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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Book-By-Book Summary of Ken Wilber's
Collected Works by Brad Reynolds
For an explanation of phase-1, phase-2, etc., click here
The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977) is a Romantic Phase-1 writing emphasizing psychology (thus focusing on the Upper Left quadrant or individual interior consciousness). Wilber started the book ("in my head") during the winter of 1972, while still a biochemistry graduate student in Lincoln, Nebraska; it was handwritten out in three months the following winter of 1973, and then finally typed up by the fall of 1974. The manuscript was next sent to author and consciousness researcher John White who, with strong support from psychotherapist and author Jim Fadiman, submitted it to more than three dozen publishing houses over the next three years. The Spectrum of Consciousness was finally accepted and published by Quest Books in 1977, which produced a "twentieth anniversary" edition in 1993; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 1 (Shambhala, 1999).
By cleverly recognizing a "perennial psychology" (similar to the perennial philosophy), The Spectrum of Consciousness uses the analogy of a rainbow or an electromagnetic spectrum to suggest a "spectrum psychology" (now called integral psychology). By doing so, it attempts to integrate most of the Western and Eastern approaches to psychology, psychotherapy, spirituality, and consciousness. The book is divided into two parts, "Evolution" and "Involution," and although it has a "Romantic" tint to it, many of its basic arguments are still quite valid (Wilber now refutes this "return-to-goodness" model). The first part discusses how people divide, fragment, and alienate our innate wholeness (nondual consciousness) with dualistic thinking, thus creating a "spectrum of consciousness." The second part goes on to show that through growth, development, and psychospiritual means, the dualistic fragmentation of the psyche may be integrated and healed so that our wholeness or ultimate Unity is re-discovered or re-membered as our "always already" present awareness. By "surveying the traditions" of the world's mystical wisdom, Wilber is able to unite modern psychology with spirituality, bringing the West and the East into harmony since together they actually represent the perennial and universal psychology inherent in all human beings.
No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth (1979) is a Romantic Phase-1 writing emphasizing psychology (thus focusing on the Upper Left quadrant or individual interior consciousness). Originally titled "The Boundaries of Consciousness," it arrived in a three-ring notebook in 1975 to Wilber's literary agent John White who then suggested the title "No Boundary." No Boundary was first published in 1979 by the Zen Center of Los Angeles, where Wilber was studying under the tutelage of Maezumi Roshi, before it was released in 1981 by Wilber's primary publisher, Shambhala Publications; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 1 (Shambhala, 1999).
No Boundary presents the major themes of The Spectrum of Consciousness in a more popular voice, yet it still took several years to find a publisher. By giving a simple yet comprehensive consideration of the various types of psychologies and therapies now available from both Western and Eastern sources, e.g., psychoanalysis to Zen, Jungian analysis to meditation, Gestalt to TM, existentialism to tantra, and the like, it primarily examines how "we create a persistent alienation from ourselves, from others, and from the world by fracturing our present experience into different parts, separated by boundaries," whereas, in actuality, we live in "no-boundary territory." Through the growth of boundaries, we discover the different levels of the self in transcendence, until a person finally awakens to "the ultimate state of consciousness," our Supreme Identity (with the nondual Divine), a type of "no-boundary awareness." This transpersonal and spiritual point of view is confirmed by the "transcendent unity of religions," or what's known as "The Perennial Philosophy." Therefore "growth fundamentally means an enlarging and expanding of one's horizons, a growth of one's boundaries, outwardly in perspective and inwardly in depth."
The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development (1980) is a principle Phase-2 writing emphasizing developmental psychology (thus focusing on both the involution and evolution of the Upper Left quadrant or individual interior consciousness). The Atman Project was written simultaneously with its "sister" volume, Up From Eden, which concentrates on historical anthropology and collective human evolution (phylogeny). Earlier versions of The Atman Project, still reflecting Wilber's Romantic phase, were first published in the 1978 premier issues of the transpersonal journal ReVision (co-edited with Jack Crittenden). Nevertheless, by l979 Wilber had gone through "an inordinately difficult intellectual passage" in order to uncover the critical pre/trans fallacy which dramatically shifted his work into its second phase. The Atman Project was first published in 1980 by Quest Books; reprinted by Quest Books in 1996; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 2 (Shambhala, 1999).
The Atman Project goes on to cover the "outward and inward arcs" of individual human development (ontogeny) as the movement of the "general life cycle" from birth to Enlightenment. It emphasizes the fact that "development is evolution; evolution is transcendence," or in other words, the invariant sequence of developmental unfolding basically transcends yet includes its predecessor(s). The fairly concise chapters therefore outline the general features and characteristics of the prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal developmental stages (the spectrum of conscious-ness), in a manner Wilber basically retains to this day. Not only does he delineate the various levels of mind (or the egoic self), including five different types of the unconscious brought forward in particular with Western psychology, but unlike other modern psychologists, Wilber gives a masterly overview of the transpersonal stages gleaned from a thorough study of the Eastern mystical traditions (as well as being grounded in his own spiritual practice). One of The Atman Project's principle theses, then, is that all the stages and drives of this unfolding, evolving, developing self are actually nothing more than the endless attempts to "attain ultimate Unity [Atman] in ways that prevent it and force symbolic substitutes"; this is the basic working definition of the "Atman-project."
Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution (1981) is a principle Phase-2 writing emphasizing human evolution, anthropology, and history (thus focusing on the "relational exchanges" between the Upper Left quadrant of individual interior consciousness, the Lower Left quadrant of interior cultural worldviews, and the Lower Right quadrant of exterior social techno-economic systems). Up From Eden was begun as an opening chapter for The Atman Project which focuses on individual human development, yet subsequent research and the discovery of the pre/trans fallacy demanded it become a full-length book. Up From Eden was first published in 1981 by Anchor Press / Doubleday; reprinted by Quest Books in 1996; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 2 (Shambhala, 1999).
Up From Eden uses telos (specifically Atman-telos), or the drive to ultimate Unity (Atman), to inform human history and the collective evolution of consciousness, suggesting that we have evolved up from prepersonal apes, not fallen down from a transpersonal Eden (the common Romantic error). It's pivotal and novel contribution, then, is that it clearly differentiates and enunciates the prepersonal-transpersonal spheres of human development (exposing the pre/trans fallacy and proposing a "growth-to-goodness" model), while concurrently concentrating on the sociocultural evolution of worldviews (archaic, magic, mythic, mental, integral, psychic, subtle, causal, nondual). It uses reconstructive evidence gathered from the empirical sciences to demonstrate that there are indeed "onto-phylo parallels," which can truly act as guides to understanding human evolution (phylogeny) and individual development (ontogeny). Wilber's analysis thus follows in the manner of Jürgen Habermas, Jean Gebser, Eric Neumann, and many other brilliant and sensitive scholars (not promoting a Eurocentric or ethnocentric agenda).
Up From Eden accomplishes this astounding overview from a transpersonal perspective based upon the perennial philosophy, which clearly indicates a "hierarchy of spiritual experience." Another unique contribution is its clear delineation of both the "average-mode" and "advanced-tip" mode of consciousness present in every historical period and culture, each reflecting a different stage in the overall evolution of consciousness. The author's mastery of previous scholarly material is exemplary; he incorporates subjects as diverse as the interplay between "death anxiety" (Thanatos) and the desire for Unity (Eros) which drives human civilization and history, the various modes of time and space in human epochs, the gradual advances of techno-economic systems, the rise of kings and nation-states, the appearance of the solar Hero, the realms of the feminine and the masculine, the ecstatic trances of shamans (the first voyagers into the superconscious), the higher mystical yogas of kundalini, the relation between the Great Mother and Great Goddess, the reason behind human sacrifices, the psychopathologies of the modern era, as well as giving a new and positive reassessment of Hegel, a unique criticism of Marxism and conservative Republicans, and all the while revealing some of the most profound esoteric secrets of the world's religious and spiritual traditions, from Buddhism to Christianity, from Vedanta to Yoga, et al, all grounded in the nondual Divine Heart of Atman-Brahman where "the Father and I are One."
The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes (1982) was edited during the Phase-2 period emphasizing the holographic paradigm (thus focusing on the Right-Hand exterior quadrants of individual holons and their holonic systems), although Wilber himself critiques this form of subtle reductionism (flatland holism). The book is an edited collection of articles that had first appeared in the journal ReVision during the time Wilber was its co-editor (with Jack Crittenden) and living in Cambridge, Massachusetts (just prior to going to San Francisco). The Holographic Paradigm was first published in 1982 by Shambhala Publications; Wilber's contributing essay (and interview) also appeared a year later in Eye to Eye (Shambhala, 1983); they're now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 3 and Volume 4 (Shambhala, 1999).
The "holographic paradigm" mostly centers around the intriguing theories of physicist-philosopher David Bohm, who is highlighted throughout, as the various authors examine a possible interface between science and religion. However, Wilber's conclusion was that this subject is actually an extraordinarily complex affair which resists popular generalizations, let alone be reduced to only a two-level scheme (Bohm's implicate and explicate order). Wilber insists that physics has only discovered its own level of interpretation (nonsentient mass/energy) and this cannot be equated (although seemingly similar) with the pluridimensional interpretations of mystics. Wilber, as editor, was therefore in the awkward position of being virtually the only contributor who did not believe that the holographic paradigm was based on good science or adequate mysticism. Nevertheless, as he has pointed out, it became an international bestseller.
A Sociable God: Toward A New Understanding of Religion (1983) is a full-fledged Phase-2 writing emphasizing sociology (thus focusing on both the Upper Left quadrant of individual interior consciousness and the Lower Left quadrant of interior cultural worldviews). Originally subtitled "A Brief Introduction to a Transpersonal Sociology," this short book was written quickly over a weekend in the early 1980s, partly in response to the mass suicide of Jonestown, but mostly to offer the science of sociology a "master template" based on current consciousness research in transpersonal theory. A Sociable God was first published in 1983 by New Press/McGraw-Hill; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 3 (Shambhala, 1999).
A Sociable God outlines a unified, comprehensive, and critical sociology based upon a multidisciplinary synthesis of the many cross-cultural disciplines of psychology and religion (or true mysticism). It proposes that the developmental evolution found operative in the human psyche is a "spectrum of consciousness" constituting all human individuals, and that these psychological "deep structures" of consciousness are directly related to, and influence, the "surface structures" of sociocultural environments, which themselves are always set within given historical periods. Wilber hoped this integral understanding would help society discriminate between dangerous cults and more beneficial spiritual enterprises, as well as help to adjudicate authentic spirituality from inauthentic religious involvement. Using the "spectrum of consciousness" as his guiding template, the highlight of the book is probably its various definitions of religion with its well-defined "hierarchy of spiritual experience," which goes on to explain how "higher" levels of consciousness (embodied in the "advanced-tip" few) can then be "translated downward" into the "lower" realms of consciousness (found in the average-mode masses), a subject first brought forward in Up From Eden.
Eye to Eye: The Quest for the New Paradigm (1983) is a full-fledged Phase-2 writing emphasizing philosophy (thus focusing on the Upper Left quadrant of individual interior consciousness and the Lower Left quadrant of interior cultural worldviews, therefore providing a strong critique against scientific reductionism to Right-Hand exteriors). Written during the first years of the 1980s, this collection of separate yet supportive essays emphasizes the philosophical implications generated from an evolutionary yet transpersonal view of human nature (seen as a "spectrum of consciousness"). Eye to Eye was first published in 1983 by Shambhala Publications; reprinted in 1990 with an extra essay ("In the Eye of the Artist"), which was later deleted in the 1996 reprint edition; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 3 (Shambhala, 1999).
Eye to Eye introduces the notion of epistemological pluralism with the (Christian mystic) metaphor of the "three eyes of knowing," i.e., sensory/flesh (sensibilia), mind/reason (intelligibilia), spirit/contemplation (transcendelia). This multi-leveled understanding then brings to light a "category error," or when one "eye" (or realm) tries to usurp the roles of the other two, or is outright mistaken for another. Therefore the "problem of proof" can be solved since each domain provides their own particular validity claims for differentiating the principle spheres of human knowledge (respectively, science, psychology/philosophy, mysticism). The presentation thus contains an extended examination of the philosophical history of science and its reductionistic tendencies (known as scientism), yet it does so by offering a rational synthesis (or a vision-logic of mandalic reasoning) which can not only include science but also authentic spirituality and contemplative practices. Eye to Eye also contains the all-important essay "The Pre/Trans Fallacy," whose conception (a few years back) overturned the common Romantic error adopted by Wilber's earlier writings. This pre/trans fallacy clarifies a major (and disastrous) confusion in the modern world, which simply states that if we are to truly understand and accept the "form of development" (identify, transcend, integrate) at each stage of evolution in a pluridimensional universe, then we must always properly differentiate between pre- and trans- personal domains of consciousness. The book therefore offers not only a strong critique of scientific materialism, but it also brilliantly shines an illuminating light to help guide the "New Age" out of its dark cave of mythic thinking and its regressive (pre-rational) approaches to spirituality.
Quantum Questions: Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984) was edited during the Phase-2 / Phase-3 period emphasizing modern physics (thus focusing mostly on the Right-Hand exterior quadrants of individual holons and their holonic systems), plus its system of mathematical symbols (thus focusing on the Left-Hand interior domains of consciousness). Pieced together during late 1983 when Wilber was living at Muir Beach, California, with his new wife Treya (who had just been diagnosed with cancer), Quantum Questions was first published in 1984 by Shambhala Publications; Wilber's contributions are now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 4 (Shambhala, 1999).
Quantum Questions basically offers a strong critique to the popular "New Age" interpretation of modern physics which uses it as a justification or "proof" for mysticism or a spiritual worldview. By presenting the actual writings culled from the founders of modern physics themselves --- Heisenberg, Schroedinger, de Broglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, Eddington, and Einstein --- all of whom were deeply concerned about these matters, this book shows unequivocally that "modern physics neither proves nor disproves, neither supports nor refutes, a mystical-spiritual worldview." This is because physics itself is based upon mathematics, which itself is nothing but a system of "shadow-symbols" (in the words of the physicists themselves); therefore these world-famous scientists understood it's absolutely necessary to use real mysticism to contact reality directly. The selections from Quantum Questions highlights this unknown fact: all these great physicists turned to mysticism for true knowledge of the world and thus became modern mystics in the process.
Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development (1986), coauthored with Harvard professors Jack Engler and Daniel P. Brown (with contributions by Mark Epstein, Jonathan Lieff, and John Chirban), is a well-developed Phase-3 writing emphasizing psychology, psychopathology, and psychotherapy (thus focusing on the Upper Left quadrant of individual interior consciousness). Wilber's three principle essays were initially written in 1984 (first appearing in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology), where they demonstrate how to clearly differentiate, correlate, and integrate the spectrum of development, the spectrum of psychopathology, and the spectrum of treatment modalities. Transformations of Consciousness was first published in 1986 by Shambhala Publications' New Science Library; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 4 (Shambhala, 1999).
Transformations of Consciousness further articulates the necessity for a comprehensive psychology to at least acknowledge: (1) the basic structures or enduring levels ("waves") of consciousness evolution, for once they emerge, they tend to remain; (2) the transition structures including many of the developmental lines ("streams"); and (3) the overall self or self-system, the locus of identification, volition, defenses, etc., (generally concentrated in the Upper Left quadrant), who must navigate and negotiate these structural developments. Wilber's thesis thus emphasizes the difference between "transition stages" and "enduring structures" of development while providing a level-by-level summary of overall consciousness evolution, including possible psychopathologies and their corresponding treatment modalities. In conclusion, the book shows that when these scholars compared and contrasted numerous developmental maps from around the world, from Christian to Buddhist to Hindu to Western psychological, and more, it resulted in a "master template" of the many facets of consciousness. In other words, by pulling together all of these different strands of development --- conventional and contemplative, orthodox and meditative, Western and Eastern --- it's suggested that there is indeed a nearly universal spectrum of consciousness (in deep, not surface, features), through which individuals develop at their own pace and in their own way.
Spiritual Choices: The Problem of Recognizing Authentic Paths to Inner Transformation (1987), co-edited with Dick Anthony and Bruce Ecker, is a Phase-3 writing emphasizing sociology and the psychology of spiritual experience (thus focusing on the Upper Left quadrant of individual interior consciousness and the Lower Left quadrant of interior cultural worldviews, and their effects on the Lower Right quadrant of exterior social systems). Spiritual Choices was first published in 1987 by Paragon House Publishers; Wilber's contributing essay had been first published in Eye to Eye (Shambhala, 1983) as the chapter "Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions," but here was renamed "The Spectrum Model"; Wilber also participated in "When Is Religion Transformative? A Conversation with Jacob Needleman"; now only the essay (in Eye to Eye) is part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 3 (Shambhala, 1999).
Spiritual Choices continues many of the issues begun in A Sociable God, which emphasized the difference between "legitimate" religions (which emphasize horizontal translation), and "authentic" spiritual paths (which emphasize vertical transformation). This study relied heavily upon Dick Anthony's yearlong research project on the topic of "spiritual tyranny versus legitimate spiritual authority." Through the writings of numerous spiritual "authorities," the book also looks at different spiritual groups as it provides some criteria for assessing contemporary "spiritual choices." Overall, Spiritual Choices offers a valid method, based upon the "spectrum model" (Wilber's contributing essay), to ascertain "authentic paths to inner transformation," and thus steer away from the more mythic, cultic tendencies of the searching ego.
Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber (1991) is basically a Phase-3 writing emphasizing a personal and practical account of Wilber's spectrum model (thus focusing on all four quadrants, behavioral, intentional, cultural and social). Co-authored with his wife's journals, Wilber tells the moving love story of his marriage to Terry (Treya) Killam (in 1983) and her five-year struggle with cancer, finally resulting in Treya's passing in 1989. Grace and Grit was originally published two years later by Shambhala Publications in 1991; it's now The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 5 (Shambhala, 2000).
Grace and Grit --- the title taken from Treya's last diary entry --- is a narrative of the couple's arduous ordeal interspersed with interviews and brief descriptions of Wilber's spectrum model, the perennial philosophy, plus a few other topics that have appeared in his previous writings. There are revealing considerations centered around issues of health ("why do we get sick?"), being a "support person" for the terminally ill, as well as hearing about some of the spiritual paths the Wilbers used on their perilous and blessed journey. During this testing yet love-filled time, with most of Wilber's concern and attention with Treya (which is Spanish for star), he went through nearly a ten-year hiatus from theoretical writing (1984-1993) and publication (1986-1995). However, during this period Wilber did write one book, an eight-hundred page tome titled The Great Chain of Being: A Modern Introduction to the Perennial Philosophy and the World's Great Mystical Traditions, which has since been shelved indefinitely. Grace and Grit's overwhelming success wonderfully attests to the fact that Treya's life story actually points to the Unborn and Undying Spirit, where she learned to transcend death in the true Self, thus allowing countless others to gain strength and inspiration from her life of "passionate equanimity."
Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution (1995) is the first Phase-4 writing (transcending yet including all the previous phases) to premier a four-quadrant analysis or an "all-quadrant, all-level" approach to integral studies (thus focusing on the co-evolution of the interior/exterior, individual/collective, dimensions of the "Great Nest of Being"). Wilber spent three years in relative seclusion at his beautiful house in Boulder, Colorado (his current residence), doing only meditation retreats and research for SES, and thus ending an almost ten-year absence in academic publication. Originally conceived of as a smaller work, SES blossomed to over 800 pages (including endnotes), due to the depth of research involved; therefore it became the first of a projected three-volume trilogy, often called The Kosmos Trilogy (volumes two and three forthcoming). Sex, Ecology, Spirituality was first published in 1995 by Shambhala Publications; a second, revised edition, also published separately, is now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 6 (Shambhala, 2000).
Wilber's magnum opus is divided into two "books," each of which could stand on their own. Book One introduces a series of new terms (as does every book), such as "Kosmos," "holons," "holarchy," "four quadrants," "twenty tenets," etc., while simultaneously chronicling the involutionary/evolutionary movement of "Spirit-in-action." By relying on orienting generalizations gained from all human knowledge systems, the well-paced tome outlines the various developmental stages or fulcrums in the co-evolving "Great Nest of Spirit," all of which are interacting with the "Big Three" (a simplified version of the four quadrants), including "I"/self, "We"/culture, and "It"/nature. Book Two, on the other hand, is a critical response to the regressive state of postmodern cultural studies (especially in the universities) by addressing the "collapse of the Kosmos" into a "flatland" of reductionism where only surfaces predominate, whether atomistic or holistic. This "dominance of the descenders," it's pointed out, had been historically countered by the Idealists (such as with Schelling and Hegel) and their philosophies of "Spirit-in-Action" or "God-in-the-Making," yet Wilber insightfully concludes they offered "no yoga, no contemplative practices," and so degenerated into "mere metaphysics." Therefore if the integral vision is to be truly effective in the world-at-large, Wilber argues that it must include and promote subjective transformation in order to gain mutual global understanding grounded in the "Love of the Kosmos itself."
A Brief History of Everything (1996) is another Phase-4 writing emphasizing an "all-quadrant, all-level" approach to integral studies (thus focusing on the co-evolution of the interior/exterior, individual/collective, dimensions of the "Great Nest of Being"). A Brief History of Everything is primarily a reduced and more user-friendly version of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality since it is set in a conversational or interview format, although it does contribute a number of new ideas not found in SES. A Brief History of Everything was first published in 1996 by Shambhala Publications; a second, revised edition, also published separately, is now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 7 (Shambhala, 2000).
A Brief History of Everything is a not-so-brief book with a big title (humorously modified after Stephen Hawking's popular A Brief History of Time), nevertheless it makes a noble attempt with orienting generalizations to cover all of the principle domains in human knowledge (epistemology) and the pluridimensional Kosmos (ontology). It does this by relying mostly on the co-evolutionary dynamics of increasing embrace (codified as "twenty tenets"), which exhibit a "transcend-and-include" developmental process, a position Wilber has consistently maintained. Most of Brief History therefore reviews the grand process of "Spirit-in-action" (Part One), and then "the further reaches of Spirit-in-action" (Part Two), as it encyclopedically expounds the entire sweep of all evolutionary stages, structures, worldviews, and techno-economic spheres of human existence (unfolding through all four quadrants or the "Big Three" of self, culture, and nature). It is indeed an unprecedented "brief history of everything." However, the later chapters (Part Three: Flatland) turn into a somewhat polemical attack on regressive "flatland" and its materialistic reduction of the multi-nested Kosmos as being nothing more than a shallow realm of it-exteriors (i.e., there's nothing but the physical world). This devastating criticism is especially directed at today's cultural studies (critiquing schools of thought from excessive rationalists to ecophilosophers), yet unlike many critics, it also offers an extremely valid alternative: an integral approach of "wise transcendence" (Ascending: Many to One) harmoniously united with a "compassionate embrace" (Descending: One to Many).
The Eye of Spirit: An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad (1997) is a mature Phase-4 writing again emphasizing an "all-quadrant, all-level" approach to integral studies (thus focusing on the co-evolution of the interior/exterior, individual/collective, dimensions of the "Great Nest of Being"). The book is mostly a collection of essays, some of which were written in response to a series of articles that appeared in ReVision during 1996 discussing and critiquing Wilber's work, thus it articulates a more scholarly and detailed approach to the evolving four-quadrant Kosmos, while simultaneously offering a well-developed critical theory. The Eye of Spirit was first published in 1997 by Shambhala Publications; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 7 (Shambhala, 2000).
The Eye of Spirit continues Wilber's epistemological pluralism by presenting an integral vision that is revealed not only by the "eye of flesh" (science) and the "eye of mind" (philosophy) but also with the "eye of Spirit" (mysticism). In essence, it can be seen as a philosophical defense to recent criticisms attacking a holarchically-based (or a natural hierarchical) modeling system that's fully able to incorporate the invariant and dynamic stages of evolutionary development, thus outlining a "unified theory" of immense scope. It places an added emphasis on the self's developmental lines (such as affective, moral, cognitive, creative, spiritual, etc.), which are actively co-evolving through the basic levels of the Kosmos (such as body, mind, soul, and spirit). The Eye of Spirit therefore pointedly refutes the "linear criticism" that has often stemmed from certain critics who have especially concentrated on Wilber's earlier Phase-2 writings (which emphasize the "structural" and "hierarchical" aspects of consciousness). In the process, with its endnotes and text, Wilber offers sincere praise yet also extensive critiques of various contemporary theorists, particularly addressing some of their more common misrepresentations of his overall integral vision, which so often colors their critical positions. These essays, then, were published partly to clear up notable confusions made by other transpersonal theorists over Wilber's prolific output of books and their various phases of continual modification and improvement (thereby premiering the notion of Phases 1-4).
The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion (1998) is another mature Phase-4 writing that uses an "all-quadrant, all-level" approach in order to explain how both science and religion (or authentic spirituality) can be integrated into the modern and postmodern worldview. Begun in late 1996, the two-hundred page manuscript was written up in only a few months with a target audience of mainstream religious and orthodox scientific communities, not the New Age, New Paradigm crowd. Originally titled "The Integration of Science and Religion: The Union of Ancient Wisdom and Modern Knowledge," it was sold to a traditional New York publisher, Random House, who renamed it from the Oscar Wilde quote Wilber used on the opening page; thus its readership has reached into the highest political offices of the United States. The Marriage of Sense and Soul was first published in 1998 by Random House; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 8 (Shambhala, 2000).
The Marriage of Sense and Soul convincingly maintains that any true "integration of science and religion" will have to include not only the ancient wisdom of the premodern world (spiritual values, for instance), but also the hard-fought triumphs or "dignity" (the "good news") of the modern/postmodern world (science and liberal democracies, for instance). Yet such a "marriage" will also have to simultaneously heal and transcend modernity's fractious dissociations or "disasters" (the "bad news"), many coming from the reductionistic and materialistic (or "flatland") philosophy commonly known as scientism. It's suggested that only through a more integral approach, an "all-quadrant, all-level" embrace, will it be possible to unite the amazing advances of an exterior-oriented science with the wisdom values and transpersonal meanings found in an interior-based spirituality. In other words, this concise treatise basically claims the only way for a true marriage of science and religion to take place, one that is acceptable to both parties, is for it to adopt an integral view broad enough to maintain the essential qualities of each, although admittedly, they will both have to "give a little" and expand their rigid positions in order to serve the universal quest for true knowledge. Overall, written in a reader-friendly style, this accessible book is aimed at guiding a general audience in finding a mutual accord between the spiritual, subjective world of ancient wisdom and the objective, empirical world of modern scientific knowledge.
One Taste: The Journals of Ken Wilber (1999) is another mature Phase-4 writing emphasizing personal and practical accounts of Wilber's integral vision (thus focusing on all four quadrants, behavioral, intentional, cultural and social). Originally suggested as a project by Shambhala, the journals are a nearly day-by-day chronicle of Wilber's activities during the year 1997, thus giving him an opportunity to reflect on the entire spectrum of life itself. One Taste was first published in 1999 by Shambhala Publications; it's now part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 8 (Shambhala, 2000).
One Taste begins by searching for and finding a mainstream publisher for The Marriage of Sense and Soul (written in 1996-97 and published by Random House in 1998); after that it covers nearly everything, from nipple-piercing to the Witness consciousness, from the year's favorite movies and music to appreciative accounts of architecture, literature, and fashion, all seen from a number of meditative states and cuddled within a ring of good friends including some sexy adventures with Wilber's new girlfriend, the lovely Marci Walters. One Taste is also interspersed with a few short essays reviewing Wilber's "all-quadrant, all-level" approach to integral studies, including an "integral psychograph" of the individual self that incorporates the developmental lines (or "streams") of consciousness all evolving within the basic nests (or structural "waves") of the Kosmos. Throughout the book the reader gets a real taste of what an integral practice is about, one that anybody can put together, one that attempts "to simultaneously exercise all the major levels and dimensions of the human bodymind --- physical, emotional, mental, social, cultural, spiritual." Ultimately, however, we also discover this type of integral practice is mostly about the "One Taste" of nondual consciousness, the enlightened presence where "transcendence restores humor" and where "empathy and compassion" embraces all.
Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy (2000) is a fully mature Phase-4 writing emphasizing the "all-quadrant, all-level, all-lines" approach in such a masterful manner it could be justifiably labeled a Phase-5 writing. This book initially grew out of an unfinished work begun in the mid-1980s, first titled Self, System, Structure, then Principles of Transpersonal Psychology, then Processes and Patterns In Consciousness (plus others), thus it is still a projected two-volume set. In a certain sense, it's mostly the accompanying text for the comprehensive, detailed, correlative charts placed at the book's end. Integral Psychology was first published as part of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume 4 (Shambhala, 1999), and then in 2000 as a single volume by Shambhala Publications.
Integral Psychology attempts to honor and embrace every legitimate aspect of human consciousness, giving us a truly comprehensive map of the human mind (epistemology) and of the Kosmos (ontology). It does this by emphasizing and articulating the fluid (nonlinear) and dynamic nature of the Great Nest of Spirit, thus using less rigid terms (inspired in part by the work of Clare Graves). Therefore we find "relatively independent" developing streams (representing developmental lines) flowing through interacting basic waves (representing basic levels), which are being "navigated" and "juggled" by an overall self (the "locus of identification" for "I," "me," and "I-I"), which itself has fairly "fluid access" to different states of consciousness (such as waking, dreaming, deep sleep, altered), all of which grows and evolves within a "vast morphogenetic developmental field," and which almost always seems to a "very messy affair." The text is supplemented by numerous correlative charts that Wilber had compiled cross-referencing the work of over a hundred other developmental theorists, all of whom generally recognize, to varying degrees, the same basic structures or waves in the Great Nest of Being.
Integral Psychology also introduces the "spiral dynamics" of Donald Beck (and associates) and their concept of developmental "memes" (organizing patterns named with different colors), apparently corroborating Wilber's spectrum model. Since there's an added emphasis on developmental streams, the frontal and deep/psychic lines, as well as the basic waves, and the different states of consciousness, then more advanced modeling systems such as the "integral psychograph" of the individual human being are brought forward. Embodying the full breadth of this integral vision is the notion of "Integral Transformative Practice" (from Michael Murphy and George Leonard), which suggests different practical means for the overall self to exercise in unison all the quadrants (self, culture, nature), the various levels or waves (body, mind, soul, spirit), and the numerous self-related streams (cognitive, morals, affective, creative, spiritual, etc.). Thus, in a very real way, psychology or the study of the psyche (mind or soul) is best seen as pneuma-ology or the multileveled study of Spirit itself throughout all the domains and dimensions of the radiant Kosmos.
A Theory of Everything: Body, Mind, Soul, and Spirit in Self, Culture, and Nature (2000) is properly a Phase-5 writing summarizing the fully integral ("all-quadrant, all-level, all-lines") approach to integral studies. The short, compact book clarifies Wilber's "integral vision" and its attempt to include or "integrate" body, mind, soul, and spirit as they appear in self, culture, and nature. A Theory of Everything will be released in late 2000 by Shambhala Publications; it is the first book published after the printing of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber (Shambhala, 1999, 2000).
A Theory of Everything is perhaps the single best introduction to Wilber's work, especially within its more sophisticated phase of embracing the entire spectrum of consciousness and its various developmental lines in all four quadrants of the Kosmos. It reviews the spiraling, oscillating waves of existence --- not a linear ladder at all --- and thus continues to make extensive use of Donald Beck's developmental "memes" (arranged by colors) which eventually evolves to "second-tier consciousness," a form of integral centauric vision-logic (in Wilber's terms). Wilber also critiques the various forms of "boomeritis" (the tendency of the boomer generation to be narcissistic) as being a major obstacle to the emerging integral vision because of their regressive strategies and subtle reductionism (flatland holism). However, since the integral model promotes the health of the entire spiral of development (its prime directive), it then simultaneously embraces both the lower memes as well as encouraging growth into the higher, transpersonal domains, therefore aligning the global culture with both good science and deep spirituality. Of course the integral approach not only considers the interior dimensions of consciousness but it looks for their practical uses and correlates (or "footprints") in the exterior "real world." Thus there's a presentation of pragmatic applications of the integral model used in the real, not just theoretical, world of politics, business, medicine, education, ecology, etc. This type of integral vision therefore gives humanity a true "world philosophy," a universal stance that fully honors "unity-in-diversity" (a unitas multiplex), and thus presents a comprehensive approach to all of life by covering and embracing all the domains, realms, and spheres of human existence, high and deep, inside and out, where all the Kosmos is seen in and as the blissful "One Taste" of divine realization.
All reviews are written by Brad Reynolds.