Thursday Thought: Ken Wilber on Religion, Philosophy, Science, and a lot more…

I'm sitting in the Gaylord National Hotel, preparing for a presentation tomorrow afternoon, I'm thinking about religion, spirituality, philosophy…about the old question, what does it all mean???

As I mentioned in last week's Thursday
, religion and philosophy
have always held a deep fascination for me.

I am not religious, but I am

does that mean? A cop out, many would argue. But, to me, quite the
opposite. I do deeply believe there is something unknown – perhaps
even unknowable – out there. I do believe there are certain ethical
and moral certainties out there, and that we all, at some level or
other, are innately aware of them.

has always bothered me about most traditional religious strains –
from Buddhism to Baptism, Zoroastrianism to New Age – is the
divisiveness they tend to engender. This stems from, I feel, the
egotistical belief that “I am right, my god is true, and you are
wrong.” And, this divisiveness transcends the religious sphere into
the realm of science, with some non-religious or non-spiritual scientists
denying the relevance of any aspects of religion. And the cycle goes
on and on…

I was thrilled in the mid-1990's when I discovered the writings of Ken Wilber.
author of many, many books, Wilber is a captivating author and
thinker. And, his ideas, while criticized by many, have always struck
a deep chord with me, for they are, at their most basic, integral and
inclusive. Wilber never says the great religious thinkers were
wrong…but rather that they were partially right. And, likewise, he
bestows well-deserved accolades on modern science and all the
understanding it has brought us…but still maintains it misses
something deep, profound, and essential to our knowledge.

(Sure, Wilber might at times seem a bit narcissistic, perhaps a bit too New-Agey for some, but, given time, he's a pretty powerful, insightful, and down-to-earth-while-still-Kantlike-in style author! Read a great article and interview with him on

perfect example of how he thinks is this from
The Collected Works of Ken Wilber:

The real
intent of my writing is not to say, you must think in this way. The
real intent is: here are some of the many important facets of this
extraordinary Kosmos; have you thought about including them in your
own worldview? My work is an attempt to make room in the Kosmos for
all of the dimensions, levels, domains, waves, memes, modes,
individuals, cultures, and so on ad infinitum. I have one major rule:
Everybody is right. More specifically, everybody — including me —
has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to
be honored, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and
compassionate embrace. To Freudians I say, Have you looked at
Buddhism? To Buddhists I say, Have you studied Freud? To liberals I
say, Have you thought about how important some conservative ideas
are? To conservatives I say, Can you perhaps include a more liberal
perspective? And so on, and so on, and so on…

Another great example comes the first paragraph of his essay on BeliefNet titled An
Integral Spirituality

What's my philosophy? In a word, integral. And what on earth —
or in heaven — do I mean by "integral"? The dictionary
meaning is fairly simple: "comprehensive, balanced, inclusive,
essential for completeness." Short definition, tall order.

any rate, Ken Wilber is a great…well, a great mind. It would be
tough to put another label on him, for he is not a philosopher, not a
scientist, not a theologian. If you'd like to read more, I'd suggest
starting with
The Essential Ken Wilber
or, if you have time, brain power, and a willingness to read and
reread before comprehending, grab
A Brief History of Everything

Sex, Ecology, Spirituality
And, while tough, his book
Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber

is amazing.


to get to the point, is about inclusiveness. It's about inclusiveness
not to the point of absurdity or moral relativism, but rather
inclusiveness that works to bridge the deep divide between one
religion and another, between religion and science, and between all
the increasingly polarized elements of our world today.

There is
arguably no more important and pressing topic than the relation of
science and religion in the modern world.

Science is clearly one of
the most profound methods that humans have yet devised for
discovering truth, while religion remains the single greatest force
for generating meaning. Truth and meaning, science and religion; but
we still cannot figure out how to get the two of them together in a
fashion that both find acceptable…

Within the scientific
skeleton of truth, religious meaning attempts to flourish, often by
denying the scientific framework itself — rather like sawing off
the branch where you cheerily perch. The disgust is mutual because
modern science gleefully denies virtually all the basic tenets of
religion in general. According to the typical view of modern science,
religion is not much more than a holdover from the childhood of
humanity, with about as much reality as, say, Santa Claus. Whether
the religious claims are more literal (Moses parting the Red Sea) or
more mystical (religion involves direct spiritual experience) modern
science denies them all, simply because there is no credible
empirical evidence for any of them…

This is a massive and
violent schism and rupture in the internal organs of today's global
culture and this is exactly why many social analysts believe that if
some sort of reconciliation between science and religion is not
forthcoming, the future of humanity is, at best, precarious.

– from The Marriage of Sense and Soul

'What's my
philosophy? In a word, integral. And what on earth — or in heaven —
do I mean by "integral"? The dictionary meaning is fairly
simple: "comprehensive, balanced, inclusive, essential for
completeness." Short definition, tall order.

– from An
Integral Spirituality

Let me start
with a short and simple list. This is not the last word on the topic,
but the first word, a simple list of suggestions to get the
conversation going.

Most of the great wisdom traditions agree that:

1. Spirit,
by whatever name, exists.

2. Spirit,
although existing "out there," is found "in here,"
or revealed within to the open heart and mind.

3. Most of us don't
realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world
of sin, separation, or duality — that is, we are living in a
fallen, illusory, or fragmented state.

4. There is a way out of
this fallen state (of sin or illusion or disharmony), there is a Path
to our liberation.

5. If we follow this Path to its conclusion,
the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of
Spirit within and without, a Supreme Liberation, which

6. marks
the end of sin and suffering, and

7. manifests in social action of
mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.

Does a list
something like that make sense to you? Because if there are these
general spiritual patterns in the cosmos, at least wherever human
beings appear, then this changes everything. You can be a practicing
Christian and still agree with that list; you can be a practicing
Neopagan and still agree with that list.
We can argue the fine details…but
the simple existence of those types of currents profoundly changes the
nature of belief itself.

– from An
Integral Spirituality

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

  1. Spiritual Growth
    Spiritual GrowthDecember 21,11

    Great topic, thanks for sharing! As a spiritual teacher you could benefit greatly from The Panacea Community. Come check it out and share your advice with our online community when you have a chance.

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