Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
My Indebtedness to Ken Wilber's Fearanalysis Work
by R. Michael Fisher - Thursday, June 27, 2013, 10:19 AM

Perhaps it comes with aging and maturity, when you look back more, reflect, and are willing to slip around your ego's need to show how important, creative, and unique it is to the world, and to itself (yourself). At this stage of later-life, 61 years old, 'yourself' is a little bit bigger than the ego can contain; then things start to appear in your awareness like, for instance, what happened recently, in my reframing my 31 year relationship with the integral philosopher and psychology theorist Ken Wilber. It really struck me in a moment how indebted I am, even more than I thought previous--all because I reframed his work into another meaning frame  (I'll focus on early-Wilber writing here) as a fearanalysis, starting most poignantly (but not only) in his book Up From Eden: A Transpersonal Vision of Human Evolution (1981). That was the first work of his I read a year after it was published. I had no idea who this dude was or would become. I sensed I had stumbled on something profound. I was right.

First, he has become someone of international importance as a contemporary philosopher and theorist, thinking, writing and working in the margins of academia, more populist but not populist enough for many. I'll spare going through all the critics and admirers, to say nothing but I have been both--and remain ultimately an admirer of his work--especially, its contribution to 'Fear' Studies. Most of what you'll read on the positive and negative side of Wilber's life and work is hyperbolic, if not neutral by some. I am anything but neutral or hyperbolic, as I have gone through those phases long ago in interpreting and educating others about his work. After 31 years one settles down to what has this work brought to me and my work and how can I honor it in the way it deserves? That's what this forum piece is about, albeit in short form. I can see a much longer article is due in the future to capture the thoughts I'm having of late.

Of course, I have long appreciated Wilber's theory and life in many of my publications. I won't go over that territory here. I concluded in my book (The World's Fearlessness Teachings) three primary important contributions Wilber's writing/teaching has brought to my project (In Search of Fearlessness) since the late 1980s: (a) his critical integral theory (also called AQAL in its latest form, and called "spectrum" approach in its early form pre-1995), (b) his general influence on my thinking, (c) his unique contribution to fear management/education on this planet (1). It is this latter impact on my work re: fear management/education, or more specifically fearanalysis that I wish to discuss briefly in the remainder of this posting. Clearly, all my publishing on (c) has led to absolutely no interest in the Integral circles, which I find utterly disappointing, to mesmerizing. Oh, well.

Fearanalysis (a spin-off from Freud's psychoanalysis), is the essential analytical, clinical and creative practice of the fearologist (and fearology). I've devoted an introductory guidebook to this topic recently which you may download from the Department of Integral & 'Fear' Studies page on this website. Technically, I refer to it as critical integral fearanalysis. This is the form that has developed over decades, which I can analyze and interpret all kinds of research, writing and teaching about fear ('fear') and its management and/or transformation. It is a form of analysis that is postmodern, postcolonical, and post-postmodern (i.e., integral), done from a transpersonal and/or nondual fearless standpoint theory. You can see that gets all very technical and beyond what I want to drop into here. So, let's back up to Wilber's specific contribution to fearanalysis.

My poignant claim in my book was that, regardless of how good Wilber's "integral" (Integral) theory is or not, or how he behaves to model it in the world and in the Integral Movement, what I have found in reading many other integral theorists and thinkers, is that none comes close to the powerful depth and breadth analysis of fear ('fear') and its role in human evolution, history, culture, and consciousness. Let's be very clear that is my claim and I'd be glad to rap out that tune any time any where. I am greatly indebted to what he has found and taught in his work, and again, I'm going to focus on his earlier work pre-1995, as I want to simplify explaining how important he is as a fearanalyst in that work. Note, he himself has never called him self a fearanalyst nor would want to; but in Up From Eden (never mind his other brilliant early works, even if he's changed his views somewhat on it), he really goes into the 'Fear' Project as I called it some 7 years after reading Wilber's work--pursuing my own initiative In Search of Fearlessness Project, 1989. Many of Wilber's influences from his "spectrum approach" years, early-integral theorizing and philosophy, are often unconscious to me, and have been over the years. Sometimes I'm more conscious of his influencing intelligence (i.e., fearanalysis) on me and my work, as right now.

I won't go into it here, but I have been developing a university senior-level course on difference and diversity and the problems of managing it today. I design the course around the making and remaking of 'the Other' because "fear of the Other" is substantially and arguably the core of all oppression-repression dynamics (i.e., hurting/violence, suffering, dualism, etc.). Wilber tracks out the evolution of "the Other," though he doesn't talk in that contemporary postmodern language so much back in his first book Spectrum of Consciousness (1977). It is really a fearanalysis of the evolution of consciousness in human beings, which really get's cookin' in that book by the time you get 1/2 way through the book to "Involution" and the "Integrating The Shadow" section, and you realize, if you look at it as fearanalysis, that Wilber is mapping The Shadow, The Fear Project-ion of evolution itself, and its problematics. In my new thinking, I realized that he is offering humanity, and I mean all of us, a dark and grand narrative of universal strength and rational argument, by which we can reflect and remember our historical consciousness of fear ('fear') itself. That is no small task. There is no one I know of who has done that so wonderfully synthetically using so many disciplines and E-W philosophies and theologies to arrive at a theory. He doesn't call it integral theory at that point, but it is. He calls it "spectrum" approach (I add "theory"). The spectrum theory is the early-integral theory of Wilber's tome. It is a great fearanalysis in that it brings that historical perspective, evolutionary perspective, and developmental perspective all at the same time--across cultures and time--it is a fearanalysis of the deep structures and their interrelations with surface structures. Again, this will all get very complicated and technical beyond what the purpose is here.

I like so many critics today, are very concerned about the globalization processes and the erasure of historical consciousness (i.e., critical consciousness of where we have come and where we are going, more or less)--in terms of an overarching liberation ethical trajectory. This erasure, or flatlanding, as Wilber calls it later in his writings, is very dangerous because we'll forget the historical, evolutionary, developmental dynamics of fear ('fear')--that is, we'll not understand that long-term and deep view of the 'Fear' Project-ion that is currently damaging almost every aspect of the human condition and so much more today. Wilber is a grand existentialist in bringing this fearanalysis forth, and integral-existentialist, as am I, but even more he is a transpersonal one, and takes a transpersonal (nondual) view, or what I call a fearless standpoing theory. That to me is the only way to really cut through the illusion, maya, trance that the current "culture of fear" (i.e., 'Fear' Project-ion in drag) is doing today. We'll lose our ability to resist it because we have so become it and its 'matrix' of constructing our consciousness based in fear ('fear')--and The Shadow of humanity, so to speak, is going to take us down. We will not be able to deal with the Shadow on this large scale that Wilber says we must. That is, the historical, evolutionary, and developmental contributions to this 'fear' pattering overall. We require a Wilberian critical integral fearanalysis, and his early works expose this, if you look for it. If you don't look for the fearanalysis you'll pass over it and forget it is important at all. Which is exactly what I have seen integralists do, and anyone else who reads Wilber's works.

That's a tragedy of denial, dissociation itself, that is, to miss the core fearanalysis in Wilber's tome. I guess that's the point I want to leave us with. And, of course with a good fearanalysis, arguably, theoretically, we'll improve our fear management/education many-fold. That's the work ahead. I welcome anyone willing to travel this road. Let's collaborate.





End Notes

1. Fisher, R. M. (2010). The world's fearlessness teachings: A critical integral approach to fear management/education for the 21st century. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.(see pp. 55-61).