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Pre/Trans Fallacy Zsuzsa Gaspar SevenPlus Forum February 2012. Introduction. One of Wilber's most important theoretical contributions to our understanding of the psychology of spirituality is called the "pre/trans fallacy" Also called Pre/Post Fallacy. Definition.

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  • One of Wilber's most important theoretical contributions to our understanding of the psychology of spirituality is called the "pre/trans fallacy"
  • Also called Pre/Post Fallacy
  • “The essence of the pre/trans fallacy is itself fairly simple: since both prerational states and transrational states are, in their own ways, nonrational, they appear similar or even identical to the untutored eye. (Ken Wilber: SEX, ECOLOGY, SPIRITUALITY)
  • “The PTF simply says: in any recognized developmental sequence, where development proceeds from pre-x to x to trans-x, the pre states and the trans states, because they are both non-x states, tend to be confused and equated, simply because they appear, at first glance, to be so similar. Prerational and transrational are both nonrational; preconventional and postconventional are both nonconventional; prepersonal and transpersonal are both nonpersonal, and so on. And once we confuse pre and trans, then one of two unfortunate things tends to happen: we either reduce transrational, spiritual, superconscious states to prerational, infantile, oceanic fusion (as did Freud); or we elevate infantile, childish, prerational states to transcendental, transrational, transpersonal glory (as the Romantics often did). We reduce trans to pre, or we elevate pre to trans. Reductionism is well-understood; elevationism was the great province of the Romantics.” (Introduction to the third volume of The Collected Works of Ken Wilber)
wilber combs lattice
Wilber-Combs Lattice



2. Tier



1. Tier


pre trans fallacy
Pre/Trans Fallacy

Two possible mistakes:












Are both NON-rational therefore they are confused and equated!



examples for reduction elevation
Examples for Reduction/Elevation
  • Freud (Reduction) – C. G. Jung (Elevation)
  • „Back to nature“ (Elevation)
  • Romantic views of history: „back to the past“ (Elevation)
  • A 6-month-old infant is in a pre-rational state, whereas the mystic is in a trans-rational state. If 'pre' and 'trans' get confused, some theorists say the infant is in a mystical state (Elevation)
  • Vietnam War protests (Elevation):
    • Assumption: people were very morally developed, worldcentric, for their protesting the war
    • Facts: There were psychological studies done at the time, and when examined the largest percentage of these individuals were coming from an egocentric level of values, not worldcentric.  So while they were in fact protesting the war, which was a good thing, they were actually doing it from a "nobody tells me what to do" core attitude
  • “In these reductionistic accounts, rationality is the great and final omega point of individual and collective development, the high-water mark of all evolution. No deeper or wider or higher context is thought to exist. Thus, life is to be lived either rationally, or neurotically (Freud's concept of neurosis is basically anything that derails the emergence of rational perception - true enough as far as it goes, which is just not all that far). Since no higher context is thought to be real, or to actually exist, then whenever any genuinely transrational occasion occurs, it is immediately explained as a regression to prerational structures (since they are the only nonrational structures allowed, and thus the only ones to accept an explanatory hypothesis).” (Wilber: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality)
  • “In the elevationist position, the transpersonal and transrational mystical union is seen as the ultimate omega point, and since egoic-rationality does indeed tend to deny this higher state, then egoic-rationality is pictured as the low point of human possibilities, as a debasement, as the cause of sin and separation and alienation. When rationality is seen as the anti-omega point, so to speak, as the great Anti-Christ, then anything nonrational gets swept up and indiscriminately glorified as a direct route to the Divine, including much that is infantile and regressive and prerational: anything to get rid of that nasty and skeptical rationality. "I believe because it is absurd" (Tertullian) - there is the battle cry of the elevationist (a strand that runs deeply through Romanticism of any sort).” (Wilber: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality)
what is transrational
What is transrational?
  • “As a stage of cognitive development or epistemology, the transrational involves the establishment of an abiding mode of interacting with the world, ordering experience, and acquiring or generating knowledge.  As such, it should not be confused with discrete altered state experiences which, in themselves, are questionable in terms of their capacity to deliver propositional knowledge.  Rather, it represents the evolution and integration of sophisticated human capacities for meaning-making, perspective-taking, and broad state access, with relevance to human well being functioning far beyond having access to transitory "mystical experiences.“
  • Goes beyond rational, transends but includes reason

=> To identify on wich level a person, community, movement operates it is important to look at the values (the motivation) behind the actions