Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Waking, Being, Dreaming, chapter two continued

Continuing from this post:

The referenced experiments showed that we tend to perceive a stimulus when there is a peak in a brain wave cycle, and not so when it hits a trough. I.e, much like the much longer waking and sleeping cycle, brain wave cycles that happen in milliseconds have a similar effect on perception. These experiements support the hypotheis of discrete, phasic moments. This holds true even for sustained attention of the meditative type. It's true that such meditative focus increases our ability to sustain attention, yet it is not continuous and alternates in millisecond intervals consistent with brain wave function.*

Further studies showed that adept meditators have better access and discernment to shorter millisecond stimuli. That is, there training allowed them to not only perceive stimulation of shorter duration, which non-meditators could do unconsciously, but to conscious report on and process it with the other 'aggregates.' Thus our experience is what we attend to, and meditation increases to what we can attend. But it's a long stretch to say that we can attend to all of reality per se and know it directly and fully given heightened and developed attentional skill.

What happens during the gaps? How do organize the gaps and the perceptions into a continuous whole? How does this affect changes in consciousness from waking, dreaming and deep sleep? Theravada posited that there were active and passive forms of consciousness, and that the latter type were present in deep sleep and the gaps between perception. It can also retain or store experience from its active complement. But like brain waves, this passive consciousness alternates with the active and the two forms are not present simultaneously. Yogacara adds an afflicted ego-consciousness to the process. The I projects its own desires onto the storehouse consciousness giving the illusion of a permanent and static entity. It also creates the subject-object duality, as if both were enduring and independent of the other. The ego sees a continual process whereas there are only the fleeting and discrete moments noted earlier.

At this point Thompson distinguishes between transitive consciousness, which takes an object, and intransitive, which is an overall creature consciousness distinguished from unconsciousness and not dependent on an outside object. It's what's available to the whole range of one's experience. There is also self-consciousness, how it feels to be the owner of experience. As we've seen above, Yogacara sees this as an illusion. Thompson will explore this topic later, showing that while the ego-sense is not static or permanent it is not an illusion. However the Yogacara view does open the discussion to this passive, more global background consciousness that permeates the different transitive states, as well as how the sense of self arises and conditions our experience. Neuroscience is approaching the same distinctions from another angle.

Future chapters focuses more on the intransitive creature consciousness, and how it and the sense of self changes in waking, dreaming, deep sleep and meditation. The next chapter is on pure awareness, one of my favorite topics.

*An image occurred to me when reading this, that of the bar code on all products and with which we're all familiar.

Our perception operates digitally, on and off. The off is the spaces or gaps between perceptions (akin to Spencer-Browns unmarked spaces). And yet we can organize the perceptions and the gaps into a coherent, meaningful whole via brain synchrony. Granted those wholes are not final or metaphysical assholons, but are open to revision and progressive development. There are even gaps between the wholes, which gaps are considered in cross-(whole)paradigm Multipli City. Multipli City is indeed a 'universal' kosmic address, but that address is itself multiple, dependent and contextual.

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