Who is Ken Wilber?
According to Jack Crittenden Ph.D., author of Beyond Individualism, “the twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber.” If you haven’t already heard of him, Ken Wilber is one of the most important philosophers in the world today. He is the most widely translated academic writer in America, with 25 books translated into some 30 foreign languages. Ken Wilber currently lives in Denver, Colorado, and is still active as a philosopher, author, and teacher, with all of his major publications still in print.
Tony Schwartz, the president, founder, and CEO of The Energy Project, and the author of What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America, has referred to Wilber as “the most comprehensive philosophical thinker of our times.”
Roger Walsh M.D., Ph.D., the well known professor of Psychiatry, Philosophy, and Anthropology at UCI’s College of Medicine, believes “Ken Wilber is one of the greatest philosophers of this century and arguably the greatest theoretical psychologist of all time."
And in commenting on the scope and impact of Ken Wilber’s philosophy Mitchell Kapor, founder of Lotus Development and the co-founder of Electronic Frontier Foundation, mentions that “After reading Wilber, it is impossible to imagine looking at the world the same way again”.
What makes Ken Wilber especially relevant in today’s world is that he is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”. As Wilber himself puts it: “I'd like to think of it as one of the first believable world philosophies...” Incorporating cultural studies, anthropology, systems theory, developmental psychology, biology, and spirituality, it has been applied in fields as diverse as ecology, sustainability, psychotherapy, psychiatry, education, business, medicine, politics, sports, and art.
Wilber explains the need for an Integral Approach in the following way: In our current post-modern world, we possess an abundance of methodologies and practices belonging to a multitude of fields and knowledge traditions. What is utterly lacking however, is a coherent organization, and coordination, of all these various practices, as well as their respective data-sets. What is needed is an approach that moves beyond this indiscriminate eclectic-pluralism, to an “Integral Methodological Pluralism”—driving toward a genuine “theory of everything” that helps to enrich and deepen every field through an understanding of exactly how and where each one fits in relation to all the others. Through the Integral approach, we reveal the previously unseen possibilities for a better, more compassionate, and more sustainable future for all of us.
In short, the Integral Approach is the coherent organization, coordination, and harmonization of all of the relevant practices, methodologies, and experiences, available to human beings. Ken Wilber states “You can’t [realistically] honor various methods and fields, without showing how they fit together. That is how to make a genuine world philosophy”
Ken Wilber is also the founder of the Integral Institute which is the first organization fully dedicated to advancement and application of the Integral Approach in relation to contemporary global issues. It was formed in collaboration with over 200 scholars and experts, specializing in education, politics, business, medicine, psychology, spirituality, as well as, law and criminal justice. The Integral Institute is currently partnered with Fielding Graduate University.
In 2007 Wilber co-founded Integral Life, a social media-hub dedicated to sharing the integral vision with the world wide community, as well as documenting and catalyzing the progress of the integral movement.
Books and Resources:
Virtually all of Wilber’s published works are available through Amazon.com and Shambhala Publications. Shambhala provides an Integral Theory Primer intended as series of recommendations for those who are new to Wilber’s work (http://www.shambhala.com/expert-picks/picks-integral.html).
A variety of video and audio content featuring dialogues, interviews, and discussions of Integral Theory is available through the individual websites of Integral Life, Sounds True, and Core Integral.
Most recently, Ken Wilber and the Integral Life team, in collaboration with Shambhala Publications, have been putting together a compendium of some of the most important dialogues and interviews, featuring the exploration and application of Integral Theory. This compendium will soon be published in the form of a book based on the Integral Naked dialogues.
Integral Life is also producing an exhaustive video biography that seeks to celebrate Ken Wilber’s legacy as a philosopher, practitioner, and visionary, while also exploring the impact his work continues to have upon global culture.
With regards to his body of writing, Wilber states, “I have, for convenience, divided my overall work into four general phases” with the fourth phase being the first truly or “comprehensively integral.” Some of the most exemplary books from this period are Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and The Eye of Spirit. In addition, A Brief History of Everything and A Theory of Everything are both excellent condensed presentations to Wilber’s fourth, or “truly integrative”, phase. Both The Eye of Spirit, and A Theory of Everything include examples of pragmatic and field-specific applications of the Integral Approach.
By far the most accessible and recent introductory summary of Wilber’s Integral Approach is presented in The Integral Vision. And Kosmic Consciousness by Sounds True is the most commonly referenced audio introduction to the Integral Approach, covering all of its essentials.
Some critics have tentatively added a fifth and latest phase, referred to as the “Post-Metaphysical turn” in Wilber’s work, even though the origins of this turn are evident in Wilber’s earlier writings. The most notable book exemplifying Wilber’s Post-Metaphysics and the implementation of his Integral Methodological Pluralism is Integral Spirituality.
Detailed writings from this fifth phase can also be found in Wilber’s unpublished works; Excerpts A through G, available for free on kenwilber.com and wilber.shambhala.com. The excerpts, which house some of Wilber’s most important and recent thought, belong to what he refers to as Volume II of his Kosmos Trilogy, the first of which is his magnum opus Sex Ecology Spirituality. Furthermore, a complete archive of all end notes, sidebars, excerpts, and works in progress can also be found on these aforementioned websites.
Noteworthy works from earlier phases of Wilber’s writings include, A Sociable God, The Atman Project, Up From Eden, Eye to Eye, and Transformations of Consciousness. Wilber himself notes that the essential components of these works are all taken up in his later phases and that his works “form a fairly coherent sequence, each building on and incorporating its predecessor(s).”
It ultimately does not matter where one begins, so long as one can resonate with the drive and impetus underlying Wilber’s integral vision. The body of his work can be summarized as, progressively more complex and more inclusive elucidations of how all the important knowledge traditions, practices, and experiences available to human beings fit together, into a fully comprehensive understanding of the world, that does not leave out any of the essentials. In his works, Wilber repeatedly demonstrates how different truth-claims, different verification methods, and different experiences are all actually reconcilable, mutually enriching, and already all present in a world spacious enough to house them all.
Ken's Body of Work:
Integral Life Practice
The Integral Vision
Grace and Grit
Up From Eden
The Spectrum of Consciousness
The Atman Project