Thursday, June 08, 2006

Integral Institute Replies to Wilber's Critics

This could have been interesting. But instead it was just sadly weird. Annie McQuade decided to go after Frank Visser, host of Integral World, and so she has her comments posted at Ken Wilber's blog as part of a new series they are doing, a response to Wilber critics.

This is my reply to Annie's post (originally posted in the comments of ~C4Chaos blog at Zaadz):

I can appreciate Annie's desire to stir the pot, but I found her post to be condescending and mean-spirited. Are those the qualities they want people to associate with integral thinking and the Integral Institute?

She defends her stance (in the comments) with a story about how she had repressed herself for years by using skillful means as a defense mechanism. Now she is just being herself and letting it all hang out:

Maybe, just maybe, it is really ok to be myself, to lose my cool, to yell, to smile, to love. Maybe the future does not hold for me a cookie cutter mold in which I become like you and you become like me? Maybe you can be embarrased and I can lose my cool. Maybe it really is ok to be a human being.
I think it's great that Annie is learning to be herself instead of living by others' expectations. But why should Frank Visser have to be attacked for her to feel like she is free to be herself? Annie needs to be doing therapy around this issue, or at least meditating on it, but certainly not using it as an excuse to attack people in public.

Does Visser deserve a response? Yes. A reasoned, clear-headed argument that sets the record straight and accepts any valid criticisms. Visser is not the first or the only person to suggest that Ken has retreated into a world where he is surrounded by loyal believers. So why make him the focus of ridicule?

What purpose was served by her post? Sure, it's a great spectator sport, but so is cock-fighting. In this case the blood is emotional and intellectual. Because of her tone and language, no one will take Annie seriously, so nothing is gained in refuting a critic in this way. In fact, much is lost: Annie's reputation is damaged, and by association the Integral Institute's rep is damaged.

Maybe I'm missing the point. But I would hope that Integral would be represented by fierce intellectualism and deep compassion, not by condescending narcissism.

Having just posted this at ~C4's blog, I notice that Ken has posted his own essay/blog post in which he goes after his critics. Again the tone is condescending and mean, but Wilber is self-aware in this, while Annie wasn't. But what is most revealed in Ken's often pointed argument, and often childish name-calling, is a serious case of attachment -- to being right, to having everyone know he is right, to having the last word.

Ken wagers 20 to 1 that someone will use his post to analyse his psyche -- I just did. He wins that bet. Will he win the argument with his critics? Not likely, even though he is mostly right.

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Anonymous said...

I only read half of Ken's response (it's not a conflict I'm particularly up on or interested in) but I do read it very differently from you. It's funny, it's direct, it cuts through the bullshit (as he sees it) with an unflinching blade; and how absurd and ... weak would it be if Wilber were unattached and unprotective of his status of "being right," if he is, in fact, right? I don't think a silent, pacific half smile a la the Buddha statues is the response that best serves the health and growth of the Integral movement when a cacophony of morons (have you READ some of these critics of Wilber?) is drowning out the discourse.

On a somewhat different note, I realize occasionally when I'm in conflict with another that their issues with me are not rationally parse-able: there is, in other words, no amount of logic or rational proofs that are going to budge the colossus of their knee-jerk animus. What to do? Humor, sacred anger, and other tricks of spiral wizard have to be brought into play ...

Kai in NYC

Anonymous said...


I'm all for skillful use of humor - a lot of idiots are critical without knowing anything - but I gotta say, Ken's post struck me similar as it did to Bill.

Where's the beef?

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, the post by Annie is right with the tradition of the blogosphere. Edgy, with some examples.

Unknown said...


I agree with your post, in the main, but you may be missing the point to this extent: People aren't emblems of the Integral. It would be false and non-Integral to present oneself as solely fiercely intellectual and deeply compassionate if it's a pose.

This whole episode just be a volcano exploding on Gilligan's Island with lava floes quietly filling the lagoon. Frankly, I think that you've released some magma from time to time, Bill.

But I do think that you're right if this is the new order of higher being it suggests that something is somehow structurally wrong in I-I. But then, I think that is already well established with evidence of how the community has become cultish and protective. Where do you suppose I really saw the rattlers?

~C4Chaos said...

um, i just want to point this out because it's my favorite part of KW's rant:

“But one thing is for sure: the blogosphere is damn smart. People will make up their own minds. I just wanted them—wanted us—wanted you—to have some other facts and perspectives to take into account when making up your mind… which I hope will be to include both sides, all sides, in a larger picture.”


Origen said...

Where, indeed, is the Beef? It was half a great response. But without that other half, it looks petty and mean, and more than a little bit weird, in my opinion.

Plus, I feel for Frank. Surely that kind of grievance is better dealt with in a private email exchange? I'm not convinced that such dirty laundry needed to be aired at this particular point in time, with regard to Visser. Others yes, but not Visser. All the guy wants is a decent debate, and he's being dragged over the coals (although Wilber brackets the attack with his personal regard for Frank, the material itself undoes that bracketing somewhat. As do the comments from Wilber associates on the Visser blog).

Bill LaLonde said...

Ken's post made me deeply, deeply sad. I have read 90% of everything Ken's written, and while I haven't always agreed with everything he's said, I've always considered him a brilliant thinker and have often defended and promoted his work.

No more.

Ken's attempt at humor has all the sophistication of a high school locker room. They are on a level of South Park but without the class (yes, I'm being ironic). And he has the gall to imply that if you don't find his "humor" funny, it's because you are not as developed as he is.

He comes off as a sad, bitter, foul-mouthed narcissist with no social skills. In addition, this post is completely lacking in any well-reasoned arguments. Ebuddha did a nice job pointing out some of Ken's mental mushiness.

I also wonder how Father Keating feels about being used as ammunition in a post where Wilber tells critics to suck his dick.

Tom, above, says "People aren't emblems of the Integral." Maybe not, but Wilber continually presents himself as exactly that, as the pinnacle of everything of which Integral is capable. Well, if this is Integral, I want nothing more to do with it. If the self-described leader of the Integral movement, the exemplar of all it can produce, is a childish and angry man who uses vague taunts in the place of reasoned arguments, then to Hell with it.

If I were less compassionate, I would probably wish Wilber had died years ago when he was still respectable and his own personal assholeness was not yet such a glaring part of the public record.

william harryman said...

I agree with Tuff Ghost that Frank has done little to deserve such public scorn. Yes, he hosts Wilber critics, many of whom are daft. But Frank has been an ardent supporter of Wilber's work for a very long time.

The thing that really bothers me -- after a night of sleep -- is that Wilber's post assumes that we are too stupid to get that most of the criticism posted anywhere about his work is just wrong. Those of us who read him, and have read him, for years and years will know where the critics fail and we will also know where a few of them have points that must be addressed.

Wilber claims to use those criticisms that are on target, but we seldom get to see any kind of give and take. Years ago ReVision magazine did three whole issues devoted to Wilber's critics and his responses. I would like to see more of that, especially as a part of Integral Naked, which is the only public forum for outsider views to interact with Wilber.

Tom comments that I blow off a bit of steam here, too. Sure do, but I have never told anyone to suck my dick or bite my ass. I expect much better in the way of an argument from Wilber than "suck my dick."

I'll be curious to see how this plays out in the blogosphere. It's looking to be about 70/30 against at this point (please note that I am math-challenged), so Wilber's message hasn't played well in the Integral heartland.


Anonymous said...

hi this is annie. see the string of comments at ~c4chaos at zaadz

despite the odds, we all seem to be listening to each other.

i think the best thing i heard about myself is that i am a unprocessed (sort of like cheese), "shadow driven narcissist"
for all these people who are in an uproar about unskillfulness, i was surprised to find such rampant name-calling and diagnosing (DSM IV not withstanding). Does this strike anyone as unskillful? i actually don't require the skill, i am just amused that they can't pass the validity test of their own standards.

but it is enlivening all in all, so have at it.

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