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on 25 November 2006
Every few years I find myself reading a book that enables me to breath a huge sigh of relief: this is one such book. The relief is twofold: the knowing that the painful truth about life that's been dawning on me is shared by a respected philosopher and second, that the hard work I've been doing to help me move forward in life IS the way forward . . . indeed, the only way forward for each of us . . . and for humanity and our planet.

Like The Celestine Prophecy and The Power of Now, this book is one that those of us who are ready just HAVE to read . . . and in doing so find we're being reminded of deep truths and profound wisdom that we actually know already: it's just been buried by what Ken calls Flatland - the current and all prevailing world-view: objective, scientific, industrial . . . denying all else.

Ken charts the rise and fall of different philosophical eras and shows how these relate to evolution of life . . . to the unfolding of Spirit in life itself. All life. Without exception. In describing the problem we have within humanity Ken also offers hope and advise: a clear guide as to what's necessary for each of us to rise above the Flatland mentality and find our own higher consciousness: not an easy path, but if we want a life with heart, soul, depth and spirit, it's something we just have to get on with!
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on 28 December 2006
Ken Wilber's book is separated into three parts, with the last chapter of the third part being an epilogue of sorts. I was riveted in the first two parts, partly bored in the third, and enjoyed the ending.

The book is written in Q & A style, which I thought worked quite well with the subject matter. Although the questions were, of course, leading the reader to a certain path, it did help me think through the points the author was trying to make.

The first part ("Spirit in Action") I thought of as "world evolution". This section lays the foundation of Wilber's thinking, how systems evolve, and proposes a four-quadrant approach for thinking about that evolution in a holistic fashion. The four quadrants encompass the inside and outside of the self ("I" and "it", the conscious and the physical) and the inside and outside of groups, or cultures ("we" and "its"). This leads to an discussion about world evolution, describing how the world has evolved from archaic to magic to mythic to rational and on.

The second part ("The Further Reaches of Spirit-in-Action") I thought of as personal evolution. Using the same framework and providing background from psychology and philosophy studies, Wilber shows a personal evolution through "fulcrums" or steps (eureka moments?) as a person moves up the spiritual/thought evolution. Parallels are drawn between the world evolution and personal evolution, and it is reinforced constantly that this must be an integral approach, i.e., it cannot just be logical ("it") and it cannot just be consicousness ("I") but must be a non-dualistic approach.

The third part ("Beyond Flatland") was a much too-long treatise on Wilber's opinion on why and how we have gotten off of the path of these two evolutions, personal and world. He makes quite a good argument, but goes to great lengths to categorize previous philosphers and thinkers into different buckets to prove his main point (which is that we have gone into many different dis-integrated directions, lead by the "Ego" set (logical thinkers without spirituality) and the "Eco" set (back to nature, everything is feeling) when we should be heading for a non-dualistic integrated approach). There is much too much academic argument in this section than there were in the previous two parts, and, while I am certain it serves the purpose of making Wilber's point, I found it slowed the book down tremendously, ala a textbook.

The last chapter of the third part is a summary of where Wilber thinks we are now in our evolution and where we should go. This was a excellent ending to the book, pulling together his thinking of an "Integral Vision".

This was my first Ken Wilber book. Although the Q&A turned me off at first, the first two parts were quite readable and accessible. I reccommend those two sections for any and all. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Wilber's works.
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on 29 November 2000
When you pick up a book like this which purports to provide a view of everything - EVERYTHING - you wonder at the ambition of the author. After all a great mind like Steven Hawking restricted himself to Time - which seemed a big enough subject to me. What is amazing is that Ken Wilbur does an absolutely brilliant job! Everything really does mean EVERYTHING - as far as I can tell (and I was never really good at not knowing what I don't know).
The content covers science, systems theory, philosophy, community, psychology, religion, spirituality, and mysticism. And not just superficially - to some depth.
What comes across is not Ken Wilbur's knowing about these subjects, but his UNDERSTANDING - two very different things.
Chapter 13 is possiby the most profound passage I have read in any book - it took me about 6 weeks to read and re read it. The only slight criticism I have (which seems churlish indeed) is the Question / Answer format used to discuss these things - this detracted from the flow - and for a book which blows apart the dualistic world view, this is strange indeed.
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on 5 July 2011
"A brief history of everything" is a good introduction to the thinking of Ken Wilber. I haven't read his magnum opus "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality", but this book seems to be a condensed version of it.

Wilber's message or project is known as Integral Theory. It's a bold attempt at a grand synthesis of science, metaphysics and spirituality. The sources of inspiration are varied. With some difficulty, I could make out humanistic psychology, Hegel, Tibetan Buddhism and Plotinus. Admirer Michael Zimmerman has called Wilber neo-Hegelian, but Wilber is more appreciative of Hegel's rival Schelling. Apparently, Sri Aurobindo (whose works I never read) is another important source of inspiration. Critics have accused Wilber of interpreting these and others thinkers in somewhat idiosyncratic fashion, but that may be inevitable since the author attempts to integrate their perspectives. Poor Charles Darwin has been decisively left out of the new synthesis, however.

In a very broad sense, I suppose Wilber could be called "New Age". However, there seem to be important differences between Integral Theory and what usually passes for New Age. One is Wilber's positive view of modernity and sharp criticism of eco-spirituality, Gaia theory, and the like. In his view, this is pre-personal rather than transpersonal spirituality. Wilber attacks political correctness and criticizes multi-culturalism, which in the context of American politics is usually considered conservative. His call for a World Federation sounds more new agey, however, but will rub the more conspiracist subcultures within the New Age milieu the wrong way. Wilber never mentions channelling, angels, demons or space aliens, which presumably mean that he doesn't believe in such.

Another difference with more standard New Age thinking is the strong attempt to sound rational and scientific. New Age flakes also use "science" as a cover, but their incompetence is obvious. Wilber apparently wants his Theory of Everything to be seriously discussed in scholarly circles (a few scholars have taken the bait, such as Zimmerman). An obvious weakness at this point is Wilber's pseudo-creationist arguments against standard Neo-Darwinism, a rather strange move for somebody who has a evolutionary perspective on the cosmos. May I suggest Paul Davies or Simon Conway Morris instead?

Personally, I found Integral Theory extremely curious. Wilber's real perspective is a nondual form of mysticism, similar to the most advanced levels of Buddhism and Hinduism ("maya is Brahman"). But if that is the goal, what on earth is the point of the grand synthesis of science, philosophy and spirituality, the scholarly ambitions, all the quadrants, levels, and what not? Why not simply concentrate on the mystical experiences? What need is there to know how postmodernity should be integrated with systems theory or intelligent design, if the goal is to become one with Maya-Brahman?

Somehow, Ken Wilber's Brief History of Everything seems redundant.
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on 19 August 2015
This book lost me altogether. If you are, like me, flighty and easily distracted, then I wouldn't recommend it. That doesn't mean it's not good of course, but we all have our ways of learning and this confirmed to me that this isn't my way!
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on 27 February 2011
This book to me helps a person to understand the world for a particular view through levels of development and different levels of consciousness and starts to give you a view of what integral psychology and the way this may relate to our being in the universe. Gives reasons why we are as we are.A Brief History of Everything
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on 16 January 2015
what I asked for - great
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on 21 November 2001
I just finished an earthshattering book. It was philosophical/evoltionary/spiritual book called the "Brief History of Everything" (pretty ambitous title, huh?) Its scope and clarity was amazing...really increased my understanding of the self and the world and history and has got me thinking (which I like). I highly recommend it.
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on 20 January 2006
Wilbur presents some interesting ideas; the concepts of SDi have now incorporated Wilburs ideas with Spiral Dynamics which, in my opinion is an improved model. When you sit back at it however, it does make you think of a consultant 2x2 diagram....
It isn't an easy read, the beginning is worth it if you can get through it and is a starting point for thinking about this slightly diferently. The latter stages of the book I disagreed with especially on the spirituality aspects that Wilbur tries to bring in. The level of understanding and some assumptions presented are questionable - a higher level of conciousness may be required here.
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