Ken Wilber  

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Ken Wilber's four quadrants


"One of Ken Wilber's main interests is in mapping what he calls the "neo-perennial philosophy", an integration of some of the views of mysticism typified by Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy with an account of cosmic evolution akin to that of the Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo. He rejects most of the tenets of Perennialism and the associated anti-evolutionary view of history as a regression from past ages or yugas. Instead, he embraces a more traditionally Western notion of the great chain of being. As in the work of Jean Gebser, this great chain (or "nest") is ever-present while relatively unfolding throughout this material manifestation, although to Wilber "... the 'Great Nest' is actually just a vast morphogenetic field of potentials ..." In agreement with Mahayana Buddhism, and Advaita Vedanta, he believes that reality is ultimately a nondual union of emptiness and form, with form being innately subject to development over time."--Sholem Stein

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Ken Wilber (°1949) is an American philosopher best known for his book Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995).

He has written and lectured on mysticism, philosophy, ecology, and developmental psychology.

His work formulates what he calls integral theory.

Contents

Life and career

Wilber was born in 1949 in Oklahoma City. In 1967 he enrolled as a pre-med student at Duke University. He became interested in psychology and Eastern spirituality. He left Duke and enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln studying biochemistry, but after a few years dropped out of university and began studying his own curriculum and writing.

In 1973 Wilber completed his first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness, in which he sought to integrate knowledge from disparate fields. After rejections by more than 20 publishers it was accepted in 1977 by Quest Books, and he spent a year giving lectures and workshops before going back to writing, publishing The Atman Project, in which he put his idea of a spectrum of consciousness in a developmental context. He also helped to launch the journal ReVision in 1978.

In 1982, New Science Library published his anthology The Holographic Paradigm and Other Paradoxes, a collection of essays and interviews, including one by David Bohm. The essays, including one of his own, looked at how holography and the holographic paradigm relate to the fields of consciousness, mysticism, and science.

In 1983, Wilber married Terry "Treya" Killam who was shortly thereafter diagnosed with breast cancer. From 1984 until 1987, Wilber gave up most of his writing to care for her. Killam died in January 1989; their joint experience was recorded in the 1991 book Grace and Grit.

In 1987, Wilber moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he worked on his Kosmos trilogy and supervised the work and functioning of the Integral Institute.

Wilber wrote Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), the first volume of his Kosmos Trilogy, presenting his "theory of everything," a four-quadrant grid in which he summarized his reading in psychology and Eastern and Western philosophy up to that time. A Brief History of Everything (1996) was the popularised summary of Sex, Ecology, Spirituality in interview format. The Eye of Spirit (1997) was a compilation of articles he had written for the journal ReVision on the relationship between science and religion. Throughout 1997, he had kept journals of his personal experiences, which were published in 1999 as One Taste, a term for unitary consciousness. Over the next two years his publisher, Shambhala Publications, released eight re-edited volumes of his Collected Works. In 1999, he finished Integral Psychology and wrote A Theory of Everything (2000). In A Theory of Everything Wilber attempts to bridge business, politics, science and spirituality and show how they integrate with theories of developmental psychology, such as Spiral Dynamics. His novel, Boomeritis (2002), attempts to expose what he perceives as the egotism of the baby boom generation. Frank Visser's Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (2003), a guide to Wilber's thought, was praised by Edward J. Sullivan and Daryl S. Paulson, with the latter calling it "an outstanding synthesis of Wilber's published works through the evolution of his thoughts over time. The book will be of value to any transpersonal humanist or integral philosophy student who does not want to read all of Wilber's works to understand his message."

In 2012, Wilber joined the advisory board of the International Simultaneous Policy Organization which seeks to end the usual deadlock in tackling global issues through an international simultaneous policy.

Wilber stated in 2011 that he has long suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, possibly caused by RNase enzyme deficiency disease.

Integral Theory

Upper-Left (UL)

"I"
Interior Individual
Intentional

e.g. Freud

Upper-Right (UR)

"It"
Exterior Individual
Behavioral

e.g. Skinner

Lower-Left (LL)

"We"
Interior Collective
Cultural

e.g. Gadamer

Lower-Right (LR)

"Its"
Exterior Collective
Social

e.g. Marx

Wilber's AQAL, pronounced "ah-qwul", is the basic framework of Integral Theory. It suggests that all human knowledge and experience can be placed in a four-quadrant grid, along the axes of "interior-exterior" and "individual-collective". According to Wilber, it is one of the most comprehensive approaches to reality, a metatheory that attempts to explain how academic disciplines and every form of knowledge and experience fit together coherently.

AQAL is based on four fundamental concepts and a rest-category: four quadrants, several levels and lines of development, several states of consciousness, and "types", topics which do not fit into these four concepts. "Levels" are the stages of development, from pre-personal through personal to transpersonal. "Lines" are lines of development, the several domains of development, which may process uneven, with several stages of development in place at the various domains. "States" are states of consciousness; according to Wilber persons may have a terminal experience of a higher developmental stage. "Types" is a rest-category, for phenomena which do not fit in the other four concepts. In order for an account of the Kosmos to be complete, Wilber believes that it must include each of these five categories. For Wilber, only such an account can be accurately called "integral". In the essay, "Excerpt C: The Ways We Are in This Together", Wilber describes AQAL as "one suggested architecture of the Kosmos".

The model is topped with formless awareness, "the simple feeling of being", which is equated with a range of "ultimates" from a variety of eastern traditions. This formless awareness transcends the phenomenal world, which is ultimately only an appearance of some transcendental reality. According to Wilber, the AQAL categories — quadrants, lines, levels, states, and types – describe the relative truth of the two truths doctrine of Buddhism. According to Wilber, none of them are true in an absolute sense: only formless awareness, "the simple feeling of being", exists absolutely


Ken Wilber's four quadrants

Upper-Left (UL)

"I"
Interior Individual
Intentional

e.g. Freud

Upper-Right (UR)

"It"
Exterior Individual
Behavioral

e.g. Skinner

Lower-Left (LL)

"We"
Interior Collective
Cultural

e.g. Gadamer

Lower-Right (LR)

"Its"
Exterior Collective
Social

e.g. Marx

Ken Wilber's four quadrants is a theoretical model by American philosopher Ken Wilber.

Each holon, or unit of reality that is both a whole and a part of a larger whole, has an interior and an exterior. It also exists as an individual and (assuming more than one of these entities exists) as a collective. Observing the holon from the outside constitutes an exterior perspective on that holon. Observing it from the inside is the interior perspective, and so forth. If you map these four perspectives into quadrants, you have four quadrants, or dimensions (these are unrelated to the three spatial dimensions).

To give an example of how this works, consider four schools of social science. Freudian psychoanalysis, which interprets people's interior experiences, is an account of the interior individual (or, in the diagram, the upper-left) quadrant. B. F. Skinner's behaviorism, which limits itself to the observation of the behavior of organisms, is an exterior individual (upper-right) account. Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics interprets the collective consciousness of a society, and is thus an interior plural (lower-left) perspective. Capitalism economic theory examines the external behavior of a society (lower-right).

The right sides of the quadrants are concerned with empiric observation — what does it do? The left sides of the quadrants focus on interpretation — what does it mean? Wilber contends that modern times evidence a pathological separation from healthy evolution due to a near-complete focus on the right sides, with the denial of the left sides as having no meaning being a fundamental cause of society's malaise.

All four pursuits – psychoanalysis, behaviorism, philosophical hermeneutics and Marxism – offer complementary, rather than contradictory, perspectives. It is possible for all to be correct and necessary for a complete account of human existence. Wilber has integrated these four areas of knowledge through an acknowledgement of the four fundamental dimensions of existence. Further, these four perspectives are equally valid at all levels of existence.

See also




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