Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

Alan KazlevM. Alan Kazlev is a self-taught esotericist and metaphysician, science fiction writer and fan, amateur biologist and palaeontologist, and student of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's teachings and yoga. His website is at and he can be contacted at alankazlev (at) ihug (dot) com (dot) au (sorry - problems with spam!)


The Wilberian paradigm
a fourfold critique

Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral, Part Two

Alan Kazlev

2. The Wilberian paradigm – a fourfold critique

2-i The Limitations of the Wilberian paradigm

In his early (and in my own biased opinion superior) books The Spectrum of Consciousness and The Atman Project , Wilber comes across as a sincere scholar presenting a simple map of consciousness. His more recent works however have been increasingly grandiose in attitude, until with the latest iteration of his ideas, called "Wilber-V or "post-metaphysics", and including "integral spirituality" and "integral mathematics", he claims that his own ideas constitute a radically new perspective that has included and hence superseded ("include and transcend") all previous understandings, including those by spiritual teachers like Plotinus, Shankara, Sri Aurobindo, and many others.

Wilber and his followers also contend that his teaching represents a spiritual philosophy, integrating the non-dual perspective and higher states of consciousness with premodern, modern, and post-modern insights.

Wilber also associates with and recommends controversial gurus who have a record of a highly abusive and exploitative attitude towards their devotees. Wilber's claims that such individuals are enlightened, and that his readers should follow them if they want to go beyond the ego, also should not be allowed to pass without scrutiny.

I have not in this essay critiqued Wilber's own claims to have experienced an authentic state of enlightenment he calls the "One Taste", as I have not read his book of the same name. However, the falsification of his other claims would certainly throw doubt on the validity of any such claims.

My criticism of the Wilberian paradigm, and with Wilber's claims, is from an esotericist Aurobindonian perspective, which makes it rather different to other criticisms that have appeared on Integral World. By esotericist, I mean from a worldview or paradigm that accepts "inner" spiritual realities and truths, contemplative spiritual practices, and supra-physical realities, as given; usually in the context of a sophisticated ontological, cosmological, and psychological framework or frameworks, in contrast to both secular modernity and exoteric (conventional literal) religion. By Aurobindonian I mean inspired by the transenlightened (a neologism I coined, meaning beyond conventional enlightenment of the traditional spiritual systems) insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

From this dual perspective then, there are at least four points of analysis and criticism (if I were a postmodernist I would say "deconstruction") that could be directed at Wilberian thought (doubtless one could list more). These are:

  • Physicalism – The Wilberian paradigm is actually a form of holistic physicalism; his "post-metaphysics" is actually a denial of supraphysical realities. Rather than being a higher development in the evolution of insight into reality, it is rather a compromise with materialism.
  • Non-Integral Spirituality – Wilber's spiritual insight lacks the discrimination of the Inner Divine (Psychic being in Aurobindonian jargon) and for this reason he advocates the teachings of abusive gurus that only have a partial (non-integral) realisation. These gurus are understood as being stuck in what Sri Aurobindo calls the "intermediate zone" between ordinary consciousness and true enlightenment.
  • Mentalisation – Wilber's own understanding is limited by the fact that (like many strong intellectuals) he is trapped in his own rational intellect, and therefore what he considers to be Reality is just his own abstractions of Reality. The Mother refers to this state as the "mental fortress"
  • Cultic tendencies – Perhaps the most disquieting thing about Wilberian movement is the emergence of a new age cultic religion, here humorously called "Wilberanity", which is based around Wilber's personality and teachings. Yet the appeal of Wilber's philosophy and the Wilberian paradigm is due less to the ideas themselves, as to what is here called the "Attractor" (in New Age jargon the angel or deva) behind them..

Let us now consider each of these points in turn.

2a Physicalism

2-ii. Wilber the physicalist, Wilber the bridgebuilder

As I see it, Wilber's lifework is not to reveal a new spiritual truth; not even to reveal a new intellectual truth. While this is not apparent to those who have immersed themselves in his voluminous writings and not consulted the original sources, or even books about the original sources, it is apparent that little of what Wilber says in his voluminous writings is new. Habermas and Gebser and Jantsch and Koestler and a thousand others are the real geniuses who came up with so many of these ideas in the first place; Wilber's talent lies instead in cobbling it all together into one big picture. Like me, he builds new "big picture" structures through bringing together the ideas of those people, philosophies, and religious and esoteric traditions and teachings that came before. However, Wilber, although beginning as a transpersonal psychologist, later became much more orientated towards ideas of modernity and academia, whereas I always remained more of an esotericist.

Thus in his later work (Wilber IV and especially Wilber V in the terminology of stages of development of his thought) Wilber rejects the traditional "metaphysical" stance of premodern thinkers, and even those including Kant and Hegel, as well as Huston Smith and other traditionalist or perennialist philosophers, that he had drawn from, and instead refers to his own philosophy as "post-metaphysics". This might indicate that Wilber's "post-metaphysics" might be a post-modern objection to theorising. However from what he has written it seems like Wilber is identifying the metaphysical with the supraphysical and presenting the post-metaphysical as a sort of the physicalistic compromise that rejects concepts that are unacceptable to secular modernity.

It might seem strange to call Wilber a physicalist, since all his teachings are precisely about going beyond the two extremes of ascender and descender, exterior and interior, materialist and idealist, objectivist reductionist and perennialist cosmologist. Yet this is exactly the message Wilber presents in an on-line extract from the first draft of the second volume of his Kosmos trilogy.[31] In this important essay, Wilber argues that the insights of esotericists and enlightened beings of past times are incomplete because they do not incorporate the insights of modern day secular knowledge. He gives the following illustration:

Part of the problem is that the relation of human consciousness to human neurophysiology is something that is not obvious (and not even available) to introspective phenomenology (i.e., to meditation or contemplation), which means that items such as dopamine, serotonin, synaptic pathways, the Kreb's cycle, hypothalamic regulation, and so on, were not generally available to the ancients. Again, this does not mean that their spiritual realization was flawed or inadequate, but simply that they did not have the advantage of some of the finite facts that modern science has discovered. Were Plotinus alive today, you can bet that several chapters of the Enneads would be devoted to brain neurophysiology and its relation to spirit. Were Shankara alive today, his commentaries on the Brahma Sutras would no doubt have extensive discussions on the relation of the nadis to neurotransmitters.

As for myself I find this argument seriously misleading (quite apart from the presumptuousness of knowing what Plotinus or Shankara would say were they alive today).[32] But the strongest impression is that Wilber, in speaking about "post-metaphysics", is trying to walk the middle path between spiritually and experientially authentic esoteric supraphysical understanding on the one hand, and the secular, reductionist-materialistic, academically respectable modern-day on the other. As such he is being a bridge-builder, who presents through his synthesis a scaled down spiritual cosmology that is acceptable to the conceptual limitations of the secular mind and Western academia. Here it is important to note Wilber's conclusion that:

"what the premodern sages took to be META-physical realities are in many cases INTRA-physical realities: they are not above matter, nor beyond nature, nor meta-physical, nor super-natural: they are not above nature but within nature, not beyond matter but interior to it."

I don't mean to sound derogatory, but the implication of the above passage is that Wilber doesn't know what the "metaphysics" is. Although in popular conversation, the word "metaphysics" is used in a very vague sense to mean anything otherworldly or "beyond the physical". But in fact metaphysics (meta-physics) means "after" (not "beyond" or "above") "physics", and refers to the arrangement of Aristotle's collected writings (those volumes that came after the books on Physics) . Apparently (whether this is historical fact or legend is difficult to say) Aristotle's books in the Great Library of Alexandria were arranged so that there were a number of works collectively called the Physics, and after them was another set of books concerned with basic areas of philosophical inquiry, which Aristotle himself called "First Philosophy". Because they came after the other books, early Aristotelian scholars called those books ta meta ta physika biblia, – "the books that come after the (books about) physics".[33]

Wilber's lack of understanding of what "metaphysics" is further brought out by his association elsewhere (in the context of a much longer discussion on what he calls "integral mathematics") of metaphysics with Plotinus, Shankara, Asanga, Padmasambhava, Gurdjieff, Hegel, Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, William James, and Sri Aurobindo.[34] Since one can hardly call Padmasambhava, Gurdjieff (is he confusing him with his disciple Ouspensky perhaps?), Steiner, Jung, or James in any way metaphysical, one might assume that by "metaphysics" Wilber means those concepts or realities that do not fit with secular understanding; e.g. The Atman-Brahman of Shankara, the siddhis (occult powers) of Padmasambhava, the Collective Unconscious of Jung, the study of higher states of consciousness by James. And as Steiner is an occultist (or esotericist), one wouldn't call him a metaphysician except in the common slang of "supra-physical".

Wilber is at pains to point out he is not denying the experiences of these individuals, only the conceptual framework (which he interprets as "metaphysics") they used to explain those experiences. Which of course brings us back to the discomfort much of the physicalist-based modern world feels not just with yogic or esotericist explanations (which is understandable), but even with phenomenological studies of non-mundane states of consciousness (e..g William James).

The second thing that is strange about the afore-cited paragraph, assuming I am reading Wilber right (and perhaps I am not; Wilber is famous for complaining that all his critics universally get it wrong so whatever they are criticising has nothing to do with what he wrote!) , what Wilber is saying here is that either there is no such thing as supra-physical reality, or if there is, none of the great sages and teachers of the past ever experienced it. Instead, they were mistaking what was happening in their own heads (neurotransmitters and so on), the intra-physical, for an "external" metaphysical reality such as the Subtle or Causal realms, or even the Absolute or Nirguna Brahman. And while not even the most other-worldly esotericist will deny that neurochemical activity has a central determining influence on our consciousness, it is quite another thing to identify these processes as literally one aspect (the upper right quadrant in this case) of these Realities, even of the Absolute Reality.[35]

In short, what Wilber is offering, with his postmodernist synthesis, is a subtle (or not so subtle) form of reductionism, just "flatland" or "descender philosophy" under a different name. Because by rejecting supra-physical realities, Wilber has no choice but to support the physicalist position of modernity (all that exists is physical reality). Ironically he thus falls into the same trap he accuses the Marxists, eco-philosophers, eco-feminists, and the rest of doing.[36] In doing so, he becomes part of the tradition of Buddhist and Vedantic empiricism and materialism that has developed in the West over the last century, a result of an apologetic attempt by westernised Easterners to justify their spiritual teaching in terms of western empirical method and scientific validity.[37]

And why does Wilber do this? Well, first of all because he clearly sees the world in physicalist terms. Holistic physicalist terms, certainly, but physicalist nevertheless. I am certainly not implying that Wilber is a crude reductionist; he rightly has criticised the limitations of this way of thinking, which he calls "flatland", because of its reductionism and its denial of the validity of higher states of consciousness. In fact, rather than being a materialist, Wilber is a dual-aspect theorist, to use a term from Western academic analytic philosophy. Dual aspect theory is an idea that dates back to Spinoza (The Ethics, which first was published in 1677), according to whom the unitary substance God is expressed in the distinct modes of the mental and the physical. Analytical philosophy today rejects Spinoza's pantheism, but still presents dual aspect or dual-attribute theory is a way around the Cartesian matter versus soul dichotomy, by saying that soul is actually another aspect of matter, and vice versa. This is actually also a popular "New Paradigm" idea, as I noticed more than 20 years ago when I was reading books by people like Marilyn Ferguson and Fritjof Capra. I therefore coined the term "holomaterialism" to distinguish this particular metaphysical standpoint from hylomaterialism (reductionism). Wilber's ideas of course are more complex than the generic New Paradigm / New Age (sensu lato) worldview, and one might even say that he is a four-aspect theorist: rather than matter or soul being primary, it is the case that holons are four-fold.[38] But whether two-fold or four-fold, we are still talking about a form of holism that requires the physical-material reality as an essential and inseparable part of its nature, even if it does not reduce everything to the material physical level alone (and it is in this latter regard that Wilber differs from mainstream academia).

So with the best of good will and sincerity and the very best intentions he assumes that these great teachers he admires so much, and has been so inspired by, could naturally only come to the same conclusion as he did, and if they didn't, it was only because they were living in a more primitive age. And as much as he respects (and there is no doubt from his words that he does respect) the teachings not just of ancient sages like Plotinus or Shankara, or of modern sages like Sri Aurobindo, he is not able to put aside his own preconceptions and let them speak for themselves, because what they say is not in accord with his own worldview. Instead he tries to present them through secular modern eyes. It is worth pointing out that, unlike Plotinus or Shankara, Sri Aurobindo was educated in the West (his parents were anglophiles who sent him to a boarding school in England to get a "proper" education) and hence totally familiar with the scientific and psychological methodologies of the secular West. And he did comment on these things, often very critically.[39] Why do I think that, were Plotinus or Shankara alive today, they would do exactly the same? ;-)

Yet this very inability to appreciate metaphysical teachings free of modern secular western biases is paradoxically also Wilber's strong point, because it allows him to present a scaled down or watered down esotericism that is more accommodating to the modern scientism-conditioned mind, the worldview of respectable mainstream academia, which is likewise unable to comprehend or accept supra-physical, or metaphysical, realities (and is far less sympathetic and understanding or spiritual and esoteric philosophies to boot). In other words he speaks the same language as they do, because he shares their scepticism. As Wilber himself puts it:

"we want to keep as much as possible of the great traditional systems while jettisoning their unnecessary metaphysical interpretations, interpretations that not only are not necessary to explain the same set of data, but interpretations that guarantee that spirituality will not get a fair hearing in the court of modern and postmodern thought."[40]

Let us look at that last sentence again. "Interpretations that guarantee that spirituality will not get a fair hearing in the court of modern and postmodern thought". Since when has it mattered to the world's wisdom traditions and enlightened teachers, or to those who follow those paths truly, that they have to be justify their spiritual experiences to contemporary materialism for validation? But to merely dismiss Wilber's apologetics in this way is to completely miss the point of what he is trying to do.

What Wilber is saying is that he wants these mystics and spiritual teachers to be heard in the contemporary intellectual scene. He might even say that the lack of concern on the part of great spiritual teachers for intellectuals is the problem, and that's at least one reason why there is a chasm or schism between the realms of science and spirituality. Thus Wilber is trying to give these fields of greater human experience respectability within the very world of secular modernity that they ignore and that dismisses them as delusional.

All this is very admirable, but it is the way that Wilber does this that is, I feel, misleading. Basically what he does (as indicated by the earlier passage quoted above – "Were Plotinus alive today..." etc) is give them a make-over, so they actually seem just like alternative forms of materialism (albeit holistic materialism). If Plotinus were alive today, hell, he'd be a neurobiologist, just like you guys! It's only because he was living in a superstitious premodern age that he had this mistaken belief in metaphysics. Perhaps this is how Wilber himself genuinely sees these different teachers. Of course, those who have really immersed themselves in Plotinus, in Shankara, or in Aurobindo, not only or even as scholars but as actually spiritual practitioners, know that this is a lot of nonsense. But to the rational-logical academic mind, it might appear as not too implausible a proposition.[41]

What the modern secular world is threatened by and dismissive of is perennialist and esotericist ontology, the concept of supra-physical realities. Wilber hopes to make spirituality and spiritual experiences respectable to the modern world by ditching the cosmology and worldview, and keeping only the spiritual experience, thus isolating the experience from the worldview. But Jorge Ferrer in his book Revisioning Transpersonal Theory has shown that this is simply not possible. All traditionalist, mystic, yogic, and esotericist experiences are entrenched in a worldview. Moreover, there is no neutral position, because by trying to apply modern empirical standards, Wilber (as are other transpersonal psychologists) is forcing spirituality into an empiricist mould to which it is totally unrelated.[42]

2-iii. Post metaphysics or no metaphysics?

Wilber claims to present a post-metaphysical spirituality, by abstracting experience from its conceptual matrix, and replacing it in what he considers a more comprehensive conceptual matrix, his own four-quadrant model, in an attempt to make subjective experiences, such as mystical and transpersonal states of consciousness, academically respectable. In his own words

"integralism transcends-and-includes metaphysics, such that integralism is external to metaphysics, or no longer constrained by its nexus-agency."[43]

Yet his postmodern synthesis seems less to be a case of "transcend and include", as of "reject and deny", as per secular modernity and physicalist materialism in general Because a little later in that same essay he writes

If "direct experience" and "consciousness" are already low-order abstractions mistaken for realities (and hence are metaphysical ghosts), the notions of "levels of being," "levels of knowing," "ontological planes," and so on are even worse: they are abstractions of abstractions of abstractions....

Note here the postmodern superficialism (deny ontology and all you are left with are the "flat surfaces" as in Wilber's own observant critique of postmodernism indicates[44]) and subtle physicalism (his reference to "metaphysical ghosts" reminds me of Gilbert Ryle's thesis that the mind is a "category mistake"). And if some critics may feel that Wilber in dismissing previous philosophies and teachings as "abstractions" is here being the pot calling the kettle black, this is my conclusion as well. I will return to this point a little later (sect. 2-viii).

To reiterate, I am not criticising Wilber's concern that spiritual experience be considered as a valid reality in its own right, rather than be dismissed by academia and materialism. But I am saying that he is not being true to his own methodology, because instead of "including and transcending" "metaphysics" (read all previous spiritual teachings) he is actually rejecting it, by presenting it as an earlier and more imperfect form of understanding, according to one's own personality hierarchy of greater and lesser truths. This is the way that August Comte's positivism rejects "metaphysics" and religion, the way that scientism and scepticism rejects "pseudoscience", and for that matter the way that fundamentalist creationism rejects Darwninism.

An integral perspective transcends, that is true, but it also includes. A true integral stance would accept ontological realities, let alone consciousness! It would be able to incorporate all of these things, alongside and in relation to, not just instead of, the intellectual advances of modernity.

Yet it is precisely because of this very non-integral, conservative and materialistic presentation, Wilber is able to make respectable many great esoteric and spiritual teachings who would otherwise never be heard of, and indeed as he says never get a sympathetic hearing in, in the mainstream world. This is his power as a bridge-builder. Some of his readers will go no further than Wilber himself, but will at least have a more sympathetic understanding to the Wisdom traditions of the past and present. Others may be encouraged to actually read Plotinus in the original, or Aurobindo in the original, and thus embark on a greater and more profound spiritual path of understanding than Wilber alone can provide.[45]

Yet while there is no doubt that Wilber is doing some good here, this does not mean we should limit our understanding of spirituality and esotericism to the truncated version Wilber presents to modernity. Ultimately, any modification of spirituality so it can be discussed by the secular world, in terms the secular world and the physical rational mind can understand, indicates a compromising of what spirituality stands for. Jorge Ferrer, in Revisioning Transpersonal Theory, strongly criticises Wilber and Transpersonal psychologists for their empiricist attitude to spirituality. In other words, this whole idea of reconciling science and mysticism is misleading, and can only be detrimental to spirituality; Ferrer refers to this as the "empiricist colonisation of spirituality" (Ironically Wilber himself said something pretty similar many years ago in his criticism of Capra's Tao of Physics book). Wilber critic Andrew P. Smith says something similar when he refers to Wilber's "academonisation of higher consciousness"[46]

As sympathetic scholars from William James to modern Transpersonal Psychologists have pointed out, the mundane consciousness of the rational-logical sense mind is simply one among many states of consciousness, and mystical states represent superior points of view, and certainly does not occupy the unique or privileged position it is given in secular modernity.

2b Non-Integral Spirituality

2-iv. The problem of Abusive Gurus

If a subtle and underlying physicalism represents one of the limitations of Wilber's Integral theory, and hence of the Wilberian Integral Movement as a whole, the other, more serious limitation, is a lack of authentic spiritual insight and discrimination.

This absence of authentic spirituality, and Wilber's lack of integral yogic insight, is, I suggest, evident in Wilber's ambiguous statements regarding his own Master, Franklin Jones / Da Free John / Adi Da. On the one hand, he calls Da the "World Teacher" and the "Greatest Living Realiser", at the same time warns his followers and everyone who reads his books to make sure they keep a safe distance![47] But if Da really is the Avatar of this age, the greatest living Realiser of all[48], or even if he is just a middling great Realiser, why should he behave like that? Why the need for a warning? Surely the greatest Realiser will be realised in every aspect of his being; if he isn't, how did he get to the greatest Realiser? I don't mean to sound derogatory, but to me this indicates confusion in Wilber's own mind. For whatever reason, he cannot recognise that the most obvious sign of any integral transformation is precisely that the Teacher is never abusive! In fact, Wilber falls into the common trap of seeing abuse at the hands of a guru as somehow necessary for enlightenment. This idea goes back at least as far Medieval Tibetan Buddhism; Naropa, one of the great sages of the Tibetan tradition, suffered greatly at the hands of his guru, Tilopa. Since both Transpersonal psychology and Wilber, and therefore the modern Integral movement (not just Wilberian but sometimes in the broader sense too)., is strongly influenced by Tibetan memes, we can see how this idea became entrenched. Interestingly, Wilber's friend and colleague, self-styled guru Andrew Cohen seems – if the the harrowing accounts of their experiences by his ex-disciples is anything to go by[49] – to show very similar behaviour to that of Adi Da, and is every bit as abusive towards his followers.

With this in mind, let's make a brief checklist of warning that indicate a guru, even a nonduality "enlightened" one, that is an abuser. The following is in no way meant as a complete checklist, but just lists a few common flaws. Note that not all abusive gurus will have all of these flaws, but an abusive guru will at the very least have two or three:

  • Sexually abusive behaviour
  • Demanding or requesting large "donations" (to fund an unnecessarily opulent or wealthy lifestyle)
  • Acting or teaching one way in public and another in private (e.g. celibate gurus justifying sex with female disciples as "Tantric Initiation")
  • Narcissistic behaviour
  • Using insulting words or other abusive behaviour to "break down your ego".
  • Physical abuse, usually by telling devotees to assault other devotees
  • Taking advantage of the disciples trust; controlling or forcing them to do something they don't want to
  • Emotionally sadistic (and in extreme cases physically sadistic)
  • Vindictive attitude towards ex-devotees
  • Responding to critics with anger, bitterness, hatred, or mockery rather than love

And so on. You get the idea. Note also that not having any of the above, or any of the other common pop guru flaws[50], does not mean a Guru or Teacher is genuine, it simply means it may be okay to be involved with them Another indicator – uneasy feeling or small voice that says "this is wrong" may not be reliable as it requires a well developed spiritual consciousness on the part of the seeker. And feeling drained after some time in the abusive guru's presence is also unreliable; not everyone is emotionally parasitised.

Sometimes, as in Da Free John / Adi Da's case, gurus justify their behaviour by saying it represents "crazy wisdom" (another Tibetan theme). So-called "crazy wisdom" gurus, in addition to being abusive, may partake of alcohol or drugs, have lots of (willing) sexual partners, and so on. Chogyam Trungpa is a typical example of a Crazy Wisdom guru, but he does not seem to have been as specifically abusive.

But the most common – indeed, the standard, excuse abusive gurus use to justify their behaviour is that it is necessary that the disciple be abused and humiliated in order for them to overcome ego and attain enlightenment (although at the same time, no abusive guru ever acknowledges that any of their students have ever attained enlightenment) It is this, more subtle argument, that one finds associated with the Wilberian Integral movement as a whole. According to Andrew Cohen, teachers need to break down one's ego, and this can be a psychologically and emotionally excruciating process. Wilber fully supports this approach. In the Foreword to one of Cohen's books, says

"When it comes to spiritual teachers, there are those who are safe, gentle, consoling, soothing, caring; and there are the outlaws, the living terrors, the Rude Boys and Nasty Girls of God realization, the men and women who are in your face, disturbing you, terrifying you, until you radically awaken to who and what you really are....

If you want encouragement, soft smiles, ego stroking, gentle caresses of your self-contracting ways, pats on the back and sweet words of solace, find yourself a Nice Guy or Good Girl, and hold their hand on the sweet path of stress reduction and egoic comfort. But if you want Enlightenment, if you want to wake up, if you want to get fried in the fire of passionate Infinity, then, I promise you: find yourself a Rude Boy or a Nasty Girl, the ones who make you uncomfortable in their presence, who scare you witless, who will turn on you in a second and hold you up for ridicule, who will make you wish you were never born, who will offer you not sweet comfort but abject terror, not saccharin solace but scorching angst, for then, just then, you might very well be on the path to your own Original Face".[51]

Wilber applauds Cohen as a "rude boy", and offers him (and abusive gurus in general) as the alternative to a ridiculous caricature that does not match the description of any spiritual teacher. He says that the "rude boy" will "hold you up for ridicule" and "will make you wish you were never born". Yes, all out of his boundless love and compassion that you may yourself attain Enlightenment! But let us look at the reality, the mind games and psychological conditioning and abuse; things that Wilber, who has never been a disciple at Cohen's Foxhollow community, has not had to experience.

Here is one example (from Enlighten Nixt blog)

At one point, the women as a group got into serious trouble because some women answered back to some men who told them they were not doing their spiritual practice properly. Andrew heard about this and let it be known that their disagreement was "outrageous." The women went into a panic when they heard this. They decided they must do something extreme to prove their penitence.

The tragic nature of this example is shown by the fact that it is the disciples themselves suggested this, as a means of punishment, in order to win Cohen's favour (other methods included giving him huge sums of money, such as twenty thousand dollars, or even the entire life savings) I will return to this point a little later. In this particular instance, it was decided that they would do prostrations in the freezing cold water of a lake on the property, standing waist deep in water and submerging themselves completely, again and again, for an entire hour.

Andrew's wife, Alka, was excused from the practice because she had a bad chest cold. But another woman had suffered a concussion and brain injury the year before. Andrew knew this, because she had undergone a lengthy convalescence at Foxhollow. She was not excused. She passed out in the lake's cold waters after about 50 minutes. She was carried out of the lake, unconscious. She came to in a warm shower, with two other women holding her up. Another woman described making it through the hour. She and some others who did so turned blue. They shivered so hard afterwards that they could not stop shaking enough to undo their zippers or buttons so they could take off their clothes. They went in groups into hot showers, where they stood for 45 minutes at a time until they had finally stopped shivering enough to undress. One woman wound up in the hospital with a serious kidney infection, requiring an I.V. drip, about 1 ½ months later. She attributes this to her exposure in the lake.

Some women did not make it through the practice. The women as a group got a message from Andrew that those who did not finish had to go back again and complete it. Some women had to return to the lake and try two or three times before they could do so."

The What Enlightenment? and Enlighten Nixt blogs are full of cases of unhealthy psychological manipulation like this. One the one hand, one is disgusted by Cohen's willing participation in all this, on the other hand, amazed that these people – through lack of self esteem and ability to claim their own power – would put themselves into such a situation in the first place.

Of course it goes on and on. The following poignant message is from a post by an 82-year old war veteran to an ex-Cohenist blog What Enlightenment?, regarding his granddaughter:

My grand daughter spent 5 years with Andrew and she never spoke a word to me during that time....Andrew took a beautiful women and turned her into a fearful depressed person, it's like he sucked the spirit out of her and left only a confused shell.

I appreciate all of your contributions I have read them all it makes me sad to see what's happened to my grand daughter, really sad that a life has been so destroyed by someone she chose to put trust in. I hope one day someone finds a way of stopping him.

...My grand daughter was continuously asked for money, she gave over some $28,000 in the last 2 years.[52]

This story is by no means unique (in fact it was selected here at random because it happened to be the lead story when I was researching What Enlightenment? for the current essay); and is typical of the sort of emotional, physical, and financial abuse, the human wreckage that these people leave in their wake. One wonders why Wilber himself has not investigated these claims; as – his ranting against any criticism of his work aside – he seems from his ambivalence regarding Adi Da to be a decent sort of person. Moreover, when a case of sexual abuse by a spiritual teacher in his own Integral Institute movement recently came up, he did act, albeit reluctantly, and with the usual "green bashing".[53]

I have dedicated some time to criticising Andrew Cohen, not because he is any worse than other such gurus and cult-leaders (indeed, he may be mild compared to some), but because he is considered by Wilber to be an enlightened being, albeit not as great a realiser as Adi Da. This shows a serious lack of spiritual but even common sense discrimination among Wilber and those of his followers who also support people like this. It is important to emphaise however that not all Wilberites do go along with this; some at least would seem to be critical of Wilber's association with abusive gurus.

In any case, this sort of situation is almost pandemic among a great many pop gurus and teachers. As well as Da Free John / Adi Da[54], one can mention Rajneesh[55], Sathya Sai Baba[56], Guru Maharaji[57], Swami Muktananda[58], Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi[59], Elizabeth Claire Prophet[60] (Neo-Theosophy), Vijayadev Yogendra[61], and many others . This does not mean we should demonise these people. Some, like Muktananda, seem to have been genuinely nice individuals who simply gave in to their dark side. From his magazine, and the talks on his website, I get a decent enough vibe from Andrew Cohen. I certainly think he does do a lot of good work; it is just a question of this other, more negative side to his nature. In a way (and ignoring for the moment the matter of abuse), Andrew Cohen reminds me of a guy I knew on a friendly acquaintance sort of way on and off for many years. It happened that this person became a devotee of Guru Maharji. After a bit of time, and flushed with the buzz of having his heart chakra opened a little (in a similar manner as what happens with "born again" evangelical Christians) he decided to become a guru. He was no more enlightened then you and I, but because he has a little bit of an opening on the emotional level, that made him think he was qualified to teach. And he did gather a small circle of followers around him; about half a dozen. Like many gurus he was charming, and attractive to the ladies (most of his followers were female). It is important to emphasise here that the sort of psychological, sexual, and financial abuse we see in the pop guru scene would have been as abhorrent to him as it is to you or I. But he would sit with his circle around him and give a talk, while his disciples all listened (I went to a couple, but only because I was hoping his charm with the women would rub off on me; it didn't of course; but in those days my emotional development lagged far behind my intellectual and spiritual development; emotionally I was just a kid!). I don't know what happened to my friend; I haven't seen him in about 17 years or so, so I have no idea if he still has his little group

But I can imagine if my friend, instead of having a handful of devotees, had hundreds. And if they saw him not simply as a guy who knows a little more than they do, who is just a bit more spiritually advanced then they, and so who they can learn from (which was the attitude of the people in his group), but as actually a self-realised, enlightened being. And if they then projected all their longings, insecurities, unresolved parental issues, need for love, anima/animus images, repressed or not-so-repressed feelings of unworthiness, and all the other stupidities of human nature, on him. Unless my friend was truly a very spiritual being indeed, I can very easily imagine him going down the path that all these others have. Yes, he is a really nice guy, but power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The problem is that the current Guru institution, as it has been adopted in the West, is deeply flawed, indeed, it is quite medieval. It may be that these traditional cultures like India, Tibet, and the Far East have their own checks and balances, and since these have been removed in the West, what is left is the abusiveness. Or perhaps the same problems also have occurred and do occur in traditional cultures, and great Gurus and Teachers were great not because of this institution, but in spite of it (in the same manner as with religious institutions everywhere). I certainly am not qualified to say which of these alternatives are correct; perhaps it might be a bit of both.

My explanation of how abusiveness works is simple. It has nothing to do with noble motives of helping the disciple work through their ego, progress more swiftly to enlightenment, and all the rest. That is just the rationalisation that is at the heart of the pop guru institution, and the reason why this institution is flawed. In other words, the abusive guru is just basically your average emotionally immature and selfish imperfect human being, except that he or she also happens to have some opening to inner and subtle states and powers, up to and including self-realisation. As Wilber himself puts it, these individuals are characterised by "One Taste sufficiency that leaves schmucks as it finds them".[62] Psychologist and participative spirituality advocate John Heron criticises Wilber's conception of spiritual development on that count, but I think what Wilber says is true, although I would strongly disagree with Wilber's assessment that these abusive gurus actually are authentically enlightened (see sect. 2-v). In this instance (and perhaps in all such instances) what Wilber calls "One Taste sufficiency" is simply a lesser experience, not even a spiritual experience. In any case, the argument that "this is good for you, it will help you attain enlightenment" is simply a ploy that the abusive guru uses, a way of manipulating his or her victims, and which he or she can use, precisely because it is part of the whole pop guru mindset. Quite likely the abusive guru genuinely believes his or her own words, because he or she is likewise conditioned by this mindset, just as much as his or her followers are.

But it goes beyond just that. Note the story of Cohen's female disciples who themselves offered to submit themselves to "water torture". What it all comes down to the sadomasochistic co-dependency between abusive guru and dysfunctional disciple. For every sadist there is a victim, who wants to be tortured and hurt, perhaps out of deep self-loathing, or repressed memories of childhood abuse, in order to earn the love of their abuser (who, being an abuser, will never be satisfied, and will always continue to abuse). I tend to see the current pop guru phenomenon as very much like the battered wife attitude; with their followers so used to be abused, and they know nothing else, that they think it is "their fault" and all this is done for "their benefit". And the more abusive the guru is, the more the disciple rationalises the abuse! A classic case, but only one among probably many thousands of such cases, is what happened to Georg Feurestein and his wife at the hands of Da Free John.[63]

All this is due to the fact that without doubt the largest number of pop Gurus do not have what I would call an integral awakening (more on this a little later). And because the theme that "being abused is necessary if you want to attain enlightenment" is perpetuated by people like Wilber who are seen as reputable authorities in the New Consciousness movement (e.g. Wilber's recommendation above that the seeker should choose "the Rude Boys and Nasty Girls of God realization"), susceptible and vulnerable seekers in the "spiritual supermarket", who only know what they read and hear, fall into this whole sadomasochistic relationship and hence serve as a supply of new victims. But as ex-devotees can now use the Internet to expose abusive gurus, John Heron may well be right when he says that the age of authoritarian guru is coming to an end. (there will always be these sorts of gurus, but i think in future they won't have such an easy time of it)

It is worth noting also that when one studies the lives and words of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, Ramana Maharshi, or the 14th Dalai Lama, never once do they talk about "breaking down" the ego; never once do they come across in an aggressive, brutalising manner. And out of all the many disciples and thousands of devotees each of them have, there is not one report of abuse, or any mention of "breaking down the ego". To me, this is sign of a True or Authentic Guru.

2-v. The Intermediate Zone

How are spiritually realised abusive gurus even possible? Clearly many of the pop gurus have genuine, even profound experiences. Up to and including nondual experiences. How can they be so narcissistic and insensitive to the needs of others, if they have realised non-duality, and that there is no separation between themselves and others?

We need here to distinguish genuine Spirituality, and genuine Gurus and Teachers, from those who, while possessing a greater or lesser degree of non-dual realisation, even total self-realisation on the mental or consciousness level, nevertheless retain ego, and can often have a destructive and abusive effect on their disciples and devotees. To understand how this can be so, we need to look at the Intermediate Zone. The Intermediate zone, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, refers to a dangerous and misleading transitional spiritual and pseudospiritual region between the ordinary consciousness of the outer being and true spiritual realisation. To quote the words of the master of Integral Yoga:

"These things, when they pour down or come in, present themselves with a great force, a vivid sense of inspiration or illumination, much sensation of light and joy, an impression of widening and power. The sadhak feels himself freed from the normal limits, projected into a wonderful new world of experience, filled and enlarged and exalted;what comes associates itself, besides, with his aspirations, ambitions, notions of spiritual fulfilment and yogic siddhi; it is represented even as itself that realisation and fulfilment. Very easily he is carried away by the splendour and the rush, and thinks that he has realised more than he has truly done, something final or at least something sovereignly true. At this stage the necessary knowledge and experience are usually lacking which would tell him that this is only a very uncertain and mixed beginning; he may not realise at once that he is still in the cosmic Ignorance, not in the cosmic Truth, much less in the Transcendental Truth, and that whatever formative or dynamic idea-truths may have come down into him are partial only and yet further diminished by their presentation to him by a still mixed consciousness. He may fail to realise also that if he rushes to apply what he is realising or receiving as if it were something definitive, he may either fall into confusion and error or else get shut up in some partial formation in which there may be an element of spiritual Truth but it is likely to be outweighted by more dubious mental and vital accretions that deform it altogether."[64]

So far everything has been described from the perspective of the yogi in the Intermediate zone. Sri Aurobindo was not writing a critique on the pop guru movement, but a warning to sadhaks (spiritual aspirants) following his yoga; the perils that they had to be aware of, in order to avoid.

But the way that the Intermediate zone works is through a sort of psychological contagion. Thus not just the sadhak or yogi or pop guru themselves, but those around them, also experience this, and it is like a drug, a buzz, a high, a thrill, a rush; it is attractive, it draws them in, and together with the misleading information regarding "breaking down the walls of ego", they are able to justify and rationalise any abuse as "for their own good" and "a sign of the Master's fiery love and compassion".

Note also that the Intermediate Zone does not mean that you are not enlightened. If that is was the case it would present much less danger, because the Teachers who are stuck at that level would be more easily seen to be fakes. No, it is quite possible, even very common, for the abusive gurus stuck here to be Enlightened, and indeed not only themselves Enlightened, but through their own realisation to transformation others, or rather those lucky few who for whatever reason, perhaps a certain grossness or resilience of nature, are able to ride out the waves of emotional parasitism and sadistic abuse that is tied in with and inseparable from the love and compassion. For it is all part of the ambiguity of the Intermediate Zone that some people can be totally destroyed by its negative energies, and others transformed. Says the anonymous Beezone writer who criticised Wilber's understanding of Da:

"Let me share with you a little of my experience with this Ruthless and Loving Master. I lived in a small room with Adi Da for many months and I saw and EXPERIENCED His Brutal Simplicity and Service. It took me months and years to begin to understand His Fire and Ferocity. The time between my initial, immature reaction and the wave of unending gratitude, a thousand points of view could be seized upon. Only afterwards were the lessons understood. What had been seen as so horrible was transform into freedom and radiant joy."[65]

And here is where the cultic justification comes in: because this one person benefited, he assumes that everyone will, if only they will stick at the process. But this conveniently ignores the extent of human wreckage these abusive gurus leave in their wake. The contradiction between the two realities – that of the devotees who are come through stronger, and of the larger number who are crushed – cannot be surmounted by the rational mind; the situation is fluid; there are no dogmatic answers. But is it really a sensible thing to put your life in the hands of someone who adopts a sadomasochistic attitude towards his or her followers? ( a "rude boy" and "nasty girl" as Wilber euphemistically puts it)

The paradox is all the greater when we consider that many of these gurus and teachers genuinely do many good things, alongside the negative things. Thus there seem to be, in addition to the narcissistic and abusive elements, a number of more positive characteristics by which Intermediate zone gurus and teachers, or those that have even a partial development, may be recognised:

  • A profound manner of writing or speaking, by which one can sense of the Light and consciousness in the words.
  • A feeling of force or shakti in their presence, which is perceptible to and can even bring about an elevation of consciousness in sensitive observers (even if they are otherwise spiritually undeveloped)
  • By their own account, they have gone beyond the outer personality and realised a transcendent state of being or reality

And what are we to make of a project such as Da's immensely inspiration (to the present writer at least) "Fear No More Zoo"[66] In a world in which the animal kingdom is often the most helpless and innocent of all, at the hands of human wanton destructiveness and greed, how often does someone, and especially someone who in other instances has shown deeply narcissistic behaviour, as Da Free John / Adi Da has, take the time and trouble to set up something like this project? If anything shows the paradox of the Intermediate Zone guru, to me it is this particular gesture.

2-vi. Soul-realisation and genuine Spirituality

With the abusive spiritualities that derive their inspiration from the mixed lights of the Intermediate zone, we are clearly light years away from a true and balanced Integral Yoga and Integral Spirituality that transforms the entire being. This is because what Wilber calls the "One Taste" is simply an experience of the inner being. Far more important, as Sri Aurobindo has shown, involves the awakening of the Soul or Divine Center (also called the "Psychic Being" in Aurobindonian terminology), an understanding that is lacking in many non-dualist spiritualities and philosophies (including the Wilberian paradigm). Because there is currently no concept of the individual inner Divine principle in Wilberian Integral theory, and because this is such an essential element in any authentic and integral spirituality, it is worth including an extended description. As Sri Aurobindo explains:

"The other parts of our natural composition are not only mutable but perishable; but the psychic entity in us persists and is fundamentally the same always: it contains all essential possibilities of our manifestation but is not constituted by them; it is not limited by what it manifests, not contained by the incomplete forms of the manifestation, not tarnished by the imperfections and impurities, the defects and depravations of the surface being. It is an ever-pure flame of the divinity in things and nothing that comes to it, nothing that enters into our experience can pollute its purity or extinguish the flame. This spiritual stuff is immaculate and luminous and, because it is perfectly luminous, it is immediately, intimately, directly aware of truth of being and truth of nature; it is deeply conscious of truth and good and beauty because truth and good and beauty are akin to its own native character, forms of something that is inherent in its own substance. It is aware also of all that contradicts these things, of all that deviates from its own native character, of falsehood and evil and the ugly and the unseemly; but it does not become these things nor is it touched or changed by these opposites of itself which so powerfully affect its outer instrumentation of mind, life and body. For the soul, the permanent being in us, puts forth and uses mind, life and body as its instruments, undergoes the envelopment of their conditions, but it is other and greater than its members."[67]

Remember, this is not the Paramatman, not Shunyata, not any Transcendent Absolute Reality. It is the Inner Divine center, although it is often – due to the lack of spiritual development in many – veiled and hidden from the surface personality and ordinary consciousness. One can find analogies in other spiritual teachings; the Inner Guide or "Man of Light" in some Hermetic and Sufi beliefs, some interpretations of the Neshamah or higher Soul in Kabbalah, the Higher Manas in Blavatskyian Theosophy (and equivalents in Neo-Theosophy), the "Holy Guardian Angel" in contemporary occultism, the, to some extent, "good heart" in the 14th Dalai Lama's teachings.

In Integral Yoga, "Psychicisation" is when the Divine Center or Heart Consciousness comes to the front and leads the being, transforming and guiding the lower nature as it goes. Continues Sri Aurobindo:

"The soul, the psychic entity, then manifests itself as the central being which upholds mind and life and body and supports all the other powers and functions of the Spirit; it takes up its greater function as the guide and ruler of the nature. A guidance, a governance begins from within which exposes every movement to the light of Truth, repels what is false, obscure, opposed to the divine realisation: every region of the being...even the most concealed, camouflaged, mute, recondite, is lighted up with the unerring psychic light, their confusions dissipated, their tangles disentangled, their obscurities, deceptions, self-deceptions precisely indicated and removed; all is purified, set right, the whole nature harmonised, modulated in the psychic key, put in spiritual order."[68]

This Heart or Divine Soul Consciousness is precisely what is absent in all abusive gurus, and it doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere in Wilber's linear series of spiritual stages (Vision-Logic, Psychic, Subtle, Causal, Nondual) either, except in a very peripheral manner in the earlier stages. Non-dualist and "one taste" spiritualities and Teachers, by emphasising the non-dual above all else, sidestep having to work on transforming the personality through the Divine Soul, and pay for it later when they become trapped in the Intermediate Zone!

Writing in the early part of the 20th century, Sri Aurobindo was fully aware of the dangers involved in opening to these forces without the associated development of the Soul, in a way that none of the modern pop gurus seem to be:

"Some of these experiences can come by an opening of the inner mental and vital being, the inner and larger and subtler mind and heart and life within us, without any full emergence of the soul, the psychic entity, since there too there is a power of direct contact of consciousness: but the experience might then be of a mixed character; for there could be an emergence not only of the subliminal knowledge but of the subliminal ignorance. An insufficient expansion of the being, a limitation by mental idea, by narrow and selective emotion or by the form of the temperament so that there would be only an imperfect self-creation and action and not the free soul-emergence, could easily occur. In the absence of any or of a complete psychic emergence, experiences of certain kinds, experiences of greater knowledge and force, a surpassing of the ordinary limits, might lead to a magnified ego and even bring about instead of an out-flowering of what is divine or spiritual an uprush of the titanic or demoniac, or might call in agencies and powers which, though not of this disastrous type, are of a powerful but inferior cosmic character."[69]

If Intermediate zone gurus were totally of this nature there would be no problem; they would be seen for the ugly pettiness of their egos, and no-one (except psychologically disturbed people and masochists) would be compelled to follow them. But the whole idea of the Intermediate zone is that it is immensely alluring, immensely attractive and powerful and potent.

It takes a rare seekers not to be impressed or awed by the powerful charismatic spiritual qualities of Intermediate Zone individuals, and for this reason, if they are naïve or susceptible, rationalise the abusive elements, as we have seen..

The presence of blogs like "What Enlightenment?" which contain numerous allegations of abusive behaviour by Cohen towards his devotees, indicate that perhaps he does indeed think in that way. This is not to deny that he has had genuine experiences, as has Wilber, as described in his journals in One Taste, but there is absolutely no shortage of such experiences that can be had in the Intermediate Zone. And as we have seen the fact that Wilber considers Da – a guru whose abusive behaviour is so well known that even Wilber himself warns readers of his books to stay clear of – as the Greatest Living Realiser, further reinforces this.

And it is the Wilberian Integral Movement 's current dependence on teachers who only have a partial, that is, a nondual, realisation, but not a Divine Soul-centered realisation, that constitutes the lack of genuine spiritual understanding in the movement, and as we have seen Wilber's confusion over his own Guru. What I am saying here is that the Integral Movement (both Wilberian and in the larger context) requires not just a superficial Integral Spirituality but an authentic and deep-seated Integral Yoga if it is to grow to embrace a more complete Integral movement and spirituality than its current very partial status. Without an Integral Spirituality, and more especially, an Integral Yoga, it will be deficient and empty, a shell that might look good on the outside, but has no Light within. And being spiritually empty, it will be prey to whatever negative influences and mixed half lights there are in the spiritual environment.

2c Mentalisation

2-vii. On knowing another's mind.

Wilber claims that his own integral philosophy is superior to those of all previous spiritual teachers, "transcending and including" previous "metaphysical" teachings. In this part of the present thesis it will be argued that this claim is incorrect, and that Wilber's understanding is actually limited to a purely mental-intellectual level, rather than from higher spiritual insights.

There is however an objection that should first be addressed. Cognitive scientist Tom Murray, in the context of a very relevant essay on epistemological indeterminacy (uncertainties and ambiguities in knowledge and the way it is communicated and validated) and the various ways that truth claims are evaluated, refers to the danger of critics presuming to know what the author they are criticisng is actually thinking, notes

"That people offer simplified examples of each other's works in order to make a point is unavoidable. Debates may have a bit more integrity if a one makes a clear distinction between what an author says (and/or seems to imply) and what an author must actually believe, as the latter is a far more speculative claim. For example, Meyerhoff's critique that in Wilber's writing "a type of relativism prevails which Wilber believes he has transcended..." is doubtful. Wilber himself crosses the mind-reading boundary at times, for example: "incredibly, [William] James overlooks the fact that the symbol per itself...immediately experienced or apprehended by the eye of the flesh"[70]

How then can I presume to know what Wilber (or anyone) is thinking? I am painfully aware that any undertaking of this sort may therefore be construed as constituting an ad hominem ("against the man") attack or a presumption of psycho-analysis. So I would like to offer several arguments in response.

First there is "like can be known by like". Wilber is an intellectual, I am an intellectual. I've always been impressed by how similar some of our approaches have been over the years, even if in the realm of spirituality and metaphysics we could not be further apart (and seem to grow prow progressively further apart as we develop our respective ideas).

Then there is the fact that on a broader level we all share certain weaknesses as part of the human condition; that only truly enlightened beings (and I don't mean those with mixed or Intermediate zone realisation) are free of. Thus by virtue of being human, one has some idea what another person thinks or feels, regardless of personal differences.

So far I have only mentioned indirect knowledge; knowledge by analogy. But there is also direct knowledge too. It is a misconception of the Western secular materialistic worldview that we all live shut up in our own heads, and it is not possible to know, feel, or experience anything of another's thoughts or feelings or psychic states. In fact a deeper understanding[71] reveals that we are constantly exchanging energy, thoughts, and feelings with others on a subconscious or subliminal level. Have you ever felt uncomfortable in the presence of someone? Or felt a strong attraction and compatibility with someone else, and found it very easy to talk with them? Or swept up in the excitement of a crowd or a telecast sporting event? Do certain streets and areas have a certain "aura" about them? Do you feel "drained" in the presence of certain people? Have you felt something like a spark or shock of connection when you catch the eye of a stranger? Or communicated telepathically by looking into the eyes of animals or infants? These sort of interactions and energy flows are going on all the time. And through simple intuition we can recognise and acknowledge them, distinguishing them from the every day mental chatter of the rational waking mind.

It is not even necessary to be in a person's presence for this to happen. Every writer puts a certain "vibration" in their words (whether books, essays, letters, emails, or blog posts). By reading and entering into those words, you can intuitively feel and contact the consciousness behind them.

All this constitutes an esoteric and occult truth, and hence not acceptable to secular modernity. Nevertheless I mention it here, because were I to follow what modern physicalism says I would never have written this essay in the first place!

Finally, there are the opinions of other critics which seem to confirm one's own conclusions and intuitions, or regarding things that one has a nagging feeling "are not right".

All of the above does not negate the constant process of psychological projection, subjective bias, neurotic or psychotic subconscious reactions, and distortion of what one receives to fit one's own mental preconceptions. All this has to be taken into account, if one is to avoid simply projecting one's own biases and neuroses onto another.

As intuition, auric exchange, empathetic connection and the participatory paradigm[72] reveals, ultimately there is no such thing as a rigidly separated subject and object, and we all connect, merge, overlap, and interrelate on some level, or rather, on may levels. Every mental act is also an act of imposing one's own subjective biases and preconceptions on a wider world, and especially on the larger noosphere (intersubjective collectivity of human thought). And every input of information means receiving and internalising, accepting or rejecting (according to one's own inclinations), the thought-forms of others, as well as subtle and auric energies from one's environment.

2-viii. Why Wilber and Integral Theory are limited to the Abstract Mental Sphere of Understanding

Using the above arguments (sect 2-vii), there are, I suggest, a number of things that indicate that Wilber and Wilberian Integral theory are limited to a purely subjective and very abstractionist mental level, and hence cannot represent a totally new insight superior to and beyond that of all previous spiritual, esoteric, and authentically enlightened, teachings and teachers, simply because such spiritual or enlightened teachings would by their very nature have already transcended Wilber's abstractionist methodology and understanding. These are:

  1. Unnecessary overcomplexity of ideas – the tendency of the rational-intellectual mind, unguided by higher spiritual inspiration, to create ever more elaborate edifices
  2. Abstraction, artificiality, what is described has little or no relation to either the concrete physical world or to immediate experiences.
  3. Cannot see other teachings in themselves – instead interprets everything else in terms of his own understanding
  4. Projects deficiencies in own philosophy onto other teachings

With the exception of point four, these failings are in no way unique to Wilberian thought. It is the nature of the intellect and the mental being to abstract bits of information and experience to create its own subjective worldview, which means distorting and misinterpreting the processed data, then justifying and rationalising its conclusions (mental ego). Good scholarship and a well-developed pragmatic common sense attitude and intuitive discrimination can allow one to avoid these pitfalls. But ultimately only by going beyond mental preconceptions can one arrive at a more profound understanding, but even that is not the Absolute (at least not to begin with), but simply a level of the inner being or intermediate zone.

Regarding the fourth point, I myself have never seen this in any other non-cultic philosophy or teaching, although this may simply be due to lack of knowledge and insufficient reading on my part. However this fourth point can be associated with shadow-project and, ultimately, the development of cultic tendencies (sect 2-xii).

Each of the above points will now be considering in turn.

1) The tendency of the rational-intellectual mind, unguided by higher spiritual inspiration, to create ever more elaborate edifices. It has often been said – whether this is true or not, I do not know, but it is often said – that Truth is simple. Even physicists are always searching for that holy grail, a grand theory of everything that can be summed up in an equation that can be written on a T-shirt Yet the mind unaided can only turn around and around itself, gather more and more bits and ideas, or replace old ideas with new ones that are different but no better or no more elegant. And this is what we see with Wilber, more than with any other thinker I have ever heard of. At the start, Wilber had only a single idea – whether it was the increasingly fragmenting "spectrum of consciousness" of "Wilber I", or the psychological and transpersonal arc and linear evolution of "Wilber II" . While Wilber has totally rejected the former, I find that both of these worldviews are very good, and while neither should be taken literally, either can equally serve as a myth or allegorical story of some aspect or another of Consciousness. In fact, I would say that this very early work was without doubt Wilber's best.

But then Wilber added more and more ideas with each successive iteration of his philosophy. "Wilber II"'s The Atman Project incorporated the Seven Stages of Life from Da Free John, developmental psychology (e.g. Freud, Piaget, etc), and (in Up From Eden) Jean Gebser's concept of history; Wilber III added on Howard Gardner's lines of development to the simple linear pre-trans of II; IV added on quadrants, Truth Claims, and the big Three of Habermas, holons and the holarchy from Koestler, deconstruction from postmodernism, and then later, Spiral Dynamics, and now the nascent Wilber-V has eight perspectives in addition to four quadrants and everything else.[73] Yet with all this increasingly complexity there is no increasing harmony. If anything, the whole system is becoming more unwieldy; for example eight perspectives seems a definite step down from the mandalic elegance of the four quadrants.

2) Abstraction, artificiality, what is described has little or no relation to either the concrete physical world or to immediate experiences. With the exception of Wilber's autobiographical account of the death of his wife (Grace and Grit), which is written in a very different style to his other works, and his One Taste journals, nothing he says in his voluminous philosophical writings is based on his direct experience. Instead we find only second hand adoption of the views of others, all classified and codified according to Wilber's own intellectual system. We see this excessive abstraction and artificiality in the proliferation of concepts like holons, quadrants, and (more recently) perspectives, that cannot be measured empirically nor experienced phenomenologically. Likewise lines, waves and stages refer to mental pigeonholing of experiences; they are ways that the experiences can be classified, but do not pertain to the concrete physical or supra-physical experiences themselves. As William Irwin Thompson observes regarding Wilber's work: "never does one come upon a feeling for the concrete, a new look at an individual poem, a painting, or a work of architecture" [74]

Wilber's abstraction and intellectual theories remind me a lot of my earlier writings, when I likewise thought in terms of planes, levels of being, and so on, and tried to match all the esoteric teachings into a single template.[75] I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turns out that most intellectuals do this sort of thing.

3) Cannot see other teachings in themselves – interprets everything in terms of one's own understanding. When I first started reading esoterica, I would mark and underline passages in pencil, and sometimes write little comments in the margin as well. More recently I have looked back at the books I marked, and I realised that I was just taking little bits out of context, and ignoring other more important things the author is saying. This is the reason I don't like reading library books and annotated second hand books, they are overlain with the previous reader's or owner's thoughts and opinions. We all do this to some extent, look at the world through selective glasses, take what interests us or resonates with or confirms our own opinions, and ignore the rest. Thus we see everything in terms of our own understanding, our own subjective mental bubble or mental fortress (sect 2-ix); so that everything becomes a projection of one's own beliefs.

In this regard, Wilber is no different from anyone else. However, because Wilber writes so broadly about other thinkers, and his books sell so well, people get the idea that his own intellectual annotations, side-notes, and blind spots really refer to the actual teacher or teaching that he is referring to.

This is certainly not the case regarding his interpretation of Sri Aurobindo (see sect. 3-i), and there is a similar pattern of misinterpretation in the way he approaches Plotinus, including in this case, as D. H. Frew points out, deliberate misquoting.[76] Even his tables comparing Plotinus and Aurobindo have a contrived feel about them. Not surprisingly, Wilber also gets Shankara wrong.[77] And while Wilber very often refers to Gebser, as William Irwin Thompson points out[78], there is very little of Gebser in Wilber's work. David Lane has pointed out that Wilber makes a huge assumption regarding Shabd Yoga.[79] Jeff Meyerhoff has pointed out numerous, across the board flaws in Wilber's thinking and his research claims.[80] And Robert Carroll, Geoff Falk, myself, and Jim Chamberlain have all shown that Wilber, in critiquing Evolutionary science, doesn't even seem to understand what Darwinism really teaches.[81] It seems that everywhere we look, Wilber imposes his own ideas onto the books that he cites. As a result he is not able to put aside his own personal worldview to hear a different, even contrary, one. Which brings us to the next point.

4) Projects deficiencies in own philosophy onto other teachings. An online essay by Wilber on Integral Mathematics[82] (already cited sect.2-ii) in reference to Wilber's misunderstanding of Metaphysics by including everyone from Plotinus and Aurobindo to Gurdjieff and William James) contains such an ironic statement that it is worth considering at some length. The bulk of this essay constitutes a highly abstract attempt to construct an "integral mathematics" which reminds me of the sort of over-intellectual diagrams of abstract planes and subplanes that I used about 15 years ago, when trying to figure out my own universal cosmology (see also point (2) above).

Wilber's approach as regards the various spiritual traditions is to abstract what he (not the practitioners of those traditions) considers important (point (3) above). In this case he artificially separates the experiential aspect from the cognitive content of the teachings (see sect.2-ii). He can then argue (in his integral mathematics essay) that his own AQAL (four quadrants) intellectual speculation enables him to a greater conclusion and insight than that of all the greatest sages of the past, because they were all limited to mere "abstractions", which in turn lead to further abstractions. Thus according to Wilber all

pre-quadratic [i.e. Pre-AQAL, pre-Wilberian] attempts to derive the essentials of the Kosmos from a starting point that prejudicially has already collapsed the essentials out of existence...must attempt to recover those essentials with epicycles of further abstractions.[82]

Probably I am completely misunderstanding what is being said here (as the above is part of a much longer and highly abstruse essay), but it seems to me that this talk of "abstractions" and loss of "essentials" is more reminiscent of Wilber's own intellectualising (see points 1 and 2 above). And the metaphor of Ptolemy's epicycles, one of the famous false insights in the history of early knowledge about the universe, whereby an attempt to rectify a theory only leads to increasing complexity, would likewise seem to apply more to Wilber's successive intellectual theories, than to those spiritual and enlightened philosophers and teachers (Plotinus, Shankara, Jung, Sri Aurobindo, etc) he claims to have gone beyond. Wilber seems to be saying here (and some of his students may wish to correct me if this is wrong) that unlike his own four quadratic theory (which is the first to truly understand the truth of these matters), and apart from the valid spiritual experiences they refer to, all these other teachings are nothing but artificial abstractions, in that

they have abstracted their conclusions out of the matrix of indigenous perspectives and then presented them as "the way things are," oblivious to the perspectives in which their "views from nowhere" actually arrive.[82]

And while Wilber is correct in stating that previous spiritual philosophers used the thoughtforms ("the matrix of indigenous perspectives") to present the intellectual side of their teachings, he conveniently fails to acknowledge that he likewise has abstracted his own ideas from the matrix of his own indigenous perspectives (Baldwin, Gebser, Habermas, Postmodernism, etc).

Perhaps I have missed some important insight, as I do not claim to know all the explanations and justifications behind Wilber's arguments, but I cannot understand why Wilber refers to mystics like Plotinus or Sri Aurobindo, or phenomenologists like James or Jung; as having "a view from nowhere". Although their words are indeed based on the ideas of their time and culture and upbringing, in each case the view was very specifically from real experiences. In contrast, as Thompson points out, nothing Wilber says is based on his own direct experience, but only on second hand adoption of the views of others. The very essay in which he argues his case is a perfect example of purely mental abstraction, interesting enough on a purely mental level, but unrelated to the real world (if anyone doubts me, check it out and see for yourself!). In explaining previous teachings in terms of his own abstractionist methodology, Wilber seems to be doing exactly what he always accuses his critics of doing to him, criticising something that has nothing to do with what is actually being said (this is said even with those critics who have taken the trouble to read all his writings, which Wilber hasn't done regarding teachers he interprets like Sri Aurobindo – see sect. 3-i).

And I cannot also help but feel (although maybe this is just my own subjective prejudice) that there is real hubris in Wilber's claim to be the one whose own personal theory finally provides the key to the mysteries that has been missed or overlooked by all the great sages of the past. Wilber is not the only one to do this of course; it seems to be a common trait among "theory of everything" intellectuals. But what is significant is the way that Wilber does this, by projecting what critics accuse him of, onto those great predecessors whom he justifiably admires. Thus he says:

If "direct experience" and "consciousness" are already low-order abstractions mistaken for realities (and hence are metaphysical ghosts), the notions of "levels of being," "levels of knowing," "ontological planes," and so on are even worse: they are abstractions of abstractions of abstractions, even though the experiences that those interpretative frameworks are trying to represent are authentic enough.[82]

The irony of the above paragraph would be evident to critics like William Irwin Thompson, who refers to Wilber's excessively "masculinist abstract system" and "obsessive mappings and textbook characterizations".[83] Likewise it is a little strange to see Wilber, with all his waves and streams and lines and quadrants and perspectives and holons, who admits that he is "mapmaker", accusing others of abstraction while claiming that he has the insight of how things really are. And it is equally curious to find Wilber, with his neo-perennialist "great nest of being" and AQAL mandala, criticising others for having notions of "levels of being" and "levels of knowing", while apparently denying (unless I am mistaken here, I would welcome feedback on this point) these attributes in his own intellectual framework. All of which smacks of subconscious psychological projection.[84]

Ultimately, the task of the intellectual should be to try to honestly and empathically understand what the writers one is critiquing are saying, rather than impose one's own interpretation, and project one's own opinions and even one's own failings onto those one is criticising.

Whether I have done this successfully regarding Wilber, or am merely providing another example of "the pot calling the kettle black" is up to the reader of this essay to decide!

2-ix. The Mental Fortress

In the previous section we saw how Wilber in his prolific writings projects his own opinions of what other teachers and philosophies are saying onto their own writings. And thus, when criticising them, he is actually criticising his own views. This leads to a very significant occult fact, which is that the mind creates its own reality, and then gets lost in it. The classic version is the Tibetan Bardo Thodel, where the disincarnate mind, lacking the stability and security of the physical body, is plunged into the world of its own illusions and mental projections; illusions which it always has had, but of which it was not previously aware, because of they were drowned out by the physical body. We see the same thing in people who take LSD and have psychedelic trips; all they are experiencing is their own mind.

It might be suggested that in the case of some people with an unusually strong intellect, this process is somewhat different, because it is the rational mind, rather than the subconscious, that is throwing up the "illusions" that determine how it sees the world. And the stronger the intellect, the more impenetrable the projection. Regarding this, The Mother says:

"There are people who spend their life organising their mind. I have known some who have made their mind a kind of fortress, a huge construction. I am speaking here of people who has uncommon mental abilities. They had made their mind quite a big edifice, very powerful and of such a fixity, with such solid walls that they had lost contact with the outer mental world: they lived completely within their own construction and all the phenomena of consciousness were of their own making."[85]

John C. Lilly says the same thing, albeit in different language

"In the province of mind, what is believed to be true is true or becomes true, within limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended."[86]

The "limits" or "beliefs" are the walls of the mental fortress.

Speaking personally, the Mother's story of the "Mental Fortress" had a big influence on me, but this was the second time around. I had read the same passage a great many years before, but at the time I wasn't ready to understand it. Then, more recently, rereading this passage, I realising that a lot of what I had thought and believed over the years was simply my own mental construction, rather than a description of Reality as such. Just like Wilber[87], I had always lived in my head, and spent several decades constructing elaborate edifices of cosmological understanding out of my own interpretations of other people's ideas and various spiritual and esoteric traditions. But now I was able to make an important breakthrough and transition from rational-intellectual to Soul-realisation (sect. 2-vi, 3-iv). Not in the sense of someone who gives up the intellect in favour of cultic naivity or a sort of wishy-washy form of devotionalism, but rather in seeing the rational-intellectual being as an essential and invaluable aid in the Yoga, but not the master. Whether Wilber and the more religiously fixed-minded of his followers can ever get outside their heads is another matter. But without making this step, Liberation in the old style of transcendence may be possible, but a true Integral spirituality (sect. 3-iv) is not. And without making this progression, the Wilberian Integral Movement will never amount to anything more than just another New Age cultic religion; specifically, it will morph into "Wilberanity" (a process that is already occurring now – sect. 2-xii).

2d Cultic tendencies

2-x The rise of "Wilberanity"

Perhaps the most significant thing about Wilberian Integral movement is the way it seems to be morphing into a sort of New Age cult.

Because I am not a member of Integral Naked, as I have no interest in signing up for the US $10.00 per month subscription that allows access to the forum, allows downloading of files and talks, and so on, I have to rely on the accounts of others, including both Wilber supporters and disaffected former Wilberians. But apart from this, evidence of a new cultic religion is apparent to me (others may disagree) in Brad Reynolds' online essay (on Wilber's official Shambhalla website) Where's Wilber at?,[88] a document that presents Wilber in such glowing terms that it can only be described as a hagiography (biography of a saint), in which, on top of everything., Wilber is identified (whether seriously or not is hard to tell) with a Buddhist deity.

So far Wilber has not expressed any objection to this curious document being posted on his official website. The reader may be allowed to draw their own conclusions as to why he allows such adulation.

But allow it he obviously does, both on Shambhalla and (from the tone of some of the message board discussions) on his Integral Naked website. So even if he is not actively encouraging a "cult of personality", neither is he doing anything to counter it.

The jocular tongue-in-cheek neologism "Wilberanity" is used in this context, by analogy with the established humourous self-referential term Wilberite[89], to designate this currently emerging religion, with its locus on Wilber's philosophy and charismatic writing style, and even his personality. The word is play on Wilber + either Christianity (a representative religion, with all its virtues and failings) and inanity/insanity; referring to the irony of educated individuals who already are aware of the limitations of literalist and exoteric religion (referred to as "blue vMEME" in the spiral dynamics system they use) dogmatically accepting a literalist interpretation of someone else's teachings. A Wilberite therefore is a follower of "Wilberanity". Inverted commas are used here, because this is an unofficial and humorous designation.

Examples of personality-based devotionalism here can be found in adulatory phrases referring to Wilber as "the greatest living philosopher" (Integral Naked forums) and "one of the West's greatest proponents of meditation" (Reynolds), and discussions on Integral Naked on topics like "is Wilber enlightened?" (with some contributors seeming to think that he may be!). There is also the tendency, which appears first in Reynolds' online essay Where's Wilber at?, to equate Wilber the Buddhist deity Manjushri. Manjushri is a deity from the Tibetan Pantheon who ironically represents the opposite of the Wilberian praxis; Manjushri's sword of discrimination cuts away the confusions of the mind (including, one would presume, the solid walls of the "mental fortress"), whilst Wilber adds more and more layers of mentalising with each successive reiteration of his theories. This association from Reynolds' hagiographic essay was further strengthened by visionary artist Alex Grey's evocative painting of Wilber as Manjushri. There is even talk on the Integral Naked forum, perhaps jocular, perhaps not, of the creation or emergence of a new religion based on Wilber's teachings.[90] In any case, religious elements are certainly evident in the way that the neologous adjective "boddhisattvic" is used in relation to Wilber's endeavours. Again, this derives from Reynold's hagiography and Grey's iconography. For example, Reynolds writes:

"One of the more useful ways that I envision Ken Wilber and his work is to see him as a Bodhisattva serving the enlightenment of other sentient beings..."

Likewise (and perhaps stemming from the above) one finds statements on Integral forums that Wilber is said to "bodhisattvically". For example on Wilber Watch a poster has this to say about Wilber

I can think of no one else who comes close to being the right person for this enormous bodhisattvic job he is undertaking...My felt sense is one of devotion at the true bodhisattvic demonstration that is taking place before my eyes...[91]

Perhaps I am being overly harsh or nitpicking in this, but the use of the word "bodhisattva" in this context does seem to be misleading. Because ultimately it either trivialises the original concept of the Bodhisattva, or it creates or helps feed a sort of personality cult around Wilber himself. A Bodhisattva, as everyone knows, is in Mahayana Buddhism an enlightened, liberated being who indefinitely defers entering into nirvana for the sake of helping sentient beings still in samsara to attain nirvana first. So a bodhisattva is automatically an enlightened, self-realised being. Even before they took on their current human rebirth they were enlightened. It doesnt make sense for a bodhisattva not to be enlightened, because how could they lead others to liberation if they themselves are not liberated and freed from the delusions of samsara?

In Wilber's case, mentalisation and psychological projection (sect 2-viii) imply to me at least that he is far from being enlightened; that he is still (like the rest of us) prone to the samsaric condition of delusion or metaphysical ignorance (avidya). It has also been shown (2-v) that Adi Da, Wilber's own guru, whom he describes as the greatest living enlightened being (or "realiser", to use his Daist-adapted terminology), would seem to be still stuck in the Intermediate zone. If Wilber cannot read other thinkers without putting the veil of his own interpretations there first, and if he cannot discriminate between abusive gurus (sect 2-iv) and the real thing, how can he be enlightened?

It may however be plausibly suggested that Wilberites do not use the word Bodhisattva in the same way that Buddhists do, but rather in a non-serious way to refer to someone who has dedicated their life to a noble ideal or vision (in this case, the unification of human knowledge). Even if that is what is meant, there are still problems. First it still means the word itself is trivialised. An analogy may be made with the way that the business world now uses terms from the Indian spiritual tradition like "mantra" and "guru" to refer to wholly materialistic realities. Such cheapening means that the original spiritual context is lost. And secondly, why is it only Wilber who acts in a "bodhisattvic" manner, and not other equally hard-working people both in the Integral Movement and outside it? So there is still that taint of religionism, despite the objections.

On the surface, one might interpret worship of Wilber as a bodhisattva, and the resulting literalist acceptance of his philosophy, as a new sect of indigenous Western Buddhism, in that as with educated (as opposed to lay-) Buddhism it is a highly intellectual philosophy, does not teach belief in God or a Creator, is essentially a form of applied spiritual psychology that recognises practical meditative techniques, and acknowledges its Founder as a being who attained a certain state and thus teaches from that perspective. But whereas Buddhism is an ancient and traditional faith that therefore contains important checks and balances to guard against cultic abuse; Wilber's teaching method and his integral movement – like those of abusive gurus he admires like Adi Da and Andrew Cohen – have no such safeguards built in. This means that there is a real possibility of cultic dysfunctionalism, a tendency that already seems to be established even now.

2-xi Arguing from authority, versus peer review

Many powerfully intellectual thinkers tend to have a strong mental ego, and hence an inflexible attitude towards their own insights. They consider that they are right and the world is wrong. And sometimes they are right in this assessment! A strong authoritarian sense of one's own understanding being correct actually serves a positive purpose, in that it enables the philosopher or scientist to stand firmly by their insights and discoveries in the face of an ignorant world. So from this perspective, to be strong and stubborn and sure of the correctness of one's understanding is good.

Where it is not so good is where the person in question – especially once they have gained some influence and established a paradigm of their own – begins to deny empirical and other facts that might disprove his (usually such thinkers are male, this is very much the sphere of the male rational anlaysing intellect) own insights and theories, and begins then to argue not from reason or from experience, but from authority. A good example of this is Wilber's response to the discussion on his own forum regarding how he gets evolutionary theory wrong[92] was met with an authoritarian rebuke – "guess what? Neo-Darwinian theory can't explain shit. Deal with it." This shows that he does care about the facts, and not just the framework (after all, AQAL and Wilberian theory would work just as well using conventional Darwinism). By his refusal to admit that his understanding of biological evolution is seriously in error, facts wise, Wilber has so far shown himself unwilling to acknowledge the possibility that he can actually be "brilliant but wrong" [93]

This tendency of the rational (and also the emotional) mind to adopt a very selective attitude and only believe what it wants to, may be the reason why the traditional academic practice of peer review was established. While one's peers are not necessarily any more knowledgeable, wiser, or enlightened than oneself, they nevertheless have a different perspective, and so can be helpful in allowing the writer to see things from a new angle. Significantly, very few of Wilber's books and essays have been peer reviewed. But although mainstream academia doesn't seem to have the opportunity to review and critique his work, his critics do, and so could be said to fill the role of peer review in conventional academia. Perhaps this is the reason for Wilber's intransigent attitude to those who critique his theories. I can only feel immensely grateful that I don't have this attitude when people criticise my work.

2-xii The cult of Wilber

Wilber's inability to accept criticism (except for the most minor and innocuous, e.g. Mark Edwards) is well known, but more than that Wilber seems to see all serious criticism of his ideas as being in fact unprovoked and hostile attacks on his person. Perhaps this is what led him to an launch a ranting invective upon anonymous critics (without bothering to refute any of the critics' arguments), rounding it off with an ad hominem attack on a colleague (Frank Visser), for no other reason that that colleague hosts a website where Wilber's work is subject to peer review (Integral World), while likening himself humourously to Wyatt Earp, the famous gunslinger and lawman of the Old West.[94] Then, in a follow-up post, he is able to say that the whole thing was actually just “a test”; if you are offended or outraged by his language and actions you are lower tier and “green” ( the standard Wilberian term of insult), if in contrast you accept everything he says without criticism you are upper tier and “integral”.[95] Significantly, at no point has Wilber yet apologised for his unprovoked verbal attack on Visser, a scholar who has dedicated a large part of his life to the elucidation of Wilber's work and to making Wilber's ideas respectable (and part of that respectability is openness to academic critiquing and questioning of ideas). Indeed the impression one gets is that Wilber actually sees nothing wrong with his own actions, seeing himself instead as the persecuted victim. He even goes so far as to magnanimously “forgive”his critics,[96] as if by their engaging in peer review of his ideas – the life-blood of intellectual and academic discourse – they were somehow acting in an unfair and unjust way towards Wilber himself!

By discouraging the spirit of free inquiry in this manner, and clever use of cultic mind games such as the “three cards” strategum, Wilber is able to create an “ingroup” of followers who will accept his words and actions without criticism or question, while at the same time demonising critics and those who discuss his ideas in a non-worshipful manner. These latter equate ultimately with the word outside the safety of the cult. Here we see the contrast between academia and cult, and the fact that Wilber and his followers are already well on the way towards the latter.

It might be argued that I am being unfair to Wilber here. Who among us hasn't had a bad day, and written or posted something they later regretted, but by that time it had already been sent and it was too late to do anything about it? Despite the worshipful attitude of his followers, Wilber is still human, and still makes mistakes. And being someone of importance in the new consciousness movement, his words are analysed more than most. From this point of view he may feel under siege, and have a right to let off steam now and then. And inevitably his statements would then be subject to far more scrutiny than they deserve, with statements taken completely out of context, and excessive psychologising.

At first glance the above argument may seem reasonable. However, it doesn't follow through. To give some examples of my own as analogy, there have been cases – more than a couple in fact – where I have acted inappropriately online, such as written something in a moment of egotism or anger or poor judgment. But I have always apologised afterwards, either publicly or to the person in private or both. Any decent human being would do the same. Wilber can certainly be forgiven for making mistakes. And it is all the more easier to make mistakes with people worshiping you and giving you a big head as a result. But there is nothing stopping him from afterwards publicly apologising, or even privately apologising if he has too much pride to apologise in public. Yet (at the time of writing) look at his blog posts and you will not find a single apology, not a single statement of “hey, I was wrong” or “I really acted inappropriately back then”. Rather, he justifies or rationalises his actions, argues they were “a test”, and cites glowing emails from followers to bolster his case. At no point does he seem to see anything wrong with this sort of authoritarian approach.

Certain cultic elements are so far already strongly evident in Wilber's personality and the Wilberian movement,[97] and seem (at least from my superficial observation) to form a central part of the way the movement works, others are clearly less important. And the fact that so many of Wilber's followers and students have accepted some, many, or even all, of these elements without protest must surely indicate that the process of culticisation is already well-advanced. The following list of these elements should be taken as purely tentative only; other Wilber watchers and ex-wilberians more knowledgeable of the movement will no doubt be able to provide a much more accurate assessment, or a better and more precise list of categories.

  • The master or guru is always right, and is always acting for some higher reason that ordinary morals can't immediately see. This comes down to the “three cards” strategum, a type of cultic mind-game used for example by Adi Da (Da Free John)[98] In this light emotionally immature behaviour, such as mocking or ranting against critics,[99] can be seen as “cool” and a representative of “crazy wisdom”, and in this case anyone who is offended is automatically “lower tier” or “green”.
  • Ingroup / outgroup – followers who accept the master uncritically belong to the “ingroup”, everyone else is relegated to the “outgroup”. In this regard the teachings of the ingroup (= "Wilberanity”) constitutes the most complete teaching in regard to all other belief-systems in human history. (hence a sense of belonging to the elect or elite group of humanity).[100] In this case, members of the Ingroup are rewarded with the status of being “integral” and “upper tier”, while those who criticise the movement or leave the organisation are considered non-entities.[101]
  • Feelings of persecution. As evident from his “Wyatt Earp” post, Wilber tends to overreact to criticism; with even mild criticism from responsible writers being seen as a vicious attack. Hence the demonisation and mockery of critics who are seen as the enemy.[102]
  • A hostile and aggressive attitude towards rival organisations, who constitute the hated other (shadow projection) [103]
  • Arguing from authority rather than reason when faced with criticism[104] (sect.2-xi).
  • Apotheosis of the Founder – Wilber as bodhisattva (sect.2-x). However, in contrast to avatar claims by some gurus this is not yet taken all too seriously in the Wilber movement, although it is conceivably possible this could change in the future
  • Narcissism and ego-inflation[105] on the part of the leader (and also therefore the feeling of a special mission or purpose by the followers). Here I can genuinely sympathise with Wilber. The guy is after all only human, and who would not get a big head if they were continually treated in such a worshipful manner, almost like a god (or in this case, like a bodhisattva) by hundreds of fans and followers? Unless one is able to switch one's center of focus from the ordinary narcissistic ego to the Divine Soul (sect. 2-vi); from self-seeking desires to unwavering aspiration for the Supreme, some sort of “fall” is inevitable, and this is clearly what happened in the case of otherwise sincere and admirable gurus like Muktananda, and which seems to be similarly happening in the case of Wilber who, in his earlier works comes across as a passionate intellectual rather claiming any sort of guruhood.
  • Lack of moral consciousness[106]
  • Rationalisation and internalisation of guru's logic and affective state by some (but by no means all) followers[107]

This cultisation of the Wilberian Integral movement is a tragedy on several levels. Firstly, it represents the transition of a universalist philosopher from sincere intellectual (as in his earlier books, and even up to Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality) to authoritarian “guru” (inverted commas to distinguish this from the true spiritual guru). Second, many sincere, intelligent, and spiritual people who have been guided, helped, and inspired by his books, have as a result been caught up in rationalisation of negative actions and a culture of denial of intellectual questioning and criticism. Finally, the Integral movement as a whole has lost someone who could have been an articulate and passionate spokesman for the common good.

It is worth pointing out that Wilber denies the Integral Institute is a cultic organisation. The way that he does this is by recourse to his own mentalised and abstractionist methodology (sect. 2-viii) (in this particular case, classifying things in terms of three variables and eight boxes).[108] However, it is quite easy to use intellectual justification in this or any similar manner, as indeed the abusive gurus Wilber recommends (sect. 2-iv) would do regarding their own status and organisations. It is not on the dry abstractionist mental level, but on the human, heart level of common-sense, that cultic behaviour can be most easily recognised. And it is on the common-sense level that I argue here (see the above list of points) that Wilber himself, and his enthusiastic followers, do indeed display cultic behaviour, and hence can be considered a cult in the negative sense of the word..

So far, thankfully, neither Wilber nor his integral movement has shown any indication of the sort of institutionalised and truly abusive (emotional, financial, sexual) behaviour of the classic negative guru cult. But in other respects there does unhappily seem to be a pattern in common with organisations of that sort, with rampant projection of the shadow[109] resulting in the leader, and therefore the devotees as well, feeling under siege from, and projecting fear and hatred on, critics, rival organisations, and eventually the wider society as a whole, and followers rationalising the narcissistic actions of their guru as “crazy wisdom” or “skillful means”.

2-xiii. The Attractor of the Wilberian Movement

If Wilberian thought, the Integral movement based on his ideas, and "Wilberanity", the New Age cult, is based on nothing but one man's mental constructions and inability to accept intellectual criticism, why does it have such power?

Well, here we need to look at things from an esotericist perspective. Just as the Intermediate Zone reveals the magnetic appeal of even the most abusive gurus, who, without this power backing them, would seem pretty shallow and not very attractive, so there is a similar phenomenon at work with "Wilberanity". What is important is not Wilber's actual philosophy, which i see as unnecessarily rigid and constricting, as the larger impetus or – to borrow the language of physics – attractor – that is responsible for the interest and movement. In other words, if one approaches things from an esoteric or occult perspective, subtle dimensions are revealed behind the gross external or surface reality, accessible to the mind's eye, intuition, and imagination, but not to empiricist and objectivist-based secular understanding. And so here we find that behind Wilber – as behind many great and influential people – there stands a entity or attractor supporting this work, using him as its main vehicle of manifestation.

According to the perennial philosophy, there are many hierarchies of beings between the limited dualistic material world and the Supreme. It is not the case that there is a single supernatural anthropomorphic God with a long beard and white robe who does everything, as the exoteric religions believe. There are instead many powers and forces and intelligences as emanations and individuations of the Supreme. It matters little whether we refer to these beings angels (sensu Henry Corbin[110]), daimons (a Neoplatonic term[111]), spiritual hierarchies (Steiner[112]), devas[113] (in New Age jargon), archetypes (Jung), the psychological equivalent of attractors in Chaos theory, or anything else. Some of these hierarchies are channels through which the Godhead filters and manifests through in order to support and direct the infinite actions of the finite world, others have their own activities unrelated to the material plane, others again have their own agendas, some even in contradiction to the Divine. This is not the place to argue about the existence of such things; I'll leave that to the debaters. Either one understand that these realities exist or one doesn't. These are realities of the Imaginal world[114]; they are perceived through the eye of imagination, rather than the eye of flesh. Esotericists such as Iamblichus, Blavatsky, Rudolph Steiner, Henry Corbin, and many others, have spoken about this subjects at great length, albeit in the conceptual framework of their own respective belief-systems.

The concept of an Attractor here need not seem strange; after all, we have already seen that a number of Wilber's students and disciples, beginning with Brad Reynolds seem to have already intuited this being, even if they misunderstand it. Reynolds refers to it (and to Wilber himself, thus confusing the person with the Attractor) as Manjushri, despite the inappropriateness of the association. Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that both are associated – in very different, indeed diametrically opposite, ways! – with "intellect". The fact that this idea has caught on so readily in the Wilberian Integral movement shows that it represents what Jung would call an "archetype", although I prefer to use a more specific term like "Attractor".

Therefore, if Wilber is such a powerful and magnetic teacher, if so many are attracted to his words and books and see them as the highest teaching available today, or even simply some of the highest, it is because of the numinous power of this god that reveals itself through him, and works in and through the Integral Movement as a whole.

As I explain on my website, I contacted what I then called "the Daimon of the Integral Movement"[115] – now I prefer to use a less anthropomorphic label like "psychological Attractor" – in June 2004, when I was first updating the Wilber pages here. I had been reading Brad Reynolds on-line hagiography, where he explained that "Wilber V" represented a transformation in Wilber's own personal outlook, a spiritual breakthrough or leap to a higher level. The style of the writing, and the fact that I had for a while been immersed in writing an overview of Wilber's teachings and developments, and was feeling in a positive rather than a critical frame of mind towards him and the potential of this alternative paradigm approach to even (slowly) impinge upon the mainstream, all converged in my consciousness. This convergence enabled me to contact a spiritual energy, a "deva" that was tied in with and manifesting through the devotional (bhakti yoga) of Reynold's writing.[116]

I experienced this entity as a being of Light that manifested/descended through the affective/emotional being, stirring up a lot of excitement in my psyche. Looking back at this experience, my feeling is that this is an Attractor behind the Integral Movement, and that it resides in the subtle worlds (more specifically, it is in the "inner" region of the "subtle physical"). Getting caught up in it and giving in to that enthusiasm and associated fantasies (or "glamour" as New Age writers like Alice Bailey and David Spangler would say) takes one to the Intermediate Zone, that misleading region of admixture of Truth and Falsehood (sect 2-v). Although originally I considered this a very positive entity, and did not feel in any way anything negative regarding it, I have since revised my opinion in the light of cultic elements that have become strongly evident beginning with Wilber's inflammatory blog post of 8 June (sect 2-xii). I can also understand why my original judgment was so unreliable, as it is extremely easy to be fooled with these sort of things. Quite possibly, what we are seeing with the Wilberian Integral movement is a common phenomenon in the development of cults, as a small human personality or personalities are tragically swept up by the vast power of an amoral Attractor.

I have given here the example of Wilber and his Integral movement, because this is the subject of the present essay. But the same forces and phenomena are at work everywhere; in ideologies and mass movements, in government and mass media, in religions and philosophies, in cults and sects everywhere. Beyond the limited intersubjective world of people's own mental thought constructs, there is a larger whirl and interplay of forces of all kinds, magnetic, numenous, potent, and this example is simply one (and a fairly small one in the larger scheme of things) among many. It is not the case that Wilber is in any way unique. He is in no way unique in this regard.

Naturally, these are concepts that cannot be accommodated within any form of secular physicalism, whether it be scientism, secular modernity, academic postmodernity, or Wilberian post-metaphysics. But then neither can the Intermediate Zone. A complete and integral understanding of these subjects simply cannot be arrived at as long as one is bound to a physicalist worldview.

PART THREE: An Aurobindonian Vision


[31] "Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies", Excerpt G

[32] For some comments on this very passage, and examples of how Wilber gets Shankara wrong, see Kela (Lightmind Forum) "KW on Shankara's commentaries " 12 May 2005 online at topic_view=threads&p=9376&t=1619& sid=64e1a600c57d4e9a2f7a0159c8899486

[33] Thanks to Wikipedia – – for the anecdote

[34] See Excerpt C: "The Ways We Are in This Together – Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos" online at This is a long and rather abstruse page; the reference to the above teachers is near the bottom. More on Wilbers conclusions here later in this essay.

[35] Frank Visser has already made some very pertinent comments response in to all this; see his Reflections on "Subtle energy"

[36] see e.g. A Brief History of Everything, 2nd ed. 2000 p.11

[37] see Jorge Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory, SUNY Press, 2002, pp.49-51

[38] This useful term was suggested by Scott Zimmerle (email correspondence, 12 May 2006)

[39] See e.g. the chapter "The Valley of False Glimmer" in The Riddle of the World pp.28-34; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1973

[40] "Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Subtle Energies", Excerpt G see also the Integral Institute Forum post "What is required, to put it bluntly, is a way to derive all of the basics of a spiritual worldview – from satori or salvation as a 'coming home' to the existence of levels or waves of consciousness – but without postulating ontologically pre-existing realities. If we can't do that, then spirituality is dead in the modern and postmodern world of intellectual respectability."

[41] Not that it is all plain sailing. Despite his postmodernism and post-metapmysics, Wilber still comes across as a New Age wierdo to those from mainstream academia. But bridge-builders always have a hard time of it, because the audience they address is so stuck in the old paradigm. For a long time Jung was dismissed as "a mystic", but now he is almost mainstream!

[42] Revisioning Transpersonal Theory pp.41ff, etc

[43] Excerpt C: "The Ways We Are in This Together – Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos" online at

[44] Integral Psychology pp.168-170

[45] Or, as one poster to Wilber Watch wrote; independently coming to basically the same conclusion that I had: "Serious seekers drawn to Wilber quickly move on to an authentic religion. Serious academics drawn to Wilber quickly move on to the sources. Either renders Wilber irrelevant very quickly."

[46] Andrew Smith, "The Intersubjective Meditator: A Critical Look at Ken Wilber's Integral Spirituality", April 2006

[47] For Wilber's conflicting statements regarding his Guru, see the Shambhala website Wilber Online: "The Case of Adi Da" For the same correspondence from the devotee's perspective, and prefaced by useful comments, see the Daist website "Adi Da and the Case of Wilber"

[48] Wilber's supporters tend to downplay the Da connection, because of the controversial and frequent abusive nature of Da's teaching and personality, but Wilber's devotion is there nevertheless. After his public warning and denouncement of Da's teaching methods, Wilber in 1997 wrote a letter to the Adidam community in which he states:

"I have not, and have never, renounced Da as Realizer, nor have I in any way abandoned my love and devotion for Him"

Regarding the claim of World Teacher, in the same letter Wilber, quite reasonably, does not say that Da is the greatest Realiser ever, but he still considers him the greatest living realiser:

"Do I believe that Master Adi Da is the greatest Realizer of all time? I certainly believe He is the greatest living Realizer. Anything beyond that is sheer speculation. How could any of us judge? Who among us has met Gautama Buddha? Who has experienced Satsang with Sri Ramana Maharshi? Who has lived in the company of Padmasambhava? I have sat in satsang with Master Adi Da, and with numerous other great Adepts, and my own opinion is that Master Adi Da is the living Sat-Guru. Beyond that, how could I say with any personal authority?"

After the above private letter was made public, Wilber has to backpedal, which he does so by resorting to paradox, in "An Update on the Case of Adi Da" (August 28, 1998) where he says:

"In the meantime, I affirm all of the extremes of my statements about Da: he is one of the greatest spiritual Realizers of all time, in my opinion, and yet other aspects of his personality lag far behind those extraordinary heights. By all means look to him for utterly profound revelations, unequaled in many ways; yet step into his community at your own risk."

Wilber's understanding of Da was strongly critiqued by a letter on the Beezone (an unofficial Adi Da website) from someone who has spent many years with Adi Da. "Do Not Casually Approach the God-Man Adi Da"

[49] See the ex-devotee blog What Enlightenment? and EnlightenNixt EnlightenNixt is very good because it just includes a few important posts, so you don't get lost in the allegations and claims. The WhatEnlightenment archives simply have too much material to absorb. By some, including some ex-members and his mother, Cohen is viewed as a charismatic and manipulative cult leader. Several books including Dr. André van der Braak's Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru Monkfish Book Publishing (2003). Among the allegations are Cohen's demands for large cash sums and extreme unquestioning devotion from his followers, as well as his apparent inability to confer or transmit equal teaching status on any of his long-time followers. Cohen's own mother has written her own account of this (she also sees him as a manipulative cult-leader): Luna Tarlo, The Mother of God SCB Distributors (1997)

[50] See "The False Guru Test Checklist of 25 points" at for a more complete list. I use the neologism "pop guru" to distinguish these popular New Age eastern gurus with their watered down vedantic teachings from the real deal.

[51] Ken Wilber, Foreword to Living Enlightenment, (Spring 2002), online at

[52]The poster suggested exposing Cohen's finances; this generated a lot of discussion, both supportive and critical. See "A Call To Action And A Letter To Bill O'Reilly" call-to-action-and-letter-_114339576930182147.html

[53] Rabbi Marc Gafni, a frequent contributor to Integral Naked and friend of both Wilber and Andrew Cohen, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by three women from Bayit Chadash, a Jewish renewal community. This was announced on the official Wilber site , where Wilber comments among other things that "There is substantial truth to some of these allegations" and says "I do not believe that somebody with an acknowledged emotional illness or sexual pathology is competent to be a public spiritual teacher. Therefore, at this time, Marc will not be involved in public teaching or presentations of any sort at Integral Institute. has posted some disturbing news about" At the same time, Wilber has to jump on his hobby horse and blame the dastardly green camp: "This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic proportions." See Mushin's Weblog "Abuse in spiritual circles " Also see the Vomiting Confetti blog update-on-case-of-rabbi-marc-gafni.html and

[54] See "The Daism Seminar" for a large amount of critical material, "Derek Bishop's Spiritual Autobiography: Avatar Adi Da Samraj, Daism, and Adidam Criticism" , and "Is God in the Garbage? A Critical Appraisal of Adi Da's Philosophy" by Andrew P. Smith

[55] "Osho, Bhagwan Rajneesh, and the Lost Truth"

[56] There have been many have miraculous psychic experiences related to Sathya Sai Baba, yet at the same time many instances of sexually abuse of young male devotees. See e.g. Ex-Baba (a comprehensive Dutch website); Probert Priddy or (most detailed) Brian Steel's extensive online bibliography . There is a site by Joe Moreno , who claims not to be a devotee, which involves ad hominem attacks, slurs and innuendos against ex-devotees. I should point out that for some two decades, out of wishful thinking and immaturity, but also a certain psychic resonance, I accepted Sai Baba's claims to be an avatar. The situation with Sai Baba is complicated by the fact that there is a genuine occult phenomenon at work, creating the various materialisations and so on, but I believe this is unrelated to the instances of sexual abuse. I do not agree with those ex-devotees who consider Sai Baba to be nothing but a charlatan. For the wikipedia page see For how this page is being written, see the following comments regarding the Prem Rawat wikipedia page

[57] There is a whole wikipedia page here on this Criticism of Prem Rawat , Note that these pages tend to be the result of a sort of editorial trench warfare between one or more ex-devotee(s) and one or more loyal devotees or supporters, as a result of which the whole thing becomes a morass of detailed refutation and counter-refutation. . I have seen the same thing happen on the Wikipidia Sathya Sai Baba page. The interested reader is advised to scroll down to the links at the bottom

[58] see e.g. "Conversations with Ex-Siddha Yoga Swami X" and many other references online) who justified sex with naïve young female Western devotees as "Tantric initiation". There are too many examples of this sort to mention. A well known one (and someone who I always had a really nice feeling about) was Swami Muktananda.

[59] I have some material by ex-devotees here

[60] John Joseph Pietrangelo, Jr, Lambs to Slaughter: My Fourteen Years with Elizabeth Clare Prophet and Church Universal Triumphant (Self-published), 1994, 143 pages. Book review by Joseph Szimhart

[61] Peter Ellingsen, "The guru, his wife and the followers" The Age newspaper June 26, 2005 ; online here

[62] One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality, Boston: Shambhala, 2000 p.131 Wilber's interpretation of Spirituality in this regard has been criticised by John Heron, see the online essay "A Tangle of Lines" at

[63] Georg Feuerstein "Holy Madness, The Dangerous and Disillusioning Example of Da Free John" What is Enlightenment? no.9, online at note that the anonymous couple in this account are actually Feuerstein and his wife. Ironically this review appears on Cohen's (admittedly very good!) magazine, Cohen himself being, as the evidence by ex-devotees shows, an abusive guru.

[64] Sri Aurobindo first describes The Intermediate Zone in a lengthy letter in reply to a disciple, written (as were most of his letters) in the early 1930s. See Letters on Yoga, pp 1039-1046 of the third edition (1971). See also The Riddle of this World pp.35-45 which is where this letter first appeared in print. More recently, a number of copies have been posted on the Internet. The concept was taken up Paul Brunton, who was familiar with Sri Aurobindo's teachings. More recently, in January 2005, "XD", an ex-devotee of Adi Da, cited Brunton and suggested his description of the "Intermediate Zone" as an explanation for the guru's strange behaviour. Discussion has appeared on ex-Daist forums concerning this. Look for posts by "XD" on

[65] "Do Not Casually Approach the God-Man Adi Da" One finds this same ambiguity with other Gurus as well, e.g. Rajneesh


[67] The Life Divine pp.891

[68] The Life Divine pp.907-908 See also The Life Divine pp.225f., pp.891ff. For more on the Psychic Being

[69] The Life Divine, p.909

[70] Tom Murray "Collaborative Knowledge Building and Integral Theory – On Perspectives, Uncertainty, and Mutual Regard" This paper originally appeared in Issue 2 (2006) of Integral Review., %20Collaborative%20Knowledge%202,%202006.pdf The Wilber quote is from Eye to eye: The quest for the new paradigm. Boston, MA: Shambhala Press. 2001, p. 63

[71] See Barbara Brennan on "auric interaction" – Light Emerging, 1993 Bantam New Books, ch.14-15; and Sri Aurobindo on the "vital interchange" Letters on Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Tratst, 3rd ed. 1971, pp. 478-9,841-2,

[72] e.g. writers such as John Heron, Richard Tarnas, and Jorge Ferrer

[73] Transpersonal psychologist Christian de Quincey commented on thus tendency even in the Wilber-IV days. In reviewing Wilber's book Integral Psychology, de Quincey writes "With each new refinement... his model grows increasingly complex, mind-numbingly so.... In fact, the complexity of his latest model incorporating waves and streams and spirals and lines, weaving up and down the "spectrum" and in and out of the "quadrants," reminds me a little of the heroic efforts made with Ptolemaic epicycles to save the problematic cosmology of Aristotle." See Christian de Quincey, The Promise of Integralism – A Critical Appreciation of Ken Wilber's Integral Psychology" Journal of Consciousness Studies Vol. 7 (11/12) Winter 2000] available online at This essay generated a series of replies and counter-replies between de Quincey on the one hand, and Wilber and a supporter on the other; the responses published on their respective websites

[74] Coming into Being p.13

[75] As in my unfinished book on Emanationist Cosmology, the various chapters of which converted to html to became the core of the Kheper website. Some of the pages on my website still indicate this, but as my methodology has changed I intend to update or replace these pages when I have time.

[76] For the complete correspondence see (Frew points out how Wilber deliberately misrepresents Plotinus); (Wilber reply); (Frew counter-reply) (Fideler – here a Wilber supporter – criticises Frew. Frew replies to Fideler (repeating his earlier points) and doesn't get a response)

[77] Kela (Lightmind Forum) "KW on Shankara's commentaries " 12 May 2005 online at topic_view=threads&p=9376&t=1619&sid=64e1a600c57d4e9a2f7a0159c8899486 Wilber's misinterpretation of Shankara also means he can include Shankara in his of "metaphysical" teachings which he has superseded through his own "post-metaphysics".

[78] See William Irwin Thompson, Coming into Being – artifacts and texts in the evolution of consciousness, St Martin's Griffin, New York, 1998, pp.12-13, for a critical look at Wilber vis a vis Gebser. Thompson, a New Age cultural historian who is not afraid to speak his mind, contrasts Gebser's "poetic insights" with Wilber's "obsessive mappings and textbook characterizations". He observes that his San Francisco students all preferred Wilber, while members of his New York Lindisfarne Symposium loved Gebser instead. He put this down disparagingly to the cultural differences, New Yorkers having grown up among museums, whereas "New Edge" Californians prefer a colour-degraded digital image of Monet to the real thing. Ibid p.13 However when I checked the numbers at each of the Wilber Meetup Groups at the Integral World website, I found that New York City was top of the list with 96 members; poor old San Francisco only has 15 (as of 6 May 2006)

[79] David Lane, "Wilber's Achilles' Heel: The art of spiritual hyperbole" online at 1996, addresses Wilber's lack of scholarship in various areas, but has not yet been seriously (if even at all) addressed by his followers. But as more people read not just Wilber himself but the sources he cites, this is a problem that will only get worse.

[80] Jeff Meyerhoff, Bald Ambition A Critique of Ken Wilber's Theory of Everything online at

[81] See Robert Todd Carroll's Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter no.38 , Geoff Falk's "Norman Einstein – Ken Wilber", my essay "Wilber's misunderstanding of science – Evolutionary Theory" (and further links and references therein) online at and Jim Chamberlain "Wilber on evolution – A Few Comments"

[82] Excerpt C: "The Ways We Are in This Together – Intersubjectivity and Interobjectivity in the Holonic Kosmos" online at

[83] Coming into Being p.12

[84] On the subject of psychological projection, compare the above with what Christian de Quincey said in his reply to Wilber's response (Do Critics Misrepresent My Position? – A Test Case from a Recent Academic Journal to his original critique (an extract of which has been quoted earlier) of Wilber's Integral Psychology: "I was immediately struck by the degree to which Wilber manifested many of the critical failings he had accused me of... in his 'test case' response." "...demonstrating and indulging in what he accuses me of: i.e., misrepresentation and distortion." Christian de Quincey – Critics Do. Critics Don't. – A Response to Ken Wilber It is worth pointing out that de Quincey is one of the few Wilber critics to present a psychological angle; most other critics concentrate instead on shortcomings in Wilber's methodology, philosophy, scholarship, etc. Tom Murray (sect. 2-vii), while certainly not sparing Wilber, is also critical of de Quincey, commenting that "in de Quincey's case one can note a polemical intensity of tone that belies a strong emotional motivation. That he does not reflect upon or disclose his own emotional state makes him subject to his own critique. " – "Collaborative Knowledge Building and Integral Theory – On Perspectives, Uncertainty, and Mutual Regard" Along with Jeff Meyerhoff in his strong online book-length criticism of Wilber, Bald Ambition , the other main psychological critic of Wilber is Geoff Falk (Stripping the Gurus—Norman Einstein, whose polemical style has alienated him from even many Wilber critics in the integral movement. However it could plausibly be argued that Wilber's own recent inflammatory attitude and unprovoked ad hominem attack on his colleague Frank Visser (see Wilber's blog post "What We Are, That We See: Response to Some Recent Criticism in a Wild West Fashion" ) and self-justifying follow-ups support Geoff Falk's assessment.

[85] Collected Works of the Mother – Centenary Edition vol.4 p.193 (Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry, 1972)

[86] John C. Lilly, The Center of the Cyclone, Paladin, 1972, pp.18-9

[87] It may or may not be just coincidence that Christian de Quincey, who has already been quoted (sect 2-viii) uses similar but more extreme language, in this instance specifically referring to Wilber "Why does he seem driven to master the domain of reason, to construct an impenetrable intellectual edifice... I sometimes get the impression that this immense rational fortress has been erected to withstand any possible intrusion of ambiguity, paradox, or mystery..." The Promise of Integralism Journal of Consciousness Studies Vol. 7 and Although I do not agree with de Quincey's thesis that Wilber is trying to shut out paradox, mystery, or messy feeling (I think that Wilber has as good a sense of appreciation for the wonder and mystery of life as anyone else), it may be that de Quincey inadvertently intuited the "mental fortress"; the powerful mental edifice that all strong intellectuals have, but that perhaps Wilber by virtue of his powerful rational intellect has developed to a much greater degree than most.

[88] Brad Reynolds, Where's Wilber At? The Further Evolution of Ken Wilber's Integral (a book by the author with the same title will be published this fall at Paragon House).

[89] Wilber's followers use the term "Wilberitis" (by analogy with "Boomeritis" the title of Wilber's "novel" attacking Baby Boomers) to refer to excessive or unbalanced religious devotion to Wilber himself. The fact that they don't take themselves too seriously in this regard is itself a healthy sign, especially in view of otherwise cultic orientation (sect 2-xii).

[90] See "The Integral Church of AQAL: A New Religion?"

[91] blogID=26033069&postID=114546404210394316

[92] m=37376&p=1&tmode=1&smode=1&cookieCheck=774366213

[93] From U.S. Presidential campaigner John Kerry, commenting on Bush' statement that he is convinced he is right, "You can be certain and wrong". (thanks to Frank Visser for the quote – from "Talking Back To Wilber – A Call for Validation" – ).

[94]See “What We Are, That We See: Response to Some Recent Criticism in a Wild West Fashion” For Frank Visser's reply see “Games pandits play” and "Not so fast, cowboy - A Plea for Some Dispassion” , finishef off with "For the Record"

[95] “What We Are, That We See. Part II: What Is the Real Meaning of This?” For comments by critics on these two posts, see Matthew Dallman , Geoff Falk , Michel Bauwens and , Frank Visser, “Games pandits play” , and myself However, the large majority of Wilber's readers and supporters – despite being in every other way highly perceptive, intelligent, and spiritually minded people - have been remarkably favourable and uncritical; which might be related to a cultic mindset that does not allow critical appraisal.

[96] Thus in a blog post (in response to a praiseful email from a fan) Wilber says “Both sides could use a little confession, repentance, and forgiveness. I can say that, right here and now, I fully forgive any and all hurt that has been inflicted on me by unfair and unwarranted accusations, criticisms, and condemnations. With full heart, I sincerely mean that.” - On the Nature of Shadow Projections in Forums. Follow-Up #2. “Both sides” seems to indicate Wilber equates authentic peer criticism with his own emotional responses (regarding which, see Narcissistically playing the role of persecuted Christ or compassionate Bodhisattva, Wilber is able to (perhaps indeed sincerely, as he says) forgive the imaginary hurts done upon his person, while not acknowledging (and apparently not even aware) of any hurts he has done to anyone else. Thus nowhere in his blog, or in any of his blogs or announcements for that matter, does Wilber himself apologise or indicate any regret on the part of his ad hominem attack on Visser, despite the tireless efforts Visser has made in propagating Wilber's ideas.

[97]I am not the first to notice this. After writing this essay I cam across an interesting blog post by Matthew Dallman which conforms many of my own conclusions. Dallman says:

“In Wilber and the rest, integral...sounds like a silly, self-involved game that certain people play. It sounds like a pseudo religion. It sounds like people full of themselves, proud of being able to say that you are projecting and I am projecting and (holy wow) that is so beneficial to the search for truth, isn't it? It sounds like people who just can't stop talking about themselves, and all their subpersonalities and subdramas in sub-pop. It sounds like people out of touch with both the real world and out of touch with regular, non-jargon modes of communication. It sounds like a self-singing choir for the few and the self-proclaimed elite. It sounds like people just repeating verbatim the pronouncements of its central author. It sounds like people who never question the assumptions and pronouncements in Wilber's work. It sounds like people not reading primary sources slowly, but rather thinking skin-deep, except when it comes to meditation, which is the solution to end all solutions. It sounds like people who believe that their contemplative practice allows them instant authority to speak on almost any issue or question. For those reasons, integral can sound a lot like a cult, in the negative sense of the term. Wilber and certain of his fans, taking after his cues from his books, sound like martyrs, "against the world" be it the world of "first tier thought", "postmodern academia", the various colored "vMemes" save their own, "boomeritis", "flatland", and other terms that, in fact, sound kinda creepily sci-fi. Integral, in the hands of the people responsible for most of its online presentation, has come to be hopelessly new age.” (see "Let me set the record straight" let-me-set-record-straight.html)

[98]As described by Jim Chamberlain in "Sorry, it's just over your head - Wilber's response to recent criticism” The three cards tactic derives from mixing of eastern religion and western psychology in the sixties and seventies. The three cards are: “(1) The Higher Level Card (i.e. Sorry, it's just over your head). You're just not smart enough to realize I am smarter than you, because you're on a lower (less divine) level. (2) The Projection Card (i.e., I know you are, but what am I). By criticizing me, you are really just criticizing yourself, because any problem you see in me is just a projection of a problem in yourself. (3) The Skillful Means Card (i.e., it was only a test, dickhead). The most potent card of all! It's not abuse; it's not pathetic or ridiculous or wrong; it's a crazy-wise teaching. You know, like Zen stuff. So when I call you a dickhead, it's not because I'm a dickhead, it's because you have a dickhead-complex that you need to evolve past, and I'm here to help you see that.”. In this case, Wilber's posting was for the purpose of separating the green (critics, lower tier, bad) from the yellow (followers, upper tier, good). -

[99]For example “...these painfully sluggish critics, dragging their bloated bellies across the ground at a snail's pace of gray dreariness, can frankly just eat my dust and bite my ass....” and “....using his [Wilber]'s Zen sword of prajna to cut off the heads of critics so staggeringly little that he has to slow down about 10-fold just to see them....” -

[100]For example “if you are in that 2%...” [that constitutes the Turquoise meme]; and “There are hundreds of green clubs out there, there are hundreds of orange clubs out there;...but there are no turquoise clubs, no communities and organizations of people who are at...truly second-tier altitude.” - By second tier is meant accepting and following Wilberian teachings. And from one fan whose email Wilber cites approvingly: “I couldn't list all your third-tier reasons for this, but I deeply know that Integral resonates with, and works for, those who are ready for it.” - There is nothing wrong with people with specalised interests gathering to form groups and subcultures of like-minded souls; indeed it is one of the strengths of the Internet that it allows and encourages this process, and I feel an important part of the present planetary and noospheric evolution. The problem with the Wilberian version of this is that it is tied in with a larger cultic phenomenon, as indicated by the other points on the list.

[101] As Integral Artist Matthew Dallman relates of his own experience: "I was the first composer featured on [Integral Naked], but any reference to me was removed after I resigned from IU.” - see “Let me set the record straight”

[102]For example in his blog post “What We Are, That We See. Part II: What Is the Real Meaning of This?” Wilber says

"...and believe me, we got the message: you don't like us, you hate us, you hate I-I, you hate wilber, you hate this and you hate that—we heard you loud and clear. And we saw you. And now we know each other, don't we?" And almost immediately after “You're in the closet, aren't you? Because if you express actual integral thoughts or ideas then the herd descends on you with a vengeance, yes? If you are in that 2%, your life is a living hell, in so many ways, isn't it? Because the first-tier rants are all around you, aren't they?”

[103] This was observed by Michel Bauwens when he was still on friendly terms with Wilber:

“I was also privy, since I was in regular email contact back then, to Wilber's private denunciations of institutes like the California Institute of Integral Studies and the Naropa Institute, schools that I had monitored, visited, and have many highly qualitative teachers and researchers. It's not that he said that they were imperfect, no, they were 'cesspools' and one would have to stay at all cost away from them. This aggressiveness I personally found disturbing. I started to notice how easily Ken praised works that favorably use his work, he did it with my own magazine Wave, which he highly praised in a note even though he could not possibly read the Dutch-language it was written in, while being so aggressive with those who disagree.” (See: "The Cult of Ken Wilber"

Nothing seems to have changed since then. Now it is Visser's Integral World website that Wilber has to project his shadow on. e.g. “yet again, the Visser site has sunk to unethical levels in it attempts not to discuss but discredit my views” and “But as for my views, I am saying that categorically the posts at that site are not to be trusted or accepted in any academic discourse as representing my actual views. They lie over there” - see “Take the Visser Site as Alternatives to KW, But Never as the Views of KW” The basis for this particular diatribe was an error in an essay by Jim Chamberlain, regarding which, mind you, Chamberlain publically apologised, and the apology was included in the Integral World essay. For a very perceptive review of Wilber's double standards in this regard, see Geoff Falk “Subject: Pot. Kettle. Wilber.”

Wilber's comments are particularily intriguing when one considers the psychological projection involved. In his above attack on the Integral World site and Chamberlain essay he says “Chamberlain... lies about me doctoring quotes—what a horrible charge to make up about a scholar!...” Yet as one neoplatonist scholar carefully illustrated some years ago, this is exactly what Wilber did regarding his coverage of Plotinus! See

[104] I noticed this with Wilber's response to comments by people on his own Integral Naked forum pointing out errors in his understanding of biological evolution. Integral artist Matthew Dallman made some pertinent observations regarding Wilber's attitude on his blog wilber-evolution-and-arguments-from.html

[105] “...Although, perhaps I should mention that I am at the center of the vanguard of the greatest social transformation in the history of humankind...." - “What We Are, That We See: Response to Some Recent Criticism in a Wild West Fashion” Frank Visser asks whether Wilber is being joking or serious in saying this. “Sure, it's a joke. Or is it? Why mention?....” - see “Games pandits play” . Geoff Falk however considers Wilber's words “an accurate statement of his narcissistic delusions regarding his own value to the world.” - see Bald Narcissism - And I would have to agree that Wilber is being serious, since he already considers himself the first one to “post-metaphysically” include and transcend all other thinkers and spiritual teachers, at the same time denigrating these teachings as having “a view from nowhere” (sect. 2-viii) See also Falk's comment on the applicability of the Wikipedia definition of “narcissism” to Wilber (on the “Bald Narcissism” page and also at ) and its relation to the personality structure of cult leaders.

[106]Wilber's inability to apologise to Visser for his unprovoked ad homimen attack has already been noted, but this is mild compared with what happened to Matthew Dallman:

“...after 16 months, hundreds of hours of conference calls, thousands of emails, a turbulent attempt to donate video footage to Wilber's website (a donation that my wife and I eventually rescinded), and a whole lot of stuff that would bore the pants off of any decent person, I decided to resign. I left, and I took all my work with me. Wilber laughably attempted to claim co-ownership of my papers, and thus meaning I would have to ask permission to use them. I consulted with a real lawyer, and that was settled quickly, via a strongly worded letter from my lawyer detailing the basics of applicable copyright law in this country. All was settled, completely in my favor. That it left a bad taste in my already-bad-tasting mouth is probably self-evident. It also further cemented by belief that Wilber is prone to the hyberbole that substitutes hubristic, rhetorical flourish for real knowledge, in this case, of common law”

- see “Let me set the record straight”

Dallman isn't the only one that Wilber tried to take legal action against. This is Michel Bauwens' experience:

“...I had sent Ken, whom I considered a friend by then, since I had visited him and interviewed him for four hours, a draft of an essay on the new world of work, which clearly stated that it was inspired by his work, specifically mentioned a series of consultants working in his spirit, then went on to describe the four quadrants, and apply them creatively to my own domain, with notes and references and all. I got back a letter which threatened me with 'exclusion from the network' and even legal consequences for 'intellectual theft'. But how could that be, how could an essay mentioning him, using his method, of which I had send him a draft!!, be constructed as theft, and deserve threats of legal action??? I was deeply hurt, baffled, and entered into an email conversation which did not solve anything fundamentally. Though I got some kind of excuse in the end, he said that he was under pressure and that his 'advisers' had told him to react in that way, he also managed to say that "I didn't understand all his theory". Note that this has become Ken's standard argument against everybody. Only a close circle, who seemingly work in secret around him and do not publish their papers yet, are said to fully understand him. It has been promised that these will be published by the Integral Institute for its online university project.”

See: “The Cult of Ken Wilber”

[107]Consider the response of the Stuart Davis, Wilber devotee and musician, who imitates his guru's paranoia and aggressiveness when he says says about the Wilber rant

“it's fantastic, it's overdue, and i feel it is appropriate and proportionate in tone and content. i laughed out loud half a dozen times, and it's right on the money. how fucking LONG are you supposed to sit back without comment while these toxic, petty fuckers make preposterous attacks on work that's ten years old? and only one in a hundred even knows what the fuck they're talking about, because like it or not YOU'RE RIGHT TO SAY it is a cross-altitude issue. these green shits take pot shots at 2nd tier morning, noon, and night, and they are literally not capable of registering the content, the locations, the addresses, the altitude of 2nd tier. it's insane, and i'm relieved to see you calling a spade a spade in this way.”

see where Wilber approvingly quotes the Davis email. Here we see full internaIisation of the master's paranoia - “these green shits take pot shots at 2nd tier morning, noon, and night,” the usual cultic shadow-projection (ironic that Wilber should claim this about his critics, yet not see it in his followers) and feelings of persecution, creating an imaginary enemy against which one can define oneself as the true and beautiful. The extraordinary thing about all this is not that it is cultic, but that it is so banally cultic. One would have expected something higher from Wilber and his followers, but it seems that ultimately all cultism devolves to the lowest common denominator. It should be pointed out that Davis' reaction was by no means typical of Wilber's followers. However the fact that so few of his followers saw anything to be concerned about regarding his rant or cultic arguments shows there is already a strong current of acceptance and rationalisation of Wilber's actions.

[108]see "What Would Wyatt Do? Follow-Up #3." For a refutation of Wilber's arguments see Geoff Falk's blog comment "(Not) Not A Cult"

[109] the fact that Wilber likes to accuse others of this is an interesting, almost recursive, example of psychological “projection of the shadow”which involves “projection of the shadow.

[110] Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth: From Mazdean Iran to Shi'ite Iran , translated by Nancy Pearson, Princeton University Press, 1989

[111] This theme was especially developed by Iamblichus – see e.g. Gregory Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul, Pennsylvania State University Press 1995, pp.79-80

[112] See e.g. Rudolph Steiner, The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and the Kingdoms of Nature – ten lectures, Helsinki, 3-14 April 1912 (Steiner Book Centre, N. Vancouver, 1981) and many other works

[113] See e.g. Geoffrey Hodson Kingdom of the Gods, Theosophical Publishing House, 1972.and The Angelic Hosts (1928) online for a Theosophical perspective; also experiential accounts by Steven Guth, e.g. "Meeting a Deva in the Botanical Gardens" and "Meditation at Parliament House"

[114] Henry Corbin, Mundus Imaginalis, or the Imaginary and the Imaginal 1964 online at


[116] Note that those who are in a more critical frame of mind would likely have a different response, such as disgust! As always, we are talking about the participation mystique, and one's state of consciousness, receptivity, and entire mindset at the time

Comment Form is loading comments...