Pre- and Trans- Rational

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Integral Studies, Religion

I came across a great little story in an article a few days ago.  It was an interview with a Native American elder down in the South-West.  When asked about the danger of uranium he responded by saying that the uranium did not want to be brought up from under the Earth.  It wanted to remain below the Earth and that’s why it was angry and harmed the things around it.

Assuming that he wasn’t being metaphorical, any anthropologist and Integral Theorist would describe the comment as anthropocentric and anthropomorphic.  In simpler terms the elder is engaging in a pre-rational, mythic view of the uranium which attributes human qualities, desires and motives to an inanimate mineral.  It treats the uranium as if it is a thinking thing, which would be a non-rational thing to do.

The truth of the matter is, though, that regardless of the pre-rational nature of the comment, it is still pretty good advice.  The basic understanding that uranium is dangerous when brought to the surface is still valid.  Furthermore, as Jensen points out in the article, the metaphorical understanding that mining uranium disturbs the balance of nature is also a valid observation.

Generalizing this idea, it has made me a little more appreciative and understanding of some of the spiritual and religious ideas that surround us.  Specifically, in my own training, which is related to Native American Shamanism, and which I’ve developed more skepticism towards in the past few years as I’ve developed a better understanding of Integral Spiritual Theory,  I’ve come to understand that some of the things I’ve learned may very well have been presented at a pre-rational, mythic or even magical level by the teacher, but that this does not necessarily invalidate the essence of the teaching.  The skills were presented at the level of the teacher, and perhaps also the student (at the time).  Certain skills relating to healing and appealing to spiritual entities, may indeed seem to be pre-rational in nature, but have a totally valid trans-rational, metaphoric counterparts in non-dual states of mind.

Similarly, certain beliefs in traditional Christianity, such as transmutation in a mass or the immaculate conception may be concepts that were presented and understood at a pre-rational level by either the shepherd or the sheep.  Literally, the ideas may be very non-rational, but may have trans-rational  counterparts that are still very significant in a metaphorical understanding.

…Sorry, this is me muddling through some thoughts over the past few days and trying to articulate them.  I think it’s still a work in progress…

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