The Atman Project

It’s rare that a book will inspire days of sustained contemplation and assimilation of its insight for me. Ken Wilber’s The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development is one of those rare books that contains a wealth of knowledge and sparks for reassessment of personal beliefs. Stronger than any book I’ve read in the past year, it has inspired greater motivation to increase efforts in my own evolution.
The Atman Project is an attempt to reinterpret psychology and spirituality in a way that integrates both and discerns the truths and fallacies of the orthodox and hemispherical approaches to them. Largely, I believe Wilber succeeds in this, presenting a view of human development that is focused, clear and soundly argued.
The central thesis of Wilber’s work is that we desire and move toward unity as we evolve, ultimately leading to a joining with the Whole, with God. He explores how in our development we achieve successive states of unity and differentiation that leads from atemporal and apersonal to pre-temporal and pre-personal, forward through temporal and personal, eventually passing into trans-temporal and trans-personal. Essentially, our personal evolution is a progression through wider senses of self and association. God, all of existance, stands as the climax of all this, ultimate unity.
I don’t wish to oversimplify Wilber’s work, for it is thorough in its exploration of psychology and its adaptation of spiritual traditions. He relates his theory in a manner that has a strong clarity and makes efforts to explain other theories, to show the contrasts with his own and to explain the reasons for his departure from traditional western psychology. Rarely in this book is there a sense of an aspect of the theory being overlooked (though some are not fully explored in this book), and that goes a long way to shore up the validity of this integral approach.
Wilber, in this book, presents an early aspect of an “integral vision of the cosmos that has evolved over his more than three decades of work toward a workable “world philosophy” that integrates the best of both East and West in the hard and soft sciences, religion and spirituality, wisdom and compassion.” (IJ). Wilber has trained as a scientist and brings a corresponding insight to his writing that is invaluable, but his spirituality is equally vital, informing his work without coloring it too strongly with bias. As the Integral Institute explains of the broader philosophy (encompassing both this psychological and spiritual work and much more) Wilber has developed, it is “dedicated to the proposition that partial and piecemeal approaches to complex problems are ineffective. Whether addressing individual and personal issues of meaning and transformation, or increasingly complex social problems such as war, hunger, disease, over-population, housing, ecology, and education, partial and fragmented approaches need to be replaced by solutions that are more comprehensive, systematic, encompassing – and integral.”
I have not yet read the other books Wilber has published, but this book and my general understanding of his philosophy has given me a great respect for the philosophy and the man. I look forward to further reading his work and exploring the ways it can apply to my own life and how it can challenge my existing beliefs. I believe his work is seminal for the development of an integrated philosophy, which I believe quite strongly is essential for human evolution.
If you’re looking to challenge yourself, to understand the human mind and its development or for a philosophy that is inclusive, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It has the potential to challenge your beliefs in exciting ways and that is invaluable.

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