Book Reviews Psychology up from Eden Wilber

TITLE[i]: ‘Up from Eden, New Edition: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution’ by Ken Wilber
ISBN: 0835-60731-3
ISBN 13: 978-0835-60731-5
Publisher: Quest Books

In ‘Up from Eden, New Edition: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution’ by Ken Wilber, the concept of consciousness and cultural evolution being a spiritual unfolding is presented as dynamic transcendence with each evolutionary phase transcending but including its predecessor. The theory is not new, however, Wilber’s presentation is.

The author draws in anthropological and empirical evidence combined directly with specific stages of consciousness evolution, as well as taking advantage of the latest work by theorists Jean Gebser and Jurgen Habermas. Of critical importance to ‘Up from Eden, New Edition: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution’ is Ken Wilber’s diagrammatic breakdown of consciousness stages, which extend Jean Gebser’s model by four new stages: psychic, subtle, causal, and nondual waves. Wilber is able to succeed where Jean Gebser tried but fell short; Ken Wilber’s knowledge and deep understanding of East-West contemplative traditions brings to the work a profound spirituality and a strongly expressed Divine quality to evolution.

However, evolutionary qualities such as consciousness and culture make for complex reading because evidence shows that the evolution of humankind does not always cut one way. The author asks and answers to such events as Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl and how these horrors can possibly square with a culture that supposedly expresses the evolutionary consciousness of a spiritual and Divine process. Is modernity evolution or devolution?  Primal humanity did not suffer industrial pollution, slavery, property disputes, etc. There is much to be said for less evolution and more getting back to nature, back to basics.

Ken Wilber’s work searches for a set of homeostatic principles that help us to understand and cope with evolution as a universal living force that creates with each new stage of consciousness, and cultural expression of consciousness, improvements and attendant problems. Here we enter into a dialectic of progress; consciousness evolves and while each new stage cleans up the previous mess, the cleaning process creates new problems specific to the current stage.

‘Up from Eden, New Edition: A Transpersonal View of Human Evolution’ is a truthful, objective, examination into the nature of consciousness evolution. I like Ken Wilber. I am in awe of his abilities to analyse so deep and broad a human-scape with such clarity.  I suspect that Ken Wilber, being a practitioner of Eastern contemplative tradition and the philosophy that stems from that tradition, can harmonize with the moment rather than carry his past or torment himself with a future that is not yet existent.  I enjoy his spin on human dynamics, however, at the same time I’m just a guy from off the corner and the inquiry he leaves me pondering I find more difficult and emotionally disturbing than the looming larger-than-life questions he answered.

The question he leaves us with is that if the wonders and Divine beauty of evolution are inevitable, should we expect that to mean easier times, better times are ahead?


[i]This title has also been anthologized in ‘The Collected Works of Ken Wilber – Vol. 2’ published by Shambhala Publications Inc.