Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber on Wikipedia

In terms of the current Integral Paradigm, can there vbe any two more influential figures than Sri Aurobindo and Ken Wilber?

Sri Aurobindo is of course by far the more important and original; the founder of Integral Yoga, who provided both a roadmap to planetary transformation and, with his co-worker The Mother, the means.

Wilber's relevance lies more in his skill in synthesising and popularising many difefrent worldviews around the central core of evolutionary development, thus craeting a second generation New Paradigm movement. In terms of insight or gnosis however he gets no further than standard New Age/New Paradigm Advaito-Buddhist nonduality, which is only one of many aspects in Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's yoga. And while if carried to its end it is able to confer Liberation, it is in insufficent on its own to bring about the required Transformation of the world, or even of the individual in the world.

Sri Aurobindo and Wilber are in fact are two extremely different and unrelated individuals. It was actually unfair of me in the past to try to compare them, because you can't compare them. One is an Enlightened Yogi-Sage, the other a spiritually orientated intellectual teacher and theorist. They have nothing in common other than that both set forward an spiritual-evolutionary worldview, and both provided an inclusive, rather than exclusive, philosophy. So if you are looking for a lowest common denominator for "Integral philosophy", that is about it. Nevertheless Wilber, as a passionate and articulate propnent of (his version of) the Integral paradigm, does have an important role to play in the current memetic evolution.

In my book in progress, I have much more to say on the Integral Paradigm, bringing in Jain and other approaches and thus going beyond the current and still very limited and exoteric Integral Movement.

But enough rambling. What inspired this present blog post is the status of the respective wikipedia pages of these two very different innovators.

Wilber's page is well referenced (32 footnotes at last count, plus a very comprehensive bibliography), dynamic, and constantly being adjusted.

Sri Aurobindo's and the Mother's pages are static, in the case of Sri Aurobindo poorly refernced (only 7 footnotes), and constantly savaged by editors who for the most part don't have the faintest idea what they are talking about. Two examples. On The Mother's page, almost every reference to "the Mother" has been replaced by "Alfassa". It's a bit like replacing every reference to the 14th Dalai Lama with "Gyatso", or every reference to the current Pope Benedict with "Ratzinger", on their respective pages. If you want to know how stupid it would look, just read their respective pages accordingly. While the current version of the Sri Aurobindo page is full of "original research" tags. Not just at the top of teh page, but under almost every subheading. I scanned through teh page and it didn't look like there is original research there; the only problem is taht there are very few footnoted citations to Sri Aurobindo's works. So because there are no footnotes, it is assumed that it must be "original research", a big heresy on Wikipedia.

Of course, one can hardly blame the Wikipedia community for this sorry state of affairs. Were it not for the presence of a strong online Wilber-Integral community - both supporters and critics - the Wilber page would be just as constantly mutilated as the Sri Aurobindo and The Mother pages are.

Since it is unlikely that Aurobidonians are less passionate, nor would it be the case that Wilber is many times better kniown (if anything the opposite is the case!), what this shows is that there is a much larger online Wilber community, and hence the percentage of those motivated to work on Wikipedia would be sufficiently large as to have an effect.

Despite its vaunted NPOV ideals, Wikipedia is not and never has been neutral; it presents a selectively deletionist forum in which minor comic book and TV characters given prefernce over less famous real life biographies. And while an excellent resource in mainstream subjects and geek special interests (and I for one do appreciate and are attracted to Geek things, so this isn't an insult), fails miserably when it comes to alternative knowledge; anything outside teh mainstream consensus paradigm.

I have no doubt that many years from now, there will be enough Aurobindonians active on Wikipedia to rectify the current imbalance at least as far as the coverage of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother are concerned, but I don't envisage this happening any time soon.

A final comment, lest it be seen that I'm unduely wiki-bashing. For all its faults, and for all its decline from its pre-deletionist summit of 2005, Wikipedia still serves as a powerful knowledge-building community and invaluable resource. I wouldn't continue to be involved if I didn't think it served an essential role in the ecology of the noosphere. But Wikipedia is only as good as its contributers and contributions. Doubtless it will continue to evolve, as human knowledge does. But it will follow, rather than lead. And perhaps, as an online encyclopaedia of a traditional, rather than unconventional, mould, that's the way it should be..

Labels: , , , ,