Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Elias CaprilesFrom 1993 to 2003 Elías-Manuel Capriles-Arias filled the Chair of Eastern Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of The Andes, Mérida, Venezuela (originally ascribed to the Dean's Office and then to the Department of Philosophy). Thereafter he has been ascribed to the Center of Studies on Africa and Asia, School of History, same Faculty and University, where he teaches Philosophy and elective subjects on the problems of globalization, Buddhism, Asian Religions and Eastern Arts. Besides teaching at the University, Capriles is an instructor of Buddhism and Dzogchen certified by the Tibetan Master of these disciplines, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu; in this field, he has taught in Venezuela, Peru, Spain and Costa Rica. See his personal website here.


Some Preliminary
Comments on Wilber V

Elias Capriles

The repeated, overwhelming tsunamis of criticism Wilber has received from a series of theorists denouncing what they view as a mistaken perspective or as major errors, might well be among the reasons that led him to undertake, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, an ongoing, radical reshaping of his theories that is giving rise to that which he (e.g. Wilber, 2010) himself has agreed to label Wilber V.

This new Wilber no longer posits either the famed Great Chain of Being, or a series of planes of existence, or the thesis that the world emanated from a supramundane source, or the view that higher spiritual levels can only be steadily attained and gone through after a significant degree of progress has been reached along different lines of development, or the supposed impossibility of “jumping” from a low to a high spiritual level. In the same way, his evolutionary view has shifted to a here-now perspective having as its base Sheldrake’s (1981) theories—which Wilber formerly rejected—of morphogenetic fields and formative causation. However, he retains and further develops his and Don Back’s version of spiral dynamics as a paradigm of human evolution, producing a new version of his structural evolutionary model (diagram and exposition in Wilber, 2007) that, like the preceding ones, involves a series of lines of development with rungs running parallel or nearly parallel in all or some of them, and continues to establish a (now looser) parallel between ontogeny and phylogenesis.

Let us consider the first ontogenic line of development in Wilber V, which is the cognitive one. This line has as its lowest rung the sensorymotor; as its second rung, the preoperational / symbolic; as its third rung, the preoperational / conceptual; as the fourth, the concrete operational; as the fifth, the formal operational; and as the sixth, that of early vision-logic, categorized as metasystemic. These six, and the stages at the same level in the other lines, are located in the first tier of the above-mentioned diagram. The seventh rung is the one that he names middle vision-logic and categorizes as paradigmatic, and the eighth is the one he calls late vision-logic and categorizes as cross-paradigmatic—which together occupy the second tier. Then the ninth is the one called global mind, which corresponds to what he previously called the psychic level; the tenth is that of meta-mind, which is no other than what he formerly called the subtle level; as the eleventh, that of overmind, corresponding to what he previously called the causal level; and as a twelfth, in place of the nondual, the one he now calls the supermind (a term probably drawn from Śrī Aurobindo). These four higher rungs are placed in the third tier.

A second line of development is the Graves-inspired one that he calls values / spiral dynamics, having as a first rung, on the right, one that is centered on survival and that is at the same level of the first rung of the first line; as a second rung on the right, what he calls the kin spirits, corresponding to the first rung on the left, which is the one he calls magic-animistic—both of which are the level of the second rung in the first line; as a third rung on the right what he calls the power gods, corresponding to the second rung on the left, which is the one he calls egocentric—both of which are the level of the third rung in the first line; as a fourth rung on the right what he calls the truth force, corresponding to the third rung on the left, which is the one he calls absolutistic—both of which are at the level of the fourth rung in the first line; as a fifth rung on the right that which he is calling the strive drive, corresponding to the fourth rung on the left, which is the one he calls multiplistic—both of which are at the level of the fifth rung in the first line; as a sixth rung on the right what he calls the human bond, corresponding to the fifth rung on the left, which is the one he calls relativistic—both of which are at the level of the sixth rung in the first line; as a seventh rung on the right the one he calls flex-flow, which is at the level of the seventh rung in the first line; and as an eighth rung on the right the one he calls global view, which is at the level of the eighth rung in the first line—with what he calls the systemic as the sixth rung on the left, placed between the corresponding seventh and eighth rungs of both the first line and the right of the second line (this second line hence not reaching beyond the eighth level of the first line, and thus not reaching the third tier).

The third line is the Kegan-inspired one of orders of consciousness, beginning with Orders 0, 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th and 4.5, which are, respectively, at the level of the six lower stages of the first line and of the right side of the second line, and ending with the 5th Order, which lies at the level of the eighth stage of both the first line and the right of the second line. This line thus does not reach the third tier.

The fourth is the Loevinger/Cook/Greuter-inspired line of self-identity that includes eight rungs referred to as symbiotic, impulsive, self-protective, conformist, conscientious, individualistic, autonomous and integrated, which are at the level of the eight lower rungs of the first line and the right of the second line, followed by an ninth stage, called construct-aware—at the level of global mind in the first line—and a final, tenth stage, called ego-aware—which lies at the level of meta-mind on the first line. The last two rungs are within the third tier.

The fifth is the Gebser-inspired line of worldviews, which goes from the archaic (at the level of the first rung of lines one, three and four, as well as of the right of the second line) through the magic (between the second and third rungs of the first, third and fourth lines, and of the right of the second line), the mythic, the rational and the pluralistic (at the level of the fourth, firth and sixth rungs of the first, third and fourth lines, as well as of the right of the second line, respectively), up to the integral (at the level of the systemic on the left of the second line). This line does not reach into the third tier.

Finally, the sixth is the Fowler-inspired line of stages of faith, going from (0) the one he calls undifferentiated (at the level of the first rung of the first, third, fourth and fifth lines, as well as of the right of the second line), through (1) the magical (at the level of the second rung of the first, third and fourth lines, as well as the right of the second line), (2) the mythic-literal (at the level of the third rung of the first, third and fourth lines, as well as of the right of the second line), (3) the conventional (at the level of the fourth rung of the first, third and fourth lines, as well as of the right of the second line—which as already noted are at the level of the third rung of the fifth line), (4) the individual-reflexive (at the level of the fifth rung of the first, third and fourth lines, as well as of the right of the second line, and at the level of the fourth rung of the fifth line), (5) the conjunctive (at the level of the sixth rung of the first, third and fourth lines, as well as of the right of the second line, and of the fifth rung of the fifth line), and (6) the universalizing-commonwealth, which is at the level of the systemic at the left of the second line and of the integral on the fifth line. Hence this line does not reach into the third tier either.

Thus it is clear that, even though now Wilber admits there may be a somehow freer transit between lower and higher levels, and that development along one line does not need to strictly depend on development along the other lines, he still adheres to a rigid schema of hierarchical structures of the kind denounced throughout this book, which as such, just like those in his previous elaborations, does not correspond to any ancient, traditional system—Buddhist or non-Buddhist—and that he continues to mistakenly identify some of the rungs in at least one of the lines with stages of spiritual development posited and charted by higher Buddhist and other traditional systems, even though, as shown above in this chapter, they do not correspond to any Buddhist schema, and no Buddhist system has ever posited all-embracing evolutionary schemas. Moreover, he continues to posit a correspondence among the rungs in the various lines, viewing them as stages in an overall, integral type of development—which, furthermore, he now presents as development from lower to higher focal points (cakra) that he associates to different colors in a schema which, as M. Alan Kazlev (undated) notes, is not found in any traditional system. Kazlev writes (ibidem):

[The schema in question] is not much more that about thirty years old; the earliest reference I know of is Christopher Hills’ (1977) Nuclear Evolution; an elaborate Integral theory that predates Wilber’s AQAL by several decades… Hills’ book seems to have had little or no influence on the wider world, so Wilber’s rainbow chakras are probably based on pop-Osho New Age websites.

Even though the fact that he carried out this radical reshaping of his system amounts to acknowledging that he was altogether wrong in so much of what he formerly asserted, in one of the Integral Life Newsletters of the last months of 2010 Wilber wrote that in spite of it he has always been right! It is to be assumed, thus, that what in his view has always been right is the concept that development occurs along different lines of development, in a rigid structural schema in which advancement along the different lines is to a considerable extent interdependent, and his association of the four highest levels to the four kāyas of higher Buddhist systems.

In spite of the above, I deem it praiseworthy that Wilber is trying to correct at least one of what here (as well as in many other works by different theorists) I have denounced as one of his key errors, by calling for a naturalistic turn to religion and introducing the concept of intra-physical. With regard to the former, it is not clear to me how this would differ from a return to what in my view (not in Wilber’s, as he continues to uphold a rigid, modern, progress-oriented view of our spiritual and social evolution) religion was before the otherworldly turning that gave birth to the gods. With regard to the latter, Frank Visser (undated) questions:

Is intra-physical a physical concept? Then no physicist would subscribe to that notion. Or is it metaphysical? Then what’s the point of calling all this “post-metaphysical”? Isn’t all science supposed to be “post-metaphysical”? So what’s the big deal then? And if he introduces the notion of “intra-physical”, that surely introduces ontology in its wake? For Wilber, “post-metaphysical” primarily seems to refer to “evidence-based”, compared to speculative. If that’s the case, it’s an unfortunate label for a view that explores other experiential avenues than the bodily senses alone.

Wilber V, and most of those who have discussed the latest Wilber so far, under the spell of so-called postmodern thought, frown on whatever may be categorized as ontology. In order to determine whether or not this is justified, let us consider some crucial turnabouts in the recent history of Western philosophy. Descartes produced his metaphysics in reaction to the objections to the supposed certainty of knowledge raised by modern skeptics, and in particular by the nouveaux pyrrhoniens[1] (Popkin, 1979), as these challenged his religious and metaphysical certainties—thus having the potential to make him experience ontological anxiety and even panic—and could also be used to undermine the project, so dear to him, of achieving technological dominion over the universe through the development of science (Capriles, 1994). His strategy to attempt to make his system immune to skeptic criticism, consisted in applying the skeptic method of methodic doubt until he would find a truth that could not be doubted, which he wrongly believed to have found in the intuition of what he called the cogito—a mere phenomenon, produced by the delusory valuation of the threefold thought structure, which is one of the poles of the basic structure that is the second aspect of avidyā in the division favored by Longchen Rabjampa, and which nonetheless Descartes wrongly posited as a God-created, nonspatial substance (since this intuition could not found the world’s external existence, he had to resort to the Christian God to found it).

Among the works of moderate skeptics who reacted against the new developments of metaphysics, Hume’s shook Immanuel Kant’s naïve substantiation of his metaphysical convictions, though not so these convictions themselves. Therefore, though the German metaphysician latter claimed that his reading of the Scottish critical empiricist awakened him from his dogmatic dream, what actually happened was that it forced him to express his dogmatic metaphysics in a new way, in an attempt to give the false impression that he was respecting the limits of knowledge and thus producing a “true science” (for an explanation of how he breached the limits in question, cf. Capriles, 1994, 2007a Vol. I).

The widespread realization of Kant’s failure in his purported attempt to produce a metaphysics that would respect the limits inherent in human knowledge, gave rise to the characteristically modern project of positivism, the best-known forms of which intended to surpass metaphysics, ontology and whatever else has traditionally gone under the label philosophy by keeping to verifiable evidence of the kind that would be acceptable to the positive sciences. Among the different brands of positivism, August Compte’s intended to replace ontology and the rest of what traditionally went under the name philosophy, with an encyclopædia of positive sciences; the Austrian empirio-criticists produced a science-based critical philosophy that, like Alfred North Whitehead’s metaphysics (which was intended to surpass, by the same token, all of the classic dualisms of metaphysics, and substantialistic monism), involved an ontology free from the mind-matter dualism; the neopositivists, including those in the Vienna Circle, circumscribed philosophy to a critical philosophy of science; some trends of philosophy of language (not Ludwig Wittgenstein’s final system, as it asserted language not to match reality and to be a source of delusion[i]) circumscribed the ambit of philosophy to determining whether or not statements are meaningful; etc.

However, in our time all forms of positivism are widely seen as obsolete remnants of the enthusiasm with science proper to early modernity; in particular, even though most of those philosophers who define themselves as postmodern continue to uphold the myth of progress that is the root and essence of modernity, in their majority they outright negate that the discourses of science and philosophy can achieve the ideal of adæquatio intellectus et rei (i.e., concordance with a supposedly independent, factic reality). In fact, this idea runs counter, not only to the trends of philosophy that define themselves as postmodern, but to the views of a long list of thinkers that includes philosophers, scientists and philosopher-scientists, and that goes at least as back as the Greek Skeptics.

It was noted that Kant claimed that the Scottish critical empiricist, David Hume, had awakened him from what his “dogmatic dream.” Among Hume’s alleged discoveries, most relevant to us at this point is the universally accepted objection to empirical science as the source of “scientific laws” that nowadays is widely referred to as Hume’s law, and which may be enunciated as follows: “we are not entitled to extrapolate the regularities observed in a limited number of cases to the totality of possible cases, thus making it into a law, as one or more of the unobserved cases could contradict the supposed law.” Furthermore, science claims to derive its alleged laws from the observation of objective facts, when in truth the scientists’ observations are, as Bachelard made it clear (1957) and as so many others have reiterated,[ii] utterly conditioned by their expectations—and therefore by their ideologies and wishful thinking. An anecdote from Edgar Morin (1981a) clearly illustrates the extent to which observational judgments are conditioned by ideology: while driving his car into a crossroads, he saw how the driver of another car disregarded the traffic light and with the front of his car hit a moped moving with the green light. Morin stopped his car and stepped down in order to testify in favor of the moped driver, yet when he did so he heard the latter admit that it was him who overlooked the red light and hit the car on the side. Incredulous, the famed thinker examined the car, finding the dent the moped made in the car to be on the latter’s side, and concluded that his socialist ideology and thirst for social justice caused him to perceive the event wrongly and invert the facts, even though he had not drunk any alcohol and there were no other conditions that could have distorted his perception. In the case of an experiment planned beforehand, the results are even more doubtful, for the way in which the experiment is set and the criteria in terms of which the data are evaluated are arranged to satisfy the researcher’s expectations, as he or she intends to corroborate a theory set forth beforehand.

The above explains why such a conservative thinker as Karl Popper (1961) noted that, if no experience contradicts a theory, scientists are entitled to adopt it provisionally as a probable truth (thus open-mindedly acknowledging that no scientific theory can be fully substantiated, yet closed-mindedly clinging to the belief in truth qua adequætio), and that the acceptance of a new theory gives rise to as many problems as it solves. Moreover, as it is well-known, on going through the history of science, Thomas Kuhn (1970) noted that from the moment a scientific theory or paradigm is accepted as true, scientific observations begin to contradict it, yet the scientists consistently overlook these contradictions until the point at which they become so abundant and conspicuous that they can no longer ignore them, and hence they set out to devise new theories and paradigms in order to account for these observations—yet new observations will contradict the new theory or paradigm as well and hence the process in question will repeat itself again and again.

In the Genealogy of Morals, Friedrich Nietzsche (1999) had already surpassed the above-discussed idea that our interpretations often do not reflect facts, and had gone so far as to claim that there are no facts that may be or not be matched by our interpretations. Gianni Vattimo (1995, p. 50), in his “postmodern” period (in which he propounded the active radicalization of nihilism), wrote in this regard:

Nihilism means in Nietzsche “de-valorization of the supreme values” and fabulation of the world: there are no facts, only interpretations, and this is also an interpretation.

All of the above shows that Georges Sorel (2d. Ed. 1922, 1906, 1908) was right in claiming, between the last years of the nineteenth century and the onset of the twentieth century, that human beings act under the influence of myths, that the sciences are myths, and that the scientific pretensions of Marxism—a focus of his criticism—responded to the force of the myth of science, which prevailed in Marx’s time.[iii] And that Antonio Gramsci (1998, p. 63)[iv] was equally right in pointing out, in 1948, that to the extent to which we take the “discoveries” of the sciences as truths in the sense of adæquatio of a scientific map to an interpreted territory, the sciences are ideologies. In fact, science and technology are indivisible from the ideological project of modernity,[v] which initially was associated with the ascending bourgeoisie and at a later stage, through the influence of Marxism, also with the ascending proletariat: as Marcuse [1964] noted, science is by its nature instrumental, and hence it naturally delivers the means for the domination of the natural environment and other human beings.[2][vi] Thus it is not difficult to see why Michel Foucault (1976, 1978) and Gilles Deleuze (1980)[vii] asserted philosophy and science to be more than ideologies: for a very long time philosophical systems, and for a shorter time scientific disciplines and theories (according to Deleuze, psychoanalysis playing this role at the time he wrote the book in question), have functioned as an “abstract machine or generalized axiomatic” that works as the matrix that makes possible the very existence of power—their function being that of providing power with the forms of knowledge necessary to sustain the models on the basis of which it will have to structure itself in each period. Finally, the belief that science discovers truths was demystified to such an extent that Paul K. Feyerabend (1982, 1984, 1987)—who showed scientists to often arrive at their discoveries and theories by breaking the procedural rules of science—placed Western reason and science on the same plane as magic and sorcery.

I would not deny that, in spite of Hume’s law and the whole of the above objections, the sciences are as a rule capable of predicting some types of events with a considerable degree of reliability, as well as of producing predictable immediate effects. However, in the long run they produce effects that altogether contradict the ones they claim to be intent on producing. In fact, as noted in the preceding chapter, in terms of the semantics of Alfred Korzybski (1973), according to which sanity is determined by the structural fit between our reactions to the world and what is actually going on in the world, and insanity by the lack of such fit, we must conclude that Śākyamuni Buddha was right when he compared fully fledged avidyā to an illness, and that Candrakīrti hit the mark when he compared this fully fledged avidyā to insanity, for it gives rise to a severe structural discrepancy between our reactions to the world and what is actually going on in the world: as stated again and again throughout this book, our attempts to achieve satisfaction yield dissatisfaction, our efforts to suppress pain produce pain, and our efforts to destroy death and all negative aspects of life and build a technological Eden have originated the ecological crisis that is producing major natural disasters and which threatens to disrupt human society and put an end to human existence in the course of the present century. It thus seems that Korzybski was wrong when, in terms of the famed map-territory analogy, noted that the map is not the territory, yet claimed that the map could be correct in the sense of having a structure similar to that of the territory that allows us to successfully deal with the latter, thus achieving the structural fit defining sanity.

Korzybski’s criterion coincides with the one that, in the face of Hume’s law and the accumulated objections of subsequent epistemologists (cf. Capriles, 1994, 2007a vol. III, 2007c), Alfred Julius Ayer (1981) devised with the aim of validating the sciences: the one according to which “we are authorized to have faith in our procedure, so long as it carries out its function, which is that of predicting future experience and thus control our environment.” However, in trying to control our environment with the purported aim of creating an artificial Eden and kill death and pain, the sciences and the technology based on them, rather than achieving their declared effect,[viii] have produced a hellish chaos and taken us to the brink of extinction—and, moreover, at no moment did they foresee this outcome. Therefore Ayer’s criterion, rather than validating, outright invalidates the sciences.

In fact, as already noted, the current ecological crisis, which unless radical change is achieved in both the human psyche and society will disrupt the latter within the current century and likely lead to the extinction of our species within the same period, has made it evident that the technological application of the sciences in the long run gives rise to effects contrary to the ones they are allegedly intended to produce. Thus to the extent to which the sciences involve a pretension of truth in the sense of exact correspondence of their maps to the territory of the given, as well as the pretension of improving our lives and producing a technological paradise, it is clear that they are metanarratives involving the denial of their character as metanarratives, and as such they must be denounced as being both myths and ideologies: they are elements of modernity’s myth of progress,[ix] which ecological crisis has proved, not merely to be unrealizable, but to be outright deadly. (A lengthier discussion of this subject is featured in Capriles [2007a, Vol. III]; my initial discussion of the subject appeared in Capriles [1994] and there is an ample discussion of it in the Introduction to Capriles [under evaluation by publishers]).

The above discussion of the limits of science makes it evident that the positivistic belief that metaphysics will be surpassed and truth will be attained by replacing philosophy with the positive sciences (etc.) could hardly be more erroneous. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, there were attempts to surpass metaphysics in ways that were very different from positivism’s—among which at this point it is imperative to discuss the ones made by Edmund Husserl and those who, after him, continued to develop phenomenology. Rather than reacting to Kant’s inconsistencies with a rejection of ontology, Husserl—who called his phenomenology an “absolute positivism” (one that was concerned with essences relevant for ontology rather than with observed facts relevant for science and technology)—and the rest of twentieth-century phenomenologists set out to produce an ontology based exclusively on that which appears[3] in experience, which, they believed, as such would be free from unfounded metaphysical theses. However, although for decades phenomenology enjoyed the highest prestige, nowadays it is widely acknowledged that it fell short of its purported aim.

One of the noted philosophers who made the greatest impact on denouncing this fact was Jacques Derrida (1967), who asserted phenomenology to be no more than a [crypto]-metaphysics, while branding the phenomenological emphasis on the supposed immediacy of experience as the “new transcendental illusion.” I endorse Derrida’s assertion, except for one detail, which I discuss in the note appended at the end of this sentence.[x] However, the reason why I view phenomenology as a cryptometaphysics and the belief in the immediacy of experience as an illusion springing from an error analogous to the one that according to Kant gave rise to the “transcendental illusion,” is particular to my own perspective. The problem, for me, is that basing ontology exclusively on that which appears[4] in human experience is no guarantee that metaphysical constructs will not slip into it, for in saṃsāra, to which human experience pertains, fully-fledged avidyā causes us to experience being as given, unquestionable, uneradicable, and somehow absolute; the mental subject as being in its own right and hence as a substance, and as the thinker of thought, the doer of action and the experiencer of experience; the essents we face as being in their own right and thus as constituting a series of different substances; etc. Hence an ontology elaborated on the basis of samsaric experience alone would not be really free from metaphysical fictions, as it is most likely to feature at least some of the ones just mentioned—given, inherent, somehow absolute being; a substantial cogito inherently separate from the physical world and even from the human individual’s experiences, thoughts and acts; countless external, physical substances—and probably many other ones.

The above is what in general occurred with twentieth-century phenomenology. The core phenomena of fully-fledged avidyā / léthe[5] that seem most outstanding as inadvertent metaphysical foundations in the system built by the trend’s originator, Edmund Husserl, and which he took for given, ineradicable substances, were the pseudo-absolute Cartesian cogito and the noetic-noematic (subject-object) schism that is the condition of possibility of the cogito and the axis of dualistic, allegedly immediate, yet actually mediated samsaric experience. Martin Heidegger found Husserl’s departure from metaphysics insufficient and set to carry it as far as he deemed it necessary, whereas Jean-Paul Sartre and others of those who received Heidegger’s influence set to go beyond Heidegger—yet both Heidegger and Sartre, like the bulk of twenty-century phenomenologists, failed to go beyond metaphysics, for both of them failed to realize that we are completely deluded and that the phenomenon of being that pervades our experience is no more than a deceptive appearance manifesting in our experience that constitutes a pivotal aspect of our delusion, and thus kept taking being to be given, somehow absolute, unquestionable and uneradicable (in fact, as I have shown in depth elsewhere [Capriles, 2007a Vol. I], Heidegger reduced Heraclitus’ concepts of léthe and alétheia,[6] and hence the dialectics between the respective conditions, to such as shallow level as to make them insignificant).

Heidegger, in particular, under the spell of delusion, overlooked the fact that the true nature of reality, since it cannot be included in a class wider than itself and does not exclude anything, has neither proximate gender nor specific difference,[7] and hence cannot be contained in any concept, including those of being, nonbeing, both and neither. And since being is the foundation of the whole of our delusive experience, which he mistakenly took to be given and undeluded, he made the logical mistake of equating it with the true nature of reality. Furthermore, although he rightly identified being with the phenomenon of being that pervades all of the experience that phenomenologists deemed immediate but that is actually mediated, he failed to realize the phenomenon in question to be one of the most basic aspects of the fundamental human delusion rather than being the true, unquestionable Base of the whole of reality.

On his part, Sartre seemed to have mistakenly, metaphysically assumed that there was a given, absolute being distinct from the phenomenon of being,[xi] and, like Husserl, to have assumed the subject-object duality in experience to be given and as such uneradicable. However, in spite of this, and of Derrida’s charges that in his interpretation and usage of Heidegger’s concepts he incurred in psychologism and anthropocentrism, the noted French existentialist had invaluable insights that can greatly contribute to the production of the philosophy required by our time. Among other things, he clearly showed the cogito not to be a substance (as I have shown elsewhere,[xii] by the same token providing us with the tools for elucidating the concept of svasaṃvittiḥ / svasaṃvedana / awareness [of] consciousness as elaborated by Dharmakīrti on the basis of the findings of Dignāga, and how it is related with the Dzogchen concept of rangrig[8] or svasaṃvedana); he asserted human existence to be drawn toward the holon[9]—his definition of which may be validly applied to Awakening (so that the meaning he gave the term is radically different from Koestler’s [1967; Koestler & Smythies, 1970])—as télos,[10] in such a way that all human actions, thoughts and so on were carried out in the hope of achieving the condition in question (which, however, he deemed it impossible to attain); and he dismounted the pseudo-unity of the Dasein into its constitutive elements, in a way that may be very profitable to Dzogchen practitioners. (For an in-depth discussion of all of this cf. Capriles, 2007a Vol. I.)

After phenomenology’s abortive attempts to produce a nonmetaphysical ontology, Derrida, claiming to have found the sketching of an end of ontology in Nietzsche, Lacan’s Freud and Levinas, undertook what he deemed to be a destruction of metaphysics which, unlike the one Heidegger pretended to have achieved, would be genuine and thorough, and which would bring ontology to an end and by the same token open a perspective in which that which he called différance[xiii] would find a place. He believed the way to achieve this to consist in abstaining from the production of ontological elaborations and circumscribing the task of philosophy to the deconstruction[11] of existing discourses—and in particular of all totalizing metanarratives, which had been a target of the so-called postmodern trend ever since Jean-François Lyotard’s (1979) La condition postmoderne introduced this defective label. However, this would be of no use, for fully-fledged avidyā produces an experiential ontological confusion that consists in perceiving phenomena that are in the process of being (essents[12]) as being inherently and absolutely, in their own right (without depending on anything else)—and though this ontological confusion cannot be brought to an end by merely intellectual means, in order to undertake the spiritual practices necessary to undo it, one must have understood what is the confusion to be eradicated and why it is a confusion rather than the undistorted experience of the true condition of reality, as ordinary people take it to be: this is the reason why ontology has been a central aspect of all genuine forms of Buddhism, Taoism, Shaivism and other systems I deem conducive to Awakening, and must continue to be so.

The above is one of the main reasons why, as stated in various of my works (most thoroughly in Capriles, 2007a Vol. III, and Capriles, under evaluation), I believe totalizing metanarratives to be essential, though preliminary, aspects of the spiritual therapy needed for healing the mind, society and the ecosystem. However, in order to play this role, they must be structured in such a way as to fulfill the dual purpose of serving as an antidote to the assumptions of common sense—including the assumption that conceptual systems can precisely match reality—and helping us develop the faith necessary to, (1) set to apply the practices that lead beyond understanding in terms of thought, into the immediate, direct, nonconceptual realization of the true condition of ourselves and the whole of reality, and (2) set to work toward the technological, economic, political, social (etc.) transformation indispensable to resolve the ecological crisis we have produced (which as noted repeatedly has put at stake the very continuity of human society and even of human existence) and achieve what Tibetan Lama Chögyam Trungpa (1984) called “an enlightened society.” This is why the value of such metanarratives depends on their explicit acknowledgement that they are Aśvaghoṣian uses of language arisen spontaneously from a perspective that does not confuse the maps of words and concepts for the territory, which exhort us to get rid of the delusory valuation of words and concepts and explain how can this be achieved—as such being comparable to fingers pointing to the moon that we must not confuse with the satellite, or to rafts for crossing to the other shore (that of nirvāṇa) that must be left behind once we reach it. Furthermore, in order to fulfill their aim, they must make it clear that the task they indicate cannot be fulfilled by playing word games or by merely achieving an intellectual understanding of reality, for it requires us to wholeheartedly devote ourselves to a spiritual practice of the kind discussed in this book—which cannot be learned in books or Internet courses, for it will work only if we receive its transmission from a Teacher holding a true, genuine, uninterrupted lineage originating in the source of the teachings, and set to apply his or her instructions for going beyond the intellect.

A major drawback of Derrida is that, as David Loy (1987) noted, he deconstructed identity and the pairs of opposites, yet failed to deconstruct that which he called différance and which in his view is the condition of possibility of all differences—whereas Nāgārjuna, creator of Mādhyamaka philosophy, as early as the beginning of the Christian era, by the same token deconstructed the basis of identity and difference, thus leaving no ontological assumption or basis for ontological assumptions unchallenged. In fact, as shown elsewhere (Capriles, 2007a Vol. I), the highest systems of Buddhist philosophy—Mahāmādhyamaka, and Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna Mādhyamaka Prāsaṅgika—and the Dzogchen teachings are totally free from metaphysical assumptions and thus need not undergo either deconstruction or reconstruction. As I see it, these systems are by the same token antecedents, and keys to the production, of an ontology free from the metaphysical assumptions of phenomenology that would perfectly respond to the needs of our time. The latter is what I set to elaborate in some of my works and that I refer to as metaphenomenology—which can only be achieved by means of a method of inquiry which, rather than basing its hermeneutics of experience exclusively on the phenomena of saṃsāra, considers and privileges the metaphenomenon/a of nirvāṇa [xiv] that show all of the phenomena of saṃsāra and derived, reified metaphysical assumptions to be baseless illusions.

The metaphenomenology in question is also a metaontology: it is an ontology in that it discerns the nature of being and of the entities which are in the process of being (essents), as well as of nonbeing and so on. Whereas Western ontology so far has been based solely on the experience founded on the phenomenon of being that is proper to saṃsāra, what I refer to as metaontology is so called because, as noted above, it is principally based on the nirvanic unconcealment of the true condition of ourselves and the whole of reality, in which the phenomenon of being has dissolved and it has become evident that it was no more than a baseless appearance pervading all experience conditioned by the basic human delusion that, as the Mahāyāna version of the Four Noble Truth makes it clear, constitutes the root of suffering—and which, as I have explained in various works (Capriles, 1986, 1994, 2007a Vol. III and minor works), is the root of ecological crisis as well. Therefore, rather than taking being to be given or to constitute the true nature of reality, it denounces it—together with the rest of the phenomena at the root of the assumptions of metaphysics—as one of the most basic deceptive appearances that issue from fully-fledged avidyā.

The above-discussed metaontology is in stark contrast with the nihilistic façade put on by many of the philosophical trends that, pretending to radically go beyond the project and ideology of modernity, label themselves postmodern—including those that purport to surpass ontology by circumscribing themselves to the deconstruction of discourses. In fact, the root and essence of modernity is the myth of evolutionary progress, which, together with many of the metaphysical illusions and mistaken assumptions proper to mainstream Western philosophy, continues to underlie a great deal of so-called postmodern thought—including most works that, some times on the basis of Heidegger-inspired hermeneutics, have attempted “postmodern” reconstructions of the deconstructed. This is the case with Wilber V, who claimed to have produced a post-metaphysical reconstruction of primordial traditions that in his view can salvage the latter’s essence while shedding their ontological baggage, yet continues to be under the spell of the modern myth of progress and of a great deal of his former metaphysical assumptions (a substantiation of this assertion is beyond the scope of this book, as it would have to be so voluminous as to require a separate work).

Moreover, the task the latest Wilber undertook could hardly be more pointless and futile, for as show above, millennia ago the higher forms of Buddhist philosophy and the highest Buddhist Path deconstructed whatever needed to be deconstructed—unlike Derrida, including not only identity and difference, but the condition of possibility of difference as well. If there remained anything to do in our time, it would be to express the viewless viewpoint of the systems of Buddhist philosophy and the Buddhist Path in question in an actualized, reelaborated way, as a result of confronting them with the concepts and views of Western philosophy from its onset until our time—which is precisely what I attempted in many of my works (for an in-depth, thorough exposition of my metaphenomenological, metaexistential metaontology, cf. Capriles [2007a Vol. I]; for an in-depth discussion of the blemishes of so-called postmodern philosophy and a thorough explanation of what I view as genuinely post-modern, cf. Vol. III of the same work [Capriles, 2007a Vol. III] and a recent book in Spanish [Capriles, under evaluation]).

Finally, in what regards spiritual traditions that are overly metaphysical in nature—including Perennialism, which Wilber now rightly places in the premodern category (which he established by contrast with the above-refuted, wrong use of the term postmodern by a whole philosophical fauna)—Visser (op. cit.) deems it extremely doubtful that the essence of the traditions in question will come across in Wilber V’s version, which its author claims has been freed of untenable teachings and categorizes as post-metaphysical. With regard to the same traditions, Visser (op. cit.) says as well that Wilber’s latest writings obliterate the difference between (exoteric) standard mythical religious beliefs, and their (esoteric) mystical or so-called occult reformulations, making the point that the reasons why modernity rejects most of the premodern heritage must be carefully weighted—even though he views the attempt to reframe perennialism into a form that is not offensive to either modernity or postmodernity as an interesting exercise.

As given to understand above, a thorough assessment of Wilber V would require an altogether new work, as its intent is so ambitious—yet it would be currently impossible to produce it because the new system by our author is in the process of being built (one of the few works publicly published in what is presumably its definitive form being Integral Spirituality [Wilber, 2007]). At the time of writing this, the reader interested in exploring Wilber V may consult Wilber (2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2010), Visser (undated), Kazlev (undated) and Reynolds’ (undated) eulogy of Wilber.



[1] New Pyrrhonics.

[2] “From Negative to Positive Thinking: Technological Rationality and the Logic of Domination,” ch. 6 of Marcuse (1964).

[3] Universally accepted sense of the Greek term phainómenon (φαινόμενον).

[4] Sense of the Greek term phainómenon (φαινόμενον).

[5] λήθη.

[6] ἀλήθεια.

[7] genus proximum / differentia specifica.

[8] rang rig.

[9] ὅλον.

[10] τέλος.

[11] The French déconstruction translates Heiddeger’s use of Destruktion and Abbau (in non-Derrida contexts, often rendered in English as debuilding).

[12] German, Seiende; French, étants; etc.


[i] In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which represents his first period, Wittgenstein (1961) realized language to be incapable of expressing reality, yet he still pretended to use language in order to distinguish atomic propositions that do not represent atomic events from those that do represent them and thus clarify the misconceptions produced by language, reaching a point at which language could finally be discarded (thus not being so far from the alternative trend in the philosophy of language). In his second period, mainly represented by the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein (1972) noted that we suffer from a bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language that gave rise to false problems—or that places us in false labyrinths—that then philosophers would try in vain to solve, and declared all that he had done in his first period as a product of the bewitchment in question, insisting that we had to rid ourselves from this bewitchment (and thus setting himself in a position that could hardly be more distant from that of the alternative trend in the philosophy of language) and in this way rid ourselves of the false problems seen from the labyrinths produced by language.

It must be noted that, though the Vienna Circle claimed to follow Wittgenstein, the latter asserted logical positivism to be a gross misreading of his writings, and went so far as to read poetry during the Circle’s meetings.

[ii] A perfect adæquatio or matching is impossible insofar as, as shown in vol. I of this book, conceptual maps are digital, whereas the territory they interpret is analog (the discrepancy between these two being aptly illustrated by the relationships between a digital photograph, which is discontinuous, and what it represents, which is continuous and to which therefore it cannot correspond: if the number of dpis is extremely high, one may get the illusion that is looks roughly alike, but as soon as one zooms in into the picture all one sees is a combination of squares of different colors having no resemblance whatsoever with reality), and insofar as from different viewpoints different maps are equally valid—and for the same reason equally incapable of perfect correspondence with what they represent. However, the problem arises when the fragmentary outlooks the Buddha represented with the fable of the men with the elephant and the image of the frog in the well takes its perceptions to fit the undivided, holistic territory they interpret—and in general when we confuse the map with the territory of take it to perfectly correspond to it, as happens when the basic human delusion that the Buddha called avidyā and that Heraclitus called léthe (λήθη) is active. Cf. also Capriles (2004) and other works.

[iii] Sorel’s apology of violence is to be rejected with all of one’s might.

[iv] As will the shown below in the regular text, Antonio Gramsci wrote: “In reality science is also a superstructure, an ideology.” (Cited in an e-article by Gustavo Fernandez Colon that circulated through email in the context of the dialogue between Alex Fergusson and Rigoberto Lanz concerning the “Misión Ciencia” created by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.)

[v] As shown in Appendix I to this book, the development of science and technology began long before the modern age in Greece, and was particularly dear to the Pythagorians, to whose ideology it was associated at the time. However, Christianization suspended the project until the Modern Age, when it was revived in its present form, in the way expressed in the section of the regular text to which this note was appended.

[vi] This thesis by Marcuse (which he set forth in ch. 6 of Marcuse [1964], “From Negative to Positive Thinking: Technological Rationality and the Logic of Domination”) is discussed elsewhere (Capriles, 2007a Vol. III, section “The Ideological Character of the Sciences, The ‘New Paradigm’ Championed in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Role of Science and Technology in the New Age”).


[vii] In Sokal & Bricmont (1999), Deleuze is criticized in two different sections of the book; however, the theory according to which philosophy and the sciences are “more than ideologies” is not among the objects of this criticism.

[viii] It has been alleged that the project of modernity, rather than aiming to give rise to a technological Eden, was intended to allow the ruling class to increase its exploitation of the rest of human society, and that the ideal of the technological Eden was no more than a façade or a pretext. However, even if this were correct in the case of some of the promoters of the project in question, it could not be correct in the case of all of them—and in any case, since the powerful and their descendents would be destroyed together with the rest of society, the project’s effects would indicate delusion was at its root.

[ix] It is well known that the initial philosophical elaboration of the project of modernity was carried our in its empiricist version by Francis Bacon, and in its rationalist version by René Descartes. Later on positivism gave a different expression to it, and the same did the grand systems of modernity, among which the most renowned are Hegel’s and Marx’s. In general, almost all philosophers of the modern era (with exceptions such as Georges Sorel and a few others) elaborated different versions of the myth in question.

[x] That which Kant called “transcendental illusion(s)” consisted in going beyond the empirical use of the categories of the Understanding and applying the latter to “transcendent objects”—which some of the key twenty-century phenomenologists did not posit. However, according to Kant, the transcendental illusion stood on subjective principles that appear as though they were objective; provided that we understand the term subjective as referring to whatever manifests in the individual’s mind—i.e. thoughts, representations, mental phenomena—as different from all that is not merely thought or representation, this is the core error of phenomenology.

[xi] In Sartre (1980) the French philosopher asserts the being of the human individual to arise in preexisting being (so that being cannot depend on human experience), and asserts the phenomenon of being not to be the being of the phenomenon. Cf. Capriles (2007a Vol. I).

[xii] For a short discussion of the way in which Sartre managed this, cf. Capriles (2010b), as well as the entry “Rigpa” in Wikipedia; for an in-depth treatment, cf. Capriles (2007a Vol. I) and perhaps also Capriles (2004).

[xiii] This term was coined by Derrida for expressing a particular type of difference (différence); he made this term differ in spelling but not in pronunciation from the French term différence (“difference”), in order to mark a sharp difference of meaning. Différance is not merely difference; it is supposed to be that which makes differences possible and which constitutes all signs as signs (i.e., as something that refers to something supposedly different from itself). In order to further explain what is différance I would have to use other Derridean terms and explanations which then would need to be explained, so I direct readers who are not familiar with Derrida’s thought to Capriles (2007a Vol. III).

[xiv] The event(s) of nirvāṇa could be equally regarded as countless or as a single one, for although in nirvāṇa no differences apply, language has to distinguish among different moments. Thus metaphenomenon is as valid and as wrong as metaphenomena—terms in which the prefix meta indicates that they are not mere appearance (phainómenon: φαινόμενον), as they unveil the true condition of reality.



References can be found at Elias Capriles' website.

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