My Perspective on Ken Wilber in Brief

Ken Wilber, in my opinion, really is the ultimate philosopher. I do think, however, that his switch from metaphysics and ontology in his earlier work to social commentary in his later work is unfortunate. I think the essence of his insights can be found in his articulation of the pre/trans fallacy of Phase II of his thought and his AQAL charts of Phase IV. His realization that Jung was guilty of the pre/trans fallacy in regarding the advanced stages of Enlightenment as basically equivalent to the pre-personal, infantile state is essential, and he was right that it is necessary to think in terms of an involution from the infantile, undifferentiated pre-rational stage to the evolutionary progression towards a transpersonal, enlightened state that synthesizes the coarse states of being with the subtlest states of being (rather than entailing a repudiation of these antecedent, pre-personal and personal states) is very important.

I see the AQAL charts of Phase IV as a finer-grained articulation of the involution/evolution and outward/inward arc stages, that help us get a sense of how the personal and the social reciprocally influence one another, both nested within (and derivative of) the nonlocal and nondual realms of the transpersonal and the spiritually Ultimate, in the process of spiritual progression towards the Ultimate, and I think it is very important to preserve the earlier, Gnostic-Esoteric (GE) worldview that he seems to give shorter shrift to in his later work, and which he replaces with other categories. I cannot, however, dogmatically commit to any one ontotheological perspective as he does throughout his career through Advaita Hinduism.

Instead, I prefer a more typically agnostic Buddhist approach, and I do not know whether to interpret the Brahma Sutra in a monistic way (pantheism), as Shankara (788–820 A.D.), the qualified monism/dualism (panentheism) as Ramanuja (1055–1137 A.D.) or the dualism (dualistic theism) of Madhva (1199–1278 A.D.). Indeed, I do not know how one could either empirically verify or falsify any of these perspectives. For that matter, I do not know if the extrovertive mysticism of any of these perspectives is accurate, nor do I know if the introvertive mysticism of Buddhism is accurate, and it may be the case that either both or neither are accurate, or perhaps two sides of the same coin. The Prajnaparamita Hrydaya Sutra (The Heart Sutra) receives quite distinct treatments depending on the tradition of Buddhism that is interpreting it, and it is possible that all are correct in their own way, or that none of them are correct, or some combination thereof.

I ultimately see myself as very much an empiricist (albeit a frequently mystical one) and the reason I see his abandonment of the Gnostic-Esoteric insights of his earlier work as unfortunate is due to the empirical evidence of the reality of psychic and paranormal phenomena, and the worldview to whose reality it points. He acknowledges the reality of these phenomena in Phase II of his thought, specifically in his articulation of the “Low Subtle” stage of human development.

Here is how the “Low Subtle” is characterized through his use of Aurobindo’s schema:

This stage is characterized by a cognitive style that acknowledges the reality of clairvoyant perception and cognition and ESP, affective elements that are transpersonally sensitive (telepathy) conative or motivational factors represented in the Siddhis (paranormal and parapsychological elements) and a temporal mode that is trans-physical in acknowledging the reality of precognition (seeing the future) and post-cognition (remote viewing or remote perception of any point in spacetime). All this takes place from within a mode of self that he describes as “astral-psychic,” and I think this empirically verifiable domain of reality only makes sense in light of integrating a Gnostic-Esoteric perspective in one’s worldview.

To quote his work directly:

“…the point of the low subtle — the astral psychic- is that consciousness, by further differentiating itself from the min and body, is able in some ways to transcend the normal capacities of the gross bodymind and therefore operate upon the world and the organism in ways that appear to the ordinary mind, to be quite fantastic and far-fetched. For my own part, I find them a natural extension of the transcendent function of consciousness” (The Atman Project).

Stanislav Grof summarizes:

“Ken’s scheme of the post-centauric spiritual domain includes the lower and higher subtle level, lower and higher causal level, and the Ultimate or Absolute. According to Ken, the low subtle, or astral-psychic, level of consciousness is characterized by a degree of differentiation of consciousness from the mind and body which goes beyond that achieved on the level of the centaur. Consciousness is thus able to transcend the normal capacities of bodymind and operate in ways that appear impossible and fantastic to the ordinary mind.

The astral level, in Ken’s own words, “includes, basically, out-of-body experiences, certain occult knowledge, the auras, true magic, ‘astral travel,’ and so on.” Ken’s description of the psychic level includes various ‘psi’ phenomena: ESP, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and others. He also refers in this connection to Patanjali’s Sutras that include on the subtle level all the paranormal powers, mind-overmatter phenomena, or siddhis.”

Some of the better articulations of the philosophical and theological anthropology that form the conditions of these “paranormal” abilities can be found in the Three Bodies Doctrine of Hinduism (Causal, Astral/Subtle and Physical) or various schools of Theosophical thought and related esoteric doctrines, although, of course, as with my agnosticism regarding theology proper, I cannot say that I am dogmatically committed to the specific ways in which any of these doctrines articulate the reality of nonlocal or nondual selves or components of these selves, or their relation to the divine or the physical.

Experienced psychology writer and practitioner of psi abilities. Looking forward to contributing to a worldwide awakening to the reality of psi phenomena.