From Mon Oct 5 11:17:17 1998 Return-Path: Received: from ( []) by (8.8.8/8.8.8) with ESMTP id LAA01605 for ; Mon, 5 Oct 1998 11:17:14 -0700 (PDT) Received: from ( []) by (8.8.8/8.8.8) with ESMTP id UAA19081 for ; Mon, 5 Oct 1998 20:17:08 +0200 (MET DST) Received: from martin ( []) by (8.8.8/8.8.8) with SMTP id UAA25956 for ; Mon, 5 Oct 1998 20:16:58 +0200 From: "Martin Erdmann" To: Subject: Wilber's conflict Date: Mon, 5 Oct 1998 20:21:01 +0200 Message-ID: <000001bdf08c$e85f76a0$64cace81@martin> MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit X-Priority: 3 (Normal) X-MSMail-Priority: Normal X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook 8.5, Build 4.71.2173.0 Importance: Normal X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V4.72.2106.4 Status: RO X-Status: Martin Erdmann Lecturer, poet, writer Peter Schnellbachstr. 39/5 D- 69151 Neckargemünd T/Fax: 011496223/71597 Email directly to: Wilber's conflict: A critical appraisal of the "The Marriage of Sense and Soul". Subtitle: "Integrating Science and Religion" (Random House, New York, 1998) Dear Dr Lane, I am posting this letter from Germany - near Heidelberg - and would like to ask you to publish this critical appraisal of Wilber`s "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" in the Neural Surfer. Let me start out with making a few preliminary remarks. In my country Wilber has established himself as a celebrity in New Age circles, among those who are not indulging in pre-rational fantasies of their own making, but who take rationality as a stepping-stone to rise beyond to a trans-personal vision of life. "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality" is widely read, with the original title changed in German to "Eros, Kosmos, Logos". I understand a publishing company is not a charitable organization, it wants to sell books to a German readership who seems to prefer Eros to Sex, Cosmos to Ecology, Logos to Spirituality. Now, I believe that Wilber`s opus has contributed to making transpersonal psychology a discipline worthy of consideration among a more sophisticated, academically inclined German public. Also "Die Welt", a rather conservative weekly paper (with a circulation of 500,000), addressing itself to an educated German public, in a book appraisal (4.01.97) of "Eros, Kosmos, Logos" acclaimed Wilber the "foremost thinker in the field of the evolution of consciousness". The German scientific community, though, has not taken much notice of Wilber as yet. Instances of eclecticism, of syncretism are cited to quickly disqualify Wilber as being scientifically biased. So his writing is not given the attention it deserves. In more esoterically colored publications, on the other hand, Wilber is hailed as "the Einstein of consciousness" lovingly called "Big Brain, a great genius of our time, the man who dares to think deeply", for, as Wilber states himself, it is "not the forces of the dark, but the forces of the shallow which assail us" in a world where all inner values, all mind and soul is reduced to colorless material processes, surfaces, data. In his "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" though, Wilber, partially at least, so I will try to show, becomes guilty of reductionism himself. Now, in a few pages you cannot render a well-rounded analysis of Wilber`s complete writing; so this is only part of the story, for - so I am convinced - there is also Ken Wilber the mystic, lover of the Divine. But there is also the other side of Wilber, the man of science cherishing outer values, surfaces, data, and, in my own view, the two ends do not meet. This article is an altered English version of an essay that has been presented to the German "Transpersonale Psychologie und Psychotherapie" for publication. (Spring 1999) If it is too long, just let me know. I will see what can be left out without obstructing the message I am trying to convey. For quotations, the page numbers are given in brackets. Key concepts and phrases returned to later are capitalized. I will turn now to Wilber`s writing. Abstract: Wilber first defines religion as Emptiness, the Absolute, as Mysticism. He then tries to reconcile religion with science, to unite the two in a "most intimate embrace". Science, however, only believes in surfaces, in outer values, in things that can be seen, can be touched. Now, to prove the validity of Emptiness to science Wilber establishes a scientific method of verification which he applies to both science and religion. For this he first assigns to Emptiness different qualifications which, in the next step, are twisted to fit his scientific methodology, his integrative scheme. Thus his book is mainly a jockeying for definitions selected in advance to produce the desired results. In the end of Emptiness, of Mysticism nothing is left, only data, repeatable, verifiable, with a religion that has become science itself. You cannot define religion as Emptiness and at the same time prove the validity of religion to a science that recognizes only sensory values. It is either one or the other. Wilber wants to have both. Thus his undertaking is basically contradictory, doomed to failure from its very beginning. I am sorry to say this, for I am greatly appreciative of various aspects of Wilber`s writing; so I fully realize there is also the Ken Wilber, lover of the Divine, who whole-heartedly strives to awaken the reader to "the power and the glory of the World Soul, the wonder and the beauty of it all", to use his own words. So I will try to show that there are two sides of Wilber, the mystic and the scientist representing two distinct features of his writing. These, however, do not become reconciled, I am afraid, in spite of all his linguistic maneuvering. Thus there is no "Marriage of Sense and Soul, of science and religion, because they are not united in Wilber's own heart." This I will be audacious enough to state at the end of this essay. Opening the gateway to religion Wilber defines religion as the "absolute" (168), the Self, the innermost core of man; science represents the outer values, the surface of life. In order to link science to religion, Wilber must first contact the interior of life. Science, however, rejects all interior values, arguing "1...that there are no irreducible interior values...only objective Its. ..2. Even if there were other modes of knowing than the sensory-empirical, they would have no means of validation, and thus could not be taken seriously." (143) Now, Wilber argues that "if empirical science rejects the validity of....all forms of interior...knowledge, then it rejects its own validity....which rests on interior structures....that are not delivered by the senses....(such as logic and mathematics, to name only two)." (144) To elucidate the point Wilber makes, let us consider the following simple statement: I go to the baker's because I want to buy 12 rye rolls. The baker`s shop and the rye rolls can be found in the sensory world to be seen, to be touched. The idea of "because", the causal link between the two statements, is present only within myself; the same applies to the figure "12". I cannot bite into a mere figure in order to satisfy my hunger. Thus the whole realm of logic, of symbols, of mathematics can only be found within the interior domain. Wilber adds that "most of the philosophers of science have already conceded this point. This undermines objection number 1", (144) so that Wilber in his writing is above all concerned with objection number 2. Thus his primary attention is focused on proving the validity of the spiritual realm to science. "With the two major scientific objections to the interior domains undone", Wilber seems to be convinced, "the door would be open to a genuine reconciliation of science and religion." (144) The sensory, the mental, and the spiritual realms Wilber distinguishes between a "sensory, a mental, and a spiritual realm", (25) each of which possesses its own intrinsic nature. Thus the characteristics of each of the three domains must be sustained, Wilber tells us, so that the advantages of differentiation will not be lost. The three realms, however, must not drift apart to become alienated, dissociated. Thus Wilber wants to distinguish between the three domains, while at the same time uniting them in order to bring about an integration of science with religion, a reconciliation of the sensory and the spiritual realms. In this the mental sphere represents a connecting link, needed by Wilber to contact the interior side of life, in order to rise from there to the spiritual domain, the true realm of religion. The ultimate goal of the undertaking is described by Wilber as "placing premodernity and modernity hand in hand in the quest for the real...thus bringing science and religion together in a most INTIMATE EMBRACE." (25) For this embrace to occur, science and religion, the three spheres of knowledge must first be separated. To be united, they must be differentiated. This review first turns to the differentiation of the three spheres, then to their inner unity as envisaged by Wilber. Wilber writes: "Empirical science is MONOLOGICAL, because you can investigate, say, a rock without ever having to talk to it." (36) The same applies to the realm of mathematical symbols; you do not have to communicate with them, in order to understand them, to apply them. The mental sphere, on the other hand, is of a DIALOGICAL nature. We are "involved in dialogical interpretation, in hermeneutics, in symbolic meaning, in mutual understanding," (37) which are of a dialogical nature. "TRANSLOGICAL" means transcending the logical, the rational....the mental." We are concerned with the spiritual sphere, which does not disclose itself to "monological empiricism", not to "dialogical interpretation", but only reveals itself to "non-dual consciousness", which has transcended the realm of all thought. (37) Thus Wilber distinguishes between a sensory-monological, a mental-dialogical, and a spiritual-translogical sphere. He wants to divide the three spheres, while at the same time uniting them. To do this he tries to establish a science, which will reconcile the three realms, without neglecting their differences. This would be a science equally applicable to the three levels of understanding, a "science of the sensory realm....the mental realm....and the spiritual realm." (25) A uniform method In order to establish a common science, a uniform method is necessary, that can be applied to the sensory, the mental and the spiritual domains. For this the "essentials" have to be established, that apply equally to the three realms of life, so that they can be assigned to our uniform method. Wilber "begins with what appears to be the essentials" of sensory science. "Having extracted these ingredients", he writes, "the hope is that we will find them equally applicable to the interior domains, thus giving us a methodology that could legitimate the interiors with as much confidence as the exteriors. And the further hope is that, hidden somewhere in the newly legitimated interiors, awaits the awareness of a RADIANT GOD." (155). Wilber continues: "Here are what I believe are three of the essential aspects of scientific inquiry - what I will also call the "three strands of all valid knowing: 1....a PARADIGM" leading to "2...DATA" that require "3. COMMUNAL CONFIRMATION (OR REJECTION)....a checking of the results" (156) For reasons of clarity I confined myself to giving the essence of Wilber`s statement which, as a matter of fact, is a little longer. The paradigm Let us first turn to item 1, which is the PARADIGM. In an earlier part of his book Wilber rejected the "new paradigm" as supported by Capra, who tried to integrate modern physics with the absolute Tao. To substantiate his line of argument, Wilber described the paradigm as being a well-worn concept, a "DEAD METAPHOR" (30) Now he reintroduces the same concept, in order to back up his own endeavor of integrating science and the absolute. This, however, does not make our paradigm any clearer. Wilber also introduces a number of synonymous concepts, such as "instrumental injunction, actual practice, exemplar, experiment, ordinance." (155) He does not, however, define any of these terms, which leaves our paradigm just as vague and opaque as it was in the beginning. Wilber does not speak of his paradigm in abstract terms only. He also gives some concrete examples which are supposed to elucidate the concept. He writes: "Where the exemplar (paradigm) in the physical sciences might be a TELESCOPE, and in the mental sciences might be LINGUISTIC INTERPRETATION, in the spiritual sciences....the MEDITATION OR CONTEMPLATION." (170) I believe, though, that looking through a telescope, interpreting Shakespeare, meditating or contemplating on a mantra, are activities which do not show any real similarity. The differences do not evaporate by applying a concept broad enough to describe them all, a concept, moreover, that is nothing but a "dead metaphor", (30) as Wilber conceded himself. From this, I believe, we may conclude that Wilber`s paradigm is not capable of uniting the three realms of science. We will now turn to item 2 (data) and item 3 (communal confirmation and refutation) first, in order to see how the two aspects relate to sensory science. Sensory science Sensory science yields data, results that can be empirically proven. The data speak for themselves, because they are, as Wilber says, of a "monological" (36) nature, so that requirement 2 certainly applies. Item 3 demands a "communal confirmation or refutation" by other people consisting in an exchange of ideas, which naturally is of a dialogical nature. Sensory science is of a monological nature, though, so that it cannot be of a dialogical nature. The two concepts are mutually exclusive. That is why sensory science does not depend on "communal confirmation or refutation", so that requirement 3 does not apply. Mental science, as Wilber says, has to do "with mutual understanding", is of a "dialogical nature". (37). Now Wilber wants the criteria of sensory science to be equally applicable to mental science. Thus he attempts to show that sensory science has to do with "mutual understanding" also. For this he takes recourse to mathematics, which is an empirical or sensory science as defined by himself. He writes: "In mathematical proofs....we see if the patterns connect. We then check our" results "with others, who have run the same....experiment, in order to see if they experienced the same result. If the MAJORITY OF PEOPLE, who are qualified report the same " results," this a mathematical proof, and we consider it a case of genuine knowledge." (154) This is definitely not right. Mathematics is not based on a MAJORITY DECISION. 2 x 3 = 3 + 3 = 6, minus x minus = plus, the sum of angles in a triangle is 180 degrees. These are logical patterns, consistent structures that are not the result of a majority decision. They are inherent in the nature of mathematics itself. The mathematician, the individual subject, does not vote on what is right or what is wrong, because it has already been decided on by mathematics itself. Thus mathematics speaks for itself. Being an empirical science, as Wilber concedes himself, it is of a monological nature. Thus it is not based on "communal confirmation and refutation" which would be of a dialogical nature. That is why item 3 (communal confirmation or refutation) does not apply to sensory science. Mental science Let us now turn to mental science, taking literary studies as an example. The literary critic is, as Wilber stated, "involved in interpretation, in hermeneutics, in symbolic meaning, in mutual understanding," (37) He cannot give an empirical proof for his interpretations. That is why he depends on the ideas expressed by other literary critics, who interpret his own interpretations. Thus the literary critic cannot prove his linguistic interpretation by way of data (2), as originally defined by Wilber. Wilber introduced the concept of "data" (37), in order to qualify a science which had reduced all life to levels of size, a science that "pronounced the other value spheres to be worthless, nonscientific, illusory." (13) This led to what Wilber calls "dissociation", (53) to the suppression, the "alienation" (93) of inner life, to a "world with nothing but meaningless Its" or data, "roaming a one-dimensional flatland." (56) Now the author uses the concept of data in order to restore the inner values of life to their rightful place. The data, which led to dissociation, had been defined as SENSORY DATA. Mental science does not deal with sensory objects though. It has to do with inner values, to which the concept of sensory data does not apply. That is why Wilber introduces the concept of MENTAL DATA. To elucidate his point he gives an example taken from literary studies. He writes: "A BAD INTERPRETATION OF HAMLET IS FALSIFIABLE, NOT BY SENSORY DATA, BUT BY FURTHER MENTAL DATA, further interpretations - not monological but dialogical data - in a community of interpreters. Hamlet is not about the search for a SUNKEN TREASURE buried in the PACIFIC. That is a bad interpretation, a false interpretation, and this falsifiability can easily be demonstrated by any community of researchers." (160) In another part of his book he says: "Hamlet is not about a FUN FAMILY PICNIC IN YELLOWSTONE PARK. That is a very bad interpretation, and it can be thoroughly rejected by any community of adequate interpeters." (34) What Wilber seems to ignore is this: A critic of Hamlet will not be concerned with rejecting a statement saying that Hamlet is "about a fun family picnic in Yellowstone Park", for the simple reason that no man in his senses, who has read Hamlet, will make such a statement in the first place; even if - for some unknown reason - he should make such a preposterous claim, it does not take a literary critic to reject his statement. A computer, with Hamlet in its files, will do. Just insert the doubtful word, press the "search button" and, in a second, the answer will be there on the screen for everyone to see: "family picnic not found, Yellowstone Park not found, sunken treasure not found." The sunken treasure, the flowers of Yellowstone Park, the cheese and butter of the family picnic are sensory data to be seen, to be touched, to be smelled. They are not objects of literary criticism, which have to do with questions of hermeneutics and interpretation, with mental data that can NOT be seen or touched. By implying that the literary critic, who deals with mental data, is concerned with questions of a sunken treasure or a family picnic, Wilber inadvertently assigns to his mental data a sensory content. Science maintains that hermeneutics and interpretation, that is, Wilber`s mental data, "have no means of validation and thus could not be taken seriously." (143) Now, Wilber tries to demonstrate that science must take his mental data seriously, and he does so by implying that his mental data have a sensory content, that can be confirmed or rejected by a method of verification, which is applied by sensory science itself. Put differently, Wilber says to the scientist, what you are doing, mental science is doing also. So you must accept these mental data just like you approve of your own sensory data. Now, look what Wilber is doing. First he defines his data as sensory data to qualify a science, which had reduced all inner values to levels of size, measurements. Then he introduces the concept of mental data, the data of interior perception, in order to restore the inner values of life to their rightful place. Next he assigns to his mental data a sensory content to prove their validity to sensory science. So he is right back in the utter waste-land, the disenchanted world, from where he started. "Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found", (135) laments Wilber quoting from H. Gass`s The Tunnel. So much surface, so much effort to rise from it, so effortlessly sinking back into it, that Wilber, caught in the web of his own writing, does not even notice the flatland that engulfs him. He tries to uphold the inner values of mental science. At the same time he attempts to prove his inner values to a sensory science, that does not acknowledge anything that cannot be seen or touched. So in order to prove the validity of interior perception, he assigns a sensory content to inner values, thus reducing them to the outer values of the flatland he so despises. Thus mental science itself becomes reduced to a sensory science. You cannot have your inner perception and at the same time prove it to a science that does not acknowledge it. It is either one or the other. Wilber wants to have both. Thus his undertaking is contradictory from its very beginning. Mental science has to do with interpretations that have to be interpreted; thus it is of a highly dialogical nature. Hence item 3, which requires a "checking of the results", definitely applies. Sensory science is of a monological nature though. Wilber wants to have it dialogical so that sensory science will suit mental science, which is of a dialogical nature. So he bases sensory science on a majority decision of scientists, which is wrong. Thus Wilber reduces mental science to a sensory science that does not exist. Wilber introduced the concept of a mental science, which relates to the exploration of inner values, thus adding a new definition to the English language. This would logically lead to a renaming of the various fields of mental science, which would change cultural and religious studies to cultural and religious science, literary studies to literary science respectively. Literary science has to do with interpretation, with hermeneutics. Sensory science, however, does not believe in hermeneutics, so it does not believe in literary science either. The label has been changed, the content remains the same, and science will not be duped by this. A mere change of linguistic concepts will not deceive science into believing that the validity of inner values has now been empirically verified. Mental science and the German "Geisteswissenschaften" The "Geisteswissenschaften" of my native German language has to do with hermeneutics as compared with the "Naturwissenschaften", which deals with Wilber`s sensory data. The two spheres of "Wissenschaft", however, also share a common ground, which is covered by what might be called the "rules of coherent reasoning" that are to be observed. Thus the picture of two overlapping circles presents itself to the mind, with a common field of logical reasoning as a middle section, opening into two disparate spheres of hermeneutics and sensory data on the left and right sides. Now, American literary studies have undoubtedly contributed to German comparative "Literaturwissenschaft". Moreover, the German "Religionswissenschaft" owes a great deal to American religious studies, e.g. in its exploration of new religious groups or sects, which have emerged recently as a result of the New Age movement. This means what is termed studies in the USA is in no way inferior to what is called "Geisteswissenschaften" in Germany. From this we see that there is no need to introduce to the English language the concept of a "mental science" in the manner of the German "Geisteswissenschaft". It does not add any new sense and meaning to the idea of US "studies" that - for many centuries now - have been successfully engaged in the exploration of inner life. Now, Wilber`s mental science" does not even correspond to the German "Geisteswissenschaft", which is concerned not with outer but with interior perception. Wilber`s newly defined mental science, however, does not deal with mental, with inner values, as these are not recognized by sensory science. It has been reduced to "non-mental", to outer values, to sunken treasure, to picnic, to Yellowstone Park. Thus it is an unnecessary concept that, moreover, is a contradiction in terms. I also understand you have the human and social sciences in the USA. The concept of our "Geisteswissenschaften" is somewhat wider, but there is no need to go into linguistic subtleties. Let me just state that these inner values are taken care of by the "human sciences", which means that they are not totally neglected. So just add a little "s" to science, and - even for those who believe in words and labels - the world does not look that dreary any more, as Wilber wants to have it. Yes, I believe he wants to have it that way, for if you have flatland only, it takes someone to save us from flatland, to lead us to upland and to the heaven beyond to see a "RADIANT GOD" (155) rising. Spiritual science Let us now turn to the concept of spiritual science to see whether it is more coherent, more consistent on its own terms. Spiritual science, according to Wilber, is concerned with true religion, that is, a "direct apprehension of Spirit, Emptiness....the Absolute" (168), of Mysticism, the Great Void, as the Buddhists call it. Wilber also speaks of "transcendental consciousness", (167) which is of a "translogical....nondual" (37) nature, because it transcends all thought. Now, sensory science will not take any phenomenon seriously that has not been verified, according to the "three strands of knowledge". (156) So for the experience of emptiness to be valid in the eyes of science, Wilber believes, the above three requirements must be fulfilled; so there must be a PARADIGM (a) leading to DATA (b) that are CONFIRMED OR REJECTED (c) "by a community of those who have completed" the same injunctive practice. (172) To exemplify what is meant by paradigm, Wilber mentions among other spiritual practices, "contemplative", (168) "meditation", (203) "zazen" (172). It has already been stated that a spiritual practice, like meditating on a mantra, does not have anything in common with a paradigm of sensory science, like looking through a "telescope" (170) to detect some distant galaxy. Thus the concept of paradigm does not serve to unite spiritual and sensory science. The spiritual practice, if it bears fruit, will lead to "kensho or satori" (172), to the experience of Emptiness. These are, according to Wilber, the "data" of spiritual science, now defined as "TRANSCENDENTAL DATA" (173). Data have a mental content, however subtle this content may be. The transcendental data standing for the Great Void are by definition void of all content. There is nothing in the world that they could possibly relate to. Thus the concept of transcendental data is a contradiction in terms. They are data that do not exist, so they cannot be integrated with the data of sensory science that do exist. Thus strand 2 is not capable of uniting spiritual and sensory science. Now, Wilber says "If we do not take up the injunctive practice, we will not have a genuine paradigm, and therefore we will never see the data of the spiritual domain." (170) There are, however, those people who have not engaged in any spiritual practice and still have the experience of satori, and spontaneously so, when washing dishes or driving a car. Ramana Maharshi, it is said, became permanently enlightened after having been bitten by a poisonous snake. Snake bite as a paradigm! What about that? Others engage in their spiritual practices for years without having a single satori. So the paradigm is not a necessary prerequisite for the experience of emptiness to occur. For the results of a scientific experiment to be valid, they must be repeatable. So Wilber says that the experience of "satori", as a result of "meditation or contemplation", is "repeatable" (170) also. This does not hold true. Each time you heat up water to 100 degrees centigrade it will evaporate; but each time you practice your meditation, your ego will not evaporate for satori to occur. It might happen twice, three times in a row, then not again for another five years, six years, who knows for how long. Something else must come in for " flash forth into ....awareness." (172) Christians call it grace; but science does not want to have anything to do with grace, so Wilber does not either. Now, Wilber tells us that his "transcendental data" have to be "checked (confirmed or rejected) by a community of those who have completed the injunctive....strands". (172) The transcendental data, however, do not exist as such, so there is nothing to be confirmed or rejected. A confirmation has a mental content, depends on thoughts, phrases, words that are uttered. Transcendental consciousness, however, is beyond words, is pure Emptiness void of all thought. Thus it cannot be confirmed or rejected. The experience of Emptiness is self-evident. A doubt cannot possibly arise, because all doubt is a thought of doubt, and no thought arises to overshadow the Great Void. As there is no doubt, there is no need of confirmation. Words do not add anything to the ultimate experience, nor do they take anything away from it. The Buddha, it is said, had the experience of Nirvana, the Great Void, secluded from all mankind. So there was no one to confirm it. When Ramana Maharshi became awakened, his mother, the people in his vicinity believed that he had fallen prey to a great illusion. Ramana did not hear them, retired to a distant cave, later to become one of the world`s greatest spiritual leaders. In the various religious groups on this planet there has always been one to be the first to make the experience of Emptiness. If his experience needed confirmation, there would have to be a first before the first to experience the Absolute, so that there could never be the real first person to pass his message on to mankind. If the experience of the Deity had to be confirmed by another person, it would take someone to confirm the other person`s experience, so there would be doubt confirmed by doubt, endlessly, mankind going round in a circle, form darkness to darkness with no light to come, no escape, no hope of salvation. Wilber first defines religion as the experience of the translogical Spirit, of Emptiness, of the Absolute, of Mysticism. Then, in the next step, Emptiness is filled with the concept of a paradigm as a necessary prerequisite for Wilber`s data, that are verifiable, repeatable, to be confirmed or rejected, as a basis for mutual understanding, interpretation and dialogue. Thus the translogical becomes the logical, the Absolute becomes the relative, which is twisted to fit the method of sensory science. So nothing is left of the unknown, the unknowable, the vastness not to be grasped. The spiritual landscape is wiped clean, with no grace, no mystery, no beauty, no surprise; a dreary land that is, in which everything is repeatable, predictable, with boundaries clearly defined. This is Spirit reduced to flatland, mapped out by a sensory science in a spiritual disguise. Wilber, however, complacently contemplates on the outcome of his undertaking. So he writes that the three spheres of science can now "be genuinely united....and integrated under the auspices of a deep science that is as operative in profound mystical experience as in geology, as hermeneutics as in physics. None of these domains needs to be reduced to the others, fit some integrative scheme. Each domain, just as it is, is allowed its own dignity, its own logic - yet each united by the thread of direct....evidence....that grounds all verifiabilty." (177) Science will not be duped by this Wilber speaks of a sensory, a mental, and a spiritual science, which are of a monological, a dialogical, a translogical essence respectively. They are always science, always data, and yet they are of a different sensory, mental, transcendental nature. Thus Wilber believes that each domain is allowed its own essence, "its own logic", yet is "united" under a common roof of science, of data. Wilber`s account sounds convincing, if you believe in facades, surfaces, words, a common label meaning that the three realms are truly "united", different labels denoting that each domain is allowed "its own logic, its own dignity". If you do not believe in surfaces but in depth, not in labels but in content, a different picture presents itself to the mind, with all true religion, all inner values wiped out, "suffocated under the stranglehold of sensory science", to use Wilber`s own words.. You cannot define religion as the Absolute, as Divine Spirit, as Mysticism, and at the same time prove religion to a science that believes in nothing but sensory evidence. It is either one or the other, but Wilber wants to have both. So he defines religion as a "direct apprehension of Spirit, Emptiness...., the Absolute." (168) Then he replaces what had been qualified as Emptiness by the concept of transcendental data, which is a contradiction in terms reflecting the inconsistency of Wilber`s approach. Thus in the ensuing line of argument the data that are transcendental become repeatable and verifiable, become "tortured" and "twisted" to fit the methodolgy of sensory science, to serve his "integrative scheme". And all this is done to prove the validity of Emptiness to sensory science, "to legitimate the interiors with as much confidence as the exteriors" (155) "thus bringing science and religion together in a most intimate embrace." (25) "And the further hope is", Wilber writes, "that, hidden somewhere in those newly legitimated interiors, awaits the awareness of a RADIANT GOD". (155) I believe that science will not be duped by a mere change of labels, it will not be deceived by this jockeying for definitions, all this naming and renaming of concepts; it will not see itself united with religion in a "most intimate embrace", not to speak of the promised land, this "radiant God" rising from Wilber`s own writing? So I suggest a different approach. Why not just go to brother scientist and say something like this: "When sitting in meditation all thoughts may dwindle away. So there is a tranquility, a rare peace of mind. From this a great clarity rises, it is like seeing through things. I believe this is the realm of all true discovery, the fountainhead from which all intuition springs. I cannot promise that it will happen, and I cannot prove it either, but I am sure it is worth trying." Then leave it to him to decide what he will do. Bliss does not have to be acknowledged to satisfy the mind. When you wake up in bed at three o'clock in the morning, there is no way to prove the state you are in to your friend lying beside you, who is still lost in bitter dreams or sunk in sweet sleep. Nor does your state of mind have to be confirmed by this other friend who now enters the room. You just look at each other, and you know that you are not asleep, that you are not dreaming. The same applies when man awakes to this greater awakening, which happens beyond time. So nothing has happened. There is only consciousness wiped clean, a state of no-mind. Absolutely no way to prove the Great Void, for there is nothing to be proven to men filled with illusions, nothing to be proven to men walking in their sleep beside you, up and down the road of life. They will awake in due time from their illusions, a sweet, bitter taste left on their lips perhaps, they will surely rise from the land of illusions, like the friend lying in bed beside you. And when it happens there is nothing to be confirmed, refuted, nothing to be verified, rejected. When awakened souls meet, they just know that IT cannot be known, seeing IT in each other's eyes. It is simpler than the simplest thing in this world. IT just is, not to be described. Emptiness is an experience not be verified, to be confirmed or rejected, and you are well advised to state the fact plainly and clearly, when you present your case to a scientist' s world of coherent thought and data well-defined. Otherwise you will be suspected of building your statements on pre-conceived notions, on circular arguments that presuppose what is to be proven. Thus Professor Mike Mueckler in his critical review of Wilber's "The Spectrum of Consciousness" writes: "What I object to so strongly about this book is the subtle manipulation of the reader who is lead to going beyond symbolic (dualistic) knowledge...can we ever know Reality itself....This is a rather obvious misapplication of science to justify what is simply an a priori assumption." (The Neural Surfer, 1996) "In Defense of Ken Wilber" David Schier replies: "The invocation of physics in Wilber's books is meant to be suggestive, not as empirical verification." (The Neural Surfer, 1996) In "The Marriage of Sense and Soul", though, Wilber strongly argues that the experience of Emptiness can be empirically verified. Thus Professor Mueckler's critical appraisal when applied to "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" represents a sober-minded scientist's point of view not misguided by Wilber's manipulative design. You cannot unite something with nothing So let us just state it frankly and openly that there is no way to scientifically legitimize the Divine in the eyes of sensory science. So there is no possibility to unite the two realms of life within the narrow bounds of our language. Once this is perfectly clear, a great burden has been lifted off our shoulders. This will make it a lot easier for our message to be conveyed. Just look at all these strenuous efforts that have been taken to unite science with religion, just look at all these books piling up written for the sole purpose of uniting science with religion, integrating something with nothing, concepts chasing concepts, going round in a circle, a dog trying to bite its own tail. I do not want to be ironic; Wilber does not deserve it. I just want to give a vivid impression of what is happening in Wilber`s writing, to point out this error, this fatal accident that has occurred. There are no two ways about truth; it is a one-way road. There is no way to back up, to turn round to embellish things, for the sake of courtesy, from nation to nation, across the Ocean, intertwined with the Internet. Let us see things in their true light; and I must say it quite bluntly and clearly, there is no "radiant God" rising from these lines, it is the God of flatland that does not shine, with words that hold out a promise they do not keep, all those words that intrigue, bewitch, seduce, so the reader becomes enamoured, spellbound. At other times it is this endless flow of words spilled out, when you read on page 155 about the paradigm as an indispensable prerequisite of all scientific exploration, the paradigm that is "an instrumental injunction....actual practice, an experiment, an ordinance", when the mind is swamped with this veritable flood of words pouring out, non-stop over two lines only, the memory becomes blurred, so one forgets about the paradigm that was rejected on page 30, disqualified as a "dead metaphor". So the paradigm on page 30 becomes an old story sunk into oblivion, to give room to the paradigm on page 155, so the reader feels at ease. Quite right what he says about the necessity of a paradigm, so much wording and phrasing must have a deeper meaning, it must be a great message that the author conveys. But what happens when you discard all those words, when you dismantle the writing, when you take away the facade, the decor, the outer trimmings, to look at the truth that lies hidden behind. What happens when you cut away the luscious meat, with just the ribs and bones left, the skeleton, meager and lean. Well, I dare say, what remains is just this: An unquenched desire to have Emptiness as something, no more, just this. Yes, it is that simple, man wants to have Emptiness as something, so that he can unite it with something, with his high vision or dreams. For Wilber it is science; for the rest of us, well, it is this and that, and that and this. In the end it does not matter, for whatever it may be, there is no way for this desire to be fulfilled. You cannot unite something with nothing. It is as simple as that. The ultimate problem of life On a deeper level, this is the problem of life, the desire of a separate ego that wants to unite with freedom, bliss, Emptiness, with all these wonderful things that stir our hearts, fire our imagination, awaken our most idealistic dreams. Unfortunately though these miraculous things do not exist as such. Freedom, bliss, Emptiness, Spirit, Mysticism do not have a separate existence, so there is nothing for a human being to unite with. So man tries to solve an unsolvable problem, he wants to fill himself with freedom, with Emptiness by holding onto it. Thus Emptiness always evades him, which is the old story of the hand trying to clasp itself. Yes, on a deeper level, this is the problem of life from which Zen promises release. Wilber versus Wilber Ken Wilber is a Zen Buddhist, so I guess he might agree after all. Yes, I believe that Ken Wilber, were he confronted with this line of argument, might approve of its final results. I do not mean the imagery, the wrapping, I mean the content, the crude facts uncovered, laid bare, I dare say that Wilber might approve of it all, for in a manner of speaking he has already done so. So he writes in Quantum Questions: "There are no parallels whatsoever between physics....and mysticism, for the simple reason that Spirit...has no qualities with which it can be compared, contrasted, or paralleled. In order to compare Spirit with, say the findings of Physics, Spirit has to be assigned some sort of qualifications, or set-apart characteristics, at which point it ceases absolutely to be Spirit" (24) Here Wilber tried to show that all these endeavors, these ceaseless attempts to integrate modern physics with religion were basically contradictory, were a futile attempt. To elucidate his point he adds: "This science-and-religion argument consists of nothing more than a jockeying for definitions selected in advance to produce precisely the conclusions desired." (11) Vision-logic This I believe, states briefly and concisely, what I have been trying to say. So I have nothing to add to this partial glimpse unlocking only one aspect of Wilber`s comprehensive writing, which ranges from matter to life, from psyche to the Divine, to give a unified vision of the manifold facets of life. For this, so Wilber tells us, ordinary logical, linear thought does not suffice. What it takes is vision-logic, the next higher step in evolution, which "transcends....simple rationality...As such, vision-logic can hold in mind contradictions, it can unify opposites....and it weaves together what otherwise appear to be incompatible notions", says Wilber in "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality", and he adds: "What I am trying to do in this book, and what you are trying to do as you read it (or OTHER SIMILAR BOOKS), is use vision-logic". (185) "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" is one of those "other similar books". So I conclude the book is another example of the author´s vision-logic. The chain without links Let me raise another point. According to Wilber's evolutionary scheme "each higher level transcends but includes its predecessors." (63) "Formal-operational" or rational thought occupies level 4, which is the realm of science. "Vision-logic" - the fountainhead of Wilber's writing - is located on level 5. Next come "the psychic, the subtle, the causal" until all creation fulfills itself in the awareness of Emptiness, of "non-dual consciousness" (181). This is level 9, which is beyond all levels of evolution. (181) Now, all true religion which is defined as transcendental consciousness, as Emptiness, resides on stage 9, which transcends and includes level 4, the realm of science. So why does Wilber try to integrate, to unite science with religion? Science (level 4) is included, has already been integrated, united with religion (level 9) according to his own evolutionary design. This shows that Wilber's integrative attempts are not in keeping with his evolutionary scheme, which is one more contradiction underlying his complex system of thought. It is a contradiction, however, which does not hurt, for the simple reason that his evolutionary design, so far at least, is itself contradictory. Level 4 is not included in level 9, because science is not incorporated in Emptiness, something is not included in nothing, as I tried to show. Thus it is a contradiction contradicting another contradiction, so that only the primary contradiction remains. This may sound like mental acrobatics, but it is not some sort of academic gymnastics. It is too simple for that; for basically it is just a plus negating a minus negating a plus; this is no higher mathematics to be sure, it is calculus elementary school, if you care to look at the main line of thought stripped clean of drawn-out arguments and words that tend to hide the simple truth lying underneath. So I will also try to keep the ensuing analysis as simple as it really is. Keeping this in mind I would like to turn now to the other levels of Wilber's evolutionary design, to see whether these agree with each other. Here we have to ask ourselves whether the lower level, that has been transcended, can still be integrated in the higher level. Put differently, the question arises whether the concepts of "TRANSCEND AND INTEGRATE" go together? In "A Brief History of Everything" Wilber writes: "Evolution is a wildly self-transcending process....which incorporates what went before....and then adds incredibly new components." (23) To support his view of transcendence he gives two examples taken from "biology", the level of "vital bodies" that precedes the stage of "mind". He claims that first there was no wing, no eye, then with "no intermediate a huge leap" (23) a fully grown wing, a fully developed eyesight emerged. This is the only way for evolution to proceed, says Wilber, for "half wings", 50 % eyesight is "lethal", not giving the animal any chances of survival. Wilber adds that practically "everybody has simply agreed to this", (23) which "misrepresents the current stage of evolutionary biology", as pointed out by David Lane (in "Ken Wilber's Achilles' Heel: The Art of Spiritual Hyperbole; Part Two: Evolution versus Mysterionism?", The Neural Surfer, 1996) "Half-wing" does not mean that the animal "is dinner", as Wilber believes. Flying frogs possess a webbing between the toes, flying lemurs have a membrane between legs and tail, flying lizards possess a fold of skin, flying squirrels have a membrane extending from each side of the body. The webbing, membrane or fold of skin when erected or extended serve as wings giving the animal an effective gliding capacity. (examples taken form the Encyclopedia Americana, 1988) Thus "half-wings" and legs are not mutually exclusive as Wilber believes. "Half-wing" does not entail that the animal has no well-built legs to run, hop or jump with; also every normal German or American adult will be able to tell you that different animals - cats, eagles, insects - possess different degrees of eyesight, and that 50% eyesight is definitely better than total blindness. On my writing pad lies a quote from Prof. Huston Smith in German translation, retranslated into English it roughly says that "no-one, not even C.G. Jung, has done as much as Wilber to open the eyes of western psychology to the unforgettable insights of the wisdom traditions of the world." This holds true for a major part of Wilber's writing, I agree; but his books also contain these statements which are quite obviously wrong, and I believe that these parts of his writing do more harm than good. If Wilber is not more accurate about the results of empirical research, then why should western psychology, "why should materialists/empiricists believe his trans-rational realm theory?", comments David Lane. ( The Neural Surfer, see above) Now, whatever your view of these things may be, you cannot deny that any of these new faculties, eyesight or wing-capacity, however limited they may be, have an adaptive value, thus adding to the animal's survival chances, which Wilber does not want to see. So he claims, first no wings, no eyesight, then - oops - fully grown wings, fully developed eyesight. Now - in Wilber's scheme - the eye that transcends incorporates the previous stage, which is the "no-eye" that has been transcended. The "no-eye" is something that does not exist. Thus for the eye, for the level that transcends, there is nothing to be incorporated, which shows that the concepts of transcendence and incorporation are mutually exclusive. So the higher level that transcends does not include its predecessors. It does not incorporate what went before according to Wilber's own reasoning. Only an evolution with intermediate forms means that each previous stage is incorporated in the next more highly evolved state, which represents the current evolutionist's point of view. A "self-transcending process....with leaps in a quantum-like fashion" is in line with the creationist's view of existence. Wilber, who embraces this self-transcending process, "has more in common with creationists than evolutionists, even though he is claiming to present the evolutionist's current view", comments David Lane. (The Neural Surfer, see above) So Wilber leans towards the creationist's view of life, which proceeds, as he states, by "mechanisms that absolutely nobody understands". (22) At the same time he supports the evolutionist's point of view. So he claims that the lower is included, incorporated in the higher, which is something that can be analyzed, can be clearly understood. Put differently, Wilber says that everything is closely interconnected to reveal itself to our understanding, an understanding, however, that believes in quantum leaps, which escape our understanding. The philosophy of "oops" In his introduction to "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality" Wilber elaborates on this philosophy of "oops", which states that first there was nothing, then this Big Bang occurred, thus the world, thus creation arose. Hence something emerged from nothing, which is logically absurd. From this it concludes that there is no way to grasp the origin of the universe, utterly no way to understand how it all happened. So "don't ask", it says, "the universe just occurs... there is nothing behind just is.... just happens - oops." (vii) Now Wilber is firmly convinced that this philosophy of " about as infantile a response as the human condition could possibly offer." (vii) So he sits down to write his 900 page opus - with two more volumes to follow - in order to show that there is a "Deeper Order" (vii) behind the universe, that there is an "evolutionary thread" (viii), a "Great Chain of Being" running through existence, "a rich tapestry of interwoven levels, reaching from matter to body to mind to soul to spirit", with a "senior level" that "envelops or enfolds its junior that every the world is interwoven with every other." (The Marriage of Sense and Soul, p. 6/7) The question arises as to how this agrees with his previously stated view, his creationism claiming that in the history of evolution there first was no wing, no eye, then, without intermediate forms, a wing, an eye emerged? So first there is no eye, then an eye, between the two is a gap, a hole, a missing link. Thus Wilber's "rich tapestry of interwoven levels" does not interweave anything, for there is nothing to be interwoven. As a matter of fact it consists of holes only, like his Big Chain that is composed of oops, of missing links only, that is of links that do not exist. So it is a chain with no links in it, which means that there is no chain, no thread running through existence. Thus Wilber refutes the philosophy of "oops" by advocating a philosophy of "oops" that are tied together, interlaced as a tapestry, a thread, a chain that do not exist. Wilber's two faces I would like to conclude from the exposition above that there are two conflicting lines of arguments, running through Wilber's science-religion-exposition, two strings of reasoning opposed to each other, as illustrated by the two lists of items below and the ensuing explanation. BRAHMAN: Creationism (1) - Transcendence (2) - Missing Link (3) - Discontinuity (4) - Emptiness (5) - Religion (6) - Translogical (7) WORLD: Evolutionism (1) - Inclusion (2) - Chain (3) - Continuity (4) - Data (5) - Science (6) - Logical (7) The "Brahman-list" shows the Wilber, who upholds creationism (1), with the higher level transcending the lower level. (2) So there are nothing but missing links (3), discontinuities (4) and Emptiness only (5), defined as religion (6), as the translogical (7) that cannot be explained. The "World-list" shows the opposite viewpoint, the Wilber who supports evolutionism (1), the lower level included in the higher level (2). Thus a chain runs through existence (3) with only continuities (4) that can be analyzed as data (5). This is the world of science (6) open to a logical discourse (7). Thus in the "World-list" everything is explainable, understandable. In the "Brahman-list " nothing can be explained, understood, because it is beyond words, beyond language. The two views of existence are diametrically opposed to each other. So they should be carefully distinguished, which Wilber does not do. He wants to have the transcendental realm as data neatly analyzed and the world of data as a transcendence not to be grasped. Thus he is torn between two conflicting forces which he does not see. So he upholds an evolutionism to back up a creationism, which leads to a kind of "crevolutionism" (1), a strange hybrid of thought. He introduces opposed concepts such as "include and transcend" to back up one with the other, an undertaking that defeats its own purposes. (2) He tries to demonstrate that there is a thread, a chain running through existence to undermine the idea of his missing links, with the obvious result that there is neither chain nor missing link in the end. (3) He portrays a world of continuities, which consists of discontinuities only, the latter concept refuting the former, so again there is nothing that remains. (4). His data are meant to substantiate Transcendental Consciousness, Emptiness. This leads to his "transcendental data", which are empty data that exist only in Wilber's own mind. (5) He wants to have a science that is religion and a religion that is science; so in the end there is neither one nor the other (6) He manipulates the "logical" to substantiate the "translogical" (7), then sneaks the translogical into the logical, transcendence into inclusion, the missing links into a chain that runs through existence, continuously holding the discontinuities together, which are his missing links. Thus a picture presents itself to the mind's eye, with a ladder of evolution that has so many rungs in it and nothing to hold the rungs together, a ladder built into the air, the loose rungs hung up in the wind that blows, an imaginary fabric only for the imaginative to see, the trusting reader who believes in the author and his writing. All this is not mystery, it is, I believe, what David Lane means by "mysteriousness". (in the title of his essay, see above) Wilber does not seem to be perturbed by his conflicting undertaking. Thus in A Brief History he complacently concludes: "The continuous process of self-transcendence produces discontinuities...And in that sense, yes, the Kosmos hangs together, unified by a single process. It is a uni-verse, one song." (24) A song, yes, but it has no notes in it, only the pauses between the notes, a song, I conclude, that does not exist. You see, I am trying to be consistent, in tune with the two lines of argument, the streams of thought that flow together to dissolve. Wilber wants to have something as nothing and nothing as something, the plus as a minus and the minus as a plus. So the two diagrams refute, negate each other. So there are no qualities left in the end, no creationism, no missing links left, no discontinuities, no emptiness left, with no evolutionism, no chain, no continuities, no data that remain. Nothing is left in the end, everything is extinguished, annihilated, wiped out of existence. A minus that is a plus and a plus that is a minus is an absurdity of thought that transcends all figures, mathematics and words. So all language has dissolved. What a wondrous outcome of our deliberations, all language has dissolved, the landscape wiped clean of all words and all notions. So there is no hindrance, no obstruction left for the great Reality to unfold. Brahman is the world "Brahman is the world", writes Ken Wilber in "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality" (302) quoting from Ramana Maharshi. " not a theory", he continues to say...Nor is it a philosophical suggestion. It is a direct of thoughts, free of dualities, free of time and temporal succession." (303) At times Wilber sees this so distinctly, so clearly, his vision unobstructed by words and concepts. But then, alas, in these other parts of his writing, the vision darkens, so he forgets. Thus he defines Brahman as Emptiness, as the Great Void, that is a nothing opposed to a world of something consisting of data and science, of manifold facets of thought. He forgets that these definitions of something and nothing, of plus and minus, of "this and that", exist only for the sake of language. He forgets they are only classifications, only labels, mere words that do not describe Brahman, the groundless being that is beyond all qualities of thought. So he mistakes the categories of language for the reality of Brahman. Thus he sees a nothing which is opposed to a something, which creates an inner conflict that has to be reconciled. So he tries to unite the nothing with the something, the plus with the minus, an impossible task. Differences, opposites exist for language to exist. Words that cannot be distinguished are no words, so there would be no language to be applied. There would be no guideline giving a sense of direction to us, seeking pilgrims, who are migrating through this world. Opposition, separation is not the reality of Brahman, it is the nature of language which separates and divides. Wilber tries to overcome separation by the very tool, the means that has created it. So he employs the scissors of language to mend together the broken tissue of life. In the end he believes that he has reached his goal, has accomplished the high task of his undertaking. Yes, in the end he is firmly convinced that the disparate patches of thought have been mended together by his own hand. So he sees a "Kosmos" that "hangs together", finally, ultimately, "unified as a uni-verse, as one song." (Brief History, p.24) Thus he has deceived himself, has deceived the reader whose mind is appeased, for the differences can no longer be perceived. This is the veil of illusion through which the true mystic sees. He knows that all language is an obstruction, that has to be transcended in consciousness, for the great Reality to unfold. When he says "Brahman is the world", it is not the words he means. He speaks from "direct apprehension", from inner vision, not from thought. So he sees Brahman everywhere, not only in the rose-bush and the blue sky, in the soft breeze blowing from the ocean. For him Brahman also resides in science, in the data roaming a flatland world. Yes, he sees Brahman in those scentless, colorless data, so they glow from within. Evolution which proceeds piecemeal, the eye of life, gradually lighting up on its way home to the Godhead, is a great marvel, because Brahman resides in every little step that has been taken, dwells in the universe as its ultimate ground. Evolution proceeding in these wondrous little steps, is mystery enough, so there is no need to sneak in a mysterious transcendence that does not exist. Brahman, mystery is everywhere, it dwells in the sunset, the ocean and the sky, it resides in the soundless, scentless data roaming a world that is not deep, that is groundless, unfathomable, not to be described. This is the resurrection of the flatland world in the mystic's own heart. So why unite religion, defined as Brahman, with science? Religion is science. Thus there is nothing to be reconciled, it all is, just is, the rose-bush, the data, and the flat land over which the mockingbirds fly. Do you hear them cry? Wilber is a man of two faces, a face of science and a face of religion, turned to the heights and depths of life, like two distant worlds that do not meet. So he wants to take us to flat-land, to beyond-land, with two hands pulling us up and down at the same time, to the light, to the dark, in a flickering twilight that does not shine. He always wants to take us somewhere. Once the divine face and the worldly face have flown together, in two currents that have become one, Wilber, with his writer's gift as a transitory guide, shall take us again, not somewhere, but from somewhere to nowhere, beyond the white light, where words do not reside, with no-one to read and no-one to write. This is the marriage of sense and soul, the two uniting to lovingly die in "this most intimate embrace". A fatal love that is, but not a fatal death they die, for it contains the seeds of divine life to be born. So we see them reappearing, in a transmuted light, janus-faced and undisguised as soul that unites, as sense that divides. The death that transcends is the womb out of which science and religion transfigured rise, smiling like the Mona-Lisa smiles. Let me end by saying that I have been connected to the Internet only for a few weeks, and I was happy to come across Dr. Lane`s Web Page. So I would like to join in the discussion. I would also like to do some major work on Wilber. So just tell me: Am I on the right track? Am I too harsh on Wilber? Is there something I do not realize, something I do not see? Now, if anything I am a mystic, though critical of the above aspects of Wilber`s writing. There is no real Wilber criticism in Germany. It is either pro Transpersonal Psychology - pro Wilber, or against Transpersonal Psychology - against Wilber, as far as I can see. What about the USA? Is there any secondary literature rooted in mystical experience, yet constructively critical of Wilber`s writing? Is there anything along these lines that you can recommend? All information, comments, negative, positive, will be appreciated. I will be glad to respond. Martin Erdmann