Category Archives: Spirituality Gurus

Ken Wilber

Ken_WilberI owe a lot to Ken Wilber. Ken was recommended to me at a stage in my journey when I was quite dogmatic and narrow minded.  I went to the library and checked out “Up From Eden” – one of his earlier works. It was completely transformative.  Over the course of a month as I read the book, Ken Wilber systematically knocked all the walls out of my personal philosophy and opened me up to the beautiful scenery waiting outside my previously cramped spiritual quarters.

It’s difficult to know where best to classify Ken on this page. While his “base” is probably in trans-personal psychology, the whole point of Wilber’s life-work is an approach he calls “integral”, or “AQUAL” (All-Quadrant, All-Levels). The idea is that reality consists of several different perspectives. In early philosophy, these were called the “Good”, the “True” and the “Beautiful”.  Wilber has expanded them somewhat into four: the individual outside, the individual inside, the collective outside and the collective inside.


As the simplest example, take a human being. A behaviorist  or biologist might examine that human being in terms of his individual external aspects, examining behavior, cellular mechanics, blood chemistry, height, weight, etc.  This is the individual outside. But if we engage in this person in dialogue, as a psychotherapist, religious counselor or meditation teacher might, we get an entirely different set of information from the individual INSIDE.  Then we can look at the person’s collective outside with a systems theorist, and note such things as housing, transportation systems, communication infrastructure – physical things that make up the system of which this person is a part. Finally, with anthropologists, ethicists  and other students of the collective INSIDE, we look at the cultural groups of which the person is a part. We look at the interactions on a mental and spiritual level with other human beings.

The point is, each of these perspectives gives us different truths, and (most importantly), NONE of these truths is privileged over the others. We live in a time and culture that tends to favor individual external truths – hard science. Proponents of “flatland” as Wilber dubs this perspective, want to collapse everything else in the universe down to physics and chemistry. By doing so, they squash three additional quadrants of equally important truth out of consideration.

Wilber also spends a lot of time discussing developmental levels and states. This was particularly eye-opening to me. Individuals and societies can all be classified along a spectrum of development, and the attitudes and characteristics of individuals and cultures at the various stages of this spectrum are quite predictable. After reading Ken Wilber, you can observe the world around you and recognize that what you thought were differences in opinion among people and cultures are actually different stages of development.

Wilber’s writing is prolific. His goal is no less than creating a system into which all truths can be placed in their proper perspective and relationship. Wilber’s work really IS a “theory of everything”. Once you read Ken Wilber, you will find, when encounter a new idea or worldview, that you are mentally plotting it out on Wilber’s giant map of reality. And it always fits.

Wilbers work puts politics, science, religion, business, education and everything else into a new and interrelated perspective – one that you ignore at your peril. If you need a map to base your view of reality on, there is no better researched map than Ken Wilber.

Wilber has attracted some criticism, which is to be expected considering his system swallows up the truths of so many others. The fans of each piece of his jigsaw puzzle protest that their piece is much more important than Wilber credits – in fact, the  ONLY important piece. There have been some personality clashes at his institute and on some of his projects. The fact that Ken has coined so many new concepts and words tends to make a discussion among wilberians sound like some kind of secret cult language.  And if you don’t like getting into the details,  Ken Wilber isn’t the writer for you.  Someone like Eckhart Tolle or Alan Watts are better at simple profound generalities.

But you really MUST read him. See if you don’t find his concepts immediately useful.  Below is a brief clip of Wilber discussing spirituality in the modern world:

Lewis Keizer

Bishop_Lewis2

Bishop Lewis Keizer is the founding Bishop of the Home Temple order of independent priesthood, to which I belong. I have never encountered anyone with such a wide knowledge in spiritual esoteric lore and practice.

Bishop Keizer has an large library of courses on spiritual topics on his websites. He offers inexpensive seminary training leading to ordination in the independent priesthood, as well as spiritual initiation and guidance through several initiatory orders.  Degrees and classes in religious and spiritual studies are also offered through his institute.  His wife and fellow bishop Willa is also highly trained in Silat, homeopathy and various spiritual schools and disciplines.

Bishop Keizer, in all his materials, combines excellent scholarship and down-to-earth practicality with his vast spiritual knowledge. His teachings always take the latest scientific, archeological and historical discoveries into account, without being limited by skepticism.  Both his writing style and his voice are well honed for good communication.

If you are considering serious training in either initiatory spirituality or the priesthood, I would give his program first consideration.

You can find the Home Temple website here, and his Wisdom Seminars website here.

Just as an aside – while we do receive affiliate income from our Amazon.com book links, I have no affiliate program with Bishop Keizer. His materials are all extreemly reasonable in pricing, and I recommend them simply because they are wonderful materials.

Here is a sample of one of Bishop Keizer’s presentations

Eckhart Tolle

eckhart_tolleI remember first encountering Eckhart Tolle. I was on a long commute to work and I slipped one of his audio CD’s into my car player. I had picked him up at random because his CD’s happened to be next to Wayne Dyer’s and it looked interesting. I turned on the player and waited.  And waited. I began to be tense and worried. Was the CD defective? Then, finally, Eckhart’s calm, peaceful voice started talking.

It took a while to get used to his speaking style. Eckhart is NEVER in a hurry. But soon I found myself looking forward to it. His very voice, above and beyond what he was teaching, seemed to bring light and peace into me. Echkart’s career as a spiritual teacher began after a shattering mystical experience in his life. He spent a year on a park bench assimilating the state of bliss and happiness he has stumbled into. And after years in “obscurity”, he burst onto the spiritual scene almost overnight. His recent series of webcasts with Oprah Winfrey put him decidedly into the limelight.

Eckhart Tolle has, in my experience, the clearest, most approachable teaching on spirituality of anyone alive (and quite a few who are dead, for that matter). Stripping away the jargon and elaborate processes that burden some systems, he gives it to you simply, directly, and with beautiful, minimalistic elegance. If you are just beginning to become interested in spiritual things, or you are desperately looking for happiness and finding yourself empty, Eckhart Tolle is a wonderful place to start.

Eckhart’s first book was The Power of Now, and it introduced many of the themes found in all his work.

Themes

The need to live profoundly in the present moment is a primary theme in Tolle’s work. Eckhart urges us not to focus  on the past or the future, except as needed to function in the everyday world. Both of these are attempts by the ego to escape the power of the present moment. The secret to happiness is to abandon resistance to the present moment. This does not mean passivity, but an acceptance of reality as our starting place.

A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but according to Eckhart, the mind is also a terrible slave master. Most of us live our lives trapped in a stream of repetitive thinking. Our constructed world of thought draws us away from the reality of existence in the present moment, and leads to our unhappiness.

A unique concept that I’ve only run across in Eckhart’s teachings is the concept of the “pain body”. This is apparently a collection of emotional energy that many of us accumulate that virtually “feeds” on emotional energy. The pain body can act almost as a separate entity, taking over the mind of its host, controlling their thinking so as to produce more emotional energy to feed on in the form of pain, anger or similar negative emotions.

Recent Controversy

I have noticed that since Eckhart’s series of webcasts with Oprah, there has begun to be some significant opposition to his teaching. By the way, the webcasts with Oprah are still available for free to download or listen to live here on Oprah’s book club site. For many people, this will be a good introduction, since Oprah keeps the pace moving a bit more briskly. Personally I prefer the calm serenity of Eckhart speaking alone.  In any case, since these webcasts, the opposition to Eckhart has increased.  This is often in the form of Christians who insist that Eckhart is a false teacher because he doesn’t specifically endorse a particular set of Christian dogmas or acknowledge Jesus as the only path to salvation.

The fact is that if you are familiar with the teachings of the great Christian mystics, you will realize that their teachings overlap Eckhart Tolle’s at many points. Still, if you are a very dogmatic Christian, you will probably find his inclusiveness a bit uncomfortable. I would urge you, nevertheless, to give him a try.

Listen to a bit of Eckhart in the video below:

Don Miguel Ruiz

Don_Miguel_Ruiz Don Miguel Ruiz is a Mexican Toltec shaman and teacher.  Writings about Toltec shamanism came into popularity decades ago with the writings of Carlos Castaneda. But Ruiz makes his teachings relevant to everyone, not simply to students of the esoteric. Like Eckhart Tolle, he gained significant exposure for his work from Oprah Winfrey. While his credentials may be as a shaman, his popular books and teachings are quite practical and down-to-earth.

His first book was The Four Agreements, which focuses on four key principles to recover spiritual power in our life. These are not strange esoteric principles, although Ruiz invests them with spiritual power. They are, in fact, things your mother might have told you. I won’t be giving anything away if I tell you what they are.

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
4. Always Do Your Best.

If those sound a bit simplistic, you need to read his books. His explanations of these simple principles are actually quite spiritually sophisticated. They are not all what you might think. In the section on being impeccable with your word, for example, he discusses the magical power that words have over the human consciousness. Cruel or overly critical talk, for Ruiz, is basically a case of black magic, and many of us are black magicians without realizing it. We use the power of our words to destroy rather than to help.

Ruiz is an excellent author for someone of shamanistic inclination, or simply someone who wants good practical advice and techniques for improving life and gaining happiness, freedom and spiritual power.

Here’s a brief video of Don Miguel Ruiz:

Wayne Dyer

10491-SM Wayne Dyer has been in the public eye since the seventies when his book Your Erroneous Zones became wildly popular. While Dyer has interesting things to say in the area of progressive psychology, he has become much more interesting since his work has become progressively more spiritual in recent years.

The wonderful thing about Dyer that makes him so accessible to a wide audience is that while he has embraced the spiritual dimension, he has lost none of his dynamic writing and speaking ability that he previously used to promote psychology and self development.  This is contrast to Eckhart Tolle who’s zen-like style of writing and speaking takes some degree of enlightenment simply to appreciate.

Wayne has also been astonishingly prolific.  I’m a big fan, but even I haven’t managed to read all his books and listen to all his CDs. Every year or so you can count on another wonderful book by Dyer. And now that he has branched into areas such as meditation and manifestation, he’s better than ever.

I particularly appreciate Dyer because he is the one who’s books gave me the courage, at a difficult moment, to make a bold step in my life that involved quitting a secure job. It was one of the best moves I ever made, and I have Dr. Dyer to thank for it. Look for more wonderful work by Wayne Dyer in the future.

Wayne has been especially generous with his time and talent in support of PBS, and has generated some criticism – I suspect from people who’s dogmatic principles are threatened by his inclusiveness.

Here is a clip of Dyer discussing your divine purpose

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