Integral World: Exploring Therories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician,
counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 230 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
SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY ELLIOT BENJAMIN
Wilber vs. Hubbard
AN EXPERIENTIAL COMPARISON OF
SCIENTOLOGY AND INTEGRAL INSTITUTE
Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D
I have quite consciously and willingly made my break with Ken Wilber and Integral Institute and I know there is no going back.
When I was asked to write an article utilizing my experiential analysis on Integral Institute a few weeks ago, I welcomed this opportunity as a means of coming to terms myself with what I truly believed regarding the cult and guru dangers of Ken Wilber and Integral Institute. But I can see that although this did give me the personal understanding that I was looking for in comparison to other spiritual organizations that I have explored, it has also stirred up much public criticism from one particularly strong anti-Wilber proponent. The crux of this criticism is that although I am well intentioned, I am also extremely naive and have not properly researched the evidence upon which I base my conclusions. A more minor part of this criticism is that I have a tendency to be rather careless with some details that I set forth, even in my own professional field of mathematics.
Well, suffice it to say that this criticism is well deserved in certain instances. Indeed somehow or other I made the embarrassing mistake of dividing 59 by 15 to get my average Bonewits rating for Integral Institute and came up with the rounded score of 3.94, which of-course should be 3.93 (see my article “On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analysis” on the Integral World website). In addition to this blatant mathematical error, it was pointed out to me that I should have only been using one decimal place for my averages, once again a mathematical error on my part. Well--when I'm wrong I'm wrong--Geoffrey Falk is right that I should be more careful with things like this. And also things like getting the “Andrew” correct in Andrew Cohen, instead of somehow my getting mixed up and using “Alan,” and in my being too concise and mis-representing the distinction between “Monistic” and “Dualistic” in the Anthony Typology (see my above article as well as the recent blog entries on Geoffrey Falk's website). For these criticisms I am certainly to blame, and I admit that I am duly embarrassed by them (especially the 3.93 error).
However, for the crux of the criticisms that have been wittily leveled against me I wish to offer from my own experience a comparison between Integral Institute and Scientology, as a further description of why I do not see Integral Institute as having significant cult dangers. I fully realize that my continued perseverance in this same theme will arouse the alarm of this particular anti-Wilber proponent, but I am speaking my truth here--and this is how the picture looks to me.
Lets go back to the Bonewits scale one more time (please see my above article on Integral World for the 15 categories and descriptions). I was a member of Scientology for a two year period in the 1970s and every single word I read by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, was considered as infallibly the truth, with professional “word-clearers” positioned by my side to put me on the Hubbard electrometer, which is basically a lie-detector kind of test, to convince me that I did not have disagreements with whatever Hubbard was saying (all that I describe in this article about Scientology is more fully described in my
Modern Religions book and any of the Scientology books I reference in my article “Spirituality & Cults: An Experiential Analysis” at www.integralscience.org). This is only one instance of what I would classify as Internal Control in the Bonewits Cult Danger Scale, but perhaps it gives an illustration of why I assigned the highest possible raring to this category for Scientology, which is “10.”
When I think of the Internal Control in Integral Institute, I acknowledge that Ken Wilber certainly does have extremely strong ideas which he tries very hard to get across to the world, with his own particular language to describe them as well. Yes--I experienced this as I began to move up the levels of Integral Institute and had my personal phone conversation with Ken Wilber to go over my Integral Mathematics article. But I also found that I was able to actually voice my differences of opinion to Ken and discuss our different viewpoints and that he was accepting my various perspectives of the meaning of Integral Mathematics which were completely different from his own particular symbolic notation perspectives view (see my Integral Mathematics article on the Integral World site). This was a direct continuity with my personal experience of meeting with Wilber in his Denver apartment in November, 2003, when my experience was one of extremely stimulating dialogue where we were talking a mile a minute in excited intellectual passion with each other; it was by no means me listening to Ken lecture unilaterally.
I told Ken his “Calculus Of Indigenous Perspectives” was not correctly named as there was no Calculus in it, and he laughed and said I was right. We talked about the dangers of him becoming a guru and he said that he was insured against this because his good friends constantly tell him how “fucked up” he is. In short, my experience was one where I felt like I was seen, heard, and respected for whom I am, and I gave Integral Institute a rating of “4“ for Internal Control. So yes--Geoffrey Falk is entirely correct when he says that I still have a lingering admiration for Ken Wilber--and I am not ashamed to admit this. But it is also true that there are aspects of Integral Institute and Ken Wilber that I have become less than enthused about, which I have described in my Integral Institute article.
It is common knowledge that Scientology does all in its legal power to destroy anyone who gains enough public exposure in speaking out against Scientology. As I have described my writing as “experiential” as opposed to the factual research kind of writing that Falk and others engage in, my way of understanding the Censorship category in the Bonewits Cult Danger Scale is going to be what I experience when I criticize a spiritual organization. Once again, I ask to not be considered any kind of a “cults expert” and I request that my writings are not taken as an objective scientific researched account of inner goings on in an organization. But from my own experience, I have been petrified for many years to speak out against Scientology, and it is only quite recently that I have finally made the decision that it is time for me to say whatever I want to say no matter what the consequences. I know what Scientology is capable of doing to censure its critics. What I have been hearing from Falk repeatedly in his blog is that I am incredibly naive in minimizing the tight controls that Wilber has on anyone who thinks differently from his gospel and publicly says so. Well, I have now said a number of things that are quite critical of Ken Wilber and Integral Institute, including the condescending viewpoints of “2nd and 3rd tier,” Ken's big ego and his “right” way of being integral, his being dangerously naive in regard to the cult dangers of Scientology, his high praise and promotion to me of the writings of Adi Da, the extremely high costs of Integral Institute seminars, my lack of appreciation of the further divisions of the four quadrants into the eight zones, etc.
As Falk would say: “give me a break!”
I have quite consciously and willingly made my break with Ken Wilber and Integral Institute and I know there is no going back. I have done this because I do agree that there is a wider world of being integral and of exploring life and spirituality than what Ken Wilber and Integral Institute has been proposing. But I have not heard or seen one word of criticism from anyone in Integral Institute regarding any of the less than endearing remarks I have made about Ken Wilber or Integral Institute.
Rather I have seen quite condescending and personally insulting remarks from the particular anti-Wilber proponent who is prompting me to write this follow-up to my article. I understand that the “trashing” as he puts it is because of his tremendous concern that I am influencing gullible people to minimize the cult dangers of Wilber and Integral Institute, and I have tried hard to not take these remarks personally and to respond constructively to them. But when I was in Scientology, I was put on the E-meter and somehow managed to hide that I had indulged in what was considered to be “high treason.” And do you know what that was? I was actually taking part in a Gestalt psychology group (Gestalt psychology from the Fritz Perls days of the 70s) and in a Masters program in Counseling. You see, we were not “allowed” to study anything of psychology, as that would be contradictory to the Scientology we were learning. Yes--my Censorship rating for Scientology is a “10” and my Censorship rating for Integral Institute is a “5.”
I could go on and on here, but my intention is not to do a detailed comparison in each and every item in the Bonewits scale between Scientology and Integral Institute. My intention is to get across the perspective that I am coming from when I say that Integral Institute does not have significant cult dangers. When I left Scientology I was continually contacted by phone and mail with threats and coercions to come back to the Church. I imagine you heard of the term “fair game,” which L. Ron Hubbard had instituted to describe how anyone who leaves Scientology may be harassed in all kinds of ways in order to incapacitate the person from ever harming Scientology. The fear factor of leaving Scientology, much less writing and talking openly about Scientology, is inculcated in people with intensive training by the Scientology organization. The recruiting of new members was done with all kinds of manipulative salesmanship, indoctrination, falsifications, etc. There is only one word that I can use to describe the comparison that Falk and others are making of Integral Institute with cults like Scientology and the Unification Church; the word is “naive.”
There is just no comparison--from my own experiences.
I feel free to write whatever I want to about Integral Institute and Ken Wilber, and I am not worried about being taken to court or being harassed by them. Yes--I realize that my criticisms will not enable me to have continued contact with them, and I admit that I will miss this--and this is the kind of reason for which I have put Integral Institute in Neutral as opposed to Favorable classification in regard to cult dangers vs. beneficial aspects of a spiritual organization. But when I am able to speak my mind without fear of repercussion, this is the hallmark to me of not having significant cult dangers.
Now I understand that other people have had a different experience with Integral Institute, and I respect that. But please remember that I am not saying anything that is objectively the case for everyone who will come in contact with the organization. I am describing my own experience and no more. I believe that there is a realness and power from describing one's own experience that may have special meaning for people that connect up to this description. If there are people who relate to what I am describing about my experience, then there is reason for me to be writing publicly. But I think that criticism leveled against me in the factual realm should be along the lines of my mistake in rounding off to 3.93 instead of 3.94 or in using two decimal places instead of one or in mistakenly writing “Alan” for “Andrew” or in mis-representing the distinction between “Monistic” and “Dualistic,” etc.
In other words, please do not hold me accountable for describing my own subjective experience and think that I should be acquiring researched factual data to make objective statements. My writing is qualitative, and it will continue to be this way, whether or not there is a quantitative description given within my qualitative experience. And I would be most appreciative if you would keep this in perspective when you are reading my personal descriptions of any spiritual organization that I am writing about, regardless of how any particular anti-Wilber proponent may be mis-construing the context in which I am writing.
Thank you very much.