Ken Wilber II: The Pre-Trans Cycle of Being (1980–1982)

Image for post
Image for post

In the second phase of his thought, Ken Wilber is inspired by Tibetan Buddhism and Sri Aurobindo, abandons the essential positions of his first two books, and in his works The Atman Project (1980), Up From Eden (1981), A Sociable God (1983) and Eye To Eye (1983), articulates a new model of development that begins in the pre-personal, develops into the personal, and culminates in the transpersonal. The emergence of the unconscious from its repression in his first stage is replaced with his understanding of an evolutionary pantheism in which there is a development of a Great Chain of Being which, in Hegelian fashion, abandons its previous weaknesses while carrying over the strengths associated with each preceding stage into its subsequent stage. In this stage, as in his first stage, he adopts an essentially Advaita-based ontology and theology.

In this stage, Wilber rejects Jung’s reduction of the transpersonal Absolute to nothing but a primitive stage of natal consciousness (regressive experience of the womb) rather than an authentic spiritual reality. Instead of seeing the experience of merging with the transpersonal Absolute as a fundamentally regressive mode of experience, he sees it as an authentic experience of transcendence, beginning in the prepersonal state, developing into the personal state of the individual ego, and culminating in an authentic experience of transcendence in the transpersonal realm. He terms Jung’s conflation of these two states as the pre/trans fallacy and sees it as a typical error of Western thought that we see in Freud as well. He summarizes the nature of this fallacy as “the confusing of pre-rational states and trans-rational states simply because both are non-rational.” The involution from the undifferentiated state of egolessness to the ego state is described as the outward arc, and the evolution of the ego to its transpersonal goal is described as the evolution of the inward arc.

Image for post
Image for post

Or, to look at a more sophisticated account of the pre/trans outward/inward arc cycles:

Image for post
Image for post

At this stage in his thought, Ken Wilber articulates human development in terms of the following stages:

Wilber’s cyclic sequence is described in the following stages:

  1. the Pleromatic stage — “cognitive style — absolute adualism; objectless, spaceless, protoplasmic affective atmosphere — total oceanic, unconditional (illusory) omnipotence, pleromatic paradise
    conative or motivational almost entirely absent, desireless, factors — choiceless
    temporal mode — timeless, pre-temporal
    mode of self — oceanic, protoplasmic, materia prima”
  2. the Uroboric stage — “cognitive style — first subject-object differentiation; acausality; prototaxic mode (only momentary states, with no distinction of time and place); hallucinatory wish-fulfillment; early sensorimotor
    affective atmosphere — oceanic-euphora, primordial fear
    conative or motivational primitive urge for survival, factors — physiological needs (hunger)
    temporal mode — pre-temporal
    mode of self — archaic, pre-personal, reptilian, reflex, alimentary”
  3. the Axial and Pranic stage — Early Body Ego — “cognitive style — feeling; sensorimotor; axial-images (objects in the field of awareness, i.e. objects “out there” as different from self; objects only recognised when in immediate field of view)
    affective elements — elementary or proto-emotions: fear, greed, rage, pleasure; “quick” or “short-circuited” emotions associated with the axial image only in the “quick” or immediate present )
    conative or motivational factors immediate survival; the pleasure-factors — unpleasure principle (motivation as a tendency to search for pleasure and avoid unpleasure)
    temporal mode — concrete, momentary, passing, present only
    mode of self — axial body (physical body felt as distinct from physical environment) sensorimotor, narcissistic
    chronological age — from 4 to 6 to 15 to 18 months”
  4. the Image Body Self — Late Body Ego — ognative style — Parataxic (the undifferentiated wholeness of experience is broken down into parts, which are still not connected in any logical way; they “just happen”, depending on circumstances); Magical primary process (unable to distinguish, e.g., a cave, a box, a womb, and a cup, because all share the prediicate “hollowness” and the part “opening”, al belong to the class of “hollow objects with one opening”, each object viewed as identical with each of the others), multivalent images, confusion or “blurring” of subject and object; sensorimotor completion
    affective elements — Sustained emotions, wishes, anxiety, rudimentary desires
    conative or motivational factors Wish-fulfillment, anxiety-reduction, factors — prolonged survival and safety
    temporal mode — extended present
    mode of self — non-reflexive body-image (“good-me”, “bad-me” and “not-me”)
    chronological age — from 15 to 18 months to 2 years
  5. the Verbal-Membership stage — “cognitive style: Autistic language; paleologic and mythic thinking; membership cognition
    affective atmosphere — Temporal desires, extended and specific likes and dislikes
    conative or motivational proto-volition, roots of willpower and autonomous choice, belonginess
    temporal mode — Time binding, time structuring, past and future
    mode of self — Verbal, tensed-membership self”
  6. the Mental Egoic stage — “cognitive style: — Syntaxical-membership; secondary process; verbal dialogue thinking; concrete and formal operational thinking
    affective elements — Concepts-affects, dialogue-emotions (especially guilt, desire, pride, love hatred)
    conative or motivational factors Willpower, self-control, temporal goals and desires, self-esteem needs
    temporal mode — linear, historical, extended past and future
    mode of self — Egoic-syntaxical, self-concept, dialogue thinking ego states, various personae”
  7. the Biosocial stage — “cognitive style: — formal operational and conceptual knowledge, intuition
    affective elements — spontaneity, impulse expression, positive emotions
    conative or motivational factors self-esteem, inner-directed conformity
    temporal mode — linear, past and future, but centered in the present moment,
    mode of self — individualistic, autonomous, separation of self from roles”
  8. the Centauric stage — “cognitive style: Trans-verbal vision-image, high- phantasy, synthesis of primary and secondary processes; trans-consensual
    affective elements — Prehension, spontaneity, impulse expression, supersensory, heartfelt
    conative or motivational factors Intentionality, creative wish, meaning, spontaneous will, self-actualization, autonomy
    temporal mode — Grounded in the present moment, aware of linear time as exfoliating from the present
    mode of self — Integrated, autonomous, trans-biosocial, total body-mind being”
  9. the low Subtle — “cognitive style: Clairvoyant perception and cognition; extra-egoic and extra-sensory
    affective elements — Trans-personally sensitive, suprasensory (the stage beyond the supersensory centaur)
    conative or motivational factors Siddhi; paranormal and para-pyschological drives
    temporal mode — Temporal Mode: Trans-axial or trans-physical; “point-source” time; able to read worldlines with pre-cognition or post-cognition
    mode of self — Astral-psychic”
  10. the high Subtle — “…cognitive style- actual intuition and literal inspiration, archetypal Form, audible illumination, revelations of light and sound affective elements- rapture, bliss, ecstatic release into superconsciousness motivational/conative factors-karuna, compassion, overwhelming love and gratefulness temporal mode- transtemporal , moving into eternity mode of self- archetypal-divine, overself, overmind.”
  11. the low Causal — “cognitive style: Final-illumination, essence of audible revelation, root bija-mantra, savikalpa samadhi
    affective elements — Radiant bliss/ananda
    conative or motivational Only Karuna, or transcendent love-in-oneness
    temporal mode — utterly trans-temporal, eternal
    mode of self — Final-God, point Source of all Archetypal Forms”
  12. the high Causal — “cognitive style: — Unknowing or perfectly divine ignorance in cessation, nirvikalpa samadhi, boundless Consciousness
    affective elements — Primal or formless Radiance, perfect Ecstatic
    conative or motivational factors — Only Karuna or transcendent love-in-oneness; final spontaneity, or “lila” and “tzu jan”
    temporal mode — trans-temporal, eternal
    mode of self — Formless Self-Realization, transcendent Witness”
  13. the Ultimate (= the Absolute Reality)

Written by

Experienced psychology writer and practitioner of psi abilities. Looking forward to contributing to a worldwide awakening to the reality of psi phenomena.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store