Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free

Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free

by Ken Wilber

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Wilber's latest book is a daring departure from his previous writings—a highly
original work of fiction that combines brilliant scholarship with
tongue-in-cheek storytelling to present the integral approach to human
development that he expounded in more conventional terms in his recent
Theory of Everything.


Wilber's latest book is a daring departure from his previous writings—a highly
original work of fiction that combines brilliant scholarship with
tongue-in-cheek storytelling to present the integral approach to human
development that he expounded in more conventional terms in his recent
Theory of Everything.

story of a naïve young grad student in computer science and his quest for
meaning in a fragmented world provides the setting in which Wilber contrasts
the alienated "flatland" of scientific materialism with the integral
vision, which embraces body, mind, soul, and spirit in self, culture, and
nature. The book especially targets one of the most stubborn obstacles to
realizing the integral vision: a disease of egocentrism and narcissism that
Wilber calls "boomeritis" because it seems to plague the baby-boomer
generation most of all.

a series of sparkling seminar-lectures skillfully interwoven with the hero's
misadventures in the realms of sex, drugs, and popular culture, all of the
major tenets of extreme postmodernism are criticized—and
exemplified—including the author's having a bad case of boomeritis himself.
Parody, intellectual slapstick, and a mind-twisting surprise ending unite to
produce a highly entertaining summary of the work of cutting-edge theorists in
human development from around the world.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wilber (A Brief History of Everything) shifts (sort of) from philosophy to fiction in this story about a young MIT grad student's journey to self-discovery, which is finally little more than a thinly veiled attempt to outline and promote a theory of consciousness. Dubbed Ken Wilber, just like his creator, the novel's protagonist finds answers in his search for identity when he attends a series of consciousness lectures at an institute called the Integral Center. There, Wilber is exposed to an eight-level theory of consciousness and buys into the lecturer's premise that baby-boomers made the first step into higher awareness before they got "stuck" in their own narcissism and self-absorption, leaving it to subsequent generations to take things to the next level. Wilber makes a halfhearted effort to inject some plot elements as he tracks his friends' romances and their reaction to the theory, but most of this book is a lengthy rant about the shortcomings of boomers, padded with analysis of various thinkers, political movements and the effect of computers on modern thought. Wilber (the author) has some interesting ideas but, philosophical issues aside, this isn't much of a novel, and Wilber's failure to develop a coherent narrative, some semblance of a plot or interesting characters will deter many readers. (June 11) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Wilber here introduces concepts discussed in his Integral Psychology in the form of a highly entertaining postmodernist novel. Wilber's central character, also named Ken Wilber, is a student at MIT who is energized by his belief that within 30 years artificial intelligence (AI) will have so progressed that humans can upload their consciousness and move from carbon-based to silicon-based life forms. One day he stumbles into an integral psychology seminar and comes to realize that what humans do with these next 30 carbon-based years will greatly affect the AI of the future. The entire seminar is presented within the framework of the novel, along with lunchtime synthesis and analysis presented by Ken and his friends (representatives of Gen X and Y), with Ken's sexual fantasies intruding at regular intervals. Integral psychology is based on levels of consciousness, along with the belief that Gen X and Y will be the first to enter the second tier of consciousness. The boomers came close but then got bogged down in egocentrism and ethnocentrism. Unfortunately, as Ken and his friends are discovering, boomers are ruling the world and trying to perpetuate their flawed philosophies. Boomeritis is destined to be a cult classic and is recommended for all libraries. Debbie Bogenshutz, Cincinnati State & Technical Coll. Lib. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Self-proclaimed philosopher and creator of a "genuine world philosophy" Wilber (The Marriage of Sense and Soul, 1998) delivers a talky and tedious so-called novel of ideas to explain a cloying system of categorization, the need for which is never made clear. Wilber's main character is a young graduate student named Ken Wilber, who is obsessed with the "fact" that artificial intelligence will exceed human intelligence in about 30 years. But forget plot: this is postmodernism, and what we get is the thinnest sheen of narrative as Ken attends lecture after lecture of busty professorettes who sound as though they are reading excerpts from Wilber's exhausting explanation of modern society. The strategy seems to be that popularization of New Age sociology can be achieved through personality color-coding: for example, archaics are beige, animists are red, mythics are blue, etc., a notion pounded home repeatedly. The title comes from the supposition that the baby boomer generation displays a good deal of narcissism. In making the accusation, it can be argued, Wilber engages in a good bit of the same himself, and seemingly the best justification he dredges up for all the hyper-jargon and semi-technical tongue-twisters here comes in eighth-grade double-entendres delivered in bold script through Chloe, a faceless nympho vixen who reminds us that, in the end, thinking is no fun unless there's sex involved. The story provides excuses for professors to say things like "But in order to move into second tier, the fixation to pluralism and the green meme in general needs to be relaxed" and for Chloe to say things like "If we live 200,000 years, you and I will be able to make love at least a billiontimes." But the more important agenda is the hodge-podge and ongoing survey of recent postmodern scholarship and goofy New Age brain-teasers examined through the paradigm of an inescapably wacky pseudo-philosophy. L. Ron Hubbard on a skateboard.

Product Details

Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
Shambhala Publications
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
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Read an Excerpt

am the bastard child of two deeply confused parents, one of whom I am ashamed
of, the other of whom is ashamed of me. None of us are on speaking terms, for
which we are all grateful. (These things bother you, every now and then.) My
parents are intimately conjoined in their displeasure with the present; both
want to replace it—quickly—with a set of arrangements more suited to their
inclinations. One wants to tear down; the other, to build up. You might think
they were made for each other, would go together, hand in hand, a marriage made
in transformational heaven. Years after the divorce, none of us is so sure.

of them breathes the fire of revolutionary insurrection, and wants to tear down
the oppressive forces of a cruel and careless yesterday, digging beneath the
veneer of civilized madness to find, it is devoutly hoped, an original human
goodness long buried by the brutalities of a modern world rubbed raw by
viciousness. One of them dreamily gazes in the other direction, standing on
tiptoes and straining to see the foggy face of the future, to a coming world
transformation—I'm told it will be perhaps the greatest in all of history—and
begins to swoon with the bliss of beautiful things about to unfold before us;
she is a gentle person and sees the world that way. But I am cursed with an eye
from each, and can hardly see the world at all through two orbs that refuse to
cooperate; cross-eyed I stare at that which is before me, a Picasso universe
where things don't quite line up. Or perhaps I see more clearly precisely
because of that?

much seems certain: I am a child of the times, and the times point in two
wildly incompatible directions. On the one hand, we hear constantly that the
world is a fragmented, torn, and tortured affair, on the tremulous verge of
collapse, with massive and huge civilization blocks pulling apart from each
other with increasingly alienated intent, so much so that international culture
wars are the greatest threat of the future. Cyber-age technology is proceeding
at a pace so rapid that, it is said, within 30 years we will have machines
reaching human-level intelligence, and at the same time advances in genetic
engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics will mean the possible end of
humanity altogether: we will either be replaced by machines or destroyed by a
white plague—and what kind of future is that for a kid? At home we are faced
with the daily, hourly, minutely examples of a society coming apart at the
seams: a national illiteracy rate that has skyrocketed from 5% in 1960 to 30%
today; 51% of the children in New York City born out of wedlock; armed militias
scattered about Montana like Nazi bunkers on the beaches of Normandy, braced
for the invasion; a series of culture wars, gender wars, ideology wars in
academia that parallel in viciousness, if not in means, the multicultural
aggression on the international scene. My father's eyeball in my head sees a
world of pluralistic fragmentation, ready to disintegrate, leaving in its
riotous wake a mangled mass of human suffering historically unprecedented.

mother's eye sees quite another world, yet every bit as real: we are
increasingly becoming one global family, and love by any other name seems the
driving force. Look at the history of the human race itself: from isolated
tribes and bands, to large farming towns, to city-states, to conquering feudal
empires, to international states, to worldwide global village. And now, on the
eve of the millennium, we face a staggering transformation the likes of which
humanity has never seen, where human bonding so deep and so profound will find
Eros pulsing gloriously through the veins of each and all, signaling the dawn
of a global consciousness that will transfigure the world as we know it. She is
a gentle person and sees the world that way. I share neither of their views;
or, rather, I share them both, which makes me nearly insane. Clearly twin
forces, though not alone, are eating away at the world: planetization and
disintegration, unifying love and corrosive death-wishes, bonding kindness and
disjointing cruelty, on a colossal scale. And the bastard, schizophrenic,
seizure-prone son sees the world as if through shattered glass, moving his head
slowly back and forth while waiting for coherent images to form, wondering what
it all means.

the Picasso-like fragments assemble themselves into something of postmodern
art, flowing images start to congeal: perhaps there are in- deed integrating,
bonding, unifying forces at work in the world, a God or Goddess's love of
gentle persuasion, slowly but inexorably increasing human understanding, care,
and compassion. And perhaps there are likewise currents viciously dedicated to
disrupting any such integral embrace. And perhaps they are indeed at war, a war
that will not cease until one of them is dead—a world united, or a world torn
apart: love on the one hand, or blood all over the brand-new carpet. What
immediately tore at my attention, all that year, was the three-decade mark of
Armageddon doom rushing at me from tomorrow: in 30 years (30 years!), machines
will reach human-level intelligence, and beyond. And then human beings will
almost certainly be replaced by machines—they will outsmart us, after all. Or,
more likely, we—human beings, our minds or our consciousness or some
such—would download into computers, we would transfer our souls into the new
machines—and what kind of future was that for a kid?

was the year the event occurred, altering my fate irrevocably, a year in the
life of a human machine that miraculously came to life. It was a year of ideas
that hurt my head, made my brain sore and swollen, it seemed literally to
expand and push against my skull, bulging out my eyes, throbbing at my temples,
tearing into the world. Of that year, I recall almost no geographical locations
at all. I remember little scenery, few actual places, hardly an exterior, just
a stream of conversations and blistering visions that ruined my life as I had
known it, replaced it with something humanity would never recognize, left me
immortal, stains all over my flesh, smiling at the sky.

Meet the Author

Ken Wilber is the author of over twenty books. He is the founder of Integral Institute, a think-tank for studying integral theory and practice, with outreach through local and online communities such as Integral Education Network, Integral Training, and Integral Spiritual Center.

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