On Evolution, Ego, and Why
We Don’t Have Time to “Be Here Now”
It probably goes without saying that many of humanity’s most significant leaps forward have been achieved by creative individuals—men and women, fueled by necessity, genius, or divine inspiration, who stepped beyond the confines of the status quo to contribute something novel to the world. Less renowned, perhaps, are the cultural advances that have been achieved by a creative duo of individuals working together—allies or colleagues who, driven by a shared passion to change the world for the better, freely tested the limits of the familiar, the safe, and the known.
These days, as friends and partners mapping the evolving edge of consciousness, spiritual teacher (and What Is Enlightenment? founder) Andrew Cohen and spiritual philosopher Ken Wilber—the guru and the pandit*—may be on their way to becoming such a team. Like a spiritualized fusion of Watson & Crick and Lewis & Clark, these contemporary pioneers are attempting to discern the deep structures of human nature while continually venturing into uncharted territory. Chronicled for the past few years in the pages of this magazine, their dialogues have united Cohen’s depth of experience as a teacher of enlightenment with Wilber’s formidable theoretical knowledge, and together, the guru and the pandit have endeavored to explore a number of new pathways through the vast field of human potential.
So last fall, when Cohen and Wilber held their first-ever public discussion during a sunny afternoon in downtown Denver, Colorado, it was an exciting event. Admittedly, I was struck by its significance more than some, having been a student of Wilber’s writings and a founding member of his Integral Institute before becoming a student of Cohen’s teachings and an editor of WIE. But it was clear from the many people I spoke with afterward—including Integral Institute members, supporters, and their friends—that everyone was affected by what happened that afternoon. Sitting in a packed conference room, we were treated to an exploration of awakened consciousness and the future of spirituality that was anything but abstract. After all, this wasn’t simply a dialogue between Cohen and Wilber but rather an intensive—and implicating—Q&A session in which members of the audience had the opportunity to question them about anything and everything: from the problem of ego to the purpose of meditation, the nature of the enlightened state, and the risk involved in surrendering one’s life to the evolutionary impulse.
In the following pages, we’re happy to present to you a few of the most thought-provoking highlights of this nearly three-hour event.
* In Sanskrit, a pandit is a scholar who is deeply proficient and immersed in spiritual wisdom.