Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Defending Critics

In the past I vigorously defending Ken against his critics; in the last few years I seem to be defending his critics against Ken - by posting their essays in the Reading Room of Integral World.

What has happened? Have I changed? Has Ken changed? Probably both.

In fact, there never has been a general climate in which a Wilber debate can flourish. But recently the cultic overtones have become stronger and stronger.

It is still very much a one-man-show, in this community of the like-minded. Sometimes, it feels like a celebrity show.

More and more, celebrating one's own integral ideas in a safe environment has become the general practice in the integral scene.

Having phone calls on integral theory within the Integral Institute is not my idea of an interesting discussion.

Inviting specialists, critics and even sceptics to the table would be a good start.

An Integral University which will teach integral concepts to students will turn it into a religious school only, not a true university - which is fine, there are many of these religious institutions.

But integral philosophy has a greater potential than that.

26 Comments:

Anonymous M Alan Kazlev said...

Hi Frank

You said:

"An Integral University which will teach integral concepts to students will turn it into a religious school only, not a true university....But integral philosophy has a greater potential than that."

I couldn't agree with you more!!!

It's great that you're raising these issues too! Like you I feel the Integral Movement has great potential. And Wilber himself has a lot to offer as well, but only provided that he can be seen as one intellectual thinker among others, no better or worse than his contemporaries.

For a while now I have been concerned that the Integral movement is turning into a sort of religion; it would be an enormous wasted opportunity if that actually happens!

--- M Alan Kazlev
M Alan's Blog @ Zaadz

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Svein said...

Well,

recently there has been a dialogue (in 3 parts) between Mark Edwards and Wilber at Integral Naked: "Parallel Theories of an AQAL Approach to Relationality"
They have areas of disagreement.

2:25 AM  
Blogger Frank Visser said...

yes, and it took about 3 years to get these guys around the table (mark being what i call a "strong positive" critic.

go figure.

2:59 AM  
Blogger Jeff Meyerhoff said...

Hi Frank,

Thanks for providing a home for us critics. But to be consistent I should criticize you for it. Quite a quandry.

Jeff

4:01 PM  
Blogger John Parker said...

The saddest statement is in his Introduction to Excerpts from Vol.2 of the Kosmos Trilogy:

"...I have ceased responding to critics and am devoting myself to working exclusively with individuals who understand the integral approach (and whose criticism from within is much more accurate and cogent)."

Understand or agree?

John Parker

9:42 AM  
Blogger MD said...

Glad to see you blogging, Frank. I applaud your courage here as well as in your pioneering website.

To the last commenter, given my experience within I-I for 15 months, it is definitely "agree"; and for some (too many), "worship".

To Frank point that "inviting specialists, critics and even sceptics to the table would be a good start." -- I don't hold this view, for I believe rather than encouraging free inquiry within an integral worldview, it encourages meglomania for all involved.

Integral, as a philosophy ever-developing, is rightly considered decentralized. The teat is now everywhere. The sober view hold that it always has been, much to the dismay of those who yearn for a Berlin Wall around Capital I Integral.

Rather than feeding consolidation, I prefer the continued emergence of independent, even maverick, free-thinking, informed creativity in the blogosphere and elsewhere, that renews old truths, breaks through philosophic encampment, and is outwardly intuitive -- namely integrating the old and the new in the public sphere.

To this point: "More and more, celebrating one's own integral ideas in a safe environment has become the general practice in the integral scene."

I'm curious, Frank, what specifics you have in mind here? This seems like a very fruitful topic to explore. I'm sure there are many informed perspectives on this.

harmonic,
md

11:26 AM  
Blogger Paul S. said...

yo frank,
great to see you joining the blogosphere! i'll be readin'....
-paul

3:44 PM  
Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

well said. it's about time you embraced the blogosphere. i say if you want debate, the blogosphere is the (cyber)space to do it.

will be watching the Wilber watchers.

~C4無秩序

5:15 PM  
Blogger Jordan Gruber said...

Hi Frank,

You know, I stood with Ken on the cusp of his becoming a public figure, when I pleaded with him and he eventually allowed me to release our audio interview, Speaking of Everything.

That was in 2001. That wasn't that long ago.

Ken has had a meteoric rise in the social, or public, or inter-subjective, sphere. As well, he has created a substantial on-line and off-line set of holons or memes. The guy is a frackin' genius of the first class, with tremendous amounts of energy that pour through his mind -- why, he really is an avatar of the mind, in my opinion.

And he has a good heart too. However, he has probably moved too fast too quickly for his own sustainable good. But we'll see.

I myself no longer care about -- or try to keep up with -- the details of integral theory. I think it's past that point now. Now it's time to apply, time for praxis, time to see what an integral understanding means when lived in the real world with all one's being.

So, Ken is doing that, and God bless him. But it's not a surprise that there's a bit of cult of personality potentially going on. How could it not? He is a human being, like the rest of us. A genuinely sweet guy, he can also be a bear. But what else would you expect?

I will say that at the first I-I Business meeting, which I was invited to and attended, I thought that a disproportionate amount of time was spent listening to the views of those who were, for whatever reasons, already in Ken's inner circle, to the ultimate detriment of the potential that stood there that day. But again, how else could that have been? Ken is a person, everyone attending was a human being, politics and social systems and groupthink and all the rest -- harmonizations and synchronizations of social and inter-subjective energies -- always goes on.

So, I think Ken should be watched and poked occasionally and held responsible for philosophical or spiritual inconsistencies, but basically I say "bless him" and let him do what he needs to do, what he can do, and what others are called on to do with him.

IMHO.

-- Jordan

8:55 PM  
Anonymous mu said...

Thanks Jordan.

Always good to hear from someone who has actually had contact with the person concerned.

Interesting issues arise. We all need to hold this stuff really gently, using wisdom and compassion at all times, moving forward gently with both. Not grasping anything.

I think and feel that Ken is doing great things, IntegralNaked alone is a fantastic achievement and is already spawning clones.

I'm not a worshipper, been there done that, hopefully transcended and included much of it, but it's interesting to see what shadow elements we can project onto people like Ken.

I'd just call for using what's most beneficial, the stance of the critic is fine, it has it's place.

Even worshipping is allowed, if we're looking down on blue and before then we're just mean green memeing our way through this.

And sometimes the most beneficial view is of Ken as Bodhisattva (Alex Grey's portrait springs to mind).

It's MUCH more beneficial, IMHO, to see him as a manifestation of Wisdom Buddha Manjushi.

As for the University/Religious school, again it depends on where you're looking from and where you are at. Is anyone actually STUDYING there, at I-I? Anyone enrolled for the Online Masters programme?

Like to hear from ya.

/\/\\/

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Frank and Everyone

Great to see a blog like this, one that is trustworthy ;)

As a dedicated student of Integral theory, I consider it my duty to evaluate and keep evaluating my own self, and its ideological relationship to
Integral implications. Therapist fiends of mine always say training in therapy is basically about getting a deep therapeutic interrogation of yourself.

I think the free discussion forum you have created is a wonderful foil for I-I and the ‘authenticated’ Integral community – people inside the fence ;)

As part of my own interrogation I have had to very closely examine the deep rooted postmodern saturation present in my culture – and its impact on my ideological agenda. I think I’ve denied it in the past, and I think I still do – although I hope to a lesser extent. Postmodern influence seems to be just about everywhere.

I don’t think anyone on this board would deny the incredibly important work Wilber has done, and is doing; but simply that there needs to an open discussion, as well as the ‘forging on’ of Wilber’s own Integral empire. I could not agree more, however, just as I’m sure Wilber and his associates constantly interrogate their own postmodern agenda (Wilber himself is explicit about his own green boomeritis), I think this ‘counter-community’ must do the same.

“I feel the Integral Movement has great potential. And Wilber himself has a lot to offer as well, but only provided that he can be seen as one intellectual thinker among others, no better or worse than his contemporaries.”

One of the great liberations I have experienced through studying Wilber’s work is the freedom to make value judgements. Some things, or people, or cultures are more developed, more adequate – and its oppressive not to recognise and acknowledge this.

I don’t think we should be scared that Wilber considers his work – currently – more adequate that most other thinkers. Let him go with it, the changes the I-I and its initiatives could make are I think, enormous. He is – currently – the best Integral theorist alive. Lets keep this discussion going, and go as deep as we can.

Ewan

9:52 AM  
Blogger David Jon Peckinpaugh said...

Hi Frank,

Excellent! Look forward to hearing... reading... more from you. You have done a great service by providing the only known forum for wide-ranging perspectives on this whole Integral spiel. I applaud you, as always, for that--as well as appluading all of those who have taken the time to add to what still proves to be a fruitful discussion.

And like you, I would like to see Ken take on some perspectives outside of the Integral. Like I wrote you before: Why not discuss with Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, etc. and so forth. Would that not prove more informative--as well as entertaining--than more group-speak from a bunch of people where pre-fabricated agreement is already assured? Seems to me like it would. Besides, it would potentially draw people from 'outside' the Integral loop into the Integral loop. In other words, those not familiar with an Integral Methodology could be opened up somewhat to a more inclusive world-view because they are followers of Dennett, Dawkins, and the like.

Cheers,
David Jon Peckinpaugh

10:03 AM  
Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

mu said: "And sometimes the most beneficial view is of Ken as Bodhisattva (Alex Grey's portrait springs to mind)."

i beg to differ. i think it's better to view Ken as a fluffy Borg ;) needless to say, that's my shadow being projected on Ken. but it's a cool shadow, IMHO.

Ewan said: "I don’t think we should be scared that Wilber considers his work – currently – more adequate that most other thinkers."

exactly! i'm no Wilber biatch but i agree with this assessment.

let's just put it this way, when Michael Jordan played basketball, he's the best player in the world. and he knew that. and he embodied that. and we all know that.

when Tiger Woods play golf, he's sometimes moody, sometimes he's an a-hole, but most of the time he is cool. and we all know that he's the best golf player that ever lived (so far).

my point: Wilber is like them. he only plays a different sport. so love or hate the guy, he's still (one of) the best player in this integral sport.

~C4無秩序

P.S. Ken also looks cool as a South Park character. go figure.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous yeshe said...

Frank, you've done it again.

I've been mildly horrified by some of the stuff coming out of I-I lately, particularly the whole ranking of who's in and who's out and by how much (or by how many dollars) It was bad enough having to shell out $10 000 to join the president's circle if you want to meet the man and have him meet you back (I didn't do it, by the way, in case you're wondering: I've got too many mouths to feed). Though obviously, a man only has so much energy for getting through the day, and Ken's well surrounded by those who love him and wish to protect him from "oi poloi".

I can see how much stuff is projected on Ken by some of his critics, but like Mu, I think I'm done with worship and I'm in need of a more challenging debate than anything that the yes-ville of sanitised I-I is offering right now.

So it's GOOD to be here with you Frank! I feel that Europe has much to contribute to the budding integral (with a small i) wave.

10:27 AM  
Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

Yeshe said: "It was bad enough having to shell out $10 000 to join the president's circle if you want to meet the man and have him meet you back (I didn't do it, by the way, in case you're wondering: I've got too many mouths to feed)."

um, those who are spending $10,000 just to meet KW are idiots. nobody has to spend this much just to meet the guy. he will meet up with you if you have the balls and enough respect. i met the guy and the only money i spent was for the plane ticket.

"I think I'm done with worship and I'm in need of a more challenging debate than anything that the yes-ville of sanitised I-I is offering right now."

i applaud you for curing your Wilberitis. for the record, i don't work for I-I. but i know a lot of people in the I-I circle and they are intelligent, passionate, and compassionate. they may be perceived by outsiders as living in a yes-ville, but most of them are not that stupid.

here's an analogy: imagine yourself working for a company. you have a kick-ass CEO. you don't necessarily agree with that CEO all the time, yet you stick it out working for the company because you believe in its corporate mission and vision. so what do you think when people project stuff on you? what do you do?

my two cents.

~C4無秩序

11:17 AM  
Blogger duff said...

Welcome to the blogosphere, Frank! As one who works "inside the fence" and is also a trained philosopher (thus always questioning everything), I'm always interested in critical perspectives. Thank you for sharing yours publicly!

~duff

11:33 AM  
Blogger Dashh said...

Hello Frank,

Finally a blog for critics of integral theory to gather and voice their viewpoints. I actually thought of starting one and posting pieces from various authors in the past so maybe you could do the same with Wilber Watch.

I look foward to checking out WW often...

blessings,

shawn

7:54 AM  
Anonymous russ Volckmann said...

Frank,

I am sure this blog and others will serve an important role in the development and application of an integral perspective. IntegralWorld, the Integral Review and other arenas that support this are vitally important. I hope the Integral Leadership Review can also serve as a somewhat specialized vehicle for the exploration of integrally informed approaches.

As for Ken himself, I have great respect for him and what he has accomplished. I shall continue to draw on his work and that of other I-I participants. After all, they too are important contributors to the development of an approach that no longer treats vital issues simplisticly, but embraces an integral framework.

--- russ

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Matthew said...

~C4Chaos said, "my point: Wilber is like them. he only plays a different sport. so love or hate the guy, he's still (one of) the best player in this integral sport."

Exactly... not perfect... but a damn good player--possibly THE best.

3:31 PM  
Anonymous Bob D. said...

Frank,

Thank you for your online presence and all you do to further integral discourse. My discomfort with KW's and I-I's attitude toward critics and my perception (or projection) of the "cult vibe" has pushed me to cancel my IN subscription. In fact, my final thread on the IN forum was deleted, perhaps justifiably, because it quoted an I-I insider brainstorming about different ways to determine whether or not a person is "integral" or "second tier."

I'm happy to discover that there are alternative places (like right here) where one can engage with others in the larger integral community without having to pay ten bucks a month. Thanks again.

--Bob

2:24 PM  
Anonymous MichaelD said...

Great work again Frank!
Looking forward to more!

2:32 PM  
Blogger wmersy said...

An Integral University which will teach integral concepts to students will turn it into a religious school only, not a true university - which is fine, there are many of these religious institutions.

Well, this sounds quite off, I think... I am just not sure it honors a big enough vision of the integral future... I am thinking that interal university etc is going to be "bigger" than a first-tier religious institution of any known sort... (much more influential on other existing (first-tier) organizations) We are talking of something new and great... Ken Wilber is the ceo and head genius as he should be... I believe he probably very aptly embodies the ceo model that he demonstrated in tami simon clip on I.n. he is open to intelligent input but he makes the final decision... I can think of no one else who comes close to being the right person for this enormous bodhisattvic job he is undertaking...(thankfully he did so much work to prepare for the creation of it) In light of all he is doing I am actually amazed at the level of criticism at times... Isn't it obvious the level of service ken wilber is bringing for the benefit of all beings? Maybe I can find something wrong here and there but then I am always mindful to check my own perceptions because i know I am not in his league in most or any lines of development... My felt sense is one of devotion at the true bodhisattvic demonstration that is taking place before my eyes... call it cultic worship of call it faith in the movement of god... I have to remind myself that perhaps others have not had same experiences of k.w. as I have and so perhaps can't see what I see taking shape... I see K.wilber putting forth superhuman effort not for his own aggrandizement... not for anything of merely samsara... I see only bodhisattva... If bodhisattva makes mistake then bodhisattva makes correction... Although may be my projection, I believe ken wilber is eager, open and ready to learn and apply new ways as he sees/hears them (in gross and sublte realms) ... I am thankful and amazed that there is such a one to fulfill such a huge task... I feel it is disloyal, ungrateful to too easily critize here... only valid criticism is in arena of truth... what is truly best action... undertaken in spirit of quiet listening mindful inquiry... Then if we see something new perhaps the truth of what we see will of itself manfifest response....truth seems to have a way of doing that... And I think Ken W is quite surrendered in truth...

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Yah, and if Ken et cie aren't careful, Integral Institute and the Treatment of Critics will fast turn into a post-modern (fortunately as yet milder version of an) Integral Inquisition. That would truly be a sad development.

2:02 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

PS ...and Integral Institute is fast becoming an Integral Institution, with its own Perpetual Pope (no white smoke needed), High Priests, Dogma and Holy Scriptures.

2:26 AM  
Anonymous Tom said...

PPS ...and of course its band of loyal, Unquestioning Followers completes the institutional model!

3:42 AM  
Anonymous Luke said...

I think that tom has an interesting point, but maybe I can put it differently - who owns integral thought and theory? Who is the final arbiter of what is appropriate integral technique? Apply the question of ownership and arbitration to other disciplines.

2:35 AM  

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