Nov 132009

Ken_WilberI owe a lot to Ken Wilber. Ken was recommended to me at a stage in my journey when I was quite dogmatic and narrow minded.  I went to the library and checked out “Up From Eden” – one of his earlier works. It was completely transformative.  Over the course of a month as I read the book, Ken Wilber systematically knocked all the walls out of my personal philosophy and opened me up to the beautiful scenery waiting outside my previously cramped spiritual quarters.

It’s difficult to know where best to classify Ken on this page. While his “base” is probably in trans-personal psychology, the whole point of Wilber’s life-work is an approach he calls “integral”, or “AQUAL” (All-Quadrant, All-Levels). The idea is that reality consists of several different perspectives. In early philosophy, these were called the “Good”, the “True” and the “Beautiful”.  Wilber has expanded them somewhat into four: the individual outside, the individual inside, the collective outside and the collective inside.

As the simplest example, take a human being. A behaviorist  or biologist might examine that human being in terms of his individual external aspects, examining behavior, cellular mechanics, blood chemistry, height, weight, etc.  This is the individual outside. But if we engage in this person in dialogue, as a psychotherapist, religious counselor or meditation teacher might, we get an entirely different set of information from the individual INSIDE.  Then we can look at the person’s collective outside with a systems theorist, and note such things as housing, transportation systems, communication infrastructure – physical things that make up the system of which this person is a part. Finally, with anthropologists, ethicists  and other students of the collective INSIDE, we look at the cultural groups of which the person is a part. We look at the interactions on a mental and spiritual level with other human beings.

The point is, each of these perspectives gives us different truths, and (most importantly), NONE of these truths is privileged over the others. We live in a time and culture that tends to favor individual external truths – hard science. Proponents of “flatland” as Wilber dubs this perspective, want to collapse everything else in the universe down to physics and chemistry. By doing so, they squash three additional quadrants of equally important truth out of consideration.

Wilber also spends a lot of time discussing developmental levels and states. This was particularly eye-opening to me. Individuals and societies can all be classified along a spectrum of development, and the attitudes and characteristics of individuals and cultures at the various stages of this spectrum are quite predictable. After reading Ken Wilber, you can observe the world around you and recognize that what you thought were differences in opinion among people and cultures are actually different stages of development.

Wilber’s writing is prolific. His goal is no less than creating a system into which all truths can be placed in their proper perspective and relationship. Wilber’s work really IS a “theory of everything”. Once you read Ken Wilber, you will find, when encounter a new idea or worldview, that you are mentally plotting it out on Wilber’s giant map of reality. And it always fits.

Wilbers work puts politics, science, religion, business, education and everything else into a new and interrelated perspective – one that you ignore at your peril. If you need a map to base your view of reality on, there is no better researched map than Ken Wilber.

Wilber has attracted some criticism, which is to be expected considering his system swallows up the truths of so many others. The fans of each piece of his jigsaw puzzle protest that their piece is much more important than Wilber credits – in fact, the  ONLY important piece. There have been some personality clashes at his institute and on some of his projects. The fact that Ken has coined so many new concepts and words tends to make a discussion among wilberians sound like some kind of secret cult language.  And if you don’t like getting into the details,  Ken Wilber isn’t the writer for you.  Someone like Eckhart Tolle or Alan Watts are better at simple profound generalities.

But you really MUST read him. See if you don’t find his concepts immediately useful.  Below is a brief clip of Wilber discussing spirituality in the modern world:

Nov 022009

gladwell2Unlike some of the other gurus on this site, Malcolm Gladwell’s books are not specifically designed as “self-help”. Gladwell is an author for the New Yorker specializing in social and psychological issues. His books are meant to be entertaining and educational, and they certainly are.

Once again, I ran into Gladwell’s work by accident, and then couldn’t put it down. I started out with “Blink”, which examines the human ability to make “snap” decisions, often with great accuracy.

I found that I couldn’t wait to drive to work in the morning so that I could continue listening to Malcolm’s book. If you buy the audio versions, it is Gladwell himself who does the reading, which is a nice bonus. Some authors don’t do a particularly good job reading their own books, but Gladwell knows what he’s doing.

He goes on to examine the psychology and sociology of popular trends and fads in “The Tipping Point”. This was another absolutely riveting book that I could not put down. Gladwell gives us deep insight into how people’s minds work, and how they interact with each other. I took away plenty of tips, not only for understanding my own thinking, but for understanding how to communicate and interact with others.

Malcolm is an excellent author – quite worthy of his best-seller status. Pick up any of books and you will be entertained and educated.

Below is an embedded video of a marvelous talk by Malcolm at the TED talks. Enjoy:

Nov 022009

tony_robbinsWho hasn’t heard of Anthony Robbins? For years you couldn’t turn on TV without seeing one of his infomercials. And simply BECAUSE he was so popular – I avoided his materials.  He seemed too faddish . Then one day out of boredom I picked up one of his CD’s from a gas station on a long trip. And… he was actually pretty good.  Much better than I expected.

Needless to say, Robbins is full of energy. He’s the king of motivational speakers – better than caffeine. He has an engaging style that will never bore you.  But the great thing is, he actually has great content.  Robbins gives excellent programs for self-improvement, step by step. Commit yourself to one of his programs and you’ll see some amazing results.

He also does live seminars and events – and is famous for his fire-walking events.

Here’s a clip of Robbins at the top of his form:

Oct 242009

10491-SM Wayne Dyer has been in the public eye since the seventies when his book Your Erroneous Zones became wildly popular. While Dyer has interesting things to say in the area of progressive psychology, he has become much more interesting since his work has become progressively more spiritual in recent years.

The wonderful thing about Dyer that makes him so accessible to a wide audience is that while he has embraced the spiritual dimension, he has lost none of his dynamic writing and speaking ability that he previously used to promote psychology and self development.  This is contrast to Eckhart Tolle who’s zen-like style of writing and speaking takes some degree of enlightenment simply to appreciate.

Wayne has also been astonishingly prolific.  I’m a big fan, but even I haven’t managed to read all his books and listen to all his CDs. Every year or so you can count on another wonderful book by Dyer. And now that he has branched into areas such as meditation and manifestation, he’s better than ever.

I particularly appreciate Dyer because he is the one who’s books gave me the courage, at a difficult moment, to make a bold step in my life that involved quitting a secure job. It was one of the best moves I ever made, and I have Dr. Dyer to thank for it. Look for more wonderful work by Wayne Dyer in the future.

Wayne has been especially generous with his time and talent in support of PBS, and has generated some criticism – I suspect from people who’s dogmatic principles are threatened by his inclusiveness.

Here is a clip of Dyer discussing your divine purpose

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