INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
H.B. Augustine graduated from Denison University in May 2012 with a degree in Communication and Philosophy. He is now working on a number of social innovations, including Taggle, Ubiquity University, and Integral Publishing House. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in connecting.
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In Defense of
I will explain why there is absolutely nothing that any genius can posit against Wilber's Integral Theory except for his take on and argument about the nature of evolution.
I can understand the hesitancies many intellectuals have regarding the work of Ken Wilber:
It just seems too good to be true.
Of course postmoderns will be drawn to see and believe such magnificent claims as, “God is real,” “Everything is connected,” “Life has a purpose,” “Science and spirituality can be synthesized,” “All systems of thought can be understood cohesively,” “There is such thing as a soul and it is immortal,” “Human nature is inherently good and pure,” etc., etc., etc.
Because the story of both modernity and postmodernity is one of separation, uncertainty, chaos – purposelessness. So of course someone who is fed up with this story will be drawn toward the mind and soul of someone such as Ken Wilber, just as someone who has suffered from starvation and dehydration in a sandstormy desert will be drawn toward a desert fortress in which a benevolent ruler generously offers a cornucopic abundance of food and drink.
The question, of course, concerns whether this fortress is real, per say – or mere mirage.
In this essay, it is my privilege to argue that such a fortress amid such a desert wasteland is undoubtedly real. I will explain why there is absolutely nothing that any genius can posit against Wilber's Integral Theory except for his take on and argument about the nature of evolution. Then, I will defend Wilber's take on and argument about the nature of evolution, which of course includes the nature and existence of God, and I will conclude by adding my own way of seeing and understanding the matter.
I will do my best to make this article as simple and efficient as possible, as Ockham has a most compelling point.
So – first things first, let's talk about “Integral Theory.” What is Integral Theory? Forget AQAL. Integral Theory is so much more, and simpler, than “All Quadrants, All Levels, All Lines, All States, All Types.” Hell, I mean heaven, Integral Theory shouldn't even be called “Integral Theory.” It should be called “the integral method.”
I am aware that the integral method is to our time what the scientific method was for its time – that is, some 300 years ago, when science was placed under the same intellectual category as integral is placed today.
What is this integral method? Wilber summarizes it best: transcend and include. The integral method is all about wholeness, synthesis, integration. Ironically, in one respect, it is the antithesis of the scientific method. The scientific method is all about “divide and conquer” – breaking any situation or question down into its fundamental, most tangible components, and understanding the fundamental, most tangible relationship between these components in the most fundamental and tangible way. Science is destructive in character because it serves to disprove and criticize.
Integral – or as I will refer from now on, in syntactical tandem with science, “integrience” – is constructive in character because it functions by connecting and validating. Rather than trying to disprove the metaphysical and epistemological validity/soundness of so-called spirituality, integrience intends to demonstrate the inherent harmony and relationship between both spirituality and science, between the world of consciousness and the world of matter.
The integral method, you can see, is essentially pragmatic because it's all about agreement and construction rather than disagreement and destruction. The first question that an integrist asks is, “What's the relationship? What's the greater truth and meaning that these things share?” whereas the first question that a scientist asks is, “What's the problem? What's the discrepancy between Theory A and Theory B and what's the most effective, efficient way of disproving Theory A?”
Science and the scientific method is important and necessary. But, ultimately, wholeness is better, both ethically and ontologically, than is separateness. Wholeness transcends and includes connectedness and separateness. Wholeness sees reality as both consciousness and matter, yin and yang. Wholeness sees the whole vesica piscis, so to speak. On the other hand, separateness sees the world as only matter, or only consciousness, and fails to acknowledge the “other half.” Separateness sees only science as truth, or only spirituality as truth – not both, simultaneously.
Put simply, the integral method, integrience, transcends and includes the scientific method and science, whereas not-integrience does not. The question thus becomes one of pure principle: which is better, both theoretically and practically – wholeness or not-wholeness?
That is what we know as Integral Theory. AQAL is the product of wholeness, the product of integrience, the product of a transcend-and-include rather than divide-and-conquer approach.
I claim that it is utterly impossible for any intellectual samurai to deny that Integral Theory, as defined and explicated above, is false or wrong. It simply isn't. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or the Einstein of Consciousness to comprehend this. It is clear and distinct to know and understand both logically and intuitively.
Let's talk about some of the things that Wilber claims to know, or at least believe, as a result of his integral method. One of the things is a spectrum of consciousness – which means that “sensation” and “matter” are only two wavelengths of this spectrum, and other, deeper wavelengths include “heart,” “mind,” “soul,” and “awareness,” among many frequencies of conscious vibration. For someone who believes that “matter is all that exists,” this spectrum-of-consciousness theory seemingly enters the territory of “New Age hocus-pocus” because, let's face it, Cartesian “dualism” or chakra activation or remote viewing or visiting the Other Side or extraterrestrial sighting or levitation or telekinesis – sound like crazy and impossible realities to the naked mind.
Wilber is right though. These things are real. I don't mean “real” from a “pseudo-scientific” standpoint. I mean it from a hard scientific standpoint. The aforementioned paranormal phenomena are straight-up fact. The evidence is overwhelming. It is both sad and ridiculous that a pseudo-intellectual like James Randi is convinced otherwise, because, for example, Chinese medicine is proof of chi and chakras, nei kung is proof of supernatural powers, Thrive is proof of extraterrestrial visitation, the United States military and Monroe Institute are proof of remote viewing and astral travel. Before you object to these claims, do your homework. Step up to the plate. Devour as much information as you can on these subjects. You will find that such “New Agey” claims and phenomena are real – scientifically real.
Ken Wilber's Integral Theory of Everything is good and true in theory/principle and in practice/experience. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper, the only thing that any genius or intellectual or scholar can criticize Wilber of not justifying sufficiently regards his take on evolution and God. The nondual and the paranormal are fact. But is God? – is ultimate meaning and purpose?
So what if integrience and Integral Theory is legitimate and so what if fantastical, magical things such as psychic and supernatural abilities are real? – even if these things are the case, this does not prove the ultimate question/claim: whether/that life, as a whole, has an ultimate meaning and purpose – whether/that there “is” such “thing” as an Ultimate Being, a Being than Which nothing is or can be greater. God.
God is indeed the ultimate question. It's a scary one, too, because if God is real, then God is GOD. “God,” meaning a being/reality/subject that is Infinitely Intelligent, Infinitely Powerful, Infinitely Good, Infinitely Aware, etc. Magic could be real, and that would be unbelievably epic and fantastical – but magic could be real and God still could not be. God is more than magic. God is Infinite Magic. God is so much more than “Infiniteness/Brahman” that language simply cannot do it any justice. But language can still lead the mind and soul in a right direction.
Wilber's approach to this issue involves the theory of evolution. The backbone of this approach is his infamous “half-wing” thought experiment. Wilber argues that, if form follows function, meaning the test of time favors only that which is “existentially practical,” then wings and flying creatures cannot exist because, at one point, the wing was only half of such, and a half-wing serves no flying purpose.
I think Wilber's rhetoric/delivery of this argument is sloppy, which makes it seem amateur. However, upon reflection, the logic/substance is sheer genius. If form indeed follows function, no matter what, at any cost, and if the accidental form that is a half-wing serves no function, then it must be eliminated from the evolutionary equation.
Einstein proved that the thought experiment can be just as powerful if not more so than the physical experiment. I see that Wilber's half-wing thought experiment sufficiently proves that either form doesn't always follow function, or not all evolutionary emergences are “accidental.”
Perhaps the following analogy, which Wilber does not use, will bring clarity. A human being starts as a single cell, but this single cell is already encoded with a specific purpose – a detailed plan. The growth of this cell does not absolutely adhere to the purpose/plan; there is randomness, chance, spontaneity – mutation. However, regardless, there is no denying that there is this structural blueprints, which we call “DNA,” that influences how the cell transforms into a fully functioning human.
Reality/existence/form is similar. It begins as a “single cell” – a pure potentiality that contains every single possibility that can be conceived by any mind. Not all of these possibilities are supposed to happen, though. It's possible for the single cell human to develop three arms, but it's not supposed to be that way. It's possible for reality/existence/form to evolve into a world that is completely devoid of consciousness or sentience – but it's not supposed to be that way, either.
Perhaps the same can be said with regard to the emergence of wings. Just as consciousness or sentience is supposed to emerge, so, too, are winged creatures, capable of flight, supposed to emerge. There is something special about certain aspects of the universe that have manifested out of pure space and time. Perhaps there is a direct correlation between “specialness” and “God.”
Perhaps, then, “God” simply is the “intentional property of reality/ existence/form.” Michael Dowd refers to God as the “creative principle,” but pure creativity cannot give birth to a planet Earth or a human being. Intention transcends and includes creativity. If reality/existence/form lacked any underlying intentional property, then nothing new would or could emerge. God, the intentional property of reality/existence/form, is the “DNA” of the universe, and can be understood as a coherent whole in addition to being understood as a vast plurality.
Here's another way to understand evolution in a spiritual-teleological sense. Let's pretend form is contingent upon function, no matter what. We must then ask the question, What is the function of evolution itself?, which gets at the question, Why is there Something rather than Nothing? or, Why is there Form rather than Emptiness? In other words, What is the function of Form itself?
Let's say that the function of Form is to evolve. In order to avoid circular reasoning in attempting to explain what the function of evolution is, say that Form functions to evolve, or grow, because evolution's function is for Form to understand and appreciate itself as Spirit/Emptiness Manifested. If form follows function then there must be an ultimate meaning behind existence and the magnitude of this meaning must be equivalent to the magnitude of existence as such.
This meaning is God.
Spirit is the origin, evolution is the means, and God is the end.
One can understand God from an interior/philosophic/spiritual standpoint as this Kosmic Meaning, and one can understand God from an exterior/mechanical/scientific standpoint as this Kosmic DNA. Both forms of understanding are equally true. An integral understanding of God, and evolution, would honor the two by means of synthesis and inclusion.
In sum, I wish to end this work by reiterating and reaffirming my intention to defend Ken Wilber's Integral Theory of Everything. Critics shouldn't compare the man to Freud. Wilber is much more auspicious and legendary than someone as pessimistic and neurotic as the “father” of psychology. Wilber is a Plato or a Descartes or an Einstein.
Wilber, like many other legendary scholars currently alive, is leading us into what McIntosh rightfully calls a Second Enlightenment.
This Second Enlightenment, however, does not have the scientific method as its theme and foundation. It has the integral method.
Thank you for taking the time to read and consider this essay. May Fortune find you well.