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A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality

A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality

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by Ken Wilber

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Here is a concise, comprehensive overview of Wilber's revolutionary thought and its application in today's world. In A Theory of Everything, Wilber uses clear, nontechnical language to present complex, cutting-edge theories that integrate the realms of body, mind, soul, and spirit. He then demonstrates how these theories and models can be applied to


Here is a concise, comprehensive overview of Wilber's revolutionary thought and its application in today's world. In A Theory of Everything, Wilber uses clear, nontechnical language to present complex, cutting-edge theories that integrate the realms of body, mind, soul, and spirit. He then demonstrates how these theories and models can be applied to real-world problems in areas such as politics, medicine, business, education, and the environment. Wilber also discusses daily practices that readers take up in order to apply this integrative vision to their own everyday lives.

Product Details

Publication date:
Shambhala Publications
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Amazing Spiral

We live in an extraordinary time:

all of the world's cultures, past and present, are to some degree available to us,
either in historical records or as living entities. In the history of the planet Earth, this has never happened before.

It seems hard to imagine, but for humanity's entire stay on this planet—for some million years up to the present—a person was born into a culture that knew virtually nothing about any other. You were, for example, born a Chinese,
raised a Chinese, married a Chinese, and followed a Chinese religion—often living in the same hut for your entire life, on a spot of land that your ancestors settled for centuries. From isolated tribes and bands, to small farming villages, to ancient nations, to conquering feudal empires, to international corporate states, to global village: the extraordinary growth toward an integral village that seems humanity's destiny.

So it is that the leading edge of consciousness evolution stands today on the brink of an integral millennium—or at least the possibility of an integral millennium—where the sum total of extant human knowledge, wisdom, and technology is available to all. And sooner or later we will have, of course, a
Theory of Everything to explain it all . . .

as we will see, there are several obstacles to that integral understanding,
even in the most developed populations. Moreover, there is the more typical or average mode of consciousness, which is far from integral anything and is in desperate need of its own tending. Both of those pressing issues—the integral vision as it relates to the most developed and the modestly developed populations—are some of the central topics of this book. Even if we have a
Theory of Everything that charitably embraces all and unduly marginalizes none,
will it really benefit all peoples? And how can we help to ensure that it does?

In short, what is the status of the integral vision in today's world, both in the cultural elite and in the world at large? Let us start with the leading edge,
and the many obstacles to an integral vision in our cultural elite.

Fragmentation at the

the word means to integrate, to bring together, to join, to link, to embrace. Not in the sense of uniformity, and not in the sense of ironing out all the wonderful differences, colors, zigs and zags of a rainbow-hued humanity, but in the sense of unity-in-diversity, shared commonalities along with our wonderful differences. And not just in humanity, but in the Kosmos at large: finding a more comprehensive view—a Theory of Everything (T.O.E.)—that makes legitimate room for art, morals, science, and religion, and doesn't merely attempt to reduce them all to one's favorite slice of the Kosmic pie.

of course, if we succeed in developing a truly holistic or integral view of reality, then we will also develop a new type of critical theory—that is, a theory that is critical of the present state of affairs in light of a more encompassing and desirable state, both in the individual and the culture at large. The integral paradigm will inherently be critical of those approaches that are, by comparison, partial, narrow, shallow, less encompassing, less integrative.

We will be exploring this integral vision, this T.O.E., in the following pages.
But it is definitely not a final view or a fixed view or the only view; just a view that attempts to honor and include as much research as possible from the largest number of disciplines in a coherent fashion (which is one definition of an integral or more comprehensive view of the Kosmos).

Yet the very attempt itself does raise the interesting question: can a truly integral vision exist in today's climate of culture wars, identity politics, a million new and conflicting paradigms, deconstructive postmodernism, nihilism,
pluralistic relativism, and the politics of self? Can a T.O.E. even be recognized, let alone accepted, in such a cultural state? Aren't the cultural elite themselves in as fragmented and rancorous a state as ever? Perhaps, the masses of humanity are bent on tribal warfare and ethnocentric cleansing; but what if the cultural elite itself is likewise so inclined?

We are talking, in other words, about the leading edge of consciousness evolution itself, and whether even the leading edge is truly ready for an integral vision. In the end we will find, I believe, that there is some very good news in all this; but first, a little bit of what I see as the bad news.


The baby boomer generation has, like any generation, its strengths and weaknesses.
Its strengths include an extraordinary vitality, creativity, and idealism, plus a willingness to experiment with new ideas beyond traditional values. Some social observers have seen in the boomers an "awakening generation,"
evidenced by an extraordinary creativity in everything from music to computer technology, political action to lifestyles, ecological sensitivity to civil rights. I believe there is much truth and goodness in those endeavors, to the boomers' considerable credit.

Boomer weaknesses, most critics agree, include an unusual dose of self-absorption and narcissism, so much so that most people, boomers included, simply nod their heads in acknowledgment when the phrase "the Me generation" is mentioned.

it seems that my generation is an extraordinary mixture of greatness and narcissism, and that strange amalgam has infected almost everything we do. We don't seem content to simply have a fine new idea, we must have the new paradigm that will herald one of the greatest transformations in the history of the world. We don't really want to just recycle bottles and paper; we need to see ourselves dramatically saving the planet and saving Gaia and resurrecting the Goddess that previous generations had brutally repressed but we will finally liberate. We aren't able to tend our garden; we must be transfiguring the face of the planet in the most astonishing global awakening history has ever seen. We seem to need to see ourselves as the vanguard of something unprecedented in all of history: the extraordinary wonder of being us.

it can be pretty funny if you think about it, and I truly don't mean any of this in a harsh way. Each generation has its foibles; this appears to be ours,
at least to some degree. But I believe few of my generation escape this narcissistic mood. Many social critics have agreed, and not just in such penetrating works as Lasch's
Culture of Narcissism,
Habits of the Heart,
The Narcissistic American.
Surveying the present state of cultural studies even in American universities, Professor
Frank Lentricchia, writing in
lingua franca: The Review of Academic Life,
"It is impossible, this much is clear, to exaggerate the heroic self-inflation of academic literary and cultural criticism."

ouch. But it's true that if you peruse books on cultural studies, alternative spirituality, the new paradigm, and the great transformation that will occur if the world simply listens to the author and his or her revolutionary ideas,
sooner or later this "heroic self-inflation" starts to get to you.
Curious as to what all the self-inflation might actually mean, I researched and wrote a book about this strange affliction that seems to shadow my generation,
this odd mixture of remarkably high cognitive capacity and wonderfully creative intelligence coupled with an unusual dose of emotional narcissism. Of course,
as I said, all previous generations had their own imperfections aplenty; I am by no means picking on boomers. It is just that "awakening generations" often have a particularly intense downside, simply because they are so intense in general, and for boomers, it appears to be a bit of self-inflation, a love affair
avec soi
(along the lines of Oscar Levant's quip to Gershwin: "Tell me, George, if you had it to do all over again, would you still fall in love with yourself?")

called the book
It chronicled dozens of areas and disciplines where an important but partial truth was blown all out of proportion by an overestimation of the power and importance of the self.

In a moment I will briefly outline its general conclusions, only because, as I
said, this relates directly to an integral vision and its reception in today's world. The idea is simple enough: the Culture of Narcissism is antithetical to an integral culture (because narcissistic, isolated selves strenuously resist communion). And thus the point remains: is the world ready for integral anything? If not, what is preventing it?

What People are Saying About This

Jon Kabat-Zinn
A vision of breath-taking profundity and significance...an infinitude of wisdom and compassion.
—(Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, University of Massachusetts Medical School)
Deepak Chopra
I read Ken Wilber every day so I can be inspired by the most extraordinary mind of our times.
Michael Lerner
Ken Wilber is one of the most creative spiritual thinkers alive today, and A Theory of Everything is an accessible taste of his brilliance. Like a masterful conductor, he brings everyone in, finds room for science and spirit, and creates music for the soul.
—(Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor-in-chief, Tikkun magazine, author of Jewish Renewal and The Politics of Meaning)
Warren Bennis
This is the book I've been longing for, one that is written with astonishing lucidity about human development and spirituality and makes plain how these abstract and complicated ideas can be integrated into our every day lives.
—(Warren Bennis, Professor, University of Southern California, author of On Becoming a Leader)
Ken Garrison
To my mind, Ken Wilber is the most sublime thinker since Plato and provides all of us with a vision of life and the cosmos which inseparably fuses spirit into the matrix of everything we say and do. Reading Ken Wilber is a must, and A Theory of Everything is the place to begin.
—(Jim Garrison, President, State of the World Forum)

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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A Theory Of Everything: An Integral Vision For Business, Politics, Science And Spirituality 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ken Wilber, the master of integration, is full of very interesting ideas and insights. Even if you do not agree with some of his ideas, it is very interesting and worth contemplating. In this book, Wilber convincingly writes that the four quadrants are highly related to each other, and that they need to be integrated in order to advance our understanding of things. However, he really does not go into much detail about how we can go about doing this. I found that the book called the 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato goes one step further and actually attempts an integration of these four quadrants. This fantastic book by Sato is a little more readable and takes this idea to an even more advanced level. Both books should be on your must read list if you are interested in the intersection between psychology, philosophy, and spirituality.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although the essence of Wilber's theory is most comprehensively explained in 'Sex, Ecology, and Spirituality', this book contains many of his newer theoretical developments as well as more practical applications using his theory. It is very interesting that he relates some of our current social/political/environmental problems to the recent culture of baby boomers. Regardless with whether you agree with it or not it, this book is very thought provoking and well worth a read. If you like books that try to explain everything using one theory, I also recommend 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato. It is amazingly written so that it is full of wisdom, intellectually stimulating and easy to understand!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The one thing Wilber is a master of is: presenting others' thoughts to his readers, and then cutting a pasting them onto his superficial and glib schema. There's no end to the confusions engendered by his fast-and-easy constructions, but in this particular book he demonstrate more concretely where things go wrong with 'all-level, all quadrant, all lines, etc, etc.' One confusion consists in his equating 'levels of representation or interpretation' with 'levels of reality': he is here altogether too Platonic and fails to appreciate the reach of negative, discriminatory consciousness (in the sense of the discriminative structure of A/not-A, subject/object in the construction of 'the world'). He therefore involves himself in amazing contortions and self-qualifications in oreder to 'explain' how rational thought gets involved in his differing levels of reality - e.g., 'cross-level analysis' and so forth. And, how is it that the green meme folk are so immature, adolescent, and narcissistic in appearance? Wilber has to invent Boomeritis, a grand 'cross-level' slight of hand to save the 'greens' from being reduced to a simple regressive anti-hierachical ontological construction: he rather, though, believe that the green meme represents millions on the brink of worldwide mysticism. It is for the same reason that he treats nearly anyone whose name is mentionable in philosophical, aesthetic, or political literature as a mystic, including even Herr Hitler. Wilber altogther fails to understand the basis and extent of negational consciousness - and this distorts his otherwise good account of levels of awareness. He does not seem to know where representational thinking begins and where it ends; so we find the marks of objectivistic rational thinking or symbolic thinking strewn all over the place - e.g., chakra 1 as materialistic, or the objectivistic thinking of the blue meme as mythic, or the mythic as chakra 6 (diety mysticism, in his words). By making self-realization overly natural and even inevitable across time (barring self-destruction, blah, blah, blah), he wholly simplifies what it takes to achieve it and therefore thinks he sees evidence of it all around him ... especially in the mirror, I guess. But someone once said, 'Yes, dogs have Buddha nature, but not you ...' And lastly, would Shambhala please stop placing on Wilber's cover jackets silly quotes from Wilber's coterie of self-appointed twentieth century geniuses, stating that Wilber is right up there with Whitehead, Jung, Heidegger, Aurobindo, et al. I don't know how Wilber takes it, but I find it embarrassing even to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is utterly astonishing and quite unique. The author integrates, within a deeply-rooted Christian perspective, a vast range of intellectual and spiritual streams. I am nearing the end of my second reading of the book, and find it never ceases to challenge, to inspire, to enlighten, even to heal. My copy has a picture of the Hermit on the front cover, and studying it can quite appropriately be a very solitary pursuit. However, my own appreciation of the work has been deepened by contact with members of the scattered but growing community of readers on the internet. I would be delighted to hear from any other students of the book and to let you know what resources are available.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are some people that suggest that Wilber has been too repetitive in his last few books. That he's simply been repeating the same basic refrain over and over again. I can understand that criticism, but I disagree with it. A Theory of Everything does repeat his basic integral theory which he has explained in other books, but it is a complex theory, and I find it incredibly useful to have new books in which he expands the examples of his theory. My own feeling is that the integral theory is a very important theory to understand, so the more in depth Wilber goes, the happier I am, as I feel like I have a greater grasp of what he's speaking about. As an aside, there is a wondeful novel called We All Fall Down by Brian Caldwell which seems to take quite a bit of Wilber's theory, and even mentions him several times in the book. The novel is a great example of a man caught trying to transform his life into something better, but who is able only to translate. It's about the frustration and difficulties in trying to move up to the next level of consciousness. Techinically, it's set in a Christian framework, but it elevates past that small structure and uses it to really bring home quite a few of Wilber's theories. It's a wonderful novel and I'd highly recomend it to any fan of Wilber.