Ken Wilber on the “Pre/Trans Fallacy”

I’ve been reading Ken Wilber’s The Atman Project: A Transpersonal View of Human Development (1980). It is quite insightful in some respects, and quite lacking in other respects. Of course, you are probably already aware by now that I’m quite critical of Wilber’s approach to the integral.

Still, there are things about the book that make it worthwhile despite its apparent failure to properly interpret the Atman as “the fourfold Atman” as described in the Upanishads. It’s fine to describe the realisation of Atman as the end goal of all human striving, evolution, and development. But what is also needed is an explication of why Atman is fourfold at all. So far in my reading of it, this isn’t addressed in the book.

Atman, as the fully self-realised, was also that which Nietzsche was trying to approach with his notion of the Übermensch. That, of course, has been largely misinterpreted. But the ancient conception of the fourfold Atman is rather important for interpreting many of the enigmas of religion — such as why there are four Vedas, why the Buddha’s chariot is pulled by four horses and why the Buddha received the four “Guardians of the Four Directions” upon his enlightenment, or why even, in the Book of Revelation, the Throne of God is described as surrounded by four “beasts”. All these are also represented in Blake’s “fourfold vision” and in his conception of “Albion divided fourfold”. And for that matter, it pertains equally to much Christian iconography — why, for example, the Crucified Christ is usually depicted as surrounded by the Four Evangelists — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John — or why Christ Consciousness is often depicted as a tetramorph.

The Atman, too, is a tetramorph, and so far in my reading, this is what is missing in Wilber’s The Atman Project. (And I am so very happy to have discovered this term “tetramorph”, as it relieves me of the task of having to invent one). Atman could be simply described as the One Who is Many. Of course, it is true that Wilber attempted to make up for this lack of attention to the tetramorph with his own fourfold AQAL model (All Quadrants, All Levels), but this, as I’ve argued in the past, is deficient, being all too clearly only a reformed Cartesianism and not an authentic transform. For that reason, I’m often frustrated reading Wilber, and he has also often been criticised for misinterpreting Jean Gebser as well.

Still, despite this oversight, there are some useful things in The Atman Project. One of those matters I’ve already addressed, and that is his conception of the twelve phases of the human cycle leading to the Atman, which has some affinity with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Twelve Tones of the Spirit” (which is Chapter VI of I Am An Impure Thinker). This is useful, as it helps illuminate why “twelve” is such an archetypal number (twelve disciples, twelve signs of the Zodiac, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve gods of high Olympus, twelve principle archetypes of “the collective unconscious”, the twelve winds of the Compass Rose, and so on). But as for getting from “the fourfold Atman” to these “twelve tones of the spirit”, Wilber seems rather opaque about this.

The other matter that Wilber introduces in The Atman Project is what he calls “the pre/trans fallacy”, and this is quite important, and Wilber confesses that he was guilty of this himself in his earlier writings. Although the distinction between the “pre-” and the “trans-” can be overdrawn, this is valid, and is probably implied, too, in what Gebser felt was the deficiency of the psychoanalytic school — it’s “psychism”, as he called it, which was the conflation of the psychistic with the authentically spiritual.

This is the topic I want to address specifically in today’s post, since it is the meaning of the “pre/trans fallacy”.

These orientations are also implied in Rosenstock-Huessy’s distinction between the “trajective” and the “prejective” types or orientations in his “cross of reality” model, the former being an orientation “backwards” and the latter an orientation “forwards”. In those terms, it means, then, correspondingly a regression or a progression. This distinction is why Gebser, for example, insists that we do not confuse “origin” with “beginning”. Origin is “ever-present” and not an event in the past. So, in effect, Gebser is warning against “nostalgism”. Nostalgism and aspiration point in different directions — the “pre-” and the “trans-“. Nostalgia is “trajective”, aspiration is “prejective” in those terms.

So, this issue of the “pre-” and the “trans-“, or the trajective and prejective, is quite important to understand because it is also implicated in much of today’s “culture war”, which is about as easy to understand as the Syrian crisis, which is quite the Gordian Knot and Hydra-headed monster, or the proverbial “tangled web”. Culture War, like the Syrian crisis, brings to mind the old Abbott & Costello skit “Who’s On First?”

Humour aside, the “pre/trans fallacy”, even as described by Wilber, becomes crucial in the context of the main theme of the last century — “the return of the repressed” — and for understanding Aurobindo, for example (Aurobindo appears to be the main influence in Wilber’s writing The Atman Project. Gebser appears to be a later influence on Wilber).

The return of the repressed may lead to a regression of the ego-consciousness to the psychistic, something referred to as “psychic inflation” which is the contrary movement towards an effective integration. If effect, with the “pre” fallacy, the ego is in danger of being assimilated by the so-called “unconscious” or “collective unconscious”. This is not a desirable outcome of the return of the repressed, but quite a lot of this is happening right now, and the problem of psychic inflation is that the “pre-” and the “trans-” become confused with one another, especially in this idea of “wokeness” being bandied about today. Psychic inflation can give someone the delusion of “transcendence” when it is, in fact, not so, ,but a regressive assimilation of the ego-consciousness by the unconscious or “the Shadow”.

So, in many respects, the “pre/trans fallacy” is the confusion of assimilation and integration. This is very common, and it is wrong to assume these mean the same thing, just as much as it is to assume that “total” and “whole” mean the same thing. This distinction can be very subtle, but if you keep in mind the paradox of the One and the Many, and keep in mind how origin differs from beginning, or integration differs from assimilation, or a whole differs from a totality, you should be on very safe ground. And it would mean, of course, that you are also beginning to more effectively deploy the “Master mode” of attention and consciousness described by Iain McGilchrist in his book The Master and His Emissary. Or, we should say, rather, that the “Emissary” is beginning to realise its authentic function within the whole — to be the servant and not the master.

This is, I would say, the most important thing about The Atman Project, even though I find Wilber to be too much still beholden to the obscurities of Cartesian metaphysics. You only have to compare Wilber’s AQAL model with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” to see where Wilber’s model is deficient, and so cannot hit the target he claims for it — integral consciousness. It’s errors are, in fact, so elementary that it’s a wonder anyone takes this AQAL model at all seriously as a model of integrality. For one thing, you’ll never understand Gebser’s “pre-existing pattern” in the evolution of his four consciousness structures by referencing the AQAL model, nor even what William Blake means by “fourfold vision” or “Albion divided fourfold”

This is not the place, though, to revisit my earlier critique of the deficiencies of the AQAL model (which got me into some hot water with some devotees of Ken Wilber). But the truth is, you’ll never come to understand the fourfold Atman or the meaning of the tetramorph by musing over the AQAL model. The “pre/trans fallacy”, though, is an important idea to understand.


40 responses to “Ken Wilber on the “Pre/Trans Fallacy””

  1. Scott Preston says :

    One of the most elementary errors of Wilber’s AQAL model is this use of the pronoun “It” (and its contrived equivalent “its”). Some languages have no word for “it” at all. You can only speak of “he” or “she”, ,but no “it” let alone a bunch of “its”. In fact, until a few centuries ago even in European languages you couldn’t use a word like “it”. As Rosenstock-Huessy points out “it is raining” was an impossible construction. You had to say things like “Zeus rains” or “Thor thunders” and such. “It” became a substitute for names.

  2. davidm58 says :

    I haven’t read The Atman Project, but I believe Wilber had not yet fully developed the AQAL framework when that was written. There’s a good paper by Chris Dierkes on the value of Wilber’s early writing, called “Searching for Centaur.” I can send it to those interested, but a discussion about the paper is here:

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, David, I would appreciate the paper. This Dierkes paper is quite interesting — so were the comments below it. Interesting, too, that Dierkes finds the AQAL model something of an unexpected deviation from the promise of Wilber’s earlier writings. “Centaur” makes a brief appearance in The Atman Project — but, at least at this stage of my reading, isn’t as “fleshed out” as, it were, as Dierkes’ assessment of it.

      Oddly enough, I wrote an earlier essay in The Chrysalis called “Shamans, Satyrs, and Cyborgs” that deals somewhat with that “Centaur” motif, although in a somewhat different way. I haven’t really invested much more thought about the matter since, though.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s possible (as I mentioned in the posting) that Wilber began to overdraw the distinction between the pre- and trans– poles, having discovered that he had made something of the same conflation himself in his earlier works (or so he says in The Atman Project). That might explain why he jettisoned the “Centaur” approach, although that would mean he committed the reciprocal error of dualism in an attempt to overcompensate for the initial fallacy. That would be ironic if so.

      Not being all that familiar with all Wilber’s writings, though, I can’t really say that this is it. *The Atman Project* is a decent book, although it suffers from excessive cerebralism.

      • Scott Preston says :

        William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and Rudolf Steiner’s sculpture “the Representative of Man” can be reconsidered in terms of this “pre/trans fallacy” as well, although there we see the hieros gamos or the marriage of the “pre” and the “trans”, as it were. Steiner’s “Representative” is depicted drawing down Heaven even as he is also raising Hell. Aurobindo also makes the case in his *Human Cycle* that what we here call the “pre” and the “trans” should not be considered in terms of dualism. So, it is possible to take this pre/trans distinction too far.

      • davidm58 says :

        Yes, this analysis makes sense to me. And I do remember your earlier post on the shamans, satyrs and cyborgs.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    There’s another interesting essay on the Integral Post-Metaphysical Spirituality website that might deserve some attention: “Wilber on Translation and Transformation”. This also seems to be introduced in Wilber’s The Atman Project and so has some bearing on the “pre/trans fallacy” as well.

    Here again, a distinction between translation and transformation can also be overdrawn because the differences between consciousness structures are both matters of translation and of transformation — that is to say, just as theological or mythical categories are carried over into the mental-rational consciousness (a “revaluation of values”), so magic was also carried over into the mythical — say, the difference between “magic” and “miracle”, or spell-casting and prayer isn’t really that far apart. So, translation and transformation can be two aspects of the same process — a “revaluation of values”.

    It’s possible to confuse a deformation or mere reformation with a transformation also, just as a “revaluation of values” may just as well be a devaluation.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    “After all, in a transformative spirituality, the little grub-like being is not simply snatched up by the jaws of the ravenous bird; rather, it emerges from its chrysalis as the butterfly. ”

    Such an appropriate ending to an interesting article on Wilber’s “translation and transformation” distinction, and one that also invokes what I wrote about the “pre/trans fallacy”.

  5. davidm58 says :

    In Jeremy Johnson’s new book, “Seeing Through the World: Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness,” he comments, “Gebser’s conception of emergence without development and the synairetic crystallization of the structures is a profoundly novel departure from most literature on the subject of cultural evolution. Comparatively, Ken Wilber’s insight on the Pre-Trans Fallacy, while helping us to avoid the same Traditionalist trappings by restoring transpersonal realities to higher stages of consciousness development, still retains a perspectival linearity that reduces the previous structures (the magic and mythic especially) to a state of mere infantilism.” (p. 78).

    I would say that Gebser’s (somewhat) equivalent of the pre-trans fallacy is where he distinguishes deficient from efficient manifestations of structures. Again in Jeremy’s words: “Gebser places ‘spell crafting’ as the efficient and ‘witchcraft’ as the deficient manifestations respectively [in relation to the magic structure]…There are deficient, rather than efficient, retrievals [of past structures]. Gebser understood this as one of the underlying phenomena behind twentieth-century Europe’s fascism (and so, unfortunately, in our own time).” (p. 92-93)

    BTW, you (Scott Preston) gets a footnote reference in Jeremy’s book on p. 66. A reference to the blog “Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness: The Inaugural Post”

    • Scott Preston says :

      Oh, my goodness. I didn’t realise that Jeremy had done that. In any event, you’ve read his book now? What’s your impression of it? I haven’t ordered it yet.

      • davidm58 says :

        I still have about 20 or so pages to go…here’s what I wrote after reading the 1st 2 chapters:

        Seeing Through the World: Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness by Jeremy Johnson.

        The book arrived yesterday, and I read through the first two chapters this morning. There are few books in English on Gebser, so this is a very important contribution. The book is described as “Part companion piece to Gebser’s magnum opus The Ever Present Origin, part inspired treatise on an integral futurism.”

        Chapter 1, Towards an Integral Philosophy of the Present, serves as an introduction, an overview of some of the major themes Gebser emphasized, and the context of both his time and ours…indeed, Johnson states that his time (1905-1973) is arguably ours.

        It’s interesting to read Jeremy’s description of what he calls Gebser’s “phenomenological approach to integral consciousness.” In a footnote on page 9, he explains, drawing a contrast to the Integral Metatheory of Wilber and others: “…Gebser’s approach is not a theory about theories, nor is it looking to see how different theories fit together. His work departs from a synthesis and therefore looks not to the theories, but the theoriticians; Gebser looks at the phenomenology of the mapmaker, with their mode of being in the world, rather than attempting to unify any of the maps. The latter are not taken for granted as givens, and in reality are a product of a particular structure of consciousness.”

        Jeremy also brings in to the discussion the challenges we currently face: “This echoes our own anxieties at the end of the age of fossil fuels and at the beginning of a centuries-long epoch facing the planetary consequences of climate change. We must bear witness to the possibility of both our undoing and our becoming if we are to truly apprehend our era.”

        Chapter 2, A Catalytic Reading, is only 2 pages long, but makes an important point. I like the comparison of this book to a tincture containing a distillation of Gebser’s massive tome. It is pointed out that “The Ever Present Origin is intended to produce a direct encounter in the reader…that provokes an intensified state of awareness in the reader.”

        May it be so! I’m only two chapters in, but I highly recommend this book!

        • Scott Preston says :

          Thanks for sending Dierkes paper. I noted this citation there from Wilber

          “At the mature centaur level, the immediate and vivid present is indeed the dominant mode of time, but the individual now has complete access to the entire conventional world of extended temporal realities as well. [S]he is not confined to the present (like the child bodyego), [s]he is simply grounded in it; and [s]he is not ignorant of historical time, [s]he is just no longer bound to it (like the ego).” (Wilber 1996, p. 68)

          That’s quite a remarkable statement, seeing as temporicity completely disappears from the AQAL model. That seems related to the discomfort Dierkes apparently has for the later Wilber and his preference for the centauric.

  6. InfiniteWarrior says :

    So, in effect, Gebser is warning against “nostalgism”. Nostalgism and aspiration point in different directions — the “pre-” and the “trans-“. Nostalgia is “trajective”, aspiration is “prejective” in those terms.

    Did Gebser warn against “futurism?” I don’t recall (and my friend still has my copy of EPO.)

    aspiration is “prejective” in those terms.

    What’s missing from this picture?

    “{}-spiration.” “Gyre.” Ubiquitous symbol, that. “Aspiration.” “Expiration.”

    Whatever happened to “In- spiration?”

    • Scott Preston says :

      so, why don’t we just go completely bananas and insist on respiration, transpiration, perspiration, conspiration, (maybe desperation fits in their somewhere). OMG, I’ve discriminated against the transpirationists! OMG, I’ve discriminated against perspirationists! OMG, I’ve excluded the respirationists! Can’t be integral, then. Can’t be holistic. Yes, these terms describe the various movements of spiritus or articulations of spirare, along with inspiration, expiration, aspiration.

      Yes, Gebser warned against “futurism” in the sense that unless human beings changed, the Earth and human beings had no future. .

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Did you go completely bananas in writing your TDAB post on the subject of inspiration (i.e. “God-breathed”) and expiration, which I (at least) found most inspiring? Do teachers of meditation go completely bananas in advising us to focus on our “in-breath” and “out-breath”? Is there something wrong with reflecting upon the ubiquitous symbolism of the spire and what it might mean to us as human beings? Is there something wrong with entertaining the theories of Clare Graves and evaluating the offspring his research, “Spiral Dynamics,” which bears at least a resemblance to the chakra system?

        And, of course, what I asked was whether Gebser warned against “futurism” in the sense of pining for the future (and/or “Utopia,” techno- or otherwise) as opposed to pining for the past — both at the expense of the present moment, the only moment in which we are truly alive. Gebser’s “presentiation” certainly doesn’t seem exclusively past or future oriented.

        People shift between these (prejective and trajective) poles all the time, which makes “left” and “right” as “stances” quite inappropriate.

        Indeed. While we’re at it, we might mediate upon Gebser’s “presentiation” with Rosenstock’s observation that “we are inescapably rooted in history, even though our great revolutions attempt to rip us out of it” in mind.

        • Scott Preston says :

          I think you’ve actually missed the point here. While it is true that any kind of “universal history” means accepting that we have been shaped by the entirety of the human experience of the earth — as our own “autobiography”, it’s really not the case that we are inescapably “rooted in history”, since that would contradict even Rosenstock-Huessy’s conception that we are actually rooted at the centre of his cross of reality, and that centre is what Gebser would call “ahistorical” or “time-freedom”. So, even by Gebser’s standards we are not “rooted in history” but in the ahistorical — the ever-present origin. A “beginning” after all, is not the same as “origin”.

          Time-freedom (or the ahistorical) is not a matter of dismissing or ignoring time, either past or future. It’s always a matter of balancing or rebalancing the cross of reality when it falters. That means, too much obsession with the past is as much disease as too much of an obsession with the future. You may note that the “a-” prefix, which is not a negation, which also informs the meaning of “arational” and “ahistorical” and “amoral” also informs the word “aspiration”.

          When Rosenstock-Huessy states that we are inescapably “rooted in history”, you have to understand then what “history” means for Rosenstock-Huessy, and it’s the continuous decay and restoration or revival of the cross of reality in its fourfold aspects. So, for that reason he states that every generation is faced with the same task of reproducing the same values, only they reproduce those values differently — through a kind of “revaluation of values”. Those are the so-called “eternal verities”, or what Blake would call “the Eternal Forms”.

          History, or what we would call the secular order of things, is basically the record of a privileging of one arm of the cross of reality over other arms. Everyone of the past historically realised “consciousness structures” was the result of exaggerating one arm of the full cross of reality as the normative one, until it went to such extremes that it was overthrown by its contrary pole or dynamic, which in turn tended to become the new exaggerated aspect. There has never been before a fully “integral consciousness structure” that would justify a romanticised nostalgia for the historical. There have only been partial realisations and manifestations of it, and history is the record of those partial realisations.

          So, the view that history is a history of error — or of “original sin” — is not entirely true (which is also the implication of Fukuyama’s “end of history” — all a matter of error until us and now we can gratefully dispense with history). “O felix culpa!” — the “happy sin” — was an alternative view of that.

          To say, then, that we are inescapably rooted in history is of no more significance than saying we are inescapably rooted in our subjectivity or inescapably rooted in Nature, or indeed, inescapably rooted in the future, since the historical struggle for freedom is always future-oriented. But all this is just to say that we are rooted in the cross of reality.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Ask people what they think we are “inescapably rooted in” and you’ll get at least four different answers — history, Nature, the Soul, or a telos or destiny. These are the directions corresponding to the things we refer to as mind, body, soul, or spirit as aspects of the human fourfold. People even fight wars over these things. But, in fact, they are only partial perspectives, which point to the fact that we are rooted in the fourfold and in cross of reality, and these are four aspects of that cross of reality.

          • Max Leyf says :

            Scott you are always so insightful in your etymological connections that I feel obliged to point out that in all of the cases you mentioned, a- is being used “Greekly” as the alpha privative, but NOT in “aspiration.” That is ad- + spirare, which I’m sure gives you a different picture.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Ha! Kudos. I knew someone would call me on that… just waiting to see who it might be. Yes. “aspiration” has more the sense of “towards”, as in Nietzsche’s distinction of “freedom from” and “freedom to”. So, even though the alpha privativum doesn’t really apply to “aspiration”, this notion of “freedom to” or “towards” is the link I was attempting to make there.

              The alpha privativum usually connotes a sense of “freedom from” — arational, aperspectival, ahistorical, amoral, atemporal and so on. But the reciprocal motion would be a “freedom to” or towards.

              As we might surmise from this distinction between “freedom from” and “freedom to”, it also is somewhat implicated in the “pre/trans fallacy”. Also some probable relation to Goethe’s “two souls”

              “Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,and each from the other would be parted. The one in sturdy lust for love with clutching organs clinging to the world, the other strongly rises from the gloom to lofty fields of ancient heritage”

              The sense of rising above in conflict with a falling back is also a reflection of the trans and pre relation.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    The recent photo of the black hole maybe a sign from heaven telling us that we should be practicing doughnut economics.

    As above, so below, after all.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    For the history buffs in the readership, how we got here from there (that is, to someone like Trump) can be pretty much mapped through earlier writers, perhaps beginning with de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” through Thorstein Veblen ( through constitutional law scholar Arthur Selwyn Miller (in the 70s, such as “The Modern Corporate State”) to Bertram Gross’s “Friendly Fascism” (1980), but also in Rosenstock-Huessy’s writings on universal history where he also anticipated that the US would have to suffer a bout of fascism.

    These people weren’t “clairvoyant” in the supernatural sense of that — they simply saw the pattern, the hidden contradictions, in the development of modernity that everyone else had pushed into the background or elided.

    I should, actually, also relate that to McGilchrist’s statement that the Emissary’s “optimism” is contradicted somewhat by the Master’s “pessimism” (or “realism”), simply because the Master perceives more (the background effect) than the Emissary (which is focussed on the foreground effect).

    So, in those terms the “New Normal” isn’t an deviation or aberration, but a logical development by which the “background” contradictions that were ignored or elided have overtaken the “foreground” effects, as per Berman’s observations in the 80s as well that “everything is pregnant with its opposite”.

    The “New Normal”, hard to take as it is, shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone who had followed the thread of thought from de Tocqueville through Veblen etc.

    • Scott Preston says :

      When what we call “history” is pushed into the background (as it must be in the case of “post-historic man” as Mumford and Seidenberg call it), then we really can’t see the implicit pattern or Gestalt of the whole development or movement. Rosenstock-Huessy thus thinks of “history” as simply that which we have pushed into the background.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      the Emissary’s “optimism” is contradicted somewhat by the Master’s “pessimism” (or “realism”), simply because the Master perceives more (the background effect) than the Emissary (which is focussed on the foreground effect).

      Optimism and pessimism are both quite different from “realism,” whether “hopeful” or “despairing,” imho, and this is why I think McGilchrist’s “map” could do with a minor adjustment that maps “the Master” to his integrating “metacenter” rather than one or the other brain hemisphere or “mode of attention” as I imagine “the Master” is aware of both “background” and “foreground.” Unfortunately, such a “mapping” wouldn’t be considered “scientific” enough to be taken seriously.

      On this subject, some might find the recent exchange between Jeremy Lent and Jem Bendell to be of interest. The exchange begins with Lent’s What Will You Say to Your Grandchildren to which Bendell responds with Responding to Green Positivity Critiques of Deep Adaptation to which, in turn, Lent responds with Our Actions Create the Future: A Response to Jem Bendell.

  9. Scott Preston says :

    As regards the pre/trans fallacy and why some think Wilber may have misrepresented Gebser’s thought — this has to do with Gebser’s notion of “presentiation”. Yes, part of presentiation is what we might call the “foregrounding” of history (which has otherwise been pushed into the background), but Gebser also thinks of this as the presentiation of the future as well — the “trans” aspect of this. So, in terms of presentiation you really even have to, ironically, transcend the pre/trans polarity itself, and yet, at the same time, preserve their character as “past” and “future”.

    If you muddle up the pre- and the trans-, and say there is no distinction, or that past and future are illusions, you won’t have anything to effectually “presentiate” at all, just as you need difference and differentiation in order to effect an authentic integration. That’s why Gebser is at pains to make sure we understand that a unification or synthesis is not the same as presentiation or integration.

    I think this is where Wilber fell down. Time present and time future doesn’t just disappear with presentiation or aperspectivity, which it seems to do with his AQAL model where time is not represented at all. I think this may be a common error in interpreting what Gebser means by “time-freedom”.

  10. Scott Preston says :

    (Maybe I should have incorporated these comments into a new posting on the ‘pre/trans fallacy’), in any case, the pre/trans fallacy necessarily invokes the temporal axis of the cross of reality or the mandala of being, as past or history and as future possibility. The reason they can become confused is, of course, that both are what Gebser calls “latent”, and this “latency” of history and futurity probably accounts for the conflation of the pre and the trans. As you can see, pre- and trans- have an evident connection with Rosenstock-Huessy’s terms “prejective” and “trajective”.

    “Latent” and “manifest” are the two terms (or polarities) that Gebser prefers to “background” and “foreground”, or “unconscious” and “conscious”, and they are consistent with his view that origin is “ever-present”, either as latent or manifest, as background or foreground, or as unconscious and conscious respectively. So, in those terms it is quite true that, as Rosenstock-Huessy insists, it is we who decide what belongs to the past or “history” and what belongs to the “future” or possibility — and that deciding is what Gebser calls “presentiation” and presentiation is quite related to what Phenomenologists call “intentionality”.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I’d say Gebser’s “presentiation” — “making present the various ‘consciousness structures'” — is a prerequisite for our, especially, deciding “what belongs in the past and what belongs in the future,” as we human beings have a marked tendency either to relive the past (over and over and over) or live in our dreams (and nightmares) of the future at the expense of everything present (and precious) to us. This an area in which readings of Rosenstock’s and Gebser’s work complement one another nicely and where Gebser’s “diaphenity” becomes crucial.

      I don’t recall Rosenstock having said or written much about “presentiation” or “presencing,” as the practice is more widely known…aside from his reported insistence that ‘God’ was a living presence in history, which apparently got him forced out of Harvard. Rosenstock buffs, kindly point me to the tome(s) or lecture(s) in which he specifically addresses “presence”, because it seems to me that the phrase, “‘God’s’ presence,” is perhaps one of the most misunderstood in history.

      For the interested: Thich Nhat Hanh on “presence” and “presencing”.

  11. Scott Preston says :

    Nancy Rosenblum discusses “conspiracism” with Sean Illing at Vox.

    As I noted earlier, this conspiracism itself can be a conspiracy to undermine democracy, and this is the implication of what she calls “conspiracism” as an “ism”.

  12. Scott Preston says :

    The new alignment. What do these folks have in common? Prigogine (chemistry), McGilchrist (neurology), Bohm (physics), Bortoft (naturalism), Jung (psychology), Gebser (culture), Nietzsche (philosophy), Rosenstock-Huessy (linguistics)? — underlying all of them is Heraclitus. By the same token, the are largely anti-Parmenidean. Behind all “chaos theory” stands the ghost of Heraclitus.

    Parmenides ideas of orders of being contrasts with Heraclitus’s logic of chaos (panta rhei). Yet, Heraclitus frightens some people just because of that. Who’s afraid of Heraclitus? It seems illogical to claim to be afrighted by Heraclitus unless you recognise something real and true about his philosophy.

  13. Scott Preston says :

    Jeremy Johnson delivers a very good and commendable overview of Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy and the metamorphosis/mutation of consciousness structures, the role of time, etc

  14. Scott Preston says :

    Here’s Aurobindo’s thoughts on “aspiration”, and as related to the what here is also called “the pre/trans fallacy”.

    The fallacy that Aurobindo is describing here is, indeed, fairly common.

  15. Susquehannock says :

    You don’t say anything (that I noted) about the “pre/trans” concepts most common and practical use, which is as a reminder and a kind of testing formula for thinking and speaking/communicating.

    To simplify it a fair amount, pre/trans is a technical term that describes a common error, which is to mistake pre-verbal thinking with trans-verbal thinking. (I’m using the word ‘verbal’ to express the idea of modern thinking, the ideal of the mind of the fully educated and socially “complete” human person as we are in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

    Wilber was very vertical and linear at the time he wrote Atman Project, so, he modeled shifts in thinking as either falling backwards into primitive “pre” thinking, or rising up into complex systems trans thinking.

    Thing is, both types of thinking, the primitive and the complex, share some qualities when compared to the linear logics verbal thinking of modern humanity. They can be hard to express in words, and tend to seeming dreamy and vague when expressed in words.

    So, how do you tell them apart?

    Wilber proposed starting with the pre’trans idea and expression, so that people could at least say to each other, “how sure are you that this is not a pre/trans movement into pre thinking?”

    Which isn’t inherently a bad iodea – if it had been carried further into practce. As it was, it tended to become a kind of accusation and perjoritive.

    “I am obviously trans.” and “You are making a pre/trans error (by which it was meant the person being so accused was charging with falling into “pre”).

    In ways it’s a shame that the attempt was not better carried forward, because we could use tools to help manage how easy it is to become attached to the experiences of occult thinking and never moving out of that thinking to develop the other types on non-verbal thinking.

    I see a lot of immersion in pre thinking that doesn’t go far. Do you?

    • Scott Preston says :

      (I had a nice reply to this all written up and “boom”, when I posted it it disappeared. So, I’ll try to recall it all).

      With The Atman Project Wilber’s chief aim here is to correct for his own “pre/trans fallacy” in his earlier works, as he seems to suggest in the opening pages of the book. His main influence here is Aurobindo, and he does not seem to have been familiar yet with Jean Gebser.

      In Gebser, what Wilber calls “pre/trans fallacy” is discussed as the common confusion of the psychistic with the spiritual (also a theme of Aurobindo). Although Gebser and Jung share much in common, Gebser is still critical of Jung’s “psychism” (although I don’t think this is true of the later Jung). For Gebser, the hallmark of the authentically spiritual is “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world”. For Gebser, who was hounded and pursued by fascism while writing Ever-Present Origin, one of the great dangers of the “irruption” was a fatal confusion of the psychistic and the spiritual, and the chief distinction is one of being possessed by or possessing, which in some respects aligns to the themes of Being and Having.

      By “psychistic”, Gebser means the danger of being possessed or assimilated by archaic forces of “the unconscious”. Assimilation and integration quite distinct despite most people’s tendencies to treat them as synonymous — a fatal error as much as confusing the Totality and the Whole. Psychism has the attendent danger of what is called “psychic inflation” which can be, and most often is, confused with spiritual awakening or spiritual enlightenment.

      And we see this especially in things like fascism, which is the ego-consciousness being overwhelmed by the ancient forces — forces of animism and vitalism that are often in an antagonistic relationship to the mental and the spiritual natures. A spiritual nature is at home anywhere in the cosmos, while fascism is “Blood and Soil” magic and mythology — animism and vitalism. And it is interesting to note that some quite intelligent people like C.G. Jung, T.S. Eliot, or W.B.Yeats flirted with fascism, initially, until they realised it for what it was. That confusion of the psychistic and the spiritual is the pre/trans fallacy, and this is also what Gebser wishes to caution us against by his distinction of the psychistic and the spiritual.

      Also true of Aurobindo. The fourfold Atman is Body, Vitality, Mentality, and Spirituality, and likewise Aurobindo cautions against reducing the latter to the former, which would not be an integration but an assimilation. Being and Having must be reconciled, and having not in the sense of “private property” so much as “propriety” (as Rosenstock-Huessy also insists). This Being and Having aligns with McGilchrist’s Master and Emissary relationship or Aurobindo’s “Sovereign and his Minister” relationship.

      Now, this swallowing up of the ego-consciousness by the psychistic forces is what Nietzsche also calls “unselfing”. This has been misunderstood about Nietzsche, too. He’s dead set against “unselfing”, but he is also dead set against “egoism”. For Nietzsche the ego-nature must become transparent. So, it is also a case of the “pre/trans fallacy” to hold that Nietzsche’s “overman” is return to the heroic age. Nietzsche’s proto-type for the overman is not Achilles but Goethe.

      So, the pre/trans fallacy has much to do with the ideas of Being and Having, of being possessed or as possessing, not in the sense of “property” but in the sense of “propriety”, and this distinction between Being and Having corresponds to the meanings Consciousness AS being and becoming and Consciousness OF being and becoming.

  16. Scott Preston says :

    We should note this about the spiritually enlightened consciousness, that since it is firmly rooted in the ever-present origin, it finds itself at home and in its true element wherever it is in spacetime. In those terms, how could it succumb to nostaligism where there is no sense of “lack”?

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