What’s a guy to do when his girlfriend calls him a “Wilber freak” and he finds himself agreeing with integral critic assholes? Well, he could write a “painful confession” on his blog. Thanks for the post, William.
The experience of having a painful “falling out” with Ken Wilber’s philosophy and integral theory seems to be a very common one. Some critics have even speculated that there are phases corresponding to the level of disillusionment (the more disillusioned you get, the more evolved you become in your post-Wilber lifestyle).
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who have been mostly (so far) spared this particular version of the dark night of the soul. Wilber’s books more than any other I have discovered have helped me to organize and systematize the inner workings of my consciousness. But I don’t think there was ever a time when I felt that the particular details of Wilber’s conceptions were really all that important. I honestly couldn’t care less if Wilber characterized the work of some specialist in a way that others would disagree with. Or if the fact checker at his publisher occasionally missed something. In my opinion, it’s right for Wilber to trailblaze with a machete and not a butterknife, and it’s also right for those who try to follow his trails to hack through the brush with greater precision, and steer in a different direction if necessary. When Wilber and I have read the same books, I can always say “that sounds about right,” or “I think that’s just about what I remember Carol Gilligan saying,” etc. In short, in areas where Wilber and I share a common base of research, I’ve always been able to say “close enough.” That inspires me to give him some credit, and to hold critics of his research to exacting standards. My love of Wilber is focused on the truth, beauty, and goodness of his big picture; that he is doing difficult work as a trailblazer; and that he shares so deeply, honestly, and courageously from his heart, soul, and spirit.
But I should add that I have had a virtual sort of falling out with Wilber, in a sense. There was a time once… It was about six months after finishing my book and having sent the manuscript to Wilber. My book basically tells the story of how I encountered integral theory and what happened in my life afterwards. Then I wrote a screenplay adaptation of my book, a fictionalized version of a true story. It was awful, though I didn’t fully appreciate just how unmarketable, unfilmable, and really unbearable it was at the time. Still, it was an important step in my growth as a writer. I poured my heart and soul into something so dreadful I would never allow another human being to ever read it. Anyways, despite its immaturity, the screenplay had its moments. For one, there was now a completely fictionalized moment when I got to tell Ken Wilber to go fuck himself. Hurrah for me! There was also a moment in a subtle vision where Ken Wilber emerges as the anti-Buddha. I have to muster the strength to kill him. In a manic e-mail to Ken, I wrote something like: “Ken, I’ve finished my screenplay and you’re in it. You play Lex Luthor to my Superman.” Great! Way to go, Joe. No narcissism or grandiosity there. Nosireebob.
Later, having regained somewhat my sanity, I realized that the screenplay vision of defeating the evil Ken Luthor was a powerful moment of healing from the Wilberitis disease (a malady probably related to sophomoritis). It helped me to realize on many different levels of my being that it’s okay to be different, to be unsure, to be critical, and to sometimes be angry. It’s okay to whack the brush in a different direction and be unsure if the trails will cross down the road. It’s okay to be my own man, even as I recognize that I am nothing without all those on whose shoulders I have stood. Criticism is no kryptonite.