Friday, June 25, 2010

What's Up with Ken Wilber?

Over at Headthegong, Bob posted an interesting observation on a recent blog post from Ken Wilber (or at least attributed to him on his blog). Wilber posted A Narrative on Guruji, a rather rambling, and disturbing endorsement of another guru, in this case a man who claims to be able to alter the molecular structure of matter.

Here is a brief piece of Wilber's post:
What I am claiming—and supporting—is that Guruji's capacity to conduct and transmit universal spiritual energy (or "shakti") is utterly remarkable, as proven by scientific experiments themselves. It is these direct, specific, scientific experiments and their results that I am reporting, and on which I am basing my endorsement. This is a scientific conclusion, not a spiritual one (although, of course, you are free to make those as well—but I am reporting the direct science, which is indeed astonishing).

To put it briefly, Mr. Trivedi has an empirically demonstrated capacity to alter the atomic and molecular structure of phenomena simply through his conscious intentionality. The number of experiments done on this capacity (known in Sanskrit as shaktipat) that have been done in coordination with Mr. Trivedi is quite extraordinary—so far, over 5,000 empirical studies by universities and scientific research organizations all over the world (including the world renowned materials scientist Dr. Rustum Roy at the University of Pennsylvania).
So I took the bait and did some deep searching of the internets to find these studies. But I couldn't find any of the 5,000 scientific studies - aside from Trivedi's own site, there is almost nothing on the web (nothing from a known, peer-reviewed journal), and Dr. Rustum Roy is not exactly a reliable source - he is a very vocal proponent of homeopathy.

So what's up with all of this?

Bob posted an interesting take on Wilber's history of wanting to identify and attach himself to individuals who appear to support his "integral" model of spiritual development.

Has Ken Wilber jumped the shark?

want to make clear right from the start that Ken Wilber has authored several of my all-time favorite nonfiction books. I dig a lot of his work and use his “four quadrants” to frame my own understanding of Integral Health. I remember reading Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and thinking to myself, “This guy is the shit!” Yesterday, however, after reading Wilber’s latest blog post (A Narrative on Guruji), I couldn’t help but think, “This guy has lost his shit!”

The first thing that struck me as odd about Wilber’s post was the style of presentation, which was riddled with rambling redundancies, poor reasoning, and flat-out bad writing. This from a man capable of exquisitely lucid prose. Now, maybe he meant it as an off-the-cuff type of thing and I’m being a bit unfair, but this is a guy who rarely posts on his own blog, so I was surprised he’d go on record with this scattered post. Then there’s the content of the post, which is a strong public endorsement of a spiritual teacher named Mahendra Kumar Trivedi.
And this:
Wilber seems to have a lot of confidence in the conclusions of one researcher in particular, the “world renowned” Dr. Rustum Roy. It should be noted, however, that Roy, like his associate Deepak Chopra, is not exactly lauded by mainstream scientists, as I’ve seen his name (perhaps unfairly) paired with words like “woo” and “pseudoscience” on more than one occasion (for instance here and here). Of course, there are plenty of science-based crusaders out there who would tear me apart, along with many of my intellectual heroes, so that kind of criticism in-and-of-itself doesn’t put Wilber’s endorsement on shaky ground. Rather, it’s Wilber’s credulity and weak justifications that have me scratching my head, and even cringing in embarrassment at times.
Check out the whole post - and be sure to check out the comments section where Julian Walker makes some very clear and compelling points.

It's sad to see this pattern repeating itself with Wilber (think Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Marc Gafni, and so on).

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