Ken Wilber has tried to make an evolutionary theory of everything. But any theory of everything implicates the so-called nondual bias. Nondual bias arises when you describe something as nondual, while forgetting that you can´t describe anything without implying the negation of it.
Ken Wilber calls his theory integral, claiming that criticism already is included in it, and just makes it stronger.
But Wilber is also known to get almost childishly angry over critique. So, in his view there are apparently honest criticism and dishonest criticism. Honest criticism is the form of criticism which makes his system stronger. I just wonder what that kind of critique is? A Wilber-sanctioned form of critique?
In his article What We Are, That We See. Part I: Response to Some Recent Criticism in a Wild West Fashion, he is getting really angry over critique, and is imaging himself as Wyatt Earp constantly facing challengers. It seems like he is identifying his nonsense-intellectual system with the nondual truth itself. He does not seem to realize that a system can´t be nondual, since it always will be facing the negation of it. So, if someone dares to criticize it, it is as if he believes that the critic had criticized this nondual truth itself.
Wilber seems to require that if critics should be taken seriously, they must accept his system in advance, and thereby accept their roles as first-tier thinkers (on a lower mental state than Wilber is). According to Wilber you can have discussions about elements within his system, which thereby contribute to the growth of his system, but the system itself is unquestionable true. In fact, Wilber can only take a critic seriously if he somehow is a supporter of his system, or said in another way: the unknown truth a critic might come up with, can only be accepted as truths if they are fitting into Wilber´s idiosyncratic beliefs. Somewhere in the article, which is lesser filled (though not completely as you will see) with emotional attacks on critics and exaggerated thoughts about his own intellectual brilliance, he writes:
Any honest criticism that I find I take seriously, at least long enough to see if there are any important truths that I might be missing. There is an old saying, “You do not understand your opponent’s ideas until you can argue them better than he can”—and I take that seriously. Some critics are fantastic in the number of new truths you can learn from them; and some critics are just worthless—I mean Meyerhoff is adolescent postmodernism 101 with an attitude; I’ve already gone over his ideas 10 times more acutely than he has, and I did so years ago. This is why such critics keep saying things like, “Well, um, gosh, I guess Wilber in his latest writings has started to move in the direction I recommend, but, um, I’m gonna attack his old ideas that he held a decade ago cuz I really want to get noticed. If I take down Wyatt Earp, I’ll make a name for myself overnight.” But please notice that the reason that “my recent writings” (although the ones you critics are referring to have actually been out there now for over FIVE and sometimes TEN fucking years, you morons)—but the reason they have “moved in this direction” is that a decade ago I began reading the people that these critics just discovered, I fully got what they were saying (I can explain them a hell of a lot better than the critics’ loopy writings have), and I immediately INCORPORATED their important perspectives and truths into my work, which was one of the reasons for moving from wilber-4 to wilber-5.
But in general, good criticism shows me new areas that I can include. I FUCKING LIVE FOR GREAT CRITICISM, IT MEANS MORE TRUTH FOR A MORE INTEGRAL MODEL.
In short, it’s just ridiculous to say that I try to hide from this criticism, I live on it! Every new truth I find, I rejoice. That’s why it went from wilber-1 all the way to wilber-5. This is what second tier does automatically anyway, it takes new truths wherever it finds them and weaves them into larger tapestries. It can’t help doing so! If I find one, I am ecstatic! So mark this well: Only a first-tier mentality would even think that one would run away from good criticism. But then these folks…. Okay, I won’t even take a shot at that one, too easy.
This is also the surrealistic kind of discussion you are getting involved in if you talk with Wilber´s disciples. That he in this article writes so childish (the above quote is light in comparison with the rest of the article), and hereafter not is deleting it as a moment of lost control, is apparently because that this writing style also is something he can find justification of in his system (if he should decide to delete it I have saved it in the Internet Archive - click here). The article is a part of his “Wyatt Earp series”, and written in a “Wild West fashion”. So, if critics, like me, might think that Wilber in this article is going too far into a use of emotional language (unacceptable in philosophy), then this is because they don´t understand that this is an integral part of his system as well. Wilber is sometimes talking about shadow projections, but such are also being justified as elements in his system. So, just like Hegel, Wilber´s historicist evolutionary theory of everything can be used to justify just about anything as steps upwards on the evolutionary ladder, which in itself can´t be questioned. It has developed into a totalitarian ideology. An ideology is characterized by that it doesn´t accept critique (see my article The Difference between Philosophical Education and Ideological Education).
I guess it is the thought about that also criticism (and also all thoughts which anyone in the future will come up with) already is a part of Wilber´s system, that make his followers believe it is so brilliant. Wilber has already philosophized everything, not only in this Universe, but also in all other Universes, the Multiverse as he calls it. But in reality it is just a ultra-light version of Hegelian dialectics, which is the philosophy behind both Communism and Nazism. It is Orwellian doublethink.
Fundamental speech is an act of creating. And unspeaking is uncreating. If we turn to Tolkien´s philosophy, you can say that the two sides of the One Ring are ideology and will to power. Gandalf will not utter the words on the Ring in the Black Speech of Mordor in the Shire, but only at the Council of Elrond in Rivendell, and even in that safe and holy place the words summon something of the presence of their Hellish source: “Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatuluk agh burzun-ishi krimpatul.” (One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them).
So the power of deception, which is over others´ minds (symbolized by the invisibility given by the Ring), is an essential complement to the power over others´ bodies and lives and actions, which is also given by the Ring. Wilber´s Ring-system is the wish for total power over all. You don´t learn how to think for yourself in Wilber´s Ring-system, as you do in philosophy, you learn how to speak Wilber´s nonsense-language, and to repeat his ideas, like the Sophists taught. And people can only be accepted if they fit into the preconceived dogmas of the system. Wilber´s disciples can´t deny that this is precisely what they do and what they are taught. We have seen it a lot of times before. Machiavelli and Hitler both understood that principle. But we haven´t seen it in the disguise of New Age spirituality.
The Ring cuts us off from community, and contact. We are alone with the Eye. There is no room for two I´s. there is no We in the I, no room for an Other in the One Ring. In the false nonduality of the Ring-system, there is no room for the negation. It is not a means to any further end. It is Nietzsche´s “will to power” as itself the end. Machiavelli taught that the end justified the means; Nietzsche taught that the means (power) justified the end.
Evolutionary models like Wilber´s are comparatively easy to invent. Large New Age systems such as The WingMakers Project and The Human Design System, have made their own evolutionary models. Even the American futurist and transhumanist Ray Kurzweil has his own “6 Epochs of Technological Evolution”, where he believes (and actually desires) that the 6 epoch is when humans are melting together with machines and are migrating out into space.
This raises a question about the constant celebration of Wilber as “The Smartest Man on Earth,” “The Brilliant scientist,” “The Einstein of Consciousness,” “The Greatest Philosopher in History.”, etc., etc., etc. Even his critics often refer to him as a “giant” or “fallen giant” as for example Mark Manson (read his account). This shows a peculiarity within New Age, where a myth can live outside the real world, as for example quantum mysticism. Let me emphasize: Ken Wilber is not a giant, not before or after his “fall”. If he was, why is it he isn´t mentioned with a word on philosophical institutions around the world? (forget conspiracy theories as explanation). Well, maybe because he isn´t the great philosopher he constantly is being claimed to be. The same integrated knowledge of different fields can be found in almost any introduction to philosophy, but insiders (without philosophical education) will believe that this is Wilber´s own insight. In fact, it is a question whether his model at all can be labeled as philosophy, and not some kind of historical or sociological model; or maybe most accurate: a psychological model. There is no trace of philosophical argumentation in his work. It is all explanations. And his reaction to the critique which arised when his work began to get awareness outside the closed New Age circle, exposes a complete lack of ability for philosophical argumentation. It is also a question whether Hegel´s and Marx´s work can be categorized as philosophy, and not a historical model (Hegel) or economical model (Marx). Wilber is just re-inventing old trends in historicism, nothing more. The same is seen in other large New Age systems. The account of Wilber as a giant comes from insiders, or former insiders. Outsiders have a complete other perception of Wilber, especially people who are educated within the fields Wilber is claimed to be the greatest expert in ever.
What I especially would like to hear more of, is philosophers´ opinions of Wilber´s work. This would be interesting, since Wilber is characterized as a philosopher. The critique mostly comes from different branches of science, whether it is the natural or human sciences. Such critique contains the explanatory style of the single branches, but lacks philosophical argumentation.
Evolutionism (historicism) is a newer, strictly European, ideology, beginning with the scientific revolution (note that evolutionism hasn´t anything to do with evolutionary biology). It is a linear view of life (vertical or horizontal), which is in opposition to all earlier views of life, which are cyclic. It focuses on the up-cycles and denies, or are explaining away, the down-cycles.
Where Kurzweil is talking about the “evolution of technology”, Wilber is talking about “the evolution of consciousness”. But the concept of “the evolution of consciousness” is wrong, when you look at the original wisdom traditions. Here, consciousness doesn´t evolve, it wakes up. And that´s purely an individual thing. Consciousness doesn´t evolve from something, or towards something. It is. The traditional view is, that consciousness is transcendent in relation to all laws, whether physical laws or historical laws, or any other law. It is a negation. If consciousness should evolve, you would need to reduce it to physical or historical laws. In both cases you end in reductionisms such a physicalism or historicism. Wilber ends in the same kind of historicism as Hegel, Marx, Oswald Spengler and Auguste Comte (in my online book Philosophical Counseling with Tolkien, I have suggested a double-aspect theory of consciousness based on the original wisdom traditions – see the chapter on Metaphysics, Ontology, part 1: The Problem of Mind).
Evolutionism is rooted in the Western mind in a degree that it is almost impossible for us to see life in any other way than as line towards constant progress. But the Indian culture, for example, has, with its Yuga teachings, another view. Let me finish with a quote from the mythologist Joseph Campbell, who in his book Myths of Light, has described the Yuga ages. He writes of the present Yuga, the Kali Yuga, which interestingly enough also is called the Age of the One:
Finally, of course, there comes the Age of the One, when the cow is on only a single leg. This is our unfortunate time, the age of the mixture of castes, when nobody knows his own true nature. And the worst of it is that people won´t read the scriptures, and when they do they don´t understand them. This is the age of deterioration. And if – from the traditional perspective – you want to have any proof of the deterioration, just look at everything that we call progress: it is an exteriorization of life; the machines are taking over. And everything that we in the West consider to be evidence of progress, is, in terms of this ancient tradition, evidence of decline. So the world is getting worse (page 58).
Ken Wilber update (the above blog post is taken from this update)