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CHAPTER VI

WILBERIAN
MATHEMATICS



WE ALL LEARNED AND APPLIED the Pythagorean theorem in high school, in a form very closely resembling the following:

The sum of the squares of the lengths of the sides of a right-angle triangle is equal to the square of the length of the hypotenuse.

Wilber’s own (1996) infamous version of the same principle, however, instead reads like this:

[T]he sum of the squares of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the hypotenuse.

It is clear what Wilber is trying to say there, but only because we all learned the theorem itself in high school—his actual statement is meaningless nonsense. (Succeeding editions of the book have, of course, corrected that text at the start of its Chapter 13.)

Interestingly, the real Einstein worked out his own, innovative proof of exactly the Pythagorean theorem ... at age twelve. Of course, Albert also managed to be viewed, nearly universally and in spite of his poorer private behaviors, as a “Jewish saint,” rather than an “arrogant asshole” (Wilber on himself, in [Horgan, 2003a]). He further did that without resorting to unconvincing false modesty, and even while doing unparalleled work as a real genius. There is a lesson in there somewhere. It is, indeed, a lesson in remaining humble and subject to correction, not simply by one’s awed and overly respectful peers, but rather in the face of truth.

Significantly, then, Albert’s most frequent answer to questions put to him in public, on wide-ranging issues which he was, by his own admission, not sufficiently informed to be certain of his opinions, never entailed an attempt to oracularly bluff his way through in order to maintain his status as an “Einstein.” Rather, his most frequent response was simply, and admirably, “I don’t know.”

By contrast, to sustain the feeling that one is a contemporary genius even amid wholly embarrassingly missteps and misrepresentations of high-school-level ideas cannot be easy, from any psychological perspective.

Despite the “Pythagorean Fiasco,” Wilber is currently in the process of developing his own (root) branch of mathematics—an “integral calculus of indigenous perspectives”:

As far as I can tell, this primordial mathematics appears to be the root mathematics from which all others are abstracted abstractions [sic] (Wilber, 2003b).

Well, perhaps. More likely not, in my opinion, but perhaps.

In any case, one cannot help but wish the man well in his “new branch of mathematics” endeavor—in which he is currently all of “3% done.”

And perhaps, given his history, light a candle.


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