Ken Wilber

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

Moderators: Clemsy, Martin_Weyers, Cindy B.

User avatar
bodhibliss
Working Associate
Posts: 1659
Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 5:00 am

Post by bodhibliss » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

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.
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.

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
... 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
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.
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.

blessed be
bodhibliss

_________________

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Bodhi_Bliss on 2005-12-12 22:49 ]</font>
Siddha
Associate
Posts: 1310
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 5:00 am
Location: Calgary, Canada
Contact:

Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks Bodhi,

Would someone be so kind to explain the "pre-trans" fallacy in lay-mans terms and where it fits within Wilbur's overall model? Or is it hopeless and I should just read his damn book! <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif">


Faolan
Associate
Posts: 55
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2002 5:00 am

Post by Faolan » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

quoted from SEX, ECOLOGY, SPIRITUALITY by Ken Wilber.
© 1995, 2000 by Ken Wilber. By arrangement with
Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, http://www.shambhala.com

http://www.praetrans.com/en/ptf.html




Ever since I began writing on the distinctions between prerational (or prepersonal) states of awareness and transrational (or transpersonal) states - what I called the pre/trans fallacy - I have become more convinced than ever that this understanding is absolutely crucial for grasping the nature of higher (or deeper) or truly spiritual states of consciousness.

The essence of the pre/trans fallacy is itself fairly simple: since both prerational states and transrational states are, in their own ways, nonrational, they appear similar or even identical to the untutored eye. And once pre and trans are confused, then one of two fallacies occurs:

In the first, all higher and transrational states are reduced to lower and prerational states. Genuine mystical or contemplative experiences, for example, are seen as a regression or throwback to infantile states of narcissism, oceanic adualism, indissociation, and even primitive autism. This is, for example, precisely the route taken by Freud in The Future of an Illusion.

In these reductionistic accounts, rationality is the great and final omega point of individual and collective development, the high-water mark of all evolution. No deeper or wider or higher context is thought to exist. Thus, life is to be lived either rationally, or neurotically (Freud's concept of neurosis is basically anything that derails the emergence of rational perception - true enough as far as it goes, which is just not all that far). Since no higher context is thought to be real, or to actually exist, then whenever any genuinely transrational occasion occurs, it is immediately explained as a regression to prerational structures (since they are the only nonrational structures allowed, and thus the only ones to accept an explanatory hypothesis). The superconscious is reduced to the subconscious, the transpersonal is collapsed to the prepersonal, the emergence of the higher is reinterpreted as an irruption from the lower. All breathe a sigh of relief, and the rational worldspace is not fundamentally shaken (by "the black tide of the mud of occultism!" as Freud so quaintly explained it to Jung).

On the other hand, if one is sympathetic with higher or mystical states, but one still confuses pre and trans, then one will elevate all prerational states to some sort of transrational glory (the infantile primary narcissism, for example, is seen as an unconscious slumbering in the mystico unio). Jung and his followers, of course, often take this route, and are forced to read a deeply transpersonal and spiritual status into states that are merely indissociated and undifferentiated and actually lacking any sort of integration at all.

In the elevationist position, the transpersonal and transrational mystical union is seen as the ultimate omega point, and since egoic-rationality does indeed tend to deny this higher state, then egoic-rationality is pictured as the low point of human possibilities, as a debasement, as the cause of sin and separation and alienation. When rationality is seen as the anti-omega point, so to speak, as the great Anti-Christ, then anything nonrational gets swept up and indiscriminately glorified as a direct route to the Divine, including much that is infantile and regressive and prerational: anything to get rid of that nasty and skeptical rationality. "I believe because it is absurd" (Tertullian) - there is the battle cry of the elevationist (a strand that runs deeply through Romanticism of any sort).

Freud was a reductionist, Jung an elevationist - the two sides of the pre/trans fallacy. And the point is that they are both half right and half wrong. A good deal of neurosis is indeed a fixation/regression to prerational states, states that are not to be glorified. On the other hand, mystical states do indeed exist, beyond (not beneath) rationality, and those states are not to be reduced.

For most of the recent modern era, and certainly since Freud (and Marx and Ludwig Feuerbach), the reductionist stance toward spirituality has prevailed - all spiritual experiences, no matter how highly developed they might in fact be, were simply interpreted as regressions to primitive and infantile modes of thought. However, as if in overreaction to all that, we are now, and have been since the sixties, in the throes of various forms of elevationism (exemplified by, but by no means confined to, the New Age movement). All sorts of endeavors, of no matter what origin or of what authenticity, are simply elevated to transrational and spiritual glory, and the only qualification for this wonderful promotion is that the endeavor be nonrational. Anything rational is wrong; anything nonrational is spiritual.

Spirit is indeed nonrational; but it is trans, not pre. It transcends but includes reason; it does not regress and exclude it. Reason, like any particular stage of evolution, has its own (and often devastating) limitations, repressions, and distortions. But as we have seen, the inherent problems of one level are solved (or "defused") only at the next level of development; they are not solved by regressing to a previous level where the problem can be merely ignored. And so it is with the wonders and the terrors of reason: it brings enormous new capacities and new solutions, while introducing its own specific problems, problems solved only by a transcendence to the higher and transrational realms.

Many of the elevationist movements, alas, are not beyond reason but beneath it. They think they are, and they announce themselves to be, climbing the Mountain of Truth; whereas, it seems to me, they have merely slipped and fallen and are sliding rapidly down it, and the exhilarating rush of skidding uncontrollably down evolution's slope they call "following your bliss." As the earth comes rushing up at them at terminal velocity, they are bold enough to offer this collision course with ground zero as a new paradigm for the coming world transformation, and they feel oh-so-sorry for those who watch their coming crash with the same fascination as one watches a twenty-car pileup on the highway, and they sadly nod as we decline to join in that particular adventure. True spiritual bliss, in infinite measure, lies up that hill, not down it.



[Note: A more detailed description of the pre/trans fallacy can be found in Eye to Eye.]


_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Faolan on 2005-12-12 23:49 ]</font>
Faolan
Associate
Posts: 55
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2002 5:00 am

Post by Faolan » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2005-12-12 22:01, Bodhi_Bliss wrote:

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.

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 ...
Wonderful post. I'll have to absorb it over time. I'll be back <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif">
Siddha
Associate
Posts: 1310
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 5:00 am
Location: Calgary, Canada
Contact:

Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks Faolan,

Let’s see if I got this straight:

Prerational = something akin to before fully developed reason, an ignorance is bliss sort of state/stage
Transrational = something like beyond reason, the state one works towards through meditation in which the rational mind is transcended, I would add the state at which thought is replaced by knowing

If this is the case wouldn’t Campbell's story, I believe he is quoting Nietzsche about the camel, the lion, the dragon and the baby not confirm that he understood the difference between these states? The baby that emerges at the end isn’t a reduction he/she is not a mere “baby” but a new expression of life, a person living consciously. The baby is a symbol like Christ replacing Jesus or Buddha replacing Siddharta…
Many of the elevationist movements, alas, are not beyond reason but beneath it. They think they are, and they announce themselves to be, climbing the Mountain of Truth; whereas, it seems to me, they have merely slipped and fallen and are sliding rapidly down it, and the exhilarating rush of skidding uncontrollably down evolution's slope they call "following your bliss."
I don’t understand this comment. What is his definition of “following your bliss”? I don’t think it is the same concept Campbell referred to. In career coaching I might have observed something similar. People tell me they love their job but there is no passion behind it. Often it’s a rationalization they use out of the fear of realizing that they just spent 15 years working in a career for reasons that do not match their values and spiritual beliefs. I normally don’t say anything and continue exploring with them until they inevitably “light up” when we hit upon their true passion. In general terms people confuse the idea of “following your bliss” with the ordeal/journey/quest that is “following your bliss!” I’ve never read anything by Campbell that would indicate that he confused these differences.

Also based on the passage you quoted it would seem that Wilbur is critiquing the application of an idea linked to Campbell not Campbell himself. Although I imagine based on the conversation so far that he does so directly in other parts. The thing is that the sense I get from Reading Campbell is that Campbell never promoted any sort of “spiritual practice.” He left it to each individual to discover on their own. So IMHO any critique of the application of ideas related to Campbell by individuals is invalid.

Edward DeBono once wrote “things tend to be rather simple once they are understood.” It seems to me that Wilbur is trying to solve the problem of “not being able to talk about the most important things in life” through intellectual complexity.

The important point in all of this might be that Wilbur is suggesting or even stating that a person develops in this manner:

Imature under-developed Ego => strong mature ego => transcendence

The implication being that one needs to develop a mature and strong ego before moving beyond it. If this is the case this would IMHO be an important point to make. I too have gotten the sense that some people try to leap over ego development and go straight from under-developed to transcendence. Which is akin to watching for the inevitable car crash that is to follow.

I am using ego in the self-centered “me-driven” popular definition and not using Freud’s.



<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: cliff w on 2005-12-13 10:51 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: cliff w on 2005-12-13 10:59 ]</font>
Faolan
Associate
Posts: 55
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2002 5:00 am

Post by Faolan » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am


Prerational = something akin to before fully developed reason, an ignorance is bliss sort of state/stage
Transrational = something like beyond reason, the state one works towards through meditation in which the rational mind is transcended, I would add the state at which thought is replaced by knowing
Sounds about right to me, although Wilber would say the rational mind is transcended and included. <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif">
If this is the case wouldn’t Campbell's story, I believe he is quoting Nietzsche about the camel, the lion, the dragon and the baby not confirm that he understood the difference between these states? The baby that emerges at the end isn’t a reduction he/she is not a mere “baby” but a new expression of life, a person living consciously. The baby is a symbol like Christ replacing Jesus or Buddha replacing Siddharta…
I think Campbell understood the difference. He and Wilber actually disagree on whether or not myths truly reveal or point toward those higher realms. He feels that Campbell is interpreting myths in an "as if" fashion, recasting them through a rational lens and according to his own preconceptions and biases. Wilber also places a lot of importance on meditation, while Campbell did not.
What is his definition of “following your bliss”? I don’t think it is the same concept Campbell referred to.
Here the phrase was used as it's commonly misunderstood, so I agree, it's not really the same concept as Campbell coined it. It is true that the phrase is one of the most misunderstood and abused. In the context of the passage I posted above, it's clear he is using the phrase in the same way as it is misused in the New Age community, not by Campbell himself.
In general terms people confuse the idea of “following your bliss” with the ordeal/journey/quest that is “following your bliss!” I’ve never read anything by Campbell that would indicate that he confused these differences.
You're right. He couldn't have confused them...he was one of the few who understood what he meant by the phase.
Also based on the passage you quoted it would seem that Wilbur is critiquing the application of an idea linked to Campbell not Campbell himself.
In that instance, yes, I think he was. You're right.
Campbell never promoted any sort of “spiritual practice.” He left it to each individual to discover on their own. So IMHO any critique of the application of ideas related to Campbell by individuals is invalid.
Wilber is an advocate of a spiritual practice, albeit a multi-faceted one, and he does not proscribe any one method. He just says it should include body, mind, and soul, basically. But Wilber was not criticizing the application of Campbell's ideas so much as he was his interpretation of myth as having a higher meaning, especially the same more or less eastern meaning. Or in simplisitc terms, it seems he was saying that Campbell was "reading too much into it."
Edward DeBono once wrote “things tend to be rather simple once they are understood.” It seems to me that Wilbur is trying to solve the problem of “not being able to talk about the most important things in life” through intellectual complexity.
No, he is not trying to solve problems with his maps. He does not confuse the map with the territory. He says, ""In other words, all of my books are lies. They are simply maps of a territory, shadows of a reality, gray symbols dragging their bellies across the dead page, suffocated signs full of muffled sound and faded glory, signifying absolutely nothing. And it is the nothing, the Mystery, the Emptiness alone that needs to be realized: not known but felt, not thought but breathed, not an object but an atmosphere, not a lesson but a life."
¯"Foreword", to Frank Visser's Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, 2003
The implication being that one needs to develop a mature and strong ego before moving beyond it. If this is the case this would IMHO be an important point to make.
He does believe it is important to move successfully through many stages of development, and through many lines of development before one can try to master higher paths. He does not promote the guru who is "dead" from the neck down, so to speak...a spiritual talking head.
I too have gotten the sense that some people try to leap over ego development and go straight from under-developed to transcendence. Which is akin to watching for the inevitable car crash that is to follow.
Wilber makes this point repeatedly, and says that one result are gurus who are ironically egomaniacs. Andrew Cohen is a good example of a person gone very wrong in this direction.
I am using ego in the self-centered “me-driven” popular definition and not using Freud’s.
Yes, what Wilber calls "the proximate ego".
Siddha
Associate
Posts: 1310
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 5:00 am
Location: Calgary, Canada
Contact:

Post by Siddha » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks Faolan,
No, he is not trying to solve problems with his maps. He does not confuse the map with the territory. He says, ""In other words, all of my books are lies. They are simply maps of a territory, shadows of a reality, gray symbols dragging their bellies across the dead page, suffocated signs full of muffled sound and faded glory, signifying absolutely nothing. And it is the nothing, the Mystery, the Emptiness alone that needs to be realized: not known but felt, not thought but breathed, not an object but an atmosphere, not a lesson but a life."
This is a good addition to my fledgling understanding of Wilbur. I thought he was very close to Andrew Cohen? I read an article in WIE (What is enlightenment) in which they seemed pretty chummy.

Reading your descriptions of Wilbur I get the sense that the main difference between him and Campbell is one of "psychological makeup." I sounds like they both look at life through different lenses. Bodhi's post gives many excellent examples of how they are arriving at similar conclusions using different paths and thus they have created different maps along the way.

You description of Wilbur's critique of the "inherent value in myth" seems akin to debating the inherent value in a poetry, art or music. I tend to measure the power of a myth by the reaction it awakes in the individual and/or masses. For example when people sleep in sleeping bags on the sidewalk to be first to see the next installment of LOTR, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Matrix, etc. and when these movies are being shown in 50% of all the cinemas and are sold out, the myth is coming through loud and clear. Of course, when I am watching a movie like that I often wonder how many people "get it" beyond a superficial “entertainment” level. And here I could possibly agree with Wilbur in that my sense is that very few people "get it." By "get it" I don't mean just a mere understanding of the symbol but awaking to the call that is before them and taking action. Taking the leap of faith that is staring them right in the eyes in that moment. However, I don't think that the intention of myth has always (or ever even) been to get people to take action in that moment (that is likely more in the realm of politics). I think that the main function IMHO of myth is to build an internal hunger for something more. Something beyond the material world. This hunger can be passed on through generations as a longing or a frustration. Generations before me all had this drive to do something big, something heroic. As a child I heard the myths of my ancestors and caught the bug quite early on. I’ve always had “big” fantasies and ideas. Luckily, several years ago I realized (thanks to Campbell and others) that the big thing I am looking for isn’t just big it’s virtually infinite and the connection can’t be found in the material world alone. The connection starts within and is then birthed in the material world. I can see why I resonate so strongly with Campbell after all I am a “what if?” type of thinker.

Faolan
Associate
Posts: 55
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2002 5:00 am

Post by Faolan » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I thought he was very close to Andrew Cohen? I read an article in WIE (What is enlightenment) in which they seemed pretty chummy.
I thought he had become chummy too, which distressed me, because I strongly dislike Cohen, and I think he is a fake. What is Enlightenment is an interesting magazine, but Cohen thinks he is the perfect human being, and that is annoying. Wilber has distanced himself from Cohen recently for that reason, but their disagreements did not prevent a dialog in a magazine that was well suited to advertise for Wilber.
Reading your descriptions of Wilbur I get the sense that the main difference between him and Campbell is one of "psychological makeup." I sounds like they both look at life through different lenses. Bodhi's post gives many excellent examples of how they are arriving at similar conclusions using different paths and thus they have created different maps along the way.
I agree. I've saved Bodhi's response to my computer. I can't wait until (he...she?) Bodhi releases a book! When is that going to be? Huh?
You description of Wilbur's critique of the "inherent value in myth" seems akin to debating the inherent value in a poetry, art or music.
I think you're spot on! Of course, I never practiced various forms of meditation like Wilber thinks we all ought to, so we could be wrong.
Of course, when I am watching a movie like that I often wonder how many people "get it" beyond a superficial “entertainment” level. And here I could possibly agree with Wilbur in that my sense is that very few people "get it."
I also think that myth gets lost when a director strives too hard to capture the meaning in metaphor, making it formulaic, as Lucas has done with the new Star Wars movies. An artist who tries to hard to create something "transparent to transcendence" will fail as readily as monks trying to reach Nirvana by sheer effort.
I think that the main function IMHO of myth is to build an internal hunger for something more.
The new Star Wars movies certainly did that...something more than the crap that I witnessed <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_wink.gif"> Just kidding...I know you meant something different. As I said above, the artist who tries to hard to "capture" the metaphor is bound to fail.
several years ago I realized (thanks to Campbell and others) that the big thing I am looking for isn’t just big it’s virtually infinite and the connection can’t be found in the material world alone.
For me it is in music, mystery, and the oddness of there being "something" rather than "nothing" at all. Was it Spinoza that made that question famous?
The connection starts within and is then birthed in the material world. I can see why I resonate so strongly with Campbell after all I am a “what if?” type of thinker.
Sure. Draw a circle around a rock, or anything for that matter. Within that sphere is the mystery. Why is there something rather than nothing? I do not suggest a "god of the gaps", but I do think that existence itself is mind boggling, even if it were created through cosmic accident.
ritske
Associate
Posts: 188
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 11:48 am
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Post by ritske » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I think Wilber's main criticism of Campbell is that Campbell (according to Wilber) claims that myth-makers were conscious of the fact that they were creating something metaphoric. Since in Wilber's perception of the grand scheme of things people, at the times the myths were created, were not rational enough to be conscious of the fact that myth is metaphor, myth can't be a metaphor. What it is, according to Wilber, is a pre-rational way of thinking; if we read all these high metaphysical motifs in myths, we are projecting our own modernday rationality and higher-level consciousness into thought-patterns that simply come from an earlier, more primitive day and age.

Campbell does seem to claim, at times, that mythmakers were highly conscious of what they were doing, and were intentionally creating a symbolic 'picture language':
[Myths] are not only symptoms of the unconscious […] but also controlled and intended statements of certain spiritual principles which have remained as constant throughout the course of human history as the form and nervous structure of the human physique itself.

‘Hero with a thousand faces’, p. 256-258
Whether you feel that myths are indeed 'controlled and intended statements' or not depends on your own subjective point of view. I don't want to argue for or against it here; I just wanted to point out that it is relevant to this discussion.

Also, I think we ought to be careful when we compare these two gentlemen, since both seem to use the word 'myth' in different ways. For Campbell, the category is much broader than for Wilber, so that Campbell can talk about the Upanishads as myth, whereas for Wilber myth is something from an earlier period (think Mesopotamia and the Egyptian Faraohs). Myth ends for Wilber when humanity begans to transcend the pre-rational ways of thought, and if I'm not mistaken he feels that this happens from +- 900 bc onwards.

Also, I think Wilber's ideas changed somewhat along the line. In 'Up from Eden', he quotes Campbell approvingly throughout the book, and doesn't claim at all that myths can't contain transpersonal wisdom: just that MOST don't.

Campbell, on the other hand, seemed to think that ALL myths contain transpersonal truth. In this context, Bodhi referred to the 'perennial philosophy' in his post. Since I feel that this is an important part of this discussion, I thought I'd throw in a brief quote to give a rough idea of what the perennial philsophy is:
Philosophia Perennis -- the phrase was coined by Leibniz; but the thing -- the metaphysic that recognizes a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or even identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man's final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being -- the thing is immemorial and universal. Rudiments of the Perennial Philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.

From: Huxley, Aldous - 'The perennial philosophy'
Wilber, in his earlier days, thought SOME myths teach the perennial philosophy; in his later days, he seems to have come to the conclusion that myth cannot teach the perennial philosophy at all.

Campbell, on the other hand, does seem to have thought that all myths refer to the transcendent or transpersonal, and that all myths therefore teach the perennial philosophy:
I’m thinking of the Perennial Philosophy as it has been expounded particularly by Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and picked up, I think it was during the 1940s, by Aldous Huxley in that work of his, The Perennial Philosophy. I’m thinking of this as the translation into verbal discourse of the implications of the mythic images.

And that’s why the same ideas can be found in the mystical philosophies throughout the world. The continuities that we can recognize in myth come over into philosophy. And the basic idea of the philosophy is that deities are symbolic personifications of the^ very images that are of yourself. And these energies that are of yourself are the energies of the universe. And so the god is out there and the god is in here. The kingdom of heaven is within you, yes, but it’s also everywhere.

Hero's journey, p. 127
Notice that Campbell says the following:
'The Perennial Philosophy. I’m thinking of this as the translation into verbal discourse of the implications of the mythic images.'

Mythic images, therefore, IMPLY the perennial philosophy. All myths are an expression of the transcendent, so that the only proper way to read them is to make them 'transparent to the transcendent'. Wilber would feel that just simply isn't true: this is elevationism - you are putting something on a pedestal that shouldn't be glorified too much.

What Campbell does seem to do, in my opinion, is to romanticise mythology. In Campbell's philosophy, ALL myths are good myths. But what about the bad ones? Aren't there some myths that motivate people to make horrible human sacrifices? What about those?

Interesting dicussion, this!

cheers,

Ritske

_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ritske on 2005-12-19 13:08 ]</font>
ritske
Associate
Posts: 188
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2003 11:48 am
Location: Edinburgh, UK

Post by ritske » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

For those who are interested:

Here's a short piece I wrote when I still thought I was going to write a thesis about Campbell and Wilber. If you want a short introduction to Wilber, it may be helpful. It has some good Wilber quotes, although I did write it when I hadn't read as much Wilber as I now have <IMG SRC="/forum/images/smiles/icon_smile.gif">. I couldn't copy-paste the footnotes, so if you're interested in the source of a particular quote, let me know through the forums or sent me a private message.


'Ken Wilber and the pre/trans fallacy':

Ken Wilber started work on what was to become his first book – ‘The spectrum of consciousness’ - in 1972. He had just turned twenty-two, and was enrolled as a graduate student in Biophysics/biochemistry at the University of Nebraska. The young Wilber, however, was not spending his time reading Krebs, Miller, Watson or Crick; he had devised his own study program, reading relentlessly as soon as he got back from class, somehow still managing to score excellent marks for his official coursework.
The next two years were spent, almost literally, in solitary reading and research, eight to ten hours a day. I had decided to pursue degrees in chemistry and biology, simply because they came so easily to me that I didn’t have to waste time studying them, but could instead spend every hour out of class pursuing Eastern philosophy and religion, Western psychology and metaphysics. I recklessly managed somehow to graduate with enough honours to be offered a scholarship at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln) in biochemistry/biophysics, and during the first year of graduate school, continued to do nothing more than read, study, and take notes […].
After Wilber had developed the basic idea for his book in his head, he began writing it down; in longhand at first, moving on to a typewriter after he was satisfied with what he had written. Again, Wilber showed the same maddening, almost obsessive tendency to keep working for very long stretches, often keeping himself locked behind his keyboard for periods of up to fifteen hours.
I would sleep on a sofa, with a typewriter next to me, and I would wake up early in the morning and just start typing. I put a gallon of milk on the table, and I would not move. I would type for maybe fifteen hours, go to sleep, get up, and start typing. I did that non-stop until the book was done. I think it was because I was holding it all together in my mind. Anyway, that’s how I would basically work.
After the book was finished and he had finally managed to find a publisher, the book was received to great acclaim. Wilber wrote a shorter, ‘abridged’ version of ‘The spectrum of consciousness’, simply called ‘No boundary’ ; it became an even greater success than its predecessor. Critics outdid each other in the superlatives they used to praise him, and the baffled young author suddenly found himself flooded with invitations to lectures and conferences. ‘The Einstein of consciousness research’, however (as one critic famously called him), had other things on his mind. Somewhere along the line, inner demons had risen up; something in the two books was not quite right, and he was not going to rest until he had found his error…

After finishing ‘No boundary’, Ken Wilber – still only twenty-five – went through what is perhaps best described as some sort of ‘mid-life’ crisis. He manically started to re-evaluate his former ideas, keeping some of them, throwing most out of the window. He eventually published his new findings in two new books, ‘The Atman project’ and ‘Up from Eden’ , which both came out in rapid succession in the early eighties. It is these new ideas of Wilber that will play a central role in this thesis, and to understand them we must focus first and foremost on his relationship with the work of Carl Gustav Jung.

Wilber himself now refers to his early period as his ‘romantic’ period, a word by which he basically seems to mean ‘Jungian’. ‘The spectrum of consciousness’ had been written very much under the influence of Jung and those rooted in the Jungian tradition, and it was by ridding himself of this influence that Wilber had finally arrived at his new ideas. According to Wilber, Jung – and with him the entire ‘romantic’ or ‘Jungian’ tradition’ - makes a basic mistake: ‘the pre/trans fallacy’, as Wilber famously called it. Michael Washburn, like Wilber a leading writer in the field of transpersonal psychology, has this to say about Wilber’s paper ‘The pre/trans fallacy’, in which Wilber clarified his new ideas in general and his concept of ‘the pre/trans fallacy’ in particular.
The publication of "The Pre/Trans Fallacy" in 1980 brought Wilber's new view and his disagreement with the Jungians into sharp focus. Wilber graciously sent me a prepublication copy of the paper. In reading the manuscript, I knew that Wilber had written a landmark piece for transpersonal theory. "The Pre/Trans Fallacy" (1980b) poses what is perhaps the most important theoretical question for transpersonal psychology[…].
Wilber’s concept of the ‘pre/trans fallacy’ has led to fierce debate ever since he first introduced it in 1980, particularly in the fields of transpersonal psychology and depth-psychology. The above-quoted Michael Washburn is one of its critics, although even he grants that besides having strongly made its mark on the field of transpersonal psychology as a whole it has also had a defining influence on his own thought. In his article ‘The pre/trans fallacy revisited’ from 1996, he confirms that it is crucial to realize that Wilber once endorsed the ideas he is now criticising:
Let me repeat that Wilber was once a Jungian. It was only in writing The Atman Project (1980a) that he posed the pre/trans question and answered it in a way that committed him to an anti-Jungian, exclusively structural-hierarchical, linear-ascending perspective.
So in what sense is Wilber’s new theory of the ‘pre/trans fallacy’ what Michael Washburn calls it in the quote above - anti-Jungian? What is this mistake which Wilber accuses Jung of making – this ‘pre/trans fallacy’? To be able to understand this, we must first understand that according to Wilber, human beings have access to three dimensions. There is the pre-personal (the dimension of the body, which for Wilber includes both sensory perception as well as the unconscious in the Freudian sense), the personal (the mind or ego) and the transpersonal (the transcendental, spiritual or ‘numinous’ dimension). Because of the similarities between the pre-personal and trans-personal (both appear to the conscious mind to be irrational in nature) Jung (and with him many others, according to Wilber) frequently mistakes pre-personal for trans-personal and vice versa. It is this mistake which Wilber labels ‘the pre/trans fallacy’. In Wilber’s own words:
[Jung] correctly and very explicitly recognizes the transpersonal or numinous dimension, but he often fuses or confuses it with prepersonal structures. For Jung there are only two major realms: the personal and the collective—and as Assagioli himself pointed out, Jung tends to obscure the vast and profound differences between the lower collective unconscious and the higher collective unconscious; that is, the prepersonal collective and the transpersonal collective realms. Thus, not only does Jung occasionally end up glorifying certain infantile mythic forms of thought, he also frequently gives a regressive treatment of Spirit.
Or consider the following quote, which establishes the nature of Wilber’s criticism of Jung with even greater clarity:
Jung's major mistake, in my opinion, was to confuse collective with transpersonal (or mystical). Just because my mind inherits certain collective forms does not mean those forms are mystical or transpersonal. We all collectively inherit ten toes, for example, but if I experience my toes I am not having a mystical experience! Jung's "archetypes" have virtually nothing to do with genuinely spiritual, transcendental, mystical, transpersonal awareness; rather, they are collectively inherited forms that distill some of the very basic, everyday, existential encounters of the human condition - life, death, birth, mother, father, shadow, ego, and so on. Nothing mystical about it. Collective, yes; transpersonal, no.
_________________


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ritske on 2005-12-19 13:25 ]</font>

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: ritske on 2005-12-19 13:26 ]</font>
User avatar
Martin_Weyers
Working Associate
Posts: 4054
Joined: Mon Mar 25, 2002 6:00 am
Location: Odenwald
Contact:

Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Thanks for depicting the world of Ken Wilber in many informative posts here in this thread! I was already familiar with some of the points he makes (including the pre-/trans fallacy), but without having read any of his books, I hesitate to criticize Wilber for criticizing Campbell.

Just a few thoughts, based on the information posted in this thread:

Wilber's self-portrayal as an ingenious young man, who was thinking and writing about the big questions of mankind all day, when he was in his early twenties, should not draw off our attention from the points he is making. No matter if he's a mastermind or not; His ideas are debatable. I hope I have understood them correctly.
On 2005-12-19 13:02, ritske wrote:
I think Wilber's main criticism of Campbell is that Campbell (according to Wilber) claims that myth-makers were conscious of the fact that they were creating something metaphoric. Since in Wilber's perception of the grand scheme of things people, at the times the myths were created, were not rational enough to be conscious of the fact that myth is metaphor, myth can't be a metaphor. What it is, according to Wilber, is a pre-rational way of thinking; if we read all these high metaphysical motifs in myths, we are projecting our own modernday rationality and higher-level consciousness into thought-patterns that simply come from an earlier, more primitive day and age.

Campbell does seem to claim, at times, that mythmakers were highly conscious of what they were doing, and were intentionally creating a symbolic 'picture language':
I'm wondering what it means to be conscious of the metaphoric quality of mythmaking.

Campbell taught, that myths originate in the visions of seers and poets. And that symbols are transparent to the transcendent. That they do not contain any encrypted meaning, but open our consciousness to the transcendent.

*

1. I suppose, most of those "seers and poets" were actually unable to differentiate between the symbol and the experience the symbol is referring to. The common ability, to differentiate between those two levels in a rational way, is probably a modern achievement. Still today, somebody with a shamanic experience or a near death experience, for example, usually does not differentiate between those too aspects. So far, I agree with Wilber.

2. On the other hand, to be aware of the provisional character of any symbolic speech does not necessarily mean, to be aware of it in a rational way. I think it's possible, that someone who has made (or heard about) an inner (psychological/shamanic/mystical) experience, and refers to the experience by use of symbolic speech, at the same time is aware of the provisional character of any speech - without being able of rational reflection.

What do we know about the way people were actually thinking 10.000 years ago? I'm wondering if Wilber is making the same mistake, traditional science is often criticized for: reducing reality, to make it compatible with one's own map of reality.

3. No matter if people were aware of the metaphorical character of myth, it's possible that they used symbols as tools to enhance their consciousness.

I don't understand the point Wilber is making (according to Ritske), when he argues, that myth can not be seen as being metaphorical of metaphysical truths, because the originators of myth were not rational enough to be conscious of the fact that myth is metaphor. To invent a symbolic language that refers to metaphysical truths does not require an ability to analyze one's own symbolic language.

Every artist today creates symbols he does not understand in a rational, analytic way. However, he knows about their symbolic references in another way. (It doesn't matter if we call it subconsious, transrational or whatever.) Otherwise he wouldn't be able to create them.

In the arts, usually not the artist but the art historian tries to interprete art works. Interpretations are always incomplete and imperfect. However, they help people to get a feeling for the symbolic references of the art work. Analyzing art works does not mean to claim that the artist was consciously creating metaphors.

*

I have no doubts, that Campbell's interpretations of myth, just like Wilber's metaphysical ideas, are, in a way, "folk ideas": products of our time, with their own limitations. Good for explaining the world beyond phenomenal appearances, because they help individuals of today relating themselves to the world beyond symbols and concepts.

However, it seems to me, that Wilber equates pre-rational with inferior consciousness: A viewpoint he shares (if I'm correct) with the typical mythologist of the 19th century. It is one of the finest achievements of depth psychology and the Jung tradition, to have overridden that idea.

The evolution of consciousness is no linear progression. With the emergence of the rational mind, we have not only achieved, but also lost something. Jung's, Zimmer's and Campbell's mythological/psychological approach is an attempt to bring both states of consciousness in balance.




_________________
"The only one who knows this ounce of words as just a token,
is he who has a tongue to tell but must remain unspoken." Moondog
Kunst, Kultur, Fine Arts - Mythologie & Symbole


<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin_Weyers on 2005-12-27 14:39 ]</font>
daruma
Associate
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Apr 17, 2003 5:00 am
Location: Toronto

Post by daruma » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

What a childish waste of time! Fans argueing which star is best.
Sophia A
Associate
Posts: 4
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2005 9:55 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Contact:

Post by Sophia A » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Faolan

Well done! Not sure if you are a therapist, but you certainly would make a very good one.

Bringing people back to the question or statement.

Seems we all love the journey but if we meander too far we forget what it was we are in search of! Right?

How Campbellian.

I am so entertained by you guys (please don't take offence).

I love and envy you scholars out there; people who remember and quote entire passages. Envy you very much.

But the thing I love the most is watching what it is about a statement or comment that triggers a response in us, and the kind of response delivered in a particular way.

Thank you one and all. Keep it alive.

Sophia
storeyd
Associate
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Dec 19, 2002 12:21 am

Post by storeyd » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I must confess that I am unsurprised at the quality of the content in the Wilber/Campbell dialogue so far; Faolan’s intriguing and topical question, posed at the start of this thread, has been ignored almost entirely. Ignored, that is, for the sake of a deluge of vitriol shot at Wilber, the usual complaints about his narcissism, cut-and-paste scholarship, and/or sloppy language (nearly everyone I know who’s read a good bit of Wilber is actually struck by the remarkable clarity that suffuses his writings, a precision that rarely sacrifices death; he got the style from Watts). As for his lack of proficiency in Asian languages, this is undoubtedly true, though I fail to see in what way this impugns any of his major arguments. IMHO, it just sounds like a covert ad hominim attack, someone with an axe to grind who, unable to cite any relevant texts in order to unmask the purported charlatan, throws the language card at a scholar who would rather spend his time trying to piece the traditions—premodenr, modern, and postmodern--together than shoring himself up in a dusty library mastering an ancient language.
As I said, this is unsurprising. Most serious discussions about Wilber’s work never become serious, because they consist largely of ad hominim attacks; while this might be relevant (in Schopenhauer’s case, it most certainly is!), it should be secondary. And please, none of us care how many years you’ve been sitting on a cushion fetching about for your buddhanature (no denigration intended, hah!). How utterly disingenuous.

Now, as to Faolan’s question. Before I had encountered Wilber’s work, I had been thoroughly impressed with Campbell’s project. It positively bubbled with depth, mystery, magic, etc., and it seemed a great way to reconcile modern psychology with premodern myth. Yet there was something amiss; it had to do with Campbell’s treatment of reason and science. Campbell seemed to think that the scientific worldview was just another myth, another story that we tell about reality—while I still think this is true up to a point, I did not think the difference was merely a matter of content. Campbell seemed to denigrate the modern world to an extent, even though he fully acknowledged that the myths were taking on new and multivaried forms, reinscribing the ancient patterns in modern garb, and that this process was inevitable and interminable. Yet there is another myth that creeps up there, and it’s the story of the Romantic Return, before nasty, divisive reason came on the scene and started snuffing out the magic from the forest, rudely disenchanting the world, and, well, crashing the premodern party. This is where Wilber’s criticism hits. He basically says that it’s not so much that Campbell is wrong, merely that he doesn’t go far enough in some ways, and goes too far in others. He heartily agrees with Campbell that the rich reservoir of the unconscious needs to be recontacted and intergrated with the conscious—that our pre-rational past must be brought to bear on our rational present, and is in fact its own repressed and long forgotten self. The key to unlocking Campbell’s confusion is W’s pre-trans fallacy. The problem is that, for the vast majority of premodern mythic believers, the myths are completely literal. It is always only a puny minority of exceptional individuals who pierce through the fabulous veneer of the myth, and do one of two things—either interpret the myth ethically, as a parable, and extract the moral of the story while jettisoning the fairy-tale dross, or interpret it mystically, as a symbol through which the divine calls us to awaken to our true nature, tat tvam asi, whatever. This second move is precisely what Campbell does. Yet Campbell’s retrieval is performed from the standpoint of reason; that is, he has attained a perspective in which he can look down at the mythic structure, since he is no longer bound to it, and can therefore take the place of it. Yet the place that he takes is more of his own rational reconstruction of the myth, not the phenomenology of mythical experience—mythic believers aren’t mythic believers passively, and they don’t offer an allegorical deconstruction of their tribe’s history; they really believe in the literal truth of their story, they do not possess a flexible understanding of it. So Campbell, W argues, takes myth up into the interpretative space of reasons, where it ceases, in fact, to be myth. Paradoxically enough, Wilber charges that in this way Campbell violates the psychology of the mythic believer himself. Now, as for the so-called authentic reading of the myths that Campbell argues for, Wilber is in complete agreement—but his point is that that has almost nothing to do with myth. Myth is a language that is generated and that speaks to human beings at a certain level of psychocultural development; there is nothing wrong or deficient about it, since it is the way that Spirit is unpacked, is sighted, is codified, at that stage in the game. Wilber thinks Campbell does not give proper due to Reason and Science, and therefore misses out of the virtues and improvements of modernity; this is also tied to what he would surely see as Campbell’s blindspot for politics. If we really look at what happened in the premodern world when people were in touch with mythic wisdom, Wilber argues, we see a nightmare—the legitimacy of plenty of the myths was sustained only through massive human sacrifice to Gods that, Campbell tells us, don’t really exist. Campbell’s version of “beyond good and evil” lets premodern politics off the hook too easily. This is the core of W’s pre-trans fallacy. Pre-modern mythic belief, correlated with Piaget’s concrete operational thought, operates “beneath” good and evil, before the second level—the ethical level, of reason, restraint, etc. This is the meaning of W’s controversial claim that there is more Spirit in the secular modern world’s denial of religion than there is in the premodern world’s mythical worldview. Campbell thus fails to acknowledge the liberating power of reason and its substantial political effects. None of which is to say that Wilber doesn’t think Campbell’s contributions are laudable, merely that the tenor of his approach is dangerous—because it opens up the floodgate for self-absorbed New Age types to read some of his works, soak up a few myths, and think they’re getting enlightened. Wilber is adamant that the third level—the mystical or transpersonal—must be clearly and cleanly distinguished from the first level, or else a host of pathologies, individual and social, will ensue. Then “follow your bliss” becomes “I’m ok, you’re ok,” “if it feels good, do it,” and the middle level, which furnishes the structure with what stability it has, buckles, and we get skew and distortion.

That’s about as good a summary of the Campbell critique as I can muster right now. Personally I think W’s criticism is powerful and sound. Now that we’ve actually got some content to discuss, let’s hear some replies. Please, somebody come to Joe’s rescue, or tell me I’m selling him short! I’ve been digesting Wilber for awhile now, he’s making too much sense to me!

Storey19
User avatar
Martin_Weyers
Working Associate
Posts: 4054
Joined: Mon Mar 25, 2002 6:00 am
Location: Odenwald
Contact:

Post by Martin_Weyers » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2005-12-28 08:11, Sophia A wrote:
But the thing I love the most is watching what it is about a statement or comment that triggers a response in us, and the kind of response delivered in a particular way.
Hello Sophia, I agree. Forum conversations are most interesting, if people react in a personal way. These are no academic dicussions. Everybody is invited to bring in his/her personality.

Welcome to the forums, Storeyd, and thanks for your summary of Wilber's criticism.

And also for your critical words. I agree that a few times this conversation was drifting maybe a bit too much towards a criticism not of his books, but of the man Wilber.

Concerning the reproval of "sloppy language": I guess it was me, who brought that up. I was talking though about a specific book of Wilber's, A brief history of Everything, where I was missing the clarity and preciseness you were talking about. Honestly, I found it rather a bit loquacious. However, I acknowledged, that first I was reading a translation and not the original edition, and second that it may be just a matter of taste. Also I understand, that this book was meant as a popular introduction, and so I should not deal severely with its author.
On 2005-12-28 10:19, storeyd wrote:
Wilber thinks Campbell does not give proper due to Reason and Science, and therefore misses out of the virtues and improvements of modernity; this is also tied to what he would surely see as Campbell’s blindspot for politics. If we really look at what happened in the premodern world when people were in touch with mythic wisdom, Wilber argues, we see a nightmare—the legitimacy of plenty of the myths was sustained only through massive human sacrifice to Gods that, Campbell tells us, don’t really exist. Campbell’s version of “beyond good and evil” lets premodern politics off the hook too easily. This is the core of W’s pre-trans fallacy. Pre-modern mythic belief, correlated with Piaget’s concrete operational thought, operates “beneath” good and evil, before the second level—the ethical level, of reason, restraint, etc. This is the meaning of W’s controversial claim that there is more Spirit in the secular modern world’s denial of religion than there is in the premodern world’s mythical worldview. Campbell thus fails to acknowledge the liberating power of reason and its substantial political effects. None of which is to say that Wilber doesn’t think Campbell’s contributions are laudable, merely that the tenor of his approach is dangerous—because it opens up the floodgate for self-absorbed New Age types to read some of his works, soak up a few myths, and think they’re getting enlightened. Wilber is adamant that the third level—the mystical or transpersonal—must be clearly and cleanly distinguished from the first level, or else a host of pathologies, individual and social, will ensue. Then “follow your bliss” becomes “I’m ok, you’re ok,” “if it feels good, do it,” and the middle level, which furnishes the structure with what stability it has, buckles, and we get skew and distortion.
I suppose, one of the main differencies between both authors is, maybe, that Campbell was influenced by Spengler's idea of ascending and afterwards descending cultural cycles, while Wilber believes in a continuously increasing evolution from lower to higher. - For Campbell, salvation is possible always, just here and now, while Wilber expects the (transpersonal) future to bring salvation. (Please correct me, if I'm wrong.)

Campbell, at least in his more academic books (for example in Masks of God) tries to point at similarities and developments of mythical symbols without judging them from today's perspective, while Wilber valuates the different states he believes to have figured out.

Concerning those levels of consciousness, I have some doubts about clearly and cleanly distinguishing. It seems to me, that consciousness rather develops steplessly. Creating a hierarchy of consciousness is not necessarily a bad idea, but the tenor of this approach is dangerous too - if we want to understand unfamiliar cultures, it is wise not to start with a more or less fix framework, stating that insight A can not happen at level X. Otherwise it happens easily, that we mix up our premise with the output of our studies. I imagine that human sacrifices in some societies were not considered as bad, because people had another relation to pain and death. It's difficult to write about such a topic without becoming too emotional. However, if we want to understand this culture, the neutral viewpoint is the most productive one.

Again, since I'm not very familiar with Wilber's work, these remarks shouldn't be understood as an attempt to excoriate Wilber. It's possible, of course, that I'm misintrepreting his concepts.


_________________
"The only one who knows this ounce of words as just a token, is he who has a tongue to tell but must remain unspoken." Moondog

Kunst, Kultur, Fine Arts - Mythologie & Symbole

<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Martin_Weyers on 2005-12-28 14:38 ]</font>
Locked