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"All in one and one in all."
on April 2, 2001
I used to torment a friend with the question, "Where are the edges of the universe?" Ken Wilber's second book, written nearly thirty years ago, confronts its reader with the more important question, "Where are the edges of the self?" Our lives, he observes, are largely spent drawing boundaries (p. 18) between life and death, good and bad, pleasure and pain, heaven and hell, success and failure. We "live a life of opposites" (p. 16), and we are "bewitched by boundaries" (p. 25). But "the ultimate metaphysical secret," Wilber writes, "is that there are no boundaries in the universe" (p. 30). Seeing through the illusion of opposites is liberation--"the discovery of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth" (p. 28).
This book is like a sign along the road, pointing the way toward enlightenment. In his examination of "our most cherished boundary" (p. 43), self/not-self, Wilber integrates psychology, philosophy, post-modern thought, and religious doctrine of East and West. He shows how "we progressively limit our world and turn from our true nature in order to embrace boundaries" (p. 3). We believe that our skin (p. 5), mind (p. 6), or ego (p. 7) separates us from our not-self when, in fact, we "possess a remarkable spectrum of consciousness, a vast rainbow of extraordinary potentials and possibilities, and those potentials do indeed run from matter to body to soul to spirit" (p. xii). Wilber recognizes that the ordinary person "will probably listen in disbelief if it is pointed out that she has nestled in the deepest recesses of her being, a transpersonal self, a self that transcends her individuality and connects her to a world beyond conventional space and time" (p. 110).
Saint Augustine wrote that the business of life "is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen." NO BOUNDARY may be read as a book about personal growth, restoring to health the eye of the heart, and "expanding one's horizons, a growth of one's boundaries, outwardly in perspective and inwardly in depth" (p. 13). Among other approaches, Wilber turns to the Buddhist doctrines of dharmadhatu, which teaches us "between every thing and event in the universe there is no boundary" (p. 38), and suffering. "A person who is beginning to sense the suffering of life," he writes, is "beginning to awaken to deeper realities, truer realities, for suffering smashes to pieces the complacency of our normal fictions about reality and forces us to become alive in a special sense--to see carefully, to feel deeply, to touch ourselves and our worlds in ways we have heretofore avoided. It may be said, and truly I think, that suffering is the first grace" (p. 76).
If we learn to "see through the illusions of our boundaries," he writes, "we will see, here and now, the universe as Adam saw it before the Fall: as organic unity, a harmony of opposites, a melody of positive and negative, delight with the play of our vibrative existence. When the opposites are realized to be one, discord melts into concord, battles become dances, and old enemies become lovers. We are then in a position to make friends with all of the universe, and not just half of it" (p. 29). So where are the edges of the universe? After reading this book, I now realize that they exist only within the boundaries of my unliberated mind.
Wilber has been called "one of the greatest thinkers of our time," and for those new to Wilber, NO BOUNDARY is a good introduction to his integral vision.