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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Integral Thinking by the Master
Ken Wilber has been criticized for repeating the same themes over and over, from book to book. He answers this criticism by saying that he wants the reader of any one of his books, who might not have read his other work, to understand the specific subject of this or that particular book in the context of his overall system of thought. And, sure enough, A Theory of...
Published on February 27, 2001 by David K. Bell

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165 of 181 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Theory of Less Than Everything
For years I have been among those hailing Ken Wilber as the most original and comprehensive philosopher of our time. In book after book, this genius thinker has, with lucid and prolific creativity, familiarized us with the complex but unified universe of astonsihing terror and beauty we call consciousness--both human and Divine. In his monumental book Sex, Ecology,...
Published on August 27, 2000 by Roar Bjonnes


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165 of 181 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Theory of Less Than Everything, August 27, 2000
For years I have been among those hailing Ken Wilber as the most original and comprehensive philosopher of our time. In book after book, this genius thinker has, with lucid and prolific creativity, familiarized us with the complex but unified universe of astonsihing terror and beauty we call consciousness--both human and Divine. In his monumental book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, for example, he was able to show how consciousness, or Spirit, manifests Itself through the unfolding, never-ending evolutionary forms we term creation,life, culture, ecology, spirituality, society--the whole shebang of reality. More importantly, he brilliantly pointed out some of the radical implications a spiritual worldview may have when integrated into the dusty soil of reality. And, maybe best of all, he managed to do this with unparallelled logic and depth of scholarship, yet without loosing a sense of lightness--or humor--of being. In Marriage of sense and Soul, a popularized version of his integral thesis of the interrelationship of body, mind and soul--of all things material and spiritual--he also managed to be both profoundly sublime and simple at the same time. Moreover, he accomplished this without reading like another pop-guru a la Deepak Chopra or Marianne Williamson.
It is thus with great disappointment that his latest book, A Theory of Everything, is not living up to its cover's promise--an integral vision for business, politics, science and spirituality. Because, in this book, we no longer meet the erudite Wilber we have become accustomed to. Indeed, this book's premise is far more challenging (and important!) than his previous ones. Yet, it looks as if marketing interests, rather than deeper, integral interests, so to speak--as often is the case with popular writers these days-- lies behind the publication of this book. With a shallow, lukewarm section on business that is a mere one and a half pages long, and another, on politics, which is only a few pages longer, one gets the distinct feeling that Wilber has become a victim of the one-dimensional consumer culture he so fiercely has rallied against. He has succumbed to the lowest common denominator by promoting simplistic, half-cooked ideas in the name of spiritual transformation and philosophical authenticity and originality. In other words, he has--unwillingly or willingly-- become another promulgator of flatland ideas (his term), otherwise known as the New Age.
This book tells us little about how an integral business person or politician might operate, even less about the deeper, philosophical map he or she needs in expressing spiritual values in today's fierce political and economic reality. Nor does he paint a constructive, integral vision of how business might look like in a society based on spiritual values. When Wilber attempts to do this, he simply offers a short laundry list of people who are trying to "ďntegralize" corporate life, or he briefly explains how a liberal vs. a conservative worldview differ or complement each other. The deeper questions about an integral political platform or agenda are left unanswered, and so are questions about what kind of an economy we need to harmonize the human spirit, the workplace, or the environment. I know that Wilber is up to the task, but in this book, he has failed to answer some basic questions about the societal implications of a spiritual worldview, or, in effect, A Theory of Everything. Questions such as: Which aspects of capitalism are compatible with A Theory of Everything? Which aspects of socialism? Are new economic ideas--such as those of Sarkar, Korten, Schumacher, and others--more compatible with an integral worldview than classical capitalist and socialist ideas? Will the new, integral economy favor decentralization and cooperative enterprises? What is the integral visions answer to the growing inequity in the corporate world and in society in general? Since capitalism is based on the egoistic pursuit of self-interest, can it ever favor integral business practices? Which aspect of the socially responsible business movement would be part of an integral business agenda, and which would not?
All that said, this book may be interesting to someone who has never read Wilber before. Indeed, the sections on science and spirituality are, for the most part, well written and comprehensive. Just remember, as Wilber writes in the introduction: "...use [my]ideas...as simple suggestions; see if you can improve on them." Indeed, many of them are simple. Too simple. Thus, improve on them we must.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Integral Thinking by the Master, February 27, 2001
By 
David K. Bell (Portland, Oregon United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ken Wilber has been criticized for repeating the same themes over and over, from book to book. He answers this criticism by saying that he wants the reader of any one of his books, who might not have read his other work, to understand the specific subject of this or that particular book in the context of his overall system of thought. And, sure enough, A Theory of Everything re-covers much ground already thoroughly covered in many of his other books. But Wilber offers this as an introductory work (perhaps to a broader readership than he ordinarily reaches.) And the new ideas he offers in this book would probably be incomprehensible to new Wilber readers without an overview of his integral theory to go with them. So, what's in this book for readers new to Wilber and for KW veterans?
For the newbie, first of all, Ken Wilber is considered by many (including me) to be among the most profound thinkers of this age. Wilber says in the introduction to this work that he considers this the best introduction to his work. Well, it is relatively brief, it outlines rather succinctly key aspects of his overall thought and then applies that structure to areas of common interest like politics, medicine and business. This is interesting and will give the new reader a glimpse of the profundity of Wilber's work, the breadth of its potential applicability and will hopefully stimulate the reader's interest in reading his more detailed works. I still think A Brief History of Everything is the best introduction to KW's work, though, because it masterfully presents an outline of Wilber's thought system in a way that leaves no important major themes out, yet manages to be both accessible and relatively succinct. In ATE, he touches on major tenets of his thinking like the Four Quadrant system, but I wonder how much the first time reader will glean from his rather shorthand explanation here, as opposed to the clear explanation available in ABHE. On the other hand, he presents his philosophy here in a more obviously practical context, applicable to many aspects of daily life, than in any other of his books, and for that reason alone would be a good first Wilber book for many.
As for the KW vet, what's in this book for you? Well, primarily some explanation of Wilber's latest thinking on topics like the adaptation of Spiral Dynamics theory to his spectrum of consciousness model. But this is also avilable in Integral Psychology, yet another introductory work. In short, I would say this book is a bit thin on new material for the KW vet, but has enough intriguing new stuff to tide you over until Wilber releases something more meaty again. Some great stuff, for example, on liberals and conservatives and "Greens," as the latest manifestations of the unfolding of consciousness in world history, a stream of thought most thoroughly treated in Up From Eden.
Meanwhile, Ken, the faithful are ready for volume 2 of the Kosmos work or something equally meaty. The last two books have been appetizers. We're ready for another main course.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More like "The Ken Wilber Reader", December 7, 2005
By 
Dave Id (Montreal, QC, CAN) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (Paperback)
What are we gonna do with Ken Wilber? He writes a book called A Theory of Everything and crams it in 145 pages. Turns out the book is more like "The Ken Wilber Reader", a condensed primer on his exhaustive theory of integral consciousness - I'm not even sure I go it right. It covers most of his bibliography, but packed enough to give Einstein a migraine.

So there's this thing called spiral dynamics. Spiral dynamics is this theory that human beings all begin from square one and evolves through the spiral. The spiral is a social construct about the evolving consciousness. It's built of embed levels called memes and each is color coded. Color coded that's for kids... wait.

There's the beige meme. At this level (Square one) is where it all begins for the young human and societies. It's the meme of instinct and pure survival. The kill of be killed level. What's important to the person at this level, is food, sex, warmth and safety. We're talking early bush tribes here. The hairless talking monkey takes a stand.

The beige meme is followed by the purple meme. This is the stage where all things are magical and animism takes form. This is where humans start taking care of each other. The world is filled with mysticism. This is the age of shamanism and rituals. The sense of family takes shape.

Then it's the red meme. This is the Tony Montana level, the "the world and everythin' in it Chico" level. It's all about survival of the strongest and getting some respect. It manifests itself in feudal kingdoms, the story of epic heroes and the terrible twos. It's all about impulse and the ego.

The blue meme is where it all goes to hell in a hand basket. It's about purpose and authoritarianism. It's about bringing order to the world, control through the absolute truth. It's about living under a moral code. The blue meme manifests itself through moral movements such as puritan America, the moral majority and codes of honor. This is where political conservatism resides.

The next level up the spiral is the orange meme. Strategy and the goal driven life lives here. This is where the overachievers live. This is where the game is played and won. Think liberal enlightenment, think Silicone valley, Fortune 500 and the corporate life.

Now we get to breath right? Heh, sit down junior, we're not done yet. We're only at the green level. The green level is the one that ignores the spiral - or at least tries to. Communalism and the egalitarian good life begin here. Where everyone is equal, where everyone has a voice. This is where Malkovitch moans about everybody's feelings being involved. This is where we shed our shackles of religious dogma. At this point in the spiral, we begin to search the inner-self. Think human rights, multiculturalism, pluralism.

Does it get better? Sure does. The yellow meme. This is where we discover the capacity of flexibility and responsibility, where we begin thinking systemically. Integrative concepts emerge. Ken then caps it with the turquoise meme. He does state that there are more to go, like the transpersonal, but that this spiral will be sufficient for the book's purpose. Turquoise is about holonic thinking. Experiencing wholeness through the mind and the spirit.

Ok you got all that memorized? Good. That was just an overview of chapter one. Only six more to go. Yeah I'm getting a headache also. But worry not it gets worse... hmm I mean better.

He starts with this spiral to then take you to his integral view, his Theory of Everything by displaying multiple diagrams about his concept of "All quadrants, all levels" ideas. Basically it's all about expanding consciousness. To me it just sounds like a western philosopher's re-interpretation of what the Buddha has taught.

But he drives the importance of all-encompassing thinking and living. That all the levels of the spiral are imbedded in each other. Some people are at the blue level, others at green, and some still at the red level. Some people are emotionally red but are intellectually blue. That spiritual growth isn't a one way line straight to the top. That people in the red zone, can still have spiritual epiphanies and still remain in the red. Evolution of mind isn't guaranteed for all. That a whole people won't move together to the next level. This isn't a race that has to be won.

He goes further when he applies the model to science. He states that modern science only studies one quadrant of reality and that they need to innovate to take in all the levels of reality. Then he jumps into the political arena. He rips the conservative side for their dogmatic ways. He demonstrates that their ideology is only a few steps from the gas chambers. So this gets you thinking he's a liberal right? Think again. He puts the liberals in a vice for refuting religion so harshly that instead of finding god, we fight to keep our wallet full. Blaming the liberal enlightenment for enslaving us to the economy after liberating us from dogma.

I wish I could explain more about this book, but as you can read, his ideas are complex and to explain more would extend this review even more.

Of course Ken is much more eloquent than I could ever be. And he can really put into words his ideas and concepts. He's of course nobody's fool. The ideas presented in A Theory of everything are brilliant - but then I rarely find myself disagreeing with his arguments, I'm surely biased. But how can you blame me. His argument is all about finding the absolute.

Reading Ken Wilber is not for everyone. He's a bit dry, coldly intellectual, clinical and does he love the name-dropping. Ken, buddy, enough with paragraphs of name dropping, it's annoying to read. We get the point. People agree with you. Enough already. But as a lover of philosophy, I can't get enough of his books anyway. On the day of writing this review, I've begun reading another one of his books. Instead of endlessly comparing what past philosophers have said and done, Ken Wilber puts forth new ideas. Ideas that can change the world.

Scientists love him, rabbis love him, the Wachowski brothers love him, and I can't get enough of him. For those who love to search for the true self, to understand consciousness, this is a book you must read, amongst his other titles also. If you've listened to his commentary on the Ultimate Matrix Box set, you'll understand that he's passionate about his ideas, though it's not obvious when reading him.

If it weren't for all the name dropping and the chilly feel to his writing I'd give it a 5 outta 5. But I give it 4 outta 5.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mission Accomplished, October 23, 2000
By 
James Patteson (Vero Beach, FL,, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Some reviewers have criticized "A Theory of Everything" because it only had a page and a half on the implications of such a theory on business. I am a college professor and am very interested in the implications for education (which got even less space than business) but Egad! The book is only 189 pages and covers everything, how much could business or education realistically get? Once again the criticism of Wilber's work seems to be from those who think their favorite area hasn't been given enough importance. As Wilber says in the introduction to the book, "The first four chapters introduce a Theory of Everything, and the last three outline its relevance in the `real world' where we will discuss integral politics, integral business, integral education, integral medicine, and integral spirituality-as they are already finding widespread and enthusiastic application." The inside jacket of the book says that the book is "a concise comprehensive overview of Ken Wilber's revolutionary thought and its application in today's world."
I think the book delivers exactly what it promises, and beautifully.
For those who want to pursue the theory's applications in business and other areas further, Wilber includes numerous leads and links to pioneers in the field, many of whom are members of the Integral Institute, an exciting new venture started by Wilber and some of his associates. This is proverbial "cutting edge" stuff, and this book is a brief report on the state of the art at the cutting edge. I for one am grateful to be kept up to date, even if, as Wilber says, "all such attempts, of course, are marked by the many ways in which they fail. The many ways in which they fall short, make unwarranted generalizations, drive specialists insane, and generally fail to achieve their stated aim of holistic embrace."
I am thankful that Ken Wilber has the kahunas to put himself on the firing line by presenting this critically important information as it comes "hot off the press" as it were. I have read all his books and look forward to the next with great anticipation.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most practical manual for postmodernity, August 25, 2000
By 
Edgar Paternina (Medellín.Colombia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Ken Wilber's fundamental work, Sex, Ecology and Spirituality is really the most serious and documented work about a new integral, holonic, all embracing worldview, but it is really a book not just to be read but to be studied and very hard. A T.O.E is a beautiful and concise synthesis of that work done by the same author. From the first chapter you will be taken to an interdependent path, because in it KW uses the Spiral Dynamics scheme to help the reader to grasp the different stages of human development, both individual and collective from the holonic perspective. In the second chapter we find a real criticism of that path that has taken us both to a new technological stage but also to fragmentation and alienation, the so-called boomeristic movement, with its pathological excess of egocentrism. In the third chapter KW holonic view is presented, with its all-quadrant-all-level framework, but the important thing is that "An integral vision is one of the least pressing issues on the face of the planet"...it is our educational institutions...that are desperate for a more integral vision. It is our business practices, saturated with fragmented gains, that cry out for a more balanced approach". In the fourth chapter we find the most serious attemp to solve the eternal dualistic struggle between science and religion. IMO, there is still a new emerging type of integral spirituality derived from The Urantia Book that has not yet been taken into account by KW, that has to do with the only serious criticism, and that is very essential if we really want to see the whole picture and truly integrate the magic, the mythic and the rational in everyone of us toward higher stages of spiritual development and at the same time truly honor all stages. In the fifth chapter the KW holonic model is applied to institutions and there is shown what the model is already doing and what can be done for a better planet. In the sixth chapter a general overview of all worldviews is presented and integrated in the holonic model giving us a real graspable and practical map to facilitate our goal toward this new stage of mankind we have already entered. The seventh chapter being the final one, gives us practical recommendations and references to prepare our practice toward the integration of the big three, mind, soul and spirit.
Even if you have read SES, A Theory of Everything will be like a practical manual for the great task of postmodernity, the integration of the Big Three, Science, Philosophy and Spirituality.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Theory of Everything, September 20, 2000
By 
To appreaciate Wilber, you have to read what he writes; not necessarily with a fine tooth comb - but almost...
A Theory of Everything is a book that is about a vision- an integral vision. I've read everything Wilber has written so far and highly recommend A Theory of Everything. Having been a Wilber fan for almost ten years I can say that this book is one of his most important. It is certainly not his biggest or most technical undertaking, but don't be turned off or mislead as to it's significance by this fact. Read what he writes; this book has no intention of precisely detailing the necessary steps for an integral future. It is an attempt at reaching out to a wider audience - an audience that might not even dive into such massive texts as Sex, Ecology, Sprituality (which by the way is only number one of a three volume series). This book is more about beginning a dialogue than stating how things really should or could be per se. While some have said that there is almost nothing about business in this book, it might be worth considering what place that should occupy in a book with the premise of A Theory of Everything...
Perhaps it's that business, while all the rage in our booming hometown USA, holds an excessively influential role in our world and is therefore less significant than say politics or science in the future, even though it appears otherwise, if in fact that future is to be a truly integral one.
Read this book with an eye towards a future that isn't already determined, because it's not. Read this book and any Wilber, for that matter, carefully; I have found that Ken can be surprisingly subtle in his approach. Don't let the size or his pithyness in A Theory of Everything throw you - this is a remarkable man with a remarkable vision. Read this book as a primer for reflecting on the world we live in and what the future of us could be like. Let your imagination run wild; Wilber is not predicting anything, but rather sketching a loose map of the road ahead if that is the path we choose to follow. How we drive down that road is up to all of us and this book should make that abundantly clear.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to Wilber, August 23, 2000
By 
"wisottml" (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This intelligent and wide-ranging introduction, provides a comprehensive, fully-integrated view of existence and conscoisness according to one of the most exciting contemporary intellectuals living today. With style, wisdom, and grace, Wilber covers an extenvsive array of topics to yield "an integral vision for business, politics, science and spirituality." This book is in many ways a nice compliment to another recently publshed book, Michael Learner's Spirit Matters, as both books provide a map of reality that is in stark contrast to the individualism and cosumerism that shapes much of American culture today. The fact that books like these are being published and widely read makes me more hopeful for the future: A future that emphasizes enlightened consciousness, wisdom, and kindness.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different World View . . ., January 24, 2006
This review is from: A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (Paperback)
Read and struggle with this book. Then go deeper - Wilbur is a challenge.

I have long been a student of human evolution, science, and spirituality. Finally, I discovered Ken Wilbur and began reading with one of his latest books, A Theory of Everything (T.O.E.). I was amazed at how this all rang true for me, and how it applies to our personal as well as professional lives.

This is not an easy read. I found myself having to go back over material already read and rethink it for myself. But the exercise is well worth it. Wilbur starts with the statement that "We live in an extraordinary time: all of the world's cultures, past and present, are to some degree available to us, either in historical records or as living entities." From there, he develops his theory of everything, which by his own definition "any truly integral vision or T.O.E. will have to reconcile, one way or another, the relation of science and religion." By the end of this book, Wilbur has made a fairly solid argument for having accomplished just that.

I have to admit that my fairly structured mind had to be jarred out of its normal mode of world view, but once I got by my own mental hurdles, T.O.E. made a great deal of sense to me. Beginning with Don Beck's Spiral of Development, Wilbur extends that work to eventually become an all inclusive model for second-tier consciousness - and beyond. Besides my own limitations, one of the more difficult issues in reading this text was the extensive use of endnotes, requiring much flipping back and forth between the appendix and the text.

There are several ideas I find disheartening though. ". . . there will always be a large population of humanity at the magic and mythic waves, which are usually associated with traditional religion. Thus, traditional religious beliefs will never completely go away because everybody is born at square one." And a second disheartening statement is that "Those who had hoped that we were rid of all that silly religious stuff are probably in for a rocky ride." While I understand his point, I still find it deeply disturbing that we will always be starting at "square one." I hope this proves not to be true in a practical sense, even if it is technically the case. I hope we can somehow short circuit the normally long educational process to get to second-tier consciousness. We are able to do that with many other of our "new world views," and so hope springs eternal.

A second disturbing realization for me is that I must rethink my world view of the "interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." The consequences of Wilbur's T.O.E. is the requirement that I now recognize that "it is NOT true that human minds (the noosphere) are part of nature (or the biosphere), but rather the reverse."

Live and learn. If you wish to challenge your own world view, this book is a great place to start. You can also learn more at Ken Wilbur's Personal Web Site.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Everyone is right, October 9, 2007
By 
Carl of Mariemont (Mariemont, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (Paperback)
The thesis of this book is that we need an "integral" approach to everything. What is an integral approach? Well, it takes into account all levels and all quadrants. So there.

Here's what you do. Create a sort of Dewey Decimal System for reality. Slice it into chunks, cram the chunks into categories, nest concepts inside other concepts, then create lots of lists, levels, charts, graphs, diagrams, spirals, and hierarchies. Adopt a progressive color scheme to describe the levels of human progress, from beast to buddha. Make a four-quadrant diagram. Find a place for everything in one of the quadrants. In fact, make a bunch of four-quadrant diagrams to demonstrate that, with a little ingenuity, you can make everything fit.

Once you have performed this microscopic analysis, declare that the proper course for humanity in all things is to consider all the stuff in all the quadrants. There, now, isn't that helpful? As the author says, "In the Theory of Everything, I have one major rule: EVERYBODY is right. More specifically, everybody--including me--has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honored, cherished and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace, a genuine T.O.E." (Emphasis in original.)

Suppose you're willing accept that dubious but egalitarian sentiment. How do you distinguish the "important pieces of truth" from the nonsense. Now THAT would be helpful. Wilber can't be bothered with such messy business. He's already handled the hard part. He told you to be integral. Does he have to explain everything?

The book is filled with quirky words to describe trite concepts. Consider the "holon." His definition: "A holon is a whole that is part of other wholes. For example, a whole atom is part of a whole molecule; a whole molecule is part of a whole cell; a whole cell is part of a whole organism." What is the real analytical value of a word that describes everything in the universe? (Maybe Wilber's answer is that reality is holon's "all the way up and all the way down," as he says in the Notes. Cute, but of what use?) The concept of the "meme," when introduced by Richard Dawkins, was new and useful (even if it is stretched out of shape by Wilber). Not so with holons. Although by definition, a meme must be a holon, since everything else is.

Wilber has other distracting habits. As others have observed, he spends much of his time promoting his other books and dropping names. It all leads me to wonder why his writings and his ideas are so rarely cited, other than by himself. Some of his remarks, such as on evolution, would be shared with a fringe group, at best. It is apparent that he spends a great deal of time reading and pondering, but not enough time testing his ideas against those who would challenge him. He comes off as a wannabe guru.

I remember late nights in college during the 1970's, sitting around with friends, absorbed in deeply meaningful discussions that produced flashes of sudden insight, revelations so profound they simply must be preserved. I'd rush to my journal to record the epic moment for future generations. The next day I'd jump out of be and open my journal, eager to read what I knew had to be irrefutable proof of enlightened thought. Then I'd read it.

Reading A Theory of Everything reminded me of that.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth a read, September 7, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality (Paperback)
Although the essence of Wilber's theory is most comprehensively explained in "Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality", this book contains many of his newer theoretical developments as well as more practical applications using his theory. It is very interesting that he relates some of our current social/political/environmental problems to the recent culture of baby boomers. Regardless with whether you agree with it or not it, this book is very thought provoking and well worth a read. If you like books that try to explain everything using one theory, I also recommend "The Ever-Transcending Spirit" by Toru Sato. It is amazingly written so that it is full of wisdom, intellectually stimulating and easy to understand!
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