You Are the River

Ken Wilber, the leading voice in the integral movement and founder of Integral Institute, was interviewed by Salon about his work and that interview, “You Are the River“, graces the site’s main page today. Ken has worked with tremendous insight and love to craft the finest maps of our experiences and his integral framework is a tremendous treasure. The interview has been linked to throughout the integral community today and is a nice introduction to Ken and and his integral philosophy.

In the interview Ken touches on the limitations of scientific materialism, the absurdities of the new age movement, the relationships the founders of quantum mechanics had with mysticism, human development, and facing death. Ken, as always, presents his work with a rare humility and eloquence.

Ken Wilber may be the most important living philosopher you’ve never heard of. He’s written dozens of books but you’d be hard-pressed to find his name in a mainstream magazine. Still, Wilber has a passionate — almost cultlike — following in certain circles, as well as some famous fans. Bill Clinton and Al Gore have praised Wilber’s books. Deepak Chopra calls him “one of the most important pioneers in the field of consciousness.” And the Wachowski Brothers asked Wilber, along with Cornel West, to record the commentary for the DVDs of their “Matrix” movies.

You’ve written that many of the great 20th century physicists — Einstein, Bohr, Planck, Heisenberg — were actually mystics, even though none of them thought science had any connection to religion.

I wouldn’t say it quite that strongly. What happened is they investigated the physical realm so intensely in looking for answers, and when they didn’t find these answers, they became metaphysical. I collected the writings of the 13 major founders of quantum mechanics. They were saying physics has been used since time immemorial to both prove and disprove God. Both views are fundamentally misguided. These physicists became deep mystics not because of physics, but because of the limitations of physics.

So understanding that physics can only go so far — that there are many things it can’t explain — is ultimately a mystical position?

That’s correct. These are brilliant writings. They’re really quite extraordinary. Not many people realize that Erwin Schrödinger, the founder of quantum mechanics, had a deep satori experience. He found that the position that most matched his own was Vedantic Hinduism — that pure awareness is aware of all objects but cannot itself become an object. It’s the way into the door of realizing ultimate reality. Werner Heisenberg had similar experiences. And Sir Arthur Eddington was probably the most eloquent of the lot. All of them basically said that science neither proves nor disproves emptiness.

Does the prospect of dying frighten you?

Not really. What comes up is just thoughts of how much work in the world there is still to do. And with this recent experience — letting me know that Big Mind is what there is — that fundamental fear of dying has basically left. Still, when someone asks if I have a fear of dying, I find myself hesitating. What goes through my mind is positive stuff — friends that I would lose and work that needs to be done.

For more on Ken Wilber and the integral movement, take a look at “Your Four Quadrants“, “The Perspective-Taking You“, “Spiritual Agreement” and “The Integral Vision“.

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