14 - Wilber and Washburn in Dialogue

I have read with interest the discussions as between Wilber and Washburn on the pre/trans issue.

Washburn - as befits one coming from a Jungian background - implicitly adopts a dynamic perspective (allowing for complementarity as between "higher" and "lower" stages).

However perhaps he does not properly distinguish differentiated from integral type appreciation. It is necessary to make explicit the precise contexts in which the separation of pre and trans notions is valid (differentiation) and then the corresponding contexts in which the complementary interpretation of these terms applies (integration).

Therefore because these distinctions are not made sufficiently clear he leaves himself open in some measure to the charge that he is confusing early infantile spiritual experience with its mature adult equivalent. What is really lacking here is a sufficiently accurate statement - in a dynamically consistent manner - as to how early infant experience is distinct from its adult equivalent.

However in making his point, Wilber somewhat exaggerates his claims. We know - and Wilber knows - that Washburn does not really equate infant with adult type spiritual experience. However it suits his own argument to distort the degree of confusion implicit in the Romantic position.

Indeed it seems apparent to me that throughout this debate Wilber "doth protest too much".

He realises - perhaps unconsciously - that dealing with the issue in a fully balanced manner would expose weaknesses in his own position.

When one looks closely at Wilber's argument, it becomes apparent that it relies on (rigid) asymmetrical type distinctions (which in a dynamic context are quite inappropriate).

Here is just one paragraph (in speaking of the Romantic position) on p.154 of "The Eye of Spirit" to illustrate:

"The fatal problem with this view is that the second step (the loss of unconscious union) is an absolute impossibility. As the Romantics themselves soon acknowledged, all things are one with the ground; if you actually lost union with your ground you would cease to exist.

Rather there are only two opinions you have with regard to the Ground: you can aware of your union with Ground or you can be unaware of it. The union is always present, but it can be either conscious or unconscious."

Notice here how we have the reduction of a complex position to absolute either/or statements (suited merely for differentiated appreciation). So Wilber is in fact imposing a form of understanding which properly reflects the rational level of development of the middle stages on a much earlier stage (where such understanding is inappropriate).

In dynamic terms there is a more appropriate (relative) view with respect to the Ground i.e. that you can be both aware and unaware of it. In other words the degree of experiential realisation of the Ground continually varies.

Therefore though in absolute nondual terms we remain one with the Ground, the realisation of this Ground continually changes throughout development (because of the interaction of both dual and nondual aspects of understanding). So in absolute nondual terms the union is indeed always present. However in relative terms (reflecting the dynamic process of development through the various stages) we are always to a degree both conscious and unconscious of this Ground.

In other words the realisation of the Ground in actual experience reflects the dynamic (two-way relationship) as between the conscious and unconscious aspects of personality.

So once again Wilber is attempting to deal with a dynamic interactive process (that entails two distinct forms of logical interpretation) with just one. In other words he employs a strongly reductionist form of argument in defence of his pre/trans fallacy.

Washburn has raised the possibility of a ptf -3 in his discussions with Wilber. Quoting his own (i.e. Washburn's words) he says

"This fallacy begins with the premise that pre and trans states are phenomenologically and developmentally different in significant respects and then moves to the unwarranted conclusion that these two states are expressions of two dissimilar states of non-egoic structures or potentials."

First of all this ptf-3 - like Wilber's - really has two forms.

Thus ptf-3 would represent a failure to realise that "higher" states are related to "lower".

ptf-4 would then be the corresponding failure to realise that "lower" states are related to "higher".

Ignoring here the need to properly distinguish structures and states, ptf-3 and ptf-4 would thus imply a failure to recognise a degree of complementarity as between pre and trans (and trans and pre) states.

However Washburn's treatment is not sufficiently strong in bi-directional terms to show that such complementarity is the very essence of all integral processes.

It also requires demonstrating - which Washburn does not attempt - how the (integral) fallacies express themselves in a distinct manner for each of the "higher" stages.

Finally it is necessary to show how ptf-3 and ptf-4 are reconciled with ptf-1 and ptf-2 throughout development (which is the basis of what I refer to as radial understanding).