10 Things I learned from Ken Wilber, the great philosopher (3/3)

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In my two previous articles (visible here and here), I presented an outline of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, as well as key lessons I  learned from him.

In this article, I will share three final learnings:

8. It’s OK to be super smart and to want it all

One of the things I learned with Ken is that intellectual ambition is OK. Before reading his books, I had read good books, OK-books, and only a handful of remarkable books. I had never read any books that were so comprehensive, and had required so much work (he wrote S.E.S. secluding himself for three years in his home where he received probably one visit, by Roger Walsh).

What I loved about his theory was that it drew from a lot of (if not all) wisdom traditions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, …) and disciplines from the world (psychology, spirituality, religion, physics, quantum mechanics, ecology, social sciences, politics, …). I enjoyed his taste of a Renaissance Man à la Leonardo Da Vinci.

To get a sense of this, look at some of the graphics from the appendix of Integral Psychology:

And, this showed me that it was OK to study all this and I didn’t have to chose “one or the other”.

Furthermore, by studying his works, I discovered that I was smarter than I thought I was. I broke the limits that were blocking my intelligence. You never know how smart and intelligent (in multiple forms) you really are.

Ken went beyond “studying it all.” He also practiced a great deal.

Not only had he built a strong body as you can see below:

Wilber also developed a strong mind he could command at will to navigate different states of consciousness. In this video, you can see him navigating states of consciousness including producing Delta brainwaves only, using an Electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. He even enters a form of meditation where he stops his brain activity completely (visible at 6’04).

Talking about doing the impossible…

If a path is too narrow, you get to broaden it.

If a tradition is too strict or exclusive, you get to make it more inclusive, in your own way.

If you don’t find any path that fits who you truly are, you get to create your own and follow it.

It might be the time to set the standard, instead of following it.

9. What happens when you meet a Father figure?

One of the highlights of my relationship with Ken was when I met him.

I was studying in California, and I signed up for a seminar on Death and Dying, at the Integral Institute of Boulder, Colorado. It was organized by Diane Musho Hamilton, Terry Patten and Jeff Salzman (three key figures in the Integral Movement). Ken was meant to be there. These three or four days were intense and deep on many levels. I learned a lot, and went into a deep transformational process (that’s part of the Deep Inner Work).

Ken arrived  and gave a talk. I don’t even remember exactly the topic, I think it was about death in different spiritual traditions. Ken looked much older, and was significantly diminished by RNase Enzyme Deficiency causing him chronic fatigue syndrome. I saw him frail, vulnerable, human. Nothing to do with the image I had built about him.

The contents were OK, but there was nothing new for me. It dawned on me that I had studied so much that I actually knew a few things (I was getting out of the learning trap).

When Ken was about to leave, I went out the back door to greet him. He saw me, and hugged me with kindness and tenderness. I thanked him for everything he had taught me, I was sobbing. I will always remember as I saw his car driving away, I thought that might have been the last time I ever saw him.

The father image I had projected on him cam down tumbling, and I wept during the whole lunch break.

It dawned on me that I would need to carry out his work.

I was very privileged to meet him in person. Most of the people present at the event were above their thirties, and mostly in their forties and above. We were two millennials: a woman, and myself. Since then, I met several people who wished they had met him. This might have been one of the last public events he participated in live, due to his age and health condition.

Think about someone you admire.

What are the qualities you love/admire about them?

Do you want the Truth?

You already have and are these qualities.

When you admire someone, always remember that you are projecting your Golden Shadow on them.

10. What to do when you receive a gift?

I received an enormous gift from Ken: organized knowledge, ambition and aspiration, and certainty that the world is both much more complex and simpler than I thought.

It took me time to receive this gift: several months.

It took me time to integrate this gift: several years.

Now it is time to pass it on and offer it to all who can receive it.

I have integrated Ken’s work in the classes I teach (of Conscious Business for instance), as well as in the academic research I supervised for business students, who used his Quadrants model. I integrated it in my coaching practice, getting certified as an Integral Associate Coach. His theory lives within me, and I am happy to share it. I have done the include part, and am ready to move to the transcend. Moving forward, and past what one has learned.

I would almost say, forget about it, empty the cup, so that it can be ready to be refilled.

If you would like to fill your cup, here are some resources I would recommend:

If you want to start simple and small, read A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science and Spirituality

Want to dive deeper into his works?


A Brief History of Everything

Sex Ecology and Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution

For the more psychologically inclined, I would recommend:

Integral Psychology, by Ken Wilber (there is another Integral Psychology book by Brant Cortright).

Most importantly, create your own path, do your own research and see where that leads you !

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