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I learned that Nathaniel Branden and Ken Wilber were admirers of each other's work. But from what I understand Wilber is a mystic. And I see that some people are admirers of both Ayn Rand's work and Wilber's.

I am considering ordering one of his books to see for myself, but have any of you read Wilber? I'm interested in reading Objectivist reactions.

Thank you!

asked May 08 '15 at 10:49

Marce11o's gravatar image


edited May 08 '15 at 11:21

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

I am probably not qualified to give the questioner what he seeks, since I have never read Wilber. I can, however, briefly survey the material about him that can be found on Wikipedia, and, for what it's worth, offer some observations about some of what I found (leaving entirely open the question of how accurate Wikipedia may be or notoriously may not be).

Here is a sampling from the Wikipedia article on "Ken Wilber":

Kenneth Earl "Ken" Wilber II (born January 31, 1949) is an American writer, philosopher and public speaker. He has written and lectured about mysticism, philosophy, ecology, and developmental psychology. His work formulates what he calls Integral Theory.[1] In 1998 he founded the Integral Institute.[2]

I did not find the rest of the "Ken Wilber" article to be particularly helpful for quick understanding, but another Wikipedia article on "Integral theory" (linked in the "Wilber" article) seems very illuminating. Here is a sampling from that article:

Integral theory, a philosophy with origins in the work of Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser, and promoted by Ken Wilber, seeks a synthesis of the best of pre-modern, modern, and postmodern reality.[1] It is portrayed as a "theory of everything"[2] and offers an approach "to draw together an already existing number of separate paradigms into an interrelated network of approaches that are mutually enriching."[1] It has been applied by scholar-practitioners in 35 distinct academic and professional domains as varied as art and organizational management.[1]

It initially started as a theoretical transpersonal psychology[3] that attempted to synthesize Western and non-Western understandings of consciousness with notions of biological, mental, and divine evolution.[4] Wilber has since distanced himself from transpersonal psychology[5] and Integral Theory has turned into an emerging field of academic discourse and research focused on the complex interactions of ontology, epistemology, and methodology.[6]

On this description, "Integral Theory" would seem to be a very worthy enterprise, to the extent that it is a serious attempt at reality-based integration. In other words, a key question about Wilber for Objectivists is how reality-oriented he is, and how consistently so. Does he recognize and accept existence (objective reality) as it is, with everything in it having a specific nature or identity, and with consciousness as a faculty for identifying that which exists and (for man) integrating what man observes into a unified conceptual framework? While most academics fall considerably short, with Wilber probably having such tendencies himself, it appears that he may nevertheless be making a serious attempt at objective integration of observable facts of reality -- the essence of a scientific outlook. (I could, of course, be very mistaken about Wilber's basic outlook, from my extremely limited and indirect exposure to his views.)

The "Integral Theory" article continues:

Wilber, drawing on both Aurobindo's and Gebser's theories, as well as on the writings of many other authors, created a theory which he calls AQAL. AQAL stands for "All Quadrants All Levels".
AQAL, pronounced "ah-qwul", is a widely used framework in Integral Theory.
Lines are defined as relatively independent capacities of growth and emergence that unfold in levels or stages....

Each line can be understood by simple questions we confront as we go about our lives.

* “What am I aware of?” The cognitive line concerns your ability to register phenomena and take perspectives. This line has been explored by Jean Piaget, Kurt Fischer, Robert Kegan, Michael Commons and Francis Richards among others.

* “Who am I?” The self-identity line explores your ego development and self conception. Primary researchers in this area include Jane Loevenger, Susan Cook-Greuter, Michael Washburn and Jenny Wade.

* “How do I interact with others?” The interpersonal line concerns social cognition and role taking. Researchers in this area include Robert Selman and Robert Perry.

* “What should I do?” The moral line describes the unfolding of moral reasoning and judgement from pre-conventional ego-centric to post-post-conventional kosmocentric levels. Primary researchers in this area are Lawrence Kohlburg, Carol Gilligan and Cheryl Armon.

* “How do I feel?” The emotional or affective line concerns your awareness, management and control of emotions. Researched by Daniel Goleman, Peter Salovey and John Mayer.

* “What is attractive to me?” The aesthetic line describes 5 distinct patterns of thinking that correlate to the amount of exposure people have to viewing art. Researched by Abigail Housen and others.

* “What is of ultimate concern?” Development in the spiritual or faith line describes the unfolding nature of your faith and religious beliefs across your lifespan. Research by James Fowler.

* “What do I find significant?” The values line describes the unfolding of what individuals find important. Research by Clare Graves, Don Beck and Chris Cowan.

* “What do I need?” The needs line concerns individual’s changing conception of what they want or need from life and others. Research by Abraham Maslow.[15]


Integral Theory is widely ignored at mainstream academic institutions. Nevertheless, about 90 M.A. theses or Ph.D. dissertations have been written between 1987 and 2009 that make use of Integral Theory, according to the Integral Research Center.[34] It has been said by some that Integral Theory has a way to go in terms of being brought into dialogue with other disciplines.[35]

There are a great many points that Objectivism can offer regarding the "simple questions" above. Here is a brief sampling, but I do not know enough about Wilber (or even N. Branden, for that matter) to judge the extent to which Wilber endorses or even understands Objectivism's perspectives:

  • “What am I aware of?” Answer: you are aware of (a) reality, and (b) as a human, you are also introspectively aware of your own consciousness, including both those aspects that are automatic and those that are under your conscious choice and control, including areas where your awareness of self and/or reality may be fallible. This question might also be interpreted to mean, "What am I looking at? I.e., what is it? What is its nature? How did it get here? How did I come to be here looking at it? What am I doing?" To a large extent, this latter series of questions pertains to a principle of consciousness that I have called "awareness of context." Objectivism refers to the issue as "holding the context."

  • “Who am I?” Answer: you are what you made yourself to be. Man is an integrated being of mind and body, a type of animal possessing a rational faculty which operates volitionally and serves as man's basic means of cognition and survival. This question might also be interpreted to mean, "What have my choices and actions been throughout the course of my life up to now, and why did I choose them as I did? Should I choose differently in the future? How shall I decide what to do?"

  • “How do I interact with others?” Answer: you ought to interact with others by mutually voluntary persuasion and trade guided by reason. This question might also be interpreted to mean, "Introspectively, what have I actually done toward others so far up to the present? What have become my characteristic methods of dealing with others, and why? Should I strive to make any changes in the future?"

  • “What should I do?” Answer: this is a very fundamental issue that runs through all the others. Ayn Rand listed three such issues in her short short-story about an astronaut stranded on a distant planet: "Where am I? How can I discover it? What should I do?" (From "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" in PWNI.)

  • “How do I feel?” Answer: this is an issue of introspection, which Objectivism endorses as an important and invaluable topic for self-awareness and self-direction. Objectivism also offers a definite theory of emotions as automatic products of lightning-like evaluations of what one observes, in terms of one's chosen (usually automatized) values.

  • “What is attractive to me?” Answer: this is a subset of "How do I feel." Insofar as it may be intended to refer to esthetic issues, it is also an aspect of "metaphysical value-judgments." Refer to the topic of "Metaphysical Value-Judgments" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

  • “What is of ultimate concern?” Answer: this is the key question involved in "metaphysical value-judgments." See previous question. If this question is assumed to refer to "faith and religious beliefs," Objectivism challenges that assumption and proposes instead that philosophy, specifically rational philosophy, can and should fill that basic need of man's consciousness, which all humans experience in one form or another, at one time or another, across the span of their lives.

  • “What do I find significant?” Answer: this is a further issue in the topic of metaphysical value-judgments (and esthetics).

  • “What do I need?” Answer: man's needs proceed from man's fundamental nature (and man's understanding of it), particularly his nature as a living being who must act in specific ways in order to remain alive. This question might also be interpreted to mean, "What to I feel (emotionally) that I need?" On that interpretation, the question pertains more to emotions and chosen values than to man's actual, objective needs and values.

Before one will be able to evaluate Wilber's views definitively in relation to Objectivism, one will need to understand Objectivism's tenets more thoroughly. (And one won't be able to learn that very effectively from sources like N. Branden or Ken Wilber.) Moreover, Objectivism generally recognizes little value in bypassing Objectivism and trying to gain value from Wilber's views outside the context of an understanding of Objectivism.

answered May 09 '15 at 16:10

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: May 08 '15 at 10:49

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Last updated: May 09 '15 at 16:10