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.