Do you like this website?
Please support Integral World!
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

powered by TinyLetter
Today is:
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Brad ReynoldsBrad Reynolds did graduate work at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) before leaving to study under Ken Wilber for a decade, and published two books reviewing Wilber's work: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (Tarcher, 2004) and Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006). He is currently working on Growing In God: Seven Stages of Life from Birth to Enlightenment: An Integral Interpretation (forthcoming from Paragon House) that reviews Adi Da Samraj's “Seven Stages of Life” with Ken Wilber integral psychology and “spectrum of consciousness.”

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

Real Integral
vs. Fake Integral

Transcending-Yet-Including the
Knowledge of Science, Part Two

Brad Reynolds

Due to fortuitous circumstances—or random chance?—I have completed these essays in time to post them on Ken Wilber’s seventieth birthday, January 31, 2019 (b. 1949). Happy birthday Ken! These essays intend to honor Mr. Wilber’s Integral Vision, or my interpretation of it, since he has inspired many of us to expand our worldview beyond the current dominant worldview of modern science, specifically scientific materialism. My thanks go to Frank Visser for assisting in this endeavor, although I am critical of his reliance on scientism on an integral website; Frank has shown courage and fairness in allowing me to present my view. These essays are in three parts, Part I-III. May they inspire further investigation by using all the “Eyes of Knowing” in acquiring a full-spectrum view of our sacred Reality.

This would be the way out of this predicament: to examine the scientific understanding of biological evolution with an awareness of its divine condition too.

Frank Visser—highlighted in his posting “Ken Wilber's Natural Theology”— consistently makes the error of asserting that if a person has a spiritual perspective then they “oppose neo-Darwinian evolution.” But this is not true. He certainly places this label on Ken Wilber, but that's because he misunderstands what Wilber is asserting about “Eros” and evolution being a process of “Spirit-in-action,” not simply physical and biological forces at play (such as with “random mutations,” or “fortunate accidents,” etc.). Visser seems to go down an endless “rabbit hole” (or wormhole?) as he chases Wilber's idea about Eros, yet he does so by erroneously misreading Wilber's overall intentions. Visser is only seeing with the Eye of Science-Mind, not with the Eye of Spirit, which transcends-yet-includes the knowledge of science. Visser consistently distorts Wilber's integral view to create a “strawman” so he can then correct it with current views on scientific evolution (see Part I). Yes, I agree Wilber has been somewhat sloppy in calling Eros a “force,” as if it is a law of Nature (like the electromagnetic “force”), but that is not how I read Wilber's overall Integral Message.

Since Wilber sees with the Eye of Spirit, he is trying to indicate that the universe (of relative conditions, including biological evolution) is the abundant overflowing of the Absolute One Divine Reality (which is Unconditional). Thus, Wilber, in agreement with Whitehead, metaphorically says: “Who knows, perhaps telos, perhaps Eros, moves the entire Kosmos, and God may indeed be an all-embracing chaotic Attractor, acting, as Whitehead said, throughout the world by gentle persuasion toward love.”[1] Perhaps, IF Visser could see with the Eye of Spirit more adequately, he would be inclined to correct Wilber's misstatements with a more advanced articulation of the Integral Vision grounded in transpersonal awareness. Indeed, this would be the way out of this predicament: to examine the scientific understanding of biological evolution with an awareness of its divine condition too; we could use such an integral champion, even if Wilber has possibly shown a weakness in presenting an adequate argument. However, Visser only wants to drag Wilber back down to the realm of science and scientific theories. This is scientism or making science the superior worldview above all others (like its own “religion,” as Steve Taylor was trying to criticize). Again, that is Visser's personal preference to champion science, but that is not being integral.

Visser absolutely does not like “Spirit” or anything other than measurable physical forces to be responsible for our universe. Thus Visser suggests two variants on what he sees as the error of seeing with the Eye of Spirit—actually based on his misinterpretations:

  1. That there is a “spiritual force of energy”—in other words, some kind of physical force—that somehow “occasionally intervenes in evolution.” Yet, this view is misreading what is being suggested by a genuine transpersonal or spiritual perspective. Granted, it is a valid critique of what “creationists” or traditional religious people who support “Divine Intelligence” theories, etc. suggest through symbolic metaphor that there is a Deity-God who has his or her hand on how creation goes, even if much of Nature is proceeding by natural selection; but this is not Wilber's view nor that of a true Integral Vision. Hence, Visser asserts an alternative, and more accurate representation of what is being hinted at:
  2. That this “spiritual force” is “conceived” to be “intrinsic to evolution or the cosmos at large” (in Visser's words). Yet seeing “Spirit-in-action” or the manifesting action of the Divine Reality as “creating,” actually, more like blossoming or issuing forth a vast psycho-physical universe (or pluridimensional Kosmos), is simply a way to articulate in words that the Nondual Godhead is ultimately responsible for our universe and human existence. These are not ideas or theories being proposed from advanced philosophies, mental hypothesizing, personal beliefs, or found in written texts, but rather they are spiritual revelations gained from the mode of knowing that arises when the Eye of Spirit is opened and Real God is known for real, in truth.

Visser, in other words, fails to comprehend or understand this deeper spiritual (or God-Realized) truth—for he sees little with the Eye of Spirit—since in his next sentence he separates “God” out as an object that “works through evolution” by being “God's way of creating,” as if God were some deity in Heaven populating the universe like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting when He touches Adam with the miracle of life. This is not the Integral Vision. The view Visser proposes, in his defense of science, is nothing but an UNENLIGHTENED view, which Visser then criticizes with his university-educated Eye of Mind, for his Eye of Spirit sees dimly. I've always liked Frank, and have long considered him a friend (for he is a nice and intelligent man), but his consistent debasing of the Integral Vision and the loud platform of Integral World read by thousands worldwide has now forced me to counter these views with this rebuttal. If anything, let's recognize these views of Visser-Lane are not those of a genuine “Integral World.”

To make his points, of course, Visser attacks Wilber relentlessly (essay after essay) often by selecting inferior quotes (sometimes from letters), for he simply doesn't believe evolution (particularly biological evolution) is anything other than natural or physical processes. For Visser, the Ultimate Truth of a wholly Transcendent-Immanent Divine Reality, which Wilber has consistently seen for decades (which is why he's so popular with people who share that vision), has nothing to do with evolution. Yet, as Wilber indicates with this quote (among many) the Eye of Spirit shows another way of seeing how evolution truly unfolds:

We—and all beings as such—are drenched in this meaning, afloat in a current of care and profound value, ultimate significance, intrinsic awareness. We are part and parcel of this immense intelligence, this Spirit-in-action, this God-in-the-making. We don't have to think of God as some mythic figure outside of the display, running the show. Nor must we picture it as some merely immanent Goddess, lost in the forms of her own production. Evolution is both God and Goddess, transcendence and immanence. It is immanent in the process itself, woven into the very fabric of the Kosmos; but it everywhere transcends its own productions, and brings forth anew in every moment.[2]

Let me repeat: Visser misunderstands what these “spiritual luminaries” are saying, or at least what the more enlightened ones are saying. Therefore, he goes on to criticize his misunderstandings as being “highly problematic”—well, of course they are for someone who has not fully understood the vastly paradoxical Truth of Real God. He fails to see (know or realize) that the Godhead (or Buddha-Nature) is mysteriously immanent or all-pervading the natural gross-physical cosmos, yet while still being utterly transcendent of every thing, every condition, every possibility, ad infinitum. Such a vision (Enlightenment) truly transcends evolution altogether. Thus, it becomes an intellectual conundrum for it is a paradox, i.e., two apparently opposite truths that are actually true: relatively evolving; Absolutely always already Free.). All things (all holons), all subatomic particles (or all matter-energy), even all evolutionary processes arise within and as God, according to the Integral Vision (and all Enlightened Sages).

This knowledge, however, comes not from the realm of science (the Eye of Mind), nor from the realm of rocks and plants (the Eye of Flesh), but is one of authentic transpersonal mysticism (seen with the Eye of Spirit, to use a somewhat crude metaphor). Yes, it is a mystery, but it is a mystery not because we have yet to learn how it all works—it is a Mystery because it is Divine! This vision, this mode of knowing, will always remain hidden to science and the Eye of Mind, although science can trace various correlates and measure some of its effects. The fact that “something” has come from “nothing” seems to prove just this. Nevertheless, the Absolute Truth (or True Self) of the Kosmos cannot be measured, theorized, or published by the mind; it can only be realized in the Heart. I heartily invite everyone to open those sacred pathways if this Divine Vision is not yet clear. There is no greater Happiness or Truth.

Putting Eros In Its Place

Frank Visser's endless critiques of Ken Wilber's notion of Eros is a classic example of a “strawman” fallacy—a misrepresentation of what someone says to then tear it down; the error in this approach: you didn't have it correct in the first place! Visser suggests a “spiritual strategy” is meant to somehow account for the processes of the natural world—but this is not what the Eye of Spirit reveals. This is why we want to use science (the Eye of Mind) as an effective method of knowing about the natural world-cosmos (seen with the Eye of Flesh), for it reveals some relative truths about our human existence, but it does not reveal the Absolute Truth of our actual condition. This is the two truths fallacy (see Part One). Nor is there any need to conflate these different modes of knowing by elevating science to superior status. The “asana” or “pose” or approach of science as a valid method can be used to gain useful knowledge, but not effective as a philosophy or way of life to realize Ultimate Knowledge (see Part One).

Sure, I concede Wilber has been somewhat sloppy (and confusing) in his presentations critiquing Darwinian evolution (i.e., biological evolution). Perhaps Visser (or someone) should help clarify this weakness and improve upon it. But Visser likes to resort to some of Wilber's more exaggerated rants from the Internet, instead of his more finely articulated statements; yet being a fine Wilber-scholar Visser can find the word “force” being used to describe Eros. I agree, this is an inaccuracy (or failing) in Wilber's presentation, which Visser has highlighted. But when taken within Wilber's overall context, “force” is more like “direction” or the progressive movement of evolution altogether. For example, Wilber's intention of using “Eros” as a metaphor for progressive evolution is summarized in his magnum opus, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (a message which bleeds through on nearly every page):

“Eros is the drive to integration… the fact that evolution has some sort of self-transcending drive tucked within its own processes… the self-organizing and self-transcending capacities of all holons. In other words, Eros.”[3]

Wilber is emphasizing evolution as a whole, not just as its biological referent, which Visser fails to understand adequately. For example, Wilber explains:

Evolution is a wildly self-transcending process: it has the utterly amazing capacity to go beyond what went before. So evolution is in part a process of transcendence, which incorporates what went before and then adds incredibly novel components. The drive to self transcendence is thus built into the very fabric of the Kosmos itself.[4]

No matter what your opinion is about the so-called facts of evolution, its real definition goes far beyond Darwin's theory of natural selection, which the naturalist defined as “descent with modification.” “Evolution” is a word connoting emergence for it comes from the Latin root evoluere, meaning “to roll out” or “to unfold.” Evolution, as an explanatory principle, has been called the greatest discovery of modern science (Swimme, 1992), for it proves that the universe (matter) and biology (life) evolves or unfolds from less-complex, lower-order structures to more-complex, higher-order structures in a manner where each senior stage transcends-yet-includes its junior levels by “adding something extra” (its emergent quality). Thus evolution is best defined as a developmental process of increasing complexity (or complexification), and thus when seen from an integral perspective (and not just a reductionistic scientific one), it generates or unfolds the various “spheres” (“sheaths”) and “levels” of existence. Evolution, in other words, is an emergent evolution that has created the nested or natural hierarchical structure of the Kosmos running through all the spheres of existence (physiosphere, biosphere, noosphere, theosphere). With the emergence of the noosphere (or the mental domain of interior consciousness), Julian Huxley noted the human being “is nothing else than evolution becoming conscious of itself.”[5] This is leaning in the direction of being integral, not simply supporting scientism as a superior worldview.

Evolution is not just the development of exteriors or body parts, as the paleontologist-scientist and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin understood, but involves the evolution of the within of things as well (a topic science shies away from). This is what he was attempting to state in his integral The Phenomenon of Man (1955):

Since, in its totality and throughout the length of each stem [in the tree of life], the natural history of living creatures amounts on the exterior to the gradual establishment of a vast nervous system, it therefore corresponds on the interior to the installation of a psychic state coextensive with the earth. On the surface, we find the nerve fibers and ganglions; deep down, consciousness…. Consciousness in its turn, as we now know, is nothing less than the substance and the heart of life in process of evolution.[6]
The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard de Chardin

In this case, Visser is not being integral when he only turns to exterior-oriented, materialistic-based science as being the best alternative worldview in an attempt to reject those so-called illusionary spiritual ideas wanting to make grand pronouncements about our actual condition. But if Visser is not seeing clearly with the Eye of Spirit, why should we accept his alternate vision? Many people find comfort in Visser's vision of science, as readers' responses on Integral World show (for most of us have been university-trained in the Eye of Mind). Nonetheless, I maintain that is fine, in and of itself, because we want to embrace (and use) the incredible knowledge gained by science, however, it is not integral (i.e., the way Wilber and others define that term). For one, this is why we need to access the more advanced (and awakened) Adepts or Enlightened Gurus to inspire us to evolve beyond our current level of mental-egoic adaptation, another topic promoted by the Integral Vision (that Visser-Lane seem to overlook, or worse, dismiss as being cultic). The perspective or point of view of the separative self, as the Sages have long taught, generates illusions about us and our world which must be transcended in order to see reality clearly.

Let's be honest, most of us are not experimental scientists; we are Armchair Scientists, getting our information and training about science from books, papers, documentaries, and educational classes. Even professional scientists are specialists in certain fields, experts in their domain, which is what makes them so useful, but not adequately-trained outside their fields. We all use our intelligence to evaluate the information we receive, leaving us alone to determine what we consider false or true. But our belief in science comes mostly from the mind and trusting scientists' reports, not from conducting the experiments for ourselves.

Eros is a metaphor for describing how the natural universe operates as a whole by following innate patterns of emergent evolution, which are ultimately Divine (or arising in God), not just physical or mental processes fortuitously occurring by chance.

Visser goes on to critically state: “[Wilber's] Eros is an intrinsic force built into the fabric of the universe”—but this an incorrect reading of what Wilber means. Eros is a metaphor for describing how the natural universe operates as a whole by following innate patterns of emergent evolution, which are ultimately Divine (or arising in God), not just physical or mental processes fortuitously occurring by chance. Sure, we can complain that “drive” is not a measurable scientific “force” (or concept), yet we obviously see it operating throughout the universe as the progressive movement towards more complexity (complexification), even towards an intensification of consciousness, which unfolds naturally. After all, Wilber clearly understands: “Evolution is not predictable, only reconstructable.”[7] This is “what” Wilber is using Eros to represent: an overarching explanatory principle for what has occurred and is occurring all around us (from the Big Bang onwards throughout relative spacetime). Integral pioneer Jean Gebser, for instance, put it this way:

The expansion of consciousness is merely a spatially conceived quantification of consciousness and subsequently an illusion. Rather, we are dealing here throughout with an intensification of consciousness; not because of any qualitative character which might be ascribed to it, but because it is by nature “outside” of any purely qualitative valuation of quantitative devaluation.[8]

But if one doesn't see or understand or realize this deeper truth of the evolving Kosmos-universe, then a person is like the vast majority of us: not yet Enlightened or God-Realized. No harm or foul, of course, since it is our innate condition to be born ignorant of the Real Truth. God-Realization, although ultimately a matter of Grace, takes self-transcending effort and practice (preferably to be studied under competent spiritual authorities who have completed the process for themselves). Enlightenment is the most “advanced degree” any person can receive (which is why it's so rare in human history). Yet, Visser keeps complaining that spiritual realization cannot explain the processes of Nature—a claim true spirituality never makes—therefore suggesting the Eye of Spirit is inferior in its vision. But this too is incorrect, for Enlightenment has no quarrel with science, other than with its dehumanizing tendencies. Spiritual understanding transcends-yet-includes the knowledge of science, but it does, in fact, transcend it too, since it provides Ultimate Knowledge about Real God, the true (and most fundamental) condition of your very consciousness. Only this Realization is where real Happiness and peace of mind resides, as long taught to us by our most advanced Sages in world history.

To be clear: there is NO “pervasive cosmic force supposedly responsible for evolution or consciousness” (as Visser says). God is not an object or a “force” such as “Eros” or whatnot, but is the inherent Source and Condition of all existence. It is the inner Source, the True Self, that manifests all of creation—“Spirit-in-action,” as Wilber would have it. This cannot be understood logically or with rational calculations, nor quantified into mathematical formulas (via the Eye of Mind), nor printed on a page to be absorbed by thought alone. It can only be realized spiritually (via the Eye of Spirit, so to speak), but only by transcending all thoughts (and formulas). From this transcendental (or transpersonal) perspective, Love (Eros) is seen to be the underlying Truth of the Kosmos unfolding all of existence as its natural course… like the Tao. This view is replete throughout Wilber's published works:

The Great Nest is a multidimensional latticework of love—Eros, Agape, Karuna, Maitri—call it what you will, it leaves no corner of the Kosmos untouched by care nor alien to the mysteries of grace.[9]

Only by integrating all levels: the physical-mental-spiritual domains of knowledge, is a person truly integral, but not before then. If one level is preferred, even the transpersonal one (at the exclusion of the world process as a whole), then this is not being integral. If someone doesn't get this, then our suggestion is to further study and practice (do sadhana) by engaging in the ego-transcending process of genuine spiritual growth—what Wilber now calls “Growing Up” (earlier stages of life) and “Waking Up” (higher stages of life), which basically replicates Adi Da Samraj's “Seven Stages of Life.”[10] I suggest this process of spiritual (transpersonal) development is best done within the embrace of Satsang or genuine Guru Yoga with an authentic Awakened Adept (not a cultic totem-master).[11] To truly open the Eye of Spirit it is best to go study with real Gurus, to examine the Great Wisdom Tradition of humankind more thoroughly.[12] But again, the priesthood at so-called Integral World dismisses this approach too, for they cry “cult” too often due to some incompetent and self-proclaimed “Spiritual Masters” that are indeed false and deluding; but some are the real deal. I humbly suggest: relax the mental-scientific paradigms that grasp at knowing things and objects, and open or surrender to your innermost heart and see (or know) the very Spirit of God that is alive as you right now. This, then, is seeing with the Eye of Spirit, with the Eye of Enlightenment (which is Wilber's actual recommendation[13]). This must be what Teilhard de Chardin was referring to as well, a scientist-priest who deeply intuited and expressed what is actually “driving evolution” (though he had to hide it from the Catholic Church while he was alive):

Considered in its full biological reality, love—that is to say, the affinity of being with being—is not peculiar to man. It is a general property of all life and as such embraces, in its varieties and degrees, all the forms successively adopted by organized matter…. Driven by the force of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.[14]

We certainly don't want to hide such noble (not “enchanted”) views either just because science might be the dominant worldview today, and all our universities are biased in its direction (by cultivating the Eye of Mind). In a similar manner, if a person wants to learn about science: go study with real professors at universities—for they'll teach you about the Eye of Mind—which Visser has adequately done. But from the results evident in his essays, he has not yet dedicated the same degree of devotion to genuine spiritual disciplines at qualified ashrams (or under authentic Gurus)… otherwise the Eye of Spirit becomes a concept, an idea that can be rejected, not adequately known. Then “ideas” about God and Spirit and Eros (or Love) become nothing more than the “Talking School” of fake spirituality, not the authentic integral-yogic “Practicing School” of Real God-Realization (as Adi Da has pointed out). Reading books about spirituality, by the way, is not the way to become Enlightened, as everyone from Buddha to the Upanishads to even Wilber have always pointed out… it's barely opening the door.

The Problem of Proof: Making Validity Claims

Another indicator that the Visser-Lane team is not actually integral is they miss the fact that each domain of knowledge acquisition has their own verification procedures. With this awareness they should be promoting “good science,” not “narrow science” (beset with reductionistic materialism).[15] Once again, from early in his career (Phase-2), Wilber has acknowledged that each “eye” of knowing (of body, mind, spirit) has methods to verify its data and to ensure its validity claims. They each follow the same generalized pattern. This also includes the Eye of Spirit, for as the integral pandit explained in A Sociable God (1983): “Spiritual knowledge, like all other forms of valid cognitive knowledge, is experimental, repeatable, and publically verifiable.”[16] This is because physical, mental, and spiritual data have “three strands of genuine knowledge accumulation” or “three strands of valid knowledge,” i.e., validity claims, where each generates verifiable and dependable evidence, namely: (1) an injunction (or paradigm), (2) an illumination (or data), and (3) a confirmation (affirmation/rejection), listed in more detail below:

  1. Instrumental injunction. This is an actual practice, an exemplar, a paradigm, an experiment, an ordinance. It is always of the form, “If you want to know this, do this” (e.g. measurements, experimentation, meditation, etc.).
  2. Direct apprehension. This is an immediate experience of the domain disclosed by the injunction; that is, a direct experience or apprehension of data (even if the data is mediated, at the moment of experience it is immediately apprehended).
  3. Communal confirmation (or rejection). This is a checking of the results—the data, the evidence—with others who have adequately completed the injunctive and apprehensive strands (e.g. the community of like-minded practitioners or adequately-trained).[17]

Wilber goes on to summarize their effectiveness: “Those three strands, I believe, are the essential ingredients of the scientific method (and all valid modes of knowing in general). This conclusion is bolstered by the fact that, of the three major schools of the philosophy of science that are most influential today—namely, empiricism [science], Thomas Kuhn [paradigms], and Sir Karl Popper [falsifiablity]—this approach explicitly incorporates the essentials of each of them.”[18] This means that not only is the data of science verifiable by other scientists (who repeat the experiments), but so too is spiritual apprehensions by those who take up the proper injunctions, such as yoga, meditation, and Satsang (or Guru Yoga). If you don't perform the experiment, enact the paradigm you will not apprehend the data. If you are not seeing clearly with the Eye of Spirit, then your sadhana (spiritual disciplines) is not yet adequate to the task (or direct apprehension).

In all cases, studying with and under appropriate and authentic authorities, whether teachers, professors, Nobel Laureates, or enlightened Gurus and Roshis, et al, becomes mandatory. By training under proper authorities, whether in the university or ashram (or sangha), or whatnot, the data becomes apprehensible; before that, incomprehensible. Then your peers of the like-minded, adequately-trained, will either confirm your views or deny them (thus suggesting you need to do more work).

The Marriage of Sense and Soul, Ken Wilber

By following the three strands of knowing and validation we have a way out of the validation quagmire. Whether accessing knowledge with the Eye of Flesh, Mind, or Spirit will help prevent us from accepting dogmatic views, leaning toward prejudice, or believing falsehoods (or the fake). Without knowing for sure about what we speak (or think we know), or mired in doubt, it's best not to make pronouncements on that which one is inadequately trained. But the point is not to criticize, but turn to gaining positive new knowledge and wisdom. By following the innate wisdom of the Kosmos, based on actual evidence, we eliminate illusions and see more clearly. Wilber wonderfully outlined in The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1999) why we should work for our worldview to see with greater wisdom and validation:

The validity claims are the ways that we connect to Spirit itself, ways that we attune ourselves to the Kosmos…. The demand for evidence—or validity claims—which has always anchored genuine and progressive science, simply means that one's ego cannot impose on the universe a view of reality that finds no support from the universe itself. The validity claims and evidence are the ways in which we attune ourselves to the Kosmos. The validity claims force us to confront reality; they curb our egoic fantasies and self-centered ways; they demand evidence from the rest of the Kosmos; they force us outside of ourselves! They are the checks and balances in the Kosmic Constitution.[19]

With our current modern/postmodern worldview, dominated by Western scientific methodological reductionism, and the materialist profit motive, most of us are biased to flatland, Omega-mind, “this world” (only) based views. Unfortunately, this is what I see occurring at Importantly, any one and everyone can continue their development in all forms of knowledge acquisition, including further training in the realms investigated by the Eye of Spirit (and Eye of Heart). This is what the real Integral Vision encourages us all to do until the pinnacle (or ultimate) potential of human life is achieved: God-Realization and Divine Enlightenment. As the wonderful Lex Hixon put it: “Enlightenment is the awakening to our primal harmony or, in another mystical language, to our rootedness in the Divine.”[20] By seeing with the Eye of Spirit, the Eye of Science-Mind uses the heart as well as the mind in exploring its own potentials and consequences. Only with such an Integral Vision will we be “Coming Home” to a worldview where science and spirit can serve one another, not just struggle in opposition.

Doing Injunctions (Yogas) to Open the Eye of Spirit

A person cannot understand the Transcendent-Immanent Spirit (or Divine Source-Condition) with the Eye of Mind (mental activity) or the Eye of Flesh (senses). The Divine does not intervene in Nature (or the Kosmos) as if set apart as a separate source “creating” the universe (a point Visser fails to grasp for he goes to great lengths criticizing it). Real God is not the all-powerful Creator. Real God is like the Tao, the natural unfolding of what IS, which is beyond words or names or conceptions. As Wilber tried to state it (from the quote in Part I): “Manifestation is not 'apart from' Spirit but an activity of Spirit: the evolving Kosmos is Spirit-in-action.”[21] And this equates with Love—or Eros—as those who open the Eye of Spirit see or know beyond doubt. Again, Teilhard de Chardin, taking all of cosmic and biological evolution into account, simply states: “Love [Eros] alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.”[22] In this case, a holistic scientist who uses the method of science for investigation into the relative world will not have to dispense with the insights gained by his or her soul as a life philosophy in knowing about the Absolute Truth of our inherent Divine Existence (see Part I).

This is the advantage of opening the Eye of Spirit. It liberates the self from addiction or attachment to the psycho-physical cosmos (whether expressed by science, myths, or lesser mysticisms), so that life and death can be accessed to its fullest, with wisdom and happiness, with love and compassion, and a greater, more benign understanding about our existence as human beings (or as any other being). The “evidence” is found in realization of these truths, or Truth, and by no other means.

As Wilber pointed out in his still-relevant essay, “The Problem of Proof,” a person must be adequate (adequatio) or have reached a degree of development in consciousness in order to genuinely grasp what the Eye of Spirit reveals: “The notion of adequatio—if I am to grasp any objectification of mind or spirit, I must, in my own personal lived experience, my own Erlebnisse, be adequate to the realm that produced the objectification, or else, as the biblical wisdom has it, we are casting pearls before swine.”[23] To see or gain knowledge with the Eye of Spirit a person must engage in authentic ego-transcending meditation, as well as receive the Awakening given by Divine Grace (a difficult path indeed). Overall, therefore, my thesis in these essays is that the principle confusion of not being truly integral results in neither Visser nor Lane having much genuine sympathy for seeing with the Eye of Spirit, let alone with the Enlightened Nondual Perspective that has little difficulty juggling relative and Absolute truths. They explore “spirituality” and spiritual ideas with the mind, like a scientist or philosopher, thus failing to discover what's truly being said (or proposed) by the Integral Vision.

Confusing Natural Theology with the Integral Vision

A t the mislabeled “Integral” World website, Frank Visser continues to incorrectly associate Ken Wilber's work with “Natural Theology,” which suggests a Deity-God can be found evident in the complexities of Nature. This is not what Wilber means nor has he ever suggested this; Visser, since his Eye of Spirit sees dimly, once again is misreading Wilber to construct a false strawman so he can tear it down. Yet there is no need to do this, even if it makes for exciting copy and sensational headlines. To top it off, Visser throws out one of the worst insults to be leveled at any serious philosopher (one that Wilber has worked hard to never commit): “Wilber's enchanted view of evolution is New Agey through and through.” Visser seems to think the idea of “evolution” can best be applied only to the realm of biology where the processes of biological selection determines the pattern and pace of change (and its complexification). My understanding is that this is the field of expertise Visser has been trained in at a university under competent professors (adept in exercising the Eye of Mind), thus obviously tainting his understanding to support the scientific worldview.

No scientist, no physicist or astronomer, for example, will speak of cosmic evolution as a process of transcend-and-include, like Wilber (and other philosophers) do. Let alone the fact that this means evolution is ultimately about the evolution of consciousness, as Wilber has constantly and consistently pointed out, as these quotes show (written over the span of nearly two decades):

Development—or evolution—consists of a series of hierarchical transformations or unfoldings of the deep structures out of the ground-unconscious, starting with the lowest (pleroma and body), and ending with the highest (God and Void). When—and if—all of the ground-unconscious has emerged, then there is only consciousness: all is conscious as the All. As Aristotle put it, when all potential has been actualized, the result is God.[24]

The ultimate aim of evolution—the movement from the lower to the higher—is to awaken as Atman, and thus retain the glory of creation without being forced to act in the drama of self-suffering.[25]

Evolution seeks only this Formless summum bonum—it wants only this ultimate Omega—it rushes forward always and solely in search of this—and it will never find it, because evolution unfolds in the world of form. The Kosmos is driven forward endlessly, searching in the world of time for that which is altogether timeless. And since it will never find it, it will never cease the search. Samsara circles endlessly, and that is always the brutal nightmare hidden in its heart.[26]

Evolution—far from being an anti Spiritual movement, as so many Romantics, antimodernists, and virtually all premodern cultures had imagined—is actually the concrete unfolding, holarchical integration, and self actualization of Spirit itself. Evolution is the mode and manner of Spirit's creation of the entire manifest world, not one item of which is left untouched by its all-encompassing embrace.[27]

Spirit manifests as the entire world in a series of increasingly holistic and holarchic spheres, stretching from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit itself. But all of these different dimensions are actually just forms of spirit, in various degrees of self realization and self actualization. Thus, there is really spirit as matter, spirit as prana, spirit as mind, spirit as soul, and spirit as spirit.[28]

These are not statements of an unenlightened philosopher, but show a well-functioning Eye of Spirit. Besides, Wilber has never “sold” himself as being simply a scientist, but an integral philosopher. Yet, Visser overlooks the fact Wilber (and other philosophers, such as Teilhard de Chardin) are using the word “evolution” in a more universal sense to indicate the complexification of forms. They are following the unfolding of existence from the Big Bang to the human brain (the most complex organ or system known to us in the entire universe). The Integral Vision sees evolution as a process of unfolding higher-order structures, from lower to higher, or better, from less consciousness to more consciousness. This unfolding complexity pervades and is “driving” evolution altogether, as Wilber has always maintained: “Development is evolution; evolution is transcendence.”[29]

For Wilber, evolution is about the stage-by-stage progression of consciousness, not just explaining the diversity of life on planet Earth, which was Darwin’s enterprise.

Yes, correct, Wilber does not intend to discuss evolution simply from the biological perspective of cellular (DNA) mutations—that task is for scientists to do. Then, we the people, can integrate their specific findings into our larger Vision of the Divine Kosmos, not simply the physical cosmos. Rather, Wilber discusses evolution as a process of transcendence, and ultimately, when it comes to humans: self transcendence (which requires spiritual practice and deep meditation). Wilber has always pointed out that evolution is a developmental process: the vertical transformation from the “lower” (or less complex) to the “higher” (or more complex). He once codified this process as a “tenet” of evolution's drive to create complexity: “Each successive level of evolution produces GREATER depth [more consciousness] and LESS span [less numbers]… the greater the depth of a holon, the greater its degree of consciousness. The spectrum of evolution is a spectrum of consciousness. And one can perhaps begin to see that a spiritual dimension is built into the very fabric, the very depth, of the Kosmos.”[30] For Wilber (and many others), evolution is about the stage-by-stage progression of consciousness, not just explaining the diversity of life on planet Earth, which was Darwin's enterprise. Visser-Lane consistently miss this important fact by only propagating evolution as being a discovery operating on scientific principles.

Visser, in other words, is confusing apples (i.e. biology) with oranges (i.e., consciousness development) simply because both are round-looking fruits since both use the term “evolution.” It is the process of complexification that impresses Wilber—for example, by developing from a baby to an adult to a Buddha, from a single cell to a tadpole to a triune brain, etc.—as he long ago noted: “Although the content of each developmental growth is quite different, the form is essentially similar: The form of development, the form of transformation—this is constant, as far as I can tell, from the womb to God.”[31] Why doesn't Visser resort to these types of quotes on Wilber's views about evolution? He doesn't see with the Eye of Spirit, that is why. God does not fit into his equations.

Rather, Visser is on a dedicated campaign to discredit Wilber's “voluminous works” just because “one will look in vain for one single page in which the topic of evolution is discussed in a [biologically] scientifically credible manner.” Visser is totally confused for these two subjects don't add up or equate: biological diversity versus the evolution of consciousness! Even Darwin never used the word “evolution” in his entire discourse on the “Origin of Species,” until the very last page (out of 500-some pages). Darwin was talking about “descent with modification,” whereas Wilber is speaking about something else—call is “Eros” if you will (or won't). It seems the word “evolution” has caused much confusion over there at so-called, but let's not distort what's really going on in Wilber's case. Otherwise, a person simply isn't being integral, though in fact they may be expressing the views of a well-trained scientist. Or worse, they are promoting a “Fake Integral,” and it's time someone spoke up (which I am attempting to do here).

For example, nowhere does Wilber describe or write about physics either, about the initial conditions after the Big Bang, nor about the codification of the various molecules and atomic elements, nor about the heavy elements created by exploding supernovae, or the formation of galaxies, the interiors of stars, nor about the “creation” of life forms, let alone reviewing the slow “climb” of evolution from the seas to the land, nor about trilobites and the rise (and destruction) of dinosaurs, nor about moon flights, space exploration and other purely scientific enterprises. That is not his focus of interest; the entire evolutionary process as a whole leading to (and including) consciousness development is Wilber's main interest, as we've reviewed. Thus, Visser really seems to be constructing that strawman artifice when he complains about Wilber's inadequacies in biological evolution and genetic variation; he's missing the point, as far as I can see.

To summarize, therefore, Wilber's Integral Vision is mostly about revealing (or reconstructing) the evolution of consciousness in human beings, not about biological diversity and adaptation to environmental niches. He is not alone, as Teilhard de Chardin, as only one example, also noted:

The phenomenon of [humans] is to culminate—the convergence of the spirit…. Consciousness rises through living beings: that was about all we were able to say. But from the moment the threshold of thought is crossed its progress becomes easier to unravel… Under the free and ingenious effort of successive intelligences, something (even in the absence of any measurable variation of brain or cranium) irreversibly accumulates, according to all the evidence… consciousness in its turn, as we now know, is nothing less than the substance and heart of life in process of evolution.[32]

Hence, Teilhard de Chardin from the West, like Aurobindo from the East, sees that evolution shifts to the within of things, to the interiors of the most highly evolved exteriors (such as with animals and the human brain). These visionaries are seeing with the Eye of Spirit, or with higher consciousness, a trait I see sorely lacking at the so-called Integral World website. Such philosophers are not deluded if you are adequate (adequatio) to understanding what they're talking about. Otherwise, a person will write endless essays complaining that it doesn't all add up. In this case, I do not recommend you turn to Integral World to get the grander picture of evolution as being an integral process of development and consciousness evolution; turn to the real integral philosophers, not the fake ones, or better yet, turn to the awakened Adepts of humankind, the Shamans, Saints, Sages, Siddhas, and Enlightened Gurus who appear to serve your own evolution of consciousness, transcending self and the limits of the scientific mind. Then you will not only be able to embrace science as being adequate to its limited tasks, but you'll be able to embrace the full-spectrum of Reality as it truly IS (which resides in the prior unity of Real God).

Evolution to God—Really?

In order to discredit Wilber further, yet by actually showing his own inadequate understandings, Visser calls the integral view of evolution as being an “an enchanted evolutionary perspective” because Wilber attempts to integrate a spiritual and Enlightened (or God-Realized) perspective into his discussions (and integral philosophy). Since Visser is now a committed scientist—a true believer of what Steve Taylor (in his posted essays) calls “the religion of science,” as do many philosophers, from Huston Smith to Fritjof Schuon to Joseph Campbell to endless others who propose a greater (more sacred) vision of reality than that gained by the reach of science alone. As his preferred alternative, Visser proclaims he's simply enchanted with science itself. Fine, most of us are (to some degree), enthralled by the marvelous discoveries of science in the modern world, as is Ken Wilber too. However, we do not then have to elevate it to a life philosophy or as being able to reveal the real truth of the whole universe or our pluridimensional Kosmos.

Only the Eye of Spirit can do that—which has been Wilber's thesis (and forte) from the very beginning of his work (i.e., since his first published papers and books; published, by the way, in highly-esteemed professional psychology journals who happen to agree with Wilber's views—but that's another story).[33] But for Visser he's not going to have any admixture of science and spirituality, especially religious thought and metaphysics (which might be a good thing, to a degree), or what he calls “a false romanticism”—but as I've tried to show: this is not Wilber's work! Wilber proposes a genuine transpersonal view of authentic spirituality gained by the evolution of consciousness, i.e., by developing from a newborn babe to an Enlightened Sage spreading love and compassion to all beings. This is not the perspective of most religions, especially those mired in the mythic traditions of a premodern past, let alone of modern science, a distinction that Visser does not adequately differentiate. Hence, he misses the integral boat.

Visser has missed the deeper understanding of what Wilber actually proposes: the Kosmos is not dead or dull but is Divine.

Visser then goes on to bemoan “spiritualists,” which is actually more like Visser's original “spiritual” orientation to life, grounded heavily in Theosophy, than anything Ken Wilber proposed. He complains they see the physical world as being “dull, meaningless, and dead” (via Whitehead). Once again: a total misreading of Wilber's actual intentions! True, Wilber is out to combat the scientific-industrial efforts of a stark materialism, which is often based on the profit-motive more than genuine scientific research. Critics of scientism have been critiquing this tendency of scientific materialism for decades, if not centuries. Just because science cannot see or measure Spirit-God with an instrument and mathematical formulas does not mean Spirit-God does not exist. This is a total fabrication done by Visser to mock Wilber. Yet, it is totally unnecessary and misguided; it certainly is not integral.

But then, of course, Visser inserts his own cute personal philosophy that “the material realm itself is magical and fascinating, if properly understood in all its micro- and macroscopic dimensions.” “Magical”???; how unscientific! Perhaps true scientists would call their work “fascinating,” but not “magical.” I think not, other than to superimpose (or project) their own childish beliefs onto the universe. Which, once again, proves Visser has missed the deeper understanding of what Wilber actually proposes: the Kosmos is not dead or dull but is Divine, the dance of Spirit Itself—“Spirit-in action” (in Wilber's words). It's not simply magical; it is a Miracle! (see my next series of essays).

The universe, from “physical” matter-energy to consciousness itself is God-Brahman-Tao, et al—so Nature is more than fascinating, it's also mystical, that is, if you see it rightly (with the Eye of Spirit). But unless a person has had their Eye of Spirit activated and opened they will not see this vision. Hence, I must conclude the priesthood at Integral World is not integral. And if a person does not yet see clearly with the Eye of Spirit, I can only recommend you go to school in the Great Tradition of human spirituality, to do the yogas, to meditate daily and seriously study the Enlightened Adepts. Better yet, avail yourself to the Enlightened Transmission Field of an authentic Awakened Adept or Siddha-Guru (such as in Satsang or Guru Yoga). A person must be open and surrender (their ego-mind) to Divine Grace in order to get over (or transcend) himself or herself. This is the way out (which is the way in). There really seems to be no other way (although personally-motivated sadhana will accelerate the process). Even then, it takes years of dedicated devotion and disciplined spiritual (transpersonal) ego-transcending practices (see Part III).

By opening (or activating) the Eye of Spirit we realize the true Happiness of the awakened heart and find genuine peace of mind. Then we may lie down on our deathbed having realized and lived the true purpose of Life (of our born existence). Where does science measure this? Unfortunately, at this time, at least, Visser, for one, has failed to do so adequately. Yet, truly, that's not a problem, for everyone and anyone has the potential to further evolve his or her consciousness to God-Realization Itself. Evolution—Eros as Love—has made sure of that. Thank God.

[Please see Part III for a further critique of by focusing on David Lane's championing of scientism over spirituality as the best way to see our reality or Kosmos.]


[1] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 78 [italics added].

[2] Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (1996), p. 42.

[3] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 69, 492.

[4] Ken Wilber, A Brief History of Everything (1996), p. 23.

[5] See: Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1955, 1959), p. 221.

[6] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1955, 1959), p. 146, 178.

[7] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 191.

[8] Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin (1949, 1985), pp. 99-100.

[9] Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology (2000), p. 8. <

[10] See: Brad Reynolds, Growing In God: Seven Stages of Life from Birth to Enlightenment: An Integral Interpretation (forthcoming).

[11] See: Brad Reynolds, In God's Company: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (forthcoming).

[12] See: Brad Reynolds, God's Great Tradition of Humankind: Siddha-Gurus in the Integral Age (forthcoming).

[13] See: Ken Wilber, Eye to Eye (1983, 1990), p. 199: "The only major purpose of a book on mysticism should be to persuade the reader to engage in mystical practice."

[14] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1955, 1959), pp. 264-265.

[15] See: Ken Wilber, A Theory of Everything (1999), p. 76:

“In short, narrow science (whose data come mostly from the exterior realms or Right-Hand quadrants) and broad science (whose date come mostly from the interior realms or Left-Hand quadrants) both attempt to be good science (or science that follows the three strands of evidence accumulation and verification).”

[16] Ken Wilber, A Sociable God (1983), p. 133.

[17] See: Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1999), pp. 155-156.

[18] Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1999), p. 158.

[19] Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1999), pp. 32-33.

[20] Lex Hixon, Coming Home (1978, 1989, 2004), p. xi.

[21] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 583, 1n.

[22] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1955, 1959), p. 265.

[23] Ken Wilber, Eye to Eye (1983, 1990), pp. 80-81.

[24]Ken Wilber, The Atman Project (1980), p. 83.

[25]Ken Wilber, Eye to Eye (1983, 1990), p. 131.

[26] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 316 [italics in original].

[27] Ken Wilber, The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1998), p. 110.

[28] Ken Wilber, The Eye of Spirit (1997), p. 157.

[29] Ken Wilber, The Atman Project (1980), p. ix.

[30] Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 56, 57.

[31] Ken Wilber, The Atman Project (1980), p. 79.

[32] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (1955, 1959), p. 176, 177, 178.

[33] See: Brad Reynolds, Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (2012, Kindle version: Paragon House), or even Frank Visser, Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (2003).

Comments containing links will be moderated first, to avoid spam.

Comment Form is loading comments...