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

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Rolf Sattler, PhD, FLS, FRSC, is an emeritus professor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. His specialty was plant morphology: the development and evolution of plant form. Besides plant biology and general biology, he taught courses in the history and philosophy of biology. Furthermore, he explored the relation between science and spirituality. In this connection, he taught a course at Naropa Institute in Modern Biology and Zen and participated in several symposia on Science and Consciousness. He published nearly 80 research papers in refereed scientific journals and is the author of several books including Biophilosophy: Analytic and Holistic Perspectives (1986) and an e-book Wilber's AQAL Map and Beyond (2008), published at his website, which also includes a book manuscript on Healing Thinking and Being that examines ways of thinking and different kinds of logic in relation to human existence. Rolf Sattler can be reached through his website

Healthy Thinking
and Ken Wilber

Rolf Sattler

Healthy thinking is also healing thinking and healing thinking is also healthy thinking.

Ken Wilber’s thinking and his integral vision appear healthy and healing to a great extent. His holarchical thinking includes and transcends and thus unites what has been torn apart by unhealthy fragmenting thinking that seems so widespread. In our culture and society we tend to think in terms of either/or that often creates wounds, antagonisms, conflict, and war.

Healthy thinking recognizes also “both/and” in addition to “either/or”. And healthy thinking acknowledges even “neither/nor” (neti neti) and thus points to the silence and mystery beyond thinking, writing, and speaking.

Ken Wilber’s AQAL map includes body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature, in art, morals, and science. Integrating all of these aspects and balancing them seems healthy and healing. A more widespread recognition of this integration could beneficially transform individuals, society, and the whole world (see, for example, my book manuscript “Healing Thinking and Being. Chapter 7: AQAL Map by Ken Wilber Integrates the Unnamable and Namable.”

Ken Wilber also recognizes that different ways of thinking, different models, and different visions complement one another. He underlines that “the world of manifestation is the world of perspectives” (Ken Wilber. 2006. Integral Spirituality. Boston & London: Integral Books. Shambhala, p. 288). But he maintains that his AQAL map “is the most comprehensive map we possess at this time” (Ken Wilber. 2007. The Integral Vision. Boston & London: Shambhala, p. 213) and that “it is the only genuinely integral view that we are aware of at this time” (ibid., p. 179). Such claims appear unfounded and have led to intense controversy and unhealthy accusations (see Ken Wilber critique).

Furthermore, as I have pointed out in my book Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond, Ken Wilber insists that the Kosmos is basically holarchical, which means that “the Kosmos is a series of nests within nests within nests indefinitely” (Ken Wilber. 2001. A Theory of Everything. Boston: Shambhala, p. 40). Although it appears useful to view the Kosmos in a such a holarchical way, other non-holarchical ways are known that present other aspects of the Kosmos. Thus, one can see the Kosmos in terms of undivided wholeness, as a continuum, a network, and yet other ways as I have pointed out in Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond. To avoid misunderstandings, I have to emphasize that Ken Wilber also recognizes these other views, but not with regard to the most basic structure of the Kosmos, that is, manifest reality.

Ken Wilber also insists that “the only way you get a holism is via a holarchy” (Ken Wilber. 2000. A Brief History of Everything. 2nd revised edition. Boston & London: Shambhala, p. 25). Again, other ways of getting a holism are known (see Chapter 1: Hierarchy and Beyond in Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond).

Selecting one view, claiming that it is the only right one, and ignoring or denigrating other complementary views that enrich our understanding of reality appears unhealthy, especially if we consider that health is related to wholeness. It appears healthier to acknowledge complementary views in a spirit of tolerance (see also the Chapter 6 on Complementarity in my book Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond and the website on Healthy Thinking Skills).

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