Ken Wilber

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Ken Wilber

Kenneth "Ken" Earl Wilber Jr. (born January 31, 1949 in Oklahoma City ) is an American author in the field of integral theory who mainly writes on psychology , philosophy , mysticism and spiritual evolution. In 1998 he founded the Integral Institute . He lives and works in Denver .


Wilber was born in Oklahoma City in 1949. From 1967 he enrolled as a medical student at Duke University . He dealt with Far Eastern literature and philosophy, especially the Daodejing . He moved to the state University of Nebraska-Lincoln , but left this without a degree to devote himself to his private studies and to write books. His first book, The Spectrum of Consciousness , was published in 1973 .

In 1983 Ken Wilber and Terry Killam married. When his wife developed breast cancer, he restricted his writing activities for a few years in order to be able to cultivate her. In 1987 the couple moved to Boulder, Colorado . She died in 1989. The book Grace and Grit was published in 1991 about their experiences together .

Wilber co-founded the Center for World Spirituality in 2011 , where he worked with former Orthodox Rabbi Marc Gafni. In 2014 the institute was renamed the Center for Integral Wisdom .


Ken Wilber deals with the merging of philosophy , science and religion , the experiences of the mystics and meditation . He sees himself as a protagonist of integral thinking and as a representative of a post-post-modern, post-metaphysical and post-rational spirituality of “neo-perennialism” (as opposed to the actual Philosophia perennis ). His integral philosophy is based on Far Eastern wisdom traditions of non-dualism and should develop them further.

Wilber invokes the teachings of Plotinus , Meister Eckhart , Sri Aurobindo , German idealism , Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism , Jean Gebser , Jürgen Habermas , Jean Piaget , Lawrence Kohlberg , Arthur Koestler , Teilhard de Chardin , Alfred North Whitehead , Clare W. Graves , Rupert Sheldrake , Jiddu Krishnamurti, and many others. He wants to show the strengths and weaknesses of different ideological and philosophical directions and develop a theoretical framework in which different traditions have a place. That is why this school of thought is called "Integral Theory".

In return, Wilber criticizes the theory of evolution in particular . In particular, the idea of ​​mass, random mutations is implausible.


For a long time Wilber's main work was Eros Kosmos Logos , published in 1995 (original title: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality). In the first part he deals with systems theories , in the second with the history of philosophy with reference to other branches of science such as physics , biology , sociology or psychology . In addition, religious thoughts and elements of natural philosophy flow into Wilber's thinking. He claims to unite competing schools of thought and scientific disciplines in a philosophical “ Theory of Everything ” .

In Integrale Spiritualität (2007) he postulates the necessity of integrating spirituality in modern and postmodern times, and at the same time the development possibilities of pre-modern religion that could enable this integration. For this he appeals to theologians such as Hans Küng , Raimon Panikkar , John Shelby Spong , Stanley Grenz and Kevin J. Vanhoozer.

Wilbers around 20 books have been published so far in 30 languages.

Wilber's theories

Wilber distinguishes and uses consistently two apparently identical pairs of terms, the first of which is used in "colloquial" and the second in "expanded form". The second form is identified (in the German translation) by a special spelling:

narrower meaning
extended form
higher meaning
" Noospheric " force Mind
the thinking mind or mind
the transcendent spirit, the highest omnipotence ("God")
"Everything": the entirety Cosmos
the material universe, space
the totality of matter, life, spirit and SPIRIT

The expanded form contains and encloses the colloquial term, so it is located on a higher holarchical level in Wilber's terminology .

This “double” use of terms (in a restricted or universal form) can be found in many areas of philosophy, for example with the term “ soul ”. In “Kósmos”, the accent on the “o” is intended to suggest the ancient Greek meaning.

Theory of levels

A basic idea in Wilber's theories are levels of consciousness, which the individual passes through in his opinion in the course of personality development. He points to parallels between different models that postulate different levels, but basically a comparable sequence of levels, for example in Jean Gebser (culture), Don Beck / Spiral Dynamics (values), Abraham Maslow ( levels of need), Jean Piaget (cognitive Development), Erik H. Erikson (Psychosocial Development), Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan (Moral Development), James W. Fowler (Stages of Belief), Clare W. Graves (Personality Development ) , Jane Loevinger ( Self Development ), and others.

Different levels can be confused; Wilber refers to this as pre / post mix-up or pre / trans mix-up. For example, in Kohlberg's theory of moral development, the pre-conventional and post-conventional levels are similar because they are both non-conventional.

Self-transcendence integral Transcendent (coral) (Transpersonal common good) (Polyvalent Logic -

Systems of systems)

7. universally spiritual
Self-actualization Global view (turquoise) Universal common good
Flexibility and flow (yellow) 6. universally ethical
Self-esteem Mentally Human Bond (Green) Connected, pluralistic (Crossing)
Strive and seek (orange) Individually reflexive Formal-operational 5. Previous rights / social contract
Conventional 4th / 5th crossing
Affiliation Mythical Power of truth (blue) Concrete-operational 4. Law and order
Mythically literal 3. Approval by others
safety Magical Power Gods (Red) Projective-magical intuitive (conceptual) 2. naive hedonism
Ancestral spirits (purple) preconceptual 1. Punishment and obedience
Physical needs Archaic Will to survive (beige) Preverbal Sensorimotor 0. magical wish
Spiral Dynamics
Spiritual Intelligence

Cognitive development


Moral development

Wilber also describes various lines of development. People can be differently developed in the cognitive, emotional, moral, interpersonal, psycho-sexual and spiritual line (e.g. cognitively developed and emotionally less developed or vice versa).

Lines can be confused with planes. In particular, the spiritual line is often equated with the mythical level of the spiritual line, which can lead to either the entire spiritual line being viewed as immature because of the immaturity of the mythical level (undifferentiated criticism of religion that the child pours out with the bath) or that the mythical level is seen as the only valid form of expression of religion (from a conservative point of view).

A distinction is made between waking, dreaming and deep sleep as basic states of consciousness , as well as meditative states (triggered e.g. by yoga , contemplative prayer or meditation ), changed states (e.g. by drugs ) and peak experiences (e.g. in lovemaking , in nature or through music ).

All of these states can occur at every stage of development (also called development level) and are interpreted and implemented according to the respective level. For example, people who are morally at an ethnocentric level of development can have deep mystical experiences and represent nationalist ideas. For this reason, Wilber attaches great importance to promoting the development of consciousness in terms of stages and not just states.

Each of the components mentioned can express themselves in different types. Examples of types are male and female or the Myers-Briggs type theory .


Although Wilber is concerned with academic philosophy and psychology, his work has hardly reached the respective disciplines. Jennifer Gidley compares Rudolf Steiner's pedagogical approaches with Wilber. Numerous critics point to problems with Wilber's interpretations and accuse him of inaccurate quoting. The sociologist and philosopher David C. Lane writes that Wilber does not seem to have understood the theory of evolution.


  • The Spectrum of Consciousness , 1977 (German: The Spectrum of Consciousness , ISBN 3-499-18593-8 )
  • No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth , 1979 (German Paths to Self , ISBN 3-442-21844-6 )
  • The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development , 1980 (German The Atman Project , ISBN 3-87387-016-9 ) - (revised new edition of the translation, 2012: The Atman Project - Striving of the Soul for Unity , ISBN 978 -3-9813389-8-0 )
  • Up From Eden: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution , 1981, (German Halftime of Evolution , ISBN 3-596-13210-X )
  • A Sociable God: A Brief Introduction to a Transcendental Sociology , 1983 ( The believing man , ISBN 3-442-14042-0 )
  • Eye to Eye: The Quest for the New Paradigm , 1983 (German: The three eyes of knowledge , ISBN 3-466-34195-7 )
  • Grace and Grit: Spirituality and Healing in the Life and Death of Treya Killam Wilber , 1992 (German Courage and Grace , ISBN 3-442-42740-1 )
  • Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution , 1995 (German Eros, Kosmos, Logos , ISBN 3-596-14974-6 )
  • A Brief History of Everything , 1996 (German A Brief History of the Cosmos , ISBN 3-596-13397-1 )
  • The Eye of Spirit. An Integral Vision for a World Gone Slightly Mad , 1997 (German: Das Wahre, Schöne, Gute , ISBN 3-596-15217-8 )
  • The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion , 1998 (German natural science and religion , ISBN 3-8105-2334-8 )
  • One Taste: Daily Reflections on Integral Spirituality , 1999 (German simply "Das" , ISBN 3-596-15072-8 )
  • A Theory of Everything. An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality , 2000 (German holistic action , ISBN 3-924195-79-X )
  • Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy , 2000 (German Integral Psychology ISBN 3-924195-69-2 )
  • Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free! , 2002 (German Boomeritis , ISBN 3-933321-69-7 )
  • Integral Spirituality: A Startling New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World , 2006 (German Integral Spirituality , ISBN 3-466-34509-X )
  • The Integral Vision: A Very Short Introduction to the Revolutionary Integral Approach to Life, God, the Universe, and Everything , 2007 (German Integrale Vision , ISBN 978-3-466-34508-3 )
  • Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening , 2008 (German Integrale Lebenspraxis , ISBN 978-3-466-34545-8 )
  • The Fourth Turning: Imagining the Evolution of an Integral Buddhism , 2014 (Kindle Abstract)
  • Integral Meditation: Mindfulness as a Way to Grow Up, Wake Up, and Show Up in Your Life , 2016, ISBN 9781611802986 (German. Integral Meditation. Growing, awakening and becoming free within. 2017. ISBN 978-3-426-29268- 6 )
  • The Religion of Tomorrow. A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions - More Inclusive, More Comprehensive, More Complete , 2017, ISBN 9781611803006
  • Trump and a Post-Truth World , 2017, ISBN 9781611805611

See also


Web links

Commons : Ken Wilber  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Scholars . Center for World Spirituality. 2013. Accessed March 9, 2013.
  2. Mark D. Forman, A guide to integral psychotherapy: complexity, integration, and spirituality in practice, SUNY Press 2010, p. 9. ISBN 978-1-4384-3023-2
  3. a b
  4. Ken Wilber: Science and Religion. The reconciliation of wisdom and knowledge . 1998, ISBN 3-8105-2334-8 , pages 9 and 13
  5. Marian de Souza (ed.), International Handbook of Education for Spirituality, Care and Wellbeing, Springer 2009, p. 427. ISBN 978-1-4020-9017-2
  6. ^ Juxtapositions in Integral Vision , p. 112 f, detailed in Integrale Psychologie , p. 221 ff
  7. Integrale Vision , p. 123 ff., Integrale Spiritualität , p. 81 ff.
  8. Integral Vision , p. 37 ff.
  9. Integral Spirituality , p. 252 ff.
  10. Integral Spirituality pp. 15, 107 ff.
  11. See also excerpt from Integral Spirituality ( memento of the original from January 11, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 634 kB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  12. Integral Spirituality, p. 397
  13. Carol Gilligan: The Other Voice. Life conflicts and morals of women. Munich 1982
  14. ^ Gidley, J. Educational Imperatives of the Evolution of Consciousness: The Integral Visions of Rudolf Steiner and Ken Wilber , The International Journal of Children's Spirituality. 12 (2): 170-135.
  15. Frank Visser, On the Importance of Independent Integral Research , accessed April 10, 2016