Read "Climbing the Stairway to Heaven", my 7-part review of Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow (2017).
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
British-born, Canadian Gerry Goddard was an astrologer, metaphysician, transpersonalist, consultant, writer, teacher and scholar whose special interest was the bridge between foundational astrology and the field of post-Jungian transpersonal studies. Gerry died unexpectedly in November of 2007 at the age of 64. Much of Gerry's written work is available at his memorial website: www.islandastrology.net
Toward a reconciliation
Gerry Goddard (1943-2007)
"... I think the possibility of a new kind of philosophy should happen as a result of the transpersonal community....I believe if we study and meditate on the evolution of consciousness, I think we will see that it is our task to learn to bridge, to learn to meet,
to reach the other, the other idea, the other gender, the other generation, the other class.
But in this community, maybe the most difficult thing is to meet the other paradigm, the other framework, the other interpretive scheme and the person who espouses it."
Out of a most stimulating debate, beginning as an intensive and rigorous examination of the work of Ken Wilber and resulting in the airing of a multidimensional set of viewpoints embracing, questioning and re-visioning the synthesizing framework of this influential thinker, there is a need to consolidate the most incisive insights arising from this vital community of thinkers toward realizing the possibility of an even more inclusive and more flexibly open synthesis of seemingly incommensurable positions, embodied most ambitiously and centrally in the models of Stanislav Grof, Ken Wilber, and Michael Washburn.
In this article I would like to offer what I believe constitute the necessary and essential features of what Charles Taylor (1989) has called, any possible 'best account model.' In transpersonal theory, a 'best account model' would be one which preserves, in a coherent overarching account, the consensus features of major transpersonal models such as those above cited as well as incorporating significant ideas of particular critiques, while offering the possibility of a reconciliation of their essential differences. Specifically, I believe that such a model can be conceived within a broadly 'perennialist' framework in agreement with much, though not all, of the developmental logic of Wilber's holarchic model, while centrally incorporating, in somewhat modified form, Washburn's Jungian and depth-psychological, dialectical position, as well as Grof's perinatal and archetypal viewpoint.
Most central is the issue of the so-called 'regression in service of transcendence,' the pivotal feature of Washburn's dynamic dialectical model, which ties in with Grof's perinatal dimension, revealing a multidimensional and archetypal interconnection of the biological birth process, the biographical and the transpersonal, through the ego-transcending perinatal experience. In the terms in which they have been presented, these more spiralic and less linear accounts are understood by Wilber to be in violation of the pre-trans distinction, or to be reducible to his strictly biophysical fulcrum 0, and have been recast in his own terms in a way which seriously undercuts their foundational significance.
The general claim as to the primal repressions and alienations of certain 'collective unconscious' dimensions upon which, or through which, consequent body-egoic and mental-egoic developments occur and the profound interpenetration of the self, dialectically formed through the outward arc of development, and these alienated dimensions which takes place in the transpersonal, may appear to fly in the face of several of Wilber's contentions, not least of which is his claim that the mental-ego is more global in its reach than, say, the body-ego and is less 'alienated' than the pleromatic self. With this in mind, in order to map a picture which speaks of a reunion and an interpenetration of dimensions which had 'become alienated' and separated, we need to envision the process, not as a 'self' separating from the 'Ground,' but as a 'self' and 'not-self' increasingly separating at successive levels of a broadly developmental holarchy whose deep structures are defined through an archetypal process, rather than by privileging Piaget's cognitive structures as the paradigm of basic or deep structure. Such a picture actually agrees with Wilber that the mental-ego is indeed less alienated from Spirit than the pleromatic self in the sense that he uses the term 'alienated' (following involution); that is, we can agree that at the centauric level we are indeed 'half way home'.
In agreement with Wilber, we acknowledge that in terms of the outward arc developments taking place, the mental-ego is indeed above the body-ego, vision logic and formal operational above concrete operational, marking these higher developments as indeed more global than the lower, capable of an 'aperspectival' or vision logic awareness which is more evolved than a literalistic mythic and ethnocentric consciousness. (In disagreement with Wilber, the rich dimensionality of myth as the inspirational attunement to archetypal structure 'behind' the concrete, is not reducible to the literalistic collective, or concrete operational. Neither is the rational, Campbell/Jungian approach to myth a mere 'reading into.')
But, with significant consequences, Wilber overlooks the larger picture revealed through the depth psychological and experiential encounter, the proper place of the 'perinatal', and the nature of gender, indigenous and biospheric alienations which have occured in conjunction with the successive developments of consciousness. His vertical axis, despite holarchic nesting, plots only a singular vertical trajectory (apparently allowing only necessary 'regressive' movements of completion of the integrative task at each successive stage ~ see below) while the larger implications of the dialectic within Wilber's own horizontal heterachy, are not mapped (partly illuminated by Wright's [1996, 27] concept of synarchy).
Our challenge is to map the necessary reconciliation and interpenetrative re-uniting which takes place within the first levels of the transpersonal revealing how this 'higher' trans-egoic structure is fully implicated with the 'lower' levels (relative to the vertical axis) even as it is an unfolding of the higher. Here, the 'lower' contains so much more than is contained within Wilber's 'lower.' Taking us beyond and outside what is illuminated by ordinary 'regression' and descent, the apprehending of this more encompassing 'lower' is that which constitutes the next major 'upward' step in the evolution of consciousness.
Pivotal in this process is an adequate explication of the logical relation of ontogeny and phylogeny. The proposition that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; that is, that individual structures are essentially the same as collective ones, is difficult to accept because, as stated, it is not quite true. It is not quite exact to claim that ontogeny (individual development) recapitulates phylogeny (historical development) based on the assumption of homologies between individual and collective structures as if individual structures were simply reflections of collective historical ones. History is not simply a history of collective structures but a history of the dialectical relationship of individual and collective structures. Individual development recapitulates this dialectical process. In the sense that we can legitimately say that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, both processes must be mapped as the dialectic of individual and collective, with ontogeny focussing on the individual and phylogeny focussing on the collective structures. I believe that neither Wilber nor Habermas (1979, 95-129) deal adequately with this precise issue as they seek to map the complex homologies between individual and collective structures.
Our suggested model ~ or rather the essential features of such a possible model ~ attempts to reconcile certain, not only historically, but theoretically marginalized dimensions and positions without collapsing the developmental structure that Wilber reveals and without forcing these dimensions to fit Wilber's agentically biased topography (even though outward arc development occurs through the archetypal increasing dominance of the agency pole over the communal pole) and further, to do so without violating the pre-trans distinction. As much as Wilber rejects Jungianism, and he is correct in rejecting certain of its formulations, I wish to argue that our overall view follows from his own terms as he himself acknowledges the dialectic of the agentic and communal poles of the grand archetypal holon.
We must remember that despite his seeming disparagement of the lower, Wilber is always at great pains to remind us that Spirit indeed permeates the physiosphere, biosphere and noosphere. Matter, body and mind are Spirit, but Spirit is also much more; so to realize Spirit (or even Soul) one necessarily finds oneself at a higher or trans-egoic level of the Great Chain. So transpersonal consciousness, or awareness, is logically and necessarily above the egoic so cannot be realized at levels lower than the 'top' of the mature mental-egoic or centauric.
The essential logic of the view I wish to present acknowledges that 'reality' (insofar as we can speak of it at all) must be mapped as a multileveled ontology/epistemology intelligible only from within a generally perennialist paradigm, but that the way Wilber has mapped it, enframes a logical conflation of axes and overlooks a critical 'Jungian' dimension. Our account shows how the somewhat misnamed 'regression in service of transcendence' is a foundational and essential feature of the higher level structure. And I believe it can do so without being in violation of the pre-trans distinction because:
- it does not map transcendence as equivalent to a conscious reliving of original unconscious fusion:
- it does not elevate primal potentials to transcendent status:
- it does not picture a simple regressive return to prior experienced levels:
- it is an encounter with the new and beyond:
- while a structurally 'downward' movement, it is at the same time, an 'upward' evolutionary movement
- it is mapped in relation to dimensions which cannot be mapped on Wilber's logically conflated vertical axis.
- it does not reject, as does Washburn, the pre-trans as a distinction of structures even while acknowledging it as a distinction of states and stages.
- it does not have to resort to Washburn's unclear distinction between the Ground unrealized (pre-personal) and the Ground realized (transpersonal), which only sneaks in the hierarchy through the back door and does not succeed in mapping the necessary 'regression' feature in a way that answers Wilber's objections.
Also, an adequate view not only allows, but requires as its fundamentally constitutive properties, the mapping of those marginalized or 'secondary' aspects of the feminine, relational connectedness, the 'collective unconscious', the moral and the affective while preserving the overarching perennialist, onto-epistemological, holarchic, and spiritual evolutionary perspective. So it is actually by exploring the full implications of some of the newest of Wilber's own formulations; namely, his extensively articulated holon concept in terms of holarchic nesting, hierarchy/heterarchy which equals holarchy, the agentic/communal polarity, the twenty tenets, and the four quadrant model, that what appears as a particularly restrictive logic can now be opened up to allow the possibility of a more multidimensional mapping provided the fuller implications of these rich and importantly clarifying concepts are explored and applied to his own previously articulated structures.
Surveying existing critiques of Wilber's basic concepts and structures
Before taking a look at the Washburn/Wilber and Grof/Wilber debates in particular, we need to identify those structural features of Wilber's model which seem to incline it toward a denial of the 'regression in service of transcendence' feature of the Grof and Washburn models. Thus, we are centrally concerned with the logical coherence of his concepts of sequential holarchic development, the structure of the holon and the mandalic map he presents as the 4-quadrant model.
Washburn (1996), Kelly (1996) and Wright (1996) have pointed out that certain of Wilber's structures do not follow his own holarchic, sequential, and integrative developmental logic. Insofar as the mental-ego does not, and even cannot, fully integrate certain of the primal, somatic and dynamic potentials (the levels of Freudian and Jungian depth psychology) which await integration at the level of the centaur, Washburn argues that Wilber's model departs from his (i.e. Wilber's) very own account of normal developmental stage transition. As Washburn (1996, 6) puts it, "If normal development includes rather than excludes lower levels at each stage transition, why do we need to wait until the centauric stage to integrate all lower levels?" Washburn concludes that since, according to Wilber, "each psychic level attained is already an integrated totality including all previous levels; each stage transition to a new level simply integrates a lesser totality within a greater totality," then in order "to be consistent, he should acknowledge that human development prior to the centauric level departs from the pattern of normal development by alienating rather than integrating transcended structures." As we shall see, by pointing out Wilber's vacillation on the point of the necessity vs. the contingency of the mind/body split, things open up for Washburn to establish the necessity of his 'regression in service of transcendence'.
The apparent unclarity or even contradiction in Wilber's developmental position is also exposed by Kelly (1996, 22) who, though more centrally concerned with addressing faults in the logic of the relation between the personal and transpersonal domains in general, writes, "Apart from perhaps the body-ego, the only personal structure that manifestly fulfills Wilber's criteria for holarchical integration is that of the centaur." Then, questioning the alleged holarchic nature even of the cognitive, he states, "While it is true that concepts 'contain' symbols, they do so for the most part unconsciously. Concepts are, to a certain extent at least, abstracted from symbols, which therefore 'contain' the former implicitly." So just as it follows that body-ego and mental-ego would await holarchic integration in the centaur, symbol and concept would await true integration in vision logic rather than at the formal operational level, integrating pre-operational and concrete operational. In Kelly's words, "...while the mental-ego 'includes' the body as a representational or conceptual component of its self-construct and can (within limits) operate on the body, both consciously and unconsciously, the body nevertheless maintains a certain autonomy relative to the mental-ego...The mental-ego itself...is not necessarily a fully integrated structure....Progress along the 'outward arc,' in other words, though involving greater differentiation, complexity, and operational autonomy, also involves a series of self-limiting contractions and splittings." (p. 21)
In a similar vein Wright (1996, 30) argues, "If as Wilber (1995) presents, the emergence of developmental levels operates according to a 'holonic' paradigm, there is no need to postulate a separate vision-logic stage for the reintegration of the body with the mind, nature with culture, and the feminine with the masculine. The potential for reintegration should be inherent within the holon or stage in which the dissociation first developed, as well as within each holonic stage that emerges thereafter....If the dissociations currently exhibited at the rational level are not fully healed, the next stage, vision-logic, also will be fragmented." As to whether or not even the centaur can represent the kind of integration required by Wilber's logic, Wright (p.35) argues that the centaur does not integrate male and female, biosphere and noosphere, stating that "I would prefer...to believe that the centaur represents androcentric thinking that has perceived its limitations and now is reaching toward a more balanced approach."
In response to these and other arguments Wilber is forced to both clarify and further emphasize the difference between basic and transitional structures opening up his model to a picturing of a multitude of developmental lines where the only criterion of deep structure which remains appears to be the hard cognitive stages of Piaget.
Based on an analysis of Wilber's concession to a multi-developmental perspective (see his bar graph model, 1990b, 121.), where several modes or lines of development, namely, cognition, affect, morality, sense of self, and interpersonal relationships develop somewhat independently, Rothberg (1996, 28) concludes that "it may not be possible to claim that the basic transpersonal structures can meet the Piagetian criterion of being structured wholes....We can also ask whether transpersonal development is best understood by centering on cognitive structures or needs to be given a more integrative reading, identifying the apparently many modes of development."
Further to the above arguments presented by Washburn, Kelly, and Wright, Rothberg (p 29) writes, "Relaxing the strictures of a developmental logic also helps Wilber to make more sense of the notion of the (transitional) stage of the 'centaur' and the 'integrated' ego....Only with 'vision logic' and the self sense of the 'centaur' is there integration. Is this a culturally rooted developmental oddity...or does this pattern reflect the normal mode of development? While identifying this pattern with transitional rather than basic structures helps take off the logical pressure, it also raises questions about the extent to which Wilber's theory takes on an ad hoc quality...The developmental logic can only be preserved if it is somehow assumed that there are 'core' competences, as it were, for each structure that furnish the basis for more advanced structures, given that advanced structures do not necessarily presuppose the 'completion' of earlier stages. Again, there seems a risk of the theory becoming excessively ad hoc."
These are indeed strong arguments which question the sequential, holarchic structuration of the stage/structures of the outward arc, so if the holarchical ontology is to be preserved, the principles which define the 'perennialist' deep structure/levels and the relations which hold among the structures at successive stages of development and evolution need to be explored.
Added to these critiques, there is the point raised by Kelly (taking a different tack to Washburn), that a special relationship exists between the pre-personal structures and the transpersonal where 'influxes' can occur which seems to defy the developmental stages. In his words, "If all levels of the Great Chain manifest the same principles of holarchical integration, why is it possible for transpersonal influxes to occur at any lower level of organization...whereas it is impossible for someone at, say, cognitive stage 2 (preop) to experience, again however fleetingly, an influx from cognitive stage 4 (formop)? Clearly, the transpersonal levels as a whole are of a completely different order than the ones that precede them." This is a critically important insight and I agree with Kelly that these domains are indeed of a different order in some sense from each other. A special archetypal relation exists between these realms which does not quite follow the holarchic sequence of Wilber. But I would wonder whether his notion of the implicate/explicate nature of the two domains can be coherently established. (1) Also there is a need in speaking of 'influxes', for example, in the case of a child, to discriminate among 'transpersonal', 'collective unconscious', and 'paranormal' phenomena. I think that these 'influxes' may be explainable (at least partly) in terms of primal developments in relation to the 'collective unconscious' which can and must be mapped in relation to the outward arc structures but not above them in the sense of the concept 'transpersonal' which necessarily and logically requires some sort of mental-egoic (form-op) development.
Most relevant for our considerations is that Kelly's explanation of the body-ego as the explicate level of the implicate subtle does not preserve the perennialist model. It does not integrate Washburn, Wilber and Grof in the way that our 'best account model' would hope to do. Kelly must postulate an 'implicate' and parallel dimension in order to explain certain features which he correctly recognizes. But I believe these can be explained without completely deconstructing the Great Chain of Being or arguing in ways I do not believe can be defended against perennialist arguments.
The Logic of the Holon and the Four-Quad model
Wilber's explication of the holon, which goes beyond Koestler's (1978) nested and logically inadequate concept (2), and his mandalic 4-quadrant model of the inner-outer, individual/social polarity of any holon linking related concepts at each holarchic level, represents a major clarification of holonic structure vis a vis common confusions of span and environmental containment. Wilber's formulation of the holon as bi-polar expresses the clarifying insight that the organism is not holarchically contained within its environment. Organism and environment, and consequently, individual and collective, develop interdependently and simultaneously (his agency in communion). A human organism differentiates/integrates developing into a body-ego and eventually into a mental-egoic person in necessary interaction with a biological, mental-social and relational collective environment; that is, in parallel to, and necessarily connected with, collective developments. Nevertheless, Wilber's explication contains certain logical difficulties, seeming incoherences, and significant incompletions (3).
The 4-quadrant model, which is a picture of the ultimately indivisible ALL (his mandala is cosmic, but as he says, there are only holons, i.e. part/wholes and no Whole) along the outward arc and not a picture of the transpersonal levels, moves beyond the implicit problem of Wilber's earlier writings where he presented a perennialist hierarchy implicitly enframing a philosophical dualism; namely, mind above matter ~ not as a particular structure of consciousness (an epistemological level) but within an ontological hierarchy. Now we see, correctly mapped, that the 'objective world' goes all the way up in parallel with interiority from the lowest level of the objective world with its shadow of prehension, the level of 'matter'. Thus UR and LR are the 'something' in Husserl's claim that consciousness is always consciousness of something. Indeed the mental-ego (UL - concept level) is above atoms and cells but it is above them in the sense that the higher brain structure (same level UR) is above them. But the logic of Wilber's model is still not fully coherent since the UL is privileged as the locus of evolving consciousness which, rather than objectively mapping the developmental process of such an increasing individuation, implicitly enframes the world view or cosmology of the particular Western modernist form of the mental-egoic dualistic level!
In SES, Wilber describes the upper quads as picturing the 'individual holon' and the lower quads as picturing the 'social holon' which are actually both abstractions from the total picture, a view which is itself the dualistic view of the modernist mental-ego belonging within the map. If we are mapping the development of consciousness as a grand overarching perennialist view of 'reality' in evolutionary terms, it is logically coherent only if we look at the total picture as fundamentally indivisible since the upper and lower quadrants do not represent semi-independent structures or parts, but logical polarities like up and down, different perspectives on the same overarching reality. It is the upper agentic pole of the grand holon which brings forth the 'individual' while the lower communal pole brings forth 'society'. In fact Wilber states explicitly that it is the individual holon (UL) which is the seat or carrier of consciousness which, to repeat, is itself the prevailing modernist view of consciousness in relation to an objective world where collective forms are carried culturally, historically and inter-subjectively Nothing about the Jungian 'collective unconscious' here. Even if Jung's formulation is inadequate, it at least acknowledges the necessary postulation of, not a 'collective' exactly, but an individual/collective dialectic within the 'sea' of consciousness/collective unconsciousness.
If we call the upper quadrants the 'individual holon' and the lower, the 'social holon,' we need to be careful and remember that we are abstracting out from the Whole, (i.e. the All) a process that actually occurs as the epistemological development of consciousness itself; but this process needs to be mapped within a purportedly overarching view. (Here is the difficulty of self reference in attempting the 'God's eye view' as raised from Godel to the postmoderns ~ yet the grand synthesizing task is courageously attempted by Wilber in defiance of the relativistic leveling of our particular historic stage/structure). Since these are purportedly holons, yet not holons 'holarchically' contained within the Grand Holon, (they are mapped by a different logical relation), they must each be understood as possessing the agentic/communal polarity. Nevertheless, there is a slight problem here with the assumption of holonic splitting where one pole of a holon actually splits off to form another holon which then stands in a different heterachical relation to its new peers than to its former.
But the concept actually might make sense in terms of a holographic or archetypal reflection. But Wilber (who is not prone to incorporate holographic or archetypal explanations) does not map the highly complex picture which results from his so abstracting (though he may yet do so), but the lack of such an account can lead to distorted conclusions. The UL quadrant, for example, would need to map the interplay of an agentic and communal line where the communal pole is not identical to the 'intersubjectivity' (in Wilber's terms) of the LL. Could it then signify the interpersonal relationship dimension which is lacking in his mandala? But then, how do we map the developmental interaction between the autonomy/relationship dynamic of the 'individual holon' and the LL quadrant, which itself, as the 'social holon' has agentic and communal poles? I presume that the agency of the 'social holon' would be its cohesive structure which puts a preventative counter pressure on the developing individual, while its communality is its openeness to other cultures (from inter-tribal mixes to the nation state and now global culture). So as we go up, the social holon decreases its agency and increases its communion while the individual increases its agency and decreases its communion, thus demonstrating its increasingly patriarchal character (beyond the lower matriarchal still relatively laterally undifferentiated levels of the outward arc). It is through the mapping of the actual dynamics of relationship (interpersonal, individual/society, inter-cultural which is the manifest form of the logical/archetypal polarity structure) which allows us to move from mandala I to the more complex mandala II (where we can coherently speak of individual and social holons) which Wilber, as far as I know, has not mapped. So when he defines the upper quadrants of mandala I as the 'individual holon' it is not quite technically correct and can lead to conceptual distortions.
Rather than seeing the UL as the repository of consciousness, I would prefer to describe it thus: as we move upward, consciousness becomes more and more centered and constellated around the UL quadrant, while the LL quadrant becomes devoid of consciousness, i.e. it becomes 'collective unconsciousness' or is definable only as intersubjective interconnections (the 'We') privileging the so-called 'individual holon' of UL. Now such a dynamic developmental dialectic implicit in this picture agrees with Wilber's own formulation, not simply of the structural distinction of individual and society, but the dynamic dialectical interplay of these polarities. "These four forces are in constant tension. Horizontally: the more agency, the less communion, and vice versa." (Wilber 95, 45). But Wilber's model does not map the way in which, at the lower levels, the upper and lower polarities are more interconnected (though Wilber would say 'indissociated') yet become increasingly differentiated as we go up.
From Wilber's (1995, 65) observation, "the social system is not a true organism (it is a social or environmental holon, not an individual holon)....it does not have a locus of self-prehension...a locus of individual self being," we realize that we then have, not a model which maps the development of a cosmocentric consciousness which will, in the transpersonal, pass beyond such an agentic bias, but a model which still, despite incredible clarity and insight, embodies such a bias. So we begin with a purportedly Grand Holon which is structured by a symmetric polar logic and then we distort it so 'consciousness' (which is one pole of consciousness/collective unconsciousness) alone is embodied in the UL quadrant exclusively. Of course this process is what actually happens but we know that the sea of 'Consciousness' is constituted by a dialectic of consciousness and unconsciousness (where 'unconsciousness' is something more than and other than personal 'repressed' unconsciousness). It is clearly the case that the locus of being becomes increasingly invested in the upper quadrants and divested from the lower. Indeed social structures ~ language, world view, cultural institutions ~ go on developing in parallel but are increasingly defined in terms of the agency pole. Society increasingly becomes the interconnections or medium of communication among individual holons which are primary as if the organism were a lot more important than its environment or its autonomy more important than its relationships. Indeed, the centrally significant changing nature of the UL/LL relation is not mapped by this model!
In accordance with the dialectical tension plus the increasing differentiation as we move holarchically upward, this increasing bias toward the agentic, demonstrates the nature of patriarchy in the necessary development of both the East and West. In fact, Wilber's non-recognition of this 'necessary' feature requires that he resorts to rather implausible explanations as to the 'pathological' nature of Western history and the pathological dissociation departing from the so-called 'normal' pattern of development, (4) (See Washburn's [1996, 6-7] critique).
When Wilber speaks of the differentiations of development, he conflates the lateral self/not-self differentiations with the vertical ones. That is, the 'body-ego' is formed laterally by distinguishing between one's body and other bodies while the mental-ego is formed vertically by an holarchic differentiation of the 'higher' mind from the 'lower' body. It is through the lateral differentiations where 'consciousness' centers more and more in the so-called 'individual holon', while the 'social holon' operates more and more as the collective unconscious (including, on the energy/physical level, Sheldrake's fields).
In his 4-quadrant mandala, Wilber maps the UL as the organismic/individual cognitive line of holarchic development committing a significant category error which betrays that cognitive/androcentric quality that subtly pervades Wilber's work (despite his most noble intellectual efforts and vigorous denials in the face of critiques of certain 'conceptually confused' feminists and 'regressives'). Level 8, emotion (also level 7, 'impulse', which belongs to the conative line) belongs to the affective line and is not holarchically enfolded by higher rationality yet continues to unfold along with rationality. Elsewhere however, Wilber recognizes the 'affective' as one of the parallel lines moving through its own holarchic structures to more mature levels of feeling attunement, empathy, and transpersonally into trans-egoic compassion.
As regards his claim that cognitive structures are primary and basic, while moral structures are transitional and secondary, I would maintain that Wilber has not established this to be true. That the cognitive can develop ahead of the moral but not vice versa is taken by Wilber to demonstrate that the cognitive is primary and the moral a secondary structure. But the moral is actually a relationship of the cognitive and the affective; e.g. one must be capable of a certain caring in order to work with principles in making decisions. As a composite structure, where the cognitive component is more developed than the affective component, then the moral will logically lag behind the development of the cognitive. In terms of the mental-ego and its collective patriarchal structures, the cognitive has actually repressed the affective, so the affective component clearly lags behind a cognitively dominant agentic-based morality of rights and principles. A truly mature morality will indeed lag well behind the development of the cognitive because one of its components has actually been repressed!
Up to the conventional and even post conventional level of moral behaviour, the process tends to split along gender lines where males tend to emphasize, in their moral decisions, the agentic/cognitive, rights/principles pole while females emphasize the communal/affective, relational/contextual pole. Thus, the principles of Kohlberg and the care/responsibility of Gilligan are, from a centauric perspective, equal co-partners, even though historically (even through the post conventional outward arc), 'justice/rights' predominates over 'care/responsiblity' (5). A truly mature moral behaviour, from the place of a balanced and integrated gender relations, would of course be a balanced integration of these two poles. Anything less is obviously immature from this higher perspective. As long as the cognitive is emphasized, as it still is in the patriarchy, the other pole will be seen as inferior. But when we realize that what, at this mature level, we would call the moral is actually a certain structuration of both the cognitive and the affective, then it logically follows that while the moral cannot develop unless the cognitive develops, the so-called moral, since it is defined within the agentic patriarchy as principles abstracted from care/relationship, can develop without the affective developing at the same level. Furthermore it must do so because the affective has been repressed by the cognitive in the particular agentically biased stages of the outward arc! That the cognitive develops in this way, definitely does not establish the cognitive as the paradigm of holarchic basic structure for all of reality ~ only the outward arc! (6).
And finally, there is a foundational feature of Wilber's view which concerns the claimed linearity of his model which he so vigorously denies, except to assert the sequential linearity of developmental stage/structures such as Piaget's cognitive structures. (Wilber 96, 11) But this linear feature of particular holarchic lines, whether as the cognitive or the affective, is not what is troublesome to so many critics. The problem manifests in two ways; the first we have already looked at, namely the privileging of the cognitive as basic structure while everything else becomes secondary or transitional. The second point concerns the logically constrictive nature of his vertical axis.
According to his own model, Wilber's own necessary downward developmental spirals of 'regression in service of the ego' are a contradiction in terms because his vertical axis is a vector of upward evolutionary development through time in which case any downward movement would be moving in a de-evolutionary direction and could not be developmental even though such movements are supposed to result in better integration. One cannot plot pathological regression and integrative regression, not to mention regression in service of transcendence, on the same axis! Similarly, there is no way of plotting the difference between 1) a new level structure differentiates out and represses the earlier, and 2) a new level differentiates out and integrates with the earlier. Both are 'higher' in terms of emergent properties of developmental structuration but the latter is 'higher' evolutionarily speaking.
We actually need no fewer than three axes, an axis of time which is irreversible, an axis of evolutionary advance from the point following involution to the Ultimate Realization, and an axis of developmental structuration. This allows us to plot the differences among 1) a pathological or devolutionary regression where the more evolved and complex structure begins to break down irreversibly, 2) an integrative 'downward' movement to more primary levels of the structure in order to better integrate the structure, and 3) the downward all-embracing movement of the transpersonal return-arc level. Thus, the up and down movements in relation to the holarchic structure can be mapped without logical contradiction and confusion between developmental 'regressions' and pathological de-volutions. Consequently, the evolutionary 'higher' cannot be simplistically equated, as Wilber has it, with the top of the structure. In this sense, the top of the grand structure is, in itself, no more highly evolved than the bottom! It is the whole structure from top to bottom which must be pictured as moving along the vector of evolutionary development!!
Thus, structure x/y/z can, in agreement with Wilber, be said to be holarchically more complex than structure x/y. We can also say that the original developmental movement from x to x/y represents an evolutionary advance over x, where y represents emergent properties such that x/y can be described only in terms which represent a 'symmetry break' with x. Similarly for the movement from x/y to x/y/z. But if we say, then, that x/y/z is holarchically 'higher' than x/y then we cannot say in the same logical sense, that z is higher than y (or higher than x)! We cannot map both these senses of 'higher' on the same axis which plots the 'higher.' In fact, we cannot map it on the 'evolutionary advance' axis at all, since it is the total structure x/y/z which represents an evolutionary advance over x/y! We see now how Wilber cannot legitimately, prima facie (and necessarily), consign the holistic web theorists into the horizontal low level 'heterarchy' of one of his structure levels! Although certain eco-theorists may need to better acknowledge the holarchic complexities of evolving structure, when they declare the non-hierarchic holistic web nature of complex structure relative to the evolutionary advance axis where level z cannot logically and meaningfully be said to be 'higher' than x and y, they can no longer be automatically consigned to the lower levels of Wilber's structure! And although there is such a thing as conceptual confusion which can be characterized by the pre-trans error or as retro-romanticism, namely, the romanticization of the past, it is this inherent logical constriction and conflation of axes within Wilber's model which allows him to do so much damage with this accusation! We can still maintain the perennialist view, but must define it in terms of the dialectic of the archetypal principles which define the deep structures and not equate the basic structures directly with concrete stratified structures (including Piaget's cognitive structures) mapped directly on the evolutionary advance axis!
The Washburn/Wilber debate: 'regression in service of transcendence' and the pre-trans
In the Ego and the Dynamic Ground, Michael Washburn presents a model of the development of consciousness based on a Jungian depth psychological and dynamic dialectical view which he regards as an incommensurable alternative to Wilber's structural hierarchical developmental model. Debates have ensued, specifically around the central feature of Washburn's model, namely, the contention, in agreement with the general Jung/Neumann account, that development beyond the mental-egoic level involves a necessary 'spiral of return' to primal levels before a regenerated and integrated higher level of unity can be realized. Wilber vigorously disagrees as to the necessity of such a return in the movement to the trans-egoic except as the normal integrative regressions (spiralic regressions in the service of the ego) which occur within the larger more fundamental upward holarchically unfolding movement. Wilber argues that the very concept is a Jungian 'retro-romantic' view which commits the pre-trans error of confusing pre-egoic fusion with trans-egoic integrative unity and in fact, he claims, no such major regression occurs as a part of the phenomenology of transcendence; and, if it does, then it is only the non-necessary emergence of primal material which was not completely integrated in the formation of the ego (or centaur).
I wish to argue that Washburn is correct in affirming the reality of a dialectic of increasing distinction, separation and alienation as the constitutive dynamic of the outward arc structures followed by a reconciliation and unification which requires an awakening down to the deepest roots of being. But somewhat confusingly, he is framing his view in terms of the dialectic of a self and Ground, which, because of the untenability of his Ground concept in meaningfully signifying dimensions beyond the primal, opens him up to Wilber's 'retro-romantic' accusation. Nevertheless, Washburn is offering a powerful alternative to Wilber and is articulating dimensions which are significantly missing in Wilber's model, yet if adequately explicated, would constitute the essential features of any synthesizing 'best account model'.
In the Jof HP Washburn/Wilber articles, where debate centers around the concept of the 'U-turn,' a conceptual ambiguity in Washburn's formulations leads to misunderstandings which conceal the essential points at issue. I believe that the choice of the term 'U-turn' is unfortunate and is being interpreted unclearly in two ways. Generally, Washburn (1990) is using it in the sense of a necessary return and encounter with the depths before the upward movement can continue as when he says, "...the U-turn is conceived of not merely as a return to origins but as a spiral movement that leads through origins to a higher level." (p.88). Thus, it seems that Washburn accepts some sort of hierarchical frame of lower and higher and that his downward spiral of return, which presumably would loop down and then loop back up, can be mapped against this vertical axis. On the other hand, his central claim appears to be that the Higher and the Lower are the same structure experienced in different ways, i.e. unconsciously (primal) and consciously (transcendent) as opposed to Wilber's model which makes them different structures (except that the 'primal' is nested and contained in the 'transcendent' in Wilber's model). This would incline one to understand that what Washburn means by 'U-turn' is a return to origins, but this time in full consciousness, which is what he seems to be saying in his works. Anyway, Wilber seizes on this latter interpretation as he accuses Washburn of the pre-trans or retro-romantic error and insists that he himself already has a U-turn in his own model and that Washburn has put it in the wrong place. Following this line, Wilber establishes his own case.
Wilber puts the point of maximum separation from the ultimate Ground at conception, following involution, modelling the entire trajectory of evolution as the path of return (except he still keeps, from the Atman Project, his outward and return arcs which have lost their fundamental and dialectical significance but which still define the difference between the personal and the transpersonal). From Wilber's point of view, since the 'ground' at conception (or birth) is bio-physical, and although infused by Spirit, or contained in Spirit, is not identical with Spirit even unconsciously (from which we have just fallen away), then there is no necessary return to this 'lower' level. And I add here what I think is a clarification; he means neither to return to the original ground of the infant state to realize it as the higher, as spirit, nor, in the other way of understanding this U-turn, to 'go back down' to encounter the potentials of the deep unconscious in order to then be regenerated 'upwards'.
Anyway, Wilber interpreting the U-turn in the 'coming back to the Ground but now in consciousness' sense, argues that Washburn falsely places the U-turn in the middle of evolution because he lacks the overarching conception of the involutionary/evolutionary dialectic. Furthermore, he contends, Washburn is led falsely to postulate the state of maximum alienation ~ i.e. distance from the Ground/Spirit ~ as occurring at the mental-egoic level. According to Washburn, developing his thought beyond Neumann/Jung, this separation and alienation is to be overcome by a re-uniting with the Ground (as the Great Mother, which the self originally necessarily repressed in order to develop as an autonomous and conscious self) but now, through a 'regression in service of transcendence,' in full consciousness.
Regarding the egoic alienation stage of Washburn which is the precursor to the regressive and regenerative descent, Wilber argues that this alienation is only the awakening of the self conscious ego to its alienation from Spirit already, and that the maximum alienation fom Spirit occured at conception/birth and that the ego is already, in its global reach, closer to Spirit than the infantile fusion state. But here, Wilber is interpreting alienation only in the largest overarching sense and a very real, somewhat different sense of 'alienation' actually occurs, which is a key to a more adequate modelling. This feeling is not simply an awareness of the cosmic alienation already, but a registering of the fact of separation of biosphere and noosphere and its related subject/object, self/world, and self/other divisions which elsewhere he recognizes clearly. This disagreement also ties in with the difference between Wilber and Washburn as to the nature and placement of the existential. (7)
Wilber (1990, 127) also attacks the notion of a necessary regression on empirical and phenomenological grounds. He argues that, "Nothing like what Washburn postulates ~ development abruptly reversing its stages in midcourse ~ even remotely happens to any other known evolutionary or developmental sequences. Indeed, according to modern dynamical theories of evolution, each growth stage is irreversible. It either continues to higher stages, remains as is, or totally breaks down. It does not start going backwards." Aside from the major fact that this is a complete denial of the clinical and empirical data from the work of Grof as well as shamanic types of spiritual experience (also, Rothberg,1996, McDonald Smith et al) his arguments are not decisive. For one thing, we are not talking 'backwards,' but more importantly, the data to which he refers only covers the pre-transpersonal levels, not the transpersonal to which Washburn is referring. A similar logical error appears in his arguments with Washburn's claim that pre and trans "correlates are intimately related, indeed they reflect the very same potentials at different levels of expression," when Wilber counters that, e.g. "pre-operational and post-operational (or formal operational) cognitions share virtually no potentials at all...and similarly in the development of object relations, motivation, ego development, and interpersonal relations, the pre stages and the trans (or post) stages have very little in common." Once more his examples are all outward arc, whereas what Washburn is talking about, though he may not put it in these terms, concerns the special relation of the outward and return arcs!
Then, in response to Washburn's reasonable claim that different things might be different expressions of the same potentials, Wilber gives his example that one might as well say that Gandhi and a Hell's Angel are really doing the same thing from a different angle. Thus, he reveals his entirely non-archetypal viewpoint despite his Neoplatonic Great Chain and his acknowledgement of the archetypes in his High Subtle! In fact, it is through an archetypal conception that sense can be made of what Washburn is saying, in order to avoid seeing his position only as Wilber (1990, 131-132) characterizes it; "Washburn is lumping the pre-egoic with the trans-egoic, calling that lump the 'non-egoic ground' and then putting the ego at the height of alienation from this lump." (8)
In his attempt to refute Washburn's Jungian claim that the self must regress to the underworld in order to transcend, Wilber (1990) is indeed correct when he states that, "The hero is not regressing to the underworld, because the hero has never before been to the underworld." (p129) This is a most revealing pivotal point in our explication of a 'best account model'. It seems that here Wilber is admitting a necessary encounter with the 'depths,' but 'up above' and 'ahead'. But it cannot be a 'regression,' so the term 'regression' is indeed the wrong term to use in 'regression in service of transcendence'. Of course this is necessarily 'ahead' developmentally speaking, but is it a completely new structure holarchically above, a new and higher structure that contains 'underworld' characteristics? I will argue that it is indeed new and transegoic and at the same time a re-integration of primal potentials which takes place as Washburn (1990) rightly conceives when he states that "...regression in the service of transcendence, which is a kind of regression that, by no means a regressive about-face, is the downward loop of a developmental spiral that reconnects the ego with its non-egoic sources on the way to a higher integration with those sources." (p5)
This brings us to the issue raised in Washburn's JofHP article and his ReVision article, concerning his own overarching structure which he uses to explain the so-called Jungian regression feature. Washburn is correct that a repression and division etc. takes place but, I believe, he reifies the dialectic rather than conceiving it as an archetypal interplay of principles which manifest as different states and structures at each level. This ties in to the more appropriate interpretation of the Jungian dialectic in archetypal terms. The positing of a Ground and, in terms of consciousness development, an ever changing ego, is ultimately dualistic, not perennial, not coherent, and actually follows a false Jung/Neumann dialectic which enframes an androcentric psychology.
In his ReV article (p.4), Washburn develops a central case which I believe is not coherent and which underlies his particular overarching structure. It hinges on his argument concerning the similarities and differences between the pre and trans. He argues that the obvious distinctions between pre and trans lie in their differences as psychic states and developmental stages, but one cannot validly, as Wilber tends to do, infer that there is then a corresponding difference between pre and trans structures. Furthermore, to do so amounts to an error of unparsimoniousness which he calls pre-trans 3 (ptf-3). While Washburn agrees that it is a fallacy (re. Wilber's pre-trans) to infer structural identity from phenomenological similarity, (insofar as pre and trans may appear similar in that they are both non-personal etc.), he insists that it is also a fallacy to infer structural dissimilarity from phenomenological difference.
Washburn is being reasonable in maintaining that we shouldn't jump to conclusions simply based on the experiential and developmental differences of pre and trans; but Wilber's postulation of a higher structure is based on far more than these considerations. I agree that Wilber's formulation of his higher structure with all its implications is incoherent for many of the reasons that Washburn engages as above (i.e. his, along with Kelly's, critique of the developmental incoherences in his model). I agree that if Wilber is to be consistent, then his 'higher structure' must not only contain the lower structure but must integrate with it in ways not mapped or even allowed by his model! Not only that, but as we have seen, the 'lower structure,' as articulated by Wilber, privileges the agentic pole of the Grand Holon. Consciousness development on the outward arc indeed occurs as such a dialectically increasing dominance of the agentic over the communal, but our models need to picture this entire process. It is the total primal structure that will be holarchically 'integrated' on the Return path (transpersonal levels). And this particular kind of 'integration' will look rather different from what it did, say, in the sense that the mental-ego 'integrated' with the body-ego!
But Washburn's argument can be questioned on several counts: 1) As mentioned, Wilber would not say that there are two distinct and separate structures but rather, in terms of his overall theory, that the earlier is holarchically contained within the later. The real question then becomes, what is the nature and full implications of this containment? 2) Although Washburn's critique of Wilber's model, in terms of its failure to show sequential holarchic structure on the outward arc, is valid and demands deep changes in Wilber's developmental logic, it is not a refutation of the larger perennial view which would be necessary to justify the alternative view of postulating one structure. 3) If Washburn is not able to accept, even in the largest sense, the overall holarchic and perennial model, then his criticism that Wilber selected two structures when he should only have selected one is actually irrelevant because his assertion of the 'one structure' (which turns out to be two anyway ~ his self and ground) is merely a re-assertion of his foundational disagreement with Wilber across their paradigm barrier, the gist of which we already know. (9) In his reply to Wilber's reply, (pt.III, 37) Washburn summarizes his critique as three main points: First, that it is unparsimonious, Second, that it is based an an absolutistic metaphysic, and third, "it is weak in its accounts of the dynamic, depth psychological, and relational dimensions of spiritual life." As I have already argued, I think that the only valid, and indeed a most important criticism, is the third.
Resonant to Jung and Neumann, Washburn's account in his Ego and the Dynamic Ground, is in profound and important respects much more insightful than Wilber's, mapping dialectical processes and phenomenological developmental structures revealing the basis of the mental-ego in a primary repression and division which Wilber fails to take into account in his own rather static model. The trouble is, Washburn has cast his overall account in an incoherent dualistic theory despite the obvious phenomenological and experiential truths of his account which are lacking in Wilber's! In his clearly stated disagreement with Washburn concerning the foundational nature of primary repression where "something like the Dynamic Ground is actually forced out of consciousness of the infant in the first years of life," Wilber (1996, 12) repudiates the Jungian developmental dynamics which he had once himself embraced but had later rejected in favour of a grand telos of development based on the involutionary/evolutionary idea of Neoplatonism but in a metaphysically logocentric spirit which overlooks and actually denies the developmental forces of the self's dialectic with the 'collective unconscious' as the Great Mother.
It is precisely between Wilber's overarching involution/evolution and his cognitive structures that we need to map the psychodynamic processes that inform development in the immanent sense which is to be understood in terms of the dialectical interplay between consciousness and 'collective unconsciousness'. I am using the term 'collective unconscious' (10) in the largest possible sense, but although the conscious/unconscious structures are shot through with elemental dynamic bio- and pranic energy, I do not mean specifically Washburn's 'dynamic ground'. We would still need to articulate the various structures of the unconscious as analyzed by both Washburn (1988), Wilber (1980), and Grof (1985). It is these sort of dynamic processes that Wilber in effect repudiates in his answer to Washburn (p.12-13) where he interprets the Jung/Washburn explanation as the drive to 'recapture' unity which is the attempt to recapture something that was lost. Then, since this is not the case because true unity lies up ahead, the drive of development becomes exclusively the overarching Atman telos. Washburn, in fact, is framing the body-ego's ambivalence toward the Great Mother ~ i.e. its fundamental project to be an independent intimate of the Great Mother ~ as a push-pull between a 'regressive' return to unity with the mother (as uroboric fusion) versus a progressive breaking away to establish its autonomy. In the terms in which he has expressed it, this is a picture of male psychology. To be a picture of human psychology it would need to be articulated along with an account of the feminine within a gender dialectic (see below). But the relevant point is that Washburn is defining unity in terms of the past, while differentiation and distinction constitutes a developmental pull away from, and 'above' unity. So, Wilber is in this sense justified in refuting the backward pull toward re-establishing unity as the tension which drives development. But the essence of the developmental dynamic of Jung/Washburn, which actually attempts to describe a profound and essential dynamic which drives development (well conceived within a larger involution/evolution Atman telos) can be stated in terms that are not retro-Romantic. We need to explicate the Washburn/Jung/Neumann account in terms which allow us to map development in such a way that the truth of 'regression in service of transcendence' can be revealed without dragging in the concept of an 'original ground' which is, through regression, eventually realized to be Spirit.
In the Jung/Neumann account, from an original state of individual/collective, conscious/unconscious fusion, there emerges a self in a dynamic relation to the 'collective' and 'collective unconscious' 'ground'. (Neumann, 1954) Such a view pictures developing consciousness as an increasingly expanded and distinct self sense struggling against a matriarchal collective unconscious, increasingly 'interiorizing' collective unconscious powers within its own separate self structure, while differentiating from the ground unconscious. There is a general painting of the unconscious, the collective, as less developed, more primitive and 'down below,' a kind of powerful though lesser ocean (where the hero must later dip back down into in order to gain the 'treasure') which the self, as it struggles upward, is in danger of regressively falling back into. Such a view, while deeply insightful, carries androcentric implications, for although it purports to be a picture of human development, is actually a picture of male psychology centrally (a la Chodorow) which historically marginalizes the female and then places the feminine beneath the male and makes it something primitive, something which consciousness, identified with maleness, needs to fight and distance itself from and place itself above! By modelling his ground, not simply as collective unconsciousness etc., but as something which also embraces the 'higher,' Washburn escapes some of these implications. But his model is framed in the same agentically biased dualistic terms. We want to picture how consciousness did in fact develop on the outward arc through such an increasing emphasis on the agentic pole of the agentic/communion dialectic, while at the same time being careful not to construct our models from within the bias, forgetting the developmental part that the marginalized dimension has played.
I feel that a more adequate way of framing these developments is possible; one which avoids the androcentricity while picturing patriarchal hegemony and which avoids dualism and the rigid hierarchization which denies the downward embrace (which is more than a regressive retracing of the outward arc); an embrace which constitutes a necessary condition for transpersonal development. In his reply to Washburn (p.13), when Wilber states that "the state of unity that is desired is not that of the infant at the mother's breast, but of the self at primordial Emptiness," he jumps to the largest enfolding telos rather than engaging the immanent developmental dynamic which is understandable in his own holonic terms; namely, as the dialectical tension between the agentic and communal poles. Wilber goes on to say, "I had wildly 'elevated' the nature of the early infantile and prepersonal structure to some sort of transpersonal ground and glory, and so I mistakenly believed that the drive to unity was a drive to recapture that infantile structure...'in a mature form'..." He is of course still doing the same thing in a different direction while overlooking the more immediate developmental dynamic! As Washburn describes (1995), the infant is caught in an ambivalence, wanting fusion and separation at the same time, but for him fusion is regression and separation is development. But development is the dialectic of agency/communion at the same level, not autonomy/separation, rising above a regressive fusion. It is primarily the male who values (necessarily) the one over the other, who experiences the one as development and the other as a falling back ~ agency above communion. This is the beginning of the disparaging of the female, of relationship, of the collective. Nevertheless, such became the dominant driving force of the outward arc of development!
This profound ambivalence within the human organism, most crucially enacted by the male in social dialectical relation to the female, is a manifestation of the agentic/communal dialectic, the built in urge for autonomy and connectedness at the same time; connectedness to the other, to the mother vs. the assertion of self as an enactment of the deeper consciousness/unconsciousness dialectic. And we must be able to map this topographically without putting the one above the other. It is misleading to adopt, as the fundamental metaphor, a notion of Original Fusion as a tiny ego embedded in a Cosmic Ground which then leaves the Ground, goes on a journey far from the Ground and then returns to the Ground. Wilber is correct that this metaphor is untenable. I would prefer to word the overarching dialectic thus;
The sleeping Kosmos (Wilber's ground unconscious) awakens to itself level by level as the dialectical interplay between the archetypal polar principles of agency and communion. On the outward arc, the agentic/communion polarity operates as a logical either/or (autonomy or connection) which manifests as all the separations; namely, male and female, self and other, self and world, psyche and nature, individual and society, this worldliness and other worldliness. These separations can be described as the division between consciousness and collective unconsciousness which holds on the outward arc. It is when a holarchically embracing, theospheric level is reached on the return arc that what was 'either/or' can now be experienced as a 'both/and' ~ a logical impossibility within the perspective of the outward arc! Within this larger and higher space of transpersonal awareness, there can now be an embracing of consciousness and collective unconsciousness simultaneously.
A common confusion in accounts such as Neumann's is that the collective 'mind' from which, and over against which, the individual mind develops and differentiates, is seen as more 'primitive' than the individual in the light of the fact that later collective forms are more and more constituted as complexes of individuals. (11) I believe it is more correct (and avoids the dualistic and androcentric implications) to claim that in the original state of fusion, both individual and collective are primitive (in the same sense, the biological organism and its environment are at the same level) and that developments of the individual inextricably accompany, as an ongoing lateral dialectic, collective developments. More complex individuals imply more complex forms of collectivity. Similarly, more complex forms of individual consciousness laterally stand in dialectical relationship to more complex structures of collective unconsciousness. Moreover, heroic agentic male achievements have not been possible without female support and participation, (the underlying social/connective/moral/affective fabric of society behind the public domain) no matter how unacknowledged and used. The individual does not finish up 'up here' while the collective (i.e. the female with her less heroic agency and the 'collective unconscious') remains primitive and 'down there'! Except it does remain true to say that this experience constitutes the dominant mode of consciousness on the outward arc.
The agentic/communal dialectical principles can be understood as informing biological and then psycho-social structures. Dialectically an increasing agentic dominance over the communal does not mean that both psyche and society do not go on developing and complexifying. Both do. Within the enfolding dialectic of consciousness/collective unconsciousness, as the individual becomes more conscious, the collective becomes more (an object to the subject) unconscious. Consequently, there is a growth in both subject and object where the 'more' (i.e.consciousness) in the subject parallels the 'less,' (i.e. from the point of view of consciousness, namely, unconsciousness) in the 'object' or 'other'. (See Note 10 for a further account of the conscious/unconscious dialectic). As one pole more and more dominates the other, there is more distinction and separation. (And there is indeed an incredible cosmic dynamic force implicit in these dialectically informed structures which, as Washburn says, will be released as a great upsurge in the transpersonal). Then it seems that we have 'living' individual holons and 'disenchanted' social holons, which becomes our world view at this particular stage/level. What we are picturing here is the same general process as Neumann describes, but we are topographically mapping it in an importantly different way. Before we can go on to further describe the essential features of our model, we need to look now at a model which is not only large in its theoretical scope but is solidly grounded upon extensive empirical, experiential, and clinical evidence and as such constitutes, especially in its engagement with the theory of Wilber, the path to establishing the essential features of our possible 'best account model'.
The Grof/Wilber debate: the place and significance of the perinatal
In his ReVision (96) article, Stan Grof acknowledges Ken Wilber while at the same time critiquing certain of Wilber's significant omissions and distortions manifesting as the latter's marginalization of the full significance of the perinatal dimension. Countering Wilber's (1995) alleged satisfactory 'integrating' of the perinatal dimension into the biological fulcrum 0, Grof mounts numerous arguments which in their irrefutable force require, not a reductive subsumption of the 'perinatal' into Wilber's model, but significant modifications in the essential structure of Wilber's system!
Several points stand out as most formidable and decisive:
- Wilber leaves out, as part of his grand cosmic cycle, the process from conception to birth (as Grof points out, probably mostly on the grounds of the conventional belief that the fetus cannot be conscious but also because of his profound de-valuing of this 'lowest of all levels' in the cosmic hierarchy);
- He ignores the vast amount of data from both ancient (spiritual) and modern sources which demonstrate the psychological significance of prenatal experiences and the birth trauma; and ignores, or distorts, the interconnection of perinatal material in the transformational altered states of consciousness of saints and sages as well as persons deeply encountering the perinatal realm;
- He devalues the profound (down to the cellular level) psychological and transpersonal significance of the birth/death encounter in his conflation of 'death' and the developmental mechanism of thanatos (as he uses that term).
- His understanding of pathology is shaped by the post-birth, biographically oriented, dynamic psychologists in contrast to the findings of experiential approaches which demonstrate the connection between psychopathology, the perinatal, and the transpersonal.
- His system is incapable of adequately explaining the obvious interconnection of the psychotic and the perinatal/transpersonal domains since it radically separates the pre and trans domains of psychosis and mysticism. (His 'infusions' simply do not describe the transpersonal phenomenology involved).
- His criticism as to the reductive nature of Grof's claim and his own reduction of the full and multidimensional significance of the perinatal to the biological fulcrum 0 using a spurious parallel of his own fusion/differentiation/integration process and the BPM's (occuring in each fulcrum), is profoundly inadequate to explain the data.
- His distinctions between temporary experiences and stable adaptations and between back and front door entry do not adequately address the real issues. As Grof puts it, "It is certainly possible to have powerful mystical experiences that do not result in spiritual evolution. On the other hand, it is also questionable how much spiritual development can occur without powerful experiences of NOSC." And then further, "It is not clear what Ken's entry into the spiritual realm through the 'front door' would actually look like." (Grof 1996, p.21)
- Wilber's model devalues or disallows the 'spiritual' in children and shamanic cultures considering them only as 'invasions.'
It is clearly the case that Wilber's critique of Grof, both in the notes of SES, which Grof was here answering, and in his reply in ReVision, is based on his insistence that Grof's findings and conclusions are on the one hand reductive to the biological level despite Grof's denial, and that they are accidentally but not necessarily associative; that is, the birth process can be re-experienced at the same time as the transpersonal level. In this view, archaic or primal structures can, as the object of transpersonal experience, become infused with transpersonal meaning but cannot be the source of such meaning and experience. To Wilber, the term 'perinatal' can properly refer to nothing other than the birth experience itself, is not ontologically connected to the transpersonal, and does not lie between the existential and the transpersonal. I believe that Grof has a clear answer to these accusations and misinterpretations, an answer which provides the key to our model.
In his words, "...in discussing perinatal experiences, we are not talking about the fetus, but about an adult who is reliving the experiences of the fetus. This regression is experienced by an individual with differentiated personality and intellectual faculties that include and integrate the development through all the postnatal fulcrums. This vast amount of information is not lost during the regressive experience and forms an integral part of it. It certainly is conceivable that the NOSC facillitates an entirely new creative integration of all structures with the transpersonal domain, thus facilitating the unfolding of still new structures." (1996, 21). Thus, Wilber's acorn/oak metaphor is undermined as we realize that we are talking here, neither of a literal 'regression' (which would imply a collapse or loss of the higher egoic structures) to the birth experience, nor of a 'looking at' the birth experience in a subject/object mode of apprehension, but a total integrative interconnection among a set of dimensions which has never happened before! This is the perinatal structure and it is only semantic to argue about the term! The term works because it is a discovery that the first major or deep structure of the transpersonal beyond the centaur is a totally integrative structure, and to be totally integrative it must include everything up to itself including the 'perinatal' in the biological sense of the term! And it is a major discovery that such inclusion, such a reach, opens into the transpersonal in the particular multidimensional and interpenetrating fashion that it does! It remains only to explain and map how this can occur within a broadly perennialist conception because Wilber's framework is certainly not capable of mapping such a structure that turns into itself on the way to higher levels!
That the birth experience (confirming certain historical features of the actual birth) is actually involved ~ rather than being a merely incidental accompaniment of transpersonal experience or a regression accompanied by transpersonal influxes ~ confirms that the full dimensionality of all structures from the mental-egoic 'down' to the point of involution (conception) are engaged! Further, it has been empirically confirmed that when such happens, dimensions of the collective unconscious, phylogenetic history, the paranormal and the transpersonal are evoked. Wilber cannot legitimately argue against any of this or refute it on the grounds that some people have transpersonal experiences and do not experience a literal reliving of their birth, since cellular level transformation, which as Grof points out may re-enact birth ('rotations, flections, and deflections of the head'), does not necessarily imply memories of birth. In fact, only such a dynamic perinatal structure can constitute the true integration, an integration which is supposed to have happened at the centaur level according to Wilber's model yet which actually does not according to Washburn, Kelly and Wright (as above). Although Wilber sees, correctly I think, that there is not a direct connection through the holarchic line of development of the biological perinatal with the transpersonal, he fails to appreciate the direct interlinkage of the re-experienced perinatal level with the transpersonal! And this interpenetration of the re-experienced perinatal with the transpersonal is an adequate archetypally informed account because as Grof himself claims, the birth experience itself is archetypally informed (1996, pt.3, 35). This lack of appreciation of the archetypal perspective is also revealed in Wilber's strong criticism of the supposed pre-trans reductive nature of the account by Richard Tarnas (1991) who demonstrates the larger archetypal phylogenetic significance of the matrices. Clearly Tarnas is not claiming that original biological birth is of such a significance so as to have caused and fully informed the trajectory of the Western mind (i.e. to make the latter claim would indeed require that biological birth per se possesses transpersonal significance).
Wilber's critique fails on two grounds, 1) It downplays the actual bio-psychological significance of the birth trauma in subsequent body-ego and mental-ego formations and in resultant pathologies and 2) It refuses to accept the archetypal and multidimensional significance of the perinatal dimension and the overarching BPM's.
To address the first: There is not only the pre-trans error of the reduction of the higher to the lower or the elevation of the lower to the higher, there is also a reducing of the developmental significance of the primal levels, an error which Wilber commits. In one sense, this is a downplaying of the radical power of the original affect, namely, the birth trauma. While the bio-physical fulcrum 0 admittedly does not include the higher and later mental/social dimensions (let alone the transpersonal), it is not only 'fundamental' but it is more significant than Wilber (1995, 62-63) sees it. A 'division' occurs at the primal biophysical and cellular level which carries within it the primary 'pain' at the core of life, and later still at the core even of the complex and supposedly 'holarchically higher' mental ego/society. (I think this is understandable in terms of Wilber's [1995, 115] own core cylinder model). The primal pain, while itself neither the reductive cause nor a sufficient explanatory factor of later mental-egoic dynamics and structures, nevertheless is strongly implicated in ego development, lying at the core of the body-ego and then the mental-ego.
To acknowledge the effects of post birth trauma but not birth trauma is absurd! These outward arc differentiations beginning with the birth process are experientially registered as separations that are 'healed' as it were, and, more significantly, can only be healed as they inevitably engage with the transegoic dimensions. This cannot be achieved on the outward arc since the mind/body integration of which Wilber speaks, namely, the centaur, takes place only in the noosphere, remaining symbolic and mental. A true integration of mind and body involving a cellular change would logically place it in the transpersonal levels; a healing of the original lateral bi-furcation prior and foundational to the holarchic differentiation of mind and body. When Wilber says 'the whole' cannot be put back together (re-united) since it (i.e. mind and higher cognitive functions etc.) wasn't even there at the beginning, he misses the point! Of course, the 'whole' that was at that level is holarchically less than the 'whole' at higher levels, but it was whole and it became divided, and that traumatic division became a significant factor in subsequent developments. (12)
A differentiation took place at birth, and then again through pre-personal developments after birth (typhon etc.). This is as inevitable and developmental as it is painful ~ life, including birth, is suffering. This pain carries through and is amplified at the mental ego level as alienation. (Wilber's [1995, 751-753] criticism that Tarnas conflates differentiation with pain, separation and alienation just as he criticizes Washburn's equating the mental-ego with alienation is not well taken, for he is de-emphasizing the profound and radically constitutive nature of the primary core pain!). This is the fundamental feeling/experience of the birth trauma that cannot be downplayed ~ it is the driving force for the formation of the body ego and later for transcendence (as the existential void experience) of the mental ego. This differentiation of birth and the organism/environment differentiation at the primal stages, is the foundation of the mental-ego and not the differentiation of the mind from the body per se.! The separation is in the body-ego/tribal-affective connection (this is what Washburn sees - but he unfortunately reifies the archetypal dialectic).
And now, to look at the second point: This issue engages Wilber's paradoxically non-archetypal perspective, his account of the fusion/differentiating/integrating process taking place within each fulcrum and its alleged correspondence to the matrices with its conflation of BPM 2 and 3, and his consequent reduction of the overarching significance of the matrices as indicated by his misunderstanding of Tarnas's historical evolutionary account.
Wilber speaks of the higher level apprehension of the archetypes in the transpersonal state of consciousness he calls, according to Eastern sources, the high Subtle. But in consistency with his Neoplatonic perennialism he would also have to admit that the archetypes are not just waiting up their to be apprehended by the most accomplished of the spiritual mountain climbers. Insofar as archetypes are acknowledged as meaningful at all, they must be both transcendent and imminent. More than the (early) Jungian archetypes which are conceived within the dimension of psyche, the Platonic or Neoplatonic archetypes bring forth the manifest world as we know it! They are of course to be found as the 'deep structures' which we are looking for whether as Wilber's stage/levels or Grofs matrices, or both, or some sort of synthesis of both, and more.
This is why it is so odd that Wilber cannot appreciate the overarching archetypal nature of both his own claims and those of Grof and Tarnas. After insisting on interpreting Grof as a biological reductionist who also happens to be operating with bio-physical doorways into the transpersonal and also, from the same misinterpretation, gutting the foundation of Tarnas's evolutionary view, Wilber can logically reduce the archetypal nature of the BPMs by flattening them into his developmental sequence within each fulcrum (rather than seeing them in as large terms as his own deep structures even though there may be an incommensurability between the models!). Then, to add insult to injury, he limits their application to the sequence within fulcrum 0! (Who is being the reductionist?!) In addition to a clear refutation of Wilber's distortions of Grof's perinatal view as reductionist, Grof (1996, 14) points out that this alleged correspondence is glaringly inaccurate since it conflates the 2nd and 3rd matrices under the term 'differentiation,' whereas they empirically correspond to vastly different phenomenological and transformational dimensions!
As I have argued in this essay, I believe that Wilber's modelling of the bi-polar dialectical nature of the holon, his explication of holarchic structuring and the twenty tenets which he presents as the principles of holistic systems theory represent a major step forward and potentially, if the full implications are explored and mapped, open Wilber's model up to possible syntheses with other models, or at least to a better understanding of the essential features of a possible 'best account model' (given present knowledge etc.). These meta-principles and overarching concepts are more than formal operational abstractions since they provide the very frameworks within which any meaningful discourse or experience can take place. They are then, as the conceptualizations which structure any model, the closest thing we have to the manifest archetypes at our conceptual cognitive level. Thus, the BPM structure archetypally includes the experience of physical birth plus a whole host of other dimensions of experience which show a consistency at a deep structure level. Ditto for something like Wilber's deep structures. Within these structures there are dialectical polarities and processes which in turn, I believe, reflect the overarching structures.
In light of this, I believe that Wilber even downplays the archetypal significance of his own twenty tenets which define the archetypal structure of holons and holarchy, even though they are incomplete because they are 'borrowed' from 'flatland' systems theory. Actually, he is caught in a category error when he argues: since the laws of physics describing level 1, while they still hold at level 2, do not describe what is new at level 2 which must be described in terms of the laws of chemistry, then similarly, the tenets which are most adequate for the lowest levels yet less adequate for higher levels, must constitute only a 'lowest common denominator' of explanation. But as constitutive meta-concepts, such would actually apply equally at all levels (and resonate powerfully connecting all levels) for, since they include and shape the content and rules of each level, there is no level where they actually describe level specific content or the level specific rules, so how could they be said to be more adequate at the lower, or at any other level!? That a higher level requires more complex rules to describe its content than those of, say, chemistry, has nothing to do with the over-arching principles except that as our understanding deepens we may be able to expand and deepen our explication of the principles themselves. This is how Wilber can view Tarnas' claimed significant characterization of the archetypal meta-trajectory of history as resonant to the archetypal stages of birth as being reductive; not only in the obvious biological and causative sense, but reductive in the structural sense as explaining history (noosphere) in terms supposedly only 'adequate' for the biosphere!
I believe that the matrices, along the lines envisioned by Tarnas, reveal an overarching fourfold structure of human development and the evolution of consciousness which can be reconciled with Wilber's deep structures, if the latter are revisioned in the ways we have been discussing here, specifically with connection to the necessary and intrinsic feature of the 'regression in service of transcendence' explicated in ways which include the views of Grof and Washburn. Following the general form as Tarnas (1991, 429-430) presents it, and interpreting these archetypal structures in their largest overarching terms:
BPM 1 becomes the original relatively undifferentiated state in history, the archaic, magical, and mythic stages within the matrix of which there is nevertheless, increasing developmental complexity and individuation. (Which also archetypally resonates with, rather than recapitulates, animal history up to the dawn of humans.)
BPM 2 signifies the mental-egoic dualistic phase with its division, separation, alienation, and existential 'no-exit'. (Which marks the painful onset of human birth itself, to continue the above resonance idea)
BPM 3 suggests, ontogenetically, the conscious journey inward and dramatic life/death encounter with the deeper 'underworld' dimensions which actually coincides with Grof's own experiential work as a whole. Phylogenetically it hasn't happened yet on any collective scale, but the seeds are being planted. Historically, this is where the perinatal matrices were discovered as more and more people undertake the journey deep into themselves. It can be understood, both in the larger sense of Grof's psychotherapy (or any deep experiential therapy which opens into the transpersonal) and then in the more specific sense of breaking through from BPM 2 (the phase most archetypally resonant to our mental-egoic level) to the dynamic and heroic underworld journey. So BPM 3, which Wilber conflates with the more dualistic and fixed BPM 2, is precisely the one that archetypally resonates to the so-called spiral of return, that mobius-like dimensional feature that turns in upon itself beyond the linear trajectory of the ego, opening up into a multidimensional interconnected reality. This archetypal coincidence of the entire clinical and historical process with BPM 3 is also that feature of self reference necessary in any overarching model if we are to avoid the mistakes of Laplace's demon.
BPM 4 is then, the higher levels of the transpersonal which potentially open up beyond BPM 3 (perhaps the High Subtle; definitely the Causal and the Ultimate).
At the same time as archetypally informing the great phylogenetic and ontogenetic stage/structures, the BPMs also represent a developmental process within the fulcrums as Wilber describes, so that the birth process itself becomes the foundational, biological manifestation of this sequence. But what Wilber's conflation of 2 and 3 shows most significantly is the inadequacy of his own threefold sequence! Wilber's concept of each stage occuring sequentially as a differentiation to integration preceding the next stage is too linear and breaks down under the critiques. Grof's four-fold sequence is more adequate. But Grof's categories can be meaningfully translated into Wilber's terms provided the meaning of BPM 3 can be incorporated into Wilber's scheme. I believe that Wilber's sequence can, and should, be so modified.
In response to Washburn's U-turn point about the necessary heroic encounter with the unconscious as the entry into the transpersonal, Wilber (1990, 129) actually argues that Washburn is making too big a thing about such an encounter since something like this occurs at each stage (or fulcrum) rather than being unique and central as the transition from centaur to the transpersonal. But if this is so, then it is precisely what we are saying here! The question becomes, how does Wilber map this? He would need a phase between his differentiation phase and his integration phase. Between Wilber's differentiation phase/structure and his integration phase/structure lies 'the hero's journey into the underworld' the essential first feature of any true integration. In the terms which I have presented above, this is precisely the BPM 3 of Grof! And beyond that, Grof's matrices show an archetypal resonance, not only to each set of sub phases within each 'fulcrum', but to the grand overall sequence which demonstrates the place of BPM 3 in the overarching scheme! Grof's 'perinatal' deep structure, which is the experiential deep encounter with the matrices (and which would be archetypally informed, following Tarnas, by BPM 3) refers, in the largest sense, to that necessary spiral of return which developmentally coincides and constitutes the first of the two great deep structures (correponding, a la Kelly, to the two 'outward arc' structures) of the transpersonal.
Mapping the 'regression in service of transcendence' and the perinatal interface
We must understand that Grof's regression process, even though it includes the biographical and the biological perinatal experience, takes place from the transpersonal structure as much as we can say it opens into the transpersonal, for LSD and holotropic breathing is as much a technique for accessing trans-egoic modes of cognition as various forms of meditation, and it accomplishes this, apparently most effectively, at a deep cellular level. This means something more than that the 'perinatal' is a level which one can opt to experience either from the egoic or the transpersonal side. The only adequate way of picturing this that I can see is to understand this particular regression process as a 'coming from' the higher level of the communal pole where there is a 'going-back-down' to a more 'complete' polarity-embracing, re-experiencing of the original biospheric holon in its agentic and communal, individual and collective poles; that is, going 'down' to the holon before consciousness became structured through the division between the developing individual and social/environmental holons, to the original organism/matrix bi-furcation of the birth process!
The relationship to the original biological perinatal can only be accomplished through particular consciousness alterations affective for accessing the deep personal unconscious and then through that, to an accessing of the collective unconscious. One could not access the relevant experience from conscious reason alone (formal operational thought or even vision logic). Wilber's mental-egoic structure (supposed to be so much higher and more adequate with its formal operational thought and its conventional and post conventional levels of moral reasoning) which presumably integrates and includes what comes before, must actually be suspended ~ though not lost ~ in order to access and 'include' what comes before (it is not only that this material is subconscious, but it is actually repressed). But when one does this, one is accused by Wilber of only regressing to something less! Obviously Wilber is emphasizing the epistemic gain at each stage and ignoring the epistemic loss (which phylogenetically ties into Kremer's (1996) indigenous critique.) This process is not only a necessary and intentional 'regression' (necessary to establish the relation to what was epistemically lost and yet to be 'integrated' in the higher sense) but is an intentional transcendent method. The relationship which is established is not between the conscious mental-ego as such and the bio-physical perinatal, but between the 'meditator' (many different methodologies here) who is, for the moment at least, 'coming from' a transegoic perspective. Rather than a relationship of a subject observing an object, such a relationship is one of a profound participation and as such actually constitutes the 'perinatal' structure in the larger sense of the term. This is obviously more and other than a simple illumination of the lower by the light of the higher!
What we see, then, in Grof, is a particular awakening (in terms of its phenomenology) of dimensions of the transpersonal that are accessed when one establishes such an intentional, relational, all-embracing of all prior structures from 'true' origins (as distinct from the 'secondary' origins after birth) up to the level where one is (in terms of the experiential practice) presently established. We are, in effect, completing an integration of all levels that has not yet happened despite Wilber's model claiming that such a biospheric/noospheric integration 'took place' in the pre-transpersonal centaur! Thus we see the first truly total integration of the 'whole' (i.e. integrating self/not-self, consciousness/unconsciousness up to a certain level of the trans-egoic) that is possible only from the level of the transpersonal. And this doesn't mean that the experience will necessarily be integrated into the person's stable self structure any more than a Zen satori is necessarily integrated without an on-going practice of some sort. Wilber's (1995, 742) point concerning the difference between 'stable' and 'temporary' or 'peak' experiences as a criterion for judging the value of any transcendent experience is not relevant for determining the 'reality' or value of the transcendent experience or the experiential methodology. Wilber's point only pertains to the issue of the ongoing practice and commitment which comes out of any such experience which is needed for stabilizing the experience. Also, such experiences accessed through Grof's method are not simply spontaneous and passive occurences but the result of an intentional participation in a deep experiential transformational technology.
The outward arc is the growth of consciousness constellated along the agentic pole of the grand holon as an organismically centered and situated consciousness in relation to the communal pole increasingly and necessarily experienced as 'other.' The return arc is a direct experiential movement into and 'from' the 'communal' pole. The pivot of the great arcs, the turning point from the outward to the return arc, implies an archetypal movement from agentic emphasis to communal emphasis, but not creating the agentic pole (self) as other in the way that the 'agentic' had created the 'communal' as other, but rather, now moving toward an inclusion of both poles from the bottom up. But such an experience of the sudden release and return of the 'repressed' (and beyond the 'personal repressed' to an experience of the full force of the 'collective unconscious' ~ not just the 'archaic' level ~ through a trans-individual mode of awareness) and the loss of previous agentic dominance, is not smooth but dynamic and intense, like the Dionysian experiences of the third matrix specifically, or Washburn's descent into the 'underworld' ("...an eruption of the psyche's repressed underlife and a submersion of the ego in this underlife." [1988, 188]). Nevertheless, the ultimate telos of the return arc is an including and embracing of the self and all those dimensions of the unconscious to which the self was dialectically connected as self/world at each holarchic level (including the experiences historically contained within both the conscious individual holon and the collective unconscious to which it was inextricably interconnected all along) from the bottom up to the trans-egoic level of perception and inclusion. It is an embracing of the totality of the lower but in a way that includes a lower that is more whole and total than the lower that was experienced by the developing self and whose mode of experience constituted the very structure of that self! (It is necessary to distinguish this sense of downward embrace from Wilber's concept, i.e. his agape/eros distinction.)
Above all, transcendence is not even possible without our 'going back' and awakening in consciousness to all the marginalized levels of unconsciousness. Such a realization of the essential unity at every level, in every dimension of the outward arc's separations, is exactly that which constitutes one's larger transpersonal self. The transpersonal self is not simply a higher structure encountered by the 'integrated' centaur, but a realization of the conscious/unconscious nature of the 'lower' from the standpoint of the higher. This 'lower' includes the structures (the communal pole) which were dialectically alienated on the outward arc of development. Thence the 'going back down', the downward embrace (which is not regressive in the ordinary sense since it does not retrace the outward pathway of cosmocentric selfhood) is an embrace from the higher. As we turn the corner and enter the return arc, it is through a transpersonal embrace that the deeply rooted dualisms and divisions can begin to be reconciled, the epistemic losses, which have dialectically occurred on 'the other side' of our (now realized) most partial epistemic gains, are thus redeemed. Any truly overarching model must be capable of illuminating such a journey.
'Regression in service of transcendence' is neither a regression in the pathological sense, nor a regression as a Wilber spiral of egoic integration (or as a return from an unstable transpersonal experience in order to complete certain rational level integrations necessary for establishing transpersonal stability), yet it is very much a 'going downward. Here is a downward embrace of, and a unification of, one's individual totality with the collective unconscious ~ a re-union which is the movement upward. (That is, unless one takes the path of radical ascent and shoots straight for the top as in Rinzai Zen ~ but then one is going to have to come back and later integrate all these lower levels or live in danger of becoming one of those fallen gurus!).
In the natural sequence of transpersonal experience, the perinatal would come first (following the biographical level relative integration within the self sphere which is connected to Wilber's pre-transpersonal centaur). From the point of view of the return arc, the underlying ontological unity (behind the epistemological difference) of each epistemologically differentiated structure on the outward arc is transpersonally realized from the original ground up which then takes us beyond the perinatal. To repeat, what is taking place here is certainly more than simply transpersonal consciousness experiencing the perinatal ~ or anything archaic ~ as an object (re. Wilber's point, 1995, 744). What is being realized is that which is truly beneath on Wilber's perennialist vertical axis but it is not simply a replay of what has been already as the developing self. It is a reclaiming of all the inevitably alienated dimensions (laterally conceived in his mandala) of collective unconsciousness. It is most important to point out that the collective unconscious, (except in its pre-human level archaic heritage) cannot be relegated to Wilber's basement because it contains the phylogenetic record among other things which the developing self is 'recapitulating' through its upward developments.
Beginning from the 'lowest' level of the Great Chain of Being, a bi-furcation of self and matrix which occurs at birth creates two streams of individual & collective, maleness & femaleness, assertion & relationship, autonomy & connectedness with the latter pole increasingly marginalized into collective unconsciousness from the former cosmocentrically dominant pole. This is especially so in the male, constituting the increasing bias toward patriarchy. The female of course, also undergoing the birth experience's separation from the matrix, also develops along the agentic line, though generally remains more in touch with the relational/affective components of the communal pole as well as mother/matrix while at the same time being marginalized at both poles. (13) The male's (and general patriarchal) suppression of the communal pole into collective unconsciousness does not preclude the female's parallel development The female continues to develop in relational and affective modes which remain rather undeveloped in the male who devalues them. Hence, as Wright's (1996) 'pre-perm' reveals, the female's permeable boundary cannot properly be equated with lower and more primitive (or more conventionally attached in Wilber's [1996, 24] sense) levels of self/other fusion.
Like twins separated at birth who are then re-united despite both developing separately into adults, the re-union of the return path that involves the downward movement does not violate the pre-trans distinction because it is not a unity with an 'Ultimate Ground' which is claimed to have been present at birth and is now simply being consciously realized. Such is not a re-uniting with ultimate Source (though it can lead to that), but a deep and necessary healing within the outward arc's structures of being, embracing both self and world. By reaching down to the ground through both agentic and communal spheres (not possible from the egoic and centauric perspectives), the core bi-furcation can be healed all the way up. Such a process is precisely that which constitutes the higher level truly holarchic trans-egoic structure. The outward arc dialectic also describes the sense in which we can say that the alienation of the ego is real without committing the retro-Romantic fallacy. This feeling of alienation is something other than becoming self aware at the ego stage (Wilber's 'warming') of that larger spiritual sense of alienation from the Spirit following the 'fall' of original involution.
At the level of the Psychic and Low Subtle we experience 'paranormal' phenomena as part of the fabric of our realizations. These phenomena are not higher or necessarily lower (they are available, unintentionally, at all prior levels) but are now, for the first time since the advent of the archetypally repressive mental-egoic stage, consciously accessible trans-egoically as we interface with the layers of the outward arc's developmentally alienated 'collective unconscious'. Wilber states in reference to John Nelson's (1994) description of chakra 5, that "paranormal abilities may or may not develop at various stages of growth, and are not themselves a particular stage of growth" (Wilber' foreword. p. xii.). But if he sees these dimensions as neither above nor below, then how do they fit into his holarchic developmental picture of everything? Wilber's disparagement of primitive experience as merely magical or preop thinking overlooks the presence, not of transpersonal experience (I think he is correct about that in the strictest sense of the term and correct that the genuinely subtle levels were probably stably accessible only to certain leading edge shamans who were capable of form op.), but of the relative interpenetration through the group mind of that which we, from our insulated egoity, call 'paranormal' experience; that relatively permeable and 'feminine' (matriarchal) connectedness to the collective unconscious where nature and psyche are still somewhat interwoven. Beyond the brittle literalness of Wilber's readings, the old myths, (and before that, the magical rites) did indeed express realities that we are only now recapturing scientifically and experientially.
In terms of deep structure, our model differs from Wilber's sequential model in that the fundamental (deep) ontological distinction is between the outward and return arcs, a concept resonant to that of Kelly. Although the psychic structure by the stage of the centaur consists of the mental-ego stratified over the body-ego like the levels of the brain functioning in some sort of interactive fashion, this is not the truly holarchic integration which we will see realized only at the transpersonal level, the return arc! This is because the lower level pre-egoic and egoic structures identified in Wilber's model represent only a 'part' of the total picture at those levels; but not a 'part' in the sense that those consciousness structures do not include everything (i.e. as content and extent), but in the sense that they dialectically excluded their polar opposites, that is, until the return arc.
Although I have joined others to make some strong criticisms of Ken Wilber's model, and also that of Michael Washburn, I believe that they both contain many important and powerful concepts, insights and observations grounded in an extensive scholarship, so that when taken in conjunction with the empirically based and theoretically encompassing perinatal model of Stanislav Grof and conceived within a somewhat reformulated 'perennialist' or archetypal paradigm, a truly synthesizing model can emerge. I have been concerned here with trying to articulate what I believe to be some of the essential features of the general framework of such a possible model which would be tested by its ability to sustain and map overall consensus details of the development and history of consciousness.
Although, by his own admission owing a profound debt to the research and conceptions of Ken Wilber, I believe that Michael Washburn pictures more accurately than Wilber, the dialectical nature of developing consciousness and the repressive/suppressive relationship of the mental-ego to the body-ego which leads, in the first of the trans-egoic stages, to a transformational encounter with the unleashed deeper powers of the unconscious which had been locked away. But unfortunately, his view is conceived within the philosophically inadequate metaphor of the 'dynamic ground' which is first repressively contained and then later unlocked to reveal a higher blissful unity. Nevertheless, such contained and structured dynamic powers do actually re-emerge at the trans-egoic level. The metaphor of an ego leaving a ground and then returning to it, is an attempt to describe a very real process which is, significantly, not pictured in Wilber's model. Yet as stated, this metaphor is dualistic, androcentric in the way I have claimed that Neumann's account is androcentric, and violates Wilber's (a la Plotinus, Aurobindo etc.) deeper perennialist insight as to the involutionary/evolutionary account where the mental-ego is not at the maximum distance from Spirit (even though the alienated character of the mental-ego as depicted in Washburn's psychodynamic account is truer).
Ken Wilber's fundamental metaphor of the multi-leveled 'ground unconscious' unfolding through the great perennialist stage/levels is more accurate. But in its smoother stage by stage unfolding, Wilber's formulation misses the psychodynamic and experiential reality of the dialectical development which results in a profound alienation of self and world (constituting each of the two deep structures of the outward arc and the dynamic tension of their biospheric/noospheric relationship to one another) which is then reconciled in the genuinely holarchically higher and enfolding transpersonal levels.
When Washburn asserts that the original physical bio-dynamic ground is ultimately realized to be Spirit at a 'lower level' he is actually being perennialist. Wilber's counter to this is his assertion that despite the physical level being Spirit, it is Spirit as matter, not Spirit as Spirit, so the release of the repressed power of the ground is not, in itself, a realization of Spirit as Spirit. (9). Despite Washburn's metaphysical disclaimers, there seems to be some ground of agreement regarding a perennialist world view. But this does not mean that Wilber's rather linear formulation of perennialism is adequate.
While both authors have overlooked the whole dimension of the intrauterine, the birth matrices, and the perinatal structure, it is the findings of Stanislav Grof which confirm the necessity of a 'regression in service of transcendence' conceived within an overarching archetypal and non-linear perennialist view. From the point of view of the transpersonal perinatal structure, it is indeed Grof's matrices which reflect the fourfold archetypal structure of ontogenetic and phylogenetic evolution.
I hope that the suggested reformulation of the 'Jungian' dialectic in relation to an archetypally structured perennialism and the explication of the so-called 'regression in service of transcendence' concept offered here, might be adequate as the basis for a truly synthesizing model. It is my conviction that we can speak of the very real possibility of a reconciliation, an overall synthesis, despite a fair degree of necessary deconstruction. A model might then be birthed from a blending of the most powerful and profound insights and discoveries embodied in each of these major models, while re-owning those heretofore marginalized ecological, feminist, and indigenous viewpoints and discoveries.
- (p. 6) As Kelly claims, only the transpersonal can influx into the body-ego and not, say, formop into con. op. ~ but Wilber would explain this, adequately or inadequately, by means of his 'trailing clouds of glory.' I would agree that there is indeed a special connection between the pre-personal and the psychic/subtle and that the transpersonal follows the mental egoic differently than the mental-egoic follows the pre-personal. But I would want to map it differently from Kelly for it is not clear what 'implicate' means in this sense beyond Bohm's meaning. (See Wilber's (1985, p. 168-185) critique of Bohm where he argues that Bohm must ultimately import the hierarchy concept into his 'implicate order.') But I still resonate to the concept of the implicate as a metaphor of a truly transformational holarchic integration which takes place in the transpersonal, like melting sugar in water, (or Bohms' enfolded ink example) as distinct from the 'holarchic' containment on the outward arc, which although holarchic and integrated to some extent, remains a stratified structure as in Wilber's [1995, 115 ] own core model.
The subtle/psychic is constituted, not only by new emergent properties, but by a downward reach which embraces the not-self polarity of the typhon and the fundamental or primal symbolic/aesthetic structure. That is, the 'spiral of return' takes place from the psychic/subtle in relation to the pre-personal. The causal/high subtle is the entirely non-physical realm of mind (abstract/conceptual) which engages and transforms (after the psychic) the 'lower' form. op. structures. But what Kelly calls the 'implicate order' we are calling a higher level of the archetypal structure which also informs the lower levels. I also believe that what Kelly calls influxes into the typhon may not be properly termed 'transpersonal.' Rather, they are phenomena of the collective unconscious (from our view they would be paranormal), collective mind exchanges with the forming individual mind which are later re-incorporated into the transpersonal structure at the psychic/subtle level. Following this view, these properties are only transpersonal in the sense that they become conscious in the transpersonal but they are not, per se, transegoic or higher. But the higher structure awakens to these properties, integrating them with the pre-personal and later the personal structures ~ a radical multidimensional interpenetration with nature, the personal, phylogenetic history, the paranormal, and the realization of the archetypal structures behind the manifest phenomena.
- (p. 6) Koestler's holon identifies communion with the higher containing holon based on the nested structure of atom/molecule/cell which, although holarchic, is actually an inadequate paradigm for higher holarchic structuring. Interestingly, the point that Wilber (1995, 42) makes, in distinction from Koestler's view, that the holarchically higher is not the 'greater whole' formed by the communions of the lesser holon, is correct, but only for higher levels. At the physical level, Koestler is right. Thus, atoms combine with their peers in the immediate vicinity (which is not pictured by the atoms/galaxy relationship between the UR and LR quads), according to higher level laws (not manifest until the next level), into molecules and so on. But when the point of the higher organism is reached, it is not organisms which then combine with their peers to form super-organisms. Rather, from this point, holarchy proceeds through the levels even of the mental/personal within the general boundary of the particular organism (as it remains, of course, interconnected laterally with its environment) until the transpersonal. At the transpersonal, a completely non-physically limited holarchic containment takes place (the all-embracing theosphere). Thus, there are 'symmetry breaks' within the nature of the overarching archetype of holarchy itself. In fact, we see again and again the attempt to explain holarchy, in the largest overarching sense, in terms of the metaphor of physical structuring; namely, the atom/molecule/cell/organism structure. (Wilber himself does this.) Obviously, the physical metaphor cannot properly function as the paradigm for holarchy but rather only represent its lower level manifest form. This may account for the problems of logic in Wilber's holarchy as critiqued by Washburn and Kelly.
- (p.7) In terms of explicating the holonic structure, an interesting and revealing difficulty arises when Wilber describes the difference between pathological hierarchy and pathological heterachy. After carefully defining the horizontality of heterarchy which includes agency/communion (this to avoid the common error of Koestler's concept where the communal becomes the higher holarchic container) as distinct from vertical transformation, he speaks of 'pathological heterachy' as too much communion (i.e. fusion, the feminine tendency) and 'pathological agency' as hierarchical and repressive. But by his own terms, 'pathological heterarchy' would be both 'pathological agency' and 'pathological communion.' His distortion involves a skewing of the horizontal laterality in favour of the 'upward reaching' masculine. Here is the confusion of social hierarchy with the ontological hierarchy ~ the very thing that Wilber in his explanations is trying to overcome! True upward movement occurs unintentionally as the result of the lateral bi-polar dialectic even as the course of Western history is, as Tarnas (1991) describes it, Masculine and Promethean; that is, as a dialectic where differentiation and agency gain conscious hegemony over unconscious feminine communion! The imagining, yearning, and striving for the 'higher,' the progressive, forward and 'upward' mental/willful separative thrust of masculine agency, is not itself that which achieves the genuinely higher. The transformational movement to the genuinely higher comes out of the dialectical tension of masculine and feminine, assertion and relationship.
Interestingly, this particular bias revealed by Wilber's distortion of his own definitions of the agentic/communal polarity of the holon, where there is the sense of the masculine as reaching higher while the feminine looks down or across., is that which, in order to avoid the obvious ascension bias of his model, forces him to postulate compassion as the downward reach (agape) as opposed to the upward reach of eros. But the higher Being has a downward reach as the Wilberian holarchic integrative inclusion of all prior levels manifesting equally in both the cognitive and 'affective,' both the agentic and communal line!
- (p. 9) In fact Wilber's whole idea of 'pathology' (i.e. the extreme repressive dissociation which he says occurred in Western patriarchal history) rather than the 'natural' differentiation, as an explanatory phenomenon, is questionable. It is one thing to label as pathological, severe forms of egoic breakdown (psychosis, social psychopathy, mass psychoses such as nazism, or deviant as distinct from, what we recognize now as, institutionalized violence) ~ it is another to extend this concept to the history of the West (or the East) as if something went profoundly wrong. In fact, Wilber, in his stretching of the term without a clear standard of 'natural,' begins to sound like Laing! (As legitimate as this point of view may be as the contemporary socio-political catalyst for transformation). He is forced into this position because he must explain alienation and patriarchal oppression without resorting to Jungian dialectical pictures of separation folowed by redemptive re-uniting.
While willingly embracing feminism, Wilber decries the male bashing which wants to make the last several thousand years a mistake. Yet oddly, Wilber is, because of the very androcentrism built into his model (which still embodies, by its bias toward the agentic/cognitive pole, the marginalization of the feminine) is forced into the dubious position exposed by Washburn who criticizes him for vacillating on this issue of natural versus pathological development. (ReV, II, 6-7) That agentic dominance has occurred on the outward arc (and this does not deny its most dissociated features which are threatening us today) is, like the birth process itself, just painfully so and awakening to it is that which points us toward the return arc, which alone offers redemption. How else could it have happened in the West, and most aptly, somewhat differently in the East? In their inevitably shared androcentricity, yet in the very complementarity of their historical dialectic, East and West are now (20thC.) cross fertilizing each other to promise the most major transformational breakthrough (not the final level) of collective consciousness since the birth of the mental-egoic.
Wilber has a most richly interesting and stimulating yet rather odd way of explicating Western history in terms of the rational/mythic levelling of the higher Neoplatonic/Christian Realization. He seems to resent what happened, again seemingly describing it as a pathology that 'shouldn't' have happened. But this doesn't accord at all with the essential insights of his world view which states that we must proceed step by step. It is precisely the Aristotelian potentia/actus, manifesting as the dialectic of the outstanding individual in relation to the collective (also in Neumann) that moves the collective, not to a sudden realization of the truth of that 'higher' individual's level (Wilber knows this!), but to the next step ~ which was the development of the rational/mythic, which as Tarnas points out, was a necessary step to the scientific revolution, or the maturation of the mental-egoic in Wilber's terms. How else could the collective have understood Plotinus and Jesus!?
While in the West, the higher teachings were 'dirtied' by the masses ~ the very process which resulted in the development of Western science, democracy etc., through the West's agentic commitment to collective action (seen as progress) ~ in the East, these teaching, fortunately for us now, remained relatively pristine in their esoteric separation from the historical movement of the collective (the 'cast not thy pearls before swine' advice which Jesus himself failed to follow). And now it is possible to effect the next great step in historical evolution, the beginning of the return arc, by a marriage of these two powerful realities, reflecting, on another level, the catalytic feminist encounter of male and female, and manifesting as Western postmodernism, new science, deep experiential and transpersonal therapy, and the interconnections of transpersonal theory/psychology and Eastern teachings and practices.
- (p.10) As Wilber says, Gilligan's structures are hierarchic as are Kohlberg's, but also they are equal and complementary, even though, in terms of the outward arc, they must be mapped to show how they are not. Truly moral development at the post-post-conventional level integrates these, integrates the cognitive and affective in the moral, the male and the female approaches.
Actually, according to Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1992) Gilligan's position cannot be so readily subsumed into Kohlberg's agentic hierarchy as it seems Wilber would have it, and her findings in fact stand in dialectical relationship (in our way of putting it) to those of Kohlberg. As they put it, "Gilligan, however, undermines what is radical and fascinating in her discoveries when she seeks her subjects' solutions to problems, and tries to help them articulate the principles underlying these solutions....If Gilligan had not tried to get her intuitive subjects to formulate their principles for dealing with problems, but had rather investigated how frequently they had problems and how they deliberated about their spontaneous ethical comportment when they did, she might well have found evidence that moral maturity results in having fewer problems, and, when problems do arise, being able to act without detaching oneself from the concrete situation, thereby retaining one's ethical intuitions." pp. 126-127.
- (p.10) Also, Wilber's argument that Kohlberg's stages are transitional because the higher levels replace the lower, is not altogether convincing. e.g. at higher levels one does indeed not base one's moral decisions or expertise upon what other's think of one, but one does still take the effects on others and their sensibilities into account. Similarly the higher is not based on instrumental self concern (stage 2), but only the foolish would impractically undermine their own material foundational considerations etc. That is, the same essential issues, and not their particular immature expression, which is the transitional part of each prior stage, are integrated into the higher moral stage just as happens with the cognitive! Wilber (1996, 11) further makes his case as to the basic nature of the cognitive as distinct from the transitional nature of the moral when he states, "A person at moral stage 4 does not have open access to moral stage 1, for those stages are mutually incompatible ~ a conformist does not simultaneously act as an egocentric rebel." But then neither can a rationalist at the formal operational level act like a magical thinker! Wilber has not established any logical difference between basic and transitional structures. All these structures are both basic and transitional! Each level/structure which becomes holarchically contained, actually continues to develop within that containment which is the nature of true integration! In terms of Wilber's fluid self sense in relation to the basic structures that Kohlberg has identified at, say, stage 2 (instrumental purpose and exchange), the behaviour is the product of the relationship of this immature self to that structure. At later stages, the egocentric self concern has been replaced (this part is Wilber's replacement stage), but the concrete instrumental ground of any higher decision remains in any mature decision in the same general way that symbols are contained within mature thinking.
- (p.13) Concerning the nature and 'location' of the existential structure, the difference between Wilber and Washburn can be settled when we see that Washburn (188, p.35,36) is correct in placing it at the base of the mental-ego in its repression, alienation, and disconnection from the tangeable (not spirit) ground where the internal dialogue maintains identity in an immaterial mental space perceived as void. But so is Wilber correct (in a developmental sense in that the existential realization is postmodern) in placing it at the centauric level. But in doing so, Wilber misinterprets the true significance of the existential experience believing it to be about the next higher rather than an awakening to the 'lower' which is the movement to the higher. (As Washburn [1988, 36] puts it, the structural-hierarchical paradigm must "explain existential difficulties as problems arising, not from disconnection from prior foundations, but rather from lack of fulfillment of future, higher possibilities.") Thus, the existentialist experiences this profound alienation as the awareness of the insubstantiality of the ego in the face of its alienation from the body-ego. Nevertheless, whereas the first level of existential awareness concerns this primal alienation, a deeper level may open. This is where Wilber would see the significance, as a 'warming,' (i.e. we feel the pain of frozen hands only as they warm), as the awakening to the original loss of the Ultimate Ground following involution. This awakening, this spiritual hunger of the centaur, may lead to the mystic/religious quest.
- (p.14) For one thing, in a more adequately conceived dialectical model than Washburn's, the 'trans-' engages the 'pre-' (or rather, the trans- is constituted by a certain re-engagement of the pre) but does not imitate it, or simply repeat it at a 'higher' level. In Washburn's terms, "they are intimately related" and "reflect the very same potentials at two different levels of expression."
Also relevant here: Wilber in his example of Mahatma Gandhi and a Hell's Angel, seems to be overlooking the fact that a particular dimension of experience and action, say strong self assertion, can take place at different moral/spiritual levels yet is still recognizable as the same function having gone through vertical transformations (This is the basis of an archetypal model such as astrology). We are not saying that Gandhi is simply a higher level of a Hell's Angel, only that both the Hell's Angel and Gandhi, in respect to the same human dimension of power and self assertion, represent different levels of expression of the same function. Similarly, it is not prima facie meaningless to speak of different levels of relationship to 'nature' (i.e. biophysical nature). Although we come from nature, and are organically and organismically a continuum with nature, at the ego level, we experience an alienation from nature. We are psychologically constituted by that experience in such a way that pre-egoically we were not constituted by that experience (though such a conscious and developmentally necessary differentiation and separation gradually took place through pre- and egoic stages). We feel a separation from nature. This is an important facet of our inner sense of separation and alienation which is not a direct function of our separation from God (except in a larger overarching religious/spiritual sense, re Wilber, the largest teleological principle underlying evolution) but from our own biospheric self and nature, and consequent existential/emotional separation from each other.
The integration of this self/nature, self/other (as above) takes place only through a move into the transpersonal level where we experience a re-joining with nature. This Re- in re-joining doesn't mean it was there before, that it constituted our self identity, our very psychic structure before, and then we lost it and now we have found it (that indeed would refer to invo/evo). What we are realizing 'the joining of' is something that in our increasing experience of it organically we (in the primal stages) pushed away. It (nature/environment, the perceived object) remained other, yet in its essence it is not other for we are one (not the ultimate highest level transcendent Oneness but a lower level, yet still transpersonal Nature/self oneness). We become one with nature because we already are 'in fact' not two. What we see here is a set of stages and structures in agreement with Wilber's general hierarchy yet requiring that we 'descend' (in order to embrace) to the bio-spheric nature level to experience a dissolving of the cellular, emotional, pranic boundaries that we carry within. Such a move up (toward the Absolute) then requires the downward move but in an entirely new way, not an individual regression. Rather, a movement down to experience the other side of the original experiences ~ those dimensions which remained as the collective unconscious.
- (p.15) I think that this paradigm difference between Washburn and Wilber is understandable despite the fact that I also think that Wilber's refutation of Washburn's account of the primal repression of the spiritual ground etc. is decisive. Washburn's point that we do not have to postulate more than one structure which can be seen to appear in different ways (despite the fact that he is forced into two structures, namely, an ontological 'ground' and an onto-epistemological self) actually arises from a valid intuition which reacts to Wilber's particular account of the one Spirit (Infinite) manifesting as all the different levels. The subtle metaphysical difference lies in two possible formulations:
- Spirit appears or manifests in different ways (or levels) yet is fully implicit in each level.
- Spirit appears or manifests in different ways (or levels) yet is implicit only in the particular way/level at which it is manifesting.
I believe that the first formulation is the idea behind Washburn's thinking, whereas the second is that of Wilber despite his saying that Spirit is the 'Suchness' (tathata) of each level. The first allows an ultimately holographic conception of reality, the second, as indicated in Wilber's (1985) rejection of the holographic paradigm, does not. The second account has Being ontologically stratified whereas the strata in the first are epistemologically formed in relation to Being which is not stratified.
This issue is, of course, the old metaphor of Brahma losing, then gradually and painfully finding himself (maya) as the Creation; or, of the 'always already Buddha,' who first is ignorant of himself and after a long process of struggle realizes that he is 'always already Buddha' and was never not Buddha. In more abstract conceptual terms, we see the old philosophical bogey man concerning the nature and relation of ontology and epistemology. (Kant got impaled on the horns of this grand polarity ~ and it is fine and inevitable that he did in terms of evolutionary/epistemological unfolding ~ as he rendered the 'ontological' as the unknowable noumenon and then took the same archetypal polarity and stuck it into the sphere of the epistemological). Esse is not what it is independent of the percipi nor is Esse reducible to the percipi; rather, both are inextricably entwined in an archetypal dialectic which we tend to express favouring one side or the other.
I would claim that Wilber has 'ontologized' his epistemology and that Washburn is appropriately reacting to that! There is a rigidity of structuration in Wilber where, for example, 'matter' remains matter no matter what other levels differentiate out and supposedly 'integrate' with it. But nature/matter is one thing at the primal level, another at the mental-egoic, and yet another at the theospheric (subtle/psychic). This is entirely consistent with the postmodern epistemological participatory insight where the world is neither what it is in itself apart from perception nor simply Berkeley's esse est percipi, but some composite of both ~ not of observer and observed, but as the necessary interconnection of ontology and epistemology. This does not lead to a collapse of the hierarchy because 'reality' is the point of view in relation to that level of archetypal manifestation which at the mental ego level equals the matter of science. And then we see that 'nature' is different again at the postmodern level (vision/logic level), then different again at the transpersonal ~ not simply some eternal lower level object which is simply being illumined by higher energies.
Wilber's deep structures are epistemological despite the fact that they have an objective or hard reality! It would seem implicit in Wilber's view that they are true ~ i.e.ontologically true ~ of reality. But 'reality', ontologically speaking, (if we could abstract it this way without creating misunderstandings!) is not stratified holarchically or other wise, even though how Buddha struggles to re-discover himself generally is. So, paradoxically, it remains true to say ontologically (despite Wilber's refutations) that all of Reality is reflected and implicated in the least thing and the least moment in a way which is not captured by Wilber's holarchic containment when he states "all of matter is in Spirit but not all of Spirit is in matter." But epistemologically, Wilber is correct (despite his conflation of the three axes which we have discussed) and it is necessary to pay attention to his conceptual discriminations. In other words, I would say, modifying Wilber, that our 'holographic' view can indeed lead us astray since it is not quite correct at this epistemological level even though it can be realized at a higher level! To conceptualize reality as the interpenetrating web from this level has conceptually distorting implications because ontology can never be separated from epistemology. Nevertheless, to answer that all this may be true, but it is a truth only at the highest level whereas at the lowest level spirit as matter is only matter, is to again reduce the total onto/epistemological reality to the epistemological! Hence, the deep structures of developing consciousness are, generally speaking, as Wilber says, stage/structures in the evolving or awakening Reality; that is, they are, strictly speaking, epistemological, not ontological.
This issue has implications for the question of the purported relation of schizophrenia and mysticism. The first formulation does not preclude the influxing of higher transpersonal (apparently, according to Grof, more than what I would want to call 'paranormal) material in to the 'lower' levels of the schizophrenic mind, or, as kundalini or spiritual emergences which occur when the ego is not ready. [see Grof's 96, 17 comment about this being mysterious and unexplainable in Wilber's model]. What we call 'higher' in the one sense is different from what we mean by 'higher' in the other. The transpersonal is higher and for that reason cannot influx into the lower (primal) in the sense that it logically refers to the higher level integration of the epistemologically developing consciousness structures with the non-stratifed ontological reality at that level which is constituted by the degree of integrated relationship of the ontological and the epistemological. This is the sense in which Wilber thinks of the higher so that it becomes a mystery in his model. But in the other sense of 'higher', that which clearly influxes into the lower, we mean the ever present ontological reality pressuring itself into weak structures (physical, psychic, karmic) so that the same phenomena experienced by those at the developmentally 'higher' level are being experienced chaotically and fragmentedly at the lower. Perhaps Wilber has simply taken his profound epistemological structures a little too ultimately. There is not an absolute separation of the lower and the higher epistemological levels in relation to the ontological Oneness. Being epistemologically constructed during development, these boundaries and separations are not ontological ones!
If we see Washburn's view as an epistemological 'self' in relation to the ontological 'ground' it begins to make sense, though it is not, as stated, logically coherent. The deep structures of developing consciousness are indeed powerful structures but the ever present ontological Reality which is 'screened out' (what Washburn is calling, at the primal level, the repression of the ground) is still there exerting its pressure and can influx with disasterous consequences into the weak structures! Such an influx is not explainable simply as the eruption of the repressed unconscious into consciousness or as a collapse of the self into the archaic unconscious. When Washburn (1996) says the power of the ground is present at the infant state, he is saying that the whole may not be present in the sense of known, but it still exerts its power and pressure! (p. 37) What takes place is our response to that power. In the Bardo we were chased down the ladder from the overwhelming power of pure Spirit which we could not epistemologically assimilate, experience, understand, integrate, and we carry all of that in us 'down here' (immanently) as well as 'up there' (transcendentally).
- (p.16 & 18) Wilber's refutation of Washburn's (and also Nelson's, 1994) 'spiritual ground' is decisive. His own concept of the Ground Unconscious (1980), the unconsciousness of the totality of levels and structures following involution which will awaken, level by level through the process of evolution, is more coherent. What I am saying is that the unfolding of Wilber's (1980, 83) 'ground unconsciousness' from the 'archaic' level through the 'emergent' levels (Atman P. pages 82-92) takes place in a more dialectical and less linear and sequential fashion than depicted by Wilber. This dialectic is understandable from Wilber's own holonic bi-polar structure when considered along with a certain account of the developmental dialectic of consciousness and collective unconsciouness.
Instead of beginning with Washburn's primary repression of the 'dynamic ground' we begin with Grof's bi-furcation of the organism/bio-mother matrix. The fetus does not repress the matrix, rather, it experiences a separation from it, the first and fundamental stage of distinction of the self and not-self. A self is not emerging from a not-self, a conscious self emerging from an unconscious collective; rather, a new level self/not-self structure is differentiating out from the prior archaic organism/environment (animal stages) fusion. Just as the primal separation does not occur as a 'self' repressing something (the fetus does not repress the matrix), so the increasing alienation, as the fundamental condition of development on the outward arc, does not imply a conscious self repressing a collective unconscious. The collective unconscious, as it were, 'comes up' the developmental hierarchy with it. If there is a collective unconscious which is more primitive and 'down below', then we are talking about the 'archaic unconscious'. It is this basic condition of increasing development on both sides of the archetypal divide which gives rise to all derivative repressions (personal unconscious structures).
Normally, the metaphor of consciousness is light. Hence, the more light (consciousness), the less darkness (unconsciousness). But this is an ascension metaphor which applies to personal development in relation to the repressed personal unconscious and, as well, to the general unfolding of Wilber's 'ground unconscious' as it awakens to itself level by level (except I am claiming it more light, the more darkness! As the light grows, the darkness also grows. There is increasing power in both light and darkness, self and not-self, individual and collective, but it goes along with increasing division. But the boundary between these lateral distinctions is not a permeable boundary between different structures where unconsciousness (other) can break through or needs to be repressed.
The fundamental repression which takes place as the basis of the formation of the fully self conscious mental-ego is an 'across the board' psycho-social repression/suppression (mental-ego cum patriarchy) of the whole primal level structure. The same agentic/communal dialectic is present but now operating in the mental abstract sphere out of touch with the primal energies in the way Washburn describes it. The consciousness, which is the amplified self-consciousness, of the mental-ego is by nature, repressing, whereas primal consciousness (from birth to the ground of the mental-ego) is essentially, gradually separating and distinguishing, but not repressing.
Thus, it is in the original ground state where the dialectical opposites are intertwined or in balance. As we enter the trans-egoic dimension of the return arc, it is again, in all their subsequent developments, that these polarities will be embraced together in an inclusive and transpersonal consciousness. But they do not suddenly fuse and run together. We are not simply recapturing the original lower level fusion. Rather, we are realizing (first, as a flooding upward through the repressive barrier of the mental-ego) the profound polar connectedness and interplay (i.e. the archetypal connectedness ~ not two structures with a permeable boundary now flowing together) between these dimensions at all levels as self/world, individual/collective, male/female, victim/victimizer, psyche/nature etc.
- (p.18) (In answer to Neumann, mental-egoic patriarchal society is indeed more and more an 'intersubjective' web connecting individuals, but it exists on the basis of the collective group which is repressed, devalued and used. This is what has to be reclaimed and reconciled with full valuing as constituting the trans-egoic step.)
- (p.22) Much of the problem between Wilber and Washburn/Grof concerning the intra-uterine or the post-birth pleromatic, is that Wilber tends to define the essential constitutive feature of the original pleroma in terms of two factors; namely, its lowest ontological level manner of its awareness ~ except to define that manner only as pre-differentiated, fused, or indissociated, which is significantly distinguished from trans-level integrations by the vaster expanse of the content of the trans-level! (He criticizes the romanticization of the original state ~ in particular by Washburn ~ but he himself depreciates it!) But something flowing together with something else and freely exchanging energy/material with the environment, is a profoundly different sort and way of being than one where certain impermeable boundaries are set up (i.e. on a cellular and pranic level ~ beginning with birth) ~ as necessary as those boundaries are for further development. The fetus/infant cannot be simply defined as 'less developed', which is the way Wilber defines it so that it logically follows that the original connectedness cannot be relevant to higher level developments. At the higher level, there is again a flowing back and forth at this primal level ~ this is the recapturing of the original unblocked flow ~ at the heart of the fuller more inclusive dimensionality of the trans level. Such a total experience, while not reducible to the pre, recaptures the real process of the pre through the healing transpersonal awareness.
- (p.27) I am accepting the importance of this after-birth imprinting of the gender role distinction (within the larger archetypal experience of the infant/matrix separation of birth) in Chodorow's sense (as cited in Wright, 1996, 26).
I believe that any truly 'feminist' man owes his perspective to a woman (or certain women). Although I was awakened to the importance of feminism with the publication of Betty Friedan's classic in the early sixties, I owe my deeper empathy to my life partner (and editor) Roberta DeDoming who espoused Chodorow's theory before either of us had heard of her and who, many years ago, alerted me to the clearly androcentric bias of Neumann's account.
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(c)1997 by Gerry Goddard