Faolan - i've discussed Wilber and Campbell and Jung a few times in the past year on the message board, not that you can always tell from the heading.On 2005-12-02 12:53, Faolan wrote:
Does anybody have any comment on the question I posed in the beginning of this thread? I'm not interested in debating distorted caricatures of Wilber.
I enjoy Wilber immensely, and find he and Campbell complement one another. I don't think it's so much a case of either/or ...
Some of the comments i've made elsewhere strike me as relevant - points worth making - but since i tend toward excessive verbosity, rather than starting afresh and repeating mytself, i've borrowed passages from several different threads and have stitched them together, adding a few bridging comments. At the very least, you'll get a sense of my thoughts on the relationship - if any - of Wilber's work to Campbell's
... but i do apologize to those who develop a strange sense of deja vu when they read these words ...
Much is made of Ken Wilber's claim that Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung commit "the pre/trans fallacy."
Certainly from Wilber's perspective, if one accepts his reasoning, then Campbell and Jung are both guilty of the pre/trans fallacy.
On the other hand, that assumes Wilber's concept of what he terms the pre/trans fallacy isn't fallacious in itself.
This terminology is one of numerous categories and hierarchies of thought and existence Wilber posits - a wonderful, elaborate philosophical exposition that ultimately boils down to an article of faith.
Any map of reality is useful, whether Wilber's hierarchy of holarchies, Campbell's monomyth, or Grof's COEX systems. Wilber's is certainly a valid critique of Campbell, but it's not the only critique - my favorites are Marxist and Objectivist critiques, which also are valid, if one accepts the foundational assumptions of these belief systems.
Generally, though, critique tells us as much or more about the belief system from which the criticism proceeds, than it does about what is critiqued
(note that criticism, as applied to scholarship, doesn't mean "negative," as it seems to in the popular sense, but refers to analysis and evaluation).
Wilber's critique of Campbell helps me understand Wilber's system of thought more than it does Campbell's - where they differ, where they overlap ... just as my critique of Wilber would tell us more how i look at the world than how Ken Wilber does ...
I could be mistaken, but i suspect Campbell wouldn't feel terribly compelled to reconcile his thoughts with Wilber's (though i'm sure they would enjoy an enlightening, convivial conversation on the subject) ... based on Campbell's work, he doesn't accept the same distinction between "pre" and "trans" that Wilber does
(one could even say that, from Campbell's perspective, Wilber is guilty of the "pre/trans fallacy" fallacy).
Campbell, though, bases his observations on myths, which similarly make no distinction between these states - and he is much more in tune with Stanislav Grof, the other pole of the transpersonal school. Whereas Wilber's work has a philosophical/metaphysical bent, Grof's conclusions - which don't support this distinction Wilber makes - are based on thousands of case studies and clinical observations, rooted in good old fashioned empirical science. Like Campbell and Wilber, there are many parallels between Wilber and Grof, and signficant differences as well.
There are certainly many parallels between the work of Joseph Campbell and Ken Wilber, both of whom are seminal thinkers in their own right.
However, we are discussing two different areas - Wilber is approaching the subject of Life, the Universe, and Everything from the aspect of transpersonal psychology, while Campbell is coming from the direction of mythology.
It's natural to presume one must be right and one must be wrong - but we are dealing with two thinkers who use very different vocabularies in their study of related, sometimes overlapping fields - with related, sometimes overlapping terms.
I find their systems of thought complementary and compatible. To me, it’s much like German and English – there are similarities and differences – but both do what they are supposed to. Some people speak one language, some the other, and neither is the worse off – but some learn both languages, though may be more vested in their native tongue. So it is with Campbell and Wilber.
Does Campbell confuse the "pre-personal" with the "trans-personal"?
Keep in mind that these are terms Wilber arrived at well after Campbell's death, and are part of system Wilber has developed to interpret, well, Everything ... Certainly, if one accepts Wilber's terminology, then Campbell and Jung both commit the "pre/trans fallacy" ...
but i find that a bit like wondering, when Jesus passed around the bread and wine and said, "take, eat, drink - this is my body, this is my blood," whether he is confusing transubstantiation with consubstantiation?
Those who believe the mass is an act of transubstantiation (generally Catholics and some Orthodox churches) believe Christ is in accord with them, while those who claim consubstantiation(generally Protestants - most non-Catholic congregations) believe Christ's words are in harmony with their interpretation.
Very subtle difference between those two positions – either way, you still drink the wine and swallow the wafer – but those subtle differences led to thirty years of war and bloodshed throughout Europe.
Here we have a problem of vocabulary.
Similarly, you can’t automatically equate "transcendent," as Campbell uses it, with Wilber's "transpersonal."
Campbell draws a distinction between West and East: "In Occidental theology, the word transcendent is used to mean outside the world. In the East, it means outside of thought" (Myths of Light, p. 6). Subtle distinction, but significant. Campbell doesn’t say what the transcendent is – it can’t be encapsulated at all, as it's beyond thought, a tremendous mystery, outside the experience of waking consciousness.
Though there is certainly some resonance between the terms, that’s not quite Wilber’s concept of the transpersonal.
And what’s wrong with that? Campbell isn’t discussing Wilber’s categories here – rather, he’s discussing a dynamic he has observed in mythological systems throughout the world: one of the functions myth consistently serves is to root all that exists in the transcendent mystery – "reconciling waking consciousness to the mysterium tremendum of this universe, as it is."
Waking consciousness – as we experience it – evolved relatively recently in the grand scale – and what this consciousness sees around it is an active, animated, organic, biological world where we are driven by the aims of our organs. Filling one’s belly, having sex and giving birth, the body's urge for self-preservation, and such – the business of life - long preceded the emergence of rational, waking consciousness, long preceded the appearance of human beings.
(Of course, another way of phrasing this would be that the noosphere – Teilhard de Chardin’s term, related to the evolution of sentient life and consciousness – emerged from the biosphere – terminology in harmony with Wilber’s conceptualization, but saying the same thing as Campbell.)
Campbell observes that the mystical function of mythology "is to put the conscious mind – which is in touch only with the phenomenology of the world – in touch with the ground of those phenomena, particularly of your own action." This is something that mythological symbols do – Campbell’s recognition of this function need be no more an example of Wilber’s "pre-trans" fallacy than is Newton’s observation of gravity.
Wilber, however, isn’t looking through the lens of myth, as is Campbell (or through the lens of the psyche, as does Jung). His aim is an attempt to integrate physical, biological, and human evolution, drawing together cosmology, biology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, and ecology, all in one complex, detailed map - or model - or metaphor(?) - of reality.
Wilber certainly touches on mythology – but that’s not the particular portal he follows as entry to his model of Life, the Universe, and Everything
(Wilber’s perspective seems to proceed more from the vantage of de Chardin’s Omega point - the "strange attractor" – to borrow a term from chaos theory - toward which all evolves).
Wilber doesn’t seem to address the four functions of myth Campbell observes at all
(though I just might not have come across it yet in his work - i know i haven't read every book and essay, and the man keeps writing!).
It’s not until Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, his massive, well-researched, mind-expanding tome, published in 1995, that Wilber determines Campbell has fallen into the "pre/trans fallacy" (as does just about everyone, save Wilber, of course, and Plotinus, Sri Auribindo, maybe Habermas – and, for a time, Da Free John, Wilber’s mentor during this period).
Prior to that publication the evolution of Wilber’s thought owed much to Campbell, who is cited frequently in his earlier works, from The Spectrum of Consciousness, (written in 1972, when he was 23) through The Atman Project and Up From Eden.
However, Wilber’s writings reference the same two or three of Campbell’s books in his works – and some of the conclusions he arrives at suggests a limited familiarity with Campbell’s later work, an understanding at times a great contrast with Campbell’s words in, say, The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, or the multi-volumed Historical Atlas of World Mythology, not to mention many of his published essays.
I may be wrong, but my sense is that Wilber devoured The Hero With A Thousand Faces and a few other works – enough to catch a sense of Campbell – but then, after assimilating as much as he needed, struck off in his own direction.
And why not?
Wilber’s work is comprehensive and time-consuming – after having absorbed the gist of Campbell by the early seventies, he was busy formulating his own philosophy, constructing an incredibly complex, holistic approach, and then communicating same in writing
(and I can’t recommend Wilber’s books highly enough – whether something simple and short, like A Brief History of Everything, or metaphysically mindbending and intellectually demanding, like the vast Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, or the personal, in the romance, passion, and tragedy of Grace and Grit.)
Wilber divides his evolution into four broad periods – and his attraction to Campbell spans the earliest, when his writings reflected the perspective of romanticism. Though Ken Wilber is by no means anti-Campbell, he believes he has moved beyond Campbell’s perspective
– and indeed he has, for, once again, Campbell is looking at humanity through the mirror of mythology, whereas the mythic occupies but one rung in one corner of the multi-tiered four dimensional map of holarchies (interdependent hierarchies of holons) - or "quadrants of existence" - that Wilber has constructed of the "kosmos."
Wilber doesn’t seem aware of Campbell’s later work, though again I could be wrong –
and though Campbell doesn’t really bridge some of the distinctions Wilber makes between prepersonal and transpersonal categories of spirituality, why should he, considering not even Wilber made these distinctions in Campbell’s lifetime?
I’m not sure we’d be having this discussion had Wilber developed his theory earlier, or had Campbell lived longer – no telling what might have developed if a dialog had been established between the two (such as the discussion that developed between Campbell and Stanislav Grof, another pillar of the transpersonal school).
Again, when Campbell speaks of the "transcendent," he means what is "outside thought" – using his definition, he is completely consistent in his approach. If we instead replace the transcendent with Wilber’s "transpersonal," then - given Wilber’s definitions of prepersonal and transpersonal categories - Campbell is indeed fuzzy, as he doesn’t distinguish between the two
(which, of course, did not exist as categories at the time at which his work was written … kind of like faulting Aristotle for ignoring capitalism).
I am curious - if Wilber finds a major difference between "pre" and "trans" states of consciousness is that in the former there is no personality yet, while in the latter the personality is transcended, where does this personality come from? Doesn't self-consciousness emerge from our biology, a result of evolutionary processes? Or is this self-conscious personality mystically and magically inserted into the biological vehicle (the body) from somewhere else?
Biology, though, plays a role in Campbell’s observations:
Now I’m interested in the biological thing because I think of mythology as a function of biology. Let’s say that every organ of the body has its energy impulse, and impulse to action, and the experiences of the conflicts of these different energies inside, is what constitutes the psyche.
It’s nature talking. And mythology is the expression in personified images of those energies.
Joseph Campbell, The Hero’s Journey, p. 157
I’m not sure what Wilber would take issue with in this statement … other than the characterization of mythology "as a function of" biology – Wilber might prefer the word "emergent," for "function of" implies myth is but a subset of biology ... and yes, Wilber assigns mythic thinking to the lower arm diagonally opposite his hierarchy of biological/behavioral evolution on his detailed map of reality - but these aren’t necessarily rigid separations, as in Wilber's system elements of consciousness evolve in stages consonant with physical evolution
(not much evidence of mythic or rational thinking, for example, in the absence of a brain and/or neocortex – they "gowith" one another, in Alan Watts’s terminology).
I believe, though, that both Campbell and Wilber would be comfortable replacing the phrasing "function of biology" with "emerging from ..."
There are energies that move in our body. No one knows whence. They come from something transcending our consciousness. We can’t even conceive them. And those energies that come in subatomic particle displays – you know, they come and go, come and go ...
Mythological images are transparent to transcendence ["outside thought, outside the experience of waking consciousness" – bodhi]. Every mythic image points past itself; every deity opens to mystery … (Campbell, The Hero’s Journey)
Mythological symbols touch and exhilarate centers of life beyond the reach of vocabularies of reason and coercion. (Campbell, Creative Mythology, p. 5)
That’s what myths do – sometimes they point to archetypes that Wilber would classify as prepersonal (such as the Great Goddess and the neverending bounty of her cornucopia from which all blessings flow, which may be linked to the infantile experience of suckling at Mother’s teat), and sometimes mythic images point to what Wilber would classify as transpersonal archetypes – such as Plotinus and the Great Chain of Being, or the Intuitive Mind/Overmind or Godhead of Sri Aurobindo, which point to the future and what we are evolving toward.
That mythic images don’t make a clear distinction between Wilber’s concepts is not due to fuzziness on Campbell’s part.
Wilber distinguishes what he views as transpersonal archetypes – again, those of men like Sri Auribindo and Meister Eckhart, and their concept of God for example – from archetypes residing in the collective unconscious of the psyche identified by Jung and Campbell and others, labeling the former as "centauric" and the latter as "mythic."
However, some of Wilber’s transpersonal archetypes – such as the seven chakras of kundalini yoga – have long been embedded in myth and are traced back thousands of years by Campbell, related to the course of the seven visible celestial bodies. Similarly Wilber’s "ascending" and "descending" flows of life energy (the ascending = masculine spirituality/heaven, etc. – e.g., Christianity; the descending = feminine spirituality/earth, etc. – e.g., Goddess religions) relate to yin and yang, the ida and pingala nerves and coiled kundalini serpent in yoga - which may go even further back, to the double helix of DNA itself, as anthropologist Jeremy Narby suggests in The Cosmic Serpent.
... sounds like "prepersonal" archetypal imagery to me ...
But, returning to the function of mythology that serves
Campbell does come up with metaphors for what this transcendence is – but they are only metaphors, and Campbell makes that clear throughout his work – mythic images morph and flow into one another, and whatever term we use, from "consciousness" to "energy" to "nature" to "ground of being," even "transcendent" itself, is but a metaphor.... to put the conscious mind – which is in touch only with the phenomenology of the world – in touch with the ground of those phenomena ... So that you act not as an ego, but as a carrier of that process that is transcendent in its course. When a myth links you, for example, to your society, it’s linking you to something bigger than yourself. But it’s not big enough. The society must be seen as linked to something bigger than that, which is the world of the environment. If you get stuck with that, that’s not big enough either. That has to become transparent … "transparent to transcendence" is the key to the whole thing; that’s a key word.
Campbell, The Hero’s Journey, p. 166
When I drove down here from Esalen, all I could see as I drove was protoplasm! Protoplasm in the form of cows eating, protoplasm in the form of grass, and protoplasm overhead. It was a kind of revelation, the whole world as intentional protoplasm, with consciousness and energy.
From then I come to the feeling of energy and consciousness being two aspects of the same thing.
Ibid., p. 157
Notice, Joe is explaining his personal perception, not offering a statement of fact. This may well be an example of Wilber’s pre-trans fallacy, but then it’s one Wilber falls victim to himself:
But various types of evidence suggest that every exterior has an interior ... There is, however, rather endless debate about just how 'far down' you can push prehension (or any form of rudimentary consciousness). Whitehead pushes it all the way down, to the atoms of existence, while most scientists find this a bit much. My own sense is that, since holons are 'bottomless,' how much 'consciousness' each of them possesses is an entirely relative affair ... Indeed, the whole point of the hierarchy of evolutionary emergents of apprehension is that consciousness is almost infinitely graded, with each emergent holon possessing a little more depth and thus a bit more apprehension. However much 'consciousness' or 'awareness' or 'sensitivity' or responsiveness' a tree might have, a cow has more; an ape has more than that, and so on. How far down you actually push some form of prehension is up to you (and won't substantially alter my main points) ...
... I believe it shades all the way down.
Ken Wilber, "An Integral Theory of Consciousness," Journal of Consciousness Studies, Feb. 1997
Seems that well after Wilber declares Campbell guilty of the pre-trans fallacy, he embraces a similar error himself.
A difference is that whereas Wilber makes a distinction between the lower forms of consciousness of, say, a photon or an atom or a cell or a tree – or protoplasm – distinguishing that from the higher forms of consciousness - those "strange attractors" toward which we evolve - Campbell imagines the entire spectrum of consciousness as the underlying ground-of-being motivating evolution.
Wilber sees humanity as the current pinnacle of evolution (though we are, so to speak, on our way to places - still evolving), atop the holarchy as things now stand, while Campbell views humanity as part of the web of existence and not necessarily the apex ("... with center everywhere, circumference nowhere ...").
Campbell, though, knows he is playing with mythic imagery, and that these images are but metaphors.
Wilber seems at times to not realize his system is in itself mythic in nature. He takes his system as concrete fact, not metaphor – Wilber’s map of reality is reality as-it-is – and in its details reads at times as if discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
It is somewhat ironic to note his mythic framework. Wilber’s intricate, four-dimensional model of reality - of holons expanding into complex holarchies - evokes the Net of Gems, a mythic image arising out of the Hindu/Buddhist mythological nexus. The intricate detail of his system of thought indeed parallels many of the complex, elaborate constructions of Buddhist metaphysics, particularly of the Tantric, Abhidharma, and Vijnanavadin schools in their holistic hierarchies.
Especially ironic is the shape of Wilber’s map of reality – a four quadrant mandala, a verbal image comparable to those painted with colored sand by Tibetan Gyoto monks.
Mandalas appear in art and myth roughly contemporary with the relatively recent emergence of agriculture in human evolution, and also manifest in individual dreams - both Campbell and Jung relate this symbol to a thirst for wholeness in the human psyche.
To Wilber this would be an example of the pre-trans fallacy – a prepersonal archetype given a transpersonal reading – and yet, he can’t escape this same framework, even designating his construction as a map of “holarchies,” essentially comprising hierarchies (though he hates that word) of “holons” – holistic echoes throughout.
We aren’t able to shake free of mythic archetypes just because consciousness says we should – which is one of Campbell’s major points.
Is Wilber right? Does Campbell confuse the 'pre-personal' and the 'trans-personal'?
Depends on where one is standing when one asks the question.
Joseph Campbell and Ken Wilber are speaking of two different things. Certainly Wilber values Campbell’s work, even though he feels Campbell is a victim of the pre-trans fallacy – and certainly Campbell takes no pains to make the same distinctions as does Wilber, nor does he come up with the same categories as Wilber –
but, of course, the reverse is also true -
so is Wilber committing a categorical fallacy by not distinguishing between the psychological/pedagogical, social, cosmological, and mystical/metaphysical functions of myth?
Not at all, for at bottom these are two brilliant thinkers with two different, albeit overlapping, perspectives – simply two different ways of imagining the universe.
One approaches existence through the filter of myth
(a womb we still inhabit, considering the thousands who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, in part because the perpetrators know 72 virgins await them in the afterlife, or considering majority leaders in congress and their supporters who imply judges are evil when their decisions don’t reflect the mythological beliefs of one segment of the populace),
and the other approaches existence from the perspective of higher, transpersonal states of consciousness toward which humanity appears to be evolving.
Two ways of imagining and expressing – and it’s possible to appreciate both, in much the same way it’s possible to appreciate German and English – and it’s possible to prefer one without necessarily assigning the other to the dustbin of error.
What’s more, both arrive at the same place – that same perennial philosophy, as enunciated by Ananda Coomeraswamy and Alduous Huxley, common to the experience of mystics in all mythological traditions. So they use different maps – no surprise, as they start from different places – but both maps work. If I’m driving to Kansas City from San Francisco, my map had certainly better not be identical to that of someone leaving Boston for the same destination.
I hope I haven’t sounded like I’m putting Ken Wilber down – that’s not my intention. Every time I delve into his work I come away with new insight and inspiration. I enjoy both men’s writing and philosophy, and am not troubled by points of difference - and the foregoing is but an attempt to explain why.
However, how we interpret Campbell and/or Wilber is subjective. I'm not claiming my thoughts are superior, the last word on the subject - they merely represent how i've reconciled the same question you ask - which no doubt is full of holes large enough to drive the collected works of Campbell, Wilber and Jung through ...
I might well have muddied the waters more than clarified them – but I love the subject.
No day is ever lost reading or discussing either Campbell or Wilber.
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2005-12-12 22:49 ]</font>