Ken Wilber's "A Brief History of Everything" Plus Some; A Special Review and Commentary

Article excerpt

BOOK REVIEW:

Ken Wilber's "A Brief History of Everything" plus some; A Special Review and Commentary.

During the last several years I have been committing myself to review and reflect on our field of O.D. and its half-century of experience. In doing this I have prepared several working papers and a few publications that help to explain my foundational model for a O.D. that takes us into our new century. In particular, I published in the winter '99 edition of this journal, "New Century Organization Development: The Five Core Components of Sprit, Community, Work, Wisdom and Transformation" as part of a special set of articles focused on emerging trends in O.D.. In that article I tried to identify the great minds, documented experiences and enormous literature our field can call on to help develop itself over the next half-century. One of the most important authors I identified in that article was Ken Wilber and his work in the areas of psychology, philosophy and spirituality. Many are now proclaiming Wilber's work as some of the most important intellectual effort taking place and the praise given his writings has created a wide spread interest well beyond the traditional and often very narrow intellectual disciplines developed over the last several decades. Wilber's voice is a wonderful source of new life and energy in trying to understand how the world works. His writings, like much written in this field of O.D., are grounded in a search to establish an integral and definitely multidisciplinary perspective. Wilber's work not only helped inform my search for the role of spirit in organization but he also unlocked a wonderful source of wisdom for our field as he helped establish the relationships of the world's greatest thinkers and their ideas developed throughout history and around the world. Essentially I can't recommend any other single writer who can do more to help educate our OD field around the many crucial philosophical and spiritual issues we are facing in this new millennium.

In "A Brief History of Everything", which is a summary version of over 300 pages of his more complete 800 plus page "Sex, Ecology and Spirituality", a simple two by two matrix of "everything" is offered on the first page. This four quadrant model is a fascinating picture of our whole world, and even beyond. It lays out an integrated picture of the universe from the interior view of the individual (prehension to vision-- logic) to the external view (atoms to neo-cortex and beyond) and then formulates the cultural view as the interior collective ( physical to rational and centauric) and the exterior collective as the social world view ranging from a planetary to a galactic perspective. Along each of these dimensions there are a dozen more states that move each toward a larger and linked view of how these systems work and relate. This is the map to use to find the physical and the psychological issues of our existence and the relationships between them. Here on a single page is a way of seeing how it is possible to build an integral understanding that is so needed in an age of reductionist thinking where simple solutions are passed off a wise because of their surface expediencies. The map does not dismiss sound bite communication and superficial comprehension it only positions both in the very limited place they occupy in trying to comprehend the nature of the times we are living in.

It will take some serious study to appreciate the deep complexity and intuition in Wilber's words and models but at least the "Brief History" is written in a readable form and there is so much there that nearly any reader has a real potential to come away with valuable insight. Wilber has published more than a dozen additional manuscripts and I have just been able to find and purchase his latest work "Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy", published 2000, but have not completed it as I write this. Wilber is very loyal to his small and often difficult to find publisher, Shambhala of Boston and London but now with the ease of on line purchasing his work is much more readily available. …