Monday, October 16, 2006

Simply Too Much...

While preparing a review of Integral Spirituality I was -- again -- struck by the many times Wilber uses the word "simply". In my opinion, this is a rethorical device that has run out of hand. For those who did not follow the Wyatt Earp saga, the first time I mentioned this phenomenon in my blog posting Boldness Revisited, it earned me the following, historical and revealing comment from Wilber: "... simply suck my dick." However, when you look at it more closely, it's really weird.

For the fun of it, I did a word count of "simply" in the manuscript of Integral Spirituality. What do you think? It doesn't occur 20 times, 50 times, 100 times. It occurs 268 times. Simply too much...

The tendency to simplify things in this book is stretched to the limits. It's as if Wilber is making a desparate attempt to explain Foucault or De Saussure or Nagarjuna to the hip hop generation, but is constantly afraid of losing their attention. (We are assured ad nauseam: "Don't worry if these terms are unfamiliar, we will cover that important topic later." "Don't worry, we will summarize this later." "Don't worry, it is much simpler then it sounds!").

The book -- the cover of which wouldn't look bad on a Wicca manual, by the way, with it's moody colors and sharp forms -- has a lot of integral, but little spirituality in it. And the connection between the two is almost absent. We read about 8 types of methodology. But never does it get applied to religion or spirituality, except for the first two or three, and even then. We get presented with the Wilber-Combs Lattice -- the theoretical center piece of the book -- but never does this get fleshed out with empirical findings, or even striking examples. Nor are possible objections to this model raised -- quite a normal procedure in scientific literature.

What is more, it takes Wilber 178 pages to get to the topic of religion proper (in a book the main text of which is little over 200 pages). By then, the reader has had to endure shameless self-promotion ("If you like this, join Integral Institute!", "integral is the best, the most comprehenseive, the most effective, the most..."), many, many claims and even more statements (that get repeated over and over again -- "As we have seen..." where it should read "As you have seen me state..."), but very few good and solid arguments, or even detailed, real life examples.

And when, at rare occasions, research does get mentioned (but not quoted, not referenced), it is the same old research (the boomers' protest against Vietnam, meditation speeds up development, etc.) that has been mentioned in Wilber's previous books, the use of which has been critically evaluated by many (Harris, Falk, Evans). All that has by now become part of integral mythology, I am afraid.

But stay tuned! Coming up, after the break! Keep visiting this blog, and Integral World, where hundreds of the world's best Wilber critics have gathered for a historical meeting... Ooops, sorry.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Kyösti Tufalipessi said...

Frank has some good points in this post.

Have you guys read Frank's "Seven Spheres" published in his Integral World website? Better stuff than Ken's writings? More scientific?

Wouldn't it be interesting if Jeff Meyerhoff reviewed "Seven Spheres"?! I would like to read that review!

3:46 AM  
Blogger John said...

Bravo! Wilber oversimplifies to the point of absurdity. Few solid examples or support? Sounds like typical Wilber to me. It all rings so hollow after you begin to see past the clever verbiage. The emperor has no clothes.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,

Wilber's current book is I think aimed at a more modern/post-modern audience (suggested as much in the title). I personally applaud the fact that his model is being explained in a more simple - not to me necessarily simplistic - way. I think it's also now doing so in a way that's quite 'elegant' - a word that's used in the first few chapters.

Is Wilber's integral model really all that 'simple'? I don't feel that that's at all the case.

For whatever reason, you've become a far more negative critic. I think that's good in a way, but I also don't think you're totally examining your whole reasons for doing so, and I also think you're doing a certain amount of damage to anything 'integral' long term; for me any criticism is tempered by a more balanced inclusive perspective.

Phil Ord.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Kyösti Tufalipessi said...

Wilber simplifies. It's good to have a discussion about wheter he oversimplifies or not. Isn't saying that "Wilber oversimplifies to the point of absurdity" a oversimplification itself?

Can we have any maps without simplification? I think a map is always a simplified picture of the territory. Shouldn't we be explicit about the purpose of the map when we are drawing the line between necessary simplification vs. oversimplification? For what purposes does Wilber's stuff give a good overview? For what purposes it is too simplistic?

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Mushin said...

Hi Frank,

found it an interesting critique, simply good!

I visited a event of "Whats Enlightenment?" about this book in Berlin. Also met the local Ken Wilber group there for the first time.
If I were to chracterize them I would say a rather masculine club. (17 men 4 women). Very brainy kind of people.

What is called "Integrative Spirituelity here should be called "Cognitive Spirituality".

Much Love,
Mushin

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Frank,

I was just wondering whether you are in personal contact with Ken discussing the criticisms raised on your site in detail via phone or so...

if there was not more actual communication between you and Ken than his and your blog-entries I could simply not imagine how any form of mutual understanding should be possible...

and IF you are in personal contact with Ken, could you please ask him whether he could enable posting comments on his blog?

appreciate your work... salam

11:29 AM  
Blogger cees de groot said...

hey frank ...

those 3 dots "..." do they also stand for "simply"

isnt it just a simple symbol for silence and take a breath taking in "an notion"?

neu ree bah
cees

9:03 AM  
Blogger m alan kazlev said...

Thanks for the very informative review Frank!

Wilber's case is an interesting one; compare the tone of his earlier works with his current writings. Now he and his followers have no choice but to circle the wagons in order to defend his indefensible position.

Utimately, just another new age cult, headed by a brilliant and charismatic but self-absorbed leader.

Kyösti Tufalipessi said

Have you guys read Frank's "Seven Spheres" published in his Integral World website?

I have, and I was very pleased to see Frank posting some Theosophy. Gets away from the monotony of wilberian theory. A true integral paradigm or metaparadigm has to be built on and has to honour many perspectives; it cannot just be built on one while debegrating all the others.

Better stuff than Ken's writings? More scientific?

If you want pseudoscience, take a look at Ken's recommendation of Creationim / Intelligent Design. Theosophy is esotericism, it isnt science. So it isnt that one disproves the other. Whereas Wilber's creationism (such as his "half a wing" attempt at refutation of Darwinism in ABHOE) has been scientiofically refuted a number of times, including by myself.

Wouldn't it be interesting if Jeff Meyerhoff reviewed "Seven Spheres"?!

Why should he? Nowhere does Frank make claims to be (nor do his friends claim that he is) the greatest living philosopher, or to have included but also transcended Plotinus, Shankara, Sri Aurobindo, and every other spiritual teacher that came before him, while at the same time denegrating those same teachers by saying that because their teachings are "metaphysical" they are "abstractions" whereas he is the first to have the true explanation of things, to be a bodhisattva and act bodhisattvically in all that he does, to recommend his readers follow abusive gurus, to claim that his own followers constitute an elect above everyone else (second tier, turquoise), or that anyone who posts anything criticising him or supporting KW in this blog are "green" and "lower tier", etc.

If Frank, or I, or anyone else were to make such inflated claims, then by all means Jeff Meyerhoff, Geoff Falk, and for that matter you too, should criticise us and hold us to account for doing so!

Ultimately, the first requirement of any authentic spiritual path is humility.

It is not possible to have genuine enlightenment AND a big ego; the two are mutually contradictory. With an ego and higher experiences together, then you are stuck in what Sri Aurobindo refers to as the Intermediate zone, and that can be worse than having no experiences at all!

1:09 PM  
Blogger Pissed Off Old Man said...

Wibler is just trying to wrestle it to the ground with his mind , I suspect deep down he is disappointed with his spiritual realisations and with age he is getting scared that it wont happen thats why he seeks so much recognition , if other people recognise he is maybe it doesnt matter that he isnt totally authentic, all this stuff is coming from fear , he doubt himself and thats why he reacts in such stong ways, the truth is he should drop everything now and lcok himself away and resolve this within himself, if he did this he might well find what he is seeking, the clue is in the number of books he needs to read, he is just churning through stuff and re marekting it, folks like Aurobindo didnt need to do that as their realisation didnt come from the mind, Wilber or Cohen types are just gifted mimics, kind of like watching a gifted person play Mozart there is a genius in the gift but its not really Mozart.

Cohen's the most obvious at it, he steals from everyone , most grandson call it a remix, which is apparently a common term in music these days. You take another persons are and change it and remix into something new.

So Cohen takes something like say personal enlightenment and calls it impersonal enlightenment. Its just playing with words, its attachment to concepts which is the same as attachment to anything it causes suffering eventually.

Spiral dynamics is the most outstanding example in Wiblers case, its a load of BS, what possible relevance is a system like this have to the world? its of almost zero practical use to anyone but he rabbits on about it without pause. There is a system here you take another persons work, you add some color coding then you write some books and charge for seminars.

I suspect in the big scheme of things they are a grain of salt in history , they might distract a few people on the way through and in Cohens case cause pain and heartache but they are hardly relevant to humanity as a whole.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous seth k. said...

Frank -

A long time Wilber reader/fan myself, I have to agree with much of your review of Ken's new book.

Best,

Seth

7:41 AM  
Anonymous Rousku said...

Have you guys read Ken's new manuscript yet? It's called Integral Politics - The many faces of terrorism. What's the matter.. why isn't anybody bashing it already?! You can find the link in www.kenwilber.com

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Frank,
SIMPLY SUCK IT.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. Prompt how to get acquainted with the girl it to me to like. But does not know about it
I have read through one history
Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.

People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.

A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:

". . . but the moment I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth, and I choked back my tears, since I didn't want anyone next door to hear me . . .

"And now it's really over. I finally realized that I must do my school work to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions of the Secret Annex are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but . . . it remains to be seen whether I really have talent . . .

"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies.

"I haven't worked on Cady's Life for ages. In my mind I've worked out exactly what happens next, but the story doesn't seem to be coming along very well. I might never finish it, and it'll wind up in the wastepaper basket or the stove. That's a horrible thought, but then I say to myself, "At the age of 14 and with so little experience, you can't write about philosophy.' So onward and upward, with renewed spirits. It'll all work out, because I'm determined to write! Yours, Anne M. Frank

For those of you interested in reading some of Anne Frank's first stories and essays, including a version of Cady's Life, see Tales From the Secret Annex (Doubleday, 1996). Next: Reviewing and revising your writing

11:35 AM  
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12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a sad blog, simply sad ...

why the hell are you wasting your time?

it looks like your goal in life is to become Ken Wilber

well, he's better than you in being Ken Wilber

you're simply wasting your time

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meaning is context-bound, yes?
"Frank V. is simple."
"Oh,no, Frank V. is simply the cutest guy in the blogoshere."
Still want to count?

6:14 AM  

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