Boomeritis - A Brief Interview with Ken Wilber
by Vijay Rana (Watkins Bookshop, London)

Who am I? Why am I here? What's the meaning of life? Why is the world so messed up? My guess is, if you're reading this you've asked yourself these questions and struggled hard to find the answers. If you feel something is missing in the search for truth and meaning, help is at hand. Ken Wilber, the 'Einstein of consciousness', has researched every known philosophy east to west, north to south and then carefully constructed a grand and easily accessible 'Theory of Everything'. In this genuine world philosophy you may just find the answers to all of the questions above. His earlier spectrum of consciousness model breathtakingly spans all the levels of human being from ego to enlightenment, no less. The 'spectrum' later evolved into the 'Four Quadrants' model, which includes an embrace of the interior and exterior realties of both the individual and the collective, enabling antagonistic arenas like science (exterior) and spirituality (interior) to holistically come together. Now in Boomeritis his latest book and first published novel, Wilber gives us new insights into the reasons why the world is so painfully screwed up and the possible integral solutions that could end up saving it. A story that amazingly manages to include humour, sex, romance, enlightenment, A.I. v Human Intelligence, a Theory of Everything and a 'Usual Suspects' style twist is definitely not to be missed.

VR: Hi Ken, you've been writing non-fiction for over two decades, this is your first published work of fiction, why the sudden change of writing style?

KW: I figured it was time to stop annoying people with academic ramblings, and start annoying them with fictional ramblings instead.

VR: Will you be putting out any more fiction in the future?

KW: For humanity's sake, I hope not. Still, I always said that when I finished writing academic material, I would just sit around and write bad novels, so I might keep that promise.

VR: What is 'Boomeritis' and can anyone catch it?

KW: Boomeritis is pluralism infected with narcissism. The idea is that you cannot make judgments of value between different beliefs - all beliefs have the same validity - and this anything-goes attitude actually encourages narcissistic self-absorption and self-promotion hence, the 'me generation'. But anybody can get boomeritis. It dominates virtually all academic departments, the humanities, social services, and so on. But there does seem to be a cure, which the book tries to outline.

VR: Some entries in the book One Taste (your personal journals) describe your direct realizations of 'witness' and 'nondual' transpersonal states of consciousness. Pretty far out considering these higher states are only accessed by an infinitesimal percentage of the worlds population. Did you receive any positive recognition in regard to this from supporters of your work, or conversely any negative criticism e.g. arrogant know-it-all type convinced of his own enlightenment? How has being in these states affected your work? And have these realizations stabilized, resulting in 'your center of gravity' being permanently identified with at least some sort of trans-ego state?

KW: No, these realizations have not permanently stabilized. They were plateau experiences: more than temporary peak experiences but less than permanent waves. I simply gave a direct description of these states as they arose, and people can decide for themselves what to make of them. Positive recognition? Yes, especially from many spiritual teachers who had themselves tasted those states and directly recognized them. Negative criticism? Always; many people resent these things enormously, and some feel that any description of what is happening in your case must necessarily be arrogant. But it simply is what it is.

VR: The final chapters of nearly all your books are on awakening to nondual 'enlightened' consciousness, recommending meditation for the final release. Currently, 'nondual' authors dominate our sales. Rather than recommend serious transformative practices most of these guys tend to focus only on the final re- lease, ecstatically informing us lesser mortals about the bliss of 'waking up now'. By reducing everything to a nondual 'flatland' and ignoring levels of development are they giving license for more new age Boomeritis?

KW: Well, I'm sorry to say that is often the result. I try to end with an evocation of ever-present nondual awareness, but that is always set in the context of needing integral practice to stabilize the awareness, moving it from peak to plateau to permanent. But just giving people hits of nonduality is like doing a drive-by shooting. It leaves people helpless as to how to develop the capacity in consciousness to contain this awareness in an ongoing fashion, so they often end up depressed and dejected, unfortunately.

VR: And finally, it's worth reading Boomeritis just to check out how the wildest character Chloe, interacts with the central character Ken, who's ironically named after you. The 'exchanges' - too outrageous to mention here - certainly gives the book life and humorously shows that you're cool and not a repressed intellectual egghead. It's said that writers often draw from their personal experience when producing works of fiction. Is this the case when you characterized Chloe and just how much of 'you' is actually there in the book?

KW: This will probably be the question that I am asked most often, yes? Well, these things are always hard to answer, because characters are usually an amalgam of all sorts of people. My wife Marci and I have been together for five years; because she wants to have children, and I do not, we have always known that this would be a time-limited relationship. We got married anyway because we wanted to celebrate the wonderful five years that we had together. We are still very much in love, but we are slowly separating so that she can move forward and become a mother, which we both very much agree is the right thing for her. When Marci and I first met,she was 30 and I was 48, and yes, Chloe is very much modeled on Marci's exuberant sensuality and passionate joy. But otherwise Chloe and Marci are very different. Chloe is jaded, a total wise-ass, and very funny in a bitchy sort of way. Marci is one of the dearest, sweetest people I have ever known. I should say that the lead character is named Ken Wilber, not as irony, but as a joke on me. That is, the book, which criticizes boomeritis, is itself guilty of boomeritis. That's sort of the joke. It's a postmodern criticism of postmodernism, so the book exemplifies everything it criticizes. That's part of the fun of the book, if I may say so. Well, I hope the reader finds it to be fun. Let me know if you do! Ken Wilber & Vijay Rana March, 2002xxx