Friday, January 2, 2015

Waking, Being, Dreaming, chapter one

Continuing from this post:

He sets the stage with an ancient dialogue in the Upanishads. Our consciousness is the 'light' of knowledge of both the outer (gross, waking) and inner (subtle, dreaming) worlds. There is also a third state, that of dreamless sleep. Consciousness remains yet without any objects, inner or outer. It is a restful and peaceful state. And yet there is a fourth, not technically a state, just pure (causal) awareness that sees through and underlies all the other states.

The sacred syllable OM (AUM) represents and enacts the three states above via its intonation. The silence before and after the intonation, and/or the integration of all the syllables, is the fourth, “the nondual source of the phenomenal universe that's also identical to the transcendent self” (11). This is consciousness per se in kennilingus, the Self as pure awareness and cause of all phenomenon. In the continuing Upanishad tale mentioned above, this consciousness goes on after physical death and is reborn anew, until such time as we give up all desire and rebirth to dwell as one “with the infinite ground of all being” (13).

With the stage set in this mythic tale, apparently the first known map of consciousness, Thompson now proceeds to dive deeper. He starts by defining consciousness as “that which is luminous and has the capacity of knowing” (13). I.e., its luminosity reveals or makes manifest that which appears to perception, while its knowing means the ability to apprehend what appears. These qualities of consciousness express through all the states mentioned above, as well as meditative states. To explain how this is so he distinguishes three aspects of consciousness: awareness, its contents and how this relates to a self.

But wait, there is another quality to consciousness: reflexiveness. In the process of lighting and apprehending objects it reflexively lights itself. And yet it is pre-reflective, before reflection or introspection. Which reminds me of this statement from the Thompson thread:

"But whereas the Advaitin takes this minimal selfhood to be a transcendental witness consciousness, I think itʼs open to us to maintain that it is my embodied self or bodily subjectivity, or what phenomenologists would call my pre-personal lived body. In this way, I think we can remove the Advaita conception of dreamless sleep from its native metaphysical framework and graft it onto a naturalist conception of the embodied mind."

So it remains to see how he'll apply what other paradigms reveal about this apparently transcendent and metaphysical consciousness that is source for all phenomenon as a more naturalist conception. Especially so in light of a comment in prologue on taking phenomenal experience of said consciousness by adepts steeped in such metaphysical traditions as evidence in itself. In that regard it would be enlightening (excuse the pun) to read kela's thread on mystical empiricism.

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