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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Mired in misinformation and shoddy scholarship, 25 May 2011
This review is from: The Universe Next Door (Paperback)
This book does contain some interesting discussions on, for example, epistemology, the basis for moral values, Eastern religions, cultural relativism etc..

I get the sense that it may have been a worthwhile book when it was first published in 1976. But now, despite attempted revisions, it is looking decidedly dated. This is most apparent in the chapters on New Age and Postmodernism, and the total lack of information on the emergent Integral Worldview (which has progressed radically in the past 15 to 20 years and is now, arguably, at the forefront of cultural evolution.)

Also, it is generally weighted down by the author's own bias - worldviews are shot down in their introductory paragraphs - presented as having no value whatsoever (postmodernism being a case in point). Is there really not a single piece of wisdom salvageable from the entire postmodern enterprise?

Although I fully recognise it is written as a cross comparison from a Christian perspective, I don't believe that need result in unfair representation of opposing or differing views. In fact, I believe doing so is counter productive and morally dubious.

More importantly, and hence the one star award, the book contains some pieces of misinformation so profoundly misleading (or downright false) that the entire project must be thrown in to doubt.

One star reviews are often a sign of an over-reaction on the reviewer's part - but, as an analogy, imagine you had bought an encyclopaedia only to find that one chapter was full of false information and misleading accounts. Would you then trust the rest of the book as providing sound, reliable information? Or would you bin it and buy a decent encyclopaedia?

In `The Universe Next Door', the author mentions American philosopher and Integral Theorist Ken Wilber on a number of occasions, mostly within the chapter on New Age. I'm pretty certain that Wilber would have a lot to say about being placed in that chapter, for starters, but let's get down to specifics with a direct quote from Sire's book - in order to see the level of misinformation I'm talking about:

`Some of the most sophisticated new consciousness proponents, like Ken Wilber, are not occultists in the usual sense.'()'Rather they accept the languages of all systems of reality - the languages of sorcery and science, of witchcraft and philosophy, of drug experience and waking reality, of psychosis and normality - and they understand them all to be equally valid descriptions of reality.'...'So there is no critique of anyone's ideas or of anyone's experience.' p212 `The Universe Next Door'

This is such utter nonsense it beggars belief. Not only is it bordering on slander - implying that Wilber might be some sort of drugged up, psychotic sorcerer, but it is so utterly, bewilderingly mis-representative of Integral Theory that I can only conclude the author is either a) deliberately attempting to mislead his readers or b) has not read a single book by Wilber or c) some combination of both. Either way, it's shameful scholarship.

Firstly, and most importantly, the whole purpose of Integral Theory and practice is to orientate (the individual and collective) towards the awareness of nested holarchies (hierarchies that transcend and include). The Integral Systemic Worldview (which is entry level integral awareness as it arises in the individual) `realises that some views are more true, and less partial than others. In other words, every view is not equal' (p95 Integral Life Practice') this is so basic to the Integral Approach, that not even the most cursory glance at its propositions could miss this. It is explained in varying degrees of complexity and subtlety in every piece of Wilber's writing. It is the ground zero of Integral thought and awareness.

Secondly, the Integral worldview is not synonymous with the so-called New Age. If, as Sire suggests, New Age's prime reality is `the self', then Integral Theory does not subscribe to even the most basic prepositions of New Age. The prime reality of Integral Theory is Source, or Non-Dual Spirit - otherwise known as God. Is this too confusing to the author? Or perhaps it doesn't fit his preconceived notion that all `New Agers' are narcissistic adolescents suffering from an inflated ego and a god-delusion?

As it emerged in the sixties and seventies, transpersonal psychology was certainly influenced by New Age thought. However, things have moved on quite considerably since then. Sire has either not been paying attention, or is aware of those changes and has decided to ignore or deliberately obscure them.

None of this does Christianity, the author's chosen worldview, any favours. In fact, it is entirely counter-productive. Integral Theory is only threatening to certain levels of the Christian worldview. There are already a number of leading Christian thinkers who are embracing the Integral approach as an embellishment to their faith. Richard Rohr, Jim Marion, Carl McColman and Father Thomas Keating spring to mind. Of course, the notion of levels of consciousness might be one the author rejects, but the evidence is quite considerable and I would like to see him write off developmental psychologists such as Jean Piaget, Abraham Maslow, or Harvard professor Robert Kegan as occultists!

This book was first written in the 1970's and has gone through five revised editions. I feel it is now in need of a serious overhaul, if it is to make it to a sixth edition. One suggestion, for starters, is to try and write an account that presents the respective worldviews in ways that the holders of those views would not feel cheated, slandered or misunderstood. In other words, the author needs to grow up and get real. Next, the author should consider a complete re-write of the New age chapter removing all reference to people for whom the New Age worldview described is not representative - for example - Ken Wilber, Andrew Cohen and to a lesser, but still significant degree, Eckhart Tolle.

The names mentioned are not New Agers (as defined) because - for one - their prime reality is not the `self', as the author states. Nor does their world revolve around drugs, Age of Aquarius theories, astrology, or crystals, as the chapter would tend to (heavily)imply to those who had not previously encountered the people in question.

A new chapter needs to be included, that encapsulates the Integral (meta)worldview - a system of thought and practice that has matured and progressed incredibly in the past 10 to 15 years. The evidence for levels of consciousness cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet and since it is crucially relevant to the entire concept of worldviews it definitely needs to be addressed. I also suggest that the author either leaves that chapter to someone else to write or gets it previewed by someone suitably knowledgeable. If the author cannot bring himself to write a reasonably non-biased, informative and balanced account of the current state of affairs, just as he couldn't bring himself to write about Islam (which displays a level of passionately held faith perhaps, but is pathetic scholarship) perhaps he should consider a career elsewhere.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 31 Dec 2012 17:54:30 GMT
rwlndsn says:
This review seems to be motivated by spite that Sire does not hold the same high opinion of Ken Wilber and his 'Integral theory' as the reviewer. Whatever qualities 'Integral theory' inculcates in its followers, civility does not seem to be among them.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jan 2013 14:50:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Jan 2013 14:52:30 GMT
R. Nathan says:
Since I am interested in any educated criticism of Integral Methodological Pluralism or Ken Wilber, I would be happy to engage in a civil discussion concerning the points I raised in my review including why you consider the author's representation of said persons and approaches to be credible.

If, on the other hand, you merely wish to attempt to sully my character or make vague and unsubstantiated claims then I suggest we drop this unproductive tit-for-tat here.

Your accusation that I (and an entire community) lack civility is a bizarre one. Firstly, on re-reading my review I find it's tone to be reasonable and polite - the title is deliberately provocative but backed up by reasoned argument.

Secondly, where I come from, defending your opinions with reasoned argument and evidence is a founding principle of a civilised society.

I did question the motives of the author but for clear reasons that I set out and backed up. I couldn't see how the author had misunderstood Integral Theory and it's proponents so profoundly. My conclusion, which I stick to, was that either a) the author had not done his homework and hence the book lacks value, or b) he was deliberately misrepresenting another worldview in a book which presents itself as an even handed treatment of alternative worldviews - in which case, again, the book lacks value.


To suggest that my motives for criticism were merely spiteful is just avoiding the issue, not to mention a little hypocritical too...
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