Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

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Ken Wilber's Neo-Perennialism and Evolution

Integrating Spirituality and Science

Frank Visser / ChatGPT-4o

Me to ChatGPT:

  • How does Ken Wilber's neo-perennialism differ from the traditionalists?
  • What are the main tenets of traditional perennialism?
  • How did Wilber manage to include the modern concept of evolution in his version of perennialism?
  • Modern science views evolution quite differently.
  • What does he mean by Eros or Spirit as something evolutionary theory has overlooked?
  • Is the scientific understanding therefore incomplete, or is Wilber's unscientific?
  • Ernst Mayr argued that evolutionary biology could perfectly handle "What", "How" and "Why" questions.
  • Wilber's critique of neo-Darwinism originally referred to eyes and wings, not purpose or meaning.
  • What would an integration of evolutionary biology within the integral model look like that does justice to its current insights and findings?
  • It is a fine line between integrating science within a spiritual context and introducing Spirit in empirical matters of science!
  • Wilber has called his current intellectual phase "post-metaphysical". What has he discarded and what did he retain?


How does Ken Wilber's neo-perennialism differ from the traditionalists?

Ken Wilber's neo-perennialism, while drawing on elements of traditional Perennial Philosophy, diverges from traditionalists in several significant ways:

Integration of Evolutionary and Developmental Models: Wilber's neo-perennialism integrates modern insights from psychology, sociology, and evolutionary biology. He emphasizes the developmental and evolutionary nature of consciousness, proposing that human consciousness evolves through various stages, from archaic to modern to transpersonal. Traditionalists, such as René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon, tend to view spiritual truths as timeless and unchanging, often critical of modernity and its perceived departure from sacred traditions.

Inclusion of Modern Science and Psychology: Wilber incorporates modern scientific understanding and psychological theories into his framework. He attempts to synthesize scientific and spiritual knowledge, advocating for an integral approach that includes empirical evidence and the insights of modern psychology. Traditionalists generally place less emphasis on modern science and psychology, focusing instead on metaphysical principles derived from ancient wisdom and religious traditions.

Quadrants and Holons: Wilber introduces unique conceptual tools such as the Four Quadrants and the concept of Holons. The Four Quadrants framework divides reality into four dimensions: the interior and exterior of the individual and the collective. This comprehensive approach is designed to account for all aspects of reality, including subjective experiences, cultural beliefs, social systems, and objective phenomena. Holons, on the other hand, are entities that are both wholes and parts simultaneously. These concepts are absent in traditionalist thought.

Emphasis on Integration and Synthesis: Wilber's neo-perennialism aims to synthesize various fields of knowledge, including science, religion, philosophy, and art, into a coherent framework. He seeks to create an inclusive model that recognizes the validity of multiple perspectives and integrates them into a comprehensive whole. Traditionalists often focus on preserving the purity of ancient wisdom and may resist integrating contemporary perspectives that they see as potentially dilutive or corrupting.

Eclecticism and Inclusivity: Wilber's approach is more eclectic and inclusive, drawing from a wide range of spiritual traditions, including Eastern philosophies (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism) and Western mystical traditions. Traditionalists typically adhere more closely to specific ancient traditions and may emphasize the superiority of particular religious frameworks over others.

In summary, Ken Wilber's neo-perennialism expands on traditional perennial philosophy by incorporating modern scientific and psychological insights, emphasizing the evolutionary development of consciousness, and seeking a synthesis of diverse knowledge domains. Traditionalists, in contrast, often emphasize the timelessness of spiritual truths and focus on the preservation and transmission of ancient wisdom.

What are the main tenets of traditional perennialism?

Traditional Perennialism, also known as the Perennial Philosophy, is a perspective in religious philosophy that posits a universal set of truths underlying all the world's religious and spiritual traditions. The main tenets of traditional Perennialism are:

Primordial Tradition: There exists a timeless, universal wisdom at the heart of all major religious traditions. This wisdom, sometimes called the Primordial Tradition, is believed to be the source from which all religious and spiritual teachings originate.

Transcendent Unity of Religions: Despite the diverse and varied outward forms of different religions, they share an essential inner truth. This inner truth points to a single, ultimate reality, which is beyond the limitations of any single religious expression.

Sacred Cosmology: The cosmos is understood as a sacred manifestation of a higher reality. The physical world is seen as a reflection of a higher, spiritual order, and is imbued with meaning and purpose.

Hierarchy of Being: There is a hierarchical structure to reality, ranging from the material and corporeal to the spiritual and divine. Humans are considered capable of ascending this hierarchy through spiritual practice and inner transformation.

Traditional Authority: Traditional authorities, texts, and teachings are respected as authentic sources of wisdom. These sources are seen as conveyors of the perennial truths and are treated with reverence.

Metaphysical Realism: There is an emphasis on the metaphysical reality of the divine or ultimate principle, often described as God, the Absolute, or the One. This principle is considered the ground of all being and the ultimate goal of spiritual aspiration.

Sacred Knowledge and Initiation: Spiritual knowledge (gnosis) and initiation are essential for understanding and experiencing the ultimate truths. This knowledge is often transmitted through sacred traditions and spiritual practices.

Critique of Modernity: Traditional Perennialists often critique modern secularism, materialism, and relativism, viewing these as deviations from the sacred and the true purpose of human life. They advocate a return to the sacred principles found in ancient wisdom traditions.

Symbolism and Ritual: Symbols and rituals are seen as important means of connecting with the divine. They are considered to embody and convey deeper spiritual realities and truths.

Inner Transformation: Personal spiritual development and transformation are emphasized. The aim is to align oneself with the divine order and ultimately realize the true nature of reality.

Prominent figures associated with traditional Perennialism include René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, and Ananda Coomaraswamy, who have articulated these principles in their works, emphasizing the need to reconnect with the sacred and the transcendent dimension of existence.

How did Wilber manage to include the modern concept of evolution in his version of perennialism?

Ken Wilber managed to include the modern concept of evolution in his version of Perennialism by developing an integral framework that synthesizes traditional spiritual insights with contemporary scientific and psychological theories. Here are the key ways in which he achieved this integration:

Developmental Stages of Consciousness: Wilber posits that human consciousness evolves through a series of developmental stages. He draws from developmental psychology, particularly the work of Jean Piaget, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Clare Graves, to outline how individuals and societies progress from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric and beyond. This framework allows him to integrate the concept of evolution into the spiritual domain, proposing that spiritual development is a natural extension of psychological development.

Four Quadrants Model: Wilber's Four Quadrants model divides reality into four interrelated dimensions: the interior and exterior of the individual and the collective. This model accommodates the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of evolution, allowing for a comprehensive understanding that includes subjective experiences, objective realities, cultural contexts, and social systems. By doing so, he bridges the gap between inner spiritual development and outer scientific and social evolution.

Holons and Holarchy: Borrowing from Arthur Koestler, Wilber uses the concept of holons, entities that are both wholes and parts of larger wholes, to describe the evolutionary process. In a holarchy, each level of development transcends and includes the previous one, creating a hierarchy of increasing complexity and integration. This concept applies to both biological evolution and the evolution of consciousness, providing a unified framework for understanding growth and development at all levels of existence.

Spectrum of Consciousness: Wilber's "spectrum of consciousness" theory maps out various states and stages of awareness, from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal. This spectrum encompasses the entire range of human experience, including evolutionary psychology, and positions spiritual enlightenment as a natural stage in the developmental process. He integrates insights from various spiritual traditions, aligning them with modern psychological theories to create a cohesive model.

Integral Theory: Wilber's Integral Theory synthesizes knowledge from a wide array of disciplines, including biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. By integrating these diverse fields, he demonstrates how evolution operates not only in the biological realm but also in cultural, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. This interdisciplinary approach allows for a more holistic understanding of evolution that includes both scientific and spiritual perspectives.

Emphasis on Dynamic Process: Wilber views the evolution of consciousness as a dynamic, ongoing process rather than a static state. This aligns with contemporary scientific views of evolution as an adaptive and progressive phenomenon. He argues that spiritual development is an evolving process, where individuals and societies can achieve higher levels of consciousness and integration over time.

Critique and Integration of Modernity: Wilber critiques certain aspects of modernity, such as reductionist materialism, while also embracing its contributions, such as the emphasis on empirical science and individual rights. He seeks to transcend and include modern insights within a broader, more inclusive spiritual framework, thus integrating the strengths of modern evolution theory with the wisdom of traditional spiritual teachings.

In summary, Ken Wilber integrates the modern concept of evolution into his version of Perennialism by developing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary framework that accounts for the evolutionary development of consciousness across multiple dimensions of reality. His approach harmonizes traditional spiritual insights with contemporary scientific and psychological theories, creating a cohesive and inclusive model of human and spiritual evolution.

Modern science views evolution quite differently.

Ken Wilber's integration of evolution into his version of Perennialism indeed contrasts with the view of evolution held by modern science. Modern science, particularly in the fields of biology and evolutionary theory, tends to focus on the physical and genetic mechanisms that drive the evolution of species. Here are the key differences between Wilber's perspective and the modern scientific view of evolution:

Mechanism vs. Teleology:

Modern Science: Evolution is primarily driven by natural selection, genetic mutations, genetic drift, and gene flow. It is a process without inherent direction or purpose, guided by random mutations and environmental pressures.

Wilber's View: Wilber incorporates a teleological aspect, suggesting that evolution is not just a random process but is also guided by an underlying drive toward increasing complexity, integration, and consciousness. He sees evolution as moving towards greater spiritual realization and unity.

Levels of Reality:

Modern Science: Focuses mainly on the material and physical aspects of evolution. It studies the genetic and environmental factors that influence the development of organisms over time.

Wilber's View: Integrates multiple levels of reality, including physical, biological, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. He argues that evolution operates not just in the biological realm but also in the realms of consciousness and culture.

Reductionism vs. Holism:

Modern Science: Often employs a reductionist approach, analyzing components of organisms and ecosystems to understand the mechanisms of evolution.

Wilber's View: Emphasizes a holistic approach, where evolution is seen as the development of holons (entities that are both wholes and parts of larger wholes). This approach looks at the interplay between different levels of reality and their integration.

Consciousness and Development:

Modern Science: Typically does not address the evolution of consciousness in the way Wilber does. Consciousness is often studied through neuroscience and psychology without assuming a directed evolutionary purpose.

Wilber's View: Proposes that consciousness evolves through specific stages, from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal levels. He incorporates insights from developmental psychology and spiritual traditions to map these stages.

Empirical Focus vs. Philosophical Integration:

Modern Science: Relies on empirical data, experimentation, and observation. It builds theories based on measurable evidence and reproducible results.

Wilber's View: Seeks to integrate empirical science with philosophical, psychological, and spiritual insights. His approach is more synthetic, aiming to create a comprehensive framework that includes but also transcends empirical data.

Purpose and Meaning:

Modern Science: Generally does not ascribe purpose or meaning to the process of evolution beyond survival and reproduction.

Wilber's View: Attributes a deeper purpose to evolution, seeing it as a process through which the universe becomes increasingly self-aware and spiritually integrated.

Static vs. Dynamic Systems:

Modern Science: While recognizing dynamic processes, tends to focus on specific mechanisms and changes over time without necessarily positing a progressive or directional trend beyond adaptation.

Wilber's View: Sees evolution as a dynamic, progressive journey towards higher levels of complexity and integration, not just in physical forms but in consciousness and spirit as well.

In summary, while modern science views evolution as a material process driven by natural selection and genetic variation without inherent purpose, Ken Wilber's integral approach posits that evolution is a multi-dimensional process involving physical, psychological, and spiritual development, guided by a drive towards increasing complexity and unity. Wilber's perspective seeks to bridge empirical science with philosophical and spiritual insights, creating a more comprehensive view of evolution that includes the development of consciousness and meaning.

What does he mean by Eros or Spirit as something evolutionary theory has overlooked?

Ken Wilber's concepts of "Eros" and "Spirit" refer to intrinsic drives or forces that he believes are fundamental to the evolutionary process but are typically overlooked by traditional evolutionary theory. Here's a detailed explanation of these concepts and how they contrast with standard evolutionary perspectives:


Definition: In Wilber's framework, Eros is the creative force or drive that propels evolution towards greater complexity, integration, and higher levels of consciousness. It is an intrinsic, teleological force that motivates the development of more sophisticated forms of life and consciousness.

Role in Evolution: Eros represents a forward-moving drive within the evolutionary process that seeks to transcend and include previous stages of development. This force pushes for increasing differentiation (complexity) and integration (unity) within organisms and systems.

Contrast with Modern Science: Traditional evolutionary theory, as articulated by Darwin and subsequent biologists, explains evolution through natural selection, genetic mutations, and environmental pressures. These processes are generally seen as non-directional and without inherent purpose or drive. Wilber argues that while these mechanisms explain how evolution occurs, they do not account for why it tends to move towards greater complexity and integration.


Definition: Spirit, in Wilber's terminology, is the ultimate ground and goal of the entire evolutionary process. It is the fundamental essence or source of all being, often equated with the divine or absolute reality. Spirit is both the origin and the culmination of the evolutionary journey.

Role in Evolution: Spirit is seen as the driving force behind the evolutionary process, guiding it towards increasing self-awareness, unity, and realization of the divine nature of existence. It is the ultimate purpose or telos of evolution, leading to a state of spiritual enlightenment or awakening.

Contrast with Modern Science: Modern science typically does not include metaphysical or spiritual dimensions in its explanations of evolution. The scientific view is that evolution is a naturalistic process driven by material factors without an inherent spiritual or purposeful direction. Wilber's inclusion of Spirit posits that evolution is not just a physical process but also a spiritual one, aiming towards higher states of consciousness and unity with the divine.

Teleology and Purpose:

Wilber's View: He posits that evolution is not random but has a directional component driven by Eros and Spirit. This teleological perspective suggests that there is an inherent purpose to the evolutionary process, aiming towards higher levels of complexity, consciousness, and spiritual realization.

Scientific View: Traditional evolutionary theory generally rejects teleology, viewing evolution as a result of undirected processes like natural selection and random mutations. The apparent direction towards greater complexity is seen as a byproduct of these processes rather than an intrinsic drive.

Integration of Science and Spirituality:

Wilber's Integral Theory: He seeks to integrate scientific understandings of evolution with spiritual and philosophical insights. He argues that Eros and Spirit provide a more comprehensive explanation for the directionality and complexity observed in evolution, encompassing both the material and spiritual dimensions.

Scientific Limitation: From Wilber's perspective, traditional science, by focusing solely on material mechanisms, overlooks these deeper drives and purposes that he believes are evident in the evolutionary process.

In summary, Ken Wilber uses the concepts of Eros and Spirit to argue for an evolutionary process that is not only driven by physical and genetic factors but also by intrinsic spiritual forces aiming towards greater complexity, integration, and consciousness. He believes that these dimensions are essential for a complete understanding of evolution, bridging the gap between science and spirituality, and addressing what he sees as limitations in traditional evolutionary theory.

Is the scientific understanding therefore incomplete, or is Wilber's unscientific?

The question of whether the scientific understanding of evolution is incomplete or whether Wilber's perspective is unscientific hinges on the differing methodologies and epistemological foundations of science and integral philosophy. Here's a nuanced examination of both sides:

Scientific Understanding: Is It Incomplete?

Scope of Science: Modern science, particularly evolutionary biology, is based on empirical observation, experimentation, and falsifiable hypotheses. It focuses on mechanisms such as natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, and gene flow to explain the diversity and adaptation of life forms.

Explanatory Power: While evolutionary theory has been remarkably successful in explaining how life changes over time, critics argue that it may not fully account for why evolution appears to trend towards increasing complexity and consciousness. These are often seen as emergent properties rather than intrinsic drives.

Materialist Framework: Science typically operates within a materialist framework, which excludes metaphysical or spiritual explanations. This methodological naturalism is a strength in producing reliable, testable knowledge, but it can be seen as a limitation when addressing questions of ultimate purpose or meaning.

Philosophical Critiques: Some philosophers and scientists argue that the scientific approach might be epistemologically limited. They suggest that while science is exceptionally good at answering "how" questions, it struggles with "why" questions related to purpose and meaning, which might require different forms of inquiry.

Wilber's Perspective: Is It Unscientific?

Integral Approach: Wilber's Integral Theory aims to synthesize insights from science, philosophy, psychology, and spirituality. He argues for a more comprehensive framework that includes not only empirical data but also subjective and intersubjective experiences.

Non-Falsifiability: One major critique of Wilber's approach from a scientific standpoint is that concepts like Eros and Spirit are not empirically testable or falsifiable. They belong to the realm of metaphysics and are based on philosophical and spiritual insights rather than empirical evidence.

Epistemological Pluralism: Wilber advocates for epistemological pluralism, recognizing multiple ways of knowing, including empirical, rational, and contemplative methods. This contrasts with the exclusive reliance on empirical methods in science.

Teleology and Purpose: The introduction of teleological elements (purpose-driven processes) in evolution is viewed by many scientists as outside the scope of scientific explanation. Science typically avoids teleological explanations in favor of mechanistic ones.

Synthesis and Reconciliation

Complementary Perspectives: One way to reconcile these views is to see them as addressing different aspects of reality. Science focuses on the empirical and measurable, while Wilber's integral philosophy seeks to incorporate the experiential and metaphysical.

Interdisciplinary Dialogue: Bridging the gap between these perspectives requires interdisciplinary dialogue. Some scholars advocate for a more integrative approach that respects the methodologies of science while also valuing insights from philosophy and spirituality.

Evolving Understanding: Both science and integral philosophy are dynamic fields. As scientific understanding evolves, it might find new ways to address questions of complexity and consciousness. Similarly, integral philosophy can refine its concepts in dialogue with scientific discoveries.

In summary, the scientific understanding of evolution might be seen as incomplete in addressing questions of ultimate purpose and meaning, which fall outside its methodological scope. Conversely, Wilber's perspective, while offering a broader and potentially more comprehensive view, is unscientific in the sense that it incorporates non-empirical, metaphysical elements that are not testable by scientific methods. Each perspective has its strengths and limitations, and a holistic understanding might benefit from integrating insights from both domains.

Ernst Mayr argued that evolutionary biology could perfectly handle “What”, “How” and “Why” questions.

Ernst Mayr, a prominent evolutionary biologist, argued that evolutionary biology is fully capable of addressing the "what," "how," and "why" questions in the context of biological evolution. Here's how his perspective contrasts with Wilber's approach and what it implies for the completeness of the scientific understanding of evolution:

Ernst Mayr's Perspective


Description of Phenomena: Evolutionary biology effectively describes what occurs in the natural world. This includes the diversity of life, the patterns of inheritance, and the fossil record documenting evolutionary changes over time.

Taxonomy and Systematics: Mayr contributed significantly to the classification and description of species, illustrating the broad range of life forms and their evolutionary relationships.


Mechanisms of Evolution: Evolutionary biology explains how evolutionary processes occur through mechanisms such as natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, gene flow, and recombination. These mechanisms are well-supported by empirical evidence.

Adaptive Traits: Mayr and others demonstrated how specific traits evolve through natural selection by providing advantages in survival and reproduction, elucidating the processes behind adaptation.


Proximate vs. Ultimate Causes: Mayr distinguished between proximate causes (immediate physiological or environmental reasons for a trait) and ultimate causes (evolutionary reasons why a trait has been favored by natural selection). He argued that evolutionary biology addresses the "why" questions in terms of ultimate causes.

Evolutionary Explanations: The "why" in evolutionary biology typically refers to why certain traits or behaviors have evolved. This is often explained through concepts like fitness, reproductive success, and adaptive value.

Contrast with Wilber's Perspective

Teleology and Purpose:

Mayr: Evolutionary biology, as argued by Mayr, does not require teleological explanations. It explains the appearance of purpose and direction through natural processes without invoking inherent purposes or drives.

Wilber: Introduces teleological elements such as Eros and Spirit, suggesting an intrinsic drive towards higher complexity and consciousness, which are outside the typical scientific framework.

Levels of Explanation:

Mayr: Stays within the empirical and materialist framework, focusing on observable and testable phenomena.

Wilber: Expands the scope to include metaphysical and spiritual dimensions, proposing that evolution involves not just biological processes but also the development of consciousness and spiritual realization.

Empirical vs. Metaphysical:

Mayr: Grounded in empirical evidence and the scientific method, evolutionary biology provides robust explanations for the diversity of life and its changes over time.

Wilber: While incorporating empirical insights, Wilber's approach is also metaphysical and philosophical, addressing questions of meaning and purpose that go beyond empirical science.

Reconciling the Perspectives

Complementary Approaches: Both perspectives offer valuable insights. Mayr's empirical approach is crucial for understanding the mechanisms and processes of evolution, while Wilber's integral approach provides a broader philosophical context that can address existential and metaphysical questions.

Interdisciplinary Dialogue: A productive dialogue between science and integral philosophy can enrich our understanding. While Mayr's framework addresses the biological "what," "how," and "why," Wilber's perspective can add depth to our understanding of human consciousness and spirituality.

Evolution of Understanding: As scientific understanding evolves, it might incorporate new findings that further explain complexity and consciousness. Simultaneously, integral philosophy can adapt to these insights, fostering a more comprehensive view.


Ernst Mayr's argument that evolutionary biology can handle "what," "how," and "why" questions is robust within the empirical and materialist framework of science. However, Wilber's critique is that while science excels in explaining biological processes, it might not fully address the metaphysical and teleological aspects that pertain to consciousness and purpose. Both approaches offer valuable contributions, and integrating scientific and philosophical perspectives can lead to a richer and more holistic understanding of evolution.

Wilber's critique of neo-Darwinism originally referred to eyes and wings, not purpose or meaning.

Ken Wilber's critique of neo-Darwinism, particularly regarding the evolution of complex structures like eyes and wings, focuses on the limitations of standard evolutionary explanations in accounting for the emergence of such complex features through incremental, adaptive changes. Here's a detailed exploration of his critique:

Wilber's Critique of Neo-Darwinism

Complex Structures:

Eyes and Wings: Wilber highlights the evolution of eyes and wings as examples of complex structures that pose challenges for neo-Darwinian explanations. These structures require numerous, highly coordinated changes to function effectively, raising questions about how they could evolve through gradual, step-by-step modifications.

Irreducible Complexity: Although not explicitly using the term, Wilber's critique resonates with the concept of irreducible complexity, which argues that certain biological systems cannot be reduced to simpler, functional precursors. He questions how intermediate forms of eyes or wings could be advantageous enough to be selected for in an evolutionary process.

Gradualism and Incrementalism:

Traditional View: Neo-Darwinism posits that complex structures evolve through a series of small, advantageous mutations that accumulate over time. Each step must confer some selective advantage to be retained.

Wilber's Challenge: Wilber argues that the incremental changes proposed by neo-Darwinism may not sufficiently explain the emergence of highly complex and integrated structures. He suggests that such changes might require a more holistic or systemic approach to understanding evolution.

Holistic Evolution:

Integration and Coordination: Wilber emphasizes the need to consider how multiple changes can be integrated and coordinated to produce complex structures. He suggests that evolution might involve more systemic and holistic processes rather than just piecemeal adaptations.

Emergent Properties: Wilber posits that evolution might involve emergent properties that arise from the interaction of various components in a system, rather than from the simple accumulation of small changes. These emergent properties might provide a more coherent explanation for the sudden appearance of complex features.

Beyond Random Mutations:

Limitations of Randomness: Wilber critiques the reliance on random mutations as the sole driver of evolutionary innovation. He questions whether random mutations alone can account for the precise and functional complexity seen in biological structures like eyes and wings.

Alternative Mechanisms: While Wilber doesn't provide specific alternative mechanisms, his critique implies the need for considering additional factors or principles that could guide the evolution of complexity. This might include ideas from systems theory, developmental biology, or even teleological principles.

Modern Scientific Responses

Exaptation and Co-option:

Exaptation: Modern evolutionary biology has introduced concepts like exaptation, where structures originally evolved for one function are co-opted for another. For example, feathers might have initially evolved for temperature regulation or display and later became adapted for flight.

Intermediate Forms: Research has identified plausible intermediate forms and functional stages for the evolution of eyes and wings. For example, simple light-sensitive cells can provide a survival advantage and gradually evolve into more complex eyes.

Genetic and Developmental Pathways:

Genetics: Advances in genetics and developmental biology have provided insights into the genetic pathways and regulatory networks involved in the development of complex structures. These studies show how small genetic changes can lead to significant morphological transformations.

Evo-Devo: The field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) explores how changes in developmental processes can drive the evolution of complex features. It offers explanations for how coordinated changes can occur during development, leading to new structures.

Empirical Evidence:

Fossil Record: The fossil record provides evidence of gradual changes and transitional forms in the evolution of eyes, wings, and other complex structures. This empirical data supports the neo-Darwinian framework of incremental adaptation.

Comparative Anatomy: Comparative studies of living organisms reveal how different levels of complexity in similar structures can exist, suggesting a plausible evolutionary pathway.


Ken Wilber's critique of neo-Darwinism, particularly concerning the evolution of eyes and wings, raises important questions about the sufficiency of traditional evolutionary explanations for complex structures. While his concerns resonate with issues of irreducible complexity and the need for holistic integration, modern evolutionary biology has developed robust mechanisms and empirical evidence to address these challenges. Concepts like exaptation, insights from evo-devo, and detailed genetic studies provide comprehensive explanations for the evolution of complexity, demonstrating the strengths and adaptability of the neo-Darwinian framework.

What would an integration of evolutionary biology within the integral model look like that does justice to its current insights and findings?

An integration of evolutionary biology within Ken Wilber's integral model would aim to respect and incorporate the rigorous empirical insights and findings of modern evolutionary biology while also extending the framework to include broader philosophical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions. Here's how such an integration might look:

1. Incorporation of Empirical Findings

Mechanisms of Evolution: Acknowledge and integrate the well-established mechanisms of evolution, such as natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, gene flow, and recombination, recognizing their roles in shaping biological diversity and adaptation.

Fossil Evidence and Transitional Forms: Utilize fossil records and comparative anatomy to map the evolutionary pathways of complex structures like eyes and wings, affirming the empirical evidence that supports gradual evolutionary change.

Genetics and Evo-Devo: Incorporate insights from genetics and evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), explaining how genetic and developmental processes drive the evolution of complex features through changes in gene expression and regulatory networks.

2. Quadrants Integration

Upper-Right Quadrant (Individual-Exterior): This quadrant would focus on the biological and physical aspects of evolution, including genetics, anatomy, physiology, and observable evolutionary changes in organisms.

Upper-Left Quadrant (Individual-Interior): Here, the focus would be on the evolution of consciousness and subjective experiences. This would involve studying the development of cognitive and emotional capacities, as well as the emergence of self-awareness and higher states of consciousness in humans.

Lower-Right Quadrant (Collective-Exterior): This quadrant would consider the social and environmental contexts of evolution, such as ecological systems, social behaviors, and environmental pressures that shape evolutionary trajectories.

Lower-Left Quadrant (Collective-Interior): This would include the cultural and collective aspects of evolution, examining how shared beliefs, values, and social structures influence and are influenced by evolutionary processes.

3. Stages and Lines of Development

Stages of Consciousness: Integrate models of psychological and spiritual development, suggesting that consciousness evolves through distinct stages, from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal levels. Each stage represents an increase in complexity, integration, and awareness.

Multiple Lines of Development: Recognize that different lines of development (cognitive, moral, emotional, spiritual) can evolve at different rates and are interdependent. This aligns with the understanding that evolution is not linear but multifaceted.

4. Holistic and Systemic Approaches

Emergent Properties and Systems Theory: Embrace the idea that evolution involves emergent properties arising from the interaction of components within a system. This perspective aligns with systems theory and complexity science, acknowledging that new levels of organization and complexity can arise from simple interactions.

Integration of Science and Spirituality: Respect the empirical basis of evolutionary biology while also incorporating spiritual and philosophical insights. This includes understanding evolution not just as a physical process but as a process that involves the development of consciousness and spiritual realization.

5. Teleology and Purpose

Non-Reductionist Approach: While respecting the non-teleological stance of traditional evolutionary biology, propose that the drive towards complexity and integration seen in evolution can be viewed as a manifestation of deeper, intrinsic principles like Eros and Spirit.

Purpose and Meaning: Suggest that evolution has a directional aspect towards increasing complexity and unity, which can be understood as part of a larger, purposeful process without undermining the empirical findings of neo-Darwinism.

6. Transdisciplinary Dialogue

Collaboration Between Disciplines: Promote dialogue and collaboration between evolutionary biologists, psychologists, philosophers, and spiritual thinkers. This approach would ensure that the integral model is informed by and respects the findings of contemporary science while expanding its explanatory power.

Integrative Research: Encourage research that combines empirical methods with qualitative and experiential approaches, exploring the intersections of biology, psychology, and spirituality to develop a more comprehensive understanding of evolution.


Integrating evolutionary biology within Ken Wilber's integral model involves a respectful synthesis that honors the empirical rigor and findings of contemporary science while extending the framework to include the evolution of consciousness, cultural dynamics, and spiritual dimensions. This integrated approach would provide a more holistic understanding of evolution, recognizing the complexity and multifaceted nature of life's development across multiple domains.

It is a fine line between integrating science within a spiritual context and introducing Spirit in empirical matters of science!

Navigating the line between integrating science within a spiritual context and introducing Spirit into empirical matters of science is indeed delicate. Here's an exploration of how Ken Wilber's approach can respect this boundary while fostering a holistic understanding:

Integrating Science within a Spiritual Context


Different Domains: Recognize that science and spirituality address different domains of human experience. Science focuses on the empirical, observable, and measurable aspects of reality, while spirituality deals with subjective, inner experiences and the search for meaning and purpose.

Non-Overlapping Magisteria: Stephen Jay Gould's concept of "Non-Overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA) suggests that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry and authority. While Wilber integrates them, he acknowledges their distinct roles.

Integral Framework:

Four Quadrants: Wilber's integral model helps maintain clarity by assigning scientific inquiry primarily to the individual-exterior and collective-exterior quadrants (objective and social systems), while spirituality and consciousness are explored in the individual-interior and collective-interior quadrants (subjective experiences and cultural values).

Epistemological Pluralism: This approach uses different methodologies appropriate for each quadrant. Empirical methods are used for exterior quadrants, while introspective and contemplative methods are used for interior quadrants.

Respecting Scientific Integrity:

Empirical Methods: Empirical scientific methods remain paramount for investigating physical phenomena. Wilber's model respects the rigorous standards of empirical science and does not impose spiritual explanations on scientific findings.

Boundary Maintenance: It's crucial to maintain the boundary where empirical methods apply and where they do not. This avoids conflating scientific evidence with spiritual or metaphysical interpretations.

Introducing Spirit in Empirical Matters

Potential Pitfalls:

Undermining Scientific Credibility: Introducing Spirit or spiritual explanations directly into empirical science risks undermining the credibility and objectivity of scientific inquiry.

Methodological Confusion: Blurring the lines between empirical science and spiritual explanations can lead to methodological confusion, where hypotheses are not testable or falsifiable.

Appropriate Contexts for Spirit:

Metaphysical Contexts: Spirit and spiritual concepts are more appropriately introduced in metaphysical discussions, philosophical reflections, and personal or collective experiences of meaning and purpose.

Beyond Empirical Scope: Discussions about Spirit can explore aspects of reality that empirical science does not address, such as consciousness, subjective experience, and existential questions.

Wilber's Balanced Approach

Holons and Hierarchies:

Holarchical Integration: Wilber uses the concept of holons (whole/part entities) and hierarchical levels to show how science and spirituality can coexist without overstepping each other's boundaries. Each level transcends and includes the previous ones, meaning that spiritual insights build on, but do not replace, empirical findings.

Evolving Consciousness:

Developmental Stages: Wilber's model sees consciousness evolving through stages that include but go beyond purely biological evolution. This evolutionary perspective respects the empirical basis of biological evolution while exploring higher stages of spiritual and psychological development.

Integral Methodological Pluralism:

Appropriate Methods: Different methods are used to explore different dimensions of reality. Empirical science investigates the physical world, while contemplative and introspective methods explore inner experiences and spiritual realities. Each method is valid within its appropriate domain.


Ken Wilber's approach attempts to integrate science within a spiritual context without conflating empirical matters of science with spiritual explanations. This integration is achieved by recognizing the distinct domains and methodologies appropriate for each type of inquiry. By maintaining clear boundaries and respecting the integrity of empirical science, Wilber's integral model aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of reality that honors both scientific rigor and spiritual depth. This balanced approach fosters a holistic worldview while avoiding the pitfalls of methodological confusion.

Wilber has called his current intellectual phase "post-metaphysical". What has he discarded and what did he retain?

Ken Wilber's shift to a "post-metaphysical" phase represents a significant evolution in his intellectual journey. In this phase, Wilber has sought to refine and update his integral theory, discarding certain elements of traditional metaphysical speculation while retaining and emphasizing other aspects. This shift reflects his ongoing effort to ground his ideas more firmly in empirical and intersubjective realities, making his framework more accessible and applicable in a contemporary context. Here's an exploration of what Wilber has discarded and retained in his post-metaphysical phase:

Discarded Elements

Traditional Metaphysical Claims:

Speculative Ontologies: Wilber has moved away from traditional metaphysical claims that posit a fixed, absolute ontology. Instead, he focuses on how reality can be described through various perspectives and methodologies without making definitive assertions about the ultimate nature of existence.

Eternal Forms and Archetypes: Classical metaphysical concepts like Plato's eternal forms or Jung's archetypes as fixed, independent realities have been deemphasized. Wilber now treats these ideas more as useful conceptual tools rather than definitive truths.

Dualistic and Supernatural Elements:

Mind-Body Dualism: Wilber has increasingly embraced a non-dualistic approach that integrates mind and body within a single, coherent framework. He moves away from the Cartesian dualism that separates mental and physical realms.

Supernatural Explanations: There is a noticeable shift away from invoking supernatural explanations for phenomena. Instead, Wilber emphasizes explanations that are more aligned with empirical evidence and rational inquiry.

Overly Abstract Speculations:

Abstract Theorizing: In his post-metaphysical phase, Wilber has reduced reliance on overly abstract and speculative theories that lack empirical grounding. He aims to base his models more on observable data and intersubjective verification.

Retained Elements

Integral Framework:

Four Quadrants: Wilber continues to use his four-quadrant model, which categorizes reality into four dimensions: individual-interior (subjective experience), individual-exterior (objective behavior), collective-interior (cultural values), and collective-exterior (social systems). This model remains central to his integral theory.

Holons and Hierarchies: The concept of holons (entities that are both wholes and parts) and hierarchical organization (holarchies) is retained. Wilber uses these concepts to describe the complex, interrelated nature of reality.

Epistemological Pluralism:

Multiple Ways of Knowing: Wilber maintains his commitment to epistemological pluralism, recognizing multiple valid ways of knowing, including empirical, rational, and contemplative methods. This pluralism is crucial for his integrative approach.

Integral Methodological Pluralism: He continues to advocate for using different methodologies appropriate to different aspects of reality, integrating their insights into a cohesive understanding.

Evolution of Consciousness:

Developmental Stages: The idea that human consciousness evolves through distinct developmental stages is a core element that Wilber retains. He continues to explore how individuals and societies move through these stages towards greater complexity and integration.

Psychospiritual Growth: Wilber's focus on psychospiritual growth and the unfolding of higher states of consciousness remains central to his work. He still emphasizes practices and disciplines that facilitate this growth.


Integration of Spirituality and Science: Wilber maintains his commitment to integrating spirituality with scientific understanding. However, he frames this integration in ways that are less reliant on traditional metaphysical assertions and more on empirical and experiential validation.

Non-Dual Perspective: His non-dual perspective, which seeks to transcend and include dualistic distinctions, is a key feature of his post-metaphysical phase. This approach emphasizes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all aspects of reality.

Key Features of Wilber's Post-Metaphysical Approach

Focus on Pragmatism and Empiricism:

Practical Application: Wilber's post-metaphysical phase is marked by a greater emphasis on the practical application of his ideas. He focuses on how integral theory can be used to address real-world issues and enhance personal and collective well-being.

Empirical Validation: There is a stronger focus on grounding his theories in empirical research and intersubjective verification. Wilber seeks to align his integrative framework more closely with scientific and scholarly standards.

Relational Ontology:

Relational Reality: Wilber emphasizes a relational ontology where the nature of reality is understood in terms of relationships and processes rather than static entities. This view aligns with contemporary scientific insights from fields like quantum physics and ecology.

Process-Oriented: His approach is more process-oriented, focusing on how things develop and relate over time rather than positing fixed metaphysical structures.

Intersubjective Verification:

Community and Consensus: Wilber places greater importance on intersubjective verification—how knowledge is validated through communal and consensual processes. This reflects a move towards more democratic and participatory forms of knowledge generation.

Shared Realities: He explores how shared cultural and social realities shape individual experiences, recognizing the co-creative role of communities in constructing meaning and understanding.


Ken Wilber's transition to a post-metaphysical phase represents a significant refinement of his integral theory, aiming to balance spiritual insights with empirical rigor. By discarding traditional metaphysical speculations and dualistic frameworks, he has made his approach more compatible with contemporary scientific and philosophical thought. At the same time, he retains the core elements of his integrative vision, including the four quadrants, holons, developmental stages, and a commitment to non-dualism.

Wilber's post-metaphysical phase emphasizes pragmatism, relational ontology, and intersubjective verification, making his integral theory more practical and empirically grounded. This shift enhances the applicability and credibility of his framework, fostering a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of reality that respects both scientific inquiry and spiritual depth. Through this evolution, Wilber continues to offer a robust model for integrating the diverse dimensions of human experience, bridging the gap between empirical science and spiritual wisdom.

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