The following is my response to the brief reply by Ken Wilber to "The Dynamics of Development"posted in the Reading Room of "The World of Ken Wilber"in June '99. Due to the fundamental nature of the issues raised in that article I have decided to include the response here.
I welcome Ken's prompt reply and also his encouraging remarks generally in relation to my work.
However as specifically regards "The Dynamics of Development", I find his response surprisingly tentative and evasive.
In view of its radical nature, which proposes a considerably expanded approach for the translation of development, I believe this article warrants a great deal more attention than indicated by Ken's brief and - I have to say - somewhat irrelevant remarks. Indeed his comments are seemingly designed to obscure rather than deal with the nature of my contribution.
He does not refer at all to the fundamental criticism made of his approach (which is spelt out at length in the article). Also he completely ignores its many original suggestions, for example in relation to the dynamic nature of holarchies, the binary encoding of the levels of the Spectrum (using the logic of form and emptiness), and the outline of eight distinct translation methods. Indeed Ken's response so conspicuously avoids any direct reference to the article that we are given little insight into its actual contents. (Even the title receives no mention!)
Though he never specifically addresses any of my points, yet he attempts to vaguely dismiss my overall approach with several unsubstantiated remarks. I find this manner of response most unsatisfactory. If he cannot properly back up his critical comments - for whatever reason - then he should refrain from making them altogether.
"Many people who read his material say that they cannot understand it".
As regards writing I strive to adopt a simple direct style. I always avoid unnecessary jargon and take great pains to express thoughts with economy and clarity. However as with any truly innovative approach, initial difficulty in comprehension is inevitable. This is why I welcome genuine dialogue to further clarify its rationale.
Much of my work concerns the development of an integral scientific perspective (based on a synthetic rather than an analytic interpretation of symbols).
I believe that the challenge for Ken is to attempt to properly recognize this novel contemporary approach that has considerable implications for his own work. However if he is to do this, he will need to be willing to step considerably outside the framework of his own model.
"Developmental psychologists tend to find that it is not very current on recent research".
This remark is not at all relevant to the central purpose of the article, which deals primarily with the nature of a synthetic - as opposed to an analytic - approach. Again it is a "red herring" (offered with no supporting evidence). Though I wonder for my part, how well acquainted Ken's (anonymous) psychologists can be with the nature of my thinking, I would be delighted to deal with their concerns at any time.
"I find his approach provocative".
I am glad to hear this! However Ken does not tell us why he finds it provocative. Again it seems as if he is determined not to reveal a single clue as to the many challenging questions raised by the article in relation to his work.
"I, of course, do not believe that Collins's particular version of "integral" is totally convincing; it particularly seems to lack a subtle grasp of transpersonal realities".
As regards my version of integral, I spell it out very clearly in the article (where I distinguish it from differentiation). I then show that its adequate translation is directly related to the circular logic of emptiness (using a bi-directional rational approach).
I argue - very convincingly to my mind - that Ken in effect confuses integration with differentiation, through attempting to use the linear logic of form as his predominant means of intellectual translation. This leads in turn to key imbalances in his treatment of important issues (which I point out).
Now he is entitled to dispute my viewpoint on such a vital matter. However I would expect much more than mere assertion (which is all he provides here!)
As regards its alleged "lack of a subtle grasp of transpersonal realities", I strongly suspect that Ken is laboring under a considerable misapprehension, which reflects his own particular bias.
I will briefly clarify.
It is important to distinguish as between (a) the direct experience of the transpersonal, (b) the secondary translation of that reality and (c) the consistency between both.
As regards the first point, I would always maintain the primacy of contemplation and consider that the key value of my approach is that it is directly based on such authentic experience.
This brings me to the second point, which relates to the translation of transpersonal realities.
Typically such translations are clothed in the religious symbolism of the various mystical traditions.
My own roots are very much in the Christian tradition with St. John of the Cross the greatest single influence. For many years I expressed "higher" spiritual development through the accepted language of Christian mysticism. However I now see that radically different translations are possible which are more appropriate from a scientific perspective.
So we now move on to the third point. My particular interest has been in the attempt to match the authentic mystical appreciation of each of the "higher" levels with appropriate scientific translation.
I gradually recognized that each level of the Spectrum can be associated with a unique logical interpretation (representing the understanding of that level). Therefore, we have a full range of valid scientific approaches (based on the understanding of each level of the Spectrum).
This is where I would consider my own approach unique, in that I have found a way to coherently map the nature of each level and thereby identify the nature of science logically associated.
I have been particularly interested in developing "integral" science representing the mapping of the "higher" levels.
And just as mathematics at the conventional analytic level has such an important role for science, equally this is true at the synthetic "higher" levels.
So Holistic Mathematics - which represents the translation of mathematical symbols in synthetic fashion - has remarkable power as a precise tool for "integral" science.
From reading Ken's work - especially "The Marriage of Sense and Soul" - he shows no recognition of such a synthetic science of the "higher" levels. He still seems rooted in (conventional) analytic notions, and apparently - as yet - seems unwilling to consider any radical alternative.
So when he sees mathematical symbols used to translate "higher" levels, perhaps because of his own bias he immediately thinks this as reductionist (for he understands them in merely analytic terms). If this is so, he is thereby projecting his own view that (narrow) science is necessarily monological on to my approach (which is based on a very different appreciation).
The use and interpretation of these symbols in fact is entirely different at the transpersonal levels. Here they are not understood in rational analytic terms but rather from the appropriate "higher" synthetic perspective (where bi-directional reason operates).
Direct intuitive experience is vital for the proper decoding of these symbols. So it requires an extremely subtle form of understanding for their appreciation. Believe me, it is much less demanding, to interpret transpersonal experience through conventional spiritual imagery, than through synthetic mathematical symbols. Indeed, in my opinion, true synthetic mathematical appreciation represents the most refined type of phenomenal understanding possible. Equally it is the most powerful and versatile and this is why I am so attracted to its use.
Until Ken is willing however to relinquish somewhat his own notion of "narrow" science as necessarily analytic, he will not be able to properly appreciate the significance of this new synthetic mapping. He will then continue to accuse me of lack of subtlety in relation to transpersonal realities, when in fact - in this extremely important respect - it is he who apparently is lacking that subtlety.
So a key message from my approach is that accurate translation of any level of the Spectrum entails using the understanding appropriate to that level.
Considerable mistranslation therefore results, when for example - as in Ken's case - a "higher" transpersonal level is translated in terms of the vision-logic understanding of the lower centaur stage.
"Nor does he seem to acknowledge any of the nuances of my own work".
I have been reading Ken's books for the past 18 years and am much more familiar with them than he seems to imagine. In recent years as a regular contributor to his Forum, I have had reason to reread them continually.
Ken has a tendency to deal with criticism by using his work as the only valid frame of reference (where understandably he feels in control). He wants you to see his concepts largely from his perspective. This of course greatly limits the scope of "acceptable" criticism. Thus when critics differ sharply with Ken on an issue, typically they are accused of misrepresenting his overall position. Though this indeed may often be true, it is not necessarily the case. Indeed the most valuable criticism comes from using a very different perspective, which has the capacity to identify important problems in Ken's work (which he himself may not see clearly).
This I believe is a key strength of my own approach. It was formed independent of Ken's work and I am very confident of its value. My subsequent education did indeed greatly benefit from his well-researched and extremely impressive books (and I am happy to acknowledge this fact).
But this in no way blinds me to what I see as the key weakness of his work (which my different approach can readily identify).
So I would take Ken's comment of not acknowledging any of the nuances as a variation on his "misrepresentation argument" when faced with criticism that he does not like.
However in a general overview one is entitled to identify the characteristic approach used by an author to deal with certain issues. Unlike Ken - who provides nothing but vague assertion in this response - I used careful argument providing many quotes from his recent books to demonstrate my points. If these passages cannot stand up to scrutiny, I suggest there is something very wrong with his approach.
This brings us to the very root of the issue. The key problem with Ken's overall model is that it is greatly lacking in dynamic appreciation. I think that perhaps many are still so in awe of his very considerable contribution that they fail to clearly recognize this fact.
I would like to give an analogy, which might help to clarify.
In intellectual terms, Ken resembles a great architect who designs magnificent buildings that rightly arouse considerable admiration.
For years - like so many - I was content to look and admire from a distance and eagerly awaited his next construction.
However gradually as I approached nearer, significant cracks started to appear. Then when I examined closely, I identified a severe flaw in the overall structure. In recent years I have become increasingly convinced of the accuracy of this diagnosis. Again this basically relates to a lack of proper dynamic translation of development (enshrined in Ken's rigid interpretation of the pre/trans fallacy).
This lack of dynamic appreciation is implicit in many assessments of Ken's work (as for example in Gerry Goddard's accompanying article "Airing our Transpersonal Differences").
Now whenever a critique is made of Ken's buildings, he typically reacts by pointing out several additional stories (that allegedly have been missed) or by promising a new improved extension. Thus he reacts to criticism, often relating essentially to a lack of sufficient integration, by attempting even further differentiation. And as he has a great capacity for detailed analysis, when debate is conducted at this level the very nature of the criticism tends to be reduced. So we are continuing to get more ad hoc amendments to an unduly elaborate analytic type model. I would see that the dynamic implications of these many modifications are quite inconsistent with the core assumptions of the model. However Ken reacts to further inconsistencies by looking to make additional modifications (while continuing to ignore their dynamic implications).
The real difficulty with his work lies in its essential structure, where it is crucially flawed in its handling of dynamic interaction. I believe that I have identified clearly in my article the fundamental reason for this flaw and have suggested the appropriate solution.
I am quite aware of the many nuances in Ken's work. But with respect, I think he is missing the point.
If one believes that there is a crucial structural problem with a building then this should naturally represent the prime focus of attention. So Ken's pleas to recognize his nuances is like asking me to admire the furniture when I see the building in danger of collapse. If he would address this central issue (which so far he has studiously ignored), I would be only too glad to acknowledge his nuances.
"Still, I always enjoy reading his material and I hope that he finds a large audience for his thoughtful contributions".
Once again I appreciate these encouraging remarks. However my "thoughtful contributions" contain a very fundamental criticism of Ken's position which he has not addressed. In this context I would like to remind him of a passage from "The Eye of Spirit" P. 210.
Speaking in relation to his publication of a critique of the approach of David Bohm he says;
"It publishes (1982b) a strong criticism of Bohm's position which has not been answered by him or any of his followers".
He then summarizes briefly the nature of this critique and says;
"Until this critique is even vaguely answered we must consider Bohm's theory to be refuted".
I wish Ken well as he returns to his very demanding work. But perhaps he should ponder his own words, for clearly he has not vaguely answered my critique with this response.