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Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution Hardcover – February 28, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is the first in a projected set of three volumes charting recent thought in the title's interrelated areas, the title itself being a slight misnomer since sex and ecology are the foci of the forthcoming volumes. Here, however, Wilber elaborates at great length several contemporary systematic theories concerned with the biological, psychological, spiritual and metaphysical aspects of life and the various evolutionary stages of each. He then offers an overview of spiritual practices that can lead to an evolved "omega point" of consciousness. Wilber, a transpersonal psychologist and the author of No Boundary, among other works, has unfortunately tried too hard to cram everything possible into this massive undertaking. The result is that even the hundreds of pages of notes (sometimes useful, sometimes merely repetitive) become a mass of ideas and names. Wilber is a well-read, sophisticated and energetic thinker; yet his style veers from the discursively expansive to the overly condensed. Those seeking A Theory of Everything will be more than satisfied. For others, the book's sheer length and lack of organization may make this a very frustrating read.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This is a sprawling synthesis of evolutionary and "systems" theory from the Presocratics to Piaget, permeated by the mysticism of Plotinus. Odd as it may seem for a book with more than 500 pages of text and 200 of notes, it suffers from a tendency to make unsubstantiated or inadequately referenced claims, especially in passing references to various feminisms and postmodernisms. But the reader can take this to be one aspect of the book's oral character: it reads like a composition dictated and transcribed. That is a strength as well as a weakness, since it imparts a lively and passionate tone to a text that could become simply tedious. The book's greatest strengths are its ambitious scope and its relentless attention to the materialist flattening of evolutionary and developmental theories in Western tradition. Wilber follows earlier devotees of Plotinus in insisting on a world composed not of parts and wholes but of wholes that are also parts and parts that are also wholes--wholes within wholes, remarkably similar to the "monads" of Anne Conway and Leibniz. Given a widespread hunger for spirituality and a widespread misunderstanding of materialist readings of development, even a flawed attempt to deepen developmental perspectives with developmental insights from mysticism is a step in the right direction. Steve Schroeder

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st ed edition (February 28, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570620725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570620720
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Ken Wilber is one of the most widely read and influential American philosophers of our time. His recent books include "A Brief History of Everything", "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" and "Grace and Grit".

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Nicq MacDonald on February 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
Ken Wilber's "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution", is my favorite book. And that isn't a title I award lightly.
SES is quite possibly the first attempt at putting together a syncretic, evolutionary worldview since Hegel's "Phenomenology". In an age when truth has been declared dead and multiple perspectives rule the roost, where philosophy lives in the shadow of Nietzsche's madman, Wilber, in this striking volume, challenges post-modernity. Unlike other challengers, arguing for a retreat to conservatism and cynical (or mythic-literal) traditionalism, Ken proposes a different idea- we need to integrate the strengths of Post-modernity (a recognition of the other, a bird's eye view of ideology, and a profound social and ecological awareness), Modernity (scientific rationality, empiricism, democracy), and Pre-modernity (religious wisdom and cultural bounty) into one complete, "integral" package.
Sounds like a tough mission for any thinker to take on. Of course, Wilber- living outside the academia, blending his scholastic persuits with Zen practice, and doing his best to live his own philosophy- is no ordinary thinker. In the 551 pages of text (not including extensive endnotes and bibliography), Wilber essentially lays out his "theory of everything". Based in the psychological work of Freud, Piaget, Kohlberg, Maslow, Jung, Gebser, and other thinkers, Wilber first constructs a socio-psychological map of civilization's evolution to date, and shows how it integrates with hard scientific data. Dividing the world into subject and object, Wilber shows how modern empiricism has attempted to colonize the subjective sphere by trying to render it irrelevant- a condition he refers to as "flatland".
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Paul Landraitis on December 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
I believe SES is so valuable not only because Ken Wilber has taken the time to master the essential findings of a dozen different academic disciplines, but because he then combines this brilliant scholarship with the insight of a meditation master. In India these rare individuals are called "Pandits" - scholars who have fully opened the "eye of contemplation." Mystics usually do not even attempt to bring the ineffable truths they discover in transverbal states of consciousness into the world of conceptual discourse and sensory evidence. Scientists almost always assume that rationality is the highest faculty we have available to understand our world, and ignore the vast areas of human experience that cannot be easily weighed or measured.
Because Wilber is attempting the extraordinarily difficult feat of integrating these two paths, I think we should keep this "degree of difficulty" in mind as we evaluate his work. He may not always keep his toes perfectly pointed as he enters the water, but how many other theoreticians currently working could include anywhere NEAR this many moves (truths) in a single dive (system of thought?) SES (and Integral Theory as a whole) is far from perfect, and Wilber himself certainly is far from perfect (whatever "perfect" might mean)- but if you care about developing a more compassionate, courageous and effective approach to the daunting challenges facing humanity in the coming decades, you will not want to ignore the tremendous intellectual goldmine he offers in SES.
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44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Todd I. Stark VINE VOICE on April 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
For me, the modern age is characterized by some interesting excesses, and Wilber satisfyingly identifies many of them in his spiritual journey here. Three favorite targets I found were: (1) the attempt to make things simpler than they really are in order to explain them, which analytic philosopher Dan Dennett calls "greedy reductionism," (2) the "rage against reason" found in much postmodernism that rejects the notion of objective reality and confident knowledge; and (3) extreme conservative thinking unable to come to grips with the vision of a complex evolving universe.
Wilber has a brilliant imagination and he is a very engaging writer, and this book (probably his best) deals with all three of those excesses in a fascinating way. His overall approach is not original of course (it is essentially a spiritual interpretation of systems and process metaphysics, but there are some very original elements sprinkled here and there. And probably the best thing about this book is that it does a competent job of presenting and integrating ideas from many diverse fields, in addressing the modern excesses, and trying to come up with a satisfying spiritual worldview for our complex age.
This is beautifully ironic, since what he attempts is the very essence of reductionism (!), something Wilber rails against mightily in this book when the "reductionists" disagree with his ideas because the "reduction" is not spiritually meaningful.
For comparison, the conservative religious/creationist critique of Darwinism holds that a universe composed of material elements that interact algorithmically ("machines") cannot also contain spiritual meaning. The Catholic Pope avoided that bind in support of evolution by imbuing material with living Spirit.
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