Reponse to Professor Muecler's Review of Wilber

Publisher: The Neural Surfer
Publication date: 1996

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at

I want to go back to the home base now.


Yes, please post this in the Neural Surfer. The following copy has several corrections.

Here's a transcription of comments by none other than Wilber's horse, Mr. Ed after he was read the essay on "Spectrum of Consciousness" by Dr. Mueckler:

As a professor who professes an aversion to books on "Consciousness", perhaps Dr. Mueckler would serve us all best by avoiding that state altogether. He apparently has lost sight of his own reliance on conscious activities to provide us with his "flatlandish" critique of Wilber's work.

I, being the savant that I am, will use Dr. Mueckler's own arguments to prove, if not to the good Dr. himself, to some of his less closed-minded readers that considerations of consciousness are indispensible to the most rigorous scientific endeavor. Let's begin with the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle itself. Where did such a principle come from? Where are the data that led Dr. Heisenberg to have this insight? What physicalistic observations by Dr. Heisenberg led him to this great insight, The Uncertainty Principle? As a savant, I know that such an insight can only come from vigorous acts of internal, conscious activity. The waves of a light beam are not visible. The thought that viewing very small objects will be interfered with by the action of the light beam that permits us to view them doesn't come from any external observation, nor could it ever. And then try to explain why so many scientists accept such a internally ascertained principle as a basic stepping stone of knowledge. The answer is that it is a given, after a sage (Heisenberg) conveys the thought to us via the tool of mathematics and language. The act of acceptance lies within consciousness itself. I would argue that neither external events nor acts of pure reason ever are capable of providing scientific knowledge--acts of will, acts of decision among the possibilities offered by reason and observation, on the part of the scientist are a necessary component. Many scientists, perhaps most nowadays, when there is hardly any awareness of philosophy of science, act as if no subjective act is ever involved in their decisions on findings and conclusions in their work. Perhaps they have overly habituated to their own consciousnesses, or even have aversions to the idea of consciousness itself.

That electron flying around that atomic nucleus is like a moth flying around, but avoiding, a flame. We can describe a field of probability in which the moth can be found but if we stop its action with a photo, we will be given a very misleading picture of its current whereabouts, or the direction in which it is flying. We can't even describe with certainty where one atom ends and another begins, including those of the observer. In that sense we are all one. Science realized in 1927 that subject and object are arbitrary designations--but still insisted on duality as a necessary a priori stance upon which to build future science. Rightly so. But it is no longer necessary to hold all intellectual inquiry to the duality principle--there is not even a scientific basis for doing so. Dr. Mueckler, with all due respect, that moth, just like that electron, can fly right up your nose.

The separation of one's philosophy from one's science is a good approach when trying to be a scientist, but to denigrate one's philosophy as a "flight of fancy" is not wise. Einstein reportedly began the process which led him to his theory of relativity by imagining what it would be like to fly on a beam of light. His insights over a ten year period led him, and humanity, to a new holon of understanding of the universe, which included but transcended the Newtonian view. He used the scientific knowledge (speed of light) and theories (gravity) available, but also a "flight of fancy", mental experiments impossible in the physical domain, to obtain his notions about relativity. These new decisions about the nature of the universe provided scientists in "top- down," deductive fashion, with hypotheses that have stood actual tests in astronomy and particle physics. Can it be stated that either Heisenberg's or Einstein's theories derived strictly from physicalistic data? Not at all. There are recognizable contributions from internal sources toward both of these important theories.

I believe that many scientists are not as far removed from their philosophical bents as they would have us believe. I believe that scientists are trained to deny much of the influence their own subjectivity has on what they do as scientists. They are trained a sort of knee-jerk, ideological objectivism which serves no one very well. They devalue their own consciousness as well as that of others. They are Wilber's "flatlanders" and they despise their own dependency on interior mental processes and believe that one day all of it will be understood in purely exterior, scientific terms if it is to be understood at all.

As I understand Wilber, the observer and observed are not the same thing but they are parts of the same whole. And a whole is one thing. The word "same" here is the problem. They don't equal each other, but they inescapably belong to the same "system." (Yikes, let's not get started on this word.) And as far as a purported "mysterious and supernatural" relation between observer and observed--again we have a verbophobia on the part of Mueckler. Can we agree that the relationship is "mysterious" because we realize that it exists but we don't know why, and it's "supernatural" because it is a relationship only recognized in conscious thought and not sitting "out there" in nature? No one, especially not Wilber, will deny the usefulness of the principle in scientific pursuits. The theory of "everything" that Wilber lays out includes physicalistic science as a necessary component, i.e., no true contemplative knowledge will be allowed to defy it. If the argument is over the use of the word "science", then I propose modifiers such as "physicalistic" and "contemplative" to dispel some of the verbophobia.

Consider how P.W. Bridgman responded to the Uncertainty Principle in 1929: "The immediate effect [of it] will be to let loose a veritable intellectual spree of licentious and debauched thinking. . . . The existence of such a domain [lower than the electron] will be made the basis of an orgy of rationalizing. It will be made the substance of the soul . . . the principle of vital processes will have its seat here; and it will be the medium of telepathic communication. One group will find in the failure of the physical law of cause and effect the solution of the age- old problem of the freedom of the will, and, on the other hand, the atheist will find the justification of his contention that chance rules the universe." (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1971, v.22, p.487, under Uncertainty Principle)

Is this a knee-jerk reaction or some very keen, directly given insights? The abandonment of dualism was feared as early as then, but Wilber does not propose this in an absolute sense. He proposes to have dualism acting as a necessary part of an overall unity that can be seen only through interior contemplation. It will not affect physicalistic science per se, it will just lead to scientists who will know themselves better by not devaluing and ignoring the place where they spend most of their waking existence, their consciousnesses. It's about time we had serious scholarship in an area frought with "flights of fancy" in all directions, someone who is willing to insist on incorporation of exterior science with interior science, someone who is writing serious prose on the subject. I'm tired of sermons, chanting and ragas as the only approaches to spirituality. It's time for some clarity and synthesis of knowledge that avoids ideology and territoriality. Sometimes one has to get whacked with a bamboo cane in Zen fashion to get one out of his ego. Wilber manages to do this quite well when he invades the realms overseen by the lords and priests of science.

Oh yeah. God plays dice? How do you know? Edwin "Hoss" Savant (Mr. Ed to you)

I hope you and the good Professor will find these comments enlightening, er, elevating. Tom Floyd

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I want to go back to the home base now.