A SOCIABLE GOD: A Brief Introduction to a Transcendental Sociology by Ken Wilber

A SOCIABLE GOD: A Brief Introduction to a Transcendental Sociology

Email this review


What ""the modern psychology of religion"" has to offer to ""the modern sociology of religion"": a dense, immensely suggestive programmatic taxonomy. Wilber (The Atman Project, Up from Eden) builds his argument on the foundations of ""orthodox"" developmental psychology, i.e., on a hierarchy that begins with the physical and then moves up to the sensori-perceptual, the emotional-sexual, the magical, the mythic, and the rational. This ""final"" level ties in with Loevinger's ""conscientious and individualistic stages,"" Kohlberg's ""post-conventional morality,"" Maslow's ""self-esteem needs,"" etc. But is reason the last word, and doesn't this progressive pattern trap us in a reductionism akin to Comte's law of the three stages? Wilber thinks not, insisting that religion has a future because there are realms of reality higher than formal operational thought. He describes these levels as the psychic, the subtle, and the causal, and assigns to them the archetypal figures of, respectively, the yogi, the saint, and the sage. In the causal or ultimate stage, ""the subject-object duality is radically transcended, so that the soul no longer contemplates Divinity, it becomes Divinity."" Wilber elaborates this scheme with great fluency, observing, for example, that each level has its own proper ""mana"" or ""food"" and taboo, its own deep (ahistorical) and surface (historically conditioned) structures, its own discontinuities with the preceding level (the higher comes through the lower, not from it), etc. If one accepts Wilber's premise that any return to myth or, a fortiori, magic would be a devolution (""Post-mythic men and women did not get thrown out of Eden; they grew up and walked out""), then much of his case makes sense. One crucial problem with it, though, is Wilber's treatment of such giants of mysticism as al-Hallaj and Meister Eckhart (not to mention Jesus) as: a) practical paradigms--for all of us, someday--of transpersonal consciousness; and b) a realistic ""data base"" for a sociological system. Still, this taut, gnomic book is packed with enough insights for two or three graduate seminars.

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1982
Publisher: McGraw-Hill