Thursday, August 28, 2014

Some postmetaphysical thoughts on states & stages

From an IPS Facebook discussion:

That last paragraph [referring to some of the Lingam's comments on excerpt G] is similar to what I've been saying in the fold thread. That the subtle, causal and nondual states are basically the result of meditative training, which accesses and integrates the usual dreaming and deep sleep states. I.e. using the states already available to consciously witness and integrate them. Although in my case the fulcrum between pre/trans is the synthetic ego which does the witnessing and integrating! I know, heresy.

Starting at the end of p. 2 in the fold thread Engler said: "The first point I wanted to make [...] was that it takes certain ego capacities just to practice meditation or any spiritual practice. [...] Psychologically, this kind of practice [vipassana] strengthens fundamental ego capacities, particularly the capacities for self-observation and affect tolerance. It also increases the synthetic capacity of the ego. [...] 'Transcending the ego' [...] has no meaning to a psychodynamically oriented therapist for whom 'ego' is a collective term designating the regulatory and integrative functions" (36).
On p. 3 Engler goes on to note that some forms of meditation uncover psychodynamic processes but that in itself doesn't facilitate insight into them. The meditative traditions often discourage working with such contents, instead seeing them as manifestations of delusion (43-4). It seems the same is thought of the 'ego' when seen as just an illusion (bathwater), hence little effort was put into its other and non-illusory aspects (baby) necessary for healthy functioning.

In discussing a non-dual state he said "the ego functions as a synthetic principle without organizing experience around a self" (58). This section also reminds me of Damasio's different selves and Thompson's use of that work. On 68 he talks about how we access no self via meditation, how we observe the actual process of constituting our self representation from moment to moment. Through this we see the self is not only constructed but requires continual reconstruction from one moment to the next via memory. This process, as I suggested, goes 'back' or 'deeper': "The nanas or 'stages of insight' in vipassana practice actually represent progressively earlier stages in the entire sequence of information processing, pattern recognition, and conceptualization by which we bring a self and a representational world into being each instant" (68).

Recall Epstein's work: "The development of mindfulness...involves a 'therapeutic split in the ego' in which the ego becomes both subject and object, observer and observed. […] Advanced stages of insight meditation involve profound experiences of dissolution and fragmentation, yet the practitioner, through the practice of 'making present,' is able to withstand these psychic pressures. It is the ego, primarily through its synthetic function, that permits integration of the experience of disintegration. In true egolessness, there could be only disintegration, and such a state would manifest as psychosis. […] Thus, mindfulness is not a means of forgetting the ego; it is a method of using the ego to observe its own manifestations."

Wilber also asserts that it is the self-system (aka ego) that integrates all of the various aspects of psyche. (See for example his "outline of an integral psychology," particularly page 22.) And that a strong, healthy ego is prerequisite to take such a journey into transpersonal nonduality, lest the trip be into psychotic dissociation. But again, Wilber is a mixed bag here, often framing such transpersonal integration within traditional views and their own confusions, particularly with reference to states.

To clarify, according to Cook-Greuter (CG) and others the ego itself has stages. The synthetic ego function appears at all of its stages. My guess all along has been that it takes at least a formal operational cognitive level per Piaget, which is closely correlated to Cook-Greuter's conscientious (or achiever) ego stage and Spiral Dynamics orange stage. This is where the abstract ego stabilizes and can take a 3rd person perspective on itself, which is in both Engler and Epstein's descriptions above. I claim that this is the witness of meditative awareness, hence it is historically that such traditions emerged when this stage of ego development was also emerging. It might even have been CG's self-conscious (expert) stage, when the 3rd person perspective first appears.

As noted, the term 'ego' has many different meanings depending on the context. I'm using it in the context of developmental research. Even there the ego has different levels. There's body ego and emotional ego and rational ego. It is the last to which I refer when I speak of the synthetic ego. The first two egos also function integratively, hence the general 'synthetic' function. But it's at the rational egoic level that we consciously begin to integrate the previous egos, or ipseity, as Thompson calls it. Hence we get researchers from a lot of different paradigms noting a different kind of development going on around the rational egoic level. The Spiral Dynamic folks call it second tier, which in their model has this tier as a higher octave above the first tier, is some ways reiterating it but with a different focus. We see the same with Levin's work, where we spiral back down to more consciously integrate the previous levels. We see it in Gebser's work, where the integral-aperspectival does the same. So this is why I use the rational ego as that fulcrum into the second tier. Only in this case the second tier means consciously integrating the previous state-stages you're talking about in this thread through meditative discipline.

As I noted in the fold thread, one can go second tier in this definition but still have a first tier, metaphysical view. The postmetaphysical view could also be considered a different kind of second tier in terms of cognitive development. So we can and do have those who are second tier in terms of cognitive development but not in terms of conscious state-stage development via meditation. And also those who are in terms of state-stage development but not in terms of cognitive development. These two 'lines,' if you will, are not the same. But both indeed require the rational ego to go second tier. That's why I use it as the fulcrum between pre/trans as well as between formal and postformal. But note that different aspects of the rational ego are highlighted and utilized for each of those two lines.

And of course there are some who go second tier in both lines, but that is a very nascent development and at this point there is much legitimate debate as to its meaning and definition. Hence places like this forum, where we explore and iron out those details. We're still infants in this process. That's why I agree with some researchers that the so-called second tier cognitive developments like systemic, meta-systemic, paradigmatic and cross-paradigmatic might be more lateral extensions of formal logic so place them laterally on the Wilber-Combs lattice where the states are usually placed. And the states are then placed above the formop level, not at higher cognitive stages but as the folded and consciously integrated earlier, preconscious levels.

A quick PS. One reason I put the MHC definitions of postformality as horizontal extensions of formal operations is because, as I've explored in depth in the IPS real/false reason thread, they still have the same metaphysical attachments as formop. I use the metaphysical-postmetaphysical line to differentiate formal from postformal cognitive operations. And it's not just me; there's a lot of supporting research I used in several above mentioned IPS threads.

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