1/10/2007

Ken Wilbur in the Israeli Press

First a little intro to Ken Wilber. I’ve only read one of his books, A Brief History of Everything, and, despite the ambitious title, I found it to be an excellent book. His goal is to introduce a paradigm – a map, as it were – for the understanding of human consciousness, experience, and knowledge. It’s a very, very powerful paradigm. Like anything that purports to conceptualize everything, it falls short, but he provides some amazing tools. You can find a basic summary of what I found to be his most useful conceptual tools here. The main Wikipedia articles (here and here) are not as useful, since they are heavy on particular vocabulary.

Wilber’s thinking is an excellent critical tool as well, as his critique and analysis of different schools of thought can easily apply to elements of my own milieu. He provides the vocabulary to articulate many ideas that I intuitively sensed but could not express. Through his work, it is easier to understand the uniqueness and controversy that surrounded figures like Rav Kook. His identification of the pre/trans fallacy is genius – and very valuable for anyone trying to understand religious consciousness. He sheds light on the free will/determinism conflict and the science/religion conflict – importantly, not by providing his own ‘solutions’, but by providing a conceptual framework for dealing with them.

I was given Wilber’s book as a gift from a friend who thought I would enjoy it. He was right. I since lent the book out, and it has not been returned. I particularly appreciated the book in light of my own interest in thinkers like Freud, Nietzsche, Kohlberg, Gardner, and Berger on one hand, and R’ Kook and R’ Tzadok as Jewish thinkers.

It seems that Wilber has begun to make inroads in the Hebrew language. This is both encouraging and disturbing because, despite the value of his ideas and their applicability to understanding Judaism, he has his own religious system worked out, and it is Buddhist. I hold by his chokhmah but not his torah, as the saying goes, but he does not necessarily divide the two (which is typical of great thinkers and would not be a fundamental critique of his work had he not been trying to provide a history of everything).

A report of his activities in Israel can be found here, and you can even download his interview with Israeli Carmel Weissman if you are willing to register on the site.

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