Ken Wilber: a transpersonal view of human evolution

Our thesis is basically that consciousness is multidimensional, or that it is apparently composed of many levels; that each major school of psychology, psychotherapy and religion focuses on a different level; that these schools, therefore, are not contradictory but complementary, each approach being more or less valid as applied to its own level. In this way, a true synthesis of the main approaches to consciousness can be achieved; a synthesis, not eclecticism, that evaluates equally the introspections of Freud, Jung, Maslow… and other leading psychologists, as well as those of the great spiritual sages from Buddha to Krishnamurti.

  • Ken Wilber, El espectro de la conciencia [1977], Kairós, Barcelona, 1990, p. 11-12.

A young and enthusiastic Wilber writes this in his first essay, which is in essence the blueprint for all his later work, and indeed for transpersonal psychology as expressed in the founding act: the 1969 Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, which “is self-defined by its interest in publishing theoretical and applied research, empirical work and studies on transpersonal processes, values and states, unitive consciousness, meta-needs, peak experiences, ecstasy, mystical experience, […] meditation theories and practices, spiritual paths, compassion, transpersonal cooperation, transpersonal realization and actualization.” Names like Maslow, Grof, Goleman, Vaughan, Walsh, Tart… participate in this “fourth force” of western psychology of which Wilber will end up being one of its maximum representatives -after the emergence of humanistic psychology, the “third force”, initiated at the beginning of the 60’s by Abraham Maslow himself, among others.

However, in our country we will first receive his second book, a summarized version of the first, more accessible and aimed at a general public:

  • La conciencia sin fronteras. Aproximaciones de Oriente y Occidente al crecimiento personal [1979], Kairós, Barcelona, 1985.

The publishing house Kairós -founded by Salvador Pániker, Raimon Panikkar’s brother, and currently directed by Agustín Pániker- has since published almost all of his work, and this first book has been republished until today, a book that in Agustín’s own words is one of the publisher’s most popular and bestsellers, a true bestseller of which they have even made a Catalan translation: La consciència sense fronteres. Aproximacions d’Orient i Occident al creixement personal, Kairós, Barcelona, 2013. See Wilber’s works in the Kairós publishing house.

The work of this seminar, however, is the subject of his third book, with the accompaniment and complement of the fourth, respectively ontogeny (individual) and phylogeny (humanity) of human evolution:

  • El proyecto Atman. Una visión transpersonal del desarrollo humano [1981], Kairós, Barcelona, 1989, 19962
  • Después del Eden. Una visión transpersonal de la evolución humana [1982], Kairós, Barcelona, 1995, 20082.

The Atman project, the object of our meditated study, is an effortful, dense, schematic and penetrating synthesis which aims to integrate, on the one hand, all the works of Western evolutionary psychology -Freud (personality), Piaget (intelligence), Kohlberg (morality), Maslow (needs), Loevinger (identity), etc.- in order to explain the growth of the individual up to the point where he or she becomes a human being, and, on the other hand, to explain the growth of the individual up to the point where he or she becomes a human being. to explain the growth of the individual up to adulthood, and on the other hand, all the contributions of the sages and mystics of the various wisdom traditions, pioneers and vanguard of consciousness, which indicate that we are halfway there and that after conquering the pre-personal and personal dimensions, the trans-personal dimensions open up to us. These heroes of the spirit are those who give us news of the transpersonal realms we are called to: “mysticism of nature” of the shaman and yogi; “theistic mysticism” of the saint; “mysticism of oneness-vacuity” of the sage, who opens the doors to the advaita, “integral mysticism” of a single flavor where “All is in all”. For this description Wilber relies on the sages and mystics of the East and the West, very much in agreement in spite of the different languages, practices and contemplative methods (paths).

In Després de l’Edèn, which serves as a complementary reading, Wilber draws the epochs, eons, stages that mark the development of human consciousness throughout history, although following various lines of a tradition that goes back a long way: St. Augustine, Joachim of Fiore, Vico, Herder, Hegel, Count, Teilhard de Chardin, Aurobindo, Gebser, Neumann, Campbell, Habermas, Foucault, Trias, Panikkar himself, etc. Gathering these lines, he marks the archaic, magical, mythical, rational stages, well explained by the western tradition, and he foresees the possible ages to come, following Hinduism and Buddhism, but also Christianity.

The movement that leads from matter to the body and from the body to the mind, the soul and the spirit, constitutes the complete abstract skeleton - from alpha to omega - of history. This book, however, deals exclusively with the development from nature to the body and from the body to the rudimentary mind and the advanced mind. Ultimately, this is, from a global point of view, the culminating point that the average human consciousness has reached up to this historical moment. As Plotinus said, we have only half evolved. […] Let us bear in mind that in each of the stages of our evolution there were individuals, considerably more evolved than the rest of their fellows, who managed to enter the highest domains of the supraconscious realms: prophets, saints, shamans, sages, mystics… the true evolutionary vanguard of human consciousness (P. 29).

The distance that exists between man and the gods is not much greater than that between man and the beasts. We have already taken the first leap and there is no reason to suppose that we cannot end up taking the second. As Aurobindo and Teilhard de Chardin well knew, the future of humanity is God-consciousness. (P. 9)

Here you can find the program of the course and also the Raimon Panikkar Background Readings: “Ken Wilber - Raimon Panikkar: convergències”.