Sunday, June 5, 2011

Transpersonal differences

The last thread showed the difference between the more metaphysical and dichotomous kennilinguist interpretation of opposition generally. Now let's look at how this applies to the differences in how to understand the transpersonal in the context of the pre-trans fallacy. These differences are played out in the transpersonal psychology movement. The following are some excerpts from a thread on this topic in the old Gaia IPS forum:

Perhaps it's time to take a look at some of the transpersonal psychologists like Washburn, Ferrer and Grof? Washburn (1988), for example, says the following:

The perspective of this book is dynamic in that the primary focus is on the ego's interaction with dynamic life, the source of which is referred to as the Dynamic Ground.

The perspective of this book is triphasic in that it divides human development into three principle stages. These are the pre-egoic, egoic and transegoic stages….the transegoic stage, which corresponds to later adulthood…is seen as a period in which a strong and mature ego is resubmitted to and integrated with the Dynamic Ground.

Principle among the features or the transegoic, or integrated, stage are: transcendence of the major dualisms that plague the mental ego…and the transformation of these dualisms into harmonious dualities, higher syntheses of opposites.”

Goddard (2007) elaborates:

While Wilber's pre-trans distinction is valid in one sense, transcendence of the ego level actually implies a re-encounter with the original ground unconscious. Transformation beyond the dualistic mental-ego lies through a re-encounter with the original matrix, which is not so in Wilber's model. Grof's findings in particular suggest that there is no sharp distinction between these dimensions and that the transformational encounter with the unconscious is not restricted to the personal biographical level ‘this side' of the transpersonal level. According to Grof (1985), Wilber's emphasis on linearity and on the radical difference between pre-phenomena and trans-phenomena is too absolute a distinction. He writes:

The psyche has a multidimensional, holographic nature, and using a linear model to describe it will produce distortions and inaccuracies…My own observations suggest that, as consciousness evolution proceeds from the centauric to the subtle realms and beyond, it does not follow a linear trajectory, but in a sense enfolds into itself (my italics). In this process, the individual returns to earlier stages of development, but evaluates them from the point of view of a mature adult. At the same time, he or she becomes consciously aware of certain aspects and qualities of these stages that were implicit, but unrecognized when confronted in the context of linear evolution. Thus, the distinction between pre- and trans- has a paradoxical nature; they are neither identical, nor are they completely different from each other. When this understanding is then applied to the problems of psychopathology, the distinction between evolutionary and pathological states may lie more in the context, the style of approaching them and the ability to integrate them into everyday life than in the intrinsic nature of the experiences involved (p.137).'”

Goddard, Gerry (2007). Transpersonal Theory and the Astrological Mandala: An Evolutionary Model. Chapter 3. From his site.

Washburn, Michael (1988). The Ego and the Dynamic Ground. New York: SUNY Press, pp. 4-5

Prior to writing that new book Goddard wrote a shorter essay comparing Wilber to Grof, Washburn and Tarnas called ”Perspectives in Transpersonal Theory.” While he makes some rather sweeping generalizations of the postmodern movement, some of which is true in particular instances, the generalizations don't hold with other particular instances like Derrida. Nonetheless, Goddard tries to integrate the above authors in his own developmental perspective and he makes some good points on each of those contributors.

This is from his concluding remarks to the above referenced essay:

We have situated transpersonalism within the contemporary postmodern deconstructionist context and touched upon certain central concepts in the views of four major transpersonal theorists. It remains to develop a more adequate theory which can address the essential differences and explicate the implicit consensus within these views. I maintain that the grand 'perennialist' conception which describes the movement from an original 'participation mystique' through a dualistic egoic structure, then on to increasingly profound experiences of 're-uniting' (conceived so as not to be in violation of the pre-trans distinction) with the greater 'Whole,' is a more adequate account of evolutionary process than modernist and postmodernist naturalistic explanations. But its details can be adequately mapped only by resolving certain foundational conceptual differences between the Wilberian and the more Jungian dialectical-depth perspectives.

Such a model would identify certain constitutive principles or foundational metaphors of explanation, understood as underlying, generating and informing the deep self/world and individual/collective structures at all levels of evolutionary unfolding. The perennialist-dialectical model would be based on the principle of a dynamic bi-polarity, resonant to the Taoist metaphysical concept of the yin and yang; a dialectical interplay of archetypal bi-polar principles informing the successive stages and structures of the development and evolution of consciousness. It would be a particular mapping of the relation of self and not-self, psyche and world, agency and communion, individual and collective, male and female ~ different valencies of the foundational dialectic which drives development.

Consciousness/world is an inseparable bi-polar structure so that when we speak of ego, we are simultaneously speaking of the context within which the ego exists. An adequate new paradigmatic model will need to map the totality of psyche and world, self and other, at each stage rather than focussing on the figure and leaving the background in shade. In fact, in his later work Wilber himself, articulates the primal polarity of agency and communion, but this concept is not adequately combined with his differentiation/integration process. Engaging the Wilber/Grof/Tarnas/Washburn conversation, I have elsewhere suggested some of the features of such a synthesising model (1997) and have also suggested an epistemological and ontological reconception of Wilber's four quadrant model (1998) so as to open up the logical room for both the holarchical perennialist and bi-polar dialectical perspectives.”

In the following Goddard summarizes his later work which is the direction in which I'm moving. Note the postmetaphysical flavor in the first paragraph wherein we have an open horizon, no absolute foundation, an exploration into paradigm formation itself, yet a meta-frame of understanding open to further developments. From Chapter 1 of his above referenced book, “Counterpoints in transpersonal theory”:

The 'new paradigmatic' activity which arises from the 'ruins' of radical deconstruction becomes an ontological and epistemological investigation into the nature of paradigm itself, into the process and history of paradigm formation, rather than a direct search for a new and better paradigm that trumps all the old ones. Now in a radical spirit of self reflexivity, we question the foundational nature of foundations themselves that masquerade either as 'facts' or as a priori principles and assumptions. Unlike the ultimate foundational and indubitable principles sought by traditional metaphysics, our new paradigmatic principles or metaphors of explanation cannot constitute a rock bottom and certain foundation of things, but need to be seen as the horizon of an ever expanding, integrating and evolving totality of experience and knowledge. To give up the need and the search for a formulatible certainty—a search for an unquestioned set of foundational axioms—is surely an increase in wisdom. 

In fact, even the relative beginner in the practice of mindfulness meditation begins to become aware of that non-tangible “space” in which both self and world are revealed, not as separate and distinct but as intimately connected, a dimensionality more encompassing than ordinary subject/object consciousness. The transpersonal perspective ultimately implies a larger and flexibly open-ended 'meta-framework', the on-going articulation of which is necessary for comprehending and mapping the diversity of views.

The Outward arc (1/7 to 6/12) signifies the development of consciousness—from pre-modern to modern to a still unfolding but increasingly maturing ‘postmodernity’—through a Promethean drive, an emphasis on the agentic pole dominant ‘over’ the communal pole (self over other, male over female), building ever more complex and largely stratified, rather than optimally integrated structures of consciousness.6 The Return arc is a process of deconstruction of the dualistic and divisive Outward arc structures from a more inclusive space of transcendent yet immanently grounded awareness. The Outward arc builds the ego and collective institutional structures: The Return arc does not consist in building further and ever greater superstructures on the basis of the ordinary self/world structure; it is not an accessing of new and hierarchically ordered structures beyond those of the Outward arc through an androcentric and agentic Promethean striving upward and onwards! Rather, as we move into more subtle and rarefied levels of consciousness, we are called to deconstruct and 'bring up into' the higher space of transpersonal awareness the now transformed self/world structures of the Outward arc. Transcendence is an accessing of higher onto/epistemological domains through a radical re-organization, a deep transformation involving a total deconstruction of self and its experienced world(s) revealing higher and more subtle levels of ‘consciousness already’. 

Since the ego cannot develop except in distinction from the non-ego (individual distinct from society, psyche distinct from nature, or male heroics distinct from female cooperation and compliance), the development of egoic consciousness on the Outward arc necessarily occurs over against unconsciousness. The Outward arc is archetypally characterized by an Either/Or, while the Return arc is characterized by a Both/And. Contrary to Ken Wilber’s pre-trans distinction, a stable transcendence is therefore not possible without our 'going back' and awakening to all the marginalized levels, not only to uncover the individual's buried history (de-repressing the personal unconscious—as Wilber agrees) but most centrally, to engage the collective unconscious.

Coming to manifest a higher archetypal meaning of the Libra/Aries (7/1) axis, the turning point from Outward to Return arc is necessarily mapped as a new and transformative relation to the Other where the 'other' is not required to do 'catch up', but rather the self (or dominant group or culture) awakens in the Other to all that which has been rejected and marginalized through the process of its own development, requiring a surrender and a mutual awakening as an equal synergy of male and female, East and West, first and third world, urban and indigenous. The difference between the transpersonal levels on the one hand and the pre-personal and personal domains on the other is that the transpersonal is an integrative joining, a flowing together of the conscious and the unconscious, once the (previously inevitable) divisive structures begin to be deconstructed. Rather than a pure transcendence, this opening into the larger space of transpersonal awareness is immanently grounded in body and nature. As we turn and enter the Return arc, it is through a transpersonal embrace that all deeply rooted dualisms and divisions of the Outward arc begin to be reconciled; the epistemic losses, dialectically established on 'the other side' of our 'partial' epistemic gains, can begin to be redeemed.”

In Chapter 6 of Goddard’s Transpersonal Theory he reiterates something I said in the Krishnamurti 2 thread about Gebser. Pervious structures are not holonically subsumed into the next higher structure. The lower structures continue to develop laterally within the dominant higher structure. However successively higher structures up to the mental-ego are by nature “divisive” or exclusive into a higher-lower polarity whereby one pole is dominant, and higher tends to at least consciously (epistemologically) subsume the lower. Nonetheless ontologically the repressed (and previous) pole (structure) continues to develop but unconsciously and it is not until the so-called centaur structure (Geber’s IA) that we begin the return arc of integration of our formerly repressed structures. This conscious return then finds those previous structures having gone through their own developments unbeknownst to us so that they are not the immature magical and mythical worldviews they were on the upward arc of development. Add in the conscious ego’s recognition and integration of them and we get an IA structure that holds all of the structures as they are without contradiction.

We get some confirmation from Elias Capriles' in “Beyond Mind II,” The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 2006, Volume 25, pp. 1 - 44:

Therefore, though the Buddhist Paths are ultimately the Middle Way between ascent and descent, from a phenomenological, ontological standpoint all Buddhist systems would agree with Grof and Washburn (as well as Jung) and in a sense also with Assagioli in viewing genuine integration and transcendence as the result of a process of descent.

It is true that the ego emerges from an original dynamic, creative, spontaneous source—which here I am calling Dzogchen qua Base—from which it then becomes estranged. However, it is also important to emphasize the following facts: (1) that the source in question is the trikaya qua Base; (2) that in spite of the fact that, as underlined in the Chuang Tzu, the condition of the child is in many ways similar to Awakening, it is radically different from Awakening in that it does not at all involve the reGnition (of ) the trikaya qua Base and does not even involve the capacity to deal with reality effectively; (3) that though the ego emerges from this source, the latter is not and cannot be reGnized in infancy before the arising of the ego, but on the contrary, can only be reGnized after the ego has been fully developed and, having become ripe, it is ready to fall from the tree of the internalized family and dissolve (and, in fact, among the few who obtain this reGnition, the great bulk do so as adults); (4) that despite the fact that realization involves going back to the source, this “going back,” rather than consisting in a going back to the unreGnized manifestation of Dzogchen qua Base, corresponds to the reGnition of this condition, which in samsaric beings is an unprecedented, wholly new occurrence” (18 - 19).

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