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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Brad Reynolds did graduate work at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) before leaving to study under Ken Wilber for a decade, and published two books reviewing Wilber's work: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (Tarcher, 2004), Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006) and God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (Bright Alliance, 2021). Visit: http://integralartandstudies.com
A View on Things, Not God
"So science is a discipline. When you add a philosophy to it that limits what you can know, defines what is acceptable knowledge and excludes all else from even being examined—not to mention being known or known about—that is not science anymore." — Adi Da Samraj
T hose whom I have called the “high priesthood” of Integral World (since they post the most articles and react most strongly to the spiritual perspective)—David Christopher Lane and Frank Visser—have both immediately responded to a new essay posted by author John White titled “Evolution: An Enlightened View.” Both are smart and excellent writers, well-versed in source literature, and provocative. Yet both, sadly, are reductionistic materialists: i.e., they firmly believe that only the realm of matter-energy and biology as being real (as do most scientists). They downplay or dismiss that the interior evolution of consciousness is also a process of transcend-and-include (until ultimate transcendence). Neither are professional scientists, however, though highly educated with advanced university degrees, yet both are deeply committed to science as being the ultimate arbitrator in determining “truth” (or what is most real). They do not merely accept the facts of science, but make it into a philosophy—as if science is a philosophy, but it's not; it's a method of investigation. Therefore, they profess the modern reductionistic “philosophy” of scientific materialism or scientism (“only science is true”), thus, immediately took issue with White's spiritual perspective on evolution (while admiring his clarifying writing skills).
From my perspective, both Visser and Lane live mostly in the mind, not the Heart—where Divine Spirit is found and revealed most fully—in purporting their “philosophy” (though I am sure, as good men, they use their heart to love others, just not to make very good philosophy). Technically, they don't do philosophia or “love of wisdom,” but prefer the love (or appreciation) of science above all else. Thus, to my mind, they are caught in the realm of rational ideas, perpetual thinking, and endless doubt. In fact, Professor Lane subscribes to a philosophy he calls “Unknowing,” as one of his book's title confesses. At least he recognizes that the mind itself can never know it all, thus preferring to marvel at the new discoveries of science which should be an unending enterprise of entertainment, since science is perpetually in the mode of discovery. Indeed, this is why science is such an effective “method” of investigation, but, also, why it's such a poor philosophy of life in discovering the real truth of our reality as a whole. You don't need to know science, in other words, to be Enlightened or realize God. This is why we need mysticism and Enlightened Teachings, as White proposes, as well as science. Science, we believe, does not directly deny the mystical or enlightened view for it lies outside its purview.
From my perspective, both Visser and Lane live mostly in the mind, not the Heart—where Divine Spirit is found and revealed most fully.
God Cannot Not Be Proven, Only Realized
What Lane and Visser do not seem to understand is that God cannot be proven! God or the spiritual nature of reality can only be doubted or denied by the intellectual advances of the mind. Even beliefs (or mythic stories) are often constructed by the mind as a means of eliminating doubt. Nonetheless, God is only realized or revealed when mind and self have been utterly transcended or gone beyond (as in “ego-death”). Only then is the wisdom of the heart Awakened to Real God, not as any mythic deity but as real “God” or Ultimate Reality, as the world's wisest Sages have said for millennia, regardless of culture or century. As only one example, Plato in the Seventh Epistle wrote:
It is not something that can be put into words like other branches of learning; only after long partnership in a common life [contemplative community] devoted to this very thing does truth flash upon the soul, like a flame kindled by a leaping spark. No treatise by me concerning it exists or ever will exist.
Therefore, the conundrum is how to evoke that “flash upon the soul” or the inner mind of the heart—aye, there's the rub! Unfortunately, this is an extremely difficult event or “experience” for anyone to realize. Divine Enlightenment is harder to gain than a Ph.D., much more difficult because we must go beyond our ego or sense of being a separate self, which is why most people fall short (even if at times they have brief moments of spiritual intuition hinting at its veracity). This awakening is the motivation behind all genuine mysticism, behind all real yogas and disciplined practices of sadhana and spiritual life, prayer, contemplation, and authentic meditation. Indeed, this is the true purpose of genuine Guru-Adepts (not the fake ones), a topic Lane, in particular, has been critical of for decades and tends to uniformly dismiss (especially my preferred Guru, Adi Da Samraj).
Nevertheless, for thousands of years this is what ALL of the world's wisest Philosophers, Saints, and Sages have recommended: do the yoga and meditate! Change your life from the common pursuits of the conventional world if you truly want to see (and know) God. Yet, how many will “Follow Me”? For, indeed, many are called but few are chosen, as you may have heard. But that has been the ancient and traditional recommendation, that is, until the modern era when science has become the new priesthood of humankind. Science says “God is dead” for science cannot measure God, therefore, He or She (or It) must not exist, which is precisely the conclusion of Visser and Lane.
For example, Visser is perpetually confused about Spirit, so ends up critiquing his own confusion, not what Mystics or true integral philosophers believe. Visser comments: “Either evolution is guided or it is unguided.” Well, Frank, it is neither. Evolution is Spirit-in-action so it is the natural unfolding of Spirit—Spirit is not “driving” anything nor does it momentarily intervene, for that presupposes Spirit is separate from the process of evolution, an unenlightened view. The enlightened view, on the other hand, as White points out, understands that “evolution is a divinely driven process by which God as Spirit expresses itself through the production of evermore complex forms. Natural processes are really acts of God.” Thus, when Visser questions: “What do we gain by adding Spirit to the equation (either as occasionally intervening or permanently pervading everything)?” it is a nonsensical question, for he doesn't realize that no one is adding Spirit to anything, but rather recognizing Spirit's innate condition arising as everything that is evolving.
By the way, what we “gain” by recognizing Spirit is seeing a cosmos, universe, Earth, living beings and others (and all else, from atoms to astronomy to apes to angels to Atman) as the dancing dazzling display of Divine Light alive as Love-Bliss with the heart overflowing our ego-mind with Happiness and Eternal Freedom. Or something like that (but, again, as Plato says, “It is not something that can be put into words”); thus (hint) it's worth the effort.
Yet, such paradoxes escape the linear, verbal-based, rational mind, which is why the egoic viewpoint must be transcended to see beyond the boundaries of self and world. Only then will one's philosophy begin to reflect the totality of how things truly are, not just a further clarification of more details (which is science's forte, thus we want to access its knowledge claims too).
Seeing (or Not Seeing) with the Eye of Spirit
I, for one, therefore, disagree with Visser-Lane (and scientific materialists), for it seems to me they fail to understand what God or Spirit really is—for It (as Ultimate Reality) is not an object of the mind. They think God is just some belief or idea or concept that people blindly use to console themselves in their reaction to the “proofs” of science and living in an “accidental universe” (in Alan Lightman's words, a favorite of Lane's). But, contrary to Visser's suggestion, White and I are not merely reinterpreting Wilber's philosophy (in the realm of ideas), but are articulating our own views that have been revealed to us as truth. We sound like the Sages, and like Wilber, because we see the same reality, a spiritual reality. We see the One over the Many, or the Many as the One.
It is true, even the Sages teach that the world is not ultimately fulfilling (as Lane acknowledges), since everyone dies, which is exactly why we need philosophical mysticism, for as Socrates suggested: “True philosophers make dying their profession.” I, therefore, agree with the world's Sages of the Great Global Wisdom Tradition, and hence, in my generation, with people such as Ken Wilber and John White (among many others), though we may slightly disagree over details (since we must use our minds to express the inexpressible). Only the mystical vision or God-Realization gives us the Freedom and Wisdom to live life fully without attachment but with compassion, tolerance, and love, seeing the Good, Beauty, and Truth… just like Mystics do (though we're still always practicing to evolve consciousness beyond the limits of the separate self's activity of contraction and avoiding love).
The mind, let me be clear, will never figure it all out by using the senses and their extensions (e.g., microscopes and telescopes, particle accelerators, etc.), or even with the powerful tool of mathematics and quantum computers, etc. Science can never prove God! So why are scientists, or “philosophers” of science, so surprised by that fact? Or why do they dogmatically act like they can disprove Spirit? In fact, technically, neither can philosophy prove God, which as a discipline is fundamentally expressions of the human mind. Hence, the philosophical and ontological “arguments for God's existence” always fall short (such as with Anselm, Aquinas, or the Creationists looking for God “in the gaps”). God transcends the individual mind (and all religions), even though God is consciousness existing as the Ultimate Reality of the entire universe, from the Big Bang onwards. The Transcendent-Immanent God is a “notorious paradox,” as Wilber has long pointed out. For mystics, Spirit can be seen as Energy since there truly is no difference, just different perspectives (such as the scientific and mystical ones). As Wilber once pointed out, it is a paradoxical condition only the mystical perspective understands:
All things are not ultimately made of subatomic particles; all things, including subatomic particles, are ultimately made of God.
As it's been said, God works in mysterious ways, yet some of those mysteries science in fact does reveal to us, while the Whole Mystery only enlightened mysticism reveals. But if you don't understand that paradox, you have not yet transcended the separate self's perspective. Only mysticism, or the utter transcendence of the mind itself (or the self's perspective), can discover what is “always already” true and real: God or Ultimate Reality is real and is, in fact, behind all the changes and evolution of everything, that is, IF you see beyond the limits of science and the separate self.
This is what White was emphasizing when he said, “God is the motive force of all history, including evolutionary history”—a condition of reality that Visser-Lane fail to see or comprehend. Again, God (or Tao) is not some Controller Deity (or Giant Watchmaker), but exists as the natural course of things (as Lao Tzu and Heraclitus emphasized). Either you know… or you don't. Not seeing this, then, becomes the so-called “battle” between science and spirituality, between materialism and mysticism, and it's utterly unnecessary (except in some people's minds). White was trying to point that out, as I see it.
Since to actually realize God is beyond the activities of the mind, then no essay or book or film or lecture or any scientific formula will ever solve this dilemma of doubt for anyone. God is beyond experience and is not an object of the mind. But, paradoxically, you must find out for yourself! Only you (or your consciousness) can realize God, not with science or mathematics. And, importantly, this is not accomplished by using the mind or reason or ideas alone or with accumulated facts about the physical world. It's realized by quieting the mind, opening the heart, and surrendering the self… through Grace.
Only by following the Transcendental-Reality Teachings of the Sages, by doing the yoga, by meditating correctly (not simply as self-improvement exercises), by releasing the limits of mind and ego-I, is the Truth revealed. If you don't know about God for certain, then I suggest go find out! That is also what Wilber and White recommend as well. The entire tradition of the Perennial Philosophy says as much. Yet, you must leave science behind—or “transcend-and-include” it—for it is limited in its scope, a fact Lane and Visser (and others of their ilk) seem lame in recognizing. Thus, they try to convince you otherwise. I, for one, recommend the Wisdom of the Sages over the knowledge of the scientific materialists; there is a reason humanity has recognized the Adepts' great value, women and men, for millennia.
Science Studies Parts (the Many)—Spirit Realizes Wholeness (The One)
Science only studies the parts, not the whole, which is why science has its different departments and categories or branches of knowledge. This is precisely why we need an INTEGRAL philosophy, one that studies the Whole and the partial parts (or holons). Or, as I like to point out (in previous essays): to use ALL the “eyes” or modes of knowing, from the physical to emotional to mental to spiritual, et al. Yet, by admitting their preference for a philosophy of “unknowing,” Lane-Visser claim it's best to be inquisitive in a constant and endless search for knowledge. Thus, they NEVER claim they know it ALL, like mystics tend to do, since for them there is no final knowledge… especially about God (or matters of ultimate importance).
Apparently, the truth of Spirit-in-action eludes them since they do not first recognize the reality of Spirit, other than as some idea someone uses to tinker with science. They prefer we accept their claims there is no God (or ultimate purpose to Reality) nor is there any Spirit (or Eros) creating and “driving” everything forward to realizing God Itself as our Ultimate Condition. I, for one, and John White, for another, suggest this is a false view (or bad Dharma). Spirit is real and exists as you and me… and as evolution (and everything else).
We see God as the evolution of everything, mistakes and all, not perfect but balanced as a Whole. In this case, in the end (and at all times), the Divine Reality is totally Transcendent of all the motions and changes of the entire universe (of all possible universes) existing as its Prior Unity (which is full of Divine Love and Bliss)—but also creating and generating, sustaining and destroying everything (including evolution). Like I say, either you know or you don't. But anyone can know, if you transcend the limits of science and materialism and surrender self.
Lane calls it “uncalled for hubris” to be so certain God is real, for he believes in science which is known only via the mind and constant doubt. Enlightened Teachers, on the other hand, call that attitude itself the epitome of hubris or excessive self-confidence (in science). In this case, these folks believe science provides the confidence and proof there is no God or Spirit and that none is necessary for evolution to take place. But this is nothing but theirs (and other's) opinion, nothing more. It's what atheists Dawkins and Dennett believe; big deal. White and I (and Wilber) side with the Sages. We see with our Heart, not just our mind. You can do the same (or not).
Science only studies the parts, not the whole, which is why science has its different departments and categories or branches of knowledge.
This is why to pit science against mysticism is a futile and fruitless enterprise, for they are addressing different domains of knowledge. Most philosophers, from Kant onwards, grok this distinction. This is why Integral Philosophy, as Wilber points out, maintains there are at least three (or more) “eyes of knowing” or modes of knowledge acquisition needed (at a minimum) for a more holistic view: (1) the Eye of Flesh (or using and measuring the physical world); (2) the Eye of Mind (or using theories, math, ideas, and philosophies to discover certain other truths); plus (3) the Eye of Spirit (or mystical practices in order to discover spiritual truths). Anything less than this is NOT BEING INTEGRAL. Ironically, the priesthood at Integral World are not integral! They're smart scientists, poetic in their prose—and I often gain valuable information from their well-articulated essays—but incompetent integralists for they do not see with the Eye of Spirit.
In fact, their solution is to dispense with mysticism and God altogether. Like many scientists, they prefer to think such matters are just projections of the human brain (or mind), fantasies we have created to make us feel better in a vast realm of space and time that is indifferent, eventually winding down via entropy (though small pockets permit the evolution of complex forms of life). To them, meditation is just a self-improvement exercise, as Lane openly concedes (for he uses it and has for decades, thus acts\ like he's an expert; yet, it seems to me he knows about the tool but has yet to discover its true function, apparently); Visser, I don't believe, meditates much, for he agrees with atheist-biologist Richard Dawkins: “I don't see the point.” Another reason why an authentic Guru, or expert in the field of spirituality, can be critical in helping anyone find the knowledge that is basically hidden from science and most forms of human knowledge acquisition.
The esoteric realities of human existence, the full spectrum of human possibilities, are hidden and “secret” for a reason: they are not easily accessible or understood, just like science can be if you do not study it properly. Therefore, I have found we must turn to the few advanced-tip Adept-Realizers to highlight the path that we too must engage in order to see the Nondual Light of God. True Gurus are our friends and guides, not cultic icons, another spiritual view Lane and Visser dismiss (particularly Lane). Again, I side with the confessions that the Sages have given us for millennia, not with the materialists, since they express what I see (not believe). Everyone must decide for themselves—and since we're engaged in unknowing (never sure we really know)—then everyone must be willing to change their mind (or heart) along the way. Evolution of consciousness will do that to a person.
Where to Start: Spirit or Science?
Consequently, as I see it, Lane and Visser both begin by starting at the wrong point (or perspective), which, for them, is the mind and the theories of science. Lane and Visser believe in science, above all else, and so start there. Hence, they complain (Visser in particular) that evolution is an adequate explanatory principle for why everything exists so to posit an idea that existence is really “Spirit-in-action” is to ADD SOMETHING (Spirit) to evolution that it is not needed. But this is a blatant misunderstanding of what Spirit-in-action means, as my essays have constantly pointed out. This is not what Wilber and White (or myself and many others) claim. We do not add Spirit to the mix in order to explain anything. We—or all the mystics—start with Spirit, since that is what has been clearly revealed as most real and actual, and then we add evolution and the discoveries or relative truths of science. And this is not just our own “personal” opinion, for we share them with the world's mystics, not as a justification but as a verification. For example, it was only after I personally discovered (or re-discovered) the truth about God—that my consciousness is God—that I found I could finally agree with all of the Mystics and Sages. Before satori, their writings seemed obscure and paradoxical (or even foolish); after satori (God-Realization), they made perfect sense.
Visser and Lane, I believe, have gotten it backwards… or, more simply, they have gotten it wrong; they distort what Wilber and White say because they simply do not get what they are saying. The mystic (even modern ones) all start with Spirit (or the Divine Nature of Reality) and then move outward or downward (depending on one's preferred metaphor, which are always somewhat inaccurate because, as Plato pointed out, “It is not something that can be put into words”).
God-Realization or Enlightenment reveals the overall or whole Truth of existence or why our life exists in this vast universe, while science (and other branches of knowledge) ADD the details. This is precisely what Integral Philosophy attempts to do. In this case, we don't really care if science is wrong, for it is not absolute truth but only relative truths (valuable as they are). This is how science and mysticism are united and can work together in harmony. This is why we NEED both science and mysticism to make our lives better and bring about world peace.
In short, the mystic starts with God then adds science to the mix by using its useful discoveries (which are many, yet some are very dangerous), whereas the materialist-scientist—such as Visser and Lane—starts with science and ends with science (so Spirit is absent). Thus, they have no need for acknowledging that spirituality is anything but “airy fairy” excess (Visser's words). They have no need for God or an “Intelligent Designer” or Love-Eros or Spirit as being the ultimate cause and “reason” or purpose behind the universe because they simply have not realized that Spirit is real (not just an idea or concept). But we say Spirit or God is the Source and Condition of evolution and cosmos (which is why Wilber calls it “Kosmos”). If you don't see it that way, you haven't yet seen it that way.
Importantly, however, this Divine Realization is the innate potential for every living human being, as Integral Philosophy (and the Perennial Philosophy) persistently teaches. We either know or don't know, but we can know. Or you can follow the views of the scientific materialists who tells us to constantly doubt, for the universe is indifferent, a lucky accident. They say if you can't accept their view of scientism, the materialistic unspiritual one, then you are being a child projecting fantasies and wish-fulfillments onto the cold realities of our indifferent universe. As one of their heroes, Richard Dawkins said:
This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind., but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
Well, you can see how this debate can go on and on, as it has for nearly two decades on the so-called “Integral” World website, which most often prefers to criticize and slam Ken Wilber, the world's foremost integral philosopher (Visser's favorite project). They will take on anyone who expresses an integral and spiritual view; granted, some of their points are valid but most are opinions of stark materialism. It's one thing to debunk (prepersonal) myth-makers, it's another to dismiss genuine (transpersonal) mystics. Now they take on John White, who was one of Wilber's earliest champions (having been his literary agent for his first few books), calling the integral pandit “the Einstein of consciousness research.” But it is an endless debate of egos shrouded in doubt, for if you believe only in science and the power of the mind, you will never surrender the boundaries of the ego-I and discover the Heart which is beyond your mortal self, as philosophers from Plato and Socrates onward have persistently reminded us. In that case, let's give Socrates the final word in this essay, as recounted by Edith Hamilton (quoting from Plato):
Socrates' fundamental conviction was that there was in everyone a spark of the Divine Light which could be kindled into a flame. In his speech to his judges, just before they condemned him to death, he said:
“I will obey God rather than you, and as long as I have breath I will not cease from exhorting you:
'My friends, are you not ashamed of caring so much about making money and about reputation and honors [or scientific discoveries]? Will you not think about Wisdom and Truth and how to make your soul better?'
I shall reproach you for indifference to what is most valuable and prizing what is unimportant. I shall do this with everyone I meet, young and old, for this is God's Command to me.” [Apology, 29d]
Socrates never told them what Wisdom and Truth were. All he did was to ask them questions but his questions led them into the depths of themselves where he knew the spark [of Divine Light] could be found and kindled.
On second thought, let me give the final word to my Guru, Avatar Adi Da Samraj, which should really annoy the priesthood of integral materialism (I can hear David Lane moaning already), but please consider:
The popular mood that the scientific method tends to produce is the intellectual or verbal-mental mood of doubt. The way of science is to question or inquire without ceasing… Therefore, science is not about the end to questioning. It is not about finding a final answer. It is about always questioning, and, by this means, increasing the knowledge we have about things. And thus true scientific inquiry is based on the constant and tacit recognition that the present state of knowledge about things is neither permanent nor absolute….
Since the scientific method does not admit of a final or perfect answer to any question, the mood or strategy of scientific inquiry remains that of the question itself. Only the questions are forever. Thus, the conventional mood established by the popularization of an exclusively scientific culture is the mood of doubt….
For this reason, the cultural scientism of our day is perpetually, and wrongly (since it has no direct knowledge or understanding of what it is criticizing) propagandizing against whatever it has not yet proved by its own method. Whatever is not yet proved by the scientific method is still in doubt… [thus] the popularizers of the viewpoint of scientific and political materialism… tend always to speak dogmatically. They either imply or directly propose that what is not yet proved by the scientific method is also simply false….
The mass of human individuals must awaken to the Truth of Man and to the higher evolutionary culture of the truly Divine Transformation of the individual and the society as a whole. This means that the mood of both nonrational [religious] belief (which produces only the consolation rather than the transformation of Man) and rational [scientific] doubt (which produces objective knowledge but allows for no fundamental transformation of the knower in the process) must both be transcended in the mood of intelligent self-knowing and self-transcending participation in the spiritual Reality that confronts us directly in our intuitive experience of the conditions of existence….
Likewise, the masses of humanity will not enter into the true forms of cooperative and higher evolutionary community unless they begin to respond to the Wisdom-Teaching of living Adepts and overcome both their childish and dependent religiosity and their separative adolescent predisposition toward a self-indulgent, analytical, and dissociative view of the world and Man.
Either you see IT, or you don't. But, it's never too late to learn or realize the Truth for yourself. This is an Enlightened View of Evolution.
 See: Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997), p. 43.
 Ken Wilber, Eye to Eye (1983, 1990), p. 167; also see: Ken Wilber, Quantum Questions (1984), p. 27n.
 Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (1989). P. 40.
 From Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece (1957), pp. 217-218.
 Adi Da Samraj [Da Free John], Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House! (1980), pp. 71, 74, 78.