I used to be a great fan of Ken Wilber‘s. His synthesis of multiple perspectives on psychology, spirituality and consciousness was right up my street.
A number of things, however, have given me reason to adopt a slightly more critical stance to his work. I could and maybe should write a whole article explaining what I mean, but for now let me just point out a few things.
First, the fact that someone once referred to him as “the Einstein of consciousness theory” — this was going way too far and possibly it went to Wilber’s head. I think it would be more appropriate to call him the David Bowie of consciousness theory — someone who (as Bowie himself puts it) cleverly puts together other people’s ideas.
Second, why all the cool branding nonsense? Why the pop star packaging? Come to think of it, maybe he already sees himself as a kind of David Bowie figure. His website (www.kenwilber.com) is so self-consciously cool and state-of-the-art that it hurts. Maybe it’s not Wilber’s fault; maybe it’s just his agent or his publishers or his, er, fan club. Whoever it is, someone is keen to push his bald, bespectacled visage as a modern icon.
Many of the most significant leaps in human development have been achieved by those rare individuals—creative men and women—who have dared to step beyond the confines of the status quo to create something novel, uplifting, and extraordinary. Less renowned, perhaps, are the evolutionary advances that have been achieved by a creative duo—a pair of individuals working together, comrades and colleagues, who are driven by a shared passion to change the world for the better.
Andrew Cohen, spiritual teacher, and Ken Wilber, spiritual philosopher, are such a team. Mapping the evolving edge of human potential and exploring the states and stages of consciousness, they function like a spiritualized fusion of Watson & Crick and Lewis & Clark, seeking to discern the deepest structures of human nature while continually pressing forward into new and uncharted terrain.
Each conversation between Wilber and Cohen is on a different topic, but the underlying theme is always the same: “People need to evolve NOW, and it is up to us two, the most evolved people on the planet, to show the way. The future of consciousness depends upon us.” One time when I read one of these conversations, I really thought it was a spoof. Sadly, it wasn’t.
But that’s what inspired me to write my own parody, which appears below. (Note that if you’re not familiar with the Wilber/Cohen dialogues, it will probably make no sense whatsoever.)
I mean no disrespect to either of these two wise and very spiritual men. I do, however, think they deserve a gentle poke in the ribs. I also think it’s generally a good idea not to take ourselves too seriously.
I actually sent this in to the magazine editors to see if they’d like to publish it in the mag. They told me that while they were all (literally) rolling on the office floor laughing, Andrew Cohen thought it best not to publish it “in case it confuses people.”
So here it is…
THE MOST IMPORTANT CONVERSATION OF OUR TIME
A Ken Wilber / Andrew Cohen Dialogue
ANDREW: So, Ken. Your new book, The Da Wilber Code. It’s an absolutely wonderful and stunningly incredible masterpiece.
ANDREW: It empowers us to see everything in a completely and utterly new light that totally transforms our understanding in every possible way.
ANDREW: The implications are so astonishingly profound, and so profoundly astonishing, that we cannot even begin to comprehend them.
ANDREW: And yet we must comprehend them right now, completely and totally.
KEN: Definitely, unquestionably, and without a doubt.
ANDREW: So, what’s it about?
KEN: Well, at the risk of over-simplifying, it’s a self-referential discourse on the nature of reflexive self-deconstruction in which a series of radical dialogues on the evolution of consciousness evolves to the point at which integralism itself reflects back in on its own post-postmodern metanarrative and boldly deconstructs itself as an emerging Weltenshaung…
ANDREW: [Carefully picks lint from sleeve]
KEN: … and yet at a different level it’s basically a conversation between a couple of guys called Ken and Andrew who suddenly realize that it’s totally up to them to save the entire Kosmos—
ANDREW: Before God, like, blows up or something!
KEN: Exactly right. But time is quickly running out. And the only way they can save the Kosmos is by continually having this ever-evolving conversation about how God is forever evolving through their conversation.
ANDREW: In the eternally deepest and highest and most ultimate possible sense imaginable.
KEN: Well, exactly. Because it’s only by keeping up with their extraordinary conversation that God can finally take the next extraordinary evolutionary step.
ANDREW: Which is a truly brilliant insight. In fact, probably the most important idea of our time.
KEN: That’s right. And then, by continually transcending and including within their conversation all known levels of intersubjectively constructed reality, Ken and Andrew eventually create a whole new level of consciousness that is unique to them.
ANDREW: And that’s the level you call the super-super … no, the super-trans … the —
KEN: The super-supra-trans-integral. You got it.
ANDREW: And no-one can argue with that. And yet, for me, what’s so truly inspiring, and profoundly moving, and incredibly transformative, is that if Ken and Andrew were to stop having this dialogue —
KEN: Radical dialogue.
ANDREW: Right … if Ken and Andrew were to stop having this radical dialogue, it would be a catastrophe.
KEN: An incredible catastrophe.
ANDREW: An extraordinary and unparalleled catastrophe of absolutely incredible proportions beyond our deepest imaginings.
KEN: God just wouldn’t know what to do with Himself —
ANDREW: Or Herself.
KEN: – unless and until Ken and Andrew were to come up with something…
ANDREW: Something bold?
KEN: Something new.
ANDREW: Something borrowed?
KEN: Something blue.
ANDREW: And that’s the key to unlocking the incredible mystery of The Da Wilber Code.
KEN: Right on the money.
ANDREW: Actually, this all reminds me of an amazing swami I once met who told me about his deeply profound experience of emptiness.
KEN: Do you think there was anything in it?
KEN: Well, then, it wasn’t real emptiness, was it?
ANDREW: You know, that’s so true. My experience of emptiness was way emptier than thou’s. I mean his.
KEN: Without a doubt.
ANDREW: And yet, the most awesome thing is, incredible as it may seem, you and I are literally making this conversation up as we go along. We are, in fact, at the deepest possible level, creating this extraordinary dialogue in this very moment.
KEN: Yes. It’s pretty scary.
ANDREW: Really scary.
KEN: Incredibly scary.
ANDREW: And thrilling.
KEN: Completely thrilling.
ANDREW: Ultimately thrilling.
KEN: And —
GOD: Will you two get on with it please? I’m supposed to be evolving here, and I haven’t got all day!
KEN: Jeez, who rattled His cage?
ANDREW: Definitely not empty.
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