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am 20. April 2000
This book is a strange mixture of oppositions; populist style and complex material, originality and repetition, astounding insight and blundering oversight. Wilber's insights into postmodernism, Freudian psychology and spiritual development are among the most original of the 20th century, but some authors he has obviously misread and others completely misunderstood, esp. Jung and various Western philosophers, and his claims to be a Buddhist are flatly contradicted by his holon theory, which is completely antithetical to the philosophical core of Buddhist teachings. His style, when dealing with complex material, is often very clear and precise, but the introduction and various individual paragraphs are full of misleading metaphors and populist literary techniques which give a sometimes sickly and pompous impression of Wilber. Certainly read this and appreciate it, but be careful not to be always taken in by his persuasive style, and remember to constantly question him.
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am 1. März 2000
I think the previous reviewer has belittled Wilber's scope by making out that this book is primarily about Buddhism. This book is nothing of the sort, and Wilber consciously widens the scope of any specific 'world religion' and he portrays a spiritual perspective of God which seems to me to be smack-bang in the middle of Eastern and Western philosophies. Many people would say that Buddhism and Western theism are oceans apart, but Wilber reveals here that there may only be One ocean. Some people might think Wilber is a little too pretentious or too bold with his thinking, but I feel he carries it off as well as anyone could. This book is not for everyone, but it's well worth delving into.
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am 22. Dezember 1999
Thank you Ken, for reading all those boring books! Thank you translating all that private mumble into a light and easy language! Thank you for making it possible for me to participate in the conversation with so many of the great thinkers. The integral perspective is the obvious approach and I am little embarrassed finding out about my own self-centredness. I can also think of a lot of modern thinkers that ought to be a little embarrassed too. Ken Wilber is a crystal clear voice - now cutting through the post-modern narcissism of our time, inviting us to find out what we can agree upon. This in the most important book I ever read!
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am 22. Juni 2000
It is interesting to read the other reviews on Wilber's masterpiece. Either the reviewer is too garbled in philosophical mumble to trust, too pretentious in his or her philosophy, or the reader apparently didn't read very well. This book is the most profound, encompassing book that I believe has ever been written. It integrates EVERYTHING without connecting EACH THING with hazy, seemingly forced strings. Instead, ALL is incorporated in a very simple, elegant pattern that (regardless of what anyone says) is undeniable. The pattern Wilber attempts to show us (and in order to get an intuitive feel for patterns, we must see it over and over... a tactic of Wilber's about which one reviewer complained), is the only pattern there CAN be. Wilber makes this evident, and to expect a belief such as reductionism or "flatland holism" to be proven wrong by virtue of its own tenets is impossible (a point Wilber makes time and again). These worldviews can only be seen wrong in light of a greater context, which Wilber provides.
This book was written with all the depth and scope that is. Those who complain about its lack of philosophical rigor don't know how to appreciate the honest sincerity with which Wilber writes this. He leaves room for modification and correction. Wilber is a wise, humble man whom all should be fortunate enough to read with an open mind and an open heart. He practices what he preaches, and this is detectable in the warm humor and light style with which he speaks.
If you are a rigorous philosopher looking for caustic argumentation and tedious dispute, this book is not for you. This book is for the honest, sincere reader who is seeking to understand all that is. Patterns cannot all be proven, but to see them is proof enough. If you try to see what Wilber asks you to, you will understand.
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am 29. März 1999
Certainly SES in the best intent one can find to transcend dualism, or the reductionism tendency. Arthur Koestler Holon concept, some sort of basic unit system concept, Teilhard de Chardin law of "complexity-consciousness" and the within and the without, noosphere teilhard concepts are resumed in twelve categories or twenty tenets, that certainly are a real synthesis of all that is necessary to transcend dualism. Well documented and based on Habermas work too, is an original framework though, that must be read by all those interested in a new integrative worldview.
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am 6. September 1998
This massive work took me weeks to read, but I came away enlightened in many ways. Wilber has a masterful way of putting together ideas as large as the nature of reality, meaning, consciousness, etc. into a profound synthesis. My way of thinking about myself, the world and Spirit were widened and deepened. Both fundamental AND significant -- and before this book I couldn't have told you the difference!
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am 12. November 1998
In the world of psychology/philosophy/religion, this is the greatest book I've ever read. It absolutely stunned me, even after reading some of his other works and getting his whole jist. It helps to have a bit of background in psychology or philosophy or religion to get the most out of it. If not, read his more digestible Brief History Of Everything instead. Regardless, read this guy!
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am 8. Dezember 1998
_SES_ is quite an idea trip. I purchased it after having my understanding of religion and spirituality profoundly deepened by _Up From Eden_ and _The Atman Project_. In fact, after many years of spiritual and philosophical seeking, Wilber has so far been the only thinker who has been able to "make sense" of my own Christian faith, in a way that enables me to continue to embrace it, despite many obvious mythical trappings. In that sense, I am deeply and personally indebted to Ken for the gift of a new conceptual framework, in which to understand my relationship to faith, and my faith's relationship to the evolution of humanity and culture. Insofar as _SES_ carries on the torch of that vision, it continues to make keen observations about the spiritual and cultural future of humanity and planet Earth.
Unfortunately, _SES_ also deeply disappointed me in a number of important ways. The _Booklist_ reviewer's critisicm that "it suffers from a tendency to make unsubstantiated or inadequately referenced claims" is a severe understatement; the majority of Wilber's arguments are not so much won as repeated so many times as to seem obviously true. The book is so repetitive that it became frustrating to read, and in spots it was only Ken's lively and interesting language that made it bearable. Unfortunately, the same language is sweeping, black-and-white, and notoriously lacking in the senstivity to nuance and detail that is required machinery in every philosopher's toolkit. Worse, he too often slips into polemical rhetoric to substitute for solid argumentation. His repetitive criticism of "flatland holism," and its close cousin "subtle reductionism," is almost totally lacking in substantive argument over the eight-hundred page trek. His disagreements with systems theories over "depth" and "span" issues are insightful, but a great deal more rigor is necessary before his philosophical foundataions can be ultimately acceptable. His discussions are rich in flavorful and evocative images (which is his undisputed strength), but weak on logic.
Perhaps his claim that higher states of consciousness and being transcend formal-operational logic gives him a license to favor colorful intuition over bland argument and proof. However, as he is continuously ready to point out, higher integrations must transcend _and include_ their predecessors. If anything, Ken's treatment of the human spirit should be _more_ rational, not less; and I did not find that to be the case in this work. (Interestingly, the Western thinkers whom he praises most for their insight are some of the most philosophically rigorous in the business -- Plato, Plotinus, Shelling, Kant, Hegel, Gebser, Habermas, to name a few. One of the advantages of reading _SES_ is that it points to a tremendous amount of excellent primary source material.)
_Eden_ and _Atman_ are the undisputed presentations of Ken's model of consciousness; they are, in form and content, one of the most significant contributions to the literature on religion, spirituality, and psychology in the second half of the twentieth century. But in _SES_, I think Ken has bit off a little more than he can chew, by attempting to extract a volume from a pamphlet. The result is undigested, repetitive, and philosophically unsatisfying.
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am 18. Februar 2000
No one ought to be ignorant of the rationale of Wilber's outlook expressed in this book. Wilber shows how much depth and meaning is apparent in the evolutionary picture of the cosmos, life and mind. His final chapter 'The Unpacking of God' is insightful, and it shows the profound logic of belief that the underlying reality of the Infinite is the Spirit and vision of God. After reading this book, it becomes apparent that the notion that this universe is a blind, purposeless 'accident', is MORE a piece of wishful thinking than what the neo-Darwinists say about theistic belief. Ken Wilber is on the right tracks, along with the likes Keith Ward and John F. Haught. It's time to free ourselves from the childish extremes of Dawkins-ism and Johnson-ism, and to let the Spirit of truth blossom.
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am 13. Juni 1998
If you're at all interested in the nature of our existence--past, present, and future--the nature of nature, and the essence of Reality itself, you can find no better book. _SES_ is a stunning masterpiece, extremely readable (compelling, even), and I recommend it to anyone living this Divine dream we call life.
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