Firstly, I consider that Ken's treatment of the pre/trans fallacy is itself a fallacy.
Secondly, Ken does not adequately reconcile the rational analytical with the spiritually intuitive vision of reality. This is due to a lack of sufficient complementarity in his approach. Thus his view of evolution - though representing a magnificent effort of synthesis - is unduly elitist.
Finally - and perhaps most importantly - Ken's treatment of the "higher"
spiritual stages is very general and "vague". Ultimately, I believe that
this deficiency underlines the other problems I have mentioned.
I give considerable space in this posting to a holistic mathematical
mapping of the "higher" spiritual levels indicating how it provides the
appropriate context for Ken's own four quadrant approach (which he has
not successfully applied at these levels).
Q. You are very critical of Ken Wilber's pre/trans fallacy. In fact you consider his treatment of it to be itself a fallacy.
Can you briefly explain why this is so?
PC Yes. Ken's treatment is unduly linear in the way he attempts to clearly separate prepersonal from transpersonal archetypes.
However in the deepest sense "pre" and "trans" are complementary terms
with a purely relative meaning.
Linear interpretations involve an either/or logic i.e. an archetype
is either prepersonal or transpersonal. Complementary interpretations by
contrast involve a both/and logic i.e. an archetype is both prepersonal
A comprehensive treatment of archetypes involves reconciling linear and complementary meanings. In other words we require - in relative terms - a differentiated interpretation (where pre and trans are separated) and an integrated interpretation (where pre and trans are united).
Because Ken ignores this latter complementary interpretation, his treatment
is unbalanced and distorted. Furthermore this underlines other key weaknesses
in his work viz. his inadequate treatment of the "higher" mystical stages
of spiritual treatment and his elitist view of evolution.
Q. What is the substance of Wilber's position ?
PC Basically he is stating that it is wrong to identify a differentiated developed understanding of archetypal forms (which characterises true mystical understanding) with undifferentiated primitive understanding.
And of course I would go along with this. However a correct statement of the position is a lot more subtle than Ken seems to imagine.
"Pre" and "trans" relate to the physical and spiritual poles of experience respectively. Psychological development is then often - misleadingly represented - in linear terms - as a forward progression of stages involving transcendence of matter (senses) through mind (reason) ultimately culminating in pure mystical union (spirit). In this approach prepersonal is used to relate to the "lower" sense stages, personal to the "middle" mental stages and transpersonal to the "higher" spiritual stages. So when Ken sharply differentiates pre from trans, he is adopting the rational approach typical of the linear level.
The problem is that at all other levels of understanding complementarity exists so that properly speaking both the meaning of pre and trans cannot be clearly separated.
So at the "lower" and "higher" level stages, archetypes are both pre and trans. The key difference however is that whereas in the former case understanding of these remains undifferentiated and primitive, in the latter case it becomes fully differentiated and refined.
So the real distinction is not between pre and trans as such but rather
as between differentiated and undifferentiated pre-trans interpretations.
Q Can you elaborate on this point further?
PC. As I have stated many times before on this forum, I base my levels of understanding directly on the circular number system (provided by Holistic Mathematics).
Both the "highest" and "lowest" levels - which I term radial - are eight directional. This allows for complementarity of three types (diagonal, vertical and horizontal).
The levels ("higher" and "lower") - which I call point - are four directional. Whereas diagonal complementarity is now broken, it still remains in relation to both vertical and horizontal types.
The levels ("higher" and "lower") - which I term circular - are two directional. Both diagonal and vertical complementarity are now broken with only the horizontal type remaining.
Finally at the linear level all complementarity (diagonal, vertical and horizontal) is broken. This is the only level which is fully asymmetrical (where no complementarity exists). However the rational paradigm - based on this level - tends to heavily dominate intellectual translations of reality (even where other levels are involved). This is a trap that Ken falls into frequently.
Thus a proper interpretation of pre/trans starts from a position where these terms are understood as fully complementarity (i.e. with a totally confused identity). Gradually with the development of consciousness at the "lower" levels of understanding (radial, point and circular) the rational conscious element in understanding is developed, and complementarity gradually broken.
When the linear level is reached, all types of complementarity cease.
Thus the linear level is simply rational (i.e. neither prepersonal nor transpersonal).
However correctly understood all the "lower" levels are both prepersonal
and transpersonal (where understanding is however undifferentiated and
The "higher" levels lead to a return to complementary understanding
(this time in a mature differentiated and refined fashion). As one moves
through these "higher" levels (circular, point and radial), mere linear
understanding gradually gives way as the three types of complementarity
are once again restored. Ultimately this leads to total complementarity
(i.e. the identity of pure mystical union). Clearly in this "highest" state
polar distinctions no longer remain. "Pre" is once again identical with
I have remarked before on an unresolved problem in Ken's approach. He
employs two styles of understanding in his writing which are not properly
reconciled. On the one hand he is very Western with a marked ability for
precise rational analysis and the drawing of clear dualistic distinctions.
His emphatically stated pre-trans fallacy is the product of this approach.
On the other hand - in relation to the "higher" stages - he is quite Eastern
and illustrates this "vaguer" intuitive approach in a poetically rich literary
style. In this mode of understanding Ken has no difficulty in asserting
the ultimate futility of all dualisms (which of course includes pre and
trans). However a marked discontinuity exists where Ken - to my mind -
never satisfactorily integrates the rational with the intuitive approach.
Indeed it was the very need to address this problem that led me to develop
Q. Can you now take us briefly through your
PC Yes. We start with the physical ground of creation that is a union of total confusion.
All three types of complementarity fully exist here (in an undifferentiated manner).
Thus diagonal complementarity exists where actual form is inseparable from potential emptiness. In (dynamic) holistic mathematical terms "finite" (formal) and "transfinite" (empty) aspects are inseparable.
Vertical complementarity also exists where the qualitative (collective) whole is indistinguishable from quantitative (individual) parts. In holistic mathematical terms "real" (quantitative) and "imaginary" (qualitative) aspects are inseparable.
Finally horizontal complementarity exists where objective understanding is indistinguishable from subjective. In holistic mathematical terms "positive" (external) and "negative" (internal) aspects of reality are inseparable.
Of course in relation to all three types of complementarity, pre/trans
understanding (i.e. both "pre" and "trans") is likewise totally confused.
The "lowest" level of understanding (the "physical" radial) involves preliminary separation in relation to diagonal poles. In other words consciousness starts to hatch - as it were - from the unconscious leading to the separation of actual physical form, from its potential infinite ground. To this extent pre and trans also separate in a highly undifferentiated manner.
Basically the infant still tries to identify the final spiritual goal
of creation with its beginning physical ground. In other words both pre
and trans are still greatly confused at this level.
The next "lower" level of understanding (the "physical" point) involves
- in addition - separation in relation to vertical poles. Now the infant
begins to differentiate quantitative parts (i.e. objects) from a background
qualitative whole (dimensions). Though pre and trans now likewise begin
to separate in this vertical sense considerable confusion still exists
(especially in relation to horizontal complementarity).
The final "lower" level (the "physical" circular) involves additional separation in relation to horizontal poles. Now the child begins to clearly distinguish external objective from internal subjective experience. With the continued specialisation of consciousness the child eventually reaches a position where remaining confusion of "pre" and "trans" can be finally removed.
This is completed at the "middle" (rational) linear level. Because all (confused) complementarity has now been finally removed, the linear level is neither pre nor trans (i.e. neither prepersonal nor transpersonal).
So correctly interpreted at all the lower levels, understanding is pre-trans
(in a confused manner). This continues till the rational linear level (where
understanding is neither pre nor trans).
Q Now starting with the circular, can
you now take us in more detail through your "higher" levels.
PC. Holistic mathematics provides - in my opinion - the appropriate means for mapping all of the "higher" levels (and stages) in a detailed - and precise - manner. With a merely linear approach all sorts of subtle confusions arise.
Once again I have three main levels the circular (which would include the psychic and subtle realms), the point (the causal) and the radial (nondual reality).
In relation to each of these levels, I distinguish - in relative terms -three sub-levels i.e. concrete (based on sense perception), formal (based on mental conception) and formless (directly spiritual) stages.
The key structural characteristic of the entire circular level is the restoration of horizontal complementarity (in a refined mature manner).
This implies that all stages have two directions (i.e. both positive
It is important to indicate the significance of this approach.
Thus our first concrete (supersensory) sub-level has both positive and negative aspects.
What this entails is that we now must look at development in dynamic relative terms. The (objective) world and (subjective) self dynamically interact.
Thus we can have development of the external world (in relation to self). This represents the positive direction. Equally we can have development of the internal self (in relation to the world). This represents - in relative terms - the negative direction.
During the positive phase - due to considerable spiritual fusion of external and internal poles - sense symbols acquire an archetypal quality pointing to their ultimate ineffable spiritual nature. In Christian terms this is identified with an outpouring of illumination in a joyous expansive experience. (In Evelyn Underhill's classic study this is referred to as The Awakening of the Self).
By contrast during the negative phase, considerable introversion and
suffering is involved in what in Christian ascetism is referred to as purgation.
This in fact represents an inpouring of spiritual illumination that greatly
magnifies awareness of the imperfections of the ego-based self. (Underhill
refers to this as The Purgation of the Self).
What I wish to highlight here is the purely relative nature of progression and regression.
When viewed from the external perspective (the physical self), the former phase represents a marked progression and the latter phase a corresponding regression. (Interests, skills, achievements all tend to sharply decline during this time).
However when viewed from the internal perspective (the psychological self), it is the latter phase (despite all appearances to the contrary) where real progress is made. It is here that one acquires true interior knowledge.
Thus in horizontal terms spiritual progress (in relation to the world) entails regression (in relation to knowledge of self). Spiritual progress (in relation to self) entails regression (in relation to the world).
The Christian mystical approach is especially valuable in portraying this inevitable dialectical nature of spiritual development. This reflects the horizontal complementarity (objective and subjective) that dynamically grows at this time.
Pre and trans are of course likewise relative (in this horizontal sense).
What is trans from the standpoint of the physical world (in relation to self) is pre from the standpoint of the psychological self (in relation to the world).
Equally what is trans from the standpoint of the psychological self
(in relation to the world) is pre from the standpoint of the physical world
(in relation to self).
What this ultimately entails is that radical equality exists (in horizontal terms) as between the world and self.
In terms of this level it is inaccurate therefore to assert - as Ken
often does - that the noosphere represents a higher holarchy than the physiosphere.
This again is a merely linear interpretation (where matter is viewed independently
of mind). We have not a physiosphere and noosphere separately as such (but
rather a dynamic relationship entailing both). So therefore at each "higher"
level (and indeed sub-level), physical creation is literally transformed.
Correctly speaking therefore at this (circular) level the physiosphere
and noosphere mutually reflect each other (in horizontal terms).
The second sub-level is deeper and conceptually based related more to the general holistic form of creation (i.e. dimensional background). This involves what I refer to as the suprarational stages (again with both positive and negative aspects).
The positive aspect leads once more to an enhanced cosmic vision in the outpouring of a more subtle and refined spiritual illumination. This again is an exciting and life enhancing phase. (In Underhill's terminology this is The Illumination of the Self). However because this involves profound transformation of the world (in relation to self), the need for a corresponding reverse stage grows. This negative aspect is the famous "Dark Night of the Soul" which in many respects is the most critical and demanding on the mystical journey. This involves intense inner purgation throwing into dramatic relief the misery of self.
Much misunderstanding especially of this phase results from the adoption of an inadequate linear approach. Here when the positive aspect is seen as representing progress i.e. illumination of creation (in relation to self), then the negative aspect - represented by "The Dark Night of the Soul" appears as a profound regression. Indeed it is extremely harrowing involving a type of existential anguish that is impossible to adequately communicate. Not surprisingly one's external relationships are fraught with great difficulty at this time.
However when viewed from the perspective of the self (in relation to the world), "The Dark Night of the Soul" represents the decisive breakthrough in terms of mystical transformation.
So once again at this formal sub-level progression and regression go hand in hand in hand.
Of course we have a pathological form of regression during "The Dark Night" with depression and perhaps psychotic symptoms temporarily surfacing. Due to the extreme psychological severity of the stage, such symptoms are indeed inevitable.
However to concentrate on the merely pathological aspects is to miss
the profound existential significance of the mature spiritual "regression"
required in the total surrender of the (conscious) ego-based self.
The third sub-level is the most purely spiritual and formless. It represents
a transcendent void where horizontal complementarity is now fully achieved
(i.e. subjective and objective polarities no longer exist). Of course pre
and trans distinctions disappear here (in horizontal terms).
Using Ken's four quadrant approach, holistic mathematics shows how both exterior (positive) and interior (negative) aspects are developed. This enables horizontal complementarity (where no duality exists) to be maintained at an intuitive level, while maintaining relative separation of each aspect at a rational level.
Though we can also identify clearly both affective and cognitive stages
(which are "individual" and "collective" with respect to each other), confusion
still remains (as to their complementary nature). This task is dealt with
at the point level.
Q. Can you now describe how complementarity
operates at the point level.
PC This I believe is the most original aspect of my approach. Unlike
the circular level, I could find no real precedents for my mapping in the
mystical literature. Holistic Mathematics is derived especially from this
Due to the intensity of the "Dark Night" by the completion of the circular level all voluntary conscious activity is eroded.
When consciousness is once again reborn, it is largely in an indirect involuntary manner (i.e. in the form of transient projections emitted from the unconscious).
Whereas in holistic mathematical terms former consciousness is "real" this more transient elusive type is "imaginary".
This really points to the true meaning of all phenomena - emitted from the unconscious during this time - which are holistic and qualitative with considerable archetypal significance. This leads to the profound realisation that qualitative transformations - at all levels - should be modelled in "imaginary" fashion.
Thus reality is now seen dynamically in mathematical "complex" terms
(with "real and "imaginary" aspects). If in a given context the (quantitative)
parts are "real", then the (qualitative) whole - to which they are related
- is "imaginary".
In terms of the "imaginary" consciousness of the point level, there is now a decisive vertical split in the personality into "higher" and "lower" aspects.
The "higher superior" aspect involves an extremely refined cognitive translation of reality in holistic formal terms (collective).
The "lower inferior" aspect involves an immediate affective translation - through fantasy projection - in specific concrete terms (individual).
The key dynamic of the point level is the progressive integration of these vertical aspects so that the "inferior" part is adequately reflected in the "superior" whole and equally that the "superior" whole is reflected in the "inferior" part.
This task of harmonisation involves the central point of the personality
i.e. the will.
Again we can identify (highly subtle) concrete, formal and formless
With the concrete sub-level, we have a vertical divide into "higher" (advanced) superstructures and corresponding "lower" substructures.
At the "upper" level a very refined holistic translation takes place (which represents the subtle relationship as between analytic and holistic type understanding).
This leads to a very flexible world-view which is both psycho-physical (i.e. where the physical structure of reality is reflected through psychological experience) and physico-psychic (i.e. where the psychological structure of reality is equally reflected though physical experience).
In "Transforming Voyage" I identify eight (relatively) distinct subphases.
At the "lower" level a highly specific form of projection (mostly in
the form of erotic fantasy) takes place. The key to coming to terms with
this projection requires the giving of a universal holistic significance
to immediate primitive responses. This in turn is facilitated by the viewing
of such "lower" fantasy as complementary to "superior" spiritual activity.
The key problem at this sub-level is that some overlap as between cognitive
and affective modes still exists. Thus on the one hand intellectual activity
suffers from a degree of emotional prejudice, whereas fantasy activity
suffers from a degree of repression.
The formal sub-level involves a more extreme degree of specialisation of "higher" cognitive and "lower" affective aspects.
In terms of "higher" understanding, - because of the growing absence of sense interference, deep insight is now obtained into the fundamental dynamic structures of reality.
This understanding is psycho-mathematical. At last one is able to square the circle and satisfactorily integrate reason and intuition in a scientific manner. This is what I refer to as Holistic Mathematics. The spectrum of consciousness is now seen as reflected through mathematical relationships (One can translate reality precisely in reduced mathematical terms). Likewise mathematics is reflected through the psychological spectrum. (Mathematics can be given a transformed vertical understanding with many differing paradigms).
Again in "Transforming Voyage" I outline eight distinct sub-phases.
In terms of "lower" understanding one is now able to sustain intense exposure to the most intimate types of fantasy (without undue super-ego control). When released in this manner, projections gradually lose their involuntary character and become integrated with spiritual desire.
The formless sub-phase - where both "high level" and "low level" projections
cease - involves both a transcendent and immanent void (the absence of
all phenomenal "wholes" and "parts"). This represents the full integration
Once again pre and trans are highly complementary terms (in a vertical manner) during this level.
What is trans from the "higher" cognitive perspective is pre from the "lower" affective viewpoint.
However equally what is trans from the "lower" perspective is pre from the "higher" viewpoint. Indeed this dialectic between the two continues until both become identical in the spiritual void.
Vertical complementarity is an extremely important notion. Again it conflicts greatly with merely linear notions of ascending holarchies. The truth is that the "lowest" level is fully reflected in the "highest" and the "highest" in the "lowest". Thus ultimately - in pure mystical union - there is no difference as between the ultimate goal of creation and its fundamental ground.
Equally there is direct vertical complementarity as between each of the "lower" and "higher" levels. The holistic structure of each "lower" physical level therefore is fully reflected in the corresponding "higher" psychological level.
This makes it possible therefore - as I have been demonstrating in recent
posts - to infer important truths about the fundamental nature of "lower"
physical nature from a corresponding knowledge of "higher" psychological
However I find that there is a particular lack of vertical complementarity in Ken's work.
Once again in insisting that the noosphere - for example - is a higher
holarchy than the physiosphere, he fails to adequately reflect their equality.
When Blake saw "a world in a grain of sand" the whole noosphere was fully
reflected in this seemingly insignificant part of the physiospere. Likewise
when Julian of Norwich marvelled at the quantity of a hazelnut the whole
noosphere was fully reflected in a seemingly insignificant part of the
biosphere. This spirit of the radical equality of creation at all levels
- and not ascending holarchies - is what truly characterises the mystical
The outline I have given of the point level gives a dynamic holistic mathematical interpretation to the individual and collective aspects of Ken' four quadrant approach.
In the void the individual (partial) and collective (holistic) aspects are intuitively understood as fully complementary. Each distinctive stage can then be given - in relative terms - a separate rational validity.
Thus with the completion of both circular and point levels both a differentiated and integrated understanding of all four quadrants is possible. Thus one can give rational translations of differing stages placing them in all four quadrants while intuitively reconciling all facets in the same unified vision.
Once again Ken's approach is too linear. He tends to give a merely differentiated understanding of how holons can be placed in all four quadrants. Then when it comes to "higher" spiritual development he really only manages to deal with one quadrant (the individual UL).
A full understanding of the stages of the levels of mystical development
requires placing development in all four quadrants - indeed in all eight
sectors - (through the careful identification of separate stages), and
then showing the complementary links (horizontal, vertical and diagonal)
as between these stages. This in fact is precisely what Holistic Mathematics
is designed to achieve.
Q. Can you now move on to the radial "level" and
deal with its complementarity.
PC The divisions as between the three sub-levels concrete, formal and
formless start to disappear at this level. Because of increasing involvement
in reality, the concrete and formal aspects of reality are progressively
integrated. The dynamic phenomenal manifestations that result (actual)
are continually underlined by a formless spiritual essence (potential).
The key remaining problem remaining is the full reconciliation of actual (phenomenal) with potential (empty) aspects.
This leads to our third kind of complementarity which is diagonal and refers mathematically to the relationship as between finite and infinite reality.
This can be expressed paradoxically as both same level (horizontal)
and different level (vertical) complementarity. What this really implies
is that because we are dealing here with the underlying fundamental void,
even relative notions are no longer appropriate. In other words in terms
of the void there is absolutely no distinction as between opposite polarities
(e.g. pre and trans).
During the radial level we have the full expression of stages which are both suitably differentiated (rationally) and integrated (intuitively).
Thus stages are differentiated with (relatively) both positive (exterior) and negative (interior) aspects. This relates to objective and subjective directions of experience.
Likewise they are differentiated with both real (individual) and imaginary (collective) aspects. This relates to cognitive and affective directions. (These represent Ken's four quadrants).
Finally they are differentiated with both finite (actual) and infinite or transfinite (potential) aspects. This relates to conscious and unconscious directions. (This now gives eight sectors).
It is the corresponding complementary nature of these stages (in horizontal, vertical and diagonal terms) that leads to their successful intuitive integration.
So experience becomes a ceaseless dynamic act of reducing in phenomenal
form (through reason) and transforming in spirit (through intuition).
During the earlier phases of the radial level difficulties will still be encountered in terms of full integration. One's holistic vision of reality may not be fully reflected in terms of local responsibilities.
I believe that the true task of the radial level is to find - in the
light of personality, circumstances and abilities - an adequate outward
expression of one's spiritual vision. In the very nature of things this
can only achieve an approximate level of realisation.
Thus though it is useful to portray an idealised simple state representing
full personality differentiation and integration, this can never be fully
Q Can you say something now about archetypes.
PC This is a very difficult topic. The primordial archetypal patterns inherent in the psyche are ultimately ineffable and point to that fundamental potential void which underlines all existence. Now whereas culturally - as highlighted by Jung - we can identify universally inherited archetypes, potentially - given the correct attitude - all symbols (e.g. Blake's grain of sand) can acquire powerful archetypal significance.
Correctly understood such archetypes point two ways (i.e. both to the "physical" ground and "spiritual goal" of existence). In other words all archetypes inherently are both pre and trans. Therefore I am not in agreement with Ken's view that archetypes should be categorised in prepersonal, personal and transpersonal fashion. Such an approach endangers the very mystery inherent in archetypal symbols. For example mathematical symbols - in our culture - most typify the rational approach (where archetypal significance is lost). However - when correctly interpreted - they equally serve as the most universal and powerful symbols we have for holistic order. Indeed Holistic Mathematics can be looked on as the exploration of the inherent archetypal significance of mathematical symbols.
What is really important therefore is to identify firstly why this archetypal capacity which is present from early infancy (in a confused fashion) becomes largely lost in our rational culture and secondly - and more importantly - to identify how this capacity can be restored in a mature differentiated fashion.
The basic situation is quite simple.
Reality is built on three fundamental sets of complementary symmetries
(horizontal, vertical and diagonal). These are all present - in confused
fashion - in early childhood. However the specialisation of rational understanding
requires the breaking of all three of these symmetries (i.e. complementarities).
The development of the mature archetypes requires the restoring of these original symmetries - at the three levels - which is the task of mystical spiritual development.
When these symmetries are suitably restored the archetypal significance of all symbols is released as pure spiritual light.
Q Can you now sum up your main findings?
PC Though Ken accuses Jung of fundamental confusion in relation to archetypes,
it can be equally asserted that Ken himself is guilty of similar confusion.
I believe that Jung was inherently correct in not separating pre from trans
interpretations (for such complementarity is essential to the very meaning
of archetypes). It is true however that he does fail to sufficiently distinguish
as between primitive (undifferentiated) and mature (refined) understanding
of the same archetypes.
This all points to a deeper problem in Ken's approach which I would describe as a lack of complementarity (esp. vertical). Ken frequently switches from a linear analytical approach (where dualistic distinctions are emphasised) to a "vaguer" poetic style (where these dualisms have no ultimate meaning). However - due to a lack of complementarity - he does not sufficiently reconcile these two approaches.
In particular the overall trend of his evolutionary approach as a network
of ascending holarchies is somewhat elitist and very questionable.
The value of holistic mathematics is in providing a precise means for reconciling intuitive and rational approaches. I have gone - in some detail - into the "higher" levels to show how this operates.
This gives indeed a more dynamic interpretation to Ken's four quadrant
approach (which in my approach is a subset of a more expanded eight sectoral
approach). While showing how various stages - at each level - can be rationally
categorised in each of the four quadrants (indeed eight sectors), equally
it shows how these stages - through the three different complementarities
(horizontal, vertical and diagonal) can be intuitively reconciled in a
deeper spiritual synthesis.
A major gap in Ken's approach in fact is the lack of sufficient detail
in terms of the evolution of "higher" spiritual stages. He deals with them
in a very general way and largely from the perspective of just one quadrant
(viz. the individual UL). This lack of detail in an important area contributes
to the confusions I have mentioned elsewhere.
My main purpose on this Forum is to highlight the importance of Holistic Mathematics.
I believe it has immense potential as a precise scientific means for integrative studies.
I hope that this critique of some aspects of Ken's work helps to highlight