Transcendental Sociology – David Chrisopher Lane – Ken Wilber’s Breakthrugh in the Study of New Religous Movements – Laughing Man Magazine

Blank holding line


Ken Wilber’s Breakthrough in the Study of New
Religious Movements

By David Christopher Lane


“Ken Wilber…has been the greatest intellectual
influence in my life.”
David C. Lane (


Published in The Laughing Man Magazine, Vol. 4, NO. 4,

See Ken Wilber’s reply
in the following issue


The true guru is not
“chosen” by the disciple. Rather, at some point
the disciple realizes that he is already involved in a
prior, indelible relationship to the spiritual
master—he is being meditated. However, until that
realization dawns on the disciple, he seeks through various
means to discover the best path and the “right”
guru. In the course of his seeking he may actually choose to
align himself with one or more teachers. If his choices are
unwise, many years can be wasted in fruitless effort.
Ultimately, the mind’s doubting search must yield to
the heart’s intuitive certainty, but until then, the
seeker would do well to exercise the discriminative
intelligence developed in the third stage of life.

How can one determine whether or not a spiritual teacher
is authentic and legitimate? In this article David C. Lane
explores the pros and cons of transpersonal psychologist Ken
Wilber’s answer to this question.

Prefatory Note

In his books A Sociable God (1983) and Eye to Eye (1983),
Ken Wilber, Editor-in-Chief of Revision Journal, postulates
that modern sociology can benefit from a dialogue with
transpersonal psychology. Drawing from his research into the
“perennial philosophy,’” Wilber argues for a
non-reductionistic approach to the study of new religious
movements, one which is rooted on a transcendental
structuralism. Wilber stresses that such an encompassing
paradigm, which takes into account the various stages of
human evolution (beginning at the lowest level of man’s
development and culminating in God-Realization), can serve
as a critical corrective to the reductionistic theories that
are so prevalent today, such as Freuds “religion as
wish fulfillment”: Marx’s “religion as the opiate
of the people”; and Carl Sagan’s “God as vague
birth memories of the obstetrician.”

Wilber’s methodology, accordingly, salvages the
relative truths of each academic discipline (e.g.,
psychoanalysis: obviously some religious beliefs are just
manifestations of repressed guilt), while it at the same
time determines, in terms of overall sociological theory,
whether or not a particular religious engagement is higher
than another. For instance, Wilber points out that there is
a fundamental difference between a sangat of meditating Zen
monks and a clan of deluded Jim Jones devotees. The former
is transrational (the monks take their intelligence with
them into satori); whereas the latter is pre-rational
(Jonestown members forsook their individuality for
regressive magical-mythic belonging).

Wilber’s radical analysis, based in part upon the
work of Jurgen Habermas, attaches phenomenology and its main
tool hermeneutics to a hierarchical structuralism. This
marriage enables scholars to assess various religious claims
so as to determine their relative degree of
authenticity and legitimacy. Writes Wilber:
“This overall hierarchization is extremely significant,
because it apparently gives us—perhaps for the first
time—a paradigm to adjudicate the comparative degree of
validity of various psychosocial productions (including
religious expressions) . . .”1

The following article will examine Wilber’s
methodology in more detail, concentrating on some highlights
of his new model.

1. Ken Wilber, A Sociable God: A Brief
Introduction to a Transcendental Sociology (New York:
McGraw-Hill, 1983), p. 17.


“The crucial question, therefore,
is not whether or not there are differences between the new
religions, but how one can accurately judge the


The Structural Valuation of New Religious

Are all the new religious movements qualitatively the
same? Is there a fundamental difference between groups like
Paramahansa Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship and
L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology? Swami Prabhupada’s
International Society for Krishna Consciousness and Reverend
Moon’s Unification Church? Or, Kirpal Singh’s
Ruhani Satsang and Paul Twitchell’s Eckankar?

According to Wilber, there most definitely is, precisely
because not all religious movements have the same spiritual
goal nor the same teachings and techniques. Simply put, the
new religions are social reflections of man’s own
ontogenetic growth. Not everyone has attained Piaget’s
stage of “formal-operational.” or Maslow’s level
of “self-actualization,” or Loevinger’s
“integrated ego,” or Aurobindo’s
“Idea-mind.” Rather, what we see in human
development is a stratification of various levels of
structural adaptation. It is Wilber’s contention that
religious movements likewise image this same type of

The crucial question, therefore, is not whether or not
there are differences between the new religions, but how one
can accurately judge the differences. Elaborates Wilber:

“It appears that not all the ‘new
religions’ are merely sophomoric platitudes or
mind-numbing cultisms. The great problem, of course, is how
to tell the difference. That is, how to devise any sort of
believable scale or criteria for differentiating the more
valid ‘religious movements’ from the less valid or
even harmful. This is all the more urgent for those who are
striving to present a ‘new and higher’ or
comprehensive transcendental paradigm, simply because a
considerable portion of the transcendental claims of the new
paradigm is prompted by or even based on some of the new and
specifically mystical religions, and we had better be able
to offer believable criteria for differentiating that select
‘some’ (e.g.. Zen) from the rest (e.g., Charles
Manson). To Zen scholars, this might seem an outrageously
unfair equation, but the simple fact is that the public at
large—and many influential scholars— have already
simply lumped together, under the single title of
‘those new religions,’ all endeavors that are
nonorthodox in their religious claims. The burden of
‘de-lumping’ or differentiating these in fact quite
different endeavors accordingly falls now, unfairly, on the
genuinely transcendental scholars . .

2. Ken Wilber. Ere to Eye: The Quest for
the Yew Paradigm (New York: Anchor Books. 1983), p.

Although Wilber admits that a number of models could be
offered in order to structurally appraise many of the new
religious movements, he explicitly posits and favors his own
template, one which has been primarily influenced by his
study of Zen Buddhism, Vedanta, Hegelian philosophy, the
works of developmental psychologists (e.g., Piaget) and most
particularly the writings of Da Free John. For instance, it
is striking to notice the difference in Wilber’s
terminology after he discovered The Paradox of
by Da Free John. Compare Wilber’s
ontological schema in No Boundary (1979) with his Atman
Project (1980). The primary variances between both models
are due to Da Free John’s revolutionary writings on the
variety of spiritual paths. Wilber, likewise, acknowledges
Da Free John and his influence, calling the Adept “a
religious genius of the ultimate degree.”

Wilber’s outline on the development of consciousness
can be summarized in several ways, the most concise being a
tripartite circle comprised of 1) the pre-personal,
pre-rational, or the subconscious; 2) the personal,
rational, or self-conscious; and 3) the transpersonal,
transrational, or superconscious. Each of these stages is
composed of further sublet els. In his book A Sociable
, Wilber breaks down his hierarchical schema into ten
major divisions:

Archaic (1-3), the lowest stage of human
evolution, which includes the physical substratum of the
organism, sensorimotor cognition, and the sheath of
bioenergy: emotional-sexual functions.

Magic (4), the beginning of the mental realms;
this includes simple images, symbols, and the first
rudimentary concepts.

Mythic (5), the beginning of concrete operational
thinking and a beginning of perspectivism (or communal role

Rational (6), the first structure that can not
only think about the world but think about thinking; it is
self-reflexive and introspective.

Psychic (7), which works with or operates on the
results of formal mentation. That is, where the formal mind
establishes higher relationships (“if a, then b”),
psychic cognition establishes networks of those

Subtle (8), said to be the seat of actual
archetypes, of Platonic forms, of subtle sounds and audible
illuminations (nada, shabd), of transcendent insight and

Causal (9), said to be the unmanifested source or
transcendental ground of all the lesser structures, what
Aurobindo called the “overmind.”

Brahman (10), the asymptotic limit.


The importance of Wilber’s model is that it serves
as an external scale by which to measure the validity of a
particular religious engagement. Asserts Wilber: “But
the important point is that the existence of each of the
stage-levels of this model is open to injunctive inquiry and
verification (or rejection). And it is this external
verifiability—should it indeed prove sound—that
confers upon this type of overview model its potentially
believable status, and thus allows it, within broad limits,
to act as a scale for the adjudication of any particular
psychosocial engagement, including ‘religious

Wilber. Eye to Eye. pp.

It is Wilber’s emphasis on “adjudication”
or, in non-legal language, appraisal which is at the heart
of his argument. For although functionalism, primitivization
theory, and phenomenological hermeneutics have their places
as academic disciplines, when left alone these approaches
flounder because they lack an objective standard whereby
their specific contributions can be ultimately appraised.
Advances Wilber: “Now by ‘adjudication’ I
mean precisely this: We have no difficulty in saying, for
instance, that a person at stage-5 moral development (a la
Kohlberg) is at a higher stage than someone at stage-2. Nor
do we have any difficulty in saying that a person at
formal-operational (a la Piaget) is at a higher stage than
someone at preoperational. . . Just so, with a general
overview model of psychosocial development on the whole …
we would be better able to judge—adjudicate—the
relative degree of maturity or authenticity of any
psychosocial production, moral, cognitive, egoic, or—in
this case—religious (and ‘new

4. Ibid., p. 249

For Wilber, “adjudication” follows two avenues:
vertical and horizontal, or in his terminology,
transformative and translative. The first is a hierarchical
assessment, determining the specific level of consciousness
or evolutionary adaptation. The latter is a measurement of
the “degree of integration, organization, and stability
of or within a given level of development.” With regard
to the analysis of new religious movements, these
correlatives are termed by Wilber authenticity and
legitimacy. The more authentic a religion is, for example,
the further up the hierarchical scale it will be. A more
legitimate religion, on the other hand, is one that unifies
its follower better to that particular stage of
consciousness. In A Sociable God, Wilber exemplifies
how this “transcendental sociology” works when
applied to an actual case: “Maoism has (or rather had)
a fairly high degree of legitimacy but a very mediocre
degree of authenticity. It was a legitimate religion (or
world view) in that it apparently integrated large blocks of
peoples, provided social solidarity and a measure of meaning
value … (a legitimacy rating of, say 8-9). It was not very
authentic, however, because it offered adaptation only to or
at the mythic-rational realms (5-6); say what you will,
Maoism did not produce superconscient realization of, and
adaptation to, only God. Thus: Maoism (8-9, 5-6) . .

5. Wilber, A Sociable God, p. 62.

The last important element in Wilber’s analysis
centers on the type and degree of authority evidenced by the
group leader(s). Wilber does not expound on what constitutes
“bad” authority, only that which he believes
represents “good” leadership. Thus, his criterion
takes into account those qualities and functions which are
least likely to be “problematic,” such as the
benevolent and phase-specific role of the genuine teacher or
guru. In fact, it is the latter aspect—phase
specificity— which Wilber argues is essential if any
type of development, mental or spiritual, is going to

This “phase-temporary” feature can run into
difficulty if the promised advances or changes do not take
place within a sufficient time. In that case, like in any
regular educational affair (such as high school), the
pupil’s grade is not a reflection of his efforts but of
the teacher’s own incompetence. However, true
spirituality is a continuing process and a disciple under
the tutelage of a fully realized Adept will not terminate
his relationship after a period of time. Rather, their
interaction—the fire of their intimacy— continues,
undergoing, in the words of Da Free John, bodily
Transfiguration, Transformation, and Translation into

With the preceding as a background, we can now turn our
attention to a major problematic factor in several of the
new religious movements: the concept of the “Perfect
Master. ”


Misconceptions of the Perfect Master

Before we can cite specific instances of where this
notion of “Perfect Master” can run into difficulty
(at least in convincing a devotee that his guru is truly
genuine), it is necessary to quote at length Wilber’s
views on the subject, because he graphically displays how
the term is so often misunderstood. Writes Wilber:
“Perfection exists only in transcendental essence, not
in manifest existence, and yet many devotees consider their
master ‘perfect’ in all ways, the ultimate guru.
This is almost always a problematic sign, because the
devotee, in confusing essence with existence, is invited to
project his or her own archaic, narcissistic, omnipotent
fantasies onto the ‘perfect’ guru: All sorts of
archaic and magical primary process cognitions are thus
reactivated; the guru can do anything; how great the guru
is; in fact, how great I must be to be among the chosen. It
is an extremely narcissistic position.

“But, of course, the guru eventually displays his or
her human side (thank God), but the devotee is devastated,
disillusioned, crushed. The devotee then either leaves,
because the guru can no longer support the devotee’s
narcissistic glamor, or tries to rationalize the guru’s

Wilber, Eye to Eye, p. 265

This first type of misconception (that the “Perfect
Master” also has an indefectible body), for the most
part, is supported by certain statements made by various
gurus which have been taken out of context. For instance,
“the saints take upon their bodies the disciples’
karma.” This is a common saying among the writings of
the saints in the Sant Mat and Radhasoami tradition, as well
as in the teachings of the yogis in the Shaktipat tradition.
Regardless of whether or not such a thing actually occurs,
the initiate begins to relegate perfection down from the
transcendental region (the very place where the saints wish
their disciples to reside) to the physical plane—albeit
though only in one form: their guru!

Instead of realizing that a “Perfect Body” is a
contradiction in terms (if the flesh could, in fact, be
immutable it would no longer be “flesh”), the
devotee rationalizes every physical ailment of the guru as
“the master chewing up karmas.” This point is
brought home in the story of one otherwise unpretentious
initiate of a saint in North India, who figured that the
reason for his guru yawning so much during satsang was
because “saints swallow disciples’ evil

7. This story was told to me personally
in 1978 while I was on a research project with Professor
Mark Juergensmeyer of the University of California,
Berkeley, studying the Sant Mat and Radhasoami traditions in
North India.

I do not mean to indicate here that all devotees see the
physical form of their guru as flawless or incapable of
decay (indeed, the saint in the preceding story was
extremely critical of such silly delusions on the part of
his disciples), but only that there is a proclivity for
misconceptions about the nature of a “Perfect

The problem is even more severe and more subtle with
regard to “mental perfection.” It may be somewhat
easy to accept that the master has a body which decays, but
it is quite difficult for many devotees to realize that
their guru may make logical, verbal, rational errors. Again,
instead of accepting the inherent limitations of mentality,
the disciple projects “Perfect Knowledge” onto his
master, believing that his spiritual teacher will “know
all things at all times.”8

8. See “The Reluctant Guru: The Life
and Teachings of Baba Faqir Chand” in The Laughing Man
(vol. 3, no. 1) and “The Great Sage of Hoshiarpur”
in The Movement Newspaper (November 1982) for more on the
“unknowingness” of mystics.

But, such a thing never happens. Eventually, the guru
slips up. As Faqir Chand, perhaps the most frank and
revealing master about inner visions ever to live in India,
comments: “At least two hundred barren women—many
among them had no menstruation—begot male children with
my prashad (blessed food). But contrary to it, my own
daughter, who has been married for the last fourteen years,
is still issueless, whom I intentionally have given prashad
many a time. What does this prove? I am none to bless
anybody. Had it been so, my daughter must have been blessed
with a child. I can do nothing more than wishing good for
all. My egoism is vanished . . .”9

9. David Christopher Lane, “The
Reluctant Guru: The Life and Teachings of Baba Faqir
Chand” (The Laughing Man, vol. 3, no. 1).

Though the preceding excerpt deals with a saint’s
unknowingness with regard to performing miracles, the same
situation applies to the “realm of infinite
knowledge.” When masters talk about “Supreme
Knowledge,”it should not be equated with logical,
objective learning. The former is the Realization of
one’s real and eternal nature, a transcendental
experience of oneness. The latter is concerned with
dualistic thinking, knowing about things. Therefore, when
saints speak about the Ultimate Knowledge, they are not
referring to the accumulation of book learning but to the
Ground of Being, that which is the Condition of all
subsequent conditions. Consequently, an enlightened guru may
not know anything about academic subjects such as quantum
mechanics, anthropology, or critical history. A Jesus, a
Buddha, a Nanak, or a Ramakrishna, for instance, may have
made factual errors with regard to names, places, dates, or
factual instances, since such knowledge by nature is
tentative (not absolute as the misguided and overzealous
neophyte may believe) and subject to

10. See David Christopher Lane, “The
Hierarchical Structure of Religious Visions” (The
Journal] of Transpersonal Psychology, vol. 15, no. 1,

It is this confused equation of book learning and
Enlightenment which has led to a number of mistaken
attributes concerning “Perfect Masters.” When this
apparent paradox is not satisfactorily resolved by the
spiritual seeker at can lead to such profound doubts that
he/she even begins to question the genuineness of his/her
guru and his/her teachings. The result? A crisis of
legitimacy which inclines itself to a crisis of

Critical Departures

Though Wilber is unambiguous in his ontological ranking
(archaic to causal), it is important to note that
Wilber’s whole model (including his highest stage) is
subsumed and outranked by contrasting cosmological schemas.
For example, in the cosmology of the Radhasoami tradition,
one which is based upon the teachings of Kabir, Nanak, Tulsi
Sahib, and Shiv Dayal Singh,11 the highest
achievements of Vedanta, Vajrayana, and Zen Buddhism (which
Wilber places at the pinnacle of his model) are all located
in the realm of the Universal Mind (Trikuti), three regions
below the true stage of spiritual enlightenment, Sach

11. These poet-saints comprise a
tradition which is commonly known as the “path of the
saints” or Sant Mat. Radhasoami movement is perhaps the most
visible and authentic manifestation of this eclectic
spiritual discipline.

This problematic juxtaposition is not simply one of
typology, but, according to practitioners of Radhasoami, of
experientially verifiable differences. Argues Lekh Raj Puri,
a distinguished scholar and devotee in the tradition:
“We have seen that there are several mystic practices
in the world, all of which aim at unveiling the hidden
mystery of the universe; but that none is perfect except
‘Shabd Yoga,’ which takes us to the very final
stage of ultimate Reality. Other practices leave us in the

12. Lekh Raj Puri, Mysticism: The
Spiritual Path (Beas, India: Radhasoami Satsang, 1964), p.

Furthers Shiv Dayal Singh, the founder of Radhasoami, in
poetic verse: “A practitioner of Surat Shabd Yoga will
pass through Vishnu Lok, Shiv Lok, Brahma ka Lok, Shakti
Lok, Krishna Lok, Ram Lok, Brahm Lok, and Par-Brahm Pad,
Nirvan Pad of Jains, the region of Lord God of the Bible,
the regions of the Christ and the regions of Malkoot,
Jabroot and Lahoot of Mohammedans, all situated below Sunn .
. ,”13

13. Shiv Dayal Singh, Sar Bachan
Radhasoami Poetry (Agra, India: Soamibagh, 1970), p.

Hence, in the purview of the Sants, Radhasoami would be a
religion of the highest authenticity, with Zen and Vedanta
being relegated a lower position on the hierarchy.
Obviously, this sequential debate may have something to do,
at least in part, with the belief that the particular
structural adjudicator exposits. Is it merely coincidental
that Wilber has been practicing Zen for over a decade and
offers the same as an example of man’s ultimate state
of consciousness? Even an otherwise sedate transpersonal
anthropologist like the late Phillip S. Staniford cannot
help questioning Wilber’s strong philosophical

14. See Philip S. Stamford’s
personal letter to Ken Wilber, published in the 1982 (vol.
6, no. 1 & 2) issue of Phoenix: The Journal of
Transpersonal Anthropology.

It would seem that according to Wilber’s evaluation,
the least fortunate of Christians would have been those in
the living company of Jesus, and the least fortunate
Buddhists would have been those taught directly by Gautama,
lacking a lineage as they did. Gautama in particular, and
Jesus to a lesser extent, broke with the existing traditions
and taught a radically new way. Obviously, legitimacy is
secondary to authenticity. While charismatic religions can
be “problematic” in terms of legitimacy, this is
not necessarily a defect. Nor must they be problematic at

Personally, I agree with Wilber’s hierarchical
schema and most of the conclusions he draws, but I find that
there are many elements in his argument which need
clarification in light of contrasting paradigms. This
especially holds true with regard to the qualifications for
a genuine spiritual teacher. Though it is correct that
Perfection lies in essence not existence, this does not mean
that we should settle for less “perfect” gurus.
Rather, it is imperative that sincere seekers choose only
those masters who exhibit the highest qualities of
enlightenment. In my opinion, there is no better list of
objective indices for a master than those outlined by Julian
P. Johnson in The Path of the Masters (1939).

Wilber, however, is not unaware of how differing schemas
of mysticism can clash with his own. Witness the effort of
R. C. Zaehner to champion theistic mysticism as being higher
than monastic mysticism. But, in face of such
counter-arguments, Wilber invokes the principle of
hierarchization, contending that saintly communion with the
spirit is transcended by sagely identity with spirit (the
latter encompassing the former, but not vice versa).

These rarefied debates, which to some may seem
scholastically inappropriate, will not be resolved in the
arena of academia, but in the elevation of a community of
interested participants who may, after such transformation
(subtle or otherwise), reflect, but not wholly bring down,
their findings to rational discourse and speculation. In any
case, this soteriological or “mandalic” science,
as we can see, is still in its infancy. Thus, though there
appears to be good reason—via the perennial
philosophy—to believe that Wilber’s transpersonal
schema is accurate, there are enough yet unanswered
questions to prompt serious dialogue with contrasting
paradigms— including the one offered by the saints in
the Radhasoami tradition.

In the next isue of The Laughing Man Magazine –
Letters to the Editor

Ken Wilber writes The Laughing Man Magazine a letter in
reply to David C. Lane’s article and later David replies


Ken Wilber’s


“Master Da is the single strongest influence
on my own work at this time, and has been for the past
several years, and will continue to be so”


Thank you for the thoughtful article on
“Transcendental Sociology,” by David Lane (vol. 4,
no. 4). Allow me, however, to correct a few inaccuracies and
misrepresentations concerning my own work:

“It is striking to notice the difference in
Wilber’s terminology after he discovered The Paradox
of Instruction
by Da Free John. Compare Wilber’s
ontological schema in No Boundary with his Atman
Project. The primary variances between both models are due
to Da Free John’s revolutionary writings on the variety
of spiritual paths. Wilber, likewise, acknowledges Da Free
John and his influence, calling the Adept ‘a religious
genius of the ultimate degree.’ ”

While I still agree absolutely that Master Da is the
Primal Adept, nevertheless it is simply not true that the
major influence in switching from the No Boundary
model to the Atman Project model was Master Da. In the Atman
Project, I explicitly list the developmental stages of over
two dozen theorists, all of whom were instrumental in my own
formulations, and while Master Da was indeed included, the
most influential (at that time) were Aurobindo and
Vajrayana. Had I been following Master Da as closely at that
time as you surmise, I would have given seven or so stages
of growth, whereas I gave over twenty stages (a model I
still believe to be correct from the Third Stage
“vantage point,” which is all it was ever
presented as anyway). The real influence of Master Da’s
ideas can better be seen in Up From Eden, where I
explicitly mention Master Da (along with Christ, Krishna) as
being the Divine Person as World Event. Master Da is the
single strongest influence on my own work at this time, and
has been for the past several years, and will continue to be
so, but this is no reason to falsify the historical

I have considered the arguments of the Radhasoami saints;
I stand by my original formulations.

On the “Perfect Master”: Nowhere did I ever say
that living in the presence of a fully Realized Adept was a
cause of problematic religions. What I said was, if we look
at all the factors that tend to lead to problematic
religious involvement’s, one’s following a person who
is felt to be a “perfect master” produced a higher
probability of that involvement being problematic. In other
words, most problematic religious movements are headed by
single, permanent, “perfect” master-authorities
(Jim Jones, Rev. Moon, Manson, etc.), but not all
“perfect masters” are problematic. In fact,
sadhana with a Living Adept in and as Perfect Realization is
the single, strongest, most transformative relationship a
human being can ever have, cutting as it does across all
space and time and disclosing the Heart of Eternity. But the
number of fully Realized Adepts versus the number of
“perfect masters” who claim to be so Realized is
vast and profound, and so all I was saying is be very, very
careful in this choice.

Ken Wilber Cambridge, Mass.

Ken Wilber’s letter was passed on to David Lane,
whose response appears below:


I like Ken Wilber’s rejoinder very much as it
clarifies the influence Da Free John has had on his
writings. Actually, I am surprised at how extensive that
influence has been (and will continue to be), given
Wilber’s updated comments. There are still some points
that need further clarification.

There is a significant difference between No
ontological schema and Atman
Project’s, and this is not merely due to the insights
of Aurobindo or Vajrayana, but most clearly to Da Free
John’s books (particularly, as I wrote before, The
Paradox of Instruction
). Wilber’s Spectrum of
not only changes metaphorical direction
(from the original inward/downward to inward/upward), but
also incorporates Da Free John’s “gross, subtle,
causal” framework, a brilliant reworking of the
teachings of Ramana Maharshi and Advaita Vedanta. This
constitutes a major transformation, as Wilber’s
critique of the “low and high subtle planes” is
primarily derived from Da Free John’s own penetrating

Though Wilber stands by his original formulations in
contrast to the Radhasoami cosmology, his model must take
into deeper consideration several critical points made by
the Sant Mat mystics, unless he—like the empiricists he
criticises—wants to be branded a spiritual
reductionist. His overall hierarchy, though elegant, lacks
the necessary sophistication and elaboration to make it
testable. Wilber has not taken the findings of Shabd Yoga
masters into proper and extended phenomenological
examination. To them, his schema reflects an inherent
“pre/trans fallacy” on each higher level of
consciousness. For, what he takes as causal, they claim can
be experienced in the lower astral, and so on. Obviously,
these are not just semantic misconceptions but
experientially verifiable differences. Unless such counter
arguments are taken into consideration, Wilber’s work
will remain just theory, armchair speculations based upon
too general and too imprecise philosophical findings.

Let me end this letter, however, saying that to my mind
there is no better transpersonal theorist in the world today
than Ken Wilber. He has been the greatest intellectual
influence in my life. The mark of a truly gifted
philosopher/writer is that he incites both praise and
debate. Wilber has opened up the field with his insights;
lesser lights, like myself, are trying to pick up the odd
pebble to make the way smoother.


David C. Lane Del Mar, Calif.

Listen to David in 1984


Blank holding line