INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber



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Geoffrey FalkGeoffrey Falk is the author of The Science of the Soul, Stripping the Gurus, Norman Einstein, Rock and Holy Rollers and Hip Like Me. He studied electrical engineering and physics at the University of Manitoba. He currently divides his time between writing, software development, and music composition. See also Falk, Books, blogs and articles.

EX-INTEGRAL SCHOLARS
AND EXPERT OPINIONS

GEOFFREY FALK

I do indeed regard cults as being prisons, with the spiritual components only making it worse.

This is in response to Dr. Elliot Benjamin's recent follow-up posting on Integral World, "Prisoners and Cults." First, he states:

The main concern I have with Falk's comments, which I have conveyed to him personally....

I have actually not received that "personal" message. Before Benjamin's aforementioned posting, I got an email from him covering his purported merely "too concise" explanation of monistic vs. dualistic religions in Anthony's typology, and his belief that my regard for Neopaganism as a "fiction-based" path was "mis-leading" [sic]. That is all I have received from him, in recent correspondence.

Given my belief in Benjamin's sincerity (and probable unsavviness with regard to technology) I am willing to accept that he did send that personal message. Or at least meant to send it. Or something along those lines. I, regardless, have not received it. That's fine, though: I wasn't looking forward (in hindsight) to the obligation of having to read it, and my not having received it doesn't change anything of my response here.

He writes:

[T]he Prisoner study ... is an excellent learning experience that has direct relationships to groups with cult dangers, but this does not mean it makes sense to go through the Bonewits scale and assign numbers to it and then equate these numbers to SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship) or I-I or Scientology or any other actual spiritual organization.... The Prisoners study is in a totally different category and I do not think your focus upon them as a comparison is an appropriate way of showing there are more cult dangers in I-I than I have experienced.... [T]he Prisoners study in my opinion does not belong in your book—it belongs in a different kind of book—in my estimation.”

I think that Benjamin is contradicting himself, there: Zimbardo's prison study could not be both "an excellent learning experience that has direct relationships to groups with cult dangers," and yet simultaneously "not belong in" Stripping the Gurus, which examines exactly the same "groups with cult dangers."

Regardless, STG examines, among many other things, the highly meaningful parallels between the authority structures, confinements, and consequent psychological dynamics present both in Zimbardo's simulated prison and in any relatively closed, hierarchical environment, in which the free questioning of (or disobedience toward) the leaders is not allowed. The psychological dynamics and dangers which it analyzes do not require gurus, religious dogma, or promises of enlightenment in order for their surroundings to degenerate into cult-like milieus. On the contrary, you will (tellingly) find exactly the same abuses of power and psychological manipulations in our world's psychiatric asylums as in its ashrams and explicit prisons.

There is not one set of psychological dynamics for non-religious environments, another for prisons, and another for "potential cults." Rather, the same dynamics obviously apply in all of them. That is why a scale such as Bonewits', if it deeply applies to any one of those, will apply to all of them (with at most minor modifications, as below). Conversely, the fact that the Anthony typology in which Benjamin places far too much confidence disintegrates from "eight boxes" into merely two as soon as one tries to apply it outside of spiritual groups (i.e., to political or psychological ones) indicates that, even in its planned region of validity, it is not really "hitting the nail on the head" at all.

Since Benjamin hasn't seen fit to expound on what where he derives his "different category" opinion from—meaning that the easily proposed, nebulous notion doesn't actually merit a response, but I will be generous and give one anyway—one can only try to guess at the reasons for that. And, my guess is that it has to do with Zimbardo's study not including a guru-figure, claims of divine inspiration, promises of enlightenment, or any explicit teachings (by the leaders) at all.

First, note that the effect of claims of omniscience or divine guidance on the part of a guru is largely just to prevent the followers from questioning or disobeying him and his rules. In prisons, and elsewhere, the same unconditional obedience is enforced simply through rigid authority-structures. But the effect is the same, even if the intermediate cause is different.

Likewise, "dogma" is the set of rules which one must obey in order to secure one's salvation. Or, in prison, to secure one's parole. Not merely the set of rules, though, but rather the rigidity/inflexibility with which they must be followed in order for one to be saved/paroled.

One could easily modify the Bonewits scale to accommodate those points—taking authority-claims as equivalent to wisdom-claims, and inflexible secular rules as equivalent to dogma—and then apply it to Zimbardo's prison study. That environment, then, would score at "10" for both "Wisdom/Authority Claimed" and "Wisdom/Authority Credited." The value for "Dogma" would likewise clearly be a "10."

So, the overall rating for that simulated prison would then rise to 5.7, which is still in no way "through the roof" relative to a reasonable 4.4 (see below) for I-I.

Again, Benjamin's fallacious "solution" to the question of the relevance of Zimbardo's simulated prison was to have a "totally different category" for that environment. Yet, while one may indeed need to think intelligently about the subject, off and on, for a week or so, before seeing how things fit naturally together, the answer, when one finds it, is utterly obvious. Benjamin's "subjective objections," however, contributed precisely nothing to that solution. In fact, his proposed fix could hardly have been more wrong. And indeed, anyone with even a freshman understanding of social psychological could have predicted that.

Note also that, rather than providing any objective, rational basis for his wrong "solution," all Benjamin did was offer statements of opinion. It would be one thing to do that when simply relating one's own experiences in one or another spiritual group, as he also does. But when one takes the same strategy in points of debate, something is seriously wrong, there. Mature, professional, adult approaches to the exchange of ideas do not merely state wishful-thinking opinions; rather, at the very least, they attempt to provide a rational basis for those hopes. Benjamin, significantly, has done no such thing, instead simply presenting his unsupported opinions as if they were of comparable value to reasoned argument.

I do indeed regard cults as being prisons, with the spiritual components (e.g., infallible gurus, and promises of enlightenment or "divine parole," etc.) only making it worse, for reasons which I have discussed in detail in the "Gurus and Prisoners" chapter in Stripping the Gurus. And significantly, when I spoke to the highly regarded cult-exit counselor Steve Hassan by phone in early June of 2006—three months prior to my exchanging of manuscripts with Benjamin—his primary concern about my inclusion of Zimbardo's study at that point in the text of STG was that I was downplaying the "mind control" aspects of what went on inside that simulated prison (in terms of sleep deprivation and force-feeding, etc.). So he for one, unlike Benjamin, felt that the study was completely appropriate to include in STG.

Specifically, Hassan regarded the simulated prison environment as exactly matching his BITE criteria. ("BITE" = Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional Control.) And, in Steve's own words, "destructive mind control can be determined when the overall effect of these four components [of the BITE model] promotes dependency and obedience to some leader or cause." That is, he explicitly regarded that simulated prison as being a mind-controlling and thus cult-like environment. As such, any scale (such as the Bonewits) competently designed to test for cultic milieus and their associated degrees of danger would certainly be applicable to it, too.

Hassan, incidentally, has also guest-lectured in Zimbardo's classes on the psychology of mind control; they're actually close personal friends.

Why is all of that especially significant? Simply because Benjamin, in his initial email to me back in September of 2004, specifically mentioned how impressed he was with both of Hassan's books (including Releasing the Bonds, which details the BITE model). As Zimbardo himself said of Hassan's work:

I want to go on record as strongly endorsing Steven Hassan's approach to understanding the sources of cult power in controlling the minds and behavior of members. His now classic text on cultic mind control, Combatting Cult Mind Control ... integrates his personal experiences in a cult with his cogent analysis of the underlying dynamic processes, and then adds in to the mix current research and theory....
Steven Hassan's approach is one that I value more than that of any other researcher or clinical practitioner ... a model of clear exposition, his original ideas are brilliantly presented in a captivating style.

Whether or not you regard the Bonewits scale as being applicable to Zimbardo's simulated prison (it clearly is applicable), there are significant issues even with Benjamin's unduly "soft" evaluations of the Integral Institute on that scale.

From his own ratings, "Wisdom Credited: 6." Yet, Wilber has long been regarded as the "Einstein of consciousness research" even by his peers, never mind his followers. Do you really think that, either now or before his "Wyatt Earpy" postings, he was only being credited with a 6/10 in wisdom by his admirers? Be realistic. Within I-I, this was, and is, at least an 8.

"Wisdom Credited," in Bonewits' own definition, is "amount of trust in the decisions made by leader(s)." From anonymous integral followers, then, as quoted by Wilber himself:

I trust the meta-vision you see of human and social evolution, and if this ["Wyatt Earpy"] posting as is serves the Kosmos, then so be it....
I couldn't list all your third-tier reasons for this, but I deeply know that Integral resonates with, and works for, those who are ready for it. It is a truth that doesn't need a prop to stand.

Do those sound like people crediting only a 6/10 to the wisdom of their "third-tier" leader?

Michael Bauwens, formerly a founding member of the Integral Institute, further noted:

Being integral is increasingly being defined as: "agreeing with Ken Wilber." This is the only critique being accepted within the movement. And basically it takes the form of: yes you are a genius, but wouldn't you consider that xxx.

As I said, this is at least an 8/10.

"Dropout Control: 1." Being the "Intensity of efforts directed at preventing or returning dropouts." When Matthew Dallman "ceased to exist" on Integral Naked after resigning from I-I, do you really think that wouldn't dissuade others from leaving, and risk experiencing the same treatment? (Or, when Premananda was "erased" from SRF—literally airbrushed out of photos of himself and Yogananda, not to mention excised from any mention in the Autobiography of a Yogi—do you honestly think that had no effect on the remaining disciples, in terms of ensuring their loyalty to the organization and continued presence on its "holy" grounds?) The rating of 1/10 was absurd even before Wilber's "Wyatt Earpy" rantings. And after them, with kw's explicit regard for his own community as a "sanctuary"—you wouldn't want to leave our sanctuary, would you? it's uniquely safe in here; have a scone—this is at least a 4.

Then, there is the matter of "Sexual Manipulation" in I-I, which Benjamin grades at the lowest possible level of "1." Oddly, in his comparable analyses of Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations With God group, and then of the Avatar training, he says first that the "philosophy of complete individual freedom could have sexual overtones regarding being bi-sexual or even multi-sexual in romantic relationships," and then that "the focus upon individual choice and freedom may have an effect upon decisions in regard to one's romantic and sexual involvements." Well yes; let's hope it does. But how on earth could allowing "complete individual freedom" and choice ever qualify as "sexual manipulation"? That position strikes me as fairly absurd—its corollary being that those groups would need to place more constraints on their followers in order to be less manipulative! Anyway, Benjamin grades each of those groups as "2" in this category, rather than the lowest value of "1." Wilber's community, by contrast, receives the minimum/best rating from Benjamin in spite of the following long-documented issues.

From Matthew Dallman:

[Wilber's] "integralnaked" website was consciously marketed to early 20s men; its early communications were soft porn.

Appropriately, then, from kw's own Integral Naked web forum (at: http://integralnaked.org/forum/tm.asp?m=21922 - now taken offline):

[I visited] Ken’s house with a group of students and [was] surprised by his pantomimed masturbation and his laughing but quite frequent requests for blowjobs from the audience.

So, if the Integral Institute is worse than Avatar and Conversations With God, but not as bad as Zimbardo's simulated prison (which I have graded a 4 in this category), that's a 3 for I-I, in terms of "Sexual Manipulation."

Those additional 7 "Bonewits points" bump the more reasonable rating of I-I up from Benjamin's unduly soft 3.94 to 4.4. As compared to the aforementioned 5.7 rating for Zimbardo's simulated prison. So, not equal, but not "night and day," either. And in that prison study, over one-third of the "prisoner" subjects were breaking down psychologically within less than a week of their (voluntary) confinement.

Again, Benjamin:

It is difficult to come to a consensus about how Ken responded to his critics in the book Ken Wilber In Dialogue.... I do not at all agree with the description that you quoted [from Andrew Smith] as I think it is quite simplistic and does not fairly and accurately represent the dialogue.

No, what is "simplistic," or worse, is when one publishes a paper obviously "spurred" (Earpy connotations intended) by a watershed event in the suppression of critical dissent by an individual or community. And, instead of including the most recent events in one's analysis of the wildly unprofessional and blatantly manipulative response of its leader to cogent criticism, one instead merely references a single, nearly decade-old book, plus one's own limited experiences, to substantiate one's credulous, apologetic position. That same book, by the way, did not include a chapter by David Lane—the harshest critic of Wilber, at that point. I am assuming that Dr. Lane was simply—and significantly—not invited to that "party," in spite of his previous endorsements (and subsequent solid criticisms) of Wilber's work. (If you have been paying attention at all, you will have noticed that kw only responds with any thoughtfulness to his tepid critics and friends, not to the harshest or most cogent ones, whom he rather treats with either unwarranted condescension or a "deafening silence.")

There are numerous other problems with Benjamin's recent postings.

First, minimally adequate research on his part would have disclosed that Wilber's longtime guru-friend is named Andrew Cohen, not "Alan."

I'm not sure Benjamin has got the four quadrants right, either: "The main purpose of Integral Institute was to engage people in incorporating the 'four quadrants' of individual (intrinsic), behavioral (extrinsic), cultural, and social in all academic endeavors." By "individual (intrinsic)" he obviously means the subjective or "interior" quadrant (of psychology, etc.), though you basically have to play a game of elimination to figure that out. But how exactly does "behavioral (extrinsic)" equate to the objective exteriors of holons (in physics, etc.)? "Subjective" and "objective" clearly belong together, with regard to interiors and exteriors; but can the same be said, even remotely, for "individual" and "behavioral"?

Even if that is not an original misreading/gloss by Benjamin, why couldn't he just stick to the standard, and much clearer, terminology?

By the way, he erred in largely the same way by wrongly claiming that, in Anthony's typology, "Monistic refers to non-judgmental openness to all people whereas dualistic refers to an Us vs. Them elitist dichotomy." You can't excuse things like that just by claiming that you're trying to be "concise": It takes no more bandwidth to express the ideas accurately than it does to misrepresent them. And if we've learned one thing from Wilber, it's that people who can't get the details right won't get the big picture right, either.

Here is another thing: Even aside from Benjamin's failure to properly apply the concept of significant figures in his calculations—and we really did all learn that in high school—in his Bonewits rating of the Integral Institute, 59 divided by 15 is 3.93 (it obviously rounds down), not 3.94. Sure, it's just a quarter of a percent difference; but even someone with a Ph.D. in mathematics should be able to use a calculator....

(If you are further able to view Benjamin's "Integrally Informed" paper, "A Mathematical Group Theoretical Model Of Shifts Into Higher Levels Of Consciousness In Ken Wilber's Integral Theory," as being more sense than nonsense, you are doing better—or, more probably, worse—than I am in that regard.)

Benjamin sums up:

I still consider Wilber to be a "great philosopher"....

No one who has read and understood Jeff Meyerhoff's or Andrew Smith's work could still regard Wilber's ideas as being "brilliant," or see him as a "great philosopher"—the time for laughably uninformed evaluations like that has long since passed. In terms of Smith's work, that has actually been true since as early as 2001. How much, if any of that, has Benjamin actually read and understood, I wonder.

Regardless, Wilber will always be the person who inspired Benjamin to "develop myself as a philosopher in my own right, get my philosophical articles on spirituality and cults published [thus working toward becoming, whether he likes it or not, a recognized 'expert'], and to become involved with Integral Institute." And it is never easy to untangle oneself from that sort of admiration, nor to admit to oneself that one's most-respected heroes are not even remotely what they appear, or have claimed, to be. So, one continues fooling oneself, and then misleads others from that basis into suffering and wasted years which would otherwise be completely avoidable if one would simply learn.

Benjamin himself, as I have previously noted elsewhere, graded the Integral Institute as being, at 3.94, at a higher "cult danger" level than Yogananda's (3.73) SRF. Yet, the latter environment has been documented, by persons formerly living in it, as bringing out the "depression and even suicidal tendencies" of its residents. If I-I, by Benjamin's own evaluations, exists at a greater "cult danger" level than does SRF, how can he view Wilber's community as not exhibiting "anything serious enough to be very alarmed about"? The position is simply not defensible.

When someone like Elliot, however sincere (and utterly na´ve) he surely is as a human being, takes such a ... well, "wilber-esque" stroll into attempting to analyze cult-like environments as he has done recently on IW, it is simply a fact that there will be people who will be fooled into taking his unduly credulous point of view seriously, even if he genuinely wants it all to be taken as merely his own experiences and opinions, which may or may not match with other people's experiences. And if you know better on these points than he does, you have a responsibility to do what you can to prevent that from happening.

Falk has criticized me for being na´ve and giving too much benefit of the doubt regarding the cult dangers of I-I and SRF and has suggested that this may well be the case for many of the other spiritual organizations that I have written about. He is concerned that people take my viewpoints based upon my experiences as the truth about the organization that I am writing about. And I must say that if this is the case, it would indeed make me feel quite uncomfortable.... I do not consider myself or want to be considered by anyone to be a "cults [sic] expert" as Falk phrased it.

When you submit formal, footnoted papers to IW and elsewhere, giving numerical ratings for the dangers of various environments, you are being very generous with yourself in thinking that, in the absence of adequate clarification, anyone should think that are you merely offering your personal "opinion" about any of that. Granted, in Benjamin's equally footnoted "Spirituality and Cults" paper, he did explicitly state:

I would like to make it clear that all statements expressed in this paper regarding the new religious movements that I am writing about are merely my own opinions; based primarily upon my experiences in these organizations.

A cynical reader, however, might well have taken that statement as merely a hedge against being sued for libel, since opinions are, by definition, not libelous. Given that, a suitably knowledgeable reader simply could not be certain, in that context, that Benjamin literally meant what he wrote. He might well have meant it all literally—I am willing to believe that he did—but if you understand libel law at all, there is just no way to know. (Since he was covering at least one frequently litigious group in that same paper, he would actually have been foolish to not include such a disclaimer, whether he meant it or not.)

In any case, did he include a comparable statement in his initial piece on the supposed safety of I-I? No, he did not. The word "opinion" occurs only twice in that paper, and neither of those occurrences has anything to do with qualifying Benjamin's claims. He did say that the analysis there was "based primarily upon my own experience." But, that in no way precludes it from simultaneously being taken as the wise advice of a "cult expert." Which, in that context, is exactly what it was: Someone who had been there, done that, and was now in a position to offer good advice to others, particularly since that advice was based on his own experiences, which few others have had in the same environment. In such a context, like it or not, you are indeed presenting yourself as a relative "expert," even if you are simply sharing your "experiences and opinions" with persons who don't have the same first-hand knowledge.

Plus, as Benjamin mentioned in the same paper, he spoke at ICSA in 2006. That organization has an explicit Call for Papers for the presentations at their widely respected annual conference on the nature and dangers of cults. That surely means that Dr. Benjamin applied to give his (panel) presentation, and that his proposed topic was accepted. How many people who are merely offering their "opinions" in the cult-studies field could say that? How many people publish their writings in The Ground of Faith Journal, or publish regarding Neale Donald Walsch in the AFF E-Newsletter, as Benjamin has done, without wanting to be considered as "cult experts"?

While I was preparing this response, Benjamin posted a spirited defense of his "subjective" position and his previous experiences in Scientology, responding in large part to information on my blog rather than to what I had previously posted on IW. From that response:

There is only one word that I can use to describe the comparison that Falk and others are making of Integral Institute with cults like Scientology and the Unification Church; the word is "naive." There is just no comparison—from my own experiences.

I have not, at any point, viewed I-I as being comparably dangerous to Scientology or the Moonies. I am, further, well aware of the behaviors which have been documented of the "Cruise-Control Religion" toward its ex-members, especially going back to several decades ago, as compared to Wilber's present community.

Yet, an environment doesn't have to be threatening its ex-members or feeding them poisoned Flavor-Aid in order for it to be validly regarded as a "cult." We are allowed to use the same word to refer to both ends of that spectrum, even if within "cults" there are differing degrees of intensity. Otherwise, you know, only Jonestown and Heaven's Gate were ever actually "cults," and it's "na´ve" for me or anyone else to refer to any non-mass-suicidal group by using the same word, as if they were "all the same." (Even Scientology in the worst allegations against it was never nearly as bad as Jonestown, you know. So, how do you, Elliot, justify using the same word for both of them? if that is the game you want to play.)

So, Benjamin doesn't like the same word being used for the Integral Institute as for the likes of Scientology, as if it were up to him to determine for an entire community of knowledgeable professionals where that line of usage is to be drawn. But the differing ratings between I-I and Scientology on the Bonewits scale, for example, are all that one needs to pay attention to, here. Indeed, half the reason why the numerical scale is there in the first place is not merely to generate an either/or evaluation, but rather to reflect some degree of nuance.

(In his "Spirituality and Cults" paper, Benjamin actually recognized that "It is not a matter of whether a particular new religion is or is not a cult, but rather where this new religion places in what I will refer to as the Bonewits Cult Danger Scale." That was a very sensible statement; his subsequent ideas above with regard to Scientology and the Unification Church are not at all in the same class. Note also that, in defending his Bonewits'-scale ratings for I-I on Internal Control and Censorship in the same most-recent piece, Benjamin is addressing numbers with which I have publicly voiced no quarrel. He is, however, completely silent on the other points I have made above, regarding his "soft" ratings for other criteria on the same scale. Those points, after all, would boost the rating for I-I, rather than leaving it unchanged, as occurs in his aforementioned, one-sided defense.)

I am truly sorry to hear of Benjamin's horrific experiences with Scientology. (Again, though, his sharing of those surely makes him a relative "expert" on the subject, even if he wants it all to just be taken as his "opinions.") But regardless of how bad his experiences with that group may have been, that doesn't say anything about the safety of I-I except in a relative way, nor does the reported difference in intensity between the two environments mean that the same word can't be used to refer to both of them.

[P]lease do not hold me accountable for describing my own subjective experience and think that I should be acquiring researched factual data to make objective statements.

Even if you did regard the initial IW posting from Benjamin as just a statement of opinion, in spite of the reasonable "experience = expertise" reading of his qualifications, didn't it temporarily soften your attitude toward the Integral Institute from what it had been before? You know, in hearing from this apparently knowledgeable person, based on his own experience and posted on IW no less, that "I do not see anything serious enough to be very alarmed about" in the Integral Institute. And with that reassurance further coming from someone who had recently led a panel workshop at the prestigious ICSA conference, as he himself openly advertised in the same initial piece?

I am describing my own experience and no more. I believe that there is a realness and power from describing one's own experience that may have special meaning for people that connect up to this description. If there are people who relate to what I am describing about my experience, then there is reason for me to be writing publicly.

Yet, when those same unduly credulous and only half-informed "opinions" end up misleading others, who simply don't know any better, into entering environments which are far less safe than you and they imagine ... what then? Where is your adult ability, Dr. Benjamin, to take responsibility for the completely predictable negative effects of your actions, even just in sharing your opinions and personal experiences with others?

Benjamin again:

[W]hen I am able to speak my mind without fear of repercussion, this is the hallmark to me of not having significant cult dangers.

But, when seriously questioning the leaders of the Wilberian world makes one "first-tier," while "integral salvation" can only be had from second-tier and above, that is, without question, a "repercussion" given for speaking one's mind. So, by Benjamin's own criterion, here, Wilber's community is not necessarily without "significant cult dangers."

Again, cult-studies professionals such as Steve Hassan have in no way shared Benjamin's unduly credulous view of Wilber's actions and community, particularly in the wake of kw's recent "Wyatt Earpy" postings. Benjamin really needs to try to come to terms with why that is the case, i.e., with why people who are (psychologically) trained professionals in the field, who have been through the cult experience themselves, and for whose work he himself has previously expressed deep admiration, see things so differently from how he does.

Hassan again regards Zimbardo's prison study as being a prime example of a mind-control environment—implying that it is thus amenable to evaluation by any scale designed to grade for such things, including the Bonewits criteria. (To whatever extent such criteria might fail to be applicable, that could only be for shortcomings in the rating system in question, not for the simulated prison environment being in a "totally different [unnamed] category" than are "real cults.") He was also, at one time, a highly placed member of the Unification Church (i.e., the Moonies). So, even just from his own experiences, he knows just as well as Benjamin does as to what goes on in such groups. That has not stopped him from regarding organizations far less reportedly destructive than Scientology from still being dangerous environments, worthy of the name "cult."

Personally, I don't think that people need to be "tricked" into joining destructive spiritual organizations, nor kept there via mind control, to nearly the degree to which that idea is given currency in the cult-studies world. But that simply means that I consider the situation to be much worse than does Hassan, etc., not that mind control isn't practiced ... even at the hands of integral pandits playing "three cards." It is practiced, it's just that most people will fall for the community's claims and slip into unquestioning obedience even without that suppression of debate, or the like. Regardless, where you have mind control, you proportionately have a cultic environment, as the previous quotes from Zimbardo indicate (in terms of cults deriving their power from mind control).

Benjamin, once more, this time directed at me in particular:

I wish to offer from my own experience a comparison between Integral Institute and Scientology, as a further description of why I do not see Integral Institute as having significant cult dangers. I fully realize that my continued perseverance in this same theme will arouse the alarm of this particular anti-Wilber proponent, but I am speaking my truth here—and this is how the picture looks to me.

Benjamin seems to have worked out an odd view of reality where, if he doesn't make the effort to inform himself of the debunkings which have been done of Wilber and his community, for example, those negative aspects aren't part of his "experience" or his "truth." So, since he's just stating his "opinion" on all these topics, with no felt obligation to have that ever be an informed opinion, much less an unbiased one, he can be as selectively ignorant as he wishes, and it's still "all good." Conversely, if you actually demand of him that he do any competent research, even into Wilber or his community, and even with the academic veneer given by the footnotes which already exist in his papers, you are devaluing his "subjective opinion"—devaluing his "truth" as not being good enough to stand on its own. Which it indeed is not.

All in all, with astonishingly credulous and proudly uninformed "guru-debunkers" like Benjamin, one hardly needs cult apologists.

As I told him in giving an unduly polite review of his Modern Religions book to him in late 2004 at his request (I would otherwise have skipped on giving that feedback, as it required me to be nicer than the text deserved):

I'm impressed by the quantity of spiritual organizations you've been involved with, Elliot. For me, though, one cult and set of sanctioned lies was more than enough.

The best thing I can say about this exchange with Benjamin is that it has given me an additional chapter for a forthcoming book: "Norman Einstein": The Dis-Integration of Ken Wilber (2007, 210 pp.).







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