Friday, June 09, 2006

Reminder: More on Ken Wilber

Once upon a time, The Ken said this:
And once you taste One Taste, no matter how fleetingly at first, an entirely new motivation will arise from the depths of your very own being and become a constant atmosphere which your every impulse breathes, and that atmosphere is compassion. Once you taste One Taste, and see the fundamental problems of existence evaporate in the blazing sun of obviousness, you will never again be the same person, deep within your heart. And you will want--finally, profoundly, and most of all--that others, too, may be relieved of the burden of their sleep-walking dreams, relieved of the agony of the separate self, relieved of the inherent torture called time and the gruesome tragedy called space.

No matter that lesser motivations will dog your path, no matter that anger and envy, shame and pity, pride and prejudice will remind you daily how much more you can always grow: still, and still, under it all, around it all, above it all, the heartbeat of compassion will resound. A constant cloud of caring will rain on your every parade. And you will be driven, in the best sense of the word, by this ruthless taskmaster, but only because you, eons ago, made a secret promise to let this motivation rule you until all souls are set free in the ocean of infinity.

~ From One Taste

I don't have to like or agree with everything Ken Wilber says or does. About 80 percent of the time, I'm with him. Then there are days, like yesterday, when I am not on the same page. That's okay.

I also don't need Wilber to be perfect. He will make mistakes sometimes; he will exhibit a full range of emotions; he will be a human being. As it should be. He is a complex being with a full spectrum of options from which to act. When he is operating from his best self, he is brilliant and soulful. When he is angry, he is brilliant and angry. Whatever. It's an integral world allowing for all levels, all lines, all states, and all stages.

Ken is a boomer. He understands boomeritis for the same reason he got the pre/trans fallacy. Been there, done that. When he gets angry, we should expect a strong streak of narcissism and ego to infect the response. Anger wouldn't feel so good without it.

That doesn't negate the rest of his work, or the rest of his vision. I was dismissive of his rant, and I still would have rather seen a more rational (but still pointed) response. Who cares what I want?

Some readers are done with Wilber as a result of this outburst. That saddens me. Let's separate the man from the work, if we can, and look at the usefulness of what he offers. I, for one, am eager to see the new books. I am always given new food for thought and am forced to expand my narrow view of the world when I read a Wilber book, even when I don't always agree with him. That is why we were drawn to his work in the first place.

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The Zero Boss said...

I think there's a much deeper meaning to Ken's response than you're catching, Bill.

Why did you WANT him to respond differently? What expectations and assumptions led you to determine he HAD to post a certain way before his message even went live? And why should it matter to ANYONE in an avowedly spiritual crowd HOW Wilber communicates his message?

You've seen Wilber communicate in "the expected scholarly fashion" a hundred times on Integral Naked. So...why did he choose this style for this response?

Bill LaLonde said...

I am one of those who are now done with Wilber; I will not separate the man from his work, and here's why:
Wilber is pitching his style of integral practice as the best path to enlightenment. According to his website and his writings, he himself has an integral practice. In fact he has been practicing for decades.
Yet despite this (or is it because of it?), he can still write an idiotic rant like he did yesterday. I have never, ever, seen anyone respected in any field write such mindless, hateful garbage as he spouted off under the disguise of answering critics. If decades-- decades-- of integral practice only leads to being this kind of vainglorious asshole, one who can command fellatio and claim the backing of Catholic Priests in the same breath, one who doesn't even attempt (or is incapable?) to answer his critics reasonably (his arguments were classic fallacious tripe laced with spite)-- then why in the world should I, or anyone, want to do this practice? If Wilber is the end result, I will run to the most opposite practice I can find.
If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I defended Wilber for years, bought his books, only to find out that I've wasted all of my time because this guy is just a full-of-sh*t asshole like Cohen, Adi Da, and any number of other claimees of enlightenment.

ebuddha said...

I like this post, Bill.

Jay, I answer the questions you ask Bill.

"Why did you WANT him to respond differently?"

I didn't - I found the post strange, the reasoning weak, and the attack on Visser while distorting his points - for no great reason, disturbing at best.
Then I thought, "hmm, weird".

"What expectations and assumptions led you to determine he HAD to post a certain way before his message even went live?"

Well, the expectation is he wouldn't be using mushy logic and "I know you are but what am I" emotional tactics.

I freely admit that this might have been a pose, and perhaps I shouldn't expect that type of response. But yeah, that is where the expectation is coming from.

"And why should it matter to ANYONE in an avowedly spiritual crowd HOW Wilber communicates his message?"

I didn't really care how he communicated his message - again, my expectation would there would be some meat on the bones of the post - but it was "sound and fury signifying nothing"

"You've seen Wilber communicate in "the expected scholarly fashion" a hundred times on Integral Naked. So...why did he choose this style for this response?"

Actually, I haven't seen a real disagreement engagement. Most of the IN videos I've seen are where Ken is in the role of explainer, or, there is a shared presentation between Ken and another person. Not any type of inherent critical situation, that Ken must address critics with respect.

But please - I do ask you to prove me wrong on that - I would love to be pointed to say - several videos that have a real give-and-take with someone who has genuine issues. (And I mean this seriously - point me to those videos. It would reassure me, at this point.)

The Zero Boss said...

ebuddha, I just don't see it as an "outburst" like you or Bill do, so I don't see it as promtped by rage or lack of compassion. It's too studious and calculated like that. It's DESIGNED to test people's reactivity. And it worked: many in the blogosphere are now hyperfocusing on the messenger and the method of delivery, rather than taking it in the intended spirit of lila. People are taking Ken - and worse, themselves - too seriously.

william harryman said...

Jay, I'm with ebuddha on this one. I've never seen Ken host someone on IN who has issues with his work. Why not have some of those who have serious issues with the AQAL integral model for some lively debate? Even when Jenny Wade was on, someone he has gone toe to toe with in the past, none of their differences of opinion were mentioned.

I don't have enough time at the moment to answer all of your questions, good though they are, so I will make a general statement about my reaction to Wilber.

He claims to be second tier, claims to have frequent access to witness consciousness as a background to ego consciousness, is the exalted leader of the integral movement, continually derides boomeritis, and on and on. In one blog post he did the exact opposite of each of those things he works so hard to identify himself as.

I have to wonder if someone who has access to witness consciousness would conduct himself that way? I have to wonder if some who is second tier would conduct himself that way?

Maybe I don't get it because I am not second tier. Maybe there is some deeper level to this that I don't get. Okay.

I judge the quality of a person by how they conduct themselves in a difficult situation. Do they soften animosity with compassion? Do they hold a conflict from an attachment to being right perspective, or do they let it go because in the end, who cares?

Do they address real criticism with real answers, or do they get defensive and attack the critic. Visser might not always be right, but ebuddha is correct in assessing the "simply" barage as a refusal to address Visser's point, which is valid. Wilber didn't adress anyone's criticism, he dismissed all of it as the ravings of messed up people who can't keep up with his racing mind. A little ego with that narcissism?

I had no attachment or expectation for his response to his critics, aside from maturity, rationality, a willingness to look at valid points, and perhaps some of his usually sophisticated humor. Maybe this is his way of saying STOP HAVING EXPECTATIONS OF ME. But on the other, if that is the case, STOP TRYING TO CREATE THOSE EXPECTATIONS.

I don't know. I want to believe there is something deeper going on here that I am missing. But so far, no has made a convincing argument for that point of view.


PS: [Jay, Just say your newest comments pop up -- maybe the post was designed to test our reactivity, but it seems to me that Wilber takes himself pretty damn seriously in that post. It certainly doesn't read as studious and calculated, but then I tend to be overly literal.

I guess I flunk the test. No admittance to Integral nirvana for me.]


Unknown said...

The Ken is a fiction writer, author of Boomeritis, as we all know. Rereading The Wanger Post I think it is meant to be postmodern satirical. I think Frank is frankly in on the hoax. And Annie, too. And C4. And anyone else too willing to get down on his knees in front of The Great Ken.

The deal with "if you don't agree with me, then you're green" is the cincher. [Hmm. Of course, he did pretty much the same thing with his Gafni post.] This trap, where you pre-label anyone who has the audacity to disagree with what they are about to read is surely a sign of not being Integral. Surely. And The Ken knows it. Right?

Oh, hell. I like "The Ride of the Valkyries" without approving of Richard Wagner. I'll just have to approve of Wilber's serious writing without being keen on his anger.

william harryman said...


I looked at it again with what you wrote in mind, and yeah, might be what it was. Ha ha, uh, yeah.

On the other hand, he attacked Don Beck along with Chris Cowan, and Beck was one of the founding folks of Integral Institute. Not so funny, that. I know Don and Ken have issues about the reversal in Ken's views on SDi, so I have to assume that is a real attack. Does this mean Don is no longer in the inner circle because he disagreed with Ken's assessment of SDi?

However, I might be missing his brilliance in this post, which I guess would just confirm his point -- whatever it might be.

Still, the man is brilliant and I am eagerly awaiting Integral Spirituality to arrive from Amazon some blessed day in the future. And I will keep buying his books, reading his blog, listening to IN, and maybe someday the Gods will smile on me and I will be allowed to fathom the brilliance of this post.

Or not.


Unknown said...

Well. I'm not buying the 'satirical' theory myself, at the moment. But the Graves-Cohen dustup -- what with the lawsuit and all -- is already out there being weird without Wilber needing to draw attention to it.

But Wilber bringing up the matter, of Graves & Cohen and writing, "I mean, it that just weird or what?" seems to me to show Wilber's self-awareness that with his post HE'S being weird. And, of course, this kind of playful & destructive reflectiveness without a constructive point is an earmark of Boomeritis.

So I am not too sure how The Ken writes about the subject he founded and knows the most about without having his tongue in his cheek about having his tongue in his cheek.

The Zero Boss said...

I guess I don't care all that much about "opposing views" on iN. I can find opposing views easily on my own. All I care is that the content is good (and that the commentators learn to let their guests talk more, rather than re-capping Integral 101 each session).

As for Wilber, it seems the issue is running its course. Folks are deciding on their perspectives one way or the other. I do think everybody's hung up - some folks drastically - on who Wilber "ought" to be. For me, that sucks all of the individuality and organic-ness out of life, and speaks of a need for control and "orderliness" in a world which is fundamentally groundless. This episode made me realize these graspings in my own thinking. It's a desperate kind of fear that was holding back my own growth: "So long as I know 'being spiritual' means this, this, and that, I'm good to go."

I don't suffer under the illusion that I'm rid of them. But damn, it feels good to identify that they're there.

Unknown said...

I'm still working the satire theory. Annie has posted a comment on your other post on this issue. It is interesting, yet a little mysterious.

A few days ago, Ken posted his thoughts on V for Vendetta. Perhaps THAT inspired his 'Suck me' post, as an attempt to blow up the Integral World parliament and bring a return to rational Integral governance.

Recently Ann Coulter came out with an outrageous book that perhaps inspired Annie [Ann-Annie, Annie-Ann, get it!?] to launch into mayhem as a sort of bald Natalie Portman clone to aid W with his Vendetta.

I am telling you, there is CODE in Wilber's essay, we merely need to ferret it out! Don't you find it interesting that an anagram of Wyatt Earp is "A Pretty We" and "Party Ate W"!? And if you look at the cover of some of Wilber's books under the right light ...

OK, I know it SOUNDS insane, but Ken and Annie had a lovechild. The Integral Universe [I was gonna say "world," oops] will continue into future generations! And it will one day be shown, despite what many believe, THAT KEN WAS A MORTAL MAN!

Unknown said...

Wait a minute. "Party ate W" could also be "W ate party!"

Don't click the trashcan on my posts, Bill. I know what you're thinking. DON'T do it.

Bill LaLonde said...

Okay, this is my last comment here on this issue, besause I'm sure many are dismissing me as "mean green meme," "being driven by my shadow," and all of the other things Wilber uses to make people ignore those who disagree with him.
To accuse those who take issue with Wilber's behavior of being "hung up - some folks drastically - on who Wilber 'ought' to be"-- a la the normally insightful Jay Allen-- is a bit silly. If a man is selling rat poison on a street corner and claiming it is candy, there is a responsibility to point this out, voiciferously if necessary. Wilber's post was indeed poison, by virtue of his position as community leader and well-loved (by his fans) author-- poison that destroys rational debate, and perhaps more importantly, poison that destroys compassion. Wilber has become the voice of hatred and "believe this because I say so."
Civilizations, not to mention families, partnerships, friendships-- any form of human relation has standards, standards not based on controlling each other but based on respect and compassion. If these standards are not met, the relationship becomes abusive. This is exactly what is happening with Wilber, and just like in many abusive relationships, people are making excuses "he's really a good person," "he doesn't mean it," "the spite was deserved because of what the critics said."
Let me state it again, because if you are going to continue to support Wilber-- which is certainly your right, I just think should you do it with open eyes-- this needs to be acknowledged. Wilber is an abuser, and the excuses people are making for him are exactly the excuses abused people in relationships make for abusers.
In regards to WH's original post-- yes, Wilber can write some beautiful passages, uplifting and poetic pieces, and certainly has had some wonderful insights. This does not make him enlightened, and this does not mean his behavior and possibly views are not poisonous.
Remember, Charles Manson wrote songs with the Beach Boys, songs that many people have found beautiful and many artists have covered.
I'm not saying associating with Wilber will lead to mass murder-- that would be silly, and it is certainly not so-- only that if beautiful words have the potential to hide a coercive mass murderer, how much easier is it for beautiful words and talk of higher stages to hide a man who is verbally abusive and self-obsessed. If beautiful words can lead others to follow and kill for someone, how much easier is it for beautiful words to lead others to give up their own capacity for critical analysis of ideas?
Bill, Jay, and a few of the others who still see value in Wilber-- I've read your blogs, and I know that you are mature and capable of avoiding the traps I've talked about, as long as you see them. I have faith that you will be able to pick Wilber's wheat from his chaff, exactly because you are willing to analyze his words and listen to others , such as myself, who are angered by him. May you follow the path you choose and find what you seek.
I only shudder to think of those who come into contact with his teachings whose minds are less critical to begin with, and might be drawn unknowingly into the parts of his world that foster dependance and bestow abuse.

Unknown said...

How ever this all washes out, the sentiment from bill lalonde's comment above will remain.

Wilber may correctly be seeing unhealthy aspects out there in the world that he is lampooning or that is unfairly criticising him, but there is no way around the fact that this episode is jejune and hurtful and that it undermines his teachings, as bill lalonde esplains.

william harryman said...


I agree. Bill speaks for an awful lot of people, some new to integral and some who have been with Wilber for a while, who will reject the source of such a mean-spirited post. He may be trying to use crazy wisdom to shatter some preconceptions (I'm leaning in this direction after my little daydream [above]), but I think he misread how many people would be put off by his approach.

As the face of integral, and of the Integral Institute, it seems to me like a stupid marketing move. Whether he follows this with some brilliant analysis based in SD as Dashh suggests, or not, there will be a lot fewer people left who give a rats ass.

That's too bad, because integral works.


The Zero Boss said...

Bill (LaLonde), apologies if you feel I've ignored or dismissed you on this issue. Not my intention. I can see where you're coming from, but...uh. I don't know. It's hard to explain. I just don't see Wilber's words as "abusive", because I think whether I see them that way or not is up to me. No one should hold the keys to my happiness, equanimity, and self-direction - and certainly not a bald 50-something "crazy wisdom" philosopher from Colorado.

I read his comments in that vain, and were able to see them as funny - just more samsaric play. I just don't take them that seriously. I don't see how he can "control" anypone with anything he's said unless someone is willing to be a droid.

And let's be clear: I'm not defending Wilber. I'm explaining my perception of what he wrote. Could Wilber have two dozen shadows clawing their way to the top of his psyche, and manifesting in gutter language and arrogance? I don't discount the possibility. But the only one who knows that is The Ken himself.

All that matters to me is: Am I still learning and growing by what the man says and does? And in this episode, I feel I've learned a hell of a lot.

I'm glad that we're all remaining engaged with one another on this issue, despite the severe disagreements.

The Zero Boss said...

Tom, I see your point too. I imagine they foresaw that possibility, and decided if the risk was worth it. Time will tell if they were right.