UTNE Reader Article, 8-98, Karen Rigdon

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UTNE READER Article, August 1998

Up Close and Transpersonal with Ken Wilber

An Interview by Mark Matousek

Summary and Reactions by Karen Rigdon

In a recent conversation I had with Mary Casanova, a published author of childrens books from International Falls, she stressed that she did not care to teach because she desires to focus solely on her writing career. Consciousness research genius and renowned author, Ken Wilber, shares her sentiments, I could either teach what Id written yesterday or write something new. Wilber, guarding his privacy and time, does not do the conference circuit and typically avoids interviews so this article is in fact a rare find.

Indeed, Ken Wilber is a prolific writer who has pumped out nearly a book a year since his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, written at age 23. His pen did rest for six years, however, as he lovingly nursed his bride struggling with breast cancer. When she died in 1989 he told her story in a touching memoir, Grace and Grit. Wilburs most recent book is entitled The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. This article summarizes many of Wilbers long-coming philosophies that emerge in his latest work.

Ken Wilber proclaims himself to be a heterogeneous mix when it comes to spirituality. He has practiced Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and has been a student of Hindu teacher, Ramana Maharshi. Wilbers lifetime has been dedicated to going beyond materialism and science to grasp in-depth knowledge about interior questions. While researching he discovered that no particular path had all the answers or solely held  the ultimate truth. So, his mission became the fitting together of all the truths by first finding the common core of the worlds greatest religions. This approach was seconded by Vaclav Havel in his August 1998 UTNE article, The Divine Revolution (page 57), Perhaps the way out of our current bleak situation could be found by searching for what unites the various religions  a purposeful search for common principles.

With all the sundry threats to the future of the worlds population, many futurists are calling for a new paradigm or shift in humanitys consciousness. Wilber contends that the critical issue is the split between reason and meaning / science and religion / sense and soul. Furthermore, at the individual level only a mere ten- percent of the worlds population has an interior level of development thats world-centered. Definitely not the critical mass necessary to ensure positive global change.

Lutheran pastor and philosopher, Paul Baker of International Falls argues that the marriage of science and religion would be a false dichotomy since they do not seek the same type of information. Baker says that science asks how questions  how does a cell divide or how does electricity work. Religion does not ask how  religion moves from how to why. Why are there cells, why do they divide, and what does this mean to us? Baker feels that our Western culture holds science and religion apart simply because they deal with different issues. Western culture does not unite opposites as do the Eastern Yin/Yang philosophies, Baker explained.

After speaking with Pastor Paul Baker I questioned a professor of biology at our local community college. Lee Grim states that his recent science journals have had more articles about movements to reconcile the differences between science and religion. The theory of evolution has been the central rift, says Grim. The National Council for Science and Education, a research and support group for educators teaching evolution in schools, is careful to implement their agenda without bashing religion, maintains Grim.

Moving from the broad fields of science and religion to the individual, Wilber emphasizes in his writings that each of us contains numerous levels of being that require different tools to develop. This is an area where he finds himself being challenged and criticized. The smorgasbord approach to personal development is not embraced by all. Wilbers integral path would combine psychotherapeutic understanding with a meditative practice. It also would include some form of strenuous physical exercise and community service of some type.

Using Wilbers integral path model I reviewed my personal development of the levels of being. My life has evolved to embrace a deeper understanding of the self through attending various workshops focusing on the interior, private writings, and reading self-help and psychology books. I have volunteered my time in the community through the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and the local Food Shelf. My meditative practice is of the northern Minnesota variety  walking in the woods at the shack, floating in the lake on warm days at the cabin, or skiing among the birch, pine and aspen trees. The neglected area in my life, according to Wilbers prescription, is the strenuous exercise quadrant. One look in the mirror tells me Ive gotten pudgy and squishy. Perhaps its time for more discipline at mealtime as well as increasing my lap time around the local one-kilometer ski trail.

My opinion concerning the marriage of sense and soul is that it is a great idea. It never hurts to look at anything from different points of view  diverse perspectives. Yes, the integration of science and religion is a great idea but - a great idea is not great until it is implemented and stays implemented. Holistic Western tradition embracing polarities wont evolve in my lifetime  may my great, great grandchildren write the sequel to this article.

-- Anonymous, January 11, 1999

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