Friday, March 5, 2010

Ken Wilber

I was first exposed to Ken Wilber when I found his book, A Brief History of Everything, on my Dad’s bookshelf. (I am always attracted to bookshelves.) My Dad didn’t have much to say about the book except that I could take it. He told me that it was a selection of the Mira Costa College book group that met monthly to discuss their selections and vote upon others.

The book sat on my shelf for a couple years while I attempted to start reading it four or five times. Finally I worked up enough momentum in the book that I started to make progress and then suddenly I was hooked. I studied it very carefully and started to really enjoy it. By the time I finished this book I knew I had to know more about this guy.

Ken Wilber is another one of those rare human beings that have had a significant impact in shaping the way I think. Although he seems new agey at first, seems narcissistic at times, and sometimes dresses funny, I still enjoy all his quirky oddness without feeling the need to emulate him in every way or become taken in by his “fan club-cum-cult.” He appears a bit eccentric but, hey, the guy is truly one of life’s originals and he is full of substantive ideas.

I highly recommend one of his books: A Brief History of Everything, and his audio set: Kosmic Consciousness which covers the same material in an interview format. The combination of book and CDs is most effective as each medium has its inherent strengths and weaknesses; together they best introduce Wilber’s worldview. Beyond these two recommended works of Ken Wilber I make no further recommendations though there are still many wonderful intellectual nuggets to find. I have purchased most of Wilber’s books but that is more a reflection of my way of sizing him up. I do the same thing with musical artists as well. I like to know the full catalogue even when I only like part of it. I like to understand the artist as well as his message.

One reason why I have formed an intellectual bond with Ken Wilber is because he was the one that I was reading when I had a few more of those “aha” moments. Wilber taught me a few new things that I really found enlightening. Granted, I could have had such moments while reading somebody else because most ideas are not exclusively original to any one human being, but the fact is I was taught by Wilber. He was the one who communicated many ideas in such a way that I was able to receive them, and they came at I time in life when I was mature enough to pay attention.

The first topic that impacted my thinking was emergence--everything is simultaneously a “whole” as well as a “part” of something bigger (holons). Subatomic particles are wholes, but also parts of Atoms. Atoms are discrete wholes yet they are parts of molecules. Molecules are wholes that form parts of proteins which become parts of tissues, then organs, then organisms, then the biosphere, then the noosphere (see Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). The “aha” was the realization that I am part of something bigger than myself. I was finally ready to trade up to this broader perspective by giving up my more egocentric worldview and it was not a frightening thought but, surprisingly, it was very comfortable. I kept repeating in my mind, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” This seemed very logical. I started to think of other people as extensions of myself, or, even, myself. This may sound loony but I honestly started to sense a keener kinship to the world than I ever had before. This attitude came from Buddhism through Wilber to me.

After a while I found that I was experiencing a real change in myself. I started to feel a greater ability to detach myself from emotional issues and try to understand them more objectively while all the time believing that in the long run the “truth will out.”

Perhaps the most important idea that I got from Wilber is that I do not have to repudiate things that I transcend; I can transcend AND include.

Ken Wilber is another kindred soul because I see part of myself in him. He is a tireless quester of truth and is not afraid to read all of the world’s best books without waiting for them to be assigned. And although he is ahead of me and different in many ways, we are both questers.

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