Skholiast recently referred in his blog to a recent review he wrote of Ken Wilber‘s Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. To review this book is in a sense to review Wilber’s work as a whole, for it remains (by Wilber’s own account) the most comprehensive exposition of Wilber’s ideas – although Wilber has written considerably more since this book, some of it in response to critics. Skholiast rightfully applauds one of Wilber’s most important ideas, the pre-trans fallacy – the point that moving beyond something in conventional experience (such as rationality and the ego) is very different from not properly entering it in the first place.
Skholiast makes two criticisms of Wilber, which are closely related to each other, and which reflect his interest in 20th-century “continental” thinkers, especially Emmanuel Lévinas. The second criticism is probably the more fundamental: Wilber, according to Skholiast, is too much of an “ātmanist,” too beholden to nondualist philosophies (of which Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedānta is the prime example). He doesn’t leave room for the priority of Lévinas’s philosophy, namely encounter with the other.
But while the immediate ancestors of Skholiast’s view may be in the likes of Lévinas, he is right to claim an older pedigree for it. For Vedāntic monism indeed makes an uncomfortable fit with Western monotheisms, in which to say “I am God” is a heresy.
Skholiast reminds me a little here of the Indian debate over Sufi mystical experiences. Continue reading