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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Zakariyya IshaqZakariyya Ishaq is a writer who has just completed his first book on the subject of spiritual cosmology. An original new theory he feels can rival any: THE ELLIPSE: THE FALL AND RISE OF THE HUMAN SOUL: SECRETS OF THE COSMOS. In addition to being a writer he is a musician, computer professional, and community activist. He is a Graduate of Devry University in Digital Electronic Technology. Ishaq has been a mystical seeker of enlightenment for 30 years, a member of 3 Sufi Orders: and has studied formally and informally Buddhism, Vedanta Cosmology, Cabala, Taoism, Sufism, Integral Philosophy, and various other mystic esoteric and exoteric schools of thought.

Part II - Modernism and Mythology

The Myth of the Given
and the Forgotten

Part 1 - The Myth of the Given

Zakariyya Ishaq


The idea of modernism and postmodernism these nebulous descriptions of modern thought [particularly postmodernism] I will use generally in the context of this essay in describing people inimical to religion, and metaphysics, and its extended sciences. It is actually modernism per se that is the more inimical to religion, though the postmodernist also have savaged the traditional metaphysical systems on certain levels.

One of the modernist- postmodernists attack on metaphysics is being led by ironically Ken Wilber, in applying this “myth of the given” to metaphysical thinkers, in this regard Wilber is debunking metaphysics from the perspective of modernism, and postmodernism.

In my view to judge and put metaphysics under a microscope just like any religious methodology, science or any system that claims to assist humans in navigating this harsh reality is valid- and necessary, particularly in that it seems that metaphysics has failed existentially to solve the problems of humans as of yet, whether from the standpoint of yesteryear or the great challenges in today's modern world.

I will in the future have a substantial comment on this issue, but for now will deal with the way it is being dealt with by the modernist, post modernist, and Ken Wilber.

There are two important areas of ideas that modernism/postmodernism, and Wilberism [particularly his cow-towing to the postmodern critique of metaphysics] has laid its claim on as particularly problematic with metaphysical philosophy that they have in Wilber's words in terms of postmodernism “savaged” and in terms of modernism, savaged completely. In my view both these critiques have not remotely been valid, as describing in terms of truth any weakness in metaphysical philosophy.

Indeed the first series of ideas coming from Wilber's attempt in placating the postmodernist view that metaphysics is obsolete and lacks “intersubjectivity” and the general debunking of metaphysics and religion from the view of the modernist that metaphysics and its vital parts are all bad; particularly one of its most important aspects- that is mythology. I intend to show the lack of scientific or logical basis for these trite, superficial critiques coming from Wilberism, modernism, and postmodernism. The critiques themselves being based on emotionality, subjectivity, non- scientific ideas, skepticism and prejudice, have in fact been problematic themselves, not at all the metaphysical ideas they criticize, and the point is if you are going to waylay an important human tradition do it right or don't do it, and if you do it, bring to the game some genuine ideas of reason, wisdom, and logic, as well at least bring in its stead something to take its place.

Additionally don't lump one aspect of knowledge [metaphysics] with others [exoteric religion] just because they have certain things in common, though essentially are very different. Or do not apply one set of goals of one aspect of knowledge [metaphysics] to the intentions of another [philosophical ontology], and thereby distort correct understanding of metaphysics, and the other fields of knowledge. Real metaphysics is not ontology. It is strictly a science dealing with the microcosmic and macrocosmic soul's return to balance. The distorted mixing up by Ken Wilber and other postmodernists of philosophy, ontology, and mystic scientism with real metaphysics is an error of immense proportions by these alleged men of knowledge that in fact only shows their lack of knowledge! Though it is their error on their backsides [thankfully] they are unfortunately spreading their error to the ignorant something I will attempt to correct.

Unlike the two modernisms I will give Wilber some credit for his endeavor because his critique although I question its logic, and disagree with most of it- is a positive one, in that he at least is trying to improve the lot of this brand of knowledge and make it useful, and relevant, something I cant say for the other two, who seem wholly inimical to it.

Part 1 : The Myth of the Given

The concept of “The Myth of the given” was first seriously critiqued by the American philosopher Wilfred Sellers b1912 d1989. In his 1956 essay "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind”

What is The Myth of the given?

The myth of the given, is essentially the idea that people can objectively identify reality according to direct sense experience. This notion was critiqued considerably by Sellers in his essay. He claimed that all direct experience is interpreted subjectively and therefore it is impossible to say one can identify truth or reality reliably through it. When people experience or perceive something it is always through the lens of their particular cultural, biased, subjective view[their own language] that has long created before the direct experience therefore the interpretation of the facts are flawed and not objective.

Ken Wilber agrees with the critique of “the myth of the given” by Sellers. As many other postmodernist do.

As also do I, as also most mystics of any broad experience.

Wilber though and also many postmodern, and modernist thinkers take it a step further and incorrectly apply the myth of the given thinking stream to metaphysical philosophy. In other words he accuses them as being guilty of this kind of thinking. Nothing is further from the truth as I will prove forthwith. This assertion by Wilber is part of his crystal clear agenda to subsume traditional metaphysics underneath the exalted modernist/postmodernist view of reality. In terms of postmodernism Wilber bows to their alleged lofty idea of intersubjectivity, and their disdain of “monological awareness”.

This concept first of all is not new [myth of the given] it has been known about intricately in metaphysical circles for centuries, and most likely far beyond that to millennium. In fact it is most assuredly that it was not Sellars who first exposed the wayward thinking of the myth of the given, but the ancient mystics themselves where the first to see through this kind of mentality.

Wilber's applying it to debunk metaphysics and also claim the exigency of his “post- metaphysics” is another straw man of his, similar to his pereniallists straw man I described in Wilberism 5 and Metaphysics essay. In this case Wilber claims that the inadequacy of Metaphysics so proclaimed by the postmodernist critics of it, based on his IMP scheme where monological awareness is inadequate in certain levels of knowledge. The straw man is here easy to describe, in that metaphysics doesn't concern itself about these irrelevant and peripheral forms of knowledge Wilber and other postmodernist thinkers are touting, metaphysics is only concerned about the spiritual completion of the individual. Knowledge of Spiral dynamics, zone 2 and 4 IMP levels is totally irrelevant to metaphysics. So how is this problem for metaphysics? It may be in Wilber's mind, as well as these “intersubjectivists” he touts and his misunderstanding of the function of genuine metaphysics or his mixing this understanding with philosophical ontology.

"Wilber:The myth of the given is one of the book's primary topics. It is the belief that the world as it appears in my consciousness, as it is given to me, is somehow fundamentally real, foundationally real, and that therefore I can base my worldview upon whatever presents itself to my consciousness. For example, I might see a rock in front of me; I take that as real. I have an experience of anger; I take that as real. But the whole point is that what our awareness delivers to us is set in cultural contexts and many other kinds of contexts that cause an interpretation and a construction of our perceptions before they even reach our awareness. So what we call real or what we think of as given is actually constructed—it's part of a worldview.”
“When it comes to spiritual experience, we can see this very clearly. If you look, for example, at the spiritual experiences of the Western enlightened saints and sages, you find many accounts of angelic beings, or beings of light or luminosity, but you'll never find any saint or sage in the West describing an entity that has ten thousand arms. And yet that experience seems to be very common in Tibet. Tibetans might see the goddess Avalokitesvara with ten thousand arms appearing in their dreams all the time and think that is the actual form of God. It is the form of God in Tibet, but not in Germany.
Cohen: Unless the German is a dedicated student of Tibetan Buddhism!
Wilber: Indeed! The point is that these are authentic spiritual experiences, but they are culturally molded. And if somebody's taking their spiritual experience and saying, “This is universally true,” they're lying. It's culturally created and molded, yet it doesn't look like that to the person having the experience. So they're caught in one version of the myth of the given. A scientist is caught in the same thing. If a scientific materialist says, “Anything I can see in the sensori-motor world is real because that's what's really given,” he or she is also caught. It isn't given; it's constructed. Anytime we take a state or a stage or a structure or a level of our own consciousness and assume that what's given to it is real, we're caught in the myth of the given. “

Wilber says in Integral Spirituality, something similar: pg 177:

“But the subject does not reflect reality, it co-creates it.

Wilber's words “This is universally true” is the key here, in designating his strange ideas about traditional metaphysics. This also ties in with Wilber's lack of knowledge of symbiology, as well as mythology. Certainly the western priest sees Angels with wings, and the Tibetan sees a goddess with ten thousand arms, but the important thing is the meaning of the experience, not its cultural difference, or its external manifestation. An angelic being of light in the west may very well be equivalent to a ten thousand armed goddesses in the east. So therefore the Tibetan monk or priest can certainly say his experience is universal.

Even god has sense enough to speak to people according to their understanding. Would god talk to a hip hop artist in Shakespearian prose?

Because as legitimate integral mystics they study and learn all aspects of mysticism, including symbiology, mythology, and allegory, something I am sorry to say may be lacking in our post modern mystics, who have been told that these things are obsolete.

In order to advance metaphysics we have to create a true culture of spirituality that harnesses the new paradigms indeed, though as I said before it has to be legitimate not phony, in other words we need true metaphysical pioneers, to initiate a new spiritual age.

Wilber is essentially debunking metaphysics and religion and not conceptually having much of anything substantial to replace it with, save AQAL, IMP- as some kind of odd addendum to it as post metaphysics.

As for the statement of co-creating reality, well according to metaphysics, no one creates anything in this regard but what is known as delusion [distorted view of reality] Wilber's imprecise notion of co-creation is in reality the false perceptive judgment of reality of the perceiver, this is not creating anything, just being deluded by ones own delusion of reality.

Wilber again is generally here taking a metaphysical concept [rejection of the myth of the given] that maybe he and the postmodernist have either just arrived at or stolen from the metaphysicians and now presents it as their discovery.

Of course the separate discovery of a truth by no means has to be stolen since it is a fact that different people at different times discover the same truths, but Wilber and the post- modernists are without a doubt not the first discoverers of this truth. Also Wilber and the postmodernists distort it, at least Wilber does, and also miss applies it to metaphysical thinking without knowledge, and sounds very pedestrian in the process. Since it can be easily proven that mystics as far back as most likely 5 millennium understood the “myth of the given” then this in itself totally debunks Wilber's theory of the inadequacy of the ancient wisdom traditions as it relates to post modern times.

Wilber: Exactly. The Tibetan yogi sitting in his cave thinks he is contemplating timeless truths, truths that hold for everybody, whereas a good number of them are actually just Tibetan fashions.
Wilber: That's a very common problem. It stems from the fact that the great metaphysical traditions, East and West—Sufi, Buddhist, neo-Confucian, Christian, Taoist—were all created at a time when the average stage of development was what we call mythic or pre-modern. And so those metaphysical mythic systems were used to interpret higher states of consciousness. Now we know that those systems are outdated. They were good interpretations at the time, but they're bad interpretations for those authentic spiritual states in today's modern and postmodern world

WILBER IN “Integral Spirituality” page 179

Nazi Rule

"Start with a few facts. Depending on which scales you use, somewhere between 50 % - 70 % of the worlds population is at the ethnocentric or lower levels of development. This means amber, or lower in any of the lines. To put it in the bluntess terms possible, this means around 70 % of the world's population is Nazis”

These are the recent words of Wilber.

A question to Wilber,

Is a 70 % Nazi mentality in today's level of development any better than the “mythic” era of the past?

Wilber here is conceptually lessening the attainments of past mystics and the relevancy of their systems today, ”Now we know that those systems are outdated”. This of course intersects with his post-metaphysics [mythology.] He subtly and very off handedly debunks the wisdom of those that lay at the foundation of the Wisdom Traditions, and at the same time trying to prop up the “Mythology of his and Andrew Cohen's theories of “evolutionary enlightenment” and “the 4 Quadrants” This is just what they are theories, as I have proven in past essays, they are not metaphysical facts, philosophical facts, or scientific facts, they are not any degree of fact, only another level of a faith!

As for the particulars of the statement above, let's go over them:

Wilber: That's a very common problem. It stems from the fact that the great metaphysical traditions, East and West—Sufi, Buddhist, neo-Confucian, Christian, Taoist—were all created at a time when the average stage of development was what we call mythic or pre-modern. And so those metaphysical mythic systems were used to interpret higher states of consciousness. Now we know that those systems are outdated. They were good interpretations at the time, but they're bad interpretations for those authentic spiritual states in today's modern and postmodern world."

“Now we know these systems are outdated”. This is a non-sequitur: Wilber's conclusion here is literally based on nothing logical I could deduce. Is this conclusion based on his idea of mythic population therefore the methodology of the mystics can only apply to those times? What facts or truth does Wilber base this conjecture on? He contradicts himself also with the Nazi like level he thinks today's world is at, as mentioned above.

Also, any legitimate metaphysical system doesn't primarily exist to interpret “higher states of consciousness”. It exists to arrive at spiritual completion. States are merely vehicles to the transformation of consciousness in the process, as well as indications of potential.

Also these “created” systems all have continuity, and therefore in theory are able through Evolutionary intelligence change with the times.

A truly advanced spiritual experience is timeless; the symbols are relative but the real mystic's looks at the reality behind the symbol. Most advanced spiritual experiences are not about Angels with wings, or100 horned gods, or other apparitions- that are basically psychological in nature but deep inner states that pervade the entire being of the one experiencing it.

One of three things happens at a high level spiritual experience 1) the being evolves to something over time or 2) transmutes more immediately or 3) experiences a permanent increase in knowledge

Wilber is mentioning low level “spiritual” experiences as examples, and judging a vast array of metaphysical culture by it.

This enlightenment by [historical relativity] to strip mystics of old of transcendent awareness or what they call- understanding, and the greater understanding, which by the way includes Wilber's “myth of the given” makes them to Wilber metaphysical anachronisms, not people of unique, and timeless understanding, that transcends Wilber's post modern mythos.

Oh sure they were “enlightened” amongst the ignorant brutish “mythic” savages of old, who didn't even have ipods, therefore were primitive.

The question is, is Wilber doing this deliberately, or is some shadow element involved here, or some other hidden agenda? Or is it just unwise, because from a metaphysical perspective, as well as a philosophical one these are highly inaccurate statements, there is no other way to label them.

Wilber is 100 percent in error with this analysis in my view. Furthermore what makes him think a mystic methodology of lets say 500 or 1000 years ago is stuck as he says in “mythic” cultural consciousness, where that would render the system he uses to enlightenment obsolete today, on the level Wilber defines it? Where are the facts, conceptually, philosophically, or metaphysically, to back up theses conclusions?

Doesn't enlightenment [in any era] include insights of the like of which he is talking about?

That's the very reason- by the way- mystics have always said they couldn't communicate all truth to the people of their era.

Furthermore any average mystic understands this dictum:

Speak to people according to their understanding, or
Cast not pearls at the feet of swine.

Rumi [I guess Wilber would classify him as one of these enlightened ”mythic” anachronisms] spoke of things over 1000 years ago far beyond even Wilber's modern ideas. Of course the fact that the society was “mythic” doesn't mean that is a bar to an enlightened mystic of any era. Enlightenment supposedly transcends cultural epochs, it connotes total freedom as Pantanjali called it, and it is no cultural veil [once it is gone beyond] that restricts enlightenment. What does Wilber think ancient mystics talked about being free from- in one regard but the cultural psychological bondages that their society imposed upon them.

The timelessness of this reality is in the fact that all eras have [including this one] an indoctrination apparatus- that fundamentally, according to metaphysics has to be gone beyond. The mind has to be free of these psychological veils of indoctrination whether one rides around on a camel in ancient Arabia, or a BMW in today's Berlin.

Umar Khayyam in many of his Quatrains attempted centuries ago to question, to the risk of his life, many of the cultural assumptions of the medieval Muslim society.

Lao Tzu and his often times advice to the men of his times, that they act more like woman, I guess that was a “mythic” suggestion by a mystic locked in time centered “ mythic” consciousness

Buddha and his assertions about the constancy of change 2500 years ago are not the statements of a man wrapped in a “mythic” subculture.

Muhammad's suggestion that Muslims treat their slaves as good as themselves, preferably freeing them, 1400 years ago, doesn't sound “mythic” to me.

Or Jesus, "love thy enemy" -- now that is a real ethnocentric amber red blue “mythic” statement.

I guess Mansur Hallaj, the Sufi saint who said 1000 years ago “I AM TRUTH” and consequently got executed by having his limbs torn apart by Moslem clerics, was locked in “mythic” consciousness.

Or what of the Buddhist saint Nagarjuna “Samsara is Nirvana”

That's pretty mythic?

I could go on and on, and mention examples of thousands of past enlightened people with similar attitudes.

And by the way, Ken Wilber if you do answer my challenges or any of your admirers [something I am sure you won't do] to your analysis please I wouldn't use the defense: “I didn't say the masters were mythic, I said the people were”

I have a nice juicy rejoinder for that one I don't think you want to hear!

This is Wilber's questionable view, whose conceptual proofs are very flimsy; they include only his very fragile theories of lines development, and the misapplication of the “myth of the given”. These mechanical views of his, that he tries to apply to the methodology of classical metaphysics, one has to wonder, what in the world is going on at the Integral Institute with these so called “lineage masters” and these 25 sages at the institute, that they could allow such questionable views to masquerade as spiritual knowledge be paraded to the public is a deep mystery. It is a measure of the followers of Wilber that no one, particularly these “lineage masters” hobnobbing around him and other Guru types, who don't seem to notice that conceptually Wilber, has taken a not so subtle hammer to their traditions.

Of course Ken Wilber has every right to believe what he believes and no “lineage master” or any one else should try to censor him, though they I hope [since I believe Wilber is way off here] have behind the scenes challenged him on these issues.

Yet with all of this, Wilber wants to save metaphysics, by subsuming its founder's wisdom under the wisdom of postmodernist critique, while at the same time subtly undermining it by his statements that if analyzed closely are devoid of any reasonable logic or accuracy.

According to the Sufi writer Idries Shah the Sufi mystics precisely utilized teaching stories to break down the subjective culturally based thinking apparatuses in the student, in which Sufis believe are impregnable veils to truth for anyone. Teaching Masters have always been aware of that “the myth of the given” mentality is a veil to perceiving reality. This is true in Zen Buddhism, in its shock treatment, and Koans, and the like, as well as Traditional Buddhism, Taoism, and all genuine metaphysical systems. No teaching master of any worth would ever tolerate in a student he or she wants to teach something, having ideas of cultural ignorance, biases, or any kind of subjective leanings in their thinking. It may well be that some exoteric leaning “ mystics” have indulged in the superficial thinking of the myth of the given, but no educated teaching master would ever do that, beyond the practical reality that many of them throughout the ages because of the coercive authorities have had to essentially keep much of their teaching secret. There are many instances of this, in all cultures in metaphysics. In fact as we will prove in the next section of this essay on mythology, that this is common in metaphysics, that is concealing the essence of their teachings, from the general public, as regard mythology, and the myth of the given.

Again this is not done for any other reason, than to on one level obeying the dictum: “ cast not pearls at the feet of swine” and for a more practical reason, less a mystic ends up like Mansur Hajjal whom uttered to the wrong people in a state of ecstatic consciousness “I AM TRUTH?” for that he was unjustly executed.

Also the simple premise of the myth of the given, taken outside the context of these overblown inflated modernists, and postmodernist philosophers, is hardly a complex idea of any sort, and certainly the most advanced thinkers in all of history, would have easily perceived this phenomena.

So essentially Ken Wilber relating this idea to metaphysics is an unproven, as well as incorrect postulate.

Ken Wilber has not an iota of evidence that enlightened people of yesteryear were at all affected by “mythic” consciousness, that their systems were flawed, and obsolete relative to today. On the contrary, sure they had to cow-tow to the times of the era or would have likely gotten in serious trouble with the coercive authorities, of the times, but that doesn't mean they were themselves at all bound by the exoteric literalism of that era, as enlightened sages. Certainly on the path they were plagued by the restricted thinking of their times, yet the path to enlightenment supposed to in theory the freeing mechanism from this. All available evidence tells us that these men and woman were highly advanced thinkers for ANY AGE, and their obvious enlightenment was not at all limited by some shifting epochal cultural veil, having anything to do with the myth of the given. In fact Wilber's assertions are not only obviously false, but it seems it may be that the ancient sages, where far above today's so called sages in timeless wisdom, which really turns his theory on its face.

Do the postmodernist, and modernists who wants to exalt this era of serial killers, mass murderers, multiple genocides, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, cultural decay, sectarianism, moral decay, rape epidemics, sexual exploitation, modern slavery, explosion in mental diseases, deadly pollution, greedy corrupt politicians, greedy corrupt corporate executives, and other ills, as well according to Wilber has a 70% Nazi mentality, want to classify this as a“2nd tier “epoch?

So where do they get this notion that this era is so filled with natural enlightenment of some sort because of the advanced modern times, This is all an idea that has not an iota of any kind of evidence to support it, whether it is intuitive, scientific, or based on any insight but Wilber's own subjective [agenda based] opinion, as well as these overblown developmental schemes of his, that apparently aren't doing much for humanity in practical reality despite the chauvinist notions of the postmodernists superiority complex.

As for this advanced vaunted era that Wilber and the postmodernists/ modernists want to exalt and make this “70 % Nazi era developmentally” epoch so much more advanced than past eras, it seems to me that the only thing Ken Wilber and these modern chauvinists can hang their hats on in extolling this postmodern paradise is the very thing that will more than likely soon send us all to kingdom come, and that is our vaunted scientific advancements that have produced along with iphones, computers, and video games, and other technical toys thousands of weapons of mass destruction, that can wipe us all out of the lexicon of being in an instant, I guess to them that is some morbid source of pride.


To be continued...

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