Ken Wilber explains it all

posted by Mike on July 23rd, 2005

Via Worldchanging we learn that the Catholic Church in the Philipines has built a system whereby impoverished families with low-cost cell phones can use text messaging to haggle for food and goods–and for these folks, even a slightly cheaper price on the essentials makes a big difference.

The subtext of many items on Pie and Coffee is an “integral” philosophy, and this is a great example of that: the faith community has the infrastructure to build the trading system, and that system strengthens both individuals and the faith community.

Tying systems or ideas together makes them stronger and more effective.

Which brings us to Ken Wilber.

In a recent essay (here, in pdf form, via Coolmel), philosopher Ken Wilber argues that the big religions (including the Catholic Church) are the only organizations equipped to accelerate a large proportion of humanity up the ladder of spiritual & ethical development–which should in turn solve lots of other social problems.

As an example of people moving up that ladder, Wilber addresses the trouble that Christian college students run into when they try to keep their religious beliefs while making the transition to a “mental-rational” worldview, hitting a “steel ceiling.” Since the rational worldview doesn’t seem to make much room for Jesus, the students have to make tough choices or compromises.

Wilber kindly explains that there are Christian versions of rationality and even higher worldviews. “But they are not being emphasized for various reasons (many not spiritual but political).”

Though Wilber is no promoter of Christianity, you might enjoy his thoughts–please bear with the jargon:

. . . subtle-realm religious experience can occur at virtually any stage–the magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, or integral–but in each case, it will be interpreted according to the basic limiting principles of that stage.

Thus (to give some quick and stylized examples), at the magic stage, Jesus is experienced as a personal savior who can magically alter the world in order to satisfy my every desire and whim. Jesus as Magician, turning water into wine, loaves into fishes, walking on water (we are not talking about the ontological content, if any, of the interpretation; Jesus may or may not have walked on water, but at this stage, this is the thing that would mean the most to me). This stage is preconventional and egocentric, so this Jesus cares only about me. At the next stage, the mythic, the same kind of subtle-state experience might be interpreted as communion with Jesus the Eternal Truth bringer. This stage is absolutistic in its beliefs, so you will either believe the Word exactly as written, or you will burn in hell forever. This stage is also ethnocentric, so only those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal savior can be saved. At the next stage, the mental-rational, Jesus Christ becomes a humanized figure, still fully Divine and fully human, but now fully human in a more believable way, as a teacher of the universal love of a Deistic God (who has read Principia Mathematica and knows where to draw the line). Because this stage is the beginning of the postconventional and worldcentric stages, this is also the first of the stages of development that can find salvation through Christ Jesus but also allow that others might find equal salvation through a different path. Have a series of profound spiritual experiences at the pluralistic stage and you will likely find yourself one of the authors of the Postmodern Bible, a wonderful example–out of thousands that have sprung up–of interpreting Jesus Christ and the Christ experience through the lens of the green stage of development. The integral stage for Gebser was one stage, but for us is simply the opening to at least four higher structure-stages of development, but any one of them will insist on integrating its experience of Christ-consciousness with other expressions of the Holy Spirit around the world . . . .

I’m a Catholic, and part of what that means for me is great respect for tradition and a horror of schism. So re-writing the Bible is not a solution for me. But I make do.

Even after reading thousands of pages of Ken Wilber’s summaries of the hierarchies of personal development, I’m still not sure where I am–mindful of his “pre/post fallacy,” I know that protesting an unjust war (for example) can be motivated either by a postconventional understanding of the value of peace, or a preconventional desire to “stick it to The Man.”

Read the whole essay to learn why “70% of the world’s population are Nazis” and much more!

(The ideas in the essay should be fleshed out in a couple upcoming books, including The Many Faces of Terrorism.)

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