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on 7 December 1998
_SES_ is quite an idea trip. I purchased it after having my understanding of religion and spirituality profoundly deepened by _Up From Eden_ and _The Atman Project_. In fact, after many years of spiritual and philosophical seeking, Wilber has so far been the only thinker who has been able to "make sense" of my own Christian faith, in a way that enables me to continue to embrace it, despite many obvious mythical trappings. In that sense, I am deeply and personally indebted to Ken for the gift of a new conceptual framework, in which to understand my relationship to faith, and my faith's relationship to the evolution of humanity and culture. Insofar as _SES_ carries on the torch of that vision, it continues to make keen observations about the spiritual and cultural future of humanity and planet Earth.
Unfortunately, _SES_ also deeply disappointed me in a number of important ways. The _Booklist_ reviewer's critisicm that "it suffers from a tendency to make unsubstantiated or inadequately referenced claims" is a severe understatement; the majority of Wilber's arguments are not so much won as repeated so many times as to seem obviously true. The book is so repetitive that it became frustrating to read, and in spots it was only Ken's lively and interesting language that made it bearable. Unfortunately, the same language is sweeping, black-and-white, and notoriously lacking in the senstivity to nuance and detail that is required machinery in every philosopher's toolkit. Worse, he too often slips into polemical rhetoric to substitute for solid argumentation. His repetitive criticism of "flatland holism," and its close cousin "subtle reductionism," is almost totally lacking in substantive argument over the eight-hundred page trek. His disagreements with systems theories over "depth" and "span" issues are insightful, but a great deal more rigor is necessary before his philosophical foundataions can be ultimately acceptable. His discussions are rich in flavorful and evocative images (which is his undisputed strength), but weak on logic.
Perhaps his claim that higher states of consciousness and being transcend formal-operational logic gives him a license to favor colorful intuition over bland argument and proof. However, as he is continuously ready to point out, higher integrations must transcend _and include_ their predecessors. If anything, Ken's treatment of the human spirit should be _more_ rational, not less; and I did not find that to be the case in this work. (Interestingly, the Western thinkers whom he praises most for their insight are some of the most philosophically rigorous in the business -- Plato, Plotinus, Shelling, Kant, Hegel, Gebser, Habermas, to name a few. One of the advantages of reading _SES_ is that it points to a tremendous amount of excellent primary source material.)
_Eden_ and _Atman_ are the undisputed presentations of Ken's model of consciousness; they are, in form and content, one of the most significant contributions to the literature on religion, spirituality, and psychology in the second half of the twentieth century. But in _SES_, I think Ken has bit off a little more than he can chew, by attempting to extract a volume from a pamphlet. The result is undigested, repetitive, and philosophically unsatisfying.
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on 28 March 2005
It's difficult to know how to recommend highly enough possibly the most significant book of the twentieth century. Without wanting to sound to self-inflated, I feel compelled to share that this book has given me both intellectual stimulation as well as provided fundamental answers to what I perceive to be equally fundamental existential questions.
Contrary to its overbearing appearance, this book is anything apart from academic, stuffy and imperious. On the contrary, it is actually quite light reading, because the work emanates from the author's own consciousness, and is not a self-aggrandizing attempt to obfuscate rather than clarify.
Part I provides the theoretical background; Part II is the history of philosophy. It's fundamental. Buy it.
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on 15 August 2009
In the spring of 2000 a new stage in my development was reached, thanks to the learned American new-thinker Ken Wilber, especially to his magnum opus: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995). Wilber takes the new science created by Prigogine and others as his starting point. But according to Wilber, not only Newton's but also Prigogine's science deals only with the external aspects of reality, and thus omits the other half of reality. Wilber wants to proceed to the levels of mind and spirit. In order to show how our world is constituted, he draws a square and divides it into four quadrants, two to the right representing the external aspect and two to the left representing the inner one. In both cases two quadrants, because Wilber also distinguishes between what is individual that is assigned to the upper quadrants and what is collective, that is assigned to the lower ones. In every quadrant he draws a diagonal from the centre and on it he indicates the levels he discerns in the world: in the external world everything from the atom to the human cerebral cortex, in the internal world from the atom's ability to react to the human "vision-logic", capable of dealing with relations, wholes, interconnections.

So the world is not a "flatland", but vertically structured in accordance with the old idea of "The Great Chain of Being". Following Arthur Koestler, Wilber calls this a "holarchy" (from the Greek holon = a whole that at the same time is part of another, higher whole). By Don Beck and others, the inner holarchy of Man has been further developed into a "Spiral Dynamics" in nine levels distinguished by different colours, to which approach Wilber has agreed (A Theory of Everything, 2000, p. 7 f).
In this way, Wilber wants to achieve what he calls "a world philosophy, an "integral philosophy", meaning a system of thoughts covering "all quadrants/all levels", and doing so in form of "orienting generalizations" about a world which thus is not disjointed and reduced to its lowest level. A philosophy which furthermore unites this new science with classical philosophy and religion in west and east into a great, all-embracing worldview.
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on 6 September 1998
This massive work took me weeks to read, but I came away enlightened in many ways. Wilber has a masterful way of putting together ideas as large as the nature of reality, meaning, consciousness, etc. into a profound synthesis. My way of thinking about myself, the world and Spirit were widened and deepened. Both fundamental AND significant -- and before this book I couldn't have told you the difference!
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on 13 June 1998
If you're at all interested in the nature of our existence--past, present, and future--the nature of nature, and the essence of Reality itself, you can find no better book. _SES_ is a stunning masterpiece, extremely readable (compelling, even), and I recommend it to anyone living this Divine dream we call life.
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on 12 November 1998
In the world of psychology/philosophy/religion, this is the greatest book I've ever read. It absolutely stunned me, even after reading some of his other works and getting his whole jist. It helps to have a bit of background in psychology or philosophy or religion to get the most out of it. If not, read his more digestible Brief History Of Everything instead. Regardless, read this guy!
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on 19 March 2016
This is Ken Wilber's magnum opus, a great behemoth of a book, tremendous in energy and ambition. It might help if before attempting it you have read one or other of his simpler introductions to Integral thought, or perhaps the Ken Wilber Reader. But (being basically on his side) I found this an exhilarating read...brilliant from beginning to end, opinionated, argumentative, and hope-giving. The footnotes alone are worth the price of the book. Wonderful, though not for the faint-hearted.
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on 21 May 2015
very good
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on 29 March 1999
Certainly SES in the best intent one can find to transcend dualism, or the reductionism tendency. Arthur Koestler Holon concept, some sort of basic unit system concept, Teilhard de Chardin law of "complexity-consciousness" and the within and the without, noosphere teilhard concepts are resumed in twelve categories or twenty tenets, that certainly are a real synthesis of all that is necessary to transcend dualism. Well documented and based on Habermas work too, is an original framework though, that must be read by all those interested in a new integrative worldview.
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on 7 November 2005
This guy is the man. Really. I mean really. You've got to read this book. Please do. Please.
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