INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY MARTIN ERDMANN
is a German writer, poet, retired lecturer of Heidelberg University. He completed studies of English, French, and of legal science, both at the University of Heidelberg. He wrote several books in German focusing on the illusion of the I or Ego. As a cofounder of the German Spiritual Emergence Network (S. E. N) he provided counseling to people undergoing spiritual crises. For several years now he has conducted seminars on Advaita-Vedanta. (email: firstname.lastname@example.org Homepage: www.satsa.de
Don't Piss on My Leg,
and Tell Me It's Raining,
A Late Reflection on Wyatt Earp
Abstract: Ken Wilber entitled this article "What We Are, That We See", which is an observation taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson, round which the article has been built. In his exposition Ken Wilber makes use of his Zen sword of prajna to slay the heads of his critics, whom he sees as "Partial-Ass Pervs". As Ken Wilber too is what he sees, he must see himself as a Partial-Ass Perv now, and so must weto take him seriously.
Bodhisattva Wilber and his critics' eye-sockets
There is no way to read this as a metaphor symbolizing prajna, the faculty of discernment and wisdom.
In his foreword in Cohen's Living Enlightenment, a Call for Evolution beyond Ego, Ken Wilber sees the ego as an inimical object, which must be roasted, slaughtered, demolished. Now Wilber does not see himself as someone with an ego to be destroyed. For him there is no call for evolution beyond ego, as envisaged by the sub-title of Cohen's Living Enlightenment. Wilber sees himself as someone beyond the ego of Living Enlightenment. This kind of ego for him has become extinct, as elucidated in the following quotes taken from his writing.
In his One Taste, expressing the enlightened state of non-dual awareness, he writes:
"I-I do not move through time, time moves through me. Just as clouds float through the sky, time floats through the open space of my primordial awareness, and I-I remains untouched by time and space and their complaints... I-I live in eternity and inhabit infinity... free of time and space."
This, proclaims Wilber, is the liberated state he lives in, no matter what activity he is engaged in. "So this morning I went jogging", he writes, "and nothing moved at all, except the scenery in the movie of my life." (1999: 113) So when Wilber is engaged in his daily activities, like jogging for example, the enlightened state remains unperturbed, untouched.
Now Ken Wilber has not realized the liberated state beyond all ego to be enjoyed by himself only. His "efforts are nothing short of a profound manifestation of the Bodhisattva vow to liberate all sentient beings", to have them thoroughly partake in the Bodhisattva's egoless state, so we hear in the foreword of Wilber's The Simple Feeling of Being. (2004: ix)
Our Bodhisattva, so we can see, does not like to have the brilliance of his writing diminished by his critics. Criticism of minor points is acceptable to him. Some of the critical appraisal, however, bears on the very basis of A Theory of Everything (2000), touches the very foundation on which his all-inclusive integral theory has been built.
In these cases the Bodhisattva, as judged by ordinary human standards, tends to reveal an unordinary, an altered state of mind. Here is an example of this altered state of consciousness, with our Bodhisattva now indulging in some vivid imaginations, in which ordinary cognitive functioning has been suspended.
In What We Are, That We See, Part I the Bodhisattva addressing his critics [as featured on Integral World] writes (italics added):
"I find all of this disingenuous, all the way down... The whole kit and caboodle of recent criticism... laced with such self-aggrandizement, and drunk so slowly and lingeringly, this draught of deep resentiment. It is certainly a draught that flows freely at the site of Integral World... A world of bubbling and boiling resentment, sealed in a website, delivered to your door, all in a neat bundle."
By the way, Frank, thank you for having me included in this world of bubbling and boiling resentment. I enjoy it.
We then witness Wilber masquerading as sheriff Wyatt Earp, who was out to save the Wild West from gangsters and evildoers. So Wilber wants to liberate his followers now from this gang of critics who are polluting an integral environment. Wilber writes:
"Oh, wait a minute, I forgot to include a violent metaphor. Let me think. Let me think really hard. Okay, Wyatt has got to go back to work now, back to the real world of real problems, problems that beg for integral care and consciousness... protecting the true and the good and the beautiful, while slaying partial-ass pervs, ripping their eyes out and pissing in their eye-sockets."
For Wilber this is, as he states, a violent metaphor. To see, whether it really is a metaphor we have to look more closely into this figure of speech. "A metaphor", so goes our definition, "describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object." It's different from a simile in that it doesn't use the word like.
Here is an example. There is a good-looking guy called Peter. While you watch the handsome fellow eating it strikes you that the guy eats like a pig. Using a simile you could say: "Peter, you are like a pig." If you were to use a metaphor, you would say: "Peter, you are a pig."
While saying "Peter, you are a pig", you are very well aware of the fact that Peter is not a pig. He is a human being after all, not belonging to the species of pigs. He is a pig on a point of comparison only, which are his eating habits. So you use an is, which does not mean an is. Our is, as applied in above statement, means like.
You say is instead of like to make the comparison more forceful, more compelling. It is not enough for you to say: As far as your eating habits are concerned, Peter, you are like a pig. More urgently you insist: Peter, honestly and truly, you are indeed like a pig. To cut the statement short you say: Peter, you are a pig. So you briefly, concisely drive home the pig-like point you wanted to make.
When you mean like and say like you have a simile; when you mean like and say is you have a metaphor; when you say is and mean is you have neither simile nor metaphor. You have an is, which means an is.
Let us return to Wilber masquerading as Wyatt Earp, who "is slaying partial-ass pervs..." Wilber says that he is using a "violent metaphor" in his account. So let us see whether there is a metaphor to be found in the image employed by Wilber.
His statement entails a message delivered to his critics, which says: You are partial-ass pervs. Can partial-ass pervs be seen as a metaphor, we have to ask ourselves? In his critical book chapter "Bald Narcissism"(from Norman Einstein: The Dis-Integration of Ken Wilber) author Geoffrey Falk refers to Wilber to have him say: "I am not going to keep responding to the lunatics, nuts, fakes, and frauds". Here Wilber means his critics again. So Falk asks: "Into which group does the present author fit? Lunatic, nut, fake, or (well-footnoted) fraud? Or maybe a "perv" (Wilber's word) instead?"
Wilber says to his critics: You are partial-ass pervs. Are denotes a form of is, which means like when used as a metaphor. Wilber addressing his critics does not want to say: You are like partial-ass pervs. You are partial-ass pervs, you are nuts, fakes, frauds... That's what he wants to say, nothing else. So when Wilber states "you are partial-ass pervs" there is no metaphorical use implied.
Next we hear that Wilber "is ripping their eyes out". The statement used in a metaphorical sense would mean what Wilber does is not really ripping their eyes out. It is only like ripping their eyes out. Wilber does not allude to any symbol, figure, image, which shares a common characteristic with the eye. When Wilber is ripping his critics' eyes out, in his vivid imagination he sees himself ripping their eyes out. There is no metaphorical use, explicitly or implicitly, contained in his account.
Next Wilber "is pissing in their eye-sockets". There is nothing entailing a metaphorical use of pissing. Wilber's pissing is not like pissing. His pissing is plain pissing as one of his perversities, which he discloses to the reader.
The Zen sword of prajna
Wilber has Wyatt Earp now appearing as the great Zen master, "using his Zen sword of prajna to cut off the heads of critics... and then rip their eyes out and piss in their eye-sockets, and slay the..."
The Sanskrit prajna stands for the power of discernment, of prudence and wisdom. This implies a possession of right knowledge applied to the given circumstances, which calls for a control of one's emotional reactions, of one's anger and resentment to act as perceptively, as prudently and wisely as the occasion requires.
Using the sword of prajna, of discernment, is not employing the bladed weapon made of iron and steel. It is like using a real sword designed for cutting and thrusting. The heads of critics cut off could be seen as dumb heads, which are cut off to liberate our critics from their ignorance. This is not cutting their heads off, it is like cutting their heads off. Thus, taken by itself, the Zen sword of prajna cutting off the heads of critics, could be seen as a metaphor, which Wilber employs to demonstrate his own power of discernment in dealing with his undiscerning critics.
Now the episode as portrayed by Wilber does not stand by itself. It must be seen in the context, in which it is applied. Wilber masquerading as Wyatt Earp does not only use his Zen sword of prajna to cut his critics' heads off. He goes ahead to rip their eyes out, then nonchalantly proceeds to piss in their eye-sockets. There is no way to read this as a metaphor symbolizing prajna, the faculty of discernment and wisdom. This means that the cutting of heads seen in its wider pissing context does not constitute a metaphor. It much rather gives a realistic picture of Wilber's anger portrayed in crude images with no Zen sword of prajna to embellish them.
Wilber says that his "posting was phrased rudely on purpose: to separate the Green from the Yellow", as remarked by Visser in "Not So Fast, Cowbow". This way he wanted to separate the lower from the higher, so that the lower won't pull the higher down. So we may see the higher get real high now on his hierarchical scheme. Frank Visser comments: "I have spent long enough in the world of psychospiritual movements and literature to know when people start playing games." So have I, and I would like to state that Wilber is here playing a game of false spirituality and metaphors.
There are, as a matter of fact, a growing number of critics, who deny that Wilber in A Theory of Everything (2000), is as all-inclusive, as integral as he pretends to be. These critics, so Wilber, "will not see any integral phenomena or any fundamental patterns that connect, and their research, even if meticulously carried out, will be deeply flawed."
As seen from Wyatt Earp's sublime height "the heads of these critics are so staggeringly little that he has to slow down about 10-fold just to see them", to then "use his Zen sword of prajna to cut off the heads of critics..."
We hear, the heads of critics are so little that they can hardly be discerned from Wyatt Earp's sublime height. The picture, taken by itself, can be seen as a real metaphor, now employed by Wilber to denote his own sublime state of consciousness, which cannot be accessed by the lower level of awareness his critics are on. "And there is nothing in the world you can say, do, or show them that will fundamentally change their minds, or their truths, or their first-tier facts", says Wilber.
They are first-tier. That is what they are. So they see first-tier only. They cannot see Wilber's theory, which is second-tier, third-tier and beyond in a vision-logic, which is the logic employed by Wilber, now masquerading as Wyatt Earp.
Wilber's article is entitled "What We Are, That We See", which is a quote taken from Emerson. So the partial ass-perv he sees in his critics is our egoless Bodhisattva himself. The self-aggrandizement he sees in his critics, is his own self-aggrandizement. The bubbling and boiling resentment he sees on integralworld is his own bubbling and boiling resentment.
So we see the egoless Bodhisattva in his resentment rip his critics' eyes out. This leaves us with a Bodhisattva without ego and with critics without eyes now. Guru Cohen then, in a more moderate way, puts the Bodhisattva's glaring reveries into spiritual practice.
My critics must see what they cannot see, says Wilber
Let us stay for a while with Wilber's higher vision to have it compared with Emerson, who states:
"We know truth when we see it, let skeptic and scoffer say what they choose." (EmersonQuote)
Emerson also says:
"To be great is to be misunderstood." (Essays)
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson was perfectly aware that a lower state cannot understand a higher state of consciousness. Satisfied with his own sublime vision, he had no problems with this.
This is different for Ken Wilber. He is perfectly persuaded that "there is nothing in the world you can say... that will fundamentally change" these critics' "first-tier facts". From their lower level they cannot see what Wilber perceives in his higher state of awareness. Unlike Emerson this is something, which Wilber does not want to accept. He knows that his critics cannot see what he perceives. This he cannot tolerate. So his critics must see what he sees. As they don't, Wilber flies into a violent rage released in these gory images of his, which are without equal in the civilized literature I am acquainted with.
In Wilber's integral theory we have the levels of archaic (1), magic (2), mythic (3), rational (4), vision-logic (5), with further levels higher up in his hierarchical scheme. Let us assume for a while that Ken Wilber is correct, that he resides in a state of vision-logic, on his level 5 or beyond. His critics, as he stated, are engaged in a "research", which is "meticulously carried out." So they are on a level 4 of rationality. As seen from Wilber's sublime vision their research is "deeply flawed", however. His critics have only accessed a level 4 of rationality. So they cannot see what Wilber sees in his higher vision and logic.
Now Ken Wilber cannot accept this. He cannot say to his critics: The way you see the world is perfectly all right. It is a level 4 of rationality. On this level the world indeed looks the way you see it. So you are quite naturally not in agreement with what I see. Ken Wilber cannot say this, because he does not see the world with his critics' eyes. So in his article he shows himself as incapable of taking the view of another person. In other parts of his writing this is different.
What Ken Wilber reveals in this article is something we find in a small child, who cannot see the world with the eyes of another person. The four year old Sven Hilber can see the world only with his own eyes. He cannot take the role of another person, like Ken Wilber in his article cannot take the role of the other person who is his critic. With his higher vision of level 5 and beyond Wilber – in his own scheme – got stuck on a level 2 of magic consciousness, whereas his critics with "their research... meticulously carried out" have accessed a level 4 of rationality and beyond maybe.
This is no reason to say good-bye to Mr. Wilber. There is no need for this. Once you have seen through the magical level 2 spell you can authentically rise on integral lines and waves unseen by Mr. Wilber.
Wilber, Ken, One Taste, The Journals of Ken Wilber, Shambhala, Boston & London, 1999
Cohen Andrew, Living Enlightenment, A Call for Evolution beyond Ego, Moksha Press, 2002
Wilber, Ken, The Simple Feeling of Being, Embracing Your True Nature, Shambhala, Boston & London, 2004