a deep, advanced spiritual practice with a sharp wit, brain power and scholarship to rival the finest Princeton Ph.D. (He wrote his first, widely respected book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, at the age of 23 and, according to a Yoga Journal interview, regularly reads two to three books a day.)
Not surprisingly, Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality is an ambitious book. It traces the course of evolution from matter to life to mind to spirit. By drawing on an enormous well of theoretical thinkers (from systems theorists to Freud) and building upon "orienting generalizations"--the essence of largely agreed-upon theoretical principles--he analyzes the common patterns that evolution takes. Wilber believes the universe organizes itself into increasingly complex structures, with each whole/part (called a holon) inextricably connected to everything else. While Wilber's ultimate goal is to show us where he thinks the Tao/life force is taking us, he makes clear that repression (which complex holons are capable of) could easily prevent that vision. A notable moneywrench, of course, is the continuing deterioration of our environment. Wilber refers to our current environmental crisis as a "worldwide collective neurosis…a denial of our relational existence with all of life."
Among the vast territory Wilber covers are critiques of deep ecology and ecofeminist philosophies. While very much supporting their overall direction and intention, Wilber thinks that by elevating nature above human society and looking to more simplistic societies (e.g. hunting/gathering) as models, they fail to create a realistic, "integrative approach that works with our present historical actualities."
For those who are willing to take their time (or are much smarter than I am) Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality rewards the reader with a comprehensive, nondualistic, and sophisticated analysis of our world and consciousness.