Monday, December 11, 2006

Robert Godwin in What Is Enlightenment?

[Welcome to the Bobbleheads. Try some of the integral links in the side column to get a little perspective on the Bob's worldview.]

I was surprised to see an interview with Robert Godwin in the current issue of What Is Enlightenment? Some of you know him better as Gagdad Bob of the One Cosmos blog. The interview didn't get too much into politics, so many readers of WIE? will stop by One Cosmos and be blown away by his hatred of all things liberal.

He has been dismissive of Ken Wilber's work in the past, but he references him in the article and has also blogged his responses to his reading of the excerpts of the new work, Integral Politics: The Many Faces of Terrorism (Part 1 and Part 2). He tends to agree with Wilber's contention that you can tell a liberal from a conservative by how they answer the question of Why Do We Suffer? [Liberals: it's life conditions; Conservatives: it's inner conditions.]

Godwin sides with conservative view here, and he completely rejects the liberal view as far as I can tell. The reality is obviously somewhere in the middle, which I think is the point of an integral politics. But I doubt you'll ever see Godwin take that perspective.

I was really quite surprised to see him in the pages of WIE? I could say a lot of harsh things about him, as I have in the past, but lets leave it at I don't see much value in presenting his views in a magazine about enlightenment. Enlightened he is not.


Steve said...

Bill, as you know, I've had my public disagreements with Gagdad, and I share your view that his political philosophy is too one-sided. I also believe, as you probably do, that his "spirituality" consists of dubious assumptions woven together into a kind of theology quite detached from the reality of Reality.

However, I have to hand it to him that he's an erudite and brilliant man and a dazzling writer; that, agree with him or not, he's channeled a lot of time and effort into developing a systematic perspective of the world, human beings, and God that has a certain aesthetic beauty and impressive coherence; that his provocative opinions can inspire a good deal of thought that, in figuring out what's wrong with his take on things, can help one to clarify and improve one's own; and I've discovered in private e-mail discussions with him that he can be a gracious and engaging, if nevertheless strongly opinionated, correspondent.

Beyond that, I suspect that he's a good husband and father, although I don't know where he finds the time to be either, and a competent psychologist.

I haven't read his interview in WIE yet, but I knew he had done one, and I even heard a sample from it quite sometime back on "WIE Unbound." He's told me in private that he enjoyed the experience and found Andrew Cohen, for all the bad things that have been said about him, to be a "sweet" (I think that was the term he used) and engaging guy.

As for his blog, as much as I question or outright disagree with so much of what he posts there, I think it's one of the most stimulating reads in the blogosphere and, consequently, an Internet treasure, much like that kooky New Age blog Integral Options Cafe. :-)

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't mind disagreement, but why lie? When have I ever been dismissive of Wilber's work? In my book I even said that he was without a doubt the most important theorist of transpersonal psychology and integral spirituality, and that "no human who deserves ther name should be unfamiliar with his work." Does that sound dimissive?

And obviously, with regard to politics, my whole point is that I am trying to rescue liberalim from leftism, the latter of which being an illiberal ideology that has hijacked liberalism over the past 30-40 years. If one cannot see the distinction, great confusion will result.

Steve said...

How do you define "lie"?

william harryman said...


Welcome to IOC. If I am wrong about you being dismissive, I apologize -- but even in the post I linked to you say something about "approximately 1,817 vertical levels and stages of human development" -- that sounds mighty dismissive. And I thought I had recalled at least one other occasion when I visited (or commented on) your blog that you dismissed Wilber (but I might be wrong and it might have been Spiral Dynamics that you dismissed). I haven't read your book -- in all honesty your blog turned me off to the point that I had no desire to read your book.

Having read your interview, I am more likely to give the book a chance.

As far as the politics -- I agree that liberalism needs to be rescued from relativism and a focus on the leftist beliefs. But you tend to throw out the baby with that bathwater from what I have read on your blog. Maybe if I stuck around and read more of your writing I'd see something different, but I also saw the way you treated Steve and had no desire to frequent a blogger who is so hostile to other points of view.

Steve indicates that he has had private correspondence with you that changed his opinion -- I'm glad.

And to Steve,

Thanks as always for stopping by this crystal-gazing, wacky New Age blog of mine. I value your opinion. I actually suspected long ago that Bob might be a good guy and that Gagdad is just an online persona. But having no experience to the contrary, I haven't bothered to find out. My loss.


Anonymous said...


I know better than to jump into the fray of a catfight when I know and appreciate the Bill cat but know very little about the Gaddag (never heard of him before today, haven't read his book or the WIE interview). A few quick stops on the Net and his Wilber post today on amber politics was enough for me to form a few snap judgments, though.

1. Gaddag doesn't know Wilber at all. Who could know Wilber and write such drivel as "if informed by myth Wilber means informed by Christianity then he is dead wrong"? I could cite a dozen other incoherencies in the same blog post. AND YET ... it's a useful post because it shows that Wilber's communication style obviously isn't helping him to reach folks like Dagbad.

2. Bagdad apparently has very flattering comments about Wilber in his book, if what he says in these comments is true.

3. For Dadgab to praise Wilber so highly without having the ability to understand him is rather worrisome. I'm not moving Dagbag to the top of my pile of reading list anytime soon, though I am intrigued enough to pop into his blog for a while. I'd love to find out I'm wrong about him, but if you find him as annoying as you apparently do I suspect I would feel much the same way.

- Joe Perez

Anonymous said...

P.S.: Another snap judgment. I think Gagbad isn't orange/blue. I suspect he's really at station 5 of the Kronos mandala (yellow altitude and green depth). I could be wrong, but I have the uncanny ability to smell station 5 a mile away while rubbing my rabbit's foot and quartz rock. ;-)

william harryman said...

Hey Joe,

Thanks for the PS, made me laugh out loud -- much needed. (The orange/blue is SDi, not Wilber -- I haven't adopted Wilber's color scheme yet, and likely won't. I'm trying to avoid the color thing and see if I can still speak integralese.)

I thought about responding to Bob's post today, but it would have taken a couple of hours to refute the errant thinking and false assumptions, so I said, "Screw it." He doesn't respond well to those who question him -- tends to dismiss them as trolls.

Give him a read for a couple of days and see if you agree.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Im from Melbourne in the land of Oz--somewhere in the middle of the rainbow.
I think the said Bob is appallingly ignorant even more so when he writes a book titled One Cosmos. His rantings on OneCosmos have no relation whatsoever to the many themes promoted by WIE magazine. None. He is totally embedded in flatland and a full on apologist for the dominant descender/dominator meme.He certainly isnt enlightened nor is there any trace whatsoever of a Heart awakened intelligence in his work.
He uses Reagan,Steyn,Novack et al in support of his arguments. Novack & Steyn would be appalled at most of the contents of WIE magazine---an exercise in confused "relativism". They are also both full on apologists for the Pentagon/Capatalist death machine which is grinding everything to rubble. Both humankind and the planetary ecosystems that support life.

As for Reagan this reference sums up the collective psychosis of the Reagan years.

Anonymous said...

For supposedly integral thinkers, you guys can sure be pretty narrow-sighted.

Bob and Ken are merely drawing different maps of the same territory. Ken from the botom up, and Bob from the top down.

Bob interprets reality from a stance of Absolute Truth. He starts with universal absolutes and looks at their relative manifestations.

He maps reality based on how closely an experience corresponds with Absolute prototypes and archetypes. His thinking is quite similar to (and heavily influenced by) Christian Hermeticism and The Zohar.

Wilber on the other hand, approaches the same reality and the same truth from the opposite direction. Ken gathers all the available information, explains how the puzzle pieces fit together, and comes up with a transcendent model of Reality.

To simplify, Bob looks at the whole to explain the parts, whereas Ken assembles the parts to expose the whole.

There are dangers with both of these models.

Ken's model of reality is built up from all available informational components. But a lot of information is incomplete or blatantly false. This "bad" information is indeed an important piece of the total puzzle, but only insofar as it points away from itself and towards the Truth.

Bob's top down model is after all, just a model, and all models will be flawed in respect to Absolute Truth. While the Truths Bob points to are timeless and unchanging, they are corrupted when used to describe the relative world in which we live. This is the fault in Bob's method. Absolute Truths cannot adequately explain their reflections. They can only show how far the reflections actually are from the prototype. (Bob will readily concede this, I'm sure)

So please, you supposedly "integral" thinkers, don't be so dismissive of Bob and his arguments. His philosophy should be embraced by any truly integral thinker.

You misinterpret his stance because it comes from the opposite direction of Wilber's. Bob is dealing with cosmic absolutes and using those absolutes to explain our world. This is why it seems so harsh and one-sided to you. Because he speaks from Total, Unchanging Eternal Absolute Truth.

Bob sees Truth more clearly than any I have ever encountered. Don't be offput by the certainty and boldness that flows from his genuine realization.

william harryman said...

What you say about Bob may be true, I haven't seen it. KW does do the top down thing, it just hasn't been his latest focus because of the other work he has been doing -- see The Atman Project, one of the older books. It has some stuff that KW has revised over the years, but it still has the basic truth of his model for the interior-individual quadrant.

As far as I can see, Bob has the compassion of a rabid pitbull. If he were really in touch with Truth (capital T kind of truth), he'd be a lot less angry, condescending, and bitter.

His philosophy, as near as I can tell, is conservative dogma. He claims classical liberalism, but what I see is exclusionary thinking, hatred, and jingoism. Not what I'm looking for in a thinker, and certainly not integral in any way.


Anonymous said...

Bill, I agree with your assessment of Dr. Godwin's work, but at the same time I also agree with Steve that he is a brilliant and lucid writer, and I do try my best to incorporate some of his insights into my own frameworks.

That said, his blog is not the work of a realized person (realized people are rare as all hell, of course!), and there's too much head-consciousness not balanced by enough heart-consciousness on it. Hence all the pervasive scapegoating and so on of leftism, and the lashing out at anyone who disagrees with him.

Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, whom he (sort of) admires, by the way, both came from a pretty leftist-atheist background. The Mother in particular was openly pro-feminist even after her occult training and spiritual realization, though she said that the status of women was ultimately a spiritual problem. It goes without saying that they went on to become two of the greatest realizers that ever lived. As a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and Mother, I have found much of Dr. Godwin's work to be very much against the spirit of their behavior and teachings (and he seems to be questioning evolutionary spirituality lately anyway and moving more toward neo-Traditionalism, which is too dualistic and limited for me).

Still I find Dr. Godwin's work provocative and his overall goal -- of combating the condescending moral relativism of the far left -- to be a good one. And some of his insights are indeed quite marvelous and resonate with me deeply, but I have to wade through much muckraking and many ad hominem attacks to find gems like that.