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Flawed but useful intro to Wilber
on October 6, 2008
Ken Wilber is a genius at synthesizing vast amounts of knowledge and human experience and thought and pulling them together into a single, coherent system. Everyone should know his work. The problem is, he sucks at trying to talk about it to normal people. Every time I read one of these attempts, I have to cringe as I imagine "wilber virgins" reading it. His most successful attempt so far I would have to say is "The Marriage of Sense and Soul", which doesn't go as far as this book (it's a much older work) but is MUCH easier to digest.
In this book Wilber tries so hard to be accessible he seems to be forcing a mickey mouse face on top of a buckminster fuller dome. I would steer people who want an "introduction" to Wilber away from this book and toward "A Theory Of Everything". Or do some pushups and take on Sex Ecology Spirituality if you've got the guts (I haven't yet). The thing is... given what Wilber has managed to do -- which is enormous and ground breaking in its scale and depth -- one can hardly expect him to re-learn how to talk to normal everyday idiots. But in my opinion, this book is damaged by its author's voice, which veers unevenly between being cute (ie. accessible) cursory (giving a shallow version of his ideas) and confusing (leaping into the deep end). The 'stoned kid with photoshop' graphics are mostly gratuitous and are there to break up text rather than add a layer of meaning or illustrate anything. The net effect is to preach to converts and not reach a new public, which was obviously his intent. I also think the structure of this book is flawed, getting too "spiritual/new age" too early. You have to start from what people can accept easily and build slowly from there, and he fails to do this, leaping too soon into material only a full fledged, bead wearing, incense burning, mantra chanting eco-putz would appreciate.
Sounds True put out a nice box set of disks of Wilber interviews that is a great way to familiarize yourself with Wilber, although it would help a lot if you read "Theory of Everything" at the same time. It's called Kosmic Consciousness. Also log on to youtube and search his name, there's lots of stuff there. You can also go to his site "integralnaked.com" but it suffers from a lot of the same myopia as this book, ie. annoying to the outsider. I mean come on. Couldn't they call it something other than Naked? I don't need to see Ken naked, thank you very much.