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Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber in a nutshell
in a nutshell

Ken Wilber was born in 1949 and is today's leading integral philosopher. He has written more than 20 books which have been translated into 30 foreign languages making him the most widely translated academic author in America. Being the originator of the Integral Approach („AQAL“), his work comprises an enormous range of knowledge emanating from the different schools of thought, scientific approaches and spiritual wisdom as taught by the various traditions.

Ken Wilber initially pursued a scientific career. He has a degree in bio-chemistry for which he wrote a thesis on rhodopsin, a light-sensitive pigment found in the retina of the eye. The reason for Ken Wilber's dismissal of his then successful scientific career was to be found in a small book written by Lao Tse.

Ken Wilber One quote „The known way is not the eternal way“ by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse was to change the course of Ken Wilber's life. These words had such an inspirational impact on him that he found it necessary to revise his view of the world. He read the Perennial philosophy and all literature pertaining to the classical Eastern and Western philosophies. He was outraged that this kind of wisdom, through his conventional surroundings, had not been made available to him before.

His curiosity was awakened and his thirst for knowledge, whether theoretical (he is known to be a high speed reader), through experience or practise served to form his integral approach. He learned from roshis and lamas and started to meditate intensively following the Zen and tibetan tradtitions and this foundation is to be seen through all of his works. On reading his books it is quite evident that he speaks from personal experience. At the same time he practiced Gestalt therapy, Rolfing and different kinds of bodywork. Many essential aspects of his work came from Western psychology, from Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, Adler, Reich, and subsequent movements such as existential psychology, humanistic psychology and eventually transpersonal psychology.

His first book, entitled „The Spectrum of Consciousness“, was written at the age of 23 and established him as an author, earning him a reputation as the long awaited „Einstein of consciousness“. The term integral was not used by him at the time but his method of approach was nonetheless so.

Confusion, in the form of a cognitive pain, made Ken Wilber search for an answer that would amalgamate everything he had learned into a theory that could be understood by everybody. He found wonder and truth in everything he studied, regardless of which schools of thought it stemmed from, the Eastern or the Western. However, all schools were convinced that they alone had found the truth and tried to discredit one another's beliefs. He knew intuitively that Freud and Buddha were both right, but the Freudians ridiculed religion in general while the Buddhists dismissed the ego as an illusion.

So what did he do? In “The Spectrum of Consciousness” he created a sufficiently expansive framework which allowed all of these schools of thought to take their place within - but not merely in a “pluralistic potpourri”, but along a golden thread - along the "spectrum of consciousness". The idea was that each school of thought focussed on a certain range of the spectrum with their beliefs and teachings applicable on this level alone - but are mistaken when they attempt to transfer their truths onto other levels. An essential premiss of Ken Wilber's Integral Theory is „Everybody is right“ or in other words: “Nobody is smart enough to be wrong all the time.”


The article about Ken Wilber on by Dennis Wittwock, with kind permission of the author.

Ken Wilber in a Nutshell!

Ken Wilber’s basic theory is that “No one can be totally wrong”. If you want to judge a subject or an issue truly comprehensively - says Ken Wilber - it is necessary to consider all the available perspectives without ignoring or rejecting any of them. It is quite simple: one collects all known knowledge, theories and statements relating to a certain topic, clears them of all errors, mistakes and interpretations and assembles the remaining parts to produce an integral view of the subject. The only problem resulting from this is that the theme is now “a comprehensive theory of EVERYTHING”.

If you want to make a theory of everything you need a system and a clear structure to get an overall view. These underlying structures must not be the result of invention but have already been laid down by the laws of nature.

In this respect Ken Wilber's work is reminiscent of the periodic table of chemical elements - only that it is not just limited to the material level but includes all other known levels. The highlight of Ken Wilber’s Integral theory is not only the effortless incorporation of all theories and systems into it but also the revelation of any flaws and fallacies contained within these systems. The main elements of this structure are: levels (states), lines, quadrants and types.

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