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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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