The transpersonal is not the pre-personal
Ken Wilber (Wilber, 1995) paid constant attention on distinguishing between transpersonal and pre-personal, the last being the result of the infancy of conscience.
In his turn, Grof (Grof 2000) distinguishes between a lower subtle level and a higher subtle level. In his articulate discussion about what he calls ‘the pre/trans mistake’, Wilber (Wilber,1995) refers to Hegel and Aurobindo, to Aristotle and Teillhard de Chardin to define the evolutional direction of the world, along a line that goes from the lower to the higher levels of organization, characterized by an increasing degree of complexity and awareness.
According to Hegel and more in general to perennial philosophy, the history of evolution is that of the spirit self-realization, “the process through which the Spirit knows itself in the form of Spirit.”(5) Hegel describes it in a sequence of three stages of development, unwinding through the levels of nature, humanity and divine. These three stages overlap with those that Wilber defines from a psychological point of view: pre-personal, personal and transpersonal. The pre-personal or unconscious is what Hegel defines as the nature stage, in which the Spirit self denies the level of the physical sensations and perceptions in matter. The personal is the phase in which the spirit goes back to the spirit, overcoming self-denial through self-awareness. It is the place of the “I”, of the mental, rational conscience. The transpersonal is, in Hegel’s model, the level in which the spirit discovers itself to be spirit, the place of the divinity, the super-conscious.
As the pre-personal and transpersonal are both not personal, their manifestations can be easily mistaken, being similar.
Wilber describes two kinds of mistakes frequently made: reducing the transpersonal to the pre-personal, and elevating the pre-personal to the transpersonal. The first one derives from the mechanistic vision of science, the second from the description of the world made by the orthodox religions.
The transpersonal is not the extra personal
Investigating the difference between transpersonal contents and extra personal contents the borderline seems to locate on the edge of the sacred. This means that different phenomena, apparently similar, are expressions of different levels of conscience.
Phenomena such as telekinesis, levitation, radioestesis, radionic, fakirism, work with crystals, extra sensorial perceptions, walking on fire, the action of the mind on the body and so on are utterly extra-personal. While the experience of the self, of the super-conscious, the contact with superior archetypes, as well as intuition, creativity, mystic experiences, spiritual healings, the experience of subtle energies and certain phenomena of trans-identification, of embodiment and of “past lives” are transpersonal.
The Transpersonal is not New Age
The last decades of the twentieth century have been characterized by the outburst of the New Age phenomenon, particularly in music, in literature and in healing methods with an esoteric or spiritual bend.
The culture of which all this is expression of is often superficial, irrational and fideistic (believing unquestioningly). It is usually directed at a mass consumer market, in which people do not really want to know who they are and are simply looking for easy and effortless solutions.
Healing or spiritual achievements are often offered in the same simple way used to achieve success and riches, while emphasis is put on the positive aspects and a guaranteed result. Sacrifice, care and a critical mind are usually left aside.
The transpersonal vision does not contrast reason but transcends it with the intuition that includes it. It does not exclude the shadow, but rather gives suggestions on how to contact and know it; it does not ask for a blind acceptance but offers models of validation of the inner experience. It is not looking for proselytes and neither does it promise shortcuts to heaven; it is not for everybody, but only for those who are willing to take a long and difficult journey towards their own true nature. It does not have an antiscientific, fideistic attitude; it rather works in favor of the widening of scientific methods and their fields of action.
The Transpersonal is not a religion
The transpersonal movement does not view itself as a religious movement or as an alternative to the religious doctrines and the organized spiritual traditions. Rather, it studies and tries to favor the religious experience, that is, the inner experience of the Self. Its fields of interest are not dogmas, beliefs or revealed truths, but are the more truly human qualities and the instruments used to awaken them.
In other words, it deals with the ways through which each one can achieve a personal religiosity and with the related problems.