June 25, 2006

Highest level of critical scholarship

Ken Wilber Disappoints Me Yet Again spiritofnow (spiritofnow) wrote,@ 2006-06-23 17:50:00
I confess I am not a Wilber scholar and cannot comment on the validity of his overall philosophy. But increasingly Wilber's scholarship has seemed unreliable to me. SES has a massive bibliography and a set of endnotes, which look very impressive, but once you start going to the primary sources you very often find that they are not saying what Wilber says they are (he clearly misrepresents Sri Aurobindo, for example). Reading the critiques by esotericists M. Alan Kazlev and Arvan Harvat, and skeptic Geoffrey D. Falk convinced me a long time ago to take Wilber with a grain of salt, but I think after this latest development the man has completely lost credibility as far as I'm concerned...
Of course some of my "turquoise" Integral friends will now say, "You've got the Mean Green Meme!" ;-) What can I say? I am increasingly unimpressed by the entire Spiral Dynamics developmental system. Not only is it not peer reviewed, it's used by everyone in the Integral community to silence debate. Frank Visser aptly points out:
  • When psychoanalysis was criticized, critics were labelled "sexually repressed".
  • When Marxism was criticized, people were told they had the wrong "class consciousness".
  • When Integralism is criticized, we are diagnosed as being infected with the "Mean Green Meme".
  • Can't anyone see the circularity in these closed, ideological systems?
  • Isn't this type of thinking incredibly...boring?

I could go on and on, but Michel Bauwens, Matthew Dallman, Geoff Falk, Frank Visser and others have already done an excellent job of criticizing Ken Wilber. I just can't take the man seriously anymore. He strikes me as immature and childish, hardly someone who purportedly goes into nirvikalpa samadhi in a matter of seconds (for that matter, half the so-called spiritual gurus out there have feet of clay -- just go check out the landscape for yourself). Personally, if I were in his position, I would give up this notion of an "Integral Institute" or whatever entirely. The whole idea is stupid and cultic. Does anyone ever say, oh, let's set up a Rationalist University? Or an Existentialist University? Of course not. An academic institution is a place where you are supposed to have as many different views as possible. That is the point. Intellectual, academic and cultural exchange...

Some of you might be interested in reading Geoffrey Falk's Stripping the Gurus, which I have linked to before as well. I could not stand his acerbic style in the beginning, but I now understand much better where he is coming from, since he was abused at the Yogananda Self-Realization Fellowship. Moreover, his references are usually rock-solid, though sometimes I do take issue with him when his criticisms just sound like nit-picking to me (Visser notes that he has turned Wilber-bashing into an art). Nevertheless, do check out what he has to say.
Increasingly I'm starting to sound (and feel) like a mystical radical agnostic (ala David C. Lane), though moments of bhakti keep coming and going. I think this is fine for now, as I need to focus on more practical things for some time, like getting myself into a graduate school.I meditate in the mornings with Hazrat Inayat Khan's daily meditations, which are very simple and for beginners (no hardcore philosophy in them, thank God), and I highly recommend them as they are beautiful. The nature meditations would probably appeal even to secular people. Though I don't get enough time, I do try to read Sri Aurobindo (he also has lovely aphorisms for meditation, though they can be difficult to understand at times), Mirra (the Mother), Hazrat Inayat Khan, and Matthew Fox's essays on Christian mysticism. But most of my time is taken up studying research methodology, epidemiology, and cognitive psychology, as the place I am working at is involving me in some research (if I'm lucky, a publication may be forthcoming)...
Before I end, here is an important quote from the ex-Randian, now spiritual Nathaniel Branden, on the whole problem with trying to build up rational fortresses to defend spirituality (p. 202-11 of his The Art of Living Consciously)...
One thing is clear to me. I won't settle for anything less than the highest level of critical scholarship. To paraphrase David Lane, doubting spiritual teachers or experiences does not necessarily mean one is not spiritual. In fact it could mean the opposite. It could mean that one has so much confidence in "Truth" (whatever that may be) that he or she knows that "doubting" cannot make such a Reality disappear (and in fact looking at the way people react to doubting God, you would think he is a figment of their imagination who might disappear in a puff of air if he is doubted). Those of us who are not intellectually and spiritually lazy will just learn to live with uncertainty. Better that than sacrificing one's integrity.To invoke Pascal, little doubt, little faith; great doubt, great faith.

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