15 - Problem with Bardo Teachings

Wilber devotes the entire last Chapter of "The Atman Project" to giving his explanation of the Bardo realms (associated with Tibetan Buddhism).

However though I am fully willing to accept the rich meaning and depth of significance of such an explanation (for those associated with the respective religious tradition), I find it inappropriate in a theory of development, which is supposed to have a more general applicability.

As I see it Wilber's problem - as invariably is the case - is that he does not interpret development in a sufficiently dynamic manner. Therefore he tends to look at stages in a discrete (linear) manner without recognising a corresponding interpretation in a dynamic complementary fashion (i.e. where "higher" and "lower" are necessarily interdependent).

So Wilber accepts that transpersonal experiences are available during infancy. However because he adopts a largely discrete interpretation of stages (where pre is clearly separated from trans), he has the difficulty in explaining how these have arisen. Thus in his terms he has to deny that they come from any pre-egoic structures. So he uses - what I personally find a very unconvincing view - that they are attributable to "trailing clouds of glory" as the remembrance of past-life spiritual development.

However this explanation of infantile transpersonal experiences as a kind of spiritual "leakage" from a former life is but an unsatisfactory linear type explanation of what really should be interpreted in an appropriate dynamic manner (without the need for culture-specific Bardo teachings).

So from a dynamic perspective, the reason why transpersonal experiences naturally arise in early infancy is due to the fact that prepersonal and transpersonal (and transpersonal and prepersonal) stages are strongly complementary with each other (in a confused manner) in early development.

So the natural experience of early childhood is that both prepersonal and transpersonal aspects are still combined in a confused (i.e. undifferentiated) manner.

This would also explain why such "transpersonal" experience tends to die out as childhood unfolds.

As structures become more differentiated the (confused) link, as between pre and trans (and trans and pre) structures, is gradually broken (though never totally). Thus the middle level (where structures are properly differentiated) relate to the personal stages (i.e. neither prepersonal nor transpersonal).