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An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

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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). Visit:


Brad's Rebuttal
to Frank's Reply

Brad Reynolds


One of my points has been: the so-called High Priest of so-called “Integral” World will not let me post an essay without immediately having to go through his dogma. I would prefer my words and those of Wilber stand on their own… at least for a while, so the readers can read for themselves without dogmatic re-interpretations.

Since Mr. Visser likes lists, let me go down his list in his reply to my essay “Category Errors Galore!”:

“I argue that these other ways of knowing have no bearing on a topic such as evolutionary biology.”

• This is a dead-end argument (as he confesses) proving Visser has not heard nor accepted anything I have said (about Wilber). To be clear (again): Science and evolutionary biology is VALID for its domain of knowledge, but it ends there; that does NOT mean Spirit or the fact that ALL the evolutionary processes are manifestations of the Divine is invalid. In other words, evolutionary biology has NO bearing on the topics seen with the Eye of Spirit!

“I argue that Wilber has seriously misread Darwin's lasting contribution.”

• Visser is missing the whole point and reason of Wilber's work: healing the division between science and spirituality. He is NOT here to discourse on “Darwin's lasting contribution.” Visser's so-called “misreading” really means that Wilber will not succumb to scientific materialism and deny God, like Darwin did. Integral Theory INCLUDES BOTH VIEWS (spirit and science); Visser only accepts one view (biology) and dismisses the other (Spirit-in-action). Thus Visser totally misconstrues and misunderstands Wilber's work (as I try to show)… and it's healing beauty. Many of us get it and appreciate Wilber's work very much for in our own lives we see and accept that both science and genuine spirituality are true and real. We resolve the paradoxes (or apparent contradictions) in Wholeness (which is ultimately Nondual Spirit). I encourage the reader to embrace wholeness, not reductionism for YOU CAN discover that Spirit-God is real and true.

“Reynolds claims that Wilber is an "enlightened philosopher" and not an evolutionary scientist; I argue that for that reason alone he should not comment on that particular field of science for he lacks the expertise.”

• Of course Wilber can comment on the data of science yet without accepting its philosophical conclusions. As my essay CLEARLY pointed out, to explain biological evolution from science's perspective is NOT Wilber's point and purpose—he hardly ever mentions it in his written work. In a similar manner: maybe FRANK VISSER SHOULD NOT COMMENT ON SPIRITUAL MATTERS WHICH FALL OUTSIDE HIS FIELD OF EXPERTISE (such as dismissing Spirit). Stick to your material world analyzed by science, Frank, and cease dismissing Wilber based on your understanding of science, which is reductionistic, materialistic, and denies God (or Spirit).

For, overall, there IS MORE to life and the universe than rocks and genes (and all their permutations). We integralists like science too, but we INTEGRATE it into a larger spiritual worldview—THAT is ours (and Wilber's) area of expertise. So you (and science) do not see Spirit or God, but that does not mean “It” isn't real—we KNOW God or an underlying Order is real; we have SEEN through the telescope of Enlightenment, not even simply meditation (or mystical experiences) alone. I challenge you to discourse on THAT (but, alas, if falls outside YOUR field of expertise).

“Reynolds claims that I focus on a few select quotes, taken from videos or magazines to prove Wilber is wrong on evolutionary theory; I argue that these most probably represent his true, unpolished views.”

• “Most probably represent”—there is the problem—I provide many more quotes proving what Wilber's overall views are about—plus Wilber offers many more ideas than what I can present—once again proving my point that Visser REDUCES WILBER down to topics he can handle… hence missing what real Integral Theory is all about.

“Reynolds claims that once one's Eye of Spirit has been opened, seeing evolution as "Spirit-in-action" will be self-evident; I argue that no meditative experience will ever have anything useful to say about empirical matters.”

• This TOTALLY MISSES THE POINT of Integral Theory. Seeing from higher (and more inclusive) states of consciousness allows the seeing and knowing of the Whole Truth of what is happening here! Biology and cosmology, paradoxically, IS ultimately Spiritual and Divine Reality! That is why Enlightenment can INCLUDE them BOTH (spirit & science). Ask the Dalai Lama!

True Integral Thinkers do NOT SEPARATE (into dualism) the empirical and spiritual as a whole, but allow science to examine empirical matters (for that's its job). Yet (and this is the point), that does not give them the right to then dismiss what they cannot see and study with formulas, theories, measurements, calculations—can it be made any clearer? Spirit is NOT seen by science, so science is lacking! Visser should FIRST open his Eye of Spirit, enliven his soul, follow the wisdom of the world's wisest mystics IF he is ever going to be able to see anything beyond what his mind sees and knows. God is greater than the mind and empirical world and Integral Theory celebrates that… and finds no division.

Integral Theory therefore accepts science and spirituality as BOTH being true. Visser only accepts science. I encourage the reader to DECIDE FOR YOURSELF which view is most real and whole. If BOTH exist and are true, why not embrace both? Visser fails in this… hence he is NOT BEING INTEGRAL—so his site betrays a genuine Integral World.


Notably, Visser suggests there are a few things “we agree on”; I am not so sure:

“Wilber is not a scientist and has never claimed to be one (though he often mentions he has a PhD-minus in biochemistry).”

• Wilber understands science and scientific principles, as ANY lay person—such as Visser and David Lane (who made this point recently)—can understand science. Wilber (who has a Masters in biochemistry) simply does NOT accept many unenlightened scientists' conclusions who have been taught to reduce everything down to matter (or genes) only; Wilber dismisses philosophical conclusions such as the “selfish gene” (Dawkins) or the “accidental universe” (Lightman) and so on. Wilber knows science but rejects scientific reductionism (and scientism)—get it, Frank? No, apparently not.

“Wilber is a creative and imaginative philosopher who has touched on many fields of science and philosophy. Wilber is first and foremost a religious philosopher, who as a self-proclaimed pandit defends a spiritual worldview.”

• Wilber is NOT a “religious philosopher”—what religion does he support? Wilber embraces the esoteric truths (meaning “inner truths”) of ALL religions—what is often called the Perennial Philosophy. Once again, Visser shows HIS ignorance about spiritual matters confusing “religion” with “spirituality” unable to discriminate between religious impulses and the spectrum of mysticism, let alone the true enlightened state-stage of consciousness capable for any human being to achieve—but it takes effort (spiritual practices) and Grace… the mind will never know by itself, for such Wisdom is beyond knowledge (and science).

Again, Visser prefers to “insult”—aka “self-proclaimed pandit”—yet it is obvious Wilber is a pandit, not a guru, for a pandit uses the mind and intellect to defend the spiritual; besides, many Spiritual Masters, Zen Roshis, Tibetan Lamas, Christian priests, religious scholars, and more, have indeed acknowledged Ken Wilber's authority and right to speak about what he writes—in fact, Visser and I were working on a book (back in 2000) collecting articles from various authorities in different fields (from science to psychology to spirituality, etc.) praising the work of Ken Wilber. How many acknowledge Visser's authority?

“Wilber's oeuvre is interesting and challenging to modern and post-modern notions of truth and value current in our society. Wilber's expertise is strong in the fields of spirituality and psychology but less so in the fields of science.”

• Wilber INCLUDES SCIENCE, Frank, he just does not subscribe to scientific materialism. In fact, he's a vocal proponent of USING SCIENCE to ground mystical and meditative experiences in data—“the higher leaves footprints in the lower”—but yet exterior science will never be able to interpret the interior experiences itself… this is why we NEED BOTH.

“I argue that answering the why-question by saying it is "Spirit-in-action" is not much of a believable answer.”

• Maybe meditation and spiritual insight is impractical and unnecessary (or unbelievable) for Frank Visser, but it is important to many other people, most who meditate seriously (a necessary PRACTICE for opening the Eye of Spirit and the Awakened Heart). Integral Theory attempts in INCLUDE ALL PARTIAL TRUTHS and the Whole Truth.

“Wilber has given scant attention to the challenges to his system that have been raised over the years. It would be a good thing if the integral establishment would allow for a general climate of discussion and debate.”

• Show us you first understand the basic principles of Wilber's Integral Theory, Frank—such that BOTH science and spirituality have important truths to offer our holistic view of life in the universe, and perhaps you might be taken more seriously by Wilber.

Thus Visser does not like Wilber not addressing him directly. But why should he? Visser simply does not understand the most important aspects of Wilber's work.

It would be like a high school student getting angry Einstein will not address his amateur theories and formulas about rejecting relativity.

If you spend all your time and effort misrepresenting a person's work so you can come out on top, why even bother? If you think science is better than spirituality, where is there room for integration and discussion in an integral forum?

In fact, if I remember correctly, when you were approaching Wilber's theories with a more honest and holistic understanding of what Ken Wilber was up to, he openly invited you into his house, fed you, and talked to you for hours and hours on end—so maybe the problem is not with Wilber… but with you. Have you ever considered that?

Try representing Wilber's work more accurately—instead of reducing it down to your level of knowledge—and see what happens then.


To end (for this is tiring to me too, folks, sorry): Visser says:

“Now, the upshot of Reynolds' criticism seems to be that my view of reality is limited to the Eye of the Flesh and the Eye of Reason, and that I fail to see with the Eye of Spirit. My reply would be: what exactly are the data this Eye of Spirit relates to and what is its domain? And could it be that those in whom spiritual vision has been opened trespass the boundaries of that domain when they make statements about philosophical or empirical matters?”

• The data the so-called “Eye of Spirit” shows us is that the universe—the Kosmos (including evolution)—is Divine Spirit, a dance of sacred light and love or Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss). So that seems important. Thus, it INCLUDES-YET-TRANSCENDS everything, Frank, so this Enlightened Vision does not trespasses on anything, including “empirical” matters, for, in fact, all matter and all energy and all evolutionary processes (cosmic to biological to psychological to spiritual etc.) are ultimately, and simply, Spirit-in-action or the Divine manifesting as our entire universe. The Integral Vision does not need gods and goddesses to explain it all (as the mythopoetic visionaries did), for now we have science! We just do not accept science's reductionistic (and philosophical) conclusions. Get it?

Yes, Visser is correct (later in his reply) to say these “Eyes” are just a metaphor (beyond even St. Bonaventure's intentions)—just a way to explain to the modern mind that there is still much not available to the scientific vision. But since we are using language (words) to speak about That which is transrational, translogical, transpersonal, etc., then these metaphors open up a whole other domain of “knowledge” that remains invisible or unknowable IF a personal does not take the time to go find out for oneself—to look through the telescope of Enlightenment (or God-Realization).

If we do take the time, the Integral Vision suggests, then we can better integrate ALL the domains or “eyes” of knowledge. Visser chooses not to know about or include Spirit but to only embrace the ideas of the scientific mind, which flatly denies any spiritual reality or God itself—“God is dead” (as one modernist or postmodernist said)—which is why Visser likes science—it still gives him a sense of Wonder (for we all need that). But if you want (or realize) gnosis or satori or prajna—true knowledge and Divine Wonder—you must Awaken to that state-stage of awareness that SEES the Whole (of Spirit)… otherwise it remains hidden or undeveloped (as it does for most scientists and people in general). Integral Theory embraces the whole kit and caboodle, so to speak : ) We have nothing to hide!

Authentic spirituality is about transcending the mind and self-identity, and so on…. Wilber has taken the time to find out about this domain (as have I and millions of others) THEREFORE we who SEE the truths of Spirit and God, we must have so-called “Theories” that reflect the Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth (a real “Theory of Everything”). And science fails in this project, but is still included and embraced in the holistic mix called the Integral Vision. Only science's reductionistic philosophy, proclaiming statements about ultimate matters, is what is rejected while its relative truths are embraced.

Ken Wilber (from Grace & Grit, p. 20): “To use Plato's analogy of the Cave, physics gives us a detailed picture of the shadows of the Cave (relative truth), whereas mysticism gives us a direct introduction to the Light beyond the Cave (absolute truth). Study the shadows all you want, you still won't have [or see] the Light.”

Integral Theory simply does not agree with Frank Visser, even if he's right about some things (for example, I do appreciate his essays on COVID and conspiracies, which are excellent).

Perhaps it is Visser who should not speak about that which he does not know… yet. Darwin too (though Darwin never made final statements about God… let alone “Spirit-in-action,” indeed, he was tortured by such matters; whereas Alfred Wallace, who also discovered “natural selection,” had different views than Darwin).

therefore, Yes! let the experts, the mystics, speak about what they do know—and Wilber is one. And if these mystics prefer to use and include science as well, as far as it goes, then they are simply BEING INTEGRAL.

Again, as you conclude in your essay: I think you get it backwards, Frank. We don't have to start on the first floor (which would actually be physics not biology) or accept materialistic evolution for spiritual insights to be true. You want logic or science to prove Spirit before you accept it; but it does not work that way. These are not “lofty” truths imagined by the mind, but are truths seem with spiritual insight (which includes ALL floors, the building altogether, indeed the ground and goal of the building as well, so to speak in metaphors). Just because you and Lane, and other scientific materialists, can't see God or Spirit does not mean God is not real… or dead. It is not “higher” thoughts but an awareness grounded in the developmental potential inherent in all human beings that allows us to SEE (or know) Spirit-in-action. But if YOU don't see it, then you don't see it… which has been my point all along. Wilber SEES It and writes brilliantly about “It”.

For God is always already Here, so there will come a time when even Frank Visser will see the Light, even if he has to wait till his deathbed. Wilber and I, among many others (like all the world's mystics, women and men) invite him not to wait that long… but to SEE THE LIGHT NOW. God is Free, and revealed in Grace, if a person does not reject and fight against this Truth… Goodness… and Beauty. This is Wilber's Message.

That is most basically what is being offered in a REAL “Integral World.” Everyone is invited. Wilber has simply paved a path ahead. Visser wants us to go back to the modern mind of science using Darwin (and Dawkins) as his Prophet. But the mind or physical fitness, even surviving for a hundred years or more, will never figure it out alone. Only the heart knows for sure. Awaken… gentle mass… touch!

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