I grew up into my adulthood reading Ken Wilber. His “map of everything” changed my life. He was the first writer to explain reality to me in a way that made sense. I founded my first 3 businesses based on it and the community that had formed around it.
I dropped my “devotion” to his work a long time ago now, but I periodically find ways where the biases I developed from his framework have been holding me back from certain domains of reality.
One of the most powerful ideas in his work is that of the pre-trans fallacy. The idea is that anything that follows a developmental trajectory will in some general way go through three stages.
For example, the movement from pre-egoic consciousness (early childhood), to egoic consciousness (normal adulthood), to trans-egoic consciousness (genuine spirituality).
The problem however is this…
Pre-egoic consciousness and post-egoic consciousness can look the same, because they’re both “non-egoic”. And thus we make a duality.
Ego bad. Non-ego good.
When actually, teaching “ego” to a child is really good! But ego when you seek to go beyond the conventions? Not good at all.
Thus we tend to confuse “pre” and “trans” because they’re both “non”. This is the pre/trans fallacy.
The specific version of the pre-trans fallacy that Wilber often talked about was that of rationality. That is, both our tendency to read “spiritual authenticity” in superstitious pre-rational childishness (new age movement) and to dismiss genuinely trans-rational truths as woo-woo nonsense (rationalist atheism).
He mentions Freud and Jung as examples of this. Freud tended to collapse trans-rational dreams down into pre-rational “sex issues”. And Jung was more likely to elevate pre-rational childishness into trans-rational symbology.
At some point this year I realized that the stuff I’ve gotten really interested in over the last few years is essentially “pre-rational” (nonsense). Mythology, shamanism and alchemy—stuff I always thought of as pretty darned weird.
And I also realized why the idea of “pre-rational” had confused me. I’d read it to mean “therefore not to be taken seriously”.
But I’ve experimented with taking it really seriously, and…holy fuck.
I’ve been stunned by the power in these “pre-rational” disciplines. Not that there isn’t a shit ton of new age retro-romanticism in these circles (there is), or that it isn’t in need of some upgrading and integration (it is). But damn. Sometimes it really does feel like I’ve discovered magical powers.
I have become a devoted practitioner of shamanic soul-flight—the travelling, through the mind’s eye, into the imaginal archetypal realms. There I have met a whole pantheon of odd characters—arch-angels, fairy princesses, dragons, dead sages, religious figures. I ask them for advice. They show me stuff. So far, none of it has steered me false. And some of it has been genuinely life-changing.
Could this be a clever way of accessing my own “inner-wisdom”? Maybe. Except that the tricky thing is this. The archetypal realm—the world of the dream, myth and archetypes is found by going deep inside. So it is “inner-wisdom”. But it is not “mine”. That is, it’s certainly coming from beyond my mind, beyond the ego, beyond the rational.
The fuller proof is this. I’ve taken other people’s big questions to my guides, and asked them to show me what is happening. I see weird stuff—things I certainly wouldn’t have thought of myself. And when I share these images and teachings with my friends, they’re blown away. Extreme accuracy. Potent impact.
I’ve also experimented with “energy magic”. That is, impacting people near me with my “intention”. Some weeks ago I was sitting in the park and a young couple sat down near me in the midst of a bad argument. She was pissed off at him, and he was looking limp and powerless. As I tuned into what I felt their deeper selves wanted to happen, I started quietly talking to them and sending the intention of those words over to them.
“He loves you. He loves you so much. Show him you love him too.”
And then almost instantly she stopped firing off her anger, and for the first time since they’d sat down, she looked at him and smiled flirtingly. By this point however, he had become like stone, unresponsive, and he couldn’t see it.
“Get him to touch you.” I whispered. “Make contact with him, get him to touch you.”
And as I watched, she reached behind her, picked up a bottle of sun cream, handed it to him and gestured for him to put it on her back.
What is this but magic? At least according to our dominant rational doctrine.
It’s quite the journey exploring it all.
My scepticism is alive and kicking (I’d have it no other way). And I am mining the cognitive dissonance that occurs when I experience magic on the one hand, and on the other, hold a map that says it is impossible.
But most of all, I’m finding it all shockingly potent, and marvellously fun. And the more I talk about it to people around me, the more closet magicians I find.
Maybe you’re one too?