Evolution and the Anthropic Principle
Richard Dawkins vs Ken Wilber
Where Am I
The Cheshire Cat
I Could Have Been a Contender
What I Wish Id Said
Keeping Up with the World
The Flight of the Phoenix
The Power of Fog
Naming the Unnamed
Principles in Art
Spirit and Matter
The Enlightenment Conundrum
On Believing
Water? What Water?
Telling Stories 2
I believe in Rainbows
Whom Can We Believe
Patterns by Paul Simon and Douglas Hofstadter
Copyright Inheritance
Broad Minded
Beliefs Part Two
A Long drawn-out solstice
The Quest for, and the Illusion of, Certainty
To the Ends of the Earth
The Meaning Of Life
We Hold These Truths
There are Beliefs
Music and Language
Circular Thinking
Runaway World
Deep Playmate
An Alchemy of Telling
Cultural Genes
The Joy of Science
The Conundrum of Human Nature
No, The Computer Isn't Smarter than I Am!
A Rant on Religion
The West Wing Turning Right?
The Geometry of Spring
Music as Language
What is Art
Beauty and Spirit
You Don't Understand Us
The New God of Probability
Gene Hackman as President
Being Lifted Out of the Ordinary
The Head and the Heart
Pay Attention!
Music Poetry and Meaning
On Seeking Truth
Perceptions and Reality
The Marriage Bond
Taboo is a Right
Copyright versus Copyleft
Cycles of Transcendence
Ego and Self
The Big Picture
Mindfulness as Larger Mind
The Power of Words
The State of the Union
Out of My Mind
Family Thoughts
One Life
Telling Stories
Small World
Bigger Realities
What Comes Next
Humor as a Higher Level of Consciousness
Sometimes Everything Goes Wrong
Emotional Resonance
Extraordinary Respect
Insight Meditation
Us and Them
Paradox and Paradigm
To Reach
I Don't Know
Don the Romantic
The Guy in the Blue Saab
The Sound of Silence
Eating is an Intimate Act
Evolution of Spirit
On Cloning and Other . . .
Creativity and Psychic Phenomena
Magic in My Life
My Difficulty with Aaron
Mindful & Mystic
Taste of Irony
Music Appreciation
Levels of Consciousness

The Taste of Irony

In less than two years I've read more than a dozen of Ken Wilber's books (out of the 16 that he's written so far). Feels like I've been taking a master's program--ABD (isn't that the acronym--"all but dissertation?"). From the first one I read, which happened to be one of his latest, I had the feeling that his was the voice I'd been looking for most of my adult life--presenting the subject of spirituality in a way that didn't turn me off to what he was saying. I abandoned my Christian roots a long time ago when I found I couldn't integrate my dedication to verifiable facts (represented by science) with the "faith" that seemed to be necessary for religious investigation. Suddenly, in one chapter of Wilber's book Eye to Eye that I read on his publisher's Web site, I found myself pulled into a subject I thought I had left behind fifty years ago. I realize, of course, that my age very likely has something to do with it. At twenty-five, I didn't have time to waste on weird notions and half-baked ideas--there were too many "real" mysteries in the world to entice me. In recent years, I had all but decided that "the unknowable" was just that, and that there wasn't enough time left in my life to uncover it. Now I've been enticed, and I love it.

A couple of weeks ago I happened on another book, The Essential Ken Wilber. This one is a compilation of some of his "more accessible" writings, excerpts from his other books. The editor, Kendra Crossen Burroughs, writes in the Foreword, "I selected nontechnical passages that impart the essence and flavor of Wilber's writings . . ." I bought the book, thinking that it might be a good source for quotations when writing or talking about Wilber. I might even want to read it myself, even though I've read all the books from which these excerpts were taken. (I thought I wouldn't have to work so hard the second time.)

Well, I've begun to read it. The first few sections are full of Wilber's passion and poetry--things I certainly noticed when I read them in their original context, but which I'd subsequently forgotten in all the hard mental work of trying to hang on to his logic and the multitudinous references to the philosophical and psychological literature of the ages. I found myself smiling in the enjoyment of reading. It's not exactly a summary of Ken Wilber's work, but it's certainly engaging. I began to wonder how I would have taken it if this had been the first of his books I'd encountered.

My demands (mostly unconscious) of an author trying to explain the mysteries of the universe to me were that he or she not violate my personal "rules" of veracity. I guess another way of saying that is that my personal filters have been hardened by years of exposure to science and its rules. And I'd never encountered any overlap between science and philosophy, let alone between science and religion or spiritual matters. It's difficult to look back through former eyes to "see" something anew. Thirty or forty years ago, I think, I wouldn't have gotten through the first section of this book before passing it over for something more "substantial." Two years ago? I'm not sure. I suspect that my alarm bells would have gone off at reading: Let the ecstasy overflow and outshine the loveless self, driven mad with the torments of its self-embracing ways, hugging mightily samsara's spokes of endless agony, and sing instead triumphantly with Saint Catherine, "My being is God, not by simple participation, but by a true transformation of my Being. My me is God!"
But I'm eager to lend this book--and buy more to lend--to those I think might get turned on to Wilber as I have. That's the irony. I'm delighted with the book, and grateful to its publisher Shambhala for giving me what I think can be a bridge between my enthusiasm and that of others. No, not, perhaps, those of my friends who think that if it can't be measured, it isn't real. Better that they begin with his technical writings, as I did, to some extent. Of course, I wouldn't have read Wilber in the beginning had it not been for the recommendation of a friend (definitely not a scientist-type).

Maybe that was the chink in my filters (my armor?). A respected friend, a casual invitation without urging, to check out some interesting ideas. Which changed my life, literally. For real.


Donald Skiff, January 12, 1999

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