At Integral Agape, Paul writes:
If spirituality requires a Masters degree to understand it’s probably not true. People are complex so ethics, neuroscience and psychology are complex. But spirituality implies universal human accessibility. Buddhism is spiritual. Its basic tenants are accessible to both genius and moron without need for books or scriptures. The complex matrix virtual reality multi-level video game spirituality described in Wilber’s recent book isn’t spirituality, it’s intellectual masturbation. In my opinion. I enjoyed reading it because I enjoy intellectual masturbation. I enjoyed and learned a few things and gave it a few stars in my review. But I certainly did [not] feel more “spiritual” after reading it. Did anybody?
It may surprise you to hear this, but I largely agree with what you said, although I do have a different spin on it. And I’m probably one of the persons you may be talking about who’s fascinated by 30-dimensional Rubik’s cubes (but they’re not in the naval, they’re in one of the 729 petals of the Manipura chakra). Maybe there’s even a side of Wilber who would chat for an hour making hundreds of delicate philosophical distinctions and then, during or afterwards, also appreciate the emptiness of all those distinctions and appreciate the simplicity of a child’s smile.
Basically I think spirituality which is only simple or only complex, to the exclusion of the other, is terrible. It’s a real problem, and probably looking at the world as a whole the bigger problem right now isn’t that people are taking too sophisticated an approach to their spirituality but just the opposite (so simple they’re actually being willfully ignorant, actually dumb-dumbs). A spiritual tradition needs to be able to be teachable to a young child AND have an appeal to the most erudite scholars.
Yes, as you say, Buddhism today can be expressed in a simple form, but there are also much more complex versions of it; without both, the Tradition would be incomplete. Christian doctrine can be expressed in the 920-page Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church or the 180-word pamphlet of a Protestant evangelical street preacher, but you sorta need both to figure out what Christians are trying to pass along.
So I get why reading a complex book of Integral philosophy can be kinda off-putting, but think of it from Wilber’s standpoint (or how I imagine it). He’s one person. He has talents no one else does and knowledge no one else has synthesized. He has a gift to give the world and part of it is being “that guy” who can be the erudite scholar. If we choose to see his work as a touchstone or pillar in a Tradition, then there’s no reason to confuse Wilber’s contribution to that Tradition with the whole of it. If we read Wilber’s 816-page book, The Religion of Tomorrow, we are doing the ‘mind’ part of our Integral Life Practice which feasts on richness and nuance and intellectual agility, not the ‘body’ part that wants nourishment and power or the ‘soul’ part that longs for comfort and homecomings or the ‘spirit’ part that wants to rest in profound simplicity.
One of the main reasons Integral philosophy is so much more difficult to digest than, say, Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, is that Wilber attends to the ‘subtle’ realm and how it expresses itself in concepts and constructs that play out at all lower levels of the holarchy of existence, and less subtle thinkers merely spiritually by-pass all that. Is bypassing a good thing? If 95 out of 100 spiritual teachers and gurus are all bypassing something that’s essential for sustaining life on this world and the well-being of every world, shouldn’t we applaud a thinker for being more comprehensive?
The Integral Tradition ought to be broad enough to include Wilber’s marvelous complexity as well as the moderate complexity of, say, the high-school level world religions course taught at Exeter Academy which includes Integral theory on Self … and simpler expressions still, like the songs and prayers and other educational tools for children described by Joran Oppelt in his book Integral Church.
Has the Integral Tradition done enough to evolve a “second simplicity” or “simplexity” as some call it? Not nearly enough. That’s a huge and vital part of the cutting edge of our work these days, for some of us. And while very, very few of us are in a position to write 20 books of Integral theory like Wilber has, this is a task that everyone is called to participate in. It’s also a task that can be wickedly difficult to do well.