Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber

The pre/trans fallacy

One of Wilber's most important theoretical contributions to our understanding of the psychology of spirituality is called the "pre/trans fallacy".

In most popular and scientific views of spirituality, two main categories are postulated:

             rational spiritual
             man women
             science religion
  ego Self/Essence/Being
  culture nature
  etc. etc.

This view is common in the field of depth psychology. Human development is pictured as a spiral process, in which as a child we start in an unconscious oneness with the Self, we develop an ego structure by leaving the unity of the Self, and recontact the Self in a more conscious fashion during our second half of life.

According to Wilber, we should at least postulate three broad categories:

mythical religion historical religion mystical religion
body ego Self/Essence/Being
nature culture Kosmos
instinct intellect intuition
body mind soul
etc. etc. etc.

This view is more in line with developmental psychology (when extended to mystical development) and the esoteric traditions. Now, human development is pictured as a ladder like process, in which we all start with the body, grow up as a rational adult, and (might) end up as an enlightened individual.

Now this is the pre/trans fallacy: in the first view, the first, pre-personal category is left out. As a result of this, it merges with the third category, giving us a pre-rational view of spirituality. Pre and trans are confused; more specifically, the prerational is elevated to spiritual status. In the second view, the prerational is acknowledged as a separate category, in sharp distinction to the transrational realm of mysticism.

In the first view, the process of rationalisation and secularisation is understood as anti-spiritual, as is done by the great majority of scientists of religion. Religion is on the decline because people have learned to think for themselves. In the second view, this only applies to mythical religion; mystical religion is still to be discovered by modern men and women, as a process that completes their developmental potentials.

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