Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Painful Confession

[Image from RavenCrow]

This morning Matthew Dallman posted a link to a summary of Geoffrey Falk's criticisms of Ken Wilber. Not content to simply read a list of bullet points, I read the Wilber chapter (Norman Einstein) from Falk's book, Stripping the Gurus. I'm late to the game on this since the book has been around--and generally dismissed by anyone who likes Wilber--for a quite a while now.

My first impression was that Falk is an asshole. That was also my second and third impression as I read other chapters of his book. However much Falk acts like the stupid kid in the class who has caught the smart kid making a mistake, some of the critics of Wilber that he quotes have valid concerns that have either been ignored or derided. I find this disturbing.

I followed the back and forth between Wilber, de Quincey, and Hargens back when it happened, but I did not know about some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that went into the exchange. I found both Wilber and de Quincey wanting in that exchange, but I sided with Wilber.

I have generally sided with Wilber even when I found him to be egotistical and belittling of his critics. Because I have found Wilber's overall model useful and insightful, I didn't question some of the smaller details that Falk addresses. I committed the cardinal sin: I found the Buddha beside the road and did not kill him.

I was a Wilber follower. My girlfriend recently referred to me as a "Wilber freak," which I sort of took as a compliment and sort of felt embarrassed by. "Am I that obsessive? Am I that fanatical?" I thought to myself later. Painfully, the answer has been yes, at least some of the time.

Let me say right now that I found Falk's attack on Wilber to be a kind of nitpicking, overlooking the big picture so that he can show Wilber's mistakes. But there is some truth behind the smartass comments and ridicule that Falk espouses.

Wilber's critics have not been given a place at the integral table. They have not be included in the new integral paradigm. It can't be a truly integral model unless it is open to debate, to criticism, to the possibility that it is not the only answer, or even the best answer. The value of any good theory is its testability. Will the Integral Institute allow a non-member peer review of its central tenets? Will it permit dissenters to be heard by its members and followers?

When will Wilber have a non-believer as a guest on his "Get Naked" series? When will Wilber allow a guest on Get Naked to disagree with Wilber's version of integral?

I have not abandoned the four quadrants, developmental lines, states and stages, or much else of Wilber's basic model. However, I will never again be as accepting of everything Wilber says as I have been in the past.

When I talked with my girlfriend about this a little while ago, she asked me how I felt about this new "revelation." I told her I was not disillusioned with Wilber--all men are mortal, as Simone de Beauvoir claimed in her book by the same title. I was angry with myself for not questioning Wilber's work in the same way that I am critical of every other writer/thinker I read.

More than anything else, I am disturbed that I so easily accepted most everything Wilber wrote as though it were the god-given truth. That has been shifting in the last year (largely due to my misgivings about how he has treated SDi), but it was true for a number of years. "I wanted to believe," as Mulder might have said.

I wanted to practice a kind of jhana yoga (the path of intellect) with Wilber as my guru. I feel foolish for having even wanted that. Yet I understand the desire in myself and where it may have come from--but that's another post.

[Thanks to MD for pointing me where I needed to go.]
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