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CHAPTER I

NORMAN EINSTEIN



To be thought enlightened, one must appear not only certain that one is, but certain about most everything else, too (Kramer and Alstad, 1993).

KEN WILBER IS THE “LONG-SOUGHT EINSTEIN of consciousness research,” having been generously regarded as such since the late 1970s.

Ken Wilber is “a genius of our times.”

Ken Wilber is “the foremost theoretician in transpersonal [and integral] psychology.”

Ken Wilber is “the world’s most intriguing and foremost philosopher.” To wit:

The twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber (Jack Crittenden, in [Wilber, 2000]).
Michael Murphy maintains that, along with Aurobindo’s Life Divine, Heidegger’s Being and Time, and Whitehead’s Process and Reality, Wilber’s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality [SES] is “one of the four great books of this [twentieth] century” (Integral, 2004).

Ken Wilber is “an American bodhisattva pandit.”

Ken Wilber is “one of the most important pioneers in the field of consciousness in this century.”

Ken Wilber is “a source of inspiration and insight to all of us.”

Ken Wilber is “the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times.”

Ken Wilber is “the most cogent and penetrating voice in the recent emergence of a uniquely American wisdom.”

Ken Wilber is “the most influential integral thinker in the world today.”

One need not search far at all to find glowing endorsements of the work which the esteemed Mr. Ken Wilber (or kw) has done over the past quarter of a century in consciousness studies. Indeed, the latter three of the above recommendations can be found, as of this writing, in the Ken Wilber section of his publisher’s website (http://wilber.shambhala.com). The first two, further, come from one of his own (1991) books, via his late wife’s diaries. Two others are only a click away from his home web page, nestled in an adoration-filled “update” on the value of his work, written by one of his long-time students (Reynolds, 2004).

Wilber began writing his first book at age twenty-three, having dropped out of postgraduate biochemistry studies in 1973 to pursue that activity. The Spectrum of Consciousness was rejected by at least twenty publishers over a three-year period (Schwartz, 1996) before finally being accepted by the Theosophical (Society’s) Publishing House. Since then, Wilber has written over a dozen books. He has also acted (past tense) as an editor for both ReVision magazine and the New Science Library imprint of Shambhala, and had his Collected Works published by the same press.

Now in his mid sixties, Wilber has founded and assumed the presidency of the Integral Institute (www.integralinstitute.org), or I-I, with its affiliated Integral University (IU) and Integral Naked forum. Guests of the latter have included spiritual luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Carolyn Myss, and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan.

Since 1995, Wilber’s groundbreaking four-quadrant model of reality has been put to use by psychological, business and political leaders in America and beyond, under the acronym AQAL (All Quadrants, All Levels). Those four quadrants embrace the objective/exterior (e.g., in brain structure), subjective/interior (e.g., in psychological development and self-awareness), intersubjective (i.e., cultural) and interobjective (i.e., social) lives of the hierarchy of all relative wholes or “holons” in the cosmos. (The term “holon” was itself coined by Arthur Koestler.)

In my opinion, this [four-quadrant] tool is one of the greatest inventions ever proposed for orienting human beings toward their own evolution (Van der Horst, 1997).

And yet—

The model ... is largely descriptive. It organizes a great deal of phenomena, culled from investigations ranging over a wide range of disciplines in the natural and social sciences, and posits or implies that they are connected. But the model has very little to say about how they are [causally] connected. Wilber’s silence on this question ... seriously undermines the model’s usefulness for stimulating further research....
In addition to not addressing the processes underlying the transitions from one level to another, Wilber’s model also says little about the connections between phenomena in different quadrants.... How, for example, does a particular kind of consciousness become associated with a particular brain structure? How does a particular kind of social organization grow out of a particular kind of consciousness?
Without answers to questions like these, Wilber’s model can do no more than simply recognize that all these different phenomena exist. Nobody really questions that they do. What people do argue about is how they are related (Smith, 2001a; italics added).

As with Wilber’s academic accolades, one need not search far at all to find indications of his high spiritual attainment. Indeed, already by the mid-’80s, Wilber (1991) could lay claim to “fifteen years of meditation, during which I had had several unmistakable ‘kensho’ [i.e., ‘glimpse of enlightenment’] experiences, fully confirmed by my teachers.”

Of course, nearly every “enlightened” individual in the spiritual marketplace has made fully comparable claims. That is, it is rare to find a respected spiritual figure who has not received confirmation, from his own teachers or gurus, of his minor and major enlightenment experiences. Thus, Wilber is part of a large class, not a small one, in that regard. Such endorsements, indeed, mean absolutely nothing, in terms of evaluating whether any given individual is enlightened or simply wildly deluded.

Nevertheless, Wilber’s kensho experiences later blossomed into the nondual “One Taste” state:

I was conscious for eleven days and nights, even as the body and mind went through waking, dreaming, and sleeping: I was unmoved in the midst of changes; there was no I to be moved; there was only unwavering empty consciousness, the luminous mirror-mind, the witness that was one with everything witnessed. I simply reverted to what I am, and it has been so, more or less, ever since (Wilber, 2000a; italics added).
Not even the Dalai Lama can sustain nondual awareness through deep sleep, Wilber informed me, as he can (Horgan, 2003a).

By any reasonable logic, that nondual realization would place Wilber among the “truly great Zen masters” throughout history, both in his own mind and objectively. That is so even should there be states of realization beyond the One Taste experience, i.e., potentially making it not “the highest” possible understanding.

“All good things must come to an end,” however—including, apparently, the eternal, “always-already” One Taste realization:

After attaining this [One Taste] ability in 1995, Wilber sustained it until about a year ago, when a nasty staph infection left him bedridden for six months. “I lost a great deal of access to it,” he said, but “it’s slowly coming back” (Horgan, 2003a).

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