Recently, Wilber posted the following message to Japan in response to the tsunami and the subsequent tragic events there. Has anyone here seen it?  I have held back from critically commenting on it because I recognize and respect the positive intention behind it, and I also agree with and honor parts of his message, but there is something about the overall way he has framed it that bothers me, encouraging (as it seems to me) an "ultimate identification" that preserves a massive split in the world (and renders "world," a la the old perennial traditions, as mere "surface").

 

We've talked about this before, this dualism that still seems to inform Wilber's metaphysics (and his message seems metaphysical, not post-).  I guess I keep hoping not to see it preserved, and keep being disappointed.

 

Here's the message:

 

"Hello to my friends in Japan,


As one attempts to live an Integral Life, there are always ups and downs in the process. To have an Integral awareness means that you have a higher, wider, deeper awareness, with more perspectives and more care and more concern and more love. So even when difficult times arise, it's important to keep the heart and mind open and wide and embracing.


This goes for the troubles in Fukushima prefecture. The potentially devastating nature of these problems has a tendency to make one close one's eyes, narrow one's awareness, push the whole thing out of mind. But that's exactly what we shouldn't do. Instead of closing down, we need to open up, to keep heart and mind wide open even under these frightening circumstances. A steady, calm Witnessing in the midst of turmoil keeps one directly related to Spirit, as Spirit, and anchors one in what really matters and what is ultimately Real. That way, the surface phenomena can continue to simply come and go as they will, but you remain anchored in the unchanging Source and Ground and real Self of it all.


Do whatever you can to help with the surface phenomena, but remain anchored in their Witness, so that day-to-day realities "hurt you more, but bother you less." "Hurt more," because you are more sensitive, more aware of them and let them all in, you don't turn away or hide from them. But "bother you less" because you have ceased to identify with them, remaining "neti, neti," or "not this, not that" but the impartial Witness of them all.


My thoughts and prayers are with you all during these difficult times. May you rest in the real and integral Self and move forward as best you can!


Sending much love and light, Ken Wilber"

 

~*~

 

Maybe I'm quibbling unnecessarily -- I agree with his call to open to experience, to expand the embrace of heart and mind and the scope of our perspectives; and I accept the heuristic (and transformative,liberative) value of emptiness; and I also see the wisdom of simultaneously holding both "self" and "non-self" perspectives -- but something about the way he has put them all together doesn't sit well with me.  I think it's because his neti, neti doesn't touch the Witness and so seems to encourage a dissociative sort of identification, a Real vs Unreal splitting that (I thought) was a mark of premodern traditions a post-metaphysical approach is intended to leave behind.

 

What do you think?

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I welcome WIlber's words on the Japan Situation (the Wednesday IL Upload didn't quite do it), since it is, as a public commentary on urgent global events, a step in the right dierection.

At the same time, I share Balders concern about the failiure to include post-metaphysical views in KWs surprisingly short text.

My conclusion adds to the feeling I had while listening to the most part of the latest IL Uploads:

This material was produced with a target audience in mind that I don't belong to.

 

In other Words, some perspectives are more important than others.

 

The reasons for this are manifold, it might be public impact, financial considerations, power/knowledge relations à la Foucault, the need to protect certain crucial lobby groups (like american conservative christian or tibetan buddhist tradiations) or a mixture of all of the above.

 

 

This material was produced with a target audience in mind that I don't belong to.

 

Yes, exactly.  I had that feeling starting with the opening of Integral Naked, but it has become even more pronounced for me in the past couple years.

My first impression, before reading the responses, was that he was "selling" his brand again. Seems he'll lose no opportunity to preach to his choir, even if genuine compassion is behind it (and which I do not doubt). I don't thinking it's deliberate but just a kosmic habit (as it were) from so much isolation in that adulation-created guru bubble. And of course the metaphysics is still obvious to anyone not in that bubble, as it is part and parcel of guru bubbles in general. Nevertheless, may the fullness of embodied emptiness bless kennilingus but even more importantly, Japan.
the question that came to my mind was who was he writing this for?  the Japanese people (who probably won't get the chance to read it), the choir (as theurj mentioned) or himself?

I was actually jarred upon reading Ken's message. The first paragraph, especially, sounds impersonal and generic, almost like a blurb on the back cover of a book on "Integral Life." Why begin with a mini-description on integral awareness when writing to friends in a country devastated by catastrophe?

I am grateful that he sends them love and light, thoughts and prayers. But his suggestions on what one should and shouldn't do during this time sound oddly condescending to me. I really don't think this is his intention. But if a person is inclined to "close their eyes" and "push the whole thing out of their mind" in these days right after the initial burst of the disaster, maybe that is actually what they need to do in this particular moment. And, I'm sorry: the nature of these problems are not "potentially devastating." They ARE devastating. Right now.

Right now, this tragedy may have to "hurt more" and "bother you more" -- not less. Particularly if one has lost spouses, children, parents, friends... The sudden loss of such relationships is not really "surface phenomena," is it?

Bruce, you wrote:  "his neti, neti doesn't touch the Witness and so seems to encourage a dissociative sort of identification." There is a dissociative quality to this letter, IMO. The Witness seems too impartial.

I feel a little guilty "critinquing" this message. After all, he is sending his condolences and prayers to Japan, and offering suggestions for coping and carrying on. And who knows? -- perhaps it is just what some people need to hear. But it seems to me that now, while many are in the midst of anguish -- it's not the time to say "Witness this and remain 'neti, neti'."

Hi, Mary, yes, I agree.  That's well said.  I also found the overall tone of that letter oddly inappropriate and disconcerting.  I respect and am appreciative of what I believe are the good intentions behind it, and as I said above, I agree with many of the ideas in it -- as spiritual principles -- but I also was struck by an impersonal and almost dissociative quality to the letter, and felt this retreat to the absolutized Witness was in part behind that.  It seems especially jarring (as you put it) when you ask people to view their very recently devastated homes and missing or dead relatives as unreal "surface phenomena."  This is in line with Krishna's advice to Arjuna, and that might even have been Wilber's model for his letter, but at least in this context, in a rather general, near form-letter (with ad-like tones, as several have noted), it seems rather dissociative, unempathic, and un-Integral to me to encourage people to view the relatives they are searching for or just mourning as mere "surface phenomena."

 

Wilber used to insist that he was a pundit, not a guru, and I wish he would have stuck to that.

 

(One thought I had was that Wilber wasn't writing to anyone in the immediately affected area, but to Integral students in Tokyo or elsewhere who are viewing this on TV as he is, but even then, my general reservations about the letter still stand.)

It sounds downright patronizing to me. The dualism between spirit and matter aside it's that condescending, normative, injunctive/prescriptive "guru-speak" he uses here that I find absolutely offensive; to wit, "Do whatever you can to help with the surface phenomena, but remain anchored in the Witness..." Who does he think he is, Dr. Phil? If someone said that to me, unsolicited, while I was in the midst of some pain or tragedy I'd tell him to eff off.

 

Imagine Oprah telling an eleven year old child who had just been rescused from a home in which horrendous systematic abuse and neglect had been occuring: "It's OK little girl. Remember, it's not what other people like your parents think of you. It's what you think of yourself that counts." Meanwhile, wolf-girl roams about the studio and cannot even make eye contact.

 

So yes, in a way I agree with you Balder, though I would say that what bothers me besides the tone, is the narcissistic, self-absorbed split here between self and other, as if the other did not matter. IMO, that kind of splitting-off of the other as irrelevant is a mere psychological trick, invented and used by the renunciatory tradition, bolstered by a metaphysical dualism between spirit and matter

 

 

Hi, Kela,

 

Yes -- I am not bothered, in principle, by the use of injunctive or prescriptive language, especially if he is addressing people who already are in a teacher-student relationship with him.  But if an unsolicited letter like that was directed towards me, I would personally be put off by it, since I do not view or relate to him as my guru or spiritual teacher. 

 

About the splitting off of other as unimportant, or unreal, that bothers me as well, and does seem to be undergirded by dualistic metaphysics.  I don't hear a trace of postmetaphysics in what he is writing here -- and I don't mention that out of merely philosophical interest; I think it has practical, psychological, and ethical consequences.

 

Best wishes,

 

B.

Hi Kela

 

 

 Psychologically and therapeutically, KW has as strong point. Japanese are raised in a buddhist culture, so that sort of message will work much better for them, It is sort of encouraging and strenghtening the character doing that.

Christian cultures would react differently, putting more the accent on mourning, trying to work through the sense of lost by finding consolation, etc.. that which is specific in christian psychology.

So your example seems not so  adequate here because in your case, caretakers supposedly giving love to their offspring are instead brutalizing him. Ontologically spealing, we have a choice, or degrees of freedom present but neglected for some reasons in the former situation, while in the Japanese tragedy, it is the work of impersonal forces of Nature. It is incommensurable.



kelamuni said:

It sounds downright patronizing to me. The dualism between spirit and matter aside it's that condescending, normative, injunctive/prescriptive "guru-speak" he uses here that I find absolutely offensive; to wit, "Do whatever you can to help with the surface phenomena, but remain anchored in the Witness..." Who does he think he is, Dr. Phil? If someone said that to me, unsolicited, while I was in the midst of some pain or tragedy I'd tell him to eff off.

 

Imagine Oprah telling an eleven year old child who had just been rescused from a home in which horrendous systematic abuse and neglect had been occuring: "It's OK little girl. Remember, it's not what other people like your parents think of you. It's what you think of yourself that counts." Meanwhile, wolf-girl roams about the studio and cannot even make eye contact.

 

So yes, in a way I agree with you Balder, though I would say that what bothers me besides the tone, is the narcissistic, self-absorbed split here between self and other, as if the other did not matter. IMO, that kind of splitting-off of the other as irrelevant is a mere psychological trick, invented and used by the renunciatory tradition, bolstered by a metaphysical dualism between spirit and matter

 

 

Hi, X,

That's an interesting point.  Maybe it won't strike the intended audience as too impersonal or dissociated, especially in a culture imbued with the concepts of impermanence and wabi sabi, but to my Western ear, it is disconcerting and psychologically jarring, and it also raises the specter (to me) of the old metaphysical models which encouraged a split view of reality (devaluing "world" and "others" in a way that I thought the Integral postemtaphysical approach was attempting to overcome).

I've also been thinking about his letter from a state perspective -- trying empathetically to imagine myself into a perspective from which Wilber might be speaking.  With my training in dream and sleep yoga, I do believe I've "experienced" the sort of state Wilber describes, where phenomenologically you "witness" body and world constituting themselves out of a background "void" or emptiness.  So, I can relate, to some small degree, to the view which sees the world as "arising" from this (phenomenologically) prior presence, but I still am concerned by the metaphysical conclusions drawn from this type of experience.

Best wishes,

B.

I'm guessing there's about as much actual Buddhist practice and hence nondual equanimity for the average householder in Japan as there is deep contemplative nondual experience for the average Christian householder in the US. i.e., slim to none. To suppose their culture then is coming from that refined "state" perspective is a huge assumption not likely to be validated empirically. The kennilingus statement is geared for those in the creamy 2% crowd*, wherever they might reside.

* As to the empirical validation of who is "really" in that 2%, that's another story.

Ciao Balder

 

I think he previously wrote something alike in his essay on the WTC event, on the different possible reactions to that event through a SD filter. From the causal level perspective, he expressed a view similar to the one presented in his thread now..

Balder said:

Hi, X,

That's an interesting point.  Maybe it won't strike the intended audience as too impersonal or dissociated, especially in a culture imbued with the concepts of impermanence and wabi sabi, but to my Western ear, it is disconcerting and psychologically jarring, and it also raises the specter (to me) of the old metaphysical models which encouraged a split view of reality (devaluing "world" and "others" in a way that I thought the Integral postemtaphysical approach was attempting to overcome).

I've also been thinking about his letter from a state perspective -- trying empathetically to imagine myself into a perspective from which Wilber might be speaking.  With my training in dream and sleep yoga, I do believe I've "experienced" the sort of state Wilber describes, where phenomenologically you "witness" body and world constituting themselves out of a background "void" or emptiness.  So, I can relate, to some small degree, to the view which sees the world as "arising" from this (phenomenologically) prior presence, but I still am concerned by the metaphysical conclusions drawn from this type of experience.

Best wishes,

B.

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