Transpersonal Theory & the Astrological Mandala: An Evolutionary Model by Gerry Goddard
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The Astro-transpersonal Model &
Jorge Ferrer's Critique of Perennialist Universalism


In his Revisioning Transpersonal Theory Jorge Ferrer presents a number of formidable arguments critical of certain foundational orienting assumptions and paradigms within the field of transpersonal theory, in particular the empiricist grounding of spiritual claims in direct experience and the perennialist assumption of universal structures and the nature of the Ultimate as Nondual. Given that Wilber (reaching back to Schleiermacher and James) represents the most sophisticated account of the empirical basis of the spiritual, most significant is Ferrer’s decisive critique of Wilber's alleged marriage of science and spirituality. According to Ferrer, despite Wilber's overcoming of the sensory reductionism of traditional empiricism with his ’three strands of all valid knowledge,’ he still finishes up colonizing all domains with an expanded objectivist empirical methodology borrowed from physical science including the importation of Popper's falsifiability criterion applied to the questions of spiritual validity, a criterion that has repeatedly been shown as wanting in both the physical and human sciences.1 (See Chapter 3 of Ferrer’s book for the details of this critique).

Ferrer offers the concept of the transpersonal participatory event as a more adequate way of understanding transpersonal disclosures than intrasubjective experience. He emphasizes the importance of situatedness, of context, study and ethics in traditional spirituality, all which tend to get lost in the purely experiential approach. Further, in place of perennialist approaches that situate impersonal, nondual, and monistic insights higher on the developmental scale than personal, theistic and dual insights, Ferrer affirms a pluralistic metaphysic as an alternative to the more generally accepted monistic view. Since the astro-transpersonal model does not rest on the basis of experiential and empirical assumptions it is not subject to these particular critiques. What concerns me here is the question of whether the model we have constructed resists Ferrer’s critique of universalism, nondual ultimate perspectives and holarchic deep structure.

Drawing on Tarnas's (1991) articulation of the participatory epistemology whereby "nature's unfolding truth emerges only with the active participation of the human mind", where the "world's truth realizes itself within and through the human mind", (p.434) Ferrer proposes that transpersonal phenomena need to "be more adequately understood as multilocal participatory events" (p.116) rather than as inner experiences. He writes: "emergences of transpersonal being...can occur not only in the locus of the individual, but also in a relationship, a community, a collective identity, or a place." (p. 116) As a decisive break with the remnants of the subject/object epistemology and its questionable dualisms, Ferrer mounts a powerful case against the 'Myth of the Given' and the 'myth of the Framework' which he holds to be foundational to the perennialist and constructivist positions respectively. As I have already mentioned, Ferrer's general position shows itself particularly appropriate, in cultural-historical terms, to the character of our level III 7/1 phase. Further, I believe that our account of the fundamental bipolar epistemological structure (subject/object and subject/subject) which underlies developments on the Outward arc is to a significant extent compatible with the epistemological revisionings offered by Ferrer.

As Einsteinian physics, rather than replacing Newtonian physics (which remains functionally useful within its own restricted domain) expands beyond it, Ferrer’s call involves a higher level integration of both subject/object and subject/subject epistemological modes rather than a simple replacement of one by the other. 'Enactment' requires a self and an 'other' (personal, interpersonal, and transpersonal) even though the terms of each are not fixed. While constituting a greater insight than the subject/object epistemology the participatory epistemology must be seen as including the subject/object epistemology as a special and limiting case. The insight into reality as a participatory enactment explains the nature of things more adequately than forms of subject/object experience, whether as an experiential disclosure to some subject of a pregiven object or as a subjective construction in relation to a logically unknowable objective noumenon.

The astro-transpersonal model is in entire agreement with this view except that it rests upon the claim that such a process can, on the metaphysical level, be mapped within a larger framework of multivalent archetypal structures.

Illustrative of how the astrological categories are to be understood as situating successive world views, epistemologies and paradigms, prior to the philosophical question as to whether Ferrer's claim concerning ultimates is the overarching 'truth' or not, it is significant that Ferrer's main points are an appropriate expression of the transitional archetypal structure 6/12 to 7/1. (This preserves the idea of Ferrer’s acknowledgement that both experiential empiricism and perennialism have been historically appropriate in the development of transpersonal studies). In response to the question posed by Kuhn (and answered by him in sociological terms) as to why in the history of science, in the face of irresolvable incommensurablity among competing paradigms, one paradigm eventually comes to replace another, Tarnas (1991) answers "that a paradigm emerges in the history of science, it is recognized as superior, as true and valid, precisely when that paradigm resonates with the current archetypal state of the evolving collective psyche." (p438) This is the precise situation of Tarnas and Ferrer's participatory epistemology and Ferrer's call for an open pluralistic and dialogical approach to the spiritual and transformative.

Tarnas goes on to say, "Each paradigm is a stage in an unfolding evolutionary sequence, and when that paradigm has fulfilled its purpose, when it has been developed and exploited to its fullest extent, then it loses its becomes felt as oppressive, limiting, opaque, something to be overcome—while the new paradigm that is emerging is felt as a liberating birth into a new, luminously intelligible universe." (p439). So just as the participatory epistemology supercedes the Cartesian/Kantian paradigm (with its subject/object dualisms, its synthetic/analytic distinction, its distinction between the given and the interpretive framework), it is possible that at some point it too will be superceded (as Ferrer himself acknowledges at the end of his book). Where the Cartesian subject/object epistemology and the Kantian mediated dualism articulate the structures 4/10, 5/11 and the beginning of 6/12, the participatory epistemology (which also reclaims and integrates subject/subject with subject/object knowing) articulates deeper 6/12 through stage-levels 7/1, 8/2 into 9/3. But subsequent to stage 9/3, I believe that we move beyond the adequacy of the participatory epistemology to capture the structures involved. The participatory epistemology which decisively transcends subject/object knowing still implies a creative polarity of some indeterminate agency in relation to the Mystery which lies beyond agency. Both agent self (brain/mind) and world (cosmic event-process) formed through stage-level II, undergo a radical transformation through stage-level III participating in a multitude of enacted transpersonal spaces (including other worlds, Bardos etc.).

By stage-level IV this enactive and participatory process is coming to an end through a new epistemology, where instead of epistemology and ontology revealing their profound interface as in Stage III, an Absolute Identity is revealed where there is nothing left to participate with anything. The stage IV process means absolute 'self awareness' of the self-world creative process taking place in stage/levels II and III. Participation, bringing forth a multitude of worlds is the essence of level III. The process of increasing epistemic immediate Insight into and as this very process is that which constitutes level IV. So the pluralism cited by Ferrer indeed characterizes the transpersonal domains of Level III, but decreasingly the domains of Level IV; but here we are making a claim which is precisely the claim against which Ferrer is launching his critique.

To reject our particular formulation philosophically simply on the grounds that it perpetrates hierarchical ranking which is bad for interreligious dialogue, would, I believe, be illegitimate. Our model clearly acknowledges that accessing the Return arc requires that the participatory epistemology be fully embraced (i.e. both theoretically in terms of our understanding and in spiritual practice), an opening to the great Mystery, to the 'other', to dialogue, not just because it is expedient or even ethical to do so, but because it is required and called forth by the archetypal nature of things at this stage and level.

Perennialist models adequately conceived are not just about asserting the ultimate Nondual absolute while declaring everything else to be illusion (Advaita); they are about modelling everything that is not the ‘Void’, everything that the Void brings forth and which returns to it. We must surely recognize the different 'levels' of physics, chemistry and biology (life) each with new emergent properties which are non-reducible to the lower level. Ergo, there are different ontological categories not to be understood as merely culture-based epistemic differences; for example, biology could hardly be demonstrated as reducible to the language of physics even from a different cultural perspective. In speaking of the 'goals' of particular spiritual practices, why should these goals all be at the same level developmentally within transpersonal realms? Why should the idea of different levels and stages within transpersonal realms be problematic when there are clearly levels and stages in ordinary realms? While the actual claims of such models are always open to ongoing debate, it is hardly a critique of perennialism that in its theorizing of different levels that it is undemocratic and so on; to criticize thusly is simply to stand from the opposite dogma that there shouldn't be levels. But the fact that grade 6 and grade 12 are at different levels is not undemocratic—grade 12 is not better than grade 6 though it builds on it and goes beyond it; each is perfect at its level, and each is a part of the larger order. To set any universal as more valued, as Ferrer, for example, rightly sets the notion of liberation from self-centeredness etc., is already to recognize levels. If we are allowed to rank ethical comportments in ordinary life beyond pure relativism—e.g. torture and unprovoked oppression of individuals and groups such as women seen to be absolutely wrong regardless of cultural tradition—then why are different levels of insight, clarity and ethical comportment in the spiritual sphere disallowed? This is especially so since these transpersonal levels are being enacted by flawed human beings. If the transpersonal dimensions actually involve deconstruction of the Outward arc and an integrative transformation of its structures (a transformed noosphere), then the Return arc must be structured in an archetypally corresponding fashion, that is, there must be stage-structures. If the Outward arc has levels, then the Return arc must have levels—or at the very least, this inference is not illogical. If levels are not disallowed, then we should be able to discuss and map them. Of course, we must do so with great sensitivity and much collective participation in the process, certainly not as a 'one man show'. And even if development is not hard and fast and invariant, there still must be universal or archetypal principles involved, otherwise we're back at cultural and linguistic relativism which removes necessary universal ethical principles that mitigate against such behaviours as torture.

The metaphysical idea of the Ground from which the Manifest in all its open and enacted diversity emerges and returns does not rest upon or derive from the Cartesian subject/object split or the unknowable and objective Kantian noumenon.2 Our model shows that the transpersonal domains are dimensionalities of the Manifest in relation to Ultimate Source just as are the physical, sensory, emotive, and mental domains. Though as bardo, other universes etc., the transpersonal domains are not necessarily bound to the biospheric and noospheric—or at least to this biospheric-noospheric domain. Thus all transpersonal 'experiences' (or in Ferrer's terms, articulable 'transpersonal events'), are aspects of the Manifest and as such Ferrer's pluralism would apply. But the patterns of universals, which like a nervous system pervade the manifest domain, still need to be articulated. Ferrer does qualify that "there are certain transcendental constraints upon the nature of spiritually enacted realities...a spiritual power or Mystery out of which everything arises which, although indeterminate, does impose restrictions on human visionary participation." (p152)

Everything 'this side' of a Return to Source (to the Unmanifest) is of course necessarily pluralistic to some degree (level II and III domains more than level IV) because manifest reality is enacted. But this pluralism can be ordered in universal ways, just as in ordinary domains we recognize the difference between, say, artistic activity and political activity across all cultural and individual variations. The astro-archetypal lattice work is indeed a universalist structure—Leo is opposite Aquarius and they are both square to Scorpio. And there are, developmentally, cognitively, morally and spiritually speaking, different facets and 'levels' of expression of these archetypes. Transpersonal 'knowing/experience/participation' (beyond intrasubjective experience for sure) presupposes a higher level enaction of the universal archetypes. But this is not the direct unmediated encounter with some Platonic horse, say, lying beyond all particular horses.

These so-called deep structures and levels when seen as general sorts of enactions of the archetypes as they are in the astrological model, are not like the 'Chinese boxes' of Ken Wilber (notwithstanding Wilber's 'all quadrant-all levels' refinements). So the astro-transpersonal model remains universalist, evolutionary, and quasi-structuralist, but in a much more open, creative and constructivist sense than the linear forms of neoperennialism which make Ferrer so uneasy.

Actually there can be no diversity without the universal; to argue so is to embrace the nominalist counterposition in which the universal is simply phenomenological pattern recognition in relation to real particulars. To criticize perennialism as Platonic from a nominalist viewpoint is not to refute it but simply to assert an opposing philosophical standpoint. One of Ferrer’s arguments against perennialism is that the universalist looks for common elements and makes a priori identifications (e.g. the claim that Void equals Tao equals Brahman) across the diversity of traditions, identifications that cannot be a posteriori confirmed. This is a valid point for it is certainly problematic to posit a universalist model on finding apparent common qualities, phenomenalities etc across individuals and traditions.3 Indeed, what does it mean to say x and y are the same experience? And in terms of scholarly understanding, can we say that what the Chinese were referring to by Tao was grounded in the same 'experience' or philosophical position as Nagarjuna's 'emptiness'? The closest we might come to that assertion might be in terms of empirically registering a similarity of results in terms of observed transformations in bio-psychological states and behaviours. But to critically describe universalism as based on looking for what a diverse set of particulars happen to have in common is to adopt a nominalist viewpoint that puts particulars first. The universal does not refer to a single quality that a diversity of entities have in common. If they have a quality in common—e.g. every Bishop in every observed game of chess always moves along the diagonal whatever the particular move—it is because they are informed by the same rule or principle. We need to go beyond both Platonism and nominalism when speaking of archetypal or universalist principles. The devotional, Bakta, personal God experiences seem to have something in common which we might call the archetypal transpersonal Heart. Zen and Advaita, although distinct, and probably not to be identified phenomenologically or otherwise, might be seen as expressing archetypal transpersonal Mind. These archetypes are not simply imposed from human pattern-making, but like the correspondence of outer planet formations to historical occurences (see Tarnas 1993, 2006) appear to have a transcendent nonconstructed mode of being even though that which manifests in terms of the archetypes is to be understood in participatory terms.

The postulation of archetypal structuration does not constrain diversity one iota anymore than the rules of chess constrain the diversity of chess games which exist at all levels of skill and elegance obeying the same rules (deep structure) at all levels. Although brilliant chess does not indicate a distinct and higher deep structure than ordinary chess, it does represent a higher level of the same deep structure (the rules) which constitutes chess. Ferrer acknowledges Wilber’s extension of Varella, Thompson and Rosch’s enactive paradigm to transpersonal levels4 but adds that “the truly emancipatory potential of this expansion gets truncated by his subordination of the enactive paradigm to a universal sequence of pregiven evolutionary deep structures.” Also Ferrer quotes Heron in his assertion that diversity is hampered and restrained by deep structure. But again, there is in fact not one single chess game which is hampered by the rules that constitute chess and allow chess games to occur. I agree that Wilber’s articulation of the universals involved has its problems and is too constraining; indeed there are problems in his holonic logic (see Goddard 1998, 2003, chapter 20, appendix2). But in principle it is as contradictory to say that transpersonal enaction is constrained and limited by the existence of universal principles or structures (rather than validly pointing to a particular set of postulated principles as overly constrictive) as it is to say that a particular creative game of chess is constrained and limited by the rules of chess. It is simply not the case that participation, enaction, liberation must be totally open and free of universals. But of course, the universals which structure the evolutionary trajectory are something far more complex, multifaceted, and participatory than the rules of some mentally constructed game.

Ferrer has criticized the importation of the Cartesian subject/object and the Kantian phenomenon/noumenon distinctions into transpersonal theory, particularly in the way that perennialism allegedly preserves the notion of an objective reality lying beyond and independent of experience. While this critique might certainly apply to those of a neoKantian orientation such as philosopher of religion John Hick who describes the plurality of religions as varied modes of historical and cultural mediations with an ultimate noumenon unknowable in itself, it misses the point since Hick is not a perennialist. Adnan Aslan (1994) describes Hick in pronounced contrast to an avid perennialist and student of Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr who, contra Hick, understands the plurality of religions as direct archetypal infusions of the Divine into the human historical and cultural sphere—a decidedly nonKantian concept.

The alleged perennialist belief in different onto-epistemological levels does not, I think, have to imply the Myth of the Given, a Kantian noumenon lying beyond the perceptual Framework. The universalist position as distinct from the pluralistic one does not presuppose positing a higher 'objective' reality that is 'knowable' in a non-mediated fashion (despite the attempt of an academic transpersonalism to justify spirituality as 'objective' in order to fend of accusations as to its 'mere' subjectivity and its necessarily cultural and conceptual mediated nature). The ‘ways things are’ includes both knower and known in all their relations as well as in the possible ending and transcendence of their relations. Rather, it can be conceived more as a view of 'things' from a higher and more inclusive dimensionality, for example, the sense in which the participatory epistemology itself constitutes a larger and more informative view than Cartesianism or Kantianism: Also, in the sense that the human mind is not just one more property 'within' time-space, but is rather, as is mind in general, the emergence of a new dimensionality beyond yet integral with time-space. The logic of the 'Myth of the Given'—the claim as to an objective reality lying beyond and outside subjective thought and belief—cannot be properly employed in order to discredit the claim as to a single Ultimate beyond the plurality of relative 'ultimates'. The claim of the Ultimate is of that which lies beyond subject and object and beyond any articulation of transpersonal experience/events, it does not consist of an extension of the concept 'object' beyond its meaning in relation to the concept 'subject', an extension which could legitimately be labled as a perpetuation of modernist objectivism. This notwithstanding that any particular doctrine/experience/state/event which is advanced as the Ultimate must certainly be questioned. If the argument that the positing of an Absolute is necessarily an illegitimate extension of objective modernism is indeed a false argument, then the general concept of holarchies and levels remains unrefuted. Yet admittedly, any overarching metaphysic can, and inevitably will, be superseded by a more adequate one.

Ferrer speaks critically of an 'a priori' commitment to a nondual monistic metaphysics (p110). Assuming that 'a priori' is not being used in the sense of 'analytic' (i.e.true simply by version of its logical consistency with the language or theoretical assumptions already adopted) but more in the sense of 'concluding before the fact and despite any evidence to the contrary' or simply, deciding by fiat, are there not always basic value and ontological commitments which underlie our actions and efforts? Surely, this is what it is to be human (see Taylor 1989). This 'a priori' commitment to universalism is no more suspect than an a priori commitment to relativism, nominalism, and constructivism. The relevant approach is to compare the adequacy of accounts arising from these different philosophical commitments (which have something to do with temperament), though even this observation will not ultimately decide such a philosophical issue. In fact the two opposing ideas underlying both perennialism and pluralism are to be traced back to the orientations of Platonism and nominalism, neither of which are in a position to disprove the other, only to generate their particular philosophical world views which can be put to the test regarding their adequacy to account for the full range of phenomena including transpersonal disclosures and concrete human transformations. I believe that Ferrer's arguments are not a refutation of perennialism in principle, that is, they are not a refutation of the claim of an Ultimate beyond specific ultimates whether or not one or more of these ultimates happen to be identical with one another. Consequently, the existence of different archetypal structures, and the levels of unfolding in terms of these structures, are not ruled out of court, particularly since the Ultimate in relation to which they stand is not ruled out of court. But it remains an ongoing conversation to identify and articulate the universals involved. The metaphysic that would assert that the Ultimate Source (Void) is not the world, nor in the world, but is that Unknowable from which the world emerges and to which the world returns, is not refuted by Ferrer’s arguments5. The universalist perspective which recognizes certain domains (e.g. so-called subtle type and causal type) does not have to rest on the Cartesian-Kantian postulation of an absolute objective (manifest-level) world.

Ferrer's "ocean with many shores" is meant to include the ‘Ultimate Void’ as one participatory mode among others including theistic perspectives. Since he himself has allegedly refuted the Ultimate of ultimates, I maintain that his Ocean (in the sense that he is thereby constrained to mean it) then, actually refers to our entire Return arc (levels III & IV)—its many shores would be constituted by 7/1 to 12/6 at all levels. But contra Ferrer, according to our picture, some enacted shores are actually 'higher' than others just as the participatory epistemology is more adequate than the Cartesian/Kantian subject/object epistemology. Yet in agreement with Ferrer, some shores are indeed not identical even if at the same level—in this sense, pluralism captures the situation. But in our model, all endless possibilities of becoming through participation in the spiritual power and mystery refer to the total archetypal cyclinder from 'top to bottom' situated from Level IV. But the Ultimate Source/Ground remains the Alpha and Omega, the Origin and Telos of all becoming—prepersonal, personal and transpersonal.

I agree with Ferrer that the logical relation of the one and the many precludes placing either one of the poles in hierarchically superior relation to the other (which he accuses Wilber of doing in the latter’s use of the 'green meme' idea as an argumentative weapon of one-upmanship) just as agency cannot be placed above (or below) communion. But I do not think that our level IV which developmentally 'stands above' level III in terms of subtlety of insight, knowledge and emancipatory potential, necessarily involves placing the one above the many. The ultimate which can most neutrally be termed the Great Mystery, Infinite Ground or Source of all things lies off this map, which is a map of the manifest worlds, the transpersonal levels being no less manifest than the natural world knowable by the body and senses. From the Ultimate Void (12/6 A/D level IV leading off the chart) the one and the many are no longer distinguished and we might call that, the Absolute Ground, but it makes no sense to say of it that it is plural. All Manifestation, all of which is indeed pluralistic, is constituted by the multivalent archetypal forms of manifest reality. Exactly how all the disclosures of mystics and traditions compare is an ongoing debate situated in the dialogical 7/1 locus.

To claim that there is a multitude of ultimates is no less a bias than to posit an Ultimate that may or may not resonate with any one tradition's claim as to the ultimate. It may be true that the various spiritual ultimates of the various traditions are not phenomenologically identical, and that no one of them can make the final claim to be the true Ultimate. But the claim that there is an Ultimate beyond all particular ultimates cannot be refuted on the basis of arguments about experiential and Cartesian notions of which they are allegedly a direct product—which I believe they are not (the fact that such a claim is not falsifiable would not count against it in Ferrer‘s view). The infinitely open universe of becoming becomes the Ultimate in the contextualist position (a kind of infinitely plastic creative power or energy), whereas in the perennial view this infinite pluralism and becoming ultimately returns to the Ground. Participation itself returns to the Ground. We cannot logically say of any entity that it participates with the Ground. My point is not that perennialism is ‘True’ without any doubt, but that Ferrer's argument which tries to refute the positing of an Ultimate Ground (to which I am holding that participation itself returns) on the basis that such a positing simply betrays Cartesian and modernist objectivist prejudices, is not a valid argument.

I would support the metaphysic that seeks to integrate and include different ultimate doctrines within what is implied as a meta-map (but without simplistic, a priori or phenomenological identifications, thus acknowledging Ferrer’s points) since all these doctrines arise from human-beingness-in-the-world. To say that reality is (or includes) these different doctrines while it is meaningless or false to postulate a larger pattern that interconnects these doctrines and which might show how these different doctrines arise, is either a naturalistic or a radically relativistic description of the nature of things. To say that such a map is just another doctrine is to deny its meta-status, although certainly, no meta-map can be said to be the final one in terms of the ongoing human conversation. But to legitimately argue against some specific meta-map one must be able to produce a more adequate map. And to postulate the ultimate as an ineffable mystery not to be put in words is fine, but this is ultimately a metaphysical and universalistic postulation; we cannot escape from metaphysics even though the postmodernists want to, and we see clearly that we cannot do so precisely because of the evidence of the transpersonal.

Unlike Ferrer and more in the tradition of William James, W.T. Stace, in his classic analytical philosophical work on mysticism, grounds mysticism in the experience of pure consciousness devoid of any content which he holds to be universal across mystical traditions whether religious or philosophical.6 While Ferrer sees the alleged universal mystical experience as an intrasubjective experience, Stace places the mystical disclosure beyond both subjective and objective, marked inherently by paradox and beyond the domain of logic itself. Seen in this way the ‘experience’ is beyond experience in the normal sense of the word—a marriage of the epistemological and the ontological. Rather than seeing this encounter with the ultimate as varied across religious practices, Stace writes:

[M]inds are distinguished from one another by their empirical contents and by nothing else. It follows that if A and B have suppressed within themselves all empirical contents then there is left nothing whatever which can distinguish them and make them two; and if A and B have thereby reached the mystical consciousness of their pure egos, then there is nothing to distinguish them or make them two pure egos....Hence the mystic who has reached what seems at first to be his own private ego has in fact reached the pure ego of the universe, the pure cosmic ego. (p151).

Stace differentiates between the universal pure experience devoid of mental characteristics, and the reports and interpretations of the mystics themselves. Such interpretations are conditioned partly by the pressure of orthodoxy which finds such claims as an experience of identity with God heretical, but more interestingly by the mystic him or herself who has trouble with the inherent paradoxicality of the experience itself—"a total void which is yet a fullness, a light which is also darkness." (p257). According to Stace, "In the case of any paradox or antinomy which presents itself to consciousness, there will always appear in the human mind—whether that of the mystic or the nonmystic—the tendency to explain away and get rid of the logical contradiction by one means or another." (p164) Rather than accepting the inherent paradoxicality and non-logicality of the experience—a state positing a Universal Self which cannot be said to "exist" (or not exist); a state expressed through mystical statements that cannot be said to be "true" (or false)—Stace points out that such mystics as Eckhart in the West and Sankara in the East have attempted to separate void and plenum by placing them on different levels. Eckhart placed void in the Godhead and the plenum in the fullness of God: Sankara identifies void with higher Brahman and the fullness as lower Brahman. That Void or Godhead lies beyond personal God and the fullness of reality, is reflected in our model as the difference between, and the succession of, 9/3 level III and 12/6 level IV. Yet as said, when 12/6 is reached then all the archetypal domains can reach to the top and merge with the Ultimate; 9/3 discloses the Theistic personal God/Fullness; the highest phase of 12/6 discloses the pure void or Godhead. The astro-transpersonal model preserves the idea of a multidimensional spectrum of ‘structured’ domains or paths so that from a developmental cyclic perspective one modality can come before the other without the earlier one being constrained to stay at the lower level. For example, indigenous/shamanic 8/2 can evolve to level IV once level IV insight/awareness has occured. The fully ‘enlightened one’ in this view who has reached 12/6 (A/D) level IV through some sort of intentional spiritual path must be, or become, capable of realizing level IV modes of structures 7/1, 8/2 etc. The astrological model shows that 'earlier' structures can continue to evolve upward so that a Realization of nonDualism (12/6, level IV) can be alternated with a Realization of personal God (9/3, Level IV). I think that the archetypal topography addresses Ferrer’s difficulty with spiritual maps that, for example, set the nondual realisation above the theistic since it preserves the developmental sequence while allowing a more advanced theistic perspective to stand at the same level as nondual Emptiness states.7 Hence, we can find the logical space for Ferrer's pluralism. Stace is also concerned with the apparent dichotomy between introvertive mysticism and extrovertive mysticism, the former disclosing pure void and the latter, like the spontaneous experience of R. M. Bucke, but also of Eckhart and others, of the presence of a unity within the diversity of nature. He is led to the conclusion that they both disclose the same One. But in our model we may want to situate the extrovertive experience more at 7/1. Yet by the same token, 7/1 can ultimately be experienced at the highest reaches.

The difference between the exoteric and esoteric core of each of the religions as claimed by such perennialists as Schuon is not refuted by Ferrer. In our model, the exoteric religions with there source in phase 3/9 (level I) continue to unfold historically and are to be understood at the noospheric level II, structure 3/9 which archetypally enframes their full diversity. Structure 9/3 (level III) archetypally enframes the diversity of genuine religious experiences of communion—various theisms, relationships with God and so on. Here, for example, is the source of Nasr's8 archetypal emanations of the divine into the human realm which constitute the esoteric level which then, in our terms, "trickle down" to noospheric and exoteric level II cultural-religious observances and rituals. Then beyond 3/9 moving into level IV we are approaching the universal Ground.

The astro-transpersonal mapping of the Return arc makes no hard claims regarding the various traditions. But if astrology is valid at the levels normally practiced (see Greene, Hand, Tarnas etc.) and if the explication of the Outward arc is taken seriously, then it remains legitimate to seek the meanings and possible manifestations of Levels III and IV. To hold these up against some of the major current explications of traditional methods and modern findings is a reasonable start toward such a project of finding the universals expressed through a participatory epistemology.


1. Wilber’s three epistemic eyes are: the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, the eye of contemplation. His “three strands of all valid knowing are:
        I. Instrumental injunction: “If you want to know this, do this.’
        II. Direct apprehension: Direct experience of the domain brought forward by following the injunction.
        III. Communal confirmation or rejection: checking results within community of fellow practitioners.See Wilber 1998. pp153-156.
2. My concern of course is not so much with Ferrer's critiques of perennialism and universalist models in general but whether the astro-transpersonal model in particular escapes Ferrer's most trenchant critiques. I do not think linking the notion of the "way things ultimately are" or the 'Ultimate as a Nondual Source' with the Kantian noumenon is decisive. The Kantian noumenon arose in response to the trenchant criticisms of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities by Berkeley and Hume and the conviction that the world nevertheless existed in some way beyond our perception of it even as we are locked within the phenomenal field of our perception. The difference between the real existent and the phenomenal in this conception is not of the same logical type as the distinction between the archetypal and the concrete, or between the Divine Source and Creation
3. Ferrer's equating of the universalist assertion with that of the identification of the common ingredient (e.g. the water causing the behaviour (p91) or the flour common to an array of French baked goods p92) is misleading (notwithstanding Wittgenstein’s 'family resemblances'). What the perennialist identifies is not the flour but the simple fact that they are all baked goods. Now the category 'baked goods' in this metaphor can of course be rejected by the nominalist as human invention, but this does not invalidate the idea of the ontological status of universals at the fundaments of things. The assertion of an ultimate ground or of a universalist fabric does not have to dispute the claim that the "spiritual value and beauty of the various traditions dervives precisely from their unique creative solution to the transformation of the human condition." The universal that grounds the latter statement raises the question of what constitutes such a 'transformation' or whether in some cases it is simply 'change'.
4. (Ferrer, 208 n.9).
5. Ferrer’s critique of Wilber’s ontological interpretation of Nagarjuna’s Emptiness (allegedly under the influence of Murti and his Kantian proclivities) is astute but it does not undermine the program of a universalist theory concerned with mapping stages, levels and archetypal thematics of consciousness and realization. Any metaphysical program, even if largely epistemological, ultimately makes ontological claims, but ontology in its very nature is not constrained to incorporate Kantian dualisms. To bring arguments from practice (e.g. Nagarjuna’s soteriological via negativa, the middle path between absolutism and nihilism) to bear against certain theoretical claims referencing such terms is to mix apples and oranges. Arguments against any alleged hamfisted identifications across traditions (e.g. Emptiness and Brahma) need to be launched from within the theoretical perspective
notwithstanding the constant dialectic between theory and practice. (see Appendix I).
6. For a collection of essays on this topic see Robert K.C. Forman‘s (editor) The Problem of Pure Consciousness: Mysticism and Philosophy.
7. Illustrative of alternative spiritual gradations in Hinduism, for example, Ferrer states: “While Shankara subordinates the belief in a personal independent God (Saguna Brahma) to the nondual monism of Advaita Vedanta, Ramanuja regards the monistic state of becoming Brahman as a stage ‘on the way to union with [a personal] God (Zaehner. Hindu and Muslim Mysticism. Rockport, MA. Oneworld. 1960/1994, p. 63).” Ferrer 2002. p. 160.
8. Source: Adnan Aslan. Religious Pluralism in Christian and Islamic Philosophy: The Thought of John Hick and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.



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