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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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David Long is an Integral Philosopher, Film Maker, Author, Life Coach, Artist, Musician, Producer, Emcee, rEvolutionary, and a Vegan. He makes videos teaching Integral Theory and is a critical member of the integral community. See his website: www.iam-davidlong.com. Corey W. DeVos is the Editor, Designer, Writer, and Producer of IntegralLife.com, as well as the Managing Editor of KenWilber.com. He is a freelance writer, integral consultant, and Wordpress designer.
Creative Integral Friction
A Conversation Between David Long and Corey W. DeVos
I have summarized all your points in a way that I hope is true to your original post. If I missed anything or got anything wrong, please let me know. My summary looks like this (but I will also quote you in places as well):
To see the original post, and Corey’s Response that I am referencing as well as the conversations that led up to this click here:
I have been thinking a lot about how to best respond to you, and because I have been busy, it has taken me a little while to get back to you. Sorry about that. I decided to make this a “Note” so we can better comment, share, and find it.
I am kind of torn between wanting to be gracious about your response, and feeling frustrated by your response…
In one sense I do feel like you have gotten straight to the point, to the heart of trying to figure out what I am actually saying, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate all that you have put on the table to try and understand what is compelling me, and what is at the root of my disagreements and issues with Wilber. I feel like once we make these things clear we will be able to move on skillfully in a very pointed way. I think you are a good friend and business partner to Ken. I think you are loyal and dedicated and that he is truly blessed to have you, as much as you are blessed by him! I know I would want a friend as loyal, passionate and hard working as you…
On the other hand It does still feel like that same unskillful, dismissive, unhealthy thing I see Integralists doing over and over again. Ignoring ALL the important points and making it personal. Like we don’t really want to have Peer Review, in fact no one is actually considered to be Ken’s genuine peer. He is put up on a pedestal as “the guy who figured it out” and “who are you to criticize”; and at the same time if he is wrong, “well he is just human” and “so what?” So it seems like you want to have it both ways. It seems like no matter what, you dismiss criticism. Either the critic is not mature enough to be critical or “so what if Wilber is wrong?”
And, I am surprised people find this Old Testament-style appeal to authority skillful… Your response reminds me of the book of Job, where Job insists that he has done nothing wrong to deserve all that he has lost and his friends are telling him “well, you must have done something” and Job responds “If I have done anything wrong let God come down and say it to my face” and then God does show up and instead of dealing with his points (because he actually has been a good servant) God is just like “Are you big? Are you powerful? Did you create the world? No? Then shut up and know your place!” Your version is: “You think you have read more than Ken? You think you are more mature? More enlightened? Did you create Integral theory? No? Then shut up and know your place!”
Remember the original post was: “Challenge: Criticize Ken Wilber's ideas and see how many people start attacking you personally & what % actually deal with points.”
I did try to keep the length of my response down to a minimum while also dealing with all of your points by quoting you. It is important to me that you feel as though I have addressed all your concerns without putting words in your mouth. Often that makes it difficult to respond with brevity but that was my goal.
Ok here we go:
1: Heat, respect, and good interpersonal hygiene:
I appreciate the positive, creative friction I feel in this ongoing conversation we have been having.
First, let me say that in terms of heat, clearly I am very passionate about these subjects. I know you are too, so if there is “heat” it is in relation to the subject and a general theme of seeing lots of Integralists who are critical, being ignored, and dismissed. In many cases Integral is less skillful then even a rational community because it is CONSTANTLY ignoring all the points, attacking critics personally, and in most rational communities that is considered the worst type of fallacy. In those communities Peer review is actually welcome. We need to better synthesize the best of Orange Values into our community because these issues with communication are not skillful. It’s shameful, not respectful, dismissive, and we should expect higher values from our Integral community.
Claiming to be “more mature” is NEVER a good argument. If one is actually more mature then they can better articulate their position; and, the more mature one is, the better their explanation should be. Maybe the person will not totally be able to grasp the final point; but, for example, I wouldn’t say to a fundamentalist Christian, “I’m more mature than you! I’m Stage 8 Integrally Informed and your only at stage 4 Traditional Conformist so shut up and know your place!” But, I might say, “If you really want to get what I am talking about with this integral stuff you will have to do some work. First, learn to take on and value a more objective methodology; second, learn the strengths and limits of that methodology; and third, include other types of methodology, also understanding their strengths and weaknesses as well. At that point, we can sort through a lot of these ideas in a way that doesn’t ignore and reject several important factors. From there our view of goodness and truth has more clarity. If you like, I can provide some very practical examples that you should be able to relate to.” From there, if the Christian is interested, then we can transition right into some “Street Epistemology.” These are arguments with which one can actually engage. At least with a reasonable explanation one could say “show me what you mean” and then the person could give examples. It might be over their head; but, they can at least start to learn. At that point the ball is in their court to step up; whereas, if you just claim to be higher and ask other people things like how many books have you read or written? That is more like trying to win, or protect ones ego, by putting others down, more than it is real open honest engagement.
It’s crazy to me that so many Integralists act like they know about psychology but want to make assumptions about people based on very little information. They feel so wise because they are putting others down in a “smart sounding” way. But, at the end of the day “skillful means” is not quoting the map, or trying to cram people you don’t know into boxes. Skillful means is about using our knowledge to be actually effective in ENGAGING with people and the world in a way that helps us all move and grow.
That being said, I DO think you have given me an opportunity to clear up some of these issues that I have been wanting to bring to the table. You’re asking: “what is it exactly I am claiming, where is it coming from in terms of my own intention, and why does it really matter?” which are all really important questions if we are really to understand each other. I feel like until we really flesh these things out we will not be able to have mutual respect, build together, or feel like we ARE REALLY caring about and engaged in the same project. I hope to show you that WE ARE both talking about the same project, and I don’t think either of us are doing it for our egos. I think we are having this conversation out of deep passion and concern for the truth and goodness, integrity, reputation, skillfulness, and effectiveness of OUR MOVEMENT. I really hope that from here we can come together and through peer review make our community, reputation, and movement even stronger. Let it start with us! Let’s start an Integral project that works in favor of peer review and shows the world that Integral can “process tensions” better than anything BECAUSE IT CAN! We have the methodology!!
My main life goal is to do everything I can to help birth a healthy Integral Age (and there are lots of different projects to do within that) and I don’t see my self as “THE leader” I see myself as a servant leader and an ACTIVE member of an Integral “community of the adequate!” I see it as my responsibility to stand up and lead by example and “shout from the heart” as Ken might put it.
“And therefore, if you have seen, you simply must speak out. Speak out with compassion, or speak out with angry wisdom, or speak out with skillful means, but speak out you must.” - Ken Wilber
I take these things really seriously, as you will see. I know you take it seriously too, so lets be honest and really try and figure out what is going to be good for our shared goals.
I appreciate the positive, creative friction I feel in this ongoing conversation we have been having, Corey. I really am proud that you and I can lead by example in this way. Respect Brother!
I actually really think having a shared vision matters. We might have different perspectives and there will always be disagreements; but, especially if we generally agree on a common map and methodology, we should be mostly coming to the same conclusions. When we don’t, we should be VERY interested in those areas of disagreement! In fact, clearing up confusion is the cutting edge of clarity. Through THIS KIND of creative friction and open honest engagement our community can evolve and refine as well! This is where the Integral community should be spending a good amount of its time. If we can’t skillfully talk to each other, learn and refine; then how can we be expected to deal with people further down the spiral, who agree with us even less, let alone build an Integral world together? And, if we come across as condescending to people who agree with us, imagine how we must sound to the people when we “translate down” to them. We have already agreed that the Integral community is still very green. I see pre/trans confusion everywhere, embracing difference, asking “why does it even matter”, and false attempts at consensus instead of actually Integrating diversity with discernment. They have turned my father’s house into a den of charlatans and thieves!!! And with that, all the unhealthy red, blue, orange, and green seep right in! Yikes! Corey, I Know you see this as a problem to.
If we come to different conclusions, we have our reasons. We would have to explore those reasons and interrogate their validity to get a better idea if those reasons are good or not and it follows that what we believe is true. As we know, we have to understand what is true in order to be good. We are good for what is true. Intentions and understanding both really matter if we want our goodness to be sustainable. If we are going to continue to push the cutting edge and actually be better, that means our shared view must continue to be refined.
“Saving the biosphere depends first and foremost on human beings reaching mutual understanding and unforced agreement as to common ends. And that intersubjective accord occurs only in the noosphere. Anything short of that noospheric accord will continue to destroy the biosphere.” - Ken Wilber
2: Busyness/ didn’t respond to my points / Ken’s greatest contribution is a solid integral methodology:
On your view what is the point of having a “good methodology” if it doesn’t get us a correct/good view?
I am actually glad that you admit you didn’t really respond to my points, and we see why later. You are trying to get to the bottom of all this and as you stated: “Methodology is a great thing to debate. View, not so much, because it is by its nature a very slippery and subjective thing, as there are as many views in the universe as there are kosmic addresses.”
I am wondering: On your view what is the point of having a “good methodology” if it doesn’t get us a correct/good view?
It seems to me that the way we would know if a methodology was good or not would have something to do with if it was a reliable way of getting at truth, or goodness, or whatever the methodology is trying to achieve… If we agree on the methodology but come to different conclusions, it seems there must be important factors left out, or the person applied the method incorrectly.
Much like how scientists apply their methodology and at the end of the day they mostly agree on a conclusion. The point is to establish understandings that we can build on; but you seem to want to reduce everything back to subjectivity which seems to negate the point of having a “Good Methodology” in the first place. You want to say that Wilber has contributed a really important and solid methodology; but what is the point if at the end of the day we are just going to say that it’s all subjective and our conclusions don’t matter?
What is the point of this integral project if we can’t establish agreements, refine our view, and get closer to what is actually good or true?
If the point is just us feeling so smart and mature then it seems more like a self-righteous power or ego trip then a real movement that can help us come together and make the world a better place for everyone.
I do agree with this, although we have also agreed that most so called Integralists don’t actually know the theory. So while you and I might think that, is that what is making the most impact? It appears to me that Wilber’s personal view is what blocks Integral Theory from being taken seriously by rigorous philosophers and academia, and often that over-shadows his methodology.
Which of Ken Wilber’s books would you say is pure methodology undistorted by Ken Wilber’s personal views?
It’s great to have a solid methodology, but what’s the point if you break your own rules in favor of your personal preferences?
Again, what is the point of having a good methodology if it doesn’t actually get us a good or true view, and at the end of the day you are just going to retreat into subjectivity?
3: A *metatheory*, by its nature is “content free”:
You say: "This methodology (in) its current form is, as far as I can tell, more or less unassailable"
How could this be the case? A meta-theory includes the relevant content, and then the overarching themes and patterns are what they are. How is that “content free?”
You say "This methodology has unfolded throughout various phases in Ken’s career, and its current form is, as far as I can tell, more or less unassailable." and "This contribution, note, is not a theory (even though we often use the shorthand "integral theory")it is a *metatheory*, which is fundamentally different, and by its nature is “content free”. It is not a theory itself, it is a way of integrating multiple theories simultaneously."
I’m wondering what you mean by “content free?” How could something content free be useful?
Meta-theories are theories ABOUT theories. They lay out interpretive and definitional rules for a theory or set of theories, that is their content. The theories to which they refer are theories ABOUT things or states of affairs and are only useful if they lead to accurate conclusions and clearer understandings of the subjects in question.
Corey, you seem to be using "metatheory" as a term for the concatenation of a bunch of theories, or lenses; but, that slamming together of different theories is useless unless it follows a certain set of metatheoretical rules that allow for their fluid and practical use, rather than picking the theory that helps to arrive at the preapproved conclusion without satisfying the criteria laid out by the other theories. This is no better than those people who tell you "Christianity says" or "Science says" or “Traditions maintain,” only using the parts that support their view, and ignoring the rest while they crow about its success and unassailability.
You say "It’s always important to differentiate the methodology from the view. And what I see you doing is, unsurprisingly, disagreeing with Ken’s view while using his methodology, and then calling yourself “more integral.”
That is not really an accurate representation of what I am saying. I argue that Ken breaks his own rules in several ways. So, it's not as simple as just disagreeing with his view. I disagree with his application or better yet, his lack of application of the methodology; and thus, I disagree with his view.
I am saying my view is more Integral not only because it seems I have more and/or better data, but also because I don't break the rules of the methodology to integrate in my preferences. If the data is more representative of what is actually going on in the territory, the view is better. And, if the integration is more true to the methodology, the view is more true to Integral Theory.
You say "This methodology (in) its current form is, as far as I can tell, more or less unassailable"
One would have to be true to the methodology to reap its benefits. And again, I am wondering how you know the methodology is "unassailable," if we are not basing it on the standard of arriving at a more accurate and consistent view. How are we testing it? This is where you get into circular reasoning. I feel you’re saying something like “we have the best methods because we are so wise, and we are so wise because we have the best methods."
4: Ken’s other major contribution is describing the view that he sees when he uses this methodology:
Wilber’s response to his critics has caused many of us to loose respect for him, even those who agree with him.
The Problem arises when other people who agree with that same methodology don’t agree with his conclusions. They are just dismissed…..
You say “unfortunately the caliber of the dissent -- especially on the internet -- is truly so far below his weight class, I am glad he outright ignores it. That said, I actually want to see MORE friction in this spacebut not in its current toxic form, where it seems like everyone is trying to knock him off of some imaginary hill for the sake of their own egos and pet theories.”
Part of the reason it is toxic is because there are shadow issues that have not been addressed. In many cases it has nothing to do with “egos and pet theories” which is a strawman of many people’s perspectives. You want to say “the hill is imaginary”; but, you also act like no one is qualified to criticize Wilber. So, it seems that at least you clearly believe in the hill. The more these criticisms get pushed down, ignored, and rejected the results will be increased anger and spiteful backlash. We are talking about serious people, who commit real time, work, and care for an Integral vision, and have real concerns that are not being acknowledged. This behavior has a ripple effect out to all the people who also agree that these are real problems… If Integral doesn’t have a healthy relationship with criticism what do you expect?
The attitude of “it’s truly so far below his weight class”….. HIS WEIGHT CLASS?!…. The Integral Movement is not about Ken Wilber. The focus should be on what the community needs. It’s not even about the critic, it’s about the ideas and trying to create clarity in a healthy community.
For instance, right now I am talking to you, Corey; but, I am also talking in public for the community. I represent the voices of almost 200 people (The IErM or Integral Emergentist rEvolutionary Movement) that I know of, who agree with these issues. I’m sure there are even more who also want to see these ideas brought to light and dealt with skillfully in a way that Integral can be proud of... Where we are at right now is shameful and embarrassing. I know we can do better and I really hope this conversation is a step in that direction.
I think we really need to get past this idea that “Ken has no peers who are qualified to review him” It seems like you are actually putting him too high up on a pedestal when you say “the caliber of the dissent is truly so far below his weight class, I am glad he outright ignores it” to the point where real peer review is just ignored and it always comes back to calling anyone who criticizes “immature ego-maniacs with shadow issues”.
I’m wondering how you measure his “weight class” and are you just assuming that people who are not as popular or don’t have books published must just be “some nobody”? Not only are you giving KW too much credit, you are not giving the average Integralist who has been studying his work for years enough credit. The teaching cancels out the teacher. Once the student has learned what the teacher has to offer the gap between the two also begins to cancel out. - Then begins the peer review!
You say “For the sake of their own egos and pet theories.” - The issue is that Wilber is not seeing this problem within himself. This is more his problem than a problem with his critics. He want’s to make Integral about his own ego and pet theories. This is why he is criticized. Many people who find great value in Ken’s work ALSO recognize this and are coming to the same conclusions about the problems.
Just today, I came across this video by Mark Manson about “The Rise And Fall of Ken Wilber” and this is also his argument:
So to act like they are all on some ego trip trying to put out their own pet theories is dishonest or delusional.
Another type of hybrid fallacy; Appeal to authority/popularity and circular reasoning.
It very much reminds me of the way Traditional Blue dogmatist deal with criticism, even when the criticisms are Rational/Orange, they reduced the person to Red/Rebellious Egomaniacs because they can’t really step into the healthy Orange rational mental space to meet them. Instead, they project their own Red shadow and fight it in the other person. It’s the retreat from evolution, because it is not honest, open, and healthy engagement that recognizes natural growth hierarchy. Healthy science on the other hand might be currently the most open/honest process that really aligns itself with whatever the good or true thing proves itself to be. Science does not overstep it’s bounds in terms of what it claims to honestly know, and it’s open to refinement. We need more of those values in our Integral community and less ego projection and attacking it in others. Lets deal with this shadow by bringing it all out into the light, and dealing with it, to see what actually stands up to interrogation, scrutiny, and tests IN PUBLIC! Egos’ be damned! Our pet bullshit be damned! Only the really good and true should stand! We want the real!
I would love to see a meta-analysis of Wilber criticisms. I bet there are many universal themes to be addressed. As far as I can tell there has been little to no attempt to take these concerns seriously, especially from Wilber.
If Ken didn’t see himself as “up on a pedestal” then there would be honest and open debates, and active engagements. If the Ideas are really good and the communication is really skillful what is there to fear? This In ability to engage skillfully with critics, acting above it, and insulting people personally is so childish, rude, dismissive, and unreasonable especially when so many of the critics are coming to the same conclusions. So it’s clearly not just a problem with “one persons ego” (unless we are talking about Wilber) but there are real disagreements about major topics.
Honestly there is going to be a split in our community if we can’t find some way to actually integrate in open honest peer review and criticism and stop this unreasonable fallacious willful denial…
Wouldn’t that be a sad day? When a group called “Integral” that prides it’s self on including and integrating everything, has a split in its community because people feel their criticisms are not being processed. Are we the best at skillful integration or not?
And it is going to be “Real Integralists” vs “Wilberians” or Serious philosophers vs Cult Members. (The cult members don’t have good arguments just personal insults)
And lets say hypothetically Ken Wilber would mop the floor with Frank Visser. I would still like to see it, and I think having the guts to face ones critics says a lot about a person.
If just one critic is not a challenge then perhaps a panel of critics would be more fitting of his level of magnificence. I would be on it. I would even debate him by myself just to hear him deal with the criticisms. I am not afraid. What is the worst that could happen? He would school us, and we would all learn something? - Actually I think HE is afraid to be in an open forum where his ideas would be challenged and need to be defended. I think he is afraid to put himself in that position for fear of loosing his credibility. I have more respect for people who are willing to stand up for what they believe and deal with criticism; and Wilber’s response to his critics has caused many of us to loose respect for him, even those who agree with him.
It has been said many times, many ways, and I said it once before, but it bears repeating now: The integral thing to do would be to do a meta-analysis of the criticisms and deal with the main POINTS, forget who said it, or how much it hurts ones ego, quickly dismiss the bad critics and deal with the good criticisms. Wilber’s response in the now infamous Wyatt Earp Episode was just the opposite of that skillful Integral “high ground” approach . He quickly acknowledges that he has good critics, ignores all their points, and goes on to tell his so called bad critics to “suck his dick”! Then he wants to act like it’s a marker of his maturity, and if you don’t think so you must just be green and overly sensitive. - WOW! Well, it has nothing to do with being sensitive, but I am not impressed at all. In fact I think this is probably the most immature and embarrassing thing I have ever seen a serious philosopher or scholar do on purpose, in public, even against the advice of his close friends. - His weight class seems pretty low to me if this is how he is going to deal with criticism. (There is a so-called "hierarchy of disagreement", as presented by Paul Graham. These types of communications are really low on the scale of skillfulness. I don’t care how good of a writer he is, or how flowery and fun the language is, he is ignoring the points, acting above it, and putting other people down, and that is unskillful AF.)
You say “I actually want to see MORE friction in this space”.
What do you think that would look like? What ideas do you have about how to skillfully process these tensions? Can I help you make this happen? What can we do?
5: Ken’s library is big and he has read a lot!:
I’m sure he has read a lot, but I do think there is a quantity quality issue, and maybe a problem with intention or approach…
How many of those books are about Buddhism? How much does one really need to know about Buddhism in relation to all other subjects? I know I have found value in it, but I also think all the things of value I have found in Buddhism I could have gotten elsewhere, including things like meditative practices which I think are often better when divorced from Buddhism….
I mean, how much time has Ken spent meditating? He said he spent 5 years staring at the wall. - While that is impressive (in a way), I’m not sure that is the best use of ones time.
All of this makes me think about “The Sunk Cost Fallacy” The Misconception: You make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences. The Truth: Your decisions are tainted by the emotional investments you accumulate, and the more you invest in something the harder it becomes to abandon it.
It doesn’t really matter how much you read if you are constantly working backwards from your assumptions and looking for more things to run through the filter of confirmation bias. Is he trying to prove his ideas wrong to see if they really stand up? It doesn’t matter how much one reads, if that person is not being skeptical of their own ideas, they won’t grow. - And we see how he deals with criticism: He acts above it, he run’s and hides from it, ignores it, sweeps it under the rug and avoids it. He is willfully evasive it seems to me…
A person can read a million books on bigfoot, have a huge library, know all about bigfoot but bigfoot might still be BS. So even if they have a huge library and know a lot, they might still be delusional and obsessed with some BS that doesn’t even really matter. My point is NOT that Buddhism and bigfoot are at all equivalent, the point is that focus, intention, investment, prioritization, healthy skepticism, and methodology are all factors in the quality of how input is processed. Quality is not reducible to quantity.
6: Corey sees David’s criticisms of what Ken presents as his Integral view as “picking nits”:
These are major problems in all the main areas and topics he touches.
Corey, you say “I feel like you are setting Ken up for failure, simply because you have a few niggling disagreements with details here and there which do not have any effect whatsoever on the overall framework, which is clearly Ken's strength.”
These are not “a few niggling disagreements”. I wish it was just that. I think it’s pretty clear that most every one of his problems is rooted in his bias towards Eastern Religion and working backwards from those literal assumptions about “I AMness before the big bang” and this is not just an injunction or something like that, he explicitly says it is a literal claim. We know he thinks that because it’s clear in ideas about Cosmology, Ontology, “Tetra-Arising all the way down and back” as well as his views on evolution... Things Frank Visser and several others have been critical of for years.
You hear him explicitly say “it’s a literal claim” if you watch his “subject becomes object” video. Here I have it cued up to the exact point at which he says it, but feel free to scroll back a bit and listen to him say this in context:
For a long time I gave Ken the “trans-rational” benefit of the doubt and thought “oh he is just speaking poetically until I realized that he always talks about absolute unity in terms of only eastern symbol sets, and he takes it literally. It’s also very clear and explicit in his claims about science that he takes these religious dogmatic ideas literally.
Wilber’s claims about “Absolute Consciousness before the big bang” are not scientific. Those ideas are not reasonably established; in fact, it looks like those ideas are not true at all. Wilber is working backwards from his religious ideas and trying to back these ideas up with “Deep Science” but, as we have seen, there is no good peer review. People that have performed the injunction and don’t agree are rejected, ignored, put down, and dismissed. When it comes to religious communities; if one doesn’t agree with the dogmatic interpretation of religious experience they are told “you are just not open or practiced enough” and “just keep trying and maybe you will be as mature and awakened as us.” - Watch, this will happen in the comments below. Someone will explain “that I’m just not evolved, mature, honest, or practiced enough, and that is why I don’t agree.” I have seen fundamentalist Christians do the same thing. It’s not good/real science or peer review. It’s not really falsifiable. So, he distorts science and evolution in favor of his own view. He is looking in the wrong quadrant for data. As if the way to know the absolute truth of the universe is to stare at one’s empty mind. He is taking one traditional mythology literally. This is dogma, pre/trans confusion, and making claims about things that NOBODY knows. He is not being humble like a reasonable scholar. He is over-stepping his bounds and making claims he can’t back up. - that is at least 3 ways he is breaking the rules of his beloved methodology!
He messes up religious integration by favoring one tradition and trying to act like one tradition gets it right and has the most mature people, or that you can both be integral and submit to only one tradition. - That is about as Integral as claiming to be an “integral empiricist”. It doesn’t work that way. That is not an Integrative meta-approach, it’s reductive. He ends up having as much integrity as a preacher acting like he knows things he doesn’t know and trying to convince others of it.
As a teacher and as a person who grew up in the church, I feel it is important for me to not act like I know things I don’t really know. I don’t want to be misleading or confusing people with what I am teaching. I see that as what Wilber is doing by pretending to know things and spreading religious dogma as if it was established fact.
He messes up developmental psychology by trying to sneak Sri Aurobindo “state stages” in and stacks them on top of everything else. Even Don Beck thinks this is irresponsible BS that is distorting the meta-analysis as his above quote indicates. Sri Aurobindo is not a developmental psychologist and is not doing scientific tests. He is a mystic. Why are we mixing apples and oranges in this way? That is not how meta-analysis is done.
You say “which do not have any effect whatsoever on the overall framework, which is clearly Ken's strength.” - When one breaks the rules to integrate in one’s own bias and changes the map to look how they want, that does mess up the framework, and it kinda proves that applying his methodology is not his strength. What is the point of having a “good methodology” if one betrays it in favor of personal preference? In doing so he also betrays the people who follow him and believe in him as an honest teacher or leader. He betrays the integrity of the whole integral movement by making it about him and not about the age/stage.
These are major problems in all the main areas and topics he touches. He is in general a bad/unhealthy example of Integration. - These are not just “a few niggling disagreements”. I see him seriously mucking it up and so do MANY others. And it has nothing to do with “our egos” or “wanting the throne for ourselves” or “daddy/shadow issues”. It has to do with real peer review and wanting real Integral Integrity out of a deep care for the power and potential of “integral” done right. Integralists are not Integralists because we like the look of Kens shiny head or the sound of his voice. We care about Integral because we care about a healthy Integral vision. We are critical because we care about getting it right because these ideas MATTER! When you take a closer look, and are critical, these ideas don’t stand up and it becomes clear that Wilber is working backwards from his preferences.
As I mentioned before my goal is to help birth a healthy Integral Age. - This is important. If we are trying to work on this goal and we don’t have a shared vision about how to really have a skillful overarching theory we are right back into trying to take one traditional Dogma literally (or the green swamp). That is not actaully trans-rational or Integral. It would be reductionist, violent, and rooted in outdated, incorrect, and unfounded claims, qualifying the unqualifiable. This just means future generations will have to do more work to deconstruct/reconstruct to get to something that is actually healthy and good. - It might be a better superstition, but I think we can do better, and have an actually Integral religious system more Joseph Campbell style. A tradition that says, “we are all storytellers and we can see the common themes and lessons across all human traditions as well as the interesting variations and technologies that come from particular traditions divorced from the superstitious dogma and local translations.” - That is what we need because it’s a fair way to integrate in the best of all systems and worldviews. It doesn’t act like we should all be dogmatic Buddhists or Christians.
Frank Visser recently said to me
“In my 7-part review series of The Religion of Tomorrow I have tried to turn a “culture of claims and statements” into one of “arguments and reasoning.” Wilberites will see this as a step back from the level of spiritual vision; I see it as a step forward if Integral is ever to become more than a new religion.”
He is right. If we want to be taken seriously we need to do way better.
This is not even everything. These are just the major problems that distort the whole integral view/project. There are other issues as well like too much of a focus on translation, charging too much for events.... and the list goes on; but, those things are not the MAJOR problems. Those are the “few niggling disagreements.”
7: It’s silly, feeling the need to call yourself “more integral” than the guy who invented the methodology:
His contributions are significant but he is MOSTLY standing on the shoulders of LOTS of other people’s work as well
I think its silly to think that most future Integralists wouldn’t be better, smarter Integralists than “the guy who invented the methodology”. He is literally the first word on what it is to be Integral, not hardly the last.
I can spend a fraction of the time Wilber spent learning and assimilating his knowledge just by hearing/reading him. That is a huge advantage don’t you think? Did Wilber have a Wilber to learn from? If he did don’t you think he would be even better? I do.
"Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for." - Socrates
The internet is 27 years old, KW put out his first book 47 years ago….. You don’t think growing up with access to the internet is a HUGE advantage? You don’t think that by the time our kids are grown they won’t be way better and smarter than us? (Are you familiar with the Flynn Effect?) Future generations have our shoulders to stand on. If they are not better than us we must be mucking it up!
But lets answer these questions and take them seriously:
You ask “Are you claiming to have a “superior” kosmic address?
I AM. I think I am healthy Integrally Informed, and I think Ken Wilber is more like a late green, early integral, early stage vision logic, with lots of pre/trans confusion… I think he has a lot of work to do, but I don’t think he will make much progress because everyone has told him that he is the most enlightened genius ever. So he thinks he has already arrived… I think he mistakes his delusional dogmatic pre-rational view about states for transcendent wisdom.
And lets be honest… His contributions are significant but he is MOSTLY standing on the shoulders of LOTS of other people’s work as well…. It’s Hegel mixed with Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Don Edward Beck, among others.
You ask “Are you saying you have a “deeper” and more consistent awakening than he does?”
I think he is better at state training probably, but in terms of the wilber/combs matrix I think his translation of his experience is dogmatic and immature. Again, there is the problem of pre/trans fallacy and his “awakening” is clouded by the dogmatic worldview it exists within that he has not deconstructed, but takes literally. And, it distorts his view of science, religion, and psychology as I have previously explained. These are the main topics he talks about…. So, if by awakening we mean “clearly seeing reality as it is” then Yes, I would say I have a deeper awakening.
Listen to this short video I made about Ken’s problems with outdated interpretations or Dogmatic Buddhist "Awakening":
I think the main reason I have a better view is because of the influence of other teachers who I DO think are more awakened and more well-read than Wilber. - Example: My favorite teacher is Joseph Campbell and I think he is a MUCH BETTER example of what “integral religion” should look like than what Wilber presents in his newest book. I DO think he has read way more in those relevant fields than Wilber. (In fact Wilber says he bases his ideas on the pre/trans fallacy on JC’s work, though he doesn’t really seem to apply the standard. - Think back to the link I shared above where Ken is claiming that eastern religious ideas about cosmology are literally true.) Campbell’s view is not as short sighted. - I am standing on his shoulders, and because of the depth and greatness of his work, I have a better view.
See how this is not about MY EGO. Am I trying to “dethrone Campbell” to boost my ego? No. I love him. I refer lots of people to his work all the time, and feel no embarrassment in doing so. What I am embarrassed about are Wilber’s pet theories, unfounded religious beliefs, and his huge ego. I wish there was a better example of Integral to point to. I would rather people learn Integral theory from me, at least at first, than from Wilber. Which is part of why I am trying to work on media to teach it. I am having to do extra work to try and save the baby or diamond that is Integral Theory from the dirty bath water or dung hill of Ken Wilber’s Bias/Ego.
Also it’s not like people just go after Wilber. Integral critics including myself go after all bad examples of Integration “trying to make a case for why one's belief system is integral” in others as well. Like Steve McIntosh. I made a video being very critical of his bad/unskillful/bias integration as well. Frank Visser and others have also done work to call out bad examples that compromise the integrity of our projects. - You might want to act like “view doesn’t matter” but Ken’s view and Steve’s view are not compatible. What should we do about that? That is the problem with everyone just trying to make it whatever they want it to be. That is the green swamp, that is not Integrating diversity with discernment, and us reasonably building together. - If one doesn’t see this as a problem they must still be only thinking about individuals, and not about how we are going to create a Healthy Integral Culture together!
It’s about how honest and balanced our approach is, and who’s shoulders we are standing on.
You ask “Are you saying you are more familiar with the terrain of third tier development and the semiotics of transcendence than he is?”
I’m saying he is delusional when it comes to his claims about 3rd tier development. Sri Aurobindo is not a developmental psychologists - If we are doing a meta analysis of stages of development lets compare apples with apples shall we?
You ask “Are you saying that you are better read than Ken and are coming from a data set that is larger or more complete than his?”
I am saying that I have done better things with my time. I might not know as much as him, but what I do know has put me in a better, healthier and more realistic place in my development.
I fully admit that I am not perfect, and I have a lot of lines that need more development. I have shadow issues to deal with in my own life, for example around “making money”, meaning, I need to get better at it. (I am sure KW could totally school me on how to make money and I would be glad to learn.) I am a passionate person and I do so much for the LOVE of doing it, like the time I have put into this note, that I struggle getting paid and making a living or raising the money to really do big projects. I am still learning and growing all the time. I don’t feel like I have “made it” or that “I AM realized”. I feel like I AM making it, and realizing it. It is a daily practice and a daily struggle.
You ask “Are you saying that you would have been able to create the integral methodology yourself from whole cloth?”
No. I think Integral theory is better, and more fleshed out than what I was working on by the time I discovered it. But, I am one of these people who was working on a book making several of the same distinctions before I ever knew about Integral Theory. Check out this page from my note book from 3 or 4 years before I discovered Integral Theory.
I am not saying that this IS integral theory, but that it has some of the ideas and elements... Divisions of 4 (not necessarily related to ontology/epistemology, but it could be applied to that or any other thing) and a spiraling dialectic (not necessarily having to do with stages of development) but it's well on its way, and clearly resonates well. - Ken himself has said many times that this is OUR territory, and he just codified it first.
I had different plans and ideas and when I came across integral theory I stopped all that I was doing and went back in to the cave for years to assimilate what Integral had to teach me. I am glad that I don’t have to do that work. I am glad to climb up on top of Kens shoulders and take the work even farther by integrating the pros of his work and trying to negate the unhealthy limited cons. - That is the project of refinement at the cutting edge.
I realize these questions, in general, are just meant to humble and intimidate, but I will not shrink away. I will answer honestly. You can say I have a big ego if you want, but I don’t claim to be anything beyond healthy turquoise, Integrally Informed, world/kosmocentric, with late stage vision logic or ego/construct awareness. I want to help birth a Collective/Individualistic society and the Integral Age. I think the people claiming to be “superhuman” or that they have “magical powers” are actually the delusional ego maniacs, and they don’t really have the guts to put their ideas to the test. People who believe in the “supernatural” don’t appreciate how super the natural actually already is. The ego wants more.
I just want to be on the side of whatever actually can demonstrate it’s truth and goodness. I am not working backwards from my preferences. I am willing to question everything to try and figure out what is ACTUALLY going on. I’m not looking for some philosophy that will tell me I am a superhuman who can learn to have special magical powers. My power is that I know my own strengths and weaknesses, and have some knowledge of the patterns of ideas and development. That is it. One can always learn more, but I don’t really think it gets better than that.
If someone could actually demonstrate they have further abilities with reasonable tests that would be something. But, every time those claims are tested they ALWAYS fail. There are TONS of people who are offering lots of money to anyone who can reasonably demonstrate these things. (List of prizes for evidence of the paranormal) They are all forever unclaimed. Because, frankly it’s bullshit. And it is part of the Integral methodology that if a person makes these types of claims they should have to demonstrate them empirically.
Let me ask you... Would the average psychologist have been able to be Freud in Freud's time? No. Probably not. But the average psychologist these days is probably a better psychologist then Freud, because he was the first word…
We are all just people standing on the shoulders of others… Ken Wilber is no great genius. He got lucky. He was in the right place at the right time, and YES, he put in the work as well. But if it wasn’t Ken who came up with it, it would have been someone else, and they very well might have done a better job than Wilber. Maybe not. - It has more to do with the Zeitgeist then it has to do with “the greatness of Wilber”. Integral theory is an idea that’s time has come, and instead of doing the work to refine it and make it better we spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME worshiping Ken. - He becomes a barrier to real Integral progress.
I don’t think “creating the integral methodology” is the end goal, but the first step towards our REAL goal of creating a healthy Integral movement or birthing the Integral Age. These are things that you and Wilber don’t even seem to be that concerned with. Maybe the better question would be “Do you think you can do better with this methodology than Wilber?” and I think the answer is that to really make the movement happen requires more than just one person being “better”. That is part of why turning the conversation into a dick measuring contest is not productive. It doesn’t help us build together. It divides us.
You ask “Is there some part of you that WANTS to see yourself as "better" than Ken?”
I don’t care about being better to stroke my ego. Actually I would like it if Ken was better because it would mean I could just happily share his work and respect him like I do with many of my other teachers who I think DO get it mostly right and have integrity. I am happy to be a follower that goes with the flow as long as the leadership is good and healthy. These problems make more work for me. That is time I don’t get to spend doing other things. I would rather be able to look up to Ken, keep learning from him, feel like he is going to take care of it, and has figured it all out. Unfortunately that is not the case. No one wants to be “the responsible parent figure.” People are either thrust into this role, or they step into it out of deep care and a feeling of responsibility.
Better how? Do I want to be better for the Integral movement than Ken? Yes, I do. But again this isn’t about dick measuring, it’s about getting the work done, and doing it right. I am claiming that he is mucking up the work. I wish we could stop making it about Wilber and start dealing with the actual claims… The proof is in the pudding, and it’s not measured in “popularity”.
I didn’t know more than Wilber before I came across Wilber… I agreed with him for a long while. But, through being in that world space, applying the methodology, seeing the talk and critical work within the community, trying to share his ideas with other smart people, I feel I outgrew him. Lots of people have outgrown him after years and years of thinking critically about his ideas. Again I am representative of lots of other voices who also feel that they have outgrown Wilber - and we are not “ego-maniacs with shadow issues”. Just like being an Integralist, having outgrown green in a healthy way is progress, even if it might not seem like it to someone at Green. To outgrow Wilber is just to be growing more or better at Integral. It doesn’t make one “4th tier” or something lol.
8: It’s not a cult of personality because Corey can disagree, even though he admits that Ken probably still knows better:
This is why we really need to focus more on building an Integral Project that is skillful, open, transparent, and interactive
OK, I just thought this was funny… You say “how you can tell this is not a “cult of personality”? You can have your own view, and you can disagree with Ken’s view all day long. I disagree with him every other time I see him (though I am never foolish enough to dismiss his POV altogether, because the guy is way smarter and more realized than I am, and usually sees some angle I am not yet aware of).”
So you disagree with him, but you doubt yourself… What do you do with that disagreement? Do you process the tension, or ignore it and just assume that he knows more than you?
You know how I know that it IS a cult of personality? - Because when one is critical of his ideas they get attacked personally and the actual content of the claims are ignored.
The Integral Movement needs to be about humanity coming together and skillfully working with a shared methodology to make a better world. Not about ONE person. “Having a great methodology” is not the end goal, it’s the first step! This is no time to stop and celebrate, it’s time to get to work. It’s about what we can DO with that methodology that makes it great! (I can see that Don Edward Beck understands this. Look at what he has tried to do with Spiral Dynamics in the world.)
This is why we really need to focus more on building an Integral Project that is skillful, open, transparent, and interactive, and can refine and get better over time. Again, less like a religion with a Dogma and a Priest. Not just Eastern Enlightenment, more like Science with peer review and tests. More of a focus on the values of the Western Enlightenment. Definitely both! But right now we are WAY off balance, unfocused, and unhealthy. - We can do way better by skillfully integrating in lots of perspectives toward our shared vision than if we all just focus on how smart Ken Wilber is.
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." - Albert Einstein
Right now Ken Wilber is our biggest obstacle to the healthy realization of our vision. He needs to let himself be challenged in public and deal with it with honor and dignity, maybe changing his mind or standing corrected. - Be able to skillfully admit you are wrong is a huge marker of respect for me. It shows real honesty, flexibility and a willingness to learn and grow and side with the actually true and good over one’s ego. The less willing a person is to do this, the less truly awake they are it seems to me. I think if Wilber was truly awakened and past his ego he would feel the need to make the integral movement about what we can build together.
In the last 30 years what has been established that you think is an example of Integralists coming together to make a real difference with the power of our methodology in the world? I can certainly think of great individuals who have taken this methodology and applied it to a field in great ways, but there is no larger group or system created to build and refine.
When we think “Integral” do we think “transformative powerful movement” or do with think “Ken Wilber and his books”? - This needs to change!
9: Some critics have refined the theory but many of his critics are strawmanning him, or are caught in some little detail:
Sure, I have seen this stuff too, and told these people that they don’t know what they are talking about. That if they want to be critical they need to take some time to try and understand it first. In general if one cannot say what is good or true about a view one has no business being critical of it. But I wouldn’t say it’s the majority of what I have seen. I have seen a lot of good criticism too.
I have already given examples of good critics like Don Beck, Frank Visser, and Mark Manson, but I can give several more if you would like: Mark Edwards, Andrew Smith, Ray Harris, David Lane, Geoffrey Falk just to name a few more... I like Julian Marc Walker’s note called The Patchwork Cloak of Integral Theory. And I like this note by an author who goes by “Bob” called Has Ken Wilber jumped the shark?
10: All philosophers have been wrong at some point. Who cares? It does not diminish the methodology:
It does. People will never learn the methodology if they think “Wilber is a pseudo-intellectual making unfounded claims about reality, and working backwards from outdated debunked religious ideas.” - Often most scholarly people don’t take it seriously enough to learn the methodology, or mystics just hear his spiritual ideas, think they must already “know”, and never bother to learn the theory either. It maybe the scholarly persons loss. But, they are right to not take Wilber that seriously.
To act like these things are minor or don’t matter, or that it doesn’t affect the brand or the theory just seems dishonest or delusional.
I will ask again what do you think about how we might be able to better process the tensions in our community? Can we agree that it starts by taking the criticisms seriously and actually addressing the points? Using the methodology? I hope so! We need to if we are going to be healthy and really build and refine. If we can’t do it then I’m not sure what hope there is for humanity.
Let me share this quote one more time because I think it’s important:
“Saving the biosphere depends first and foremost on human beings reaching mutual understanding and unforced agreement as to common ends. And that intersubjective accord occurs only in the noosphere. Anything short of that noospheric accord will continue to destroy the biosphere.” - Ken Wilber
The stakes are high! We don’t have time to reduce everything back to subjectivity and believe whatever we want. We cannot turn Integral into another green swamp of confusion. We need to step up and be responsible.
“We got all these maps and plans in our hands helping people understand what the light is for. If we can’t come together with a plan then the future will be asking man what the f*ck did you hide this for?” - I AM (In Silence)
What is the best way we can figure out how to grow and refine Integral together? What can we do to create a healthier process for honest engagement, critical refinement, and clarity? How can we bring more creative friction online in a healthier way? What can I do to help?
I look forward to your response! That being said, please take your time with it. It took me a couple of months to craft what I consider to be my best response to you. I am more interested in the quality of your reply than I am in the quickness with which it’s delivered. Please take your time, really think about what I am saying, and what the best response to my concerns might be.