A personal reading guide to the work of Ken Wilber

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Much of the analysis and commentary on my Blog owes a huge debt to the understandings and insights I have got from my in-depth study of the work of American philosopher Ken Wilber. I would like to introduce his written work on this page and give a few suggestions on where to start with it. A pointer to the Blog posts where I try and introduce some of the main themes of his work is here.

Ken Wilber has written over twenty books over a period of 25 years. The development of his ideas and the flowering of his comprehensive Integral Philosophy has unfolded in a number of phases. As one would expect of a philosopher who has so thoroughly explored universal evolutionary dynamics, each phase ‘transcends and includes’ the previous one.

I  do not want to give a full review of all his work here, but rather suggest what I consider to be the best entry points into this mind- bogglingly comprehensive body of work. (for just this kind of comprehensive third party perspective on Ken Wilber’s philosophy I recommend: Brad Reynolds: ‘Where’s Wilber At? Ken Wilber’s Integral Vision In The New Millenium’. 2006)

In my opinion there are two excellent entry points to Ken Wilber’s work. The first is the popular version of his very first book (‘The Spectrum of Consciousness’ (1977)) entitled ‘No Boundary’ (1979).  This is a book of searing clarity that introduces a vision of human life as a series of distinct levels of consciousness, defined by the fundamental act of drawing boundaries. It brings unification to both western psychology and eastern mysticism. If one is interested in psychology and spirituality this is a great place to start. For a young philosopher in his early twenties to come up with such a thesis was a sure sign of what was to come! (I have probably given this book as a gift to at least a dozen friends and family!)

Alternatively if one is more interested in what Integral Philosophy can contribute to understanding the world today, in terms of politics, current affairs, science and the like, then I recommend : ‘A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision For Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality’ (2000). It is basically a very concise review of the latest phase of Wilber’s work and focuses on the practical applications of the Integral worldview.

Both of these books will provide an excellent introduction to Wilber’s work.

Some of my other personal favorites:

‘Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit Of Evolution (1995)

Wilber’s weightiest tome. Many consider it (including myself) his greatest work, where the full working up of the Integral model is first comprehensively laid out. A quite stunning book. When this has been mastered ‘The Eye of Spirit’ is an intensely detailed series of essays applying the fully developed Integral vision to a variety of fields. It also dialogues with a wide variety of critics and theorists. This book, when read with the extensive end-notes, represents the full breadth of the framework Wilber is presenting. It also contains some of the most mystical ‘pointing out’ prose for inducing glimpses of the higher stages of consciousness that Wilber has penned- Awesome!!

‘Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy’ (1999)

This book brings conceptual clarity to the entire field of psychology, both East and West. One of it’s unique aspects is a set of charts that correlates and aligns the research of dozens of different theorists and in doing so amasses overwhelming evidence to back up the fundamental structure of the Integral model.

And finally a pair of books:

‘The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View Of Human Development’ (1980)

and

‘Up from Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution’ (1981)

These two books, from the earlier phases of Wilber’s work provide immense foundational detail of both ontogenetic (individual) and phylogenetic (collective) evolution. They cover some of the most sophisticated theory and ideas ever discussed in the history of philosophy and yet are written in a diamond clear prose that renders them as compelling and compulsively page turning as a bestselling thriller!!

I hope I have whetted your appetite and wish you well if you do try and engage with this body of work. The insight and understanding that has flowed from my study of Ken Wilber has been one of the great joys and privilege’s of my life and has been the foundation and inspiration of my own personal and spiritual development over the last 15 years.

Trust me: You won’t regret it!!