“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

Transpersonal Intersubjectivity

I’ve just been reading Christopher Bache’s book “Dark Night, Early Dawn,” and he, not unlike Christian de Quincey in his book “Radical Nature,” argues that the interpersonal and collective dimensions of spiritual experience have been paid too little attention. Taking intersubjectivity into consideration requires a return to our embodied experience as beings embedded in a world among others.

They both recognize the tendency for New Age thinkers to reject the atomistic/mechanistic model of nature and in the very next breath operate within the same Cartesian paradigm to explain how the individual soul exists apart from and survives the death of the material body. Bache describes the transpersonal experiences generated by his psychdelic practice (and the collective testimony of thousands of other practitioners) to argue for an understanding of the soul not as a private and distinct personality whose essence might change bodies like clothing, operating independently of some form of energetic embeddedness in an environment (ie, a body), but as that inner aspect shared by all embodied forms that is itself formless. Ultimately, there is one body, one organism: the cosmos itself.

Bache does not deny reincarnation, however. He just points out that it has both temporal and spatial dimensions. Temporal reincarnation involves the continuous passing on of some form of experience from lifetime to lifetime. Spatial reincarnation involves the simultaneous sharing of a transpersonal level of experience between still living organisms.

For there to be a truly post-modern transpersonal theory (ie, a transpersonal reformulation of the Modern ontology separating mind from matter as two entirely distinct substances), we need to develop a system of thought and means of lingusitic expression that recognizes the inherent interpenetration of spirit with matter. We are not ghosts in machines, but conscious organisms arising out of and returning to a single formless field of potential.

On a practical level, a post-atomistic transpersonal theory (or spiritual worldview) requires recognizing the co-arising nature of one’s identity. Enlightenment is not a solitary, but a collective achievement–in the same way that your consciousness is not an immaterial ghost in possession of a physical body, but the cooperative unification of trillions of cells. An individual person may realize their essential oneness with all that is in a moment of private revery, but to participate with the rest of the species in the continual unfolding of time, they must acquiesce to the general drift of the group movement, even if they attempt to persuade it toward peace and beauty. Otherwise they risk cruxification, which may be an option for some. The point remains that karma is collective. Transcending it is a social as much as an individual task.






2 responses to “Transpersonal Intersubjectivity”

  1. Riaan Avatar

    “we need to develop a system of thought and means of lingusitic expression that recognizes the inherent interpenetration of spirit with matter.” – Do you think that David Bohm’s Rheomode would classify as such an attempt?

    1. Matthew David Segall Avatar

      I definitely appreciate what Bohm was trying to do by moving us into a verb-based language. I’m a process thinker myself, though more influenced by thinkers like Whitehead and Schelling than Bohm. I suppose my only reservation is that losing track entirely of what we normally indicate with the use of nouns might backfire, as even though everything is in process and in relationship with everything else, there are what Whitehead called emergent “societies” of processes that develop a relative autonomy from their environment. Certainly the autonomy of an enduring society of processes or events (like a living organism, for example) remains embedded in its environment and open to energy flows beyond itself. But I wonder if referring to such an organism as a verb rather than assigning it a proper noun (that is, a name) might end up doing more harm than good? Might we not still use nouns as a way of marking the unique individuality of a process or society of processes without mistaking such a designation for some kind of substance that could be removed from its context and still remain what it is? I just worry that switching to an entirely verb-based consciousness might lead to us running rough shod over individuals for the sake of some larger abstract whole or encompassing process.

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