Transpersonal Theory & the Astrological Mandala: An Evolutionary Model by Gerry Goddard
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Toward an Archetypal Synthesis


Gender Relations and the Agency/Communion Dialectic: The Outward and Return Arcs


Beyond their essential difference, there is a general agreement between the perennialist and neoJungian paradigms that higher level mystical Realizations presuppose the development of some sort of autonomous self sense. The disagreement is around the question of the nature of the relation of this egoic self to the original unconscious matrix and of the consequent structure and dynamics of transpersonal development. I propose that both these broad views—the level-by-level vertical and the spiralic dialectical—are correct in certain essential respects and can be reconciled. The key to such a reconciliation is to understand 'reality'—psyche and nature—in radically archetypal terms, that is, in terms of those foundational principles necessarily posited as informing and constituting such 'structures as the egoic self and the ground-matrix (themselves reified concepts). I believe we are logically compelled to establish a multivalent archetypal polarity as ontologically central and foundational. It is only when we reconceive the interplay of the 'self' and 'matrix' (or ego and ‘collective unconscious’) in terms of this ontologically prior polarity, that we can understand the way in which Grof's perinatal dimension includes and enfolds both biological and ego-transcendent levels.

If we picture the development of consciousness as informed by a dynamic interplay of archetypal bi-polar principles—part and whole, agency and communion, autonomy and connection, individual and society, masculine and feminine—we can map a process of an increasing polar distinction moving from a primal and interpenetrating balance toward a state of severe imbalance and therafter, compelled through the compensatory force of dialectical opposition (Jung), moving toward an eventual repolarized integrative balancing of the principles. Such a process can still be pictured as the awakening of consciousness at successively higher levels of a 'Great Chain of Being' described by Wilber—adequately enough in its most broad strokes—as the levels of matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit.1 (In his later works, such a sequence is relegated to the upper Left quadrant of his Four-Quadrant Model—the interior of the individual holon. See end of chapter 3).

In such a bi-polar, archetypal, and dialectical formulation, we are not speaking of a 'something' separating from something else and then rejoining it at a higher level as does Washburn with his concept of the 'self' and the 'dynamic ground' conceived within the Jungian paradigm. Neither are we framing the perinatal simply as a self separating from a mother-matrix, experiencing trauma, then later finding resolution through the catharsis of a therapeutically regressive reliving of the birth process. Yet we are certainly acknowledging a process of distinction and separation which eventually and optimally, at a new and higher level, leads to a reconnection, an integration at a higher level than original fusion. Just as both organism and ecosystem evolve enactively together rather than the organism emerging once the ecosystem is in place, consciousness and unconsciousness evolve together rather than the former arising out of the latter as its prior matrix. Consequently, such an interpenetration of consciousness and unconsciousness, occurring epistemically at a higher level, ontologically embraces the lateral conscious/unconscious division 'all the way down' to origins (i.e. the origins of life, not of the prebiotic cosmos). But contra Wilber's accusations, we are not positing some retro-regressive return to primal levels which were allegedly more 'spiritual' than the mental-egoic level. Yet at the same time this higher level integration is not something as entirely different and distinct from original fusion as Wilber would have it, but is a higher level enactment of the same archetypal dynamic which informed the original fusion.

In a later work, Washburn (2003) clearly recognizes the need to integrate both the structural-hierarchical and spiral perspectives. In response to Wilber's criticisms, he acknowledges that some spiral theorists do indeed commit pre-trans errors by mistaking prepersonal states for transpersonal states, but reasserts that the spiral perspective itself is not based on a pre-trans fallacy. In fact, he reverses Wilber's accusation claiming that Wilber himself is committing a pre-trans error by claiming that anything that is developmentally pre must be inherently pre. In effect, Washburn is claiming that Wilber has mistakenly understood epistemological structures in ontological terms. Washburn recognizes a psychological developmental progression of increasing complexity and inclusiveness in participatory relation to a matrix, the 'deep psyche' or Dynamic Ground which is understood to appear or manifest in different ways at different developmental stages. Apparently such a ‘deep psyche’ possesses an ontological status to which a growing ‘self’ unfolds in epistemic relation through successive stages. Is this ‘deep psyche’ the ultimate Source of ‘all that is’ including the physical and biological universe? Washburn claims authority for the spiral story by locating it in both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions; in Christianity as the Eden-to-Fall-to-Redemption story and in Eastern systems as the rediscovery of our original nature as well as in the Mahayana bodhisattva’s 'return-to-the-world' in full embodiment as pictured in the tenth oxherding picture of Zen. But I believe that he is here conflating the idea of Ultimate Ground or Source (the Non-manifest) with the manifest bio-psychic energic dimension as it emerges along with biological evolution—a questionable identification of Ultimate Source as in Eastern doctrines with the dynamic collective unconscious matrix within which the infant, in Jungian psychological models, is originally embedded.

While I agree with Washburn that energic potentials which are present at pre-levels are necessarily re-engaged at trans-egoic levels (but at earlier trans-egoic rather than later and higher transpersonal levels) and appreciate his acknowledgment of both sequential development and a necessary return to engage a dimension earlier present and manifest in pre form, he does not give us an adequate metaphysical account that maps this ontological ground with the evolving manifest. But of course Washburn’s model unlike Wilber’s model (and our model) is strictly an embodied psychological model and does not engage collective evolution or the historical sweep of cosmic, bio-psychological and transpersonal ontology and epistemology. Within such limits, Washburn has much of importance to say demanding modifications in such hierarchical ontologies as Wilber’s. The kind of energic potentialities present in pre-egoic but not in mental-egoic levels and which are later reawakened at a trans-egoic and spiritually embodied level constitute a dimensionality which is itself an aspect of the manifest cosmos (a dimension that can be characterized, even neutrally, by terms such as "energy, instinctual drives, sources of affective response, and the creative imagination or autosymbolic process" p6) and cannot be readily identified with Source or Ultimate Ground beyond manifest form. If the human child is somehow in touch with the Ultimate Source, then are animals even more in touch with it? And are atoms even more so? Is the preliving and living cosmos seen as an idealist product of a developing 'self' in relation to an 'ultimate ground'? Or is transpersonal metaphysics and spirituality being reduced to a psychological model? Such an argument as Washburn's simply does not present an adequate reconciliation of these two paradigms. Since, at least in part, the incommensurability between Wilber's and Washburn's models is in their metaphysical scope—which also renders Washburn's proposed integration inadequate—my concern here is with the central issue as to whether the transpersonal level necessarily involves an integrative interactivity with an ontological (not just epistemological) level logically situated prior to the transpersonal level giving rise to those phenomena described by both Washburn and Grof in particular.

Gender Relations and the Agency/Communion Dialectic

The metaphor of primal separation and consequent return at a higher level—the changing relation of the 'self' and the 'matrix'—actually grows out of a very real psychological condition, but one that primarily characterizes the male perspective rather than the female. Although as Tarnas (1991) describes it, "the masculinity of the Western mind has been pervasive and fundamental, in both men and women", history and the whole complex dynamic structure of consciousness can be adequately pictured, not solely in terms of the dominant masculine mode, but as the fundamental dialectical interplay of the male and female journeys, involving at the deepest level the relationship of consciousness and that which is marginalized by consciousness, namely, unconsciousness.

The relationship of the sexes is to be understood, not simply as a social arrangement arising out of historical dominance and submission, nor as one form of prejudice among prejudices, but as something more archetypally foundational. It is not just one of several equivalent valencies of the archetypal polarity, but constitutes the very core structure of the psycho-social levels of post-birth development enacting the archetypal polarity of consciousness and unconsciousness as the foreground and the background of culture. This gendered differentiation is a key to the logic of the archetypal polarity as it informs development up to the advent of the trans-egoic level, fulfilling the agentic trajectory set by the birth process.

Every psyche 'contains', or is centrally constituted by, an archetypal interplay of two poles; namely, a need for autonomous assertion and a need for connective relationship. While both these needs and ways of experiencing are originally intertwined or predifferentiated, as the conscious self develops, one or other of the poles (it can't be equally both at the same time) tends to act as the primary structural nucleus of consciousness. This fundamental polarity of agency and communion, autonomy and connection, dictates that consciousness will constellate around one pole more than the other pole which will remain relatively unconscious—this polarity will be expressed as a proportion rather than all or nothing. (Wilber [1995] himself states that the more agency the less communion, and vice versa). Where 'agency' constitutes the nucleus of differentiating consciousness as it does, or is encouraged to do, historically in most males (the experience of separation and distinction), the self as the self/not-self structure is central. But where 'communion', the experience of relationship and connection, constitutes the nucleus of differentiating consciousness as it does historically in most females, the nature of the self is structured by a 'self/self' identity. Whereas for the male, “involvement with others is tied to a qualification of identity rather than its realization” (Gilligan, 163), for the female a relational identity lies at the core of relationship. “For many women, the threat of disruption of an affiliation is perceived not just as a loss of relationship but as something closer to a total loss of self.” (p.169). Within the patriarchal family constellation where, as the feminist psychoanalysts Nancy Chodorow and Dorothy Dinnerstein have pointed out, the mother is always the primary parent beyond the very first stages of infancy, such a separative consciousness is grounded in, or at least reinforced by, the fact that the boy being male is not-mother, and hence, not-other, while for the girl a more connective consciousness results from being the same as mother.

In most developmental accounts (Object relations etc.) the conflation of the concept of the generic differentiation of the conscious self with the mode of separative agency perpetuates and justifies the dominance of the male way as the 'paradigm' or 'default' mode of differentiation. It is the agentic self which has become paradigmatic for self or ego, unfolding according to the traditional mythology of the hero, while the female self has constituted the absolutely foundational and necessary, yet devalued infrastructure of all male achievements. Historically, femaleness has functioned as the relational glue which maintains fundamental social cohesion which has allowed individualistic male heroics. But it is both genders which undergo a process of differentiation of conscious selfhood from the primal matrix—nature and mother—as they both equally undergo the birth process. However, the nature of this generic post-birth differentiation process has been different for males and females (though in light of the plasticity of the human 'hard-wired' brain, these modes will not be as polarized under historically later post-patriarchal family constellations). Arising from the situation of mother as primary nurturer (Chodorow etc.), if the infant male's differentiation from the mother is that of separation producing distinction, the infant female's process of differentiation is that of emergence producing relationship. (Neither of which is adequate or complete in itself). The male intuits relationship—the communal pole—mainly as the primal fusion with the mother against which he had to struggle in order to establish his autonomous identity, in order to accomplish the primal differentiation which all selves—male and female—must accomplish. Consequently, feminine connectivity—the potential for mature relationship—is equated in the masculine mind (and culture) with foundations and regressivity. But the female does not fail to establish a self, or succeed only in establishing a weaker self because of her remaining more fused with mother; she simply does not establish as primary a separative and assertive self.

The valid insight that the trajectory of history—the development of consciousness—has up to now been an archetypally Promethean and 'masculine' project and that such autonomy and separation has been a necessary and inevitable step in a farther reaching teleological unfolding, is indeed of central significance in the working out of an adequate transpersonal model. But such a state of imbalance and division—self and other, subject and object, male and female—needs to be understood, not solely as a condition of separation from a 'matrix' (mother/nature/other) which expresses only the male half of the picture, but more profoundly as a dialectical interplay of two polar and fundamental ways of knowing and experiencing. These two modes of the self/matrix and self/other relation, which have been generally aligned with, and culturally reinforced by the dominant male and subordinate female perspectives, have also found expression in the dualisms of reason and intuition, science and values. In this more complex dialectical interplay—more complex than the simple self/other, subject/object, ego/matrix relation—as consciousness increases, it is, collectively and interpersonally, the male way of knowing and experiencing which achieves dominance over the female way of knowing and experiencing. It is the polar interplay of these gender differentiated epistemologies which constitutes the formative force of development, not the adventures of an agentic self which separates from matrix and then finds its way back—the story which tends to colour and skew the neo-Jungian story of development.

Most systems of psychology still carry the male agentic and separative bias. Even the most insightful thought of Jung who penetrated to the archetypal and polar nature of animus and anima, displays an insidiously sexist twist for his anima/animus polarity (its component elements being agency/communion and logos/eros or reason/feeling) is objectively aligned with the archetypal relation of consciousness/unconsciousness where unconsciousness is objectively present at the beginning and consciousness, as exclusively male and agentic, emerges from it. The universal species mind was termed the ‘collective unconscious’ which tends to over identify consciousness with individualism, agency, and maleness and unconsciousness with connectedness, communion and femaleness. This is not to deny Jung’s insights as to the projective anima/animus mechanism arising from the ‘inferior’ feminine of the male (low communion) and the ‘inferior’ masculinity of the female (low agency), but Jung himself was obviously still thinking within the patriarchal paradigm as, despite his insights into archetypal polarity, he conflated the feminine communal pole, which has been the co-carrier of consciousness through history, with nature, collectivity, a lack of intellectual development (oblivious of historical marginalization as contributive) and unconsciousness.

The foundational division within egoic consciousness is not the division between the self and the not-self specifically (the male mode) which inevitably gives rise to the subject/object Cartesian world view and structure of consciousness, but the division that exists in all of us between the agency and communion poles of our being. The two poles of the story of separation have tended to become subsumed within the masculine story and such conflations result in inadequate mappings of the relationship of the prepersonal and personal domains to the transpersonal dimensions. Western epistemic polarities are not direct enactments of this basic polarity but are dualities generated from one pole as it dominates, marginalizes and remains oblivious to the other. Hence, as the agentic subject longs to be rejoined with the alienated object or 'other', he longs for the impossible. Only by awakening to the archetypal polarity which subtends all the other polarities can the source of all dualisms be exposed.

For the male dominant or Promethean society, this means that the collectivity must now reclaim the marginalized and forcefully repressed feminine epistemology, must move to embrace and be embraced by the feminine in all its forms (see Tarnas quote above). This implies a process which essentially undermines the structure of the ego. In individual terms, this means that men (in general and to varied degrees) must now try to contact and awaken their communion, but it does not apply to women in precisely the same way since women were never full participants in society and still stand outside of the history that they inherit. Women are moving, optimally, to contact and develop their agency which in terms of social evolution, at first takes place through liberal feminism, then toward a more radical or deeper feminism which comes closer to grasping the archetypal fundaments of patriarchy.

The logic of the agentic principle, grounded as it is in distinction and separation, is that of 'either/or'. The logic of the communal principle, grounded as it is in connection and inclusion, is that of 'both/and'. However, the dialectic between these polar principles must be expressed at a meta-level—through either a meta-level 'Either/Or' or a meta-level 'Both/And'.2 Only in relative unconsciousness, or in super-consciousness, can an archetypal polarity manifest as anything other than a state of relative division and imbalance. It is in the nature of archetypal polar logic—e.g. the two-faces/one-vase gestalt picture—to appear in various degrees of 'either/or' unfolding between the 'both/and' ends of unconsciousness and superconsciousness.

The reason that the either/or logic of these poles goes the one way (male dominance) but not the other (female dominance) is that the generic division between agency and communion has a different characteristic within the essential polarities of men and women. With the slightest biological bias toward agency, as is the case with men, agency forcefully rejects and represses communion. On the other hand, with the slightest biological bias toward communion, as is the case with women, agency simply remains relatively undifferentiated or, through male oppression, actually prohibited for females to develop. But in all cases, agency and communion exist in 'either/or' relation. When agency and communion come into a both/and balance, where both poles can be held within the same consciousness, we are already moving beyond ordinary egoic consciousness. Where a person actually succeeds in bringing his or her agency and communion into a true balance, then one is already moving beyond ordinary egoic consciousness into the 'Return arc'.

The Outward and Return Arcs

The changing relations of these fundamental polar principles logically imply a topography of an upwardly spiralic 'Outward arc' and a 'Return arc' of development where self and matrix on an Outward arc of development (prepersonal and personal levels) are distinct, while on a Return arc they begin to interpenetrate. As we shall see, the astrological structure calls precisely for this sort of cyclic alternation. On the Outward arc, consciousness is possible only through a meta-level 'Either/Or' division, the distinction between an increasingly complex individual consciousness and collective unconsciousness, the distinction between the male perspective and the female perspective. This means that the direction of development of embodied consciousness on the Outward arc 'up' to the boundary of transpersonal development is skewed toward an increasing dominance of the archetypal (individual) agentic pole over the communal pole. Historically, the dominance of agency over communion has meant that the developmental path of patriarchal culture has rested on the suppression of half the human race and the 'other' epistemic pole. The Return arc—from the perinatal through the transpersonal—is characterized by a meta-consciousness where both the consciousness and the unconsciousness of the Outward arc (both together dialectically representing the evolutionary development of the psyche, not simply the individual and consciousness part) can be reconciled and held within the higher level awareness/space of an increasingly superconscious or meta-level 'Both/And'.

The need to integrate these gendered perspectives into any adequate model without rejecting the hierarchical features of development is recognized by the transpersonal theorist Donald Rothberg:

[A]ffirming the hierarchical ontology alone may be a one-sided and potentially dangerous mode of expression, stressing as it were, the more 'masculine' qualities of differentiation, ascension to the heights, activity and movement, and transcendence. What may be most needed...more...than a resumption of a classical hierarchical ontology alone, is an exploration of the corresponding, more 'feminine' qualities: integration and relationship, awareness of the 'ground', receptivity and openness, and immanence, the 'always already' quality of enlightenment and liberation. (p. 25,26)

It is precisely the integration of both these features that the astrological model will provide.

Situating Grof's Perinatal Domain in Answer to Wilber

The dynamics of the agentic/communal polarity of the individual psyche, social gender di-morphism in relation to this polarity (primarily agentic for males, primarily communal for females), the resultant socio-historical increasing emphasis on the agentic/male pole, and the marginalization into unconsciousness of communion and femaleness—this whole complex post-birth expression of the archetypal polarity is grounded in a prior and deeper enaction of the ontological and epistemological dynamic polar structure. The primary enactment of the fundamental dialectical polarity at the core of the Outward arc is the birth process.

The Outward arc is an agentic trajectory grounded in the separative event of birth, and is defined as an archetypal 'either/or' by the separation of consciousness as individual consciousness and unconsciousness, where unconsciousness is actually collective unconsciousness. The uniquely male experience of distinctive separation from the mother-matrix (through what Mahler termed the dyadic individuation-rapprochement crisis moving on to the triadic Oedipal resolution) meshes most naturally with the primary pre-gendered archetypal bias toward the agency pole established at birth. The Return arc begins with an awakening to those dimensions which were marginalized on the Outward arc, namely, the realms of the collective unconscious. It is defined by a 'both/and' interpenetration of individual consciousness and collective unconsciousness. Beyond this initial perinatal interpenetration, the Return arc is characterized, not simple by a joining of consciousness and unconsciousness, but by an archetypal integration of the agentic and communal poles—distinction and connection, the particular and the universal—rather than a simple subsumption of the individual within the universal or collective. At all levels of development, both self and matrix, both consciousness and unconsciousness, are ontologically present and dialectically interactive, just as the feminine, though marginalized, must be mapped at the same level as the masculine all the way up.

We need to understand that Grof's 'regression' process, even though it includes the biographical and original biological birth experience, takes place from the first levels of the transpersonal structure as much as we can say it opens into the transpersonal. Operating at a deep cellular level, the spiritually intentional ingestion of psychedelics or the practice of holotropic breathing, irrefutably access trans-egoic modes of cognition as effectively as various forms of deep meditation (though we can argue about relative levels of the transpersonal so accessed). The perinatal doorway is an embracing of the totality of the lower. But most significantly, the 'lower' which is thus embraced includes a lower that is more whole and total than the lower that was originally experienced by the developing self and whose archetypally prescribed limited perspective constituted the very core structure of that self. That which is embraced now includes what has been lying 'on the other side' of the original bifurcation, namely, the collective unconscious levels and the domain of the historically marginalized 'feminine' (i.e. that domain that is best 'participated' by the female connective way of knowing—what I have called the 'subject/subject' epistemology in distinction from the subject/object [male] epistemology).

This Grofian regression process is a 'coming from' the higher level of the heretofore unconscious communal pole which includes the collective unconscious — that which was 'other' to the developing self. (Remember, as Tarnas says above, "ontogeny not only recapitulated phylogeny but in some sense opened out into it.") From this higher level of the communal pole, there is a 'going-back-down' to a more 'complete' polarity-embracing, re-experiencing of the original biospheric holon in its agentic and communal, individual and collective poles; that is, a going 'down' to the holon before consciousness became structured through the division between the developing individual and the nature/mother/matrix, down to the original organism/matrix bifurcation of the birth process itself.

So rather than an infant returning to the matrix (a metaphor involving unequal poles as in Washburn's account), a more suitable metaphor is that of twins (equal poles), who separated at birth, are then re-united despite both developing separately into adults. In this way, our account of the re-union of the primal poles which necessarily involves the downward embrace, does not violate the pre-trans distinction because it is not a unity with an 'Ultimate Ground' which is claimed to have been present at birth and is now simply being consciously realized. The dynamic and collective unconscious 'matrix' is not the Absolute, the Void, the Ultimate Source. We are not asserting that the perinatal threshold is a re-uniting with the Ultimate Source (though it can lead to that), but a deep and necessary healing within the Outward arc's structures of being, embracing both self and world, a process that cannot occur by regressing back along the path of the outward arc. By reaching down to the ground through both agentic and communal spheres (not possible from the egoic and centauric perspectives), the core bifurcation can be healed all the way up and down: and this ground level includes the intrauterine and birth process itself. Such a process is precisely that which constitutes the higher level truly holarchic trans-egoic structure, that which Grof identifies as the threshold to the transpersonal lying between the existential 'centaur' and the transpersonal domains proper.

In the natural sequence of transpersonal experience, following the relative integration of Wilber's pre-transpersonal centaur, the perinatal level must come first. From the point of view of the Return arc, the underlying ontological unity (behind the epistemological differences) of each epistemologically differentiated structure on the Outward arc is transpersonally realized from the original ground up, which then takes us beyond the perinatal. Most emphatically, the perinatal experience is not merely an incidental accompaniment of transpersonal experience nor a personal regression back along the individual biographical line to awaken certain memories of birth which, as Wilber claims, just happen to be accompanied by transpersonal influxes. The perinatal domain is not simply a higher structure encountered by the 'integrated' centaur, but a realization of the conscious/unconscious nature of the 'lower' from the standpoint of the 'higher'. This lower includes the structures of the communal pole which were dialectically alienated on the Outward arc of development beginning with, and constellating around, the birth separation. Thence, the 'going back down', the downward embrace, is an embrace from the higher. It is not regressive in the ordinary sense since it does not retrace the biographical history (outward arc) of the self. As we enter the Return arc, it is through a transpersonal embrace that the deeply rooted dualisms and divisions can begin to be reconciled; the epistemic losses, which have dialectically occurred on 'the other side' of our most partial epistemic gains, are thus redeemed. It is a reclaiming of all the inevitably alienated dimensions of collective unconsciousness (laterally conceived at each developmental level of the outward arc). Any truly overarching model must be capable of illuminating such a journey and we will see how the astro-logical infrastructure—its quadrature and bi-polar cycles—provides the framework for such a conception.

Our story, clothed in the unconscious past, which can be opened only on the Return arc of the transpersonal domain, is indeed the story of primary separation from the matrix on a purely biological, physical and sensory level. Here is nothing other than the life/death boundary, a play of archetypal principles which cannot be adequately mapped in terms of a developmental logic such as Wilber's. The door in to incarnate existence is archetypally the same as the door out (death and/or transcendence) despite different epistemic levels. The particular epistemological situatedness of embodied consciousness, of every biological organism in relation to its environment, establishes the foundational perceptual organismically situated subject/object distinction long before the advent of the Cartesian modernist mental-ego. In the original birth process, the incarnating 'soul' is becoming identified with the particular human organism and its situatedness in time-space. The birth experience occurs from the point of view of the situated consciousness—the neophyte body-self in relation to the matrix (womb, mother, nature, other). Grof's model from BPM I to BPM IV is the story of the ten lunar month interface of disembodied consciousness and fully embodied consciousness.

In the relived perinatal, consciousness has expanded beyond the body-ego (and beyond the mental-ego grounded on the body-self) to include and embrace the matrix, a matrix to be ontologically mapped at the same level as the biologically-based self. The self/matrix split which constellated the consciousness of the Outward arc, cannot logically be experienced as an integrated whole until the Return arc, the trans-egoic domain. This settles the Wilber/Grof disagreement in favour of Grof. Although birth is a separation and a distinction, following birth, a new level of unconscious fusion sets in between infant and mother—that is, from the point of view of the infant. But the fact of birth constitutes the prototypical division that constellates the ensuing (either/or, agentic) individuation process of the Outward arc.

A differentiation takes place at birth, and then again through pre-personal developments after birth which are constellated by this primary distinction. This is as inevitable and developmental as it is painful—life, including birth, is suffering; hence, the particular difficult experiential qualities of the re-lived BPM II and BPM III. This pain carries through and is amplified at the mental ego level as alienation. Wilber's (1995, 751-753) criticism that Tarnas invalidly conflates differentiation with pain, separation and alienation just as Washburn invalidly equates the mental-ego with alienation, is not well taken, for Wilber is de-emphasizing the profound and radically constitutive nature of the primary core pain. This is the fundamental feeling/experience of the birth trauma that cannot be downplayed—it is the driving force for the formation of the body ego and later for transcendence of the mental-ego. It is this differentiation of birth—the organism/environment differentiation at the primal stages—which is the foundation of the mental-ego. The differentiation of the mind from the body, which according to Wilber constitutes the structure of the mental-ego, rests on this prior and deeper differentiation.

The Overarching Perinatal

I believe that the matrices holographically reflect and reveal, along the lines envisioned by Tarnas (see Chapter 3, quote.Tarnas 1991, 429-430), an overarching fourfold structure of human development and the evolution of consciousness. If so, it is necessary to situate them, not only as experientially accessible from their threshold position at the beginning of our Return arc (between the centaur and the transpersonal), but in relation to the whole sweep of the Outward and Return arcs. BPM I archetypally enframes the original relatively undifferentiated state in history, largely pre-individual and pre-self-reflexive. These archaic, magical, and mythic stages and structures are nevertheless marked by increasing developmental complexity and individuation. Both as the intrauterine state itself and as early prehistory, BPM I archetypally recapitulates animal history up to the dawn of humans.

BPM II, the painful onset of human birth itself, is implicated archetypally with the dualistic and uniquely human self-reflexive phase with its division, separation, alienation, and existential 'no-exit'. Together, BPM I & II constitute the Outward arc of development based on an organismically situated differentiation of consciousness and unconsciousness as an either/or interplay of bi-polar principles (individual/collective) which constitutes the structures.

BPM III refers archetypally to Grof's perinatal domain as a whole denoting the conscious journey inward and the dramatic and titanic encounter with the deeper 'underworld' dimensions. Presaged by traditional shamanic 'travelers', here is the stage that awaits us in our collective future opened for us by pioneers such as Grof as more and more people undertake the transformational journey deeply into themselves. The perinatal process as a whole which accesses all the matrices, but which as a stage lies between the centaur and the transpersonal domains proper, must be included in the overarching picture— a self reference necessary in any inclusive model to avoid the error of the detached 'bird's eye view' (Laplace's demon). It can be understood, both in the larger sense of Grof's psychotherapy (or any deep experiential therapy which opens into the transpersonal) and then in the more specific sense of breaking through from BPM II—the phase most archetypally resonant to our mental-egoic level and its entrapment in the subject/object epistemology—to the dynamic and heroic underworld journey.

So BPM III, which Wilber [1995, p. 586], in his misleading identification of the matrices with his threefold dynamic [fusion; differentiation; integration] conflates with the more dualistic and fixed BPM II, is precisely the one that archetypally resonates to the so-called spiral of return, that mobius-like dimensional feature that turns in upon itself beyond the linear trajectory of the ego, opening up into a multidimensional interconnected reality. Interestingly, this matrix uniquely produces the phenomenon of polar dialectical reversal revealing the ontological mutuality of victim and victimizer, sadist and masochist, thus capturing the inherent unity of the foundational polarities upon which all egoic identifications dualistically rest.

Finally, in overarching terms, BPM IV archetypally denotes the higher levels of the transpersonal which potentially open up beyond the High Subtle—namely, the Causal and the Ultimate Non-dual levels. BPM III and IV together constitute the increasingly integrative (though by no means smooth) Return arc where consciousness and unconsciousness interpenetrate as a 'both/and relation of the fundamental constitutive archetypal polar principles.

Toward an Astro-transpersonal Model

In chapter 1, I first situated transpersonalism in general relation to contemporary postmodern deconstruction which tends to reduce all mystical reports to conceptual and cultural constructions. I introduced three broad orientations within transpersonalism but have subsequently concentrated on two transpersonal paradigmatic orientations and identified and analyzed a pivotal disjunction between them. The third orientation mentioned in chapter 1 and exemplified in the work of Jorge Ferrer, a pluralistic perspective critical of perennialist universalism yet distinguished from postmodern relativism in its acknowledgment of the epistemic validity of transpersonal disclosures, will be addressed in chapter 22 in relation to the astro-transpersonal model we have by then constructed. We will look then at whether the model stands up to Ferrer's foundational critiques of perennialism and universalism. I believe that the astro-transpersonal model embodies certain of his insights and will answer some of his concerns. But the project of construction of a particular model—a particular metaphysical system—which is the substance of the present work will follow the general theoretical orientation of developmental stages and archetypal structures but do so from a more fluid and pluralistic perspective embodying Tarnas's articulation of multivalent archetypes and the participatory epistemology as articulated by Tarnas and Ferrer.

I've suggested some directions for a reconciliation of certain features of Wilber's hierarchical-perennialist perspective and Grof, Tarnas and Washburn's more neo-Jungian dialectical-depth perspectives specifically with respect to the perinatal threshold and the conscious/unconscious re-connection at trans-egoic (i.e. trans-centauric) levels. A certain procrustean 'Chinese box' quality of Wilber's model—its hierarchical perennialist infrastructure—inclines some, especially in the face of such evidence as Grof's, toward a more contextualist, non-hierarchical, and non-perennialist perspective. But we do not have to reject and flatten the ontological hierarchy in order to map the perinatal precisely where Grof places it—we only need to reconceive the vertical infrastructure in bi-polar dialectical terms as will be accomplished through our astro-transpersonal model.

Certain constitutive principles or foundational metaphors have been suggested as logically adequate to generate the deep self/world and individual/collective structures at all levels of evolutionary unfolding. Such a universalist or perennialist/dialectical model is based on the principle of a dynamic bi-polarity, resonant to the Taoist metaphysical concept of the yin and yang; a dialectical interplay of archetypal bi-polar principles—self and not-self, psyche and world, agency and communion, individual and collective, male and female, conscious and unconscious—informing the successive stages and structures of the development and evolution of consciousness. In this way we maintain an evolutionary and universalist conception of a movement from an original 'participation mystique' through a dualistic egoic structure, then on to increasingly profound experiences of 're-uniting' with the greater whole from the bottom up, a process of 're-uniting' conceived so as to not be in violation of the pre-trans distinction. Based on extensive experiential evidence, Stanislav Grof's account of the perinatal dimension helps break the impass between these models through its revelation of the holographic and non-linear nature of things, and through its central engaging of the life/death boundary and of the interpenetrative dynamic of conscious and collective unconscious structures.

I'll be interpreting the astrological framework broadly with reference to Wilber's general stages and structures including his later formulation of the "Four-Quadrant Model" for which I provided a brief outline at the end of chapter 3. At the same time our model incorporates Washburn's dynamic/dialectical depth dimension, though as we shall see, with an important modification of his concept of the Dynamic Ground. Grof's matrices are mapped as implicit (pre-manifest) within the picture. Astrological practice engages that which takes place ontogenetically after the first breath and philogenetically after the evolutionary emergence of consciousness. But as prenatal life can be seen to recapitulate pre-human consciousness, prehuman consciousness must be implicit in the cosmic picture at a prior level to the human at a strictly physiological and proto-emotional level. In chapter 17 we shall see how the matrices are implicit within and spread throughout the overall structure of the astrological map with its beginnings at the advent of single cellular life itself.

I believe that the nature of the fundamental dialectic between ego and 'ground', consciousness and unconsciousness, can be more adequately pictured by our astro-transpersonal model than by Washburn. Woven from the threads of numerous transpersonal insights and evolutionary accounts upon the framework of the twelve principles, the grand astrological narrative of the development of consciousness will hopefully reconcile some of the most intractable of contraries within divergent current perspectives.

Since the astrological map is always an inclusive and holistic picture, it defies description in exclusively psychological terms. Significantly, it does not carry the disclaimers of Jung or Washburn that its principles apply only to psyche and not necessarily to world. As an overarching archetypal model, the astrological mandala offers a synthesis of the psychological and the sociological, of ontogenesis and phylogenesis, of the abstract metaphysical and the concrete existential, of consciousness and nature, subjectivity and objectivity, the perennial and the relative, new science and transpersonal concepts, cyclic and evolutionary perspectives, hierarchic and bi-polar models.

Consciousness/world is an inseparable bi-polar structure so that when we speak of ego, we are simultaneously speaking of the context within which the ego exists. Not a static structure, this dynamic dialectical interaction between the ego and its world context unfolds in relation to the overarching 'Whole'. This dynamic polarity is confirmed 'all the way down' to the simplest organisms in the sense that complexity theory recognizes the co-evolution of both organism and environment 'all the way up'. (Varella, Laszlo, Jantsch). When the astrological theorist Dane Rudhyar originally described the grand cyclic process of the zodiac in terms of the polarity of the 'Day force' and the 'Night force,' (see chapter 6) he was referring to the interplay of the principles of individuation and collectivization, differentiation and integration, individual and social. In the larger context of both manifest and transpersonal dimensions, the foundational dialectic has also been articulated by Grof (1985) as a dynamic interface between two different modes of consciousness and experience, the 'hylotropic' (object/particle) and the 'holotropic' (field/wave).

An important feature of the theoretical model associated with the new therapeutic approach is the recognition that human beings show a strange paradoxical nature, sometimes manifesting properties of complex Newtonian-Cartesian objects, at other times those of fields of consciousness unlimited by time, space, and linear causality. From this vantage point, emotional and psychosomatic disorders of psychogenic origin are seen as expressions of a conflict between these two aspects of human nature. This conflict seems to reflect dynamic tension between two opposite universal forces: the tendency of undifferentiated, unified, and encompassing forms of consciousness toward division, separation, and plurality, and that of isolated units of consciousness to return to the original wholeness and unity. (p.374)

And Fritjof Capra writes,

Besides the complementarity of self-assertive and integrative tendencies, which can be observed at all levels of nature's stratified systems, living organisms display another pair of complementary dynamic phenomena that are essential aspects of self-organization. One of them, which may be described loosely as self-maintenance, includes the processes of self renewal, healing, homeostasis, and adaptation. The other, which seems to represent an opposing but complementary tendency, is that of self-transformation and self-transcendence, a phenomenon that expresses itself in the processes of learning, development and evolution. (p. 285)

Although the astro-transpersonal picture is in some ways more resonant to the dialectical view of Neumann or Washburn than it is to the more linear structuralist view of Wilber, it points to a significantly different way of understanding this dialectic. Washburn holds the fundamental dialectic to be between the ego and the Ground, the conscious and the unconscious, in an unequal bi-polarity (the Ground is a larger whole: the self, a particular and more limited entity). I agree with Washburn that the mental-ego necessarily rests upon a 'primal repression' and that the transcendence of the ego and the establishment of a higher integrated state is therefore possible only through a later opening to those dimensions which he (Washburn) refers to as the 'Ground'. (Such a deep opening to something like the 'ground matrix' at the threshold of the transpersonal levels is also in agreement with Grof). But the fundamental dialectic that brings forth the successive stage/structures is not the interactivity of ego and ground, but the interplay of the egoic self and the 'other', the interplay of the self and the world as self/other distinction and self/other connection seen in terms of its essential Janus-faced interiority/exteriority. The dynamic bi-polarity in our model differs from that pictured by Washburn and Neumann in that the ego's emergence from the Ground (the awakening of consciousness from out of the 'animal' state of predifferentiated unconsciousness) is being driven by the horizontal dialectic between the developing ego and its worlds (internalized self-object representations etc.), not by the vertical dialectic between the ego and the original Ground. I interpret this dialectical process as going through several repolarizations as the basis for each of four deep stage/structures or levels constituting the grand trajectory of human individual and collective historical development.


1. I leave discussion of the level of 'matter' (pre-biological levels) and the prehuman biological levels until chapter 19 where I speculatively outline what I believe is a more adequate overarching metaphor than the linear involution/evolution or emanation paradigm.
2. This avoids the tendency in some feminist thought, e.g. see Eisler (1987), to present the feminine connective mode as essentially 'higher' than the masculine assertive mode, rather than to see the integration of both principles as constituting the higher.
3. In chapter 20 I present arguments against the panpsychist or panexperientialist idea adopted by Wilber from Whitehead, Hartshorne, and Griffin which extends the interior/exterior distinction all the way down to the quantum level. I present an alternate theory of the mind/body or spirit/nature relation.

Continue to Chapter 5