I appreciate your interest.
Promising thoughts can emerge in the most unlikely places. I remember once getting a car wash at my local garage and being momentarily startled when the car wash unit appeared to be moving backwards.
Of course in a certain sense this was true. I realised then that dynamic
movement is always relative so as my car was moving forward (relative to
the car wash unit), the unit was moving backwards (relative to the car).
Human experience can be accurately explained in dynamic terms as the
movement of opposite poles (e.g. the self and world). These are purely
relative. Thus what is pre from one (fixed) standpoint (self) is trans
from the opposite (fixed) standpoint (world); equally what is pre from
the other (fixed) standpoint (world) is trans from the (fixed) standpoint
Thus the true dynamic nature of mystical development can be accurately
expressed as the dialectical interplay of transpersonal and prepersonal
understanding. This continues until they become identical in pure spirit
which is both ground (pre) and goal (trans) of everything.
Thus is well reflected in the Western mystical tradition as in Evylyn Underhill's classic study.
She refers to the first of the mystical stages as the Conversion of Self. This supersensory stage typically follows a difficult existential struggle where the rigidity of rational understanding is greatly eroded. There then follows an outpouring of illumination (i.e. spiritual intuition) in a joyous expansive experience of the world. During this concrete phase, transformation of the world (in relation to the self) takes place. Nature is literally bathed in wonderful a new light. One is filled with renewed confidence and energy and the facility to achieve many things.
So the development of this physical aspect i.e. the world (in relation
to self) is clearly transpersonal in nature.
I think you are puzzled Phil as to why development of the self is now prepersonal (in relation to the world).
Remember that authentic mystical development requires giving up the
desire to control reality in (rigid) rational terms. (Indeed true conversion
requires this radical surrender). However because - following conversion
- spiritual energy is largely transferred outwards, this leaves the subjective
self particularly vulnerable to the resurfacing of primitive instincts.
At the very moment when the spiritual disciple feels assured that true
progress in the spirit has taken place s/he is assailed by violent temptation
and the return of "sinful" desire. Profound disillusionment sets in as
one begins to doubt one's very vocation. This eventually leads to the profound
(reverse) state of purgation.
What we have here quite simply is the inevitable interplay of transpersonal
and prepersonal experience. When spiritual illumination is transferred
to one's relationship with the world (with respect to self) it appears
as transpersonal (trans). However because of the removal of superego rational
control, one is now vulnerable - in intensified fashion - to the uncovering
of repressed primitive desire. Thus this complementary relationship of
self (with respect to the world) appears as prepersonal (pre).
The next supersensory stage in Underhill's account is referred to as
"Purification of the Self". Purgation - as the mystical writers realise
so well - is really a form of interior illumination which throws into dramatic
relief the misery of self. There is a profound growth in authentic self
awareness during this stage. In this introverted and concentrated state
one gradually develops a ready facility for formless meditation (contemplation).
Thus from the perspective of the self (in relation to the world) this aspect
is truly transpersonal (trans).
However from the perspective of the world (in relation to self) this
stage appears very much as a regression. One experiences great monotony
in relation to one's duties Old skills and achievements are undermined.
Memory contents are greatly eroded. One becomes ill at ease in contact
with others and increasingly subject to impulsive projections. It literally
feels as if one is going back (psychologically) in time with everything
being wiped away. Thus from the perspective of the world (in relation to
self) this stage appears as prepersonal (pre).
This basic pattern is repeated once over the next two stages.
The third of Underhill's mystical stages is called the Illumination of the Self. (The terminology is quite deceptive as this stage - relatively speaking - is external in focus).
This is really the first of the suprarational stages relating to the conceptual roots of personality. As the light returns once more - in more refined fashion - to one's external affairs, one experiences a deeper holistic vision of creation. It is often during this stage that one becomes deeply convinced of a special life purpose.
Again from the perspective of the physical aspect of the world (in relation to self) this stage again is transpersonal (trans).
However once more the same old problems of the (unreformed) primitive self gradually resurface in magnified fashion. As one is subjected to ever more "sinful" desires one's "special" spiritual vocation is gradually called into question with despondency and disillusionment setting in.
So from the perspective of the psychological aspect of the self (in
relation to the world) this stage represents a deep prepersonal stage (pre).
We then have the decisive "Dark Night of the Soul" which involves prolonged and intense interior illumination causing a kind of suffering without parallel in normal experience. Again from the perspective of the self (in relation to the world) this is deeply transpersonal (trans). However from the complementary perspective of the world (in relation to self), it is prepersonal. One's relationship with the world becomes a substantial cross involving daily humiliation and continual exposure to one's weakened and defenceless state.
Thus from the perspective of the world (in relation to the self) this
stage is now prepersonal (pre).
When this dialectical interplay as between pre and trans ceases "with
one's house all stilled" one enters a profound void. This void is both
pre and trans; alternatively it is neither pre nor trans; most completely
it is both pre and trans and neither pre nor trans which simply reflects
the inability of polarised language to adequately express this reality.
These stages relate to what I refer to as the circular level involving
dialectical interplay of pre and trans on a horizontal level (i.e. external
objective and internal subjective polarities).
In the stages of what I refer to as the point level this dialectical
interplay takes place in a vertical fashion (i.e. real quantitative and
imaginary qualitative polarities). This in essence entails a study of the
precise relationship as between directly "real" conscious and indirectly
conscious i.e. "imaginary" conscious - understanding. (The "imaginary"
conscious relates to fantasies and projections!)
Finally at what I refer to as the radial level the dialectical interplay takes place in its most complete diagonal fashion (finite actual and infinite potential polarities).
Though these relationships become increasingly subtle the basic principle of the two-way relativity of pre and trans remains the same.
Perhaps one helpful way of appreciating this interplay is in terms of
the integration of the spiritual personality (trans) with its shadow (pre).
I strongly believe that the formal presentation of mystical development - in both Western And Eastern traditions - is unbalanced. Too often it is seen as merely trans i.e. the progressive movement through "higher" transpersonal stages of development.
Even when the significance of prepersonal elements is recognised - as in the Christian ascetical tradition - the attitude is unduly negative. In other words a body denying attitude is frequently adopted where prepersonal elements are viewed simply as an obstacle to spiritual growth. Indeed this important aspect of development is largely censored out of formal presentations. I have never found in the literature for example an honest discussion on the important role of sexual fantasy in the mystical life!
Though there are obvious exceptions e.g. Tantric Buddhism, formal accounts
- East and West are dominated by the masculine - rather than the feminine
- principle. The transcendent (otherwordly) aspect is elevated over the
immanent (wordly) aspect. Ascent is elevated over descent; trans is elevated
Clearly a balanced presentation of mystical development will emphasise
equally both immanent and transcendent aspects (i.e. both pre and trans).
Thus all stages - outside the rational linear level - have both pre and trans aspects. At the "lower" levels of development the poles remain undifferentiated and confused; at the "higher" levels they are differentiated and fused (i.e. properly integrated).
My criticism of Ken Wilber's approach is very fundamental and goes way beyond the pre/trans fallacy.
As I have illustrated dynamic understanding involves the two-way interaction
of complementary poles. Ken frequently blurs the distinction between these
poles and generally treats (dynamic) relationships in a misleading one-way
linear fashion. Ken does not seem to realise that when we use a linear
approach to study such relationships that they can always be given two
opposite interpretations which are equally valid.
As I have illustrated Phil, all human relationships have both physical and psychological aspects. In other words they involve the two-way relationship of the world (in relation to self) and the self (in relation to the world).
Thus in linear polarised terms we have both transpersonal psychology (the "higher" stages of self evolution) and transpersonal physics (the "higher" stages of physical craetive evolution). Mystical development necessarily involves both aspects.
Equally in polarised terms we have both prepersonal psychology (the "lower" stages of self evolution) and prepersonal physics (the "lower"stages" of creative evolution). Now in dynamic terms these are purely relative so that transpersonal psychology i.e. self (in relation to world) entails prepersonal physics i.e. world (in relation to self); likewise transpersonal physics entails prepersonal psychology.
At the "lower" levels of development (before rational differentiation of poles), this dynamic relationship is experienced in a confused undifferentiated fashion; at the "higher" levels it gradually is experienced in a fused integrated manner.
Now Ken blurs this distinction. "Higher" human development - for Ken - involves transpersonal psychology (and not transpersonal physics). Thus in his approach the physical world is reduced in favour of the psychological and appears as the first stage of evolution. (He continually reminds for example that the noosphere is a higher holarchy than the physiospere!). Thus in Ken's approach physical world is identified as lower and the psychological self as higher in evolutionary terms.
Strictly speaking this is inaccurate. Human evolution can be read - in linear terms - as either the evolution of the self (towards pure spirit) or alternatively the evolution of physical creation (towards pure spirit). Relative to each other these movements are in opposite directions. So - in linear terms - that "highest" stage from one (linear) perspective is the "lowest" stage from the other equally valid (linear) perspective. Likewise the "lowest" stage from one perspective is the "highest" stage from the other. When we fully relate these two poles in dynamic terms all paradox disappears. The physical and psychological aspects of reality are seen as radically equal (which is the simple mystical vision).
To continually elevate the psychological over the physical aspect -
as Ken does - represents a fundamental distortion. It results essentially
from the misreading of the true nature of dynamic relationships.
There is a lot more I could say Phil, but the above should be enough for the moment.
Thank you for giving me the chance to clarify this important point.
I do hope it is of some assistance.