INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY FRANK VISSER
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
A Brief History
of Integral World
Part II: Carving a Niche
in the Integral Landscape
Things would have been so much easier if we could study integral philosophy as any other philosophy of the past.
Some years ago, I took stock of the work done on Integral World in "A Brief History of Integral World" (published May 2007). This essay charted the course of this website since its inception in 1997, from a Wilber fan-site promoting his books to a forum of Wilber critics, that published medium to large sized essays of integral reflection. It was one year after the Wyatt Earp Episode, a most curious episode in the history of modern integral thought, in which Wilber showed his true colors regarding his online critics (pun intended). Perhaps enough has been said about this affair on this platform, so we won't repeat this here.
Since 2007, over 500 essays have been posted on Integral World, and new authors have entered the scene of integral criticism. In this essay, we'll try to put them in some perspective and we will try to identify some of the major trends.
This can only be a sample of many, many contributions, freely submitted to Integral World. Just as I feared that Integral World would not survive the "demise" of Ray Harris, Mark Edwards and Andy Smithwho had each contributed over thirty lengthy essays to the Reading Roomit was unclear what direction the integral field would go after Wilber had tried to separate the sheep from the goats in his Wyatt Earp blog postings. This fear turned out to be ungrounded.
Hugh and Kay Martin started offering their own take on Wilber's corpus and added many interesting viewpoints and illustrations in various essays, some of which ("The Human Growth Continuum" and "The Processes of Human Development") are still firmly positioned in the Reading Room Essay Top 50 we publish every week. Elliot Benjamin has become a household name on Integral World since publishing his experiential analysis of the Integral Institute in 2006, continuing to write on matters personal, political and spiritual in his own, inimitable style.
Keith Martin-Smith submitted two essays on art, "Art, Postmodern Criticism, and the Emerging Integral Movement" and its sequal "The Future of Art and Art Criticism", the latter of which provoked a response from a professional postmodern philosopher Cobussen in "Defending the Uncanny". Martin-Smith's two essays have remained to be widely read ever since they were published.
Independent thinker Imre von Soos offerend half a dozen essays to Integral World, one of which is relevant given the favorable treatment I have given over the years to Richard Dawkins: "Reply to Dawkins: Professor Dawkins' Gods and Intelligent Replicators", which was followed by "Reflections on the Neo-Darwinian Theory of Evolution". I have never said or intended that Dawkins is the final word on evolution, though he is definitely the first wordand mis-spelling the first word, as Wilber does so consistently, and irrepairably, spells disaster for a philosophy that wants to be taken seriously by science. Michael Garfield contributed his "Evolving an Integral Biology", one of the very few efforts from integral corners to get this discussion off the ground.
From an entirely different point of view, Zakkariyya Ishaq defended the metaphysical point of view. His "The Science of Sufism" is still widely read, and his "Cowboy Ken Wilber: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" is a balanced and endearing view of the tumultuous Wyatt Earp episode in which Wilber clashed with his online critics.
Some technical advances were made with the website, by adding Google search functionality for the complete site (of over 1500 pages). Also, the old-fashioned frames, so popular around 1997 to set up a decent website, where finally removed, so that each webpage was now fully accessible through the various search engines. A video section was opened, featuring a couple of dozen of the Wilber videos available from YouTube. We've added sections where site visitors could list their favorite Wilber quote or favorite Wilber book.
Don Salmon offered his views on integral psychology through several stimulating essays, such as "Integral Psychology Beyond Wilber-V" and "Shaving Science With Occam's Razor", followed by a 4-part series on "Ken Wilber's Evolutionary View Gets a Trim with Occam's Razor". Dissatisfied with the essay format used on Integral World, Salmon also explored the possibilities of the Integral World Forum.
Keeping the voice of mainstream science alive, Andrea Diem-Lane published a small book "Darwin's DNA" in 3 parts. Her husband, David Lane, who has contributed to this website every year, defended the notion of reductionism in an original essay simply called "On Reductionism". Geoffrey Falk, who had been a fierce critic of Wilber and some Integral World authors (like Salmon), offered his study of Wilber's misrepresentation of David Bohm in "Wilber and Bohm".
David Lane, who was the first to criticize Wilber's mistaken views of evoluton in public, reviewed Bill Yenner's American Guru in "Andrew Cohen Exposed", which caught the attention of many Integral World visitor's, since at the time of this writing (March 2013) this essay is still at #5 in the Reading Room Top 50 charts. Andrea Diem-Lane published a second book, "Spooky Physics", on Integral World, in 4 parts. Her contributions on evolutionary theory and physics provide the much needed background knowlegde which is required to say anything about these fields at all.
Two new authors writing from a spiritual-philosophical point of view started to make an appearence. Giorgio Piacenza, an integral student at JFK University, defended the spiritual and indigenous viewpoints in several essays in years to come. H.B. Augustine turned out to be an unabashed apologetic for integral philosophy in all of its many facets. Both would contribute close to 25 essays.
Debate was stimulated substantially by the essays of Croation historian Tomislav Markus on integral ecology (who sadly died in 2010), such as "Limits of the Enlightenment" and "Two Roads Diverging: Integral Theory and Contemporary Science". Markus' essay "Pittfalls of Wilberian Ecology", a review of Integral Ecology written by Sean Hargens and Michael Zimmerman met with silly accusations of plagiarism from one of its authors, effectively ending all prospects for an intellectual debate from the start. This has been the general pattern when integral authors are confronted with strong criticism (think of Wilber's misrepresentation-complex).
In 2010, the case against (or for) Andrew Cohen was taken up again by Be Scofield, whose "Integral Abuse" was paradigmatic in laying down the concerns many share about Cohen, who features prominently in integral circles as the Guru in the Guru&Pandit conversations published in EnlightenMext, Cohen's magazine. Peter Bampton, a former student of Cohen who still defends him, countered Scofield in "American Guru Andrew Cohen & Allegations of Abuse", demonstrating that when a cultic milieu is being discussed, those for and against are each following their own logic.
Continuing my battle against Wilber's mistaken view of evolution, I published my presentation "The 'Spirit of Evolution' Reconsidered", a presentation held at the 2010 Integral Theory Conference, which was awarded with a honorable mention. This can be considered as not so much an attack on Wilber as a challenge to make a stronger case for spiritual evolution, so popular in current integral training courses and teleseminars. This paper has not been refuted, not even once, by those in charge of the integral field. Peer reviewers of the paper could not come up with anything better than "What alternative has Visser to offer?" Apparently, exposing misconceptions about a major field of science is not seen as a valuable contribution here anymore.
Some reflections on this Integral Theory Conference deserve some mention, e.g. "A New Phase of Integral Theory?" by myself, "Integral Theory Report" by Jeff Meyerhoff, and "Does Ken Wilber Offer a Good Meta-Theory?" by Steve Wallis. (And don't forget Hugh Martin's "The Tyranny of AQAL").
Elliot Bejamin's "License Plate Synchronicity" essay has sparked a lively debate with David Lane about the meanings we attribute to apparent coincidences (or should I say apparent meanings attributed to coincidences?).
I interviewed Jeff Meyerhoff about his book Bald Ambition and his latest take on Wilber in "Ken Wilber's Divine Comedy", since his book was released as hard copy just before the Integral Theory Conference of 2010. His thesis that Wilber's philosophy is not aperspectival, as is claimed, but displays a marked perspective itself, has never adequately been responded to.
David Lane opened 2011 with this "Frisky Dirt: Why Why Ken Wilber's New Creationism is Pseudo-Science", a critique of Wilber's infantile statements in EnlightenNext (the issue was themed "Cosmic Dimensions of Love") about how during the course of cosmic and biological evolution heavy elements, molecules, unicellular and multicellular organisms arose, through the mysterious force of Eros. (Wilber: "It's a mirable! It's unbelievable! It's evidence of a force that is pushing against randomness in the universe.") Apparently nobody in the integral crowd knew anything about how science actually tackles these problems, as I tried to explain in "Heavy Elements: Why Integral Physics is Lost in Space".
Joe Corbett added his firm socio-political voice, in a series of essays such as "Social Transformation: Towards a More Just Kosmos" and "Ken Wilber (Philosopher-King)". Corbett continued to write for Integral World, recently even defended the use of violence in furthering the advent of an integral societywhich resulted in several negative (and shocked) respones from Integral World authors such as Elliot Benjamin and Bryan O'Doherty.
Lexi Neale submitted two thorough studies about ways to expand the integral model, in "The AQAL Cube" and "A Cal to Second-Tier", an open letter to the integral community to consider his points of view. Not getting an ear for his ideas, he turned to Integral World for publication.
Bryan O'Doherty proposed a new view of integral political philosophy in "Panarchy: The Political Paradigm of an Integral Society" and "Panarchy: The Integral Social Matrix", bringing fresh ideas to the field.
Chris Dierkes and Juma Wood described their attitude over time with Wilber, which followed a three-phase pattern of enchantment, disillusion and a more balanced judgement, to which I added my own two cents in "The 1-2-3 of Relationship with Ken Wilber". Many who have been under the spell of Wilber's ideas will recognize this pattern in their own lives. However, everybody resolves this situation in their own ways.
I invited Australian biologist John Stewart (after reading his Evolution's Arrow) to contribute an essay to Integral World: "Intentional Evolution", a non-metaphysical defence of progress in biological and social evolution. It triggered a response from our Reading Room's founding-author Andy Smith: "Evolution's Quiver: Direction, Cooperativity and Spirituality". Some more excentric theories of evolution were published: "Bye Bye Darwin" by Josë Díez Faixat and "The eon-hypothesis in a Nutshell" by Gerrit Teule.
Barclay Powers submitted his "The Buddha in Your Body", lavishly illustrated with imagery from Western and Eastern esoteric sources, the first of a series on Chinese esoteric spirituality, adding another color to the integral palette. His criticism of modern day integral spiritual philosophy is merciless: it prevents enlightenment where it claims to support it.
I published two long reviews on integral publicatons covering the wide field of evolution: "The Evolution Religion" was a review of Carter Phipps' book Evolutionaries, and "Platonic Evolution" a sustained look at Steve McIntosh' book Evolution's Purpose. The two authors are invited to respond to these reviews. In my opinion, both are out of touch with evolutionary theory per se, and rely to much on spiritualist re-interpretations of evolutionary ideas.
This year saw a lively discussion about the impact of media violence, started by the essay "Killing Sprees and Media Violence" by Elliot Benjamin. Corbett and O'Doherty joined the discussion, each from their own perspectives.
To the surprise of many readers, David Lane published some of his older essays on spiritual gurus he had visited in India under the title "A Journey With the Saints of India", showing us a different side of his personality ("Although I am mostly known as a skeptic, especially among followers of new religions, I don't think that skepticism is the only approach to life.")
And finally, a piece of satire by Brian McGuinness on Integral World featuring Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen in "dialogue": "THE MOST IMPORTANT CONVERSATION OF OUR TIME!". With a record number of close to 250 Likes on Facebook, this essay exposes what many see as the major stumbling block for integral philosophy to achieve recognition: it's outsized self-regard. Or as I said in a recent interview for a German magazine: "Integral institutions are very good at bragging about their own excellenceI call this integral inflation."
Perhaps humor can accomplish what criticism has failed to do: deflate the rampant inflation of integral enterprises and institutions. Things would have been so much easier if we could study integral philosophy as any other philosophy of the past: as a set of ideas worthy of consideration but not immune to criticism. And without ideological and/or commercial pressures.
All screengrabs are taken from The Way Back Machine at www.archive.org.