Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dynamic systems approaches

Continuing the discussion at IPS:

In my research I found an ebook called Continental Philosophy of Science and started a thread elsewhere in this forum. Therein I quoted from a chapter on Deleuze which is relevant here so it is copied below:

"Deleuze reads differential calculus not as a pragmatic matter of using differential equations to discover the slope of a particular function at a particular point. Rather, he sees in the differential an entire ontology of difference that can actualize itself into various functions and, consequently, specific curvilinear patterns" (247).

"In the later collaboration between Deleuze and Guttari, the writings of Ilya Prigogine become increasingly important. Prigogine, whose book La nouvelle alliance appeared in 1979, argues for a self-ordering of chemical components into patterns and relationships that cannot be read off from the previous state of chemical disarray.... It is not the introduction of some sort of ordering mechanism that makes the chemical clock appear. It is an inherent capability of the chemicals themselves for self-organization that gives rise to this phenomenon. It is as though there were virtual potentialities for communication or coordination contained in the chemicals themselves, or at least in their groupings, that are actualized under conditions that move away from equilibrium. As Manuel De Landa notes, in an echo of Deleuze’s treatment of Spinoza, ‘Matter, it turns out, can express itself in complex and creative ways, and our awareness of this must be incorporated into any future materialist philosophy'" (247).

Dynamic systems remind me of Henri Bortoft from our previous discussion here. Here's an except from that relevant to many of the comments in this thread:

'Bortoft distinguishes between two types of wholeness: the counterfeit and the authentic whole. Both notions of wholeness are based on different faculties of cognition. The counterfeit whole is based on the intellectual mind abstracting from concrete sensual perception. That is, the mind is moving away from the concrete part to get an overview. The result leads to an abstract and non-dynamic notion of the whole. In contrast, the authentic whole is based on a different cognitive capacity, the intuitive mind that is based on opening some higher organs of perception. The intuitive mind is moving right into the concrete parts in order to encounter the whole. This encounter leads to perceiving the dynamic and living multiplicity of the whole.

'The distinctions between the two types of whole (the counterfeit and the authentic) correspond to two cognitive capacities (the intellectual mind and the intuitive mind) and to two notions of generalization (the abstracting general versus the concretizing universal) which are at the heart of Bortoft's work.

'Says Bortoft (1998, 285): “We cannot know the whole in the way in which we know things because we cannot recognize the whole as a thing. … The whole would be outside its parts in the same way that each part is outside all the other parts. But the whole comes into presence within its parts, and we cannot encounter the whole in the same way that we encounter the parts. We should not think of the whole as if it were a thing.”

'Bortoft claims that we can not know the whole in the way in which we know a thing, because the whole is not a thing. Thus, the challenge is to encounter the whole as it comes to presence in the parts. Says Bortoft (1998, 284):

“If the whole presences within its parts, then a part is a place for the presencing of the whole. … a part is special and not accidental, since it must be such as to let the whole come into presence. This specialty of the part is particularly important because it shows us the way to the whole. It clearly indicates that the way to the whole is into and through the parts. It is not to be encountered by stepping back to take an overview, for it is not over and above the parts, as if it were some superior all-encompassing entity. The whole is to be encountered by stepping right into the parts. This is how we enter into the nesting of the whole, and thus move into the whole as we pass through the parts.

* * *

As in dynamic systems the parts have an inherent capability (the "whole") for self organization that rearrange themselves into new organizational patterns during disequilibrium. But this new (and temporary) equilibrium, while still containing the parts, isn't of itself a new "whole" that included the former wholes a la cognitive models of hierarchical complexity (the counterfeit whole of Bortoft).

I'm reminded of Wilber's differentiation of enduring and transitional structures (that we've discussed here), where the former are transcended and included while the later are transcended and replaced. It seems he had the gist of the above but that it only applied things like worldviews, values and other self-related lines. He still maintained though that the actual cognitive structures were of the enduring kind. 

Here's an excerpt from "Dynamical systems hypothesis in cognitive science":

"It should be acknowledged that the most widespread conceptualization of the mechanism of human cognition is that cognition resembles computational processes, like deductive reasoning or long division, by making use of symbolic representations of objects and events in the world that are manipulated by cognitive operations (typically serially ordered) which might reorder or replace symbols, and draw deductions from them. This approach has been called the computational approach and its best-known articulation is the physical symbol system hypothesis (Newell and Simon, 1972). The theoretical framework of modern linguistics (Chomsky, 1965) also falls within this tradition....the traditional approach hypothesizes that all processes of cognition are accomplished by computational operations that manipulate digital representations in discrete time. The mathematics of such systems is based on an abstract algebra dealing with the manipulation of strings and graphs of distinct symbol tokens. Indeed, Chomsky's work on the foundation of such abstract algebras (Chomsky, 1961) served as a theoretical foundation both for computer science and cognitive science, as well as modern linguistic theory."

Compare to this statement by Commons:

"Lastly, in the early 1960s, many others’ work (e.g., Krantz, Luce, Suppes, and Tversky, 1971; Suppes, Krantz, Luce, and Tversky, 1989; Luce, Krantz, Suppes, and Tversky, 1990) introduced the representational theory of measurement. It is the basis for the Model of Hierarchical Complexity" (315).

Here are some interesting excerpts comparing different schools of cognitive science: classical, connectionist, pragmatist, reductionist. From “Intertheory relations in cognitive science” by Jesus Ezquerro (in CRÍTICA, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía. Vol. 36, No. 106, April 2004: 55–103):

"Functional properties have a mathematical nature, and the classical view takes algorithms as the best
way to capture them, because algorithms are specially apt to describe state transitions between formal, discrete, symbol-like representational structures. In this sense, an algorithm would be constituted by a set of formal rules that operate on representations. Yet, algorithm theory is only a part of mathematics. Other mathematical descriptions may be able to account for that intermediate level between mental and physical properties....level-2 explanations are not necessarily algorithmic but they admit of a different sort of mathematics, such as dynamic systems theory.

"The classical view, Horgan and Tienson contend, entails that cognitive functions have to be specifiable by means of general laws about cognitive states. These laws are realized in particular cognitive transitions, which can be specified by rules on the algorithmic level, so a computation can be determined. However, if there are no such general laws, then the cognitive function will not be tractably computable. In fact, they argue, this is the actual situation in cognitive functions (73).

"Connectionist systems could be thus characterized in this mathematical framework: their transitions do not generally conform to algorithmic relations but can be captured by dynamic mathematics (74-5).

"It might be that our mental life can better be modeled by means of dynamic systems mathematics, as Horgan and Tienson contend, instead of algorithmic operations" (77).

Monday, October 25, 2010

More on measuring altitude

The below are posts continuing in the IPN thread @ IPS:


In Balder's new thread on kosmic addressing I was reminded on our previous discussion in the "status of states" thread. Therein I provided an alternative explanation for what is going on in the so-called causal emptiness experience. I will copy some excerpts below:

"Here are some excerpts from New Developments in Consciousness Research by Vincent Fallio (Nova, 2007). For me it indicates that so-called 'spiritual' states of consciousness probably arise in very early levels of consciousness and associated brain structures. Hence there is a very real sense in which 'primordial' awareness is ancient, in that it arises from these early brain structures. But it is not timeless or absolute; it is grounded in our psychoneurophysiology.

"The excerpts:

'…we think it appropriate to consider that consciousness is not something unitary but that it has several levels of complexity, and that these levels have been forming ontogenically and philogenetically.

'On a lower level can be found the state of alertness or of being conscious, which refers to a basic level of consciousness or matrix as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. This aspect of consciousness is clearly related to the concept of tonic attention, and is also related to neural mechanisms in the stimulatory reticular system, the thalamus, the limbic system, basal ganglia, and the prefrontal cortex (81).

'[It is] a basic level of consciousness as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. In this sense awareness could be related to a tonic or basic attention; it is therefore important to realize that this type of consciousness should be understood as a 'condition for' and not so much as a function or cognitive process. As a result of this it can be affirmed that this notion of consciousness, this state of being aware, is a state that does not contain information' (68).

Your contentless, nonconceptual awareness in a nice postmetaphysical package. Also see the other excerpts in the kosmic addressing thread, on how the ego-witness is used to observe and integrate the process of unwinding back down to this 0 level of complexity.

A point of clarification. As I explored in the "real and false reason" thread, there is no inherently existing self a la Buddhism. Even the conventional self otherwise known as ego, while we can measure something of its altitude, is not a monolithic, consistent entity that permanently resides at the same altitude. Some of the research referenced in that thread makes clear this "self" is all over the place at different times and in different contexts. And it can, and often is, in itself "split," i.e., at different levels depending on particular issues. So while Wilber can be postmeta on some issues and still retain metaphysical notions on others is not a criticism of him personally but rather just acknowledging this phenomena in all of us. It takes a community to point this out to each other specifically how we do so in particular instances.

For example, see Fischer’s chapter in the Handbook of Developmental Psychology wherein he says:

"There is no single level of competence in any domain" (494).

And this:

"Dynamically, adult cognitive development moves forward, backward, and in various other directions. It forms a dynamic web, and even each separate strand is dynamic (and fractal), not a linear ladder" (508).

"The wisdom and intelligence of an adult cannot be captured by one developmental level, one domain, one pathway or one direction" (512-13).

So much for CPS as the single, unifying measure of altitude. Fisher, by the way, indeed makes ample use of hierarchical complexity for measuring altitude. He just seems to de-substantialize (post metaphysicalize) it.

* Kurt Fisher et al, “Adult cognitive development in Handbook of Developmental Psychology (Sage Publications, 2003).


Yes, I think that does really problematize the CPS notion. Even the notion of consciousness as a quality-less, empty, insubstantial clearing which yields greater or lesser degrees of "depth" is not really coherent, on its own terms. How can something empty, insubstantial, and "without quality" be any more or less deep (or high)? You've got to smuggle in "substance," quality, and reification, to some degree, to even speak in those terms, it seems to me.

IMO, the "spectrum" line could still be a useful "dipstick" if it is used as a device for correlating similar systems, but only if you avoid the metaphysical step of identifying that device with (or as) the "essence" of the human subject.


And the other side of that coin is of course the Platonic, objective and contentless math of the MHC. Its still a metaphysical view not realizing that math itself is an enacted view-practice. L&J pretty much deconstructed that myth while still retaining the highly pragmatic value of its measuring stick.

And as all men know, their own dipstick has varying height, breadth and depth depending on context. So much more so for their fragile ego.

 Since I'm on a Fisher kick I want to reference his article "Dynamic development" in The Cambridge Companion to Piaget (CUP, 2009). Talking about Piaget he says:

"The problem of classic concepts of structure is that they treat structure as form--an abstraction existing in its own right--instead of dynamic organization that emerges as the components organizing themselves together."

He uses the example of how an orange is dynamically organized and then says:

"In contrast to the orange itself, the concept of sphere is an abstract form that describes one characteristic of the dynamic structure--its shape--which applies across many situations. The Greek philosopher Plato suggested that these abstract, idealized forms actually exist in an arena beyond the physical world. The uniformity of the sphere concept makes it useful for characterizing many objects" (402).

He goes on to note that the neo-Piagetian movement intends to retain Piaget's core insights like hierarchical development sans the "universal structures of formal logic" (403). Like the nondual pragmatic approach, "psychological activities do not exist outside of activity--like the concept of sphere--but instead they arise from action systems embedded [embodied] in what people do on a daily basis" (403). However he does emphasize that one element in going post-Piaget is "mathematical modeling" (401), so we'll hopefully see how he uses this measuring stick not as an ideal, Platonic form a la Commons or Wilber. Or even if he can avoid using it as a more conventional "universal structure of formal logic," the criticism of L&K when it comes to set theory, the foundation of mathematical, hierarchical complexity.

Here's what I'm not getting, yet. Fisher notes the difference between the abstraction "circle" from the dynamic process of an orange. And that the former is based on a universal structure of formal logic, hence it missed all of the other characteristics and relationships in the orange by reducing it to one abstract characteristic. Nonetheless mathematical modeling is used to measure altitude in any particular domain. While Fisher will allow the variability of altitude due to this messy process of a living thing, nonetheless from what I've read the altitude stick devised from nested formal operations (aka hierarchical complexity) is never examined. As I demonstrated in the real and false reason thread, this mathematical model is based on set theory, and what goes into each mathematical set is indeed just an abstract portion of any given living "part" that it represents, which then is nested within a larger set (part-whole aka holon), etc. As Fisher admits, such living parts themselves do not fit into any abstract category (set) and yet they can be measured with math that does exactly that? I certainly get the idea that lower skills are needed to build on more complex ones but something is not right in the mathematical modeling of altitude. I must sit and stew and await my Muse to speak to this.

Per above Fisher is into the dynamics of development but seems to be using, like Commons, a static mathematical model to measure it. So why not a dynamic mathematical model based on living systems? Just such a mathematical model exists in dynamic systems theory applied to cognition, which uses differential equations instead of nested algebraic sets. Recall Commons said that "whereas the Model’s unidimensional measure is linear, the tasks it measures are nonlinear performances" (306). Why not a multidimensional, nonlinear measure? And in the same article he admitted: "The MHC is a mathematical theory of the ideal. It is a perfect form as Plato would have described it. It is like a circle. A circle is an ideal form that exists" (315).

In the article cited below it says something interesting about the kind of increasing complexity in dynamic systems:

"Complexity does not have to be constructed from preexisting forms nor follow a universal direction" (39). Emergence comes about through instability when old patterns break down. They are not included or enfolded in the set of a more complex level. Complexity yes, hierarchy not so much.

Lewis, M. (2000). "The promise of dynamic systems approaches for an integrated account of human development." Child Development, 71:1, 36-43.

From the essay "Piaget, DeLanda and Deleuze":

"it is a central concern for Deleuze...to do away with all ideas about structures...with ideas about ‘timeless forms’ or ‘essences’ that emanate from some Platonic heaven to give shape to the world of real things. Deleuze finds that such ‘essentialism’ pervades our normal perception and ways of thinking...things are thought of as belonging to categories and sub-categories which are defined in terms of invariant properties or, again, essences.

"This is all the more noticeable since Deleuze draws on almost all other branches of mathematics – number theory, the theory of sets; catastrophe theory, the theory of fractals and other branches of topology and in particular calculus and differential geometry.

"I would like to elaborate on this by jumping to one of the places where DeLanda discusses evolution. He says that the idea that evolutionary processes possess an inherent drive toward increased complexity reintroduces teleology – another kind of essentialism – into Darwinism. In this connection he mentions a mechanism in biological evolution called neoteny, which shows that novelty need not be the effect of terminal addition of new features; on the contrary it can be the result of a loss of certain old features.

"It is from the standpoint of this ontology...that Deleuze refutes evolutionism.... Returning to DeLanda’s example, in terms of genetic structuralism neoteny is a fine example of the way structure grows out of structure in a process that at bottom yields increased complexity by generating a new developmental level. The problem that makes discussions of evolution difficult is that Deleuze rejects the notion of epistemological and developmental ‘levels’, which is essential to Piaget. Instead, Deleuze introduces the concept of ‘strata’, which are intermingled or folded into one another and shot through by escape routes or ‘lines of flight’. At one point Deleuze says that among strata there is no fixed order, and one stratum can serve directly as a substratum for another without the intermediaries that one would expect from the standpoint of stages or degrees. Or the apparent order can be reversed.

"As mentioned earlier, Deleuze’s arguments draw heavily on calculus."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kosmic addressing of mysterical experience

Balder started a new thread by the above name at the IPS forum. Here is his post and then some comments.


Recent discussions on the Integral Postmetaphysical Nonduality and the Privileged Access threads have prompted me to start this thread, which was originally a discussion I initiated at other Integral forums.  I think the issue raised here (Wilber's addressing conventions in relation to certain central terms, such as Emptiness) is relevant to other discussions we've been having.

In Integral Spirituality, Wilber proposes that a minimal Kosmic address should involve altitude/level plus quadrant/perspective (p. 264), and he also states that any positive statements about Spirit(+) must be replaceable with injunctive (!) language  or indications of address (ka) in order to avoid metaphysics (p. 269).  But when he mentions particular spiritual ultimates, he usually only indicates "state" and doesn't provide a full kosmic address (that is, if a full address requires an indication of altitude).  For instance, he writes Ayin (1-p, c/S) or Big Mind (1-p, nd/S), without indicating altitude.

For example:

"...[I]f I want to know if there is a referent to the signifier Ayin or Godhead, then one among the necessary routes is to take up a concentrative form of meditation, and learn to be able to keep my mind focused unwaveringly on an object for at least 30 minutes. (The longest the average adult can focus on an object in an unbroken fashion is for less than one minute.)  Once I can do that, which usually takes daily practice for about 3 years, then I need to look in an unbroken fashion at the nature of phenomenal reality as it arises moment to moment and see if there is, as directly seen or cognized in my own consciousness, anything that appears to be an empty ground to all of them. And then I need to compare this reality with my ordinary state of consciousness and decide which seems more real. Although exact numbers are hard to come by, a clear majority of those who complete this experiment report that the signifier Ayin or Emptiness has a real referent as disclosed by injunctive paradigm. That is, those who are qualified to make the judgment agree that it can be said that, among other things, Spirit(!) is a vast infinite Abyss or Emptiness(c/S, 1p), out of which all things arise" (Wilber, IS, p. 268).

In this example, and throughout the text, Wilber only represents Emptiness and related terms with a perspective and state indicator.  This raises the following questions for me:

  • Does Wilber avoid indicating altitude for terms such as Ayin, Big Mind, or Emptiness because he believes "altitude" does not play any role in the experience or realization of these particular things, or was he perhaps just trying to keep things simple in his initial presentation?
  • More directly, does realization of "Ayin" or "Big Mind" involve altitude?  (If so -- which I suspect -- then I do wonder why Wilber has avoided explicitly indicating that in his writings so far (that I can recall)).
  • Related to this, as I discussed in a recent blog, when we find substantial agreement among mystics about "what" they are encountering, what degree do you think "altitude" is involved in that agreement?  To what degree is subtle, causal, and nondual experience the same across altitudes, and to what extent does it differ?  For instance, would a first-tier individual likely agree with a third-tier individual on the nature, meaning, role, implications, etc, of causal-state experience?
As I mentioned above, one of the things that prompted these questions for me was the fact that Wilber started a section his appendix on postmetaphysics (Appendix II) with a comment that he was going to look at the Kosmic addresses of several signifiers, namely dog, Santa Klaus, the square root of negative one, and Emptiness.  And I've read through the section several times and don't really find any explicit addressing of Emptiness (or Big Mind, Ayin, etc), other than the reference to it as a state, although he reiterated a number of times that a Kosmic address requires perspective and altitude at a minimum. So, I have been wondering to myself if he just skipped doing that for some reason, or whether there was a theoretical reason for specifically not indicating it.

I am interested in looking at this because, even if we keep certain elements in the addressing system themselves unaddressed (because they are components of addresses, like states, types, levels, etc), I don't feel comfortable simply equating things like Big Mind, Ayin, Emptiness, etc, with "state" (causal) and leaving the altitude marker off entirely. In my view, Big Mind, Ayin, Emptiness, and so on, are soteriologically efficacious realizations, which demand a certain level of cognitive and discriminative capacity, and so should not be simply equated with something like the deep sleep state -- even if we do find, through simultracking, that the causal/deep sleep state is always correlated with these experiences.

With that said, while I don't find any explicit altitudinal addressing, in looking through Appendix II of IS, I find it does contain several statements which, taken together, would appear to support my main contention here, that even though Wilber didn't formally include altitude in the examples where he gave an address for things such as Big Mind, Ayin, and Emptiness, an altitude marker for these items nevertheless is appropriate:

"A more complete Kosmic address would include the full AQAL aspects of any occasion, but the point is that, at the very minimum, you need quadrants and levels, or perspectives and altitude." ~ p. 253.

"There simply is no such thing as 'the dog' that is the one, true, pregiven dog to which our conceptions give varying representations, but rather different dogs that come into being or are enacted with our evolving concepts and consciousness." ~ p. 260.

"The point is that any ontic or assertic mode (+) must be able to specify the Kosmic address of the referent of the signifiers, and this is true whether the referents are material, emotional, mental, or spiritual, it doesn't matter. Spiritual realities are on exactly the same footing as electrons, Gaia, rocks, and the square root of negative one." ~ p. 264.

"And one of the first things you find in the GigaGloss is that, to put it crudely, there are levels of God. That is, levels of the answers that spiritual intelligence delivers to the question, 'What is of ultimate concern, or ultimate reality, or ultimate ground?' There is a magic Ground, a mythic Ground, a rational Ground, a pluralistic Ground, a second-tier Ground, a third-tier Ground, and so on. As well as a gross, subtle, causal, and nondual version of each of those. But all of those signifiers have real referents in the only place that referents of any sort exist anyway: in a state or structure of consciousness. All referents exist, if they exist at all, in a worldspace, whose address is given minimally by quadrant (perspective engaged) and altitude/level (structure of consciousness enacted)." ~ p. 266.

Weaving these things together, (and, of course, in a more general sense, just approaching these questions postmetaphysically), I think it is justifiable to say that there is no single altitude-independent "Emptiness" or "Big Mind" showing up across multiple stages, (although a particular altitude-specific "Emptiness" can be retro-read back into prior stages and posited as "subsistent," from the perspective of the one making the assertion), and therefore, to avoid making metaphysical assertions, we need to include "altitude" on these terms as well.

Tentatively, just using the term Emptiness, I suggest that the sort of Emptiness described by Wilber in the quote above likely requires at least Amber-level cognition (for the individual to take the injunction and perform the interpretive analysis recommended), so the address would be something like (1p, 4/L, c/S), at minimum.  And for the Emptiness described and disclosed by Nagarjuna, I expect post-formal cognitive capacity is required, so I would address its altitude, minimally, at 6/L (if not higher).

I also started a conversation about this on the Integral Life website. In that discussion, our general consensus was that Wilber might have left "altitude" out of his addressing of "state" terms such as Emptiness or Ayin or Big Mind for simplicity's sake, and I do believe that's possible; but considering some of his other conventions, such as tying addressing to "degree" or "depth" of consciousness as such (as Theurj is discussing), and his use of states (as "horizontal" constants or givens in the Wilber-Combs lattice, as we discussed in the Status of States discussions), it may be that he actually does want to exempt them from the altitudinal component of addressing, despite some of the statements I quoted above that seem to indicate that this would be inappropriate (and metaphysical).


It might've been in the status of states thread, and I'm sure in several others, that I've suggested that states and stages are not two different animals. It requires at least a formal operational cognition to even have these so-called subtle, causal and nondual state experiences via meditation, since they are, in fact, how formop integrates earlier cognitive levels/brain structures. So yes, we all sleep and dream but these states are not in themselves subtle and causal. They only become the latter through conscious(ness) practice. However, since formop is still representational it is "metaphysical" by definition and interprets a separation between states and stages, absolute and relative, and so on.

Graphically, instead of the WC lattice, put formop in the mid-point of a figure 8, with the "states" above and the "stages" below. This pictorially shows the inverse relationship.

Postmetaphysicality emerges at the postformal, but not sure specifically which particular stage, since there is no valid empirical research on this that I know of. Graphically this could be displayed as that midpoint expanded laterally into 4: systematic, metasystematic, paradigmatic and cross-paradigmatic. Get the picture?

PS: I did note previously though that one who moves into postformal cognition does not necessarily integrate the earlier stages because they might not enact that transformation via meditation practice. So we can have the case of an un-integrated postformal, postmetaphysicist as well as an integrated, formal metaphysicist. And of course an integrated, postformal postmetaphysicist.

But a pre-formal causal meditator? Unlikely. Recall that such traditions didn't start until the advent of formop in the Axial age. And that today it requires one be of a certain age to meditate, to have at least a rational ego, which I've said all along IS THE WITNESS! Ironically this witness in interpreted metaphysically, and how could it be otherwise since it arises in formop.

Recall this from the Buddhism and Psychoanalysis thread on Epstein:

"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."

Also the following from that thread, quoting Epstein from Chapter VI of the book:

"Beyond the Oceanic Feeling

"The equation of meditation with preverbal, symbiotic union or regressive oneness with the mother has gone virtually unchallenged within the psychoanalytic community" (124).

"Meditation practices that produce an experience of one-pointedness, of dissolution of ego boundaries and fusion with a primary object, do gratify the desire to unite the ego with that which it yearns to become. While recognizing the stabilizing impact of such experiences, traditional Buddhist psychology rejects the sole pursuance of such states" (134).

"The traditional psychoanalytic formulation of the relationship between meditation and primary narcissism is correctly conceived but incomplete and undeveloped. Buddhist meditation seeks not a return to primary narcissism but liberation from the vestiges of that narcissism. Concentration practices do indeed evoke the ego ideal and the oceanic feeling in a manner well described by generations of analytic commentators, but the mindfulness practices, which define the Buddhist approach, seek to dispel the 'illusory ontology of the self' encapsulated within the ideal ego" (136).

As I commented in the thread, Epstein is comparing types of meditation I'd call "causal," i.e., dissolution, as creating the ego ideal, a primary narcissism of regressive, oceanic union with the mother. Whereas mindfulness as he describes it uses the synthetic ego, per the previous post. Could it be that the kennilingus with his causal emptiness is guilty of the pre-trans fallacy here? Such irony...

And recall Sara saying this in the "status of states" thread:

"States and stages are two terms that originated from thinking at the Formal Operations order of complexity.... For example, how about the state of meditation, the ‘witnessing’ kind where the person watches their thoughts go by? It, too, is a formal operations activity, not 'transcendent' at all unless someone wants to project 'transcendence' on it.

"So, if I’m in the 'watching thoughts and objects' meditative mode, per above, I’m functioning with formal operations’ ability to reflect on thought. My physiological system is just humming along in 'on' position, and my brain (neurological) is active, though will gradually slow to alpha wave, a nice and relaxed neurophysiological condition. When my thoughts and visuals cease, my neurological activity goes not 'off' but to like an idling phase and my overt mental actions slide down the orders of complexity to doing nothing - order zero. Total inner silence, except for the awareness that there’s inner silence, nothing going on. While there is nothing going on, zero complexity. During or after (depending on the practice) formal operational reflection on the absence of thought, visuals, etc., along with enjoying the after-effects. In this analysis, rather than transcending (I cannot find anything that’s transcended - can anyone help me out here?) it is gradually turning off cognitive operations till maybe we hit zero complexity (with caveat repeated: if we are reflecting on the silence/void, we are performing formal operations cognitively and are still active, and something would likely be showing up on fMRI brain imaging).

"The real-time experience is relaxing - as Tom points out, the entire system is relaxed. The after-effects are pleasant. So, might we conclude that the subjective meaning we later assign to that state of relaxation could be whatever we individually want it to be? (this reminds me of the very old song, 'you say po-tah-to, I say po-ta-to'). Could be relaxing, spiritual, healthy, any number of classifications are possible, it seems to me."

In Balder's new thread on kosmic addressing I was reminded on our previous discussion in the "status of states" thread. Therein I provided an alternative explanation for what is going on in the so-called causal emptiness experience. I will copy some excerpts below:

"Here are some excerpts from New Developments in Consciousness Research by Vincent Fallio (Nova, 2007). For me it indicates that so-called 'spiritual' states of consciousness probably arise in very early levels of consciousness and associated brain structures. Hence there is a very real sense in which 'primordial' awareness is ancient, in that it arises from these early brain structures. But it is not timeless or absolute; it is grounded in our psychoneurophysiology.

"The excerpts:

'…we think it appropriate to consider that consciousness is not something unitary but that it has several levels of complexity, and that these levels have been forming ontogenically and philogenetically.

'On a lower level can be found the state of alertness or of being conscious, which refers to a basic level of consciousness or matrix as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. This aspect of consciousness is clearly related to the concept of tonic attention, and is also related to neural mechanisms in the stimulatory reticular system, the thalamus, the limbic system, basal ganglia, and the prefrontal cortex (81).

'[It is] a basic level of consciousness as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. In this sense awareness could be related to a tonic or basic attention; it is therefore important to realize that this type of consciousness should be understood as a 'condition for' and not so much as a function or cognitive process. As a result of this it can be affirmed that this notion of consciousness, this state of being aware, is a state that does not contain information' (68).

Your contentless, nonconceptual awareness in a nice postmetaphysical package. Also see the other excerpts in the kosmic addressing thread, on how the ego-witness is used to observe and integrate the process of unwinding back down to this 0 level of complexity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Introduction continued

I realize that some do not read the comments. I often don't either at other blogs because they are often not nearly as interesting as the originator's post. So I'll post the comments from the Intro here, since most of them are mine.

Here are some comments from the IPS discussion:

kela: I personally don't have that big a problem with the term "spirituality," as it has now come to encompass more than it originally did. For example, the series on "Western Spirituality" now has books on stoicism, skepticism, and kynicism -- philosopical regimens that do not necessarily require positing a ghostly essence. As Hadot points out, these are ways of life in the late ancient world. That, to me, more properly defines what a "spirituality" entails.

Balder: Agreed. That's how I interpret the word, as I indicated in my previous post. But calling the forum "Integral Postmetaphysical Ways of Life" is even more cumbersome than the current name!

I do like Ed's term, but to me that is a narrower focus than what this forum is about: it refers to a particular (interesting, promising, fruitful) philosophical perspective, while this forum (as I see it) allows for a range of (world)views and philosophical perspectives, as "ways of life" or "visions," to be gathered under the broader general umbrella of an "integrative" and "postmetaphysical" orientation.

theurj: On the other hand it seems Richard Dawkins sort of agrees with me, at least as the terms "God" and "religion" are used. I'm reading The God Delusion along with a reading group at the local UU "church."* Dawkins argues in Chapter 1 that many use such terms to denote a more general feeling of wonder or mystery, or to refer to a more generalized entity like nature or the universe. He says that such usuage though is so general as to be meaningless, and that we should stick to more specific language for such descriptions and limit those terms to belief in the supernatural, aka the metaphysical. He does make a good point, that if we are to find new modes of the postmetaphysical perhaps we need to "let go" of trying to fit new wine into old wineskins?

Granted the same case can be made for the term "nonduality" but not as convincingly, since that term seems to have arisen in the Buddhist context of no metaphysical self or reality. That others have misinterpreted such nonduality as metaphysical spirituality, including much later-day Buddhism (at least according to Batchelor), is not support enough to decry the terms usuage, especially in light of American pragmatism and 2nd gen cogsci, which expand and refine the postmeta aspects of at least a certain sect of Buddhism. (See for example The Center for Pragmatic Buddhism, on which Board Batchelor sits.)

*The same case can be made for calling UU a church, since it invites people of all persuasions, even atheists and secular humanists, to participate. In which case it is more of a community than the usual use of the word "church." The mission statement of the UU I'm attending is as follows, not particularly religious or spiritual:

"We gather in community to nourish souls, transform lives and do justice."

Although I am a bit squeamish about the word "soul" for the same reasons.

Part of Dawkins message is that there is nothing that doesn't have a natural base, ie, something supernatural without a "body," so to speak. And of course because of this he has been criticized by the likes of Wilber for being reductionist, reducing everything to matter. But he doesn't do this. He notes for example:

"Human thoughts and emotions emerge [his emphasis] from exceedingly complex interactions of physical entities in the brain" (14). But a kennilinguist might reply: "But see, he is reducing mind to a its physical correlate, reducing the left to the right hand quadrant." But again this is a fallacious argument hiding behind a dualistic separation of inner-outer. While it might be useful to speak of inner-outer quadrants it's another thing again to think there is a actual ontological separation. As I demonstrated elsewhere the cogscipragos, through the principle of continuity, show the continuous relation between the levels of mind from its bodily base and the inseparable relation between the inside and outside. There is no actual, dualistic separation. One consequence of this is that there is no mind without a body, which doesn't reduce the mind to a body, since a mind emerges from and out of a body; a matter of degree, not kind.

Wilber did discuss the different meanings of the term "body," which includes the above two usages, that of body as a level (body-emotion-mind-spirit) and between inner-outer (body as physical base for consciousness).* In both cases though to say that because one recognizes the continuous, nondual relation between them is reductive because it doesn't accept a supernatural (aka spiritual) agent apart from them is to me metaphysical elevationism.

* Also recall the cogscipragos noting other meanings of "body" beyond the physical, associated with an social and cultural body, a hermeneutic body, all of which are emergent, developmental aspects of, but never separate from, a physical body. Granted a societal culture exists in its artifacts, like books, so any particular physical body is not required to perpetuate it. But without some body around to embody it it's moot as to its inherent existence apart from it. And to be sure this cultural artifact was created by body-minds.

Also note that Mark Edwards has criticized Wilber for his own reduction of the so-called exterior quadrants as being "merely material" and lacking in exactly the kind of developmental "bodies" referenced above.

Granted in Excerpt G Wilber indeed talks about the gross, subtle and causal bodies, so he's not limited to the physical body. But he adopts metaphysical Vedanta nondualism wholesale* here so his interpretation is not of the more postmetaphysical nondualism of the cogscipragos beyond physical (yet in the physical) bodies. For example, he begins by accepting the metaphysical involutionary scheme arising in Spirit. And critics have noticed how his subtle and causal bodies sound much more like levels of interior consciousness. Such confusion arises due to his adherence to traditional, metaphysical models instead of including the nondualism of the cogscipragos.

Now he does note that the subtle and causal bodies co-arise with more developed brain structures, which of course makes the case for them existing apriori via involution problematic. I think he's correct here but he's still interpreting them traditionally and metaphysically as subtle and causal. And we can find his dualistic nondualism again on display in page 2 of the series in his discussion of the Two Truths which he says "are of radically different orders."

* For example, from Part III: "I have incorporated those aspects, virtually unchanged, in my own model of Integral Psychology."

Later in Excerpt G Wilber discusses reincarnation and he rightly affirms that for cogscipragos like Varela consciousness is anchored "firmly in the sensorimotor body—so much so that reincarnation, by their theory, is impossible." And Wilber proposes that "the subtle bodymind can exist without the gross bodymind, and the causal bodymind can exist without either of them." Again he is using Vedanta/Vajrayana to support the thesis with its metaphysical concomitants.

Here are a couple more of my comments from the IPS discussion referencing the above:

In the Levin thread I brought up Mark Johnson's book The Meaning of the Body in relation to Gendlin. From it I made a point relevant to this thread so I'm copying some of it here.

Structure-forms, as in language, are meaningless in themselves without the felt sense of a body-mind to provide that meaning based in its experience. So culture per se does not reside in the books alone. It requires an embodied person who has been embedded in and developed by a culture to re-embody the meaning back into the words of that book with each reading. Here's the relevant passage:

"The fateful error...is to overlook much of what goes into making something meaningful to us. Then we are seduced into mistaking the forms for that which they inform.... We think that if we have succeeding in abstracting a form...then we have captured the full meaning. Moreover, this exclusive attention to stable structures can entice us to succumb to the illusion of fixity, that is, the illusion that meanings are fixed, abstract entities that can float free of contexts and the ongoing flow of experience" (80).

Recall above, in reference to Wilber's excerpt G:

"And we can find his dualistic nondualism again on display in page 2 of the series in his discussion of the Two Truths which he says 'are of radically different orders'."

Compare and contrast with Johnson in the above referenced book:

"What must be avoided...is the Kantian view that an adequate account of human mind and thought requires the keeping of two sets of books--one for the phenomenal world of things as appearances to us, and the other for the mysterious, noumenal world of things in themselves" (113).

And lest we forget, Integral Spirituality is full of the same type of metaphysical descriptions. As one example of several see Appendix II, The sliding scale of enlightenment:

“Enlightenment is a union of both Emptiness and Form, or a union of Freedom and Fullness. To realize infinite Emptiness is to be free from all finite things, free from all pain, all suffering, all limitation, all qualities—the via negativa that soars to a transcendental freedom from the known, a nirvikalpa samadhi beyond desire and death, beyond pain and time, longing and remorse, fear and hope, a timeless Dharmakaya of the Unborn, the great Ayin or Abyss that is free from all finite qualities whatsoever (including that one).”

And this from Integral Spirituality, Chapter 5, section "emptiness and view are not two":

"When one is in deep meditation or contemplation, touching even that which is formless and unmanifest—the purest emptiness of cessation—there are of course no conceptual forms arising. This pure 'nonconceptual' mind—a causal state of formlessness—is an essential part of our liberation, realization, and enlightenment.... When it comes to the nature of enlightenment or realization, this means that a complete, full, or nondual realization has two components, absolute (emptiness) and relative (form). The 'nonconceptual mind' gives us the former, and the 'conceptual mind' gives us the latter."

Wilber's definition of "postmetaphysical" in IS is described in Appendix II, section "what is the address of an object in the kosmos?" where he notes that there is no fundamental, pregiven world apart from all perception of it. There are only perspectives in relation to each other. Thus we need to establish this relation via a kosmic address, which includes the altitude and perspective (aka quadrant or quadrivium) of both the subject and the object. Although he does slip up in this section and admit this only refers to the "manifest world." Which goes with what he said above about the radically different realms of emptiness and form.

And how do we determine altitude? He makes this clear in Chapter 2, section "the relation of the different lines to each other," discussing consciousness per se:

"This happens to fit nicely with the Madhyamaka-Yogachara* Buddhist view of consciousness as emptiness or openness. Consciousness is not anything itself, just the degree of openness or emptiness, the clearing in which the phenomena of the various lines appear (but consciousness is not itself a phenomena—it is the space in which phenomena arise)."

So the formless unmanifest consciousness experienced in nirvikalpa samadhi is the measure of the relative altitude in any kosmic address. Hello! This is "post" metaphysical?

* Here he slips again in admitting this as a Yogacara doctrine, and as I've said numerous times before, it is this type of "Vajrayana" Buddhism he equates with Vendanta, and rightly so. 

Balder: Hmm, I don't know. I agree that Wilber seems to retain certain metaphysical ideas in his theory, but I don't think discussion of a state in which discursive thought has momentarily subsided -- in which there is no experience of the movement of thought, no perception, no non-perception, nothing you can say about it -- is necessarily "metaphysical," not if you are reporting the after-the-fact apprehension of the cessation of phenomenal experience (a sort of blanking out). If you hold "pure formless emptiness" as the actual foundation of the entire world (as I expect Wilber does), then I believe you do cross over into metaphysics. But to use the term "formless emptiness" and to associate it with an enactable experience (or experience-gap) which involves the apparent cessation of discursive thought and phenomenal distinctions is not, in itself, "metaphysical," any more than it is metaphysical to make reference to other humanly available apprehensions (like "bliss" or "the zone"). What do you think?

theurj: I posted the above not in direct response to you Balder, as I read your response after posting it. Yes, as I've said before, having myself had such experiences of apparent (good descriptor) "void," that of course we can interpret it postmetaphysically and I have. The question is, does Wilber?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Stephen Batchelor

Here's a post from the IPS forum I did on Stephen Batchelor:

In my quest to go postmetaphysical a few of my several concerns follow: 1) How to interpret states and stages of consciousness; 2) How to practice secular meditation free from metaphysical baggage; and 3) How to share the former in a contemporary, western community with a focus on some form of liberation, or at least alleviation, of human suffering. Stephen Batchelor has been invaluable in this quest. (See our prior discussion of him here.)  One of his essays is instructive along these lines, "The agnostic Buddhist: a secular vision of dharma practice." Here are a few select excerpts:

“It is important to distinguish between those questions that are addressed by the core teachings of the Buddha, and those which are not really of central concern. I was listening on the radio not long ago in England to a discussion about religious belief. All of the participants were engaged in a heated discussion about the possibility of miracles. It is generally assumed that being a religious person entails believing certain things about the nature of oneself and reality in general that are beyond the reach of reason and empirical verification. What happened before birth, what will happen after death, the nature of the soul and its relation to the body: these are first and foremost religious questions. And the Buddha was not interested in them. But if we look at Buddhism historically, we'll see that it has continuously tended to lose this agnostic dimension through becoming institutionalised as a religion, with all of the usual dogmatic belief systems that religions tend to have. So, ironically, if you were to go to many Asian countries today, you would find that the monks and priests who control the institutional bodies of Buddhism would have quite clear views on whether the world is eternal or not, what happens to the Buddha after death, the status of the mind in relation to the body, and so on.

“So, what would an agnostic Buddhist be like today? How would we even start to think about such a stance? Firstly, I would suggest that an agnostic Buddhist would not regard the Dharma or the teachings of the Buddha as a source which would provide answers to questions of where we are going, where we are coming from, what is the nature of the universe, and so on. In this sense, an agnostic Buddhist would not be a believer with claims to revealed information about supernatural or paranormal phenomena and in this sense would not be religious. I've recently started saying to myself: "I'm not a religious person," and finding that to be strangely liberating. You don't have to be a religious [or spiritual] person in order to practice the Dharma.

“Secondly, an agnostic Buddhist would not look to the Dharma for metaphors of consolation. This is another great trait of religions: they provide consolation in the face of birth and death; they offer images of a better afterlife; they offer the kind of security that can be achieved through an act of faith. I'm not interested in that. The Buddha's teachings are confrontative; they're about truth-telling, not about painting some pretty picture of life elsewhere. They're saying: "Look, existence is painful." This is what is distinctive about the Buddhist attitude: it starts not from the promise of salvation, but from valuing that sense of existential anguish we tend either to ignore, deny or avoid through distractions.

“'Emptiness' is a singularly unappetising term. I don't think it was ever meant to be attractive. Herbert Guenther once translated it as 'the open dimension of being,' which sounds a lot more appealing than 'emptiness.' 'Transparency' was a term I played with for a while, which also makes emptiness sound more palatable. Yet we have to remember that even two thousand years ago Nagarjuna was having to defend himself against the nihilistic implications of emptiness. Many of the chapters in his philosophical works start with someone objecting: 'This emptiness is a terrible idea. It undermines all grounds for morality. It undermines everything the Buddha was speaking about.' Clearly the word did not have a positive ring back then either. I suspect that it might have been used quite consciously as an unappealing term, which cuts through the whole fantasy of consolation that one might expect a religion to provide. Perhaps we need to recover this cutting-edge of emptiness, its unappealing aspect.

“I like to think of the Buddha's awakening under the Bodhi tree not as some kind of transcendental absorption, but as a moment of total shock. Neils Bohr once said about quantum mechanics: 'If you're not shocked by quantum theory, then you don't understand it.' I think we could say the same about emptiness: If you're not shocked by emptiness, then you haven't understood it.

“Now, whether we follow the Indo-Tibetan analytical approach or the Zen approach of asking a koan like 'What is this?,' such meditative inquiry leads to a mind that becomes more still and clear. But paradoxically this does not mean that things then become more clear-cut, that you reach some final understanding of who you are or of what makes the universe tick. Because, at the same time as such things become more vivid and clear, they also become more baffling. One encounters, as it were, the sheer mystery of things. A deep agnosticism would be one founded on this kind of unknowing: the acknowledgement that, in terms of what life really is, I really do not know. And in that unknowing there is already a quality of questioning, of perplexity. And as that perplexity becomes stabilised through meditation, one enters increasingly into a world that is mysterious, magical in a sense, and not containable by narrow ideas and concepts.

“But this is not where the practice ends. This is only half the project. What we also discover in this open space, in this mysterious experience of non-self, are the wellsprings of creativity and imagination.... The process of articulating the Dharma goes on and on according to the needs of the different historical situations that it encounters. We could read the whole history of Buddhism, from the moment of the Buddha's awakening until now, as a process of seeking to imagine a way to respond both wisely and compassionately to the situation at hand.

“All of us have experiences of what it means to imagine and create something. It struck me very forcibly one day…that preparing myself to put into words what had not yet been put into words was to enter a very similar frame of mind to that of sitting on a cushion in a zendo, asking: 'What is this?' The creative process seemed very comparable to the meditative process. Awakening is only complete -- in the same way that a work of art is only complete -- when it finds an expression, a form, that translates that experience in a way that makes it accessible to others. That again is the balance between wisdom and compassion. The creative process of expressing the Dharma is not just a question of duplicating in words something etched somewhere in the privacy of my soul. The living process of understanding is formed through the encounter with another person, with the world. You've probably all had the experience of someone coming to you in a state of distress and blurting out their problems, and you suddenly find yourself saying things that you were quite unaware you knew. The process of awakening is one of valuing and connecting with that capacity to respond in authentic ways to the suffering of others. The imagination is the bridge between contemplative experience and the anguish of the world. By valuing imagination, we value the capacity of each person, each community, to imagine and create themselves anew.

“In the contemporary world Buddhism encounters a culture that places a positive value on the power of each individual's creativity and imagination. It's interesting that in most Buddhist traditions these things are not strongly encouraged, or, if they are, it's usually only within highly formalised settings. I like to think of Dharma practice today as venturing into a world of imagination, one in which each individual, each community, seeks to express and to articulate their vision in terms of the particular needs of their own situation. Buddhism would then become less and less the preserve of an institution, and more and more an experience that is owned by ordinary people in ordinary communities.

“Of course, there are dangers here. But these are hardly new. Historically, Buddhism has always had to find ways of responding effectively to the danger of becoming too acculturated, of becoming too absorbed into the assumptions of the host culture. Certainly such a danger exists here in the West: Buddhism might, for example, tend to become a kind of souped-up psychotherapy. But there's the equal danger of Buddhism holding on too fiercely to its Asian identity and remaining a marginal interest amongst a few eccentrics. Somehow we have to find a middle way between these two poles, and this is a challenge which is not going to be worked out by academics or Buddhist scholars; it's a challenge that each of us is asked to meet in our own practice from day to day.”

See much more in comments.


I am one of the founders of Open Integral blog, which originated in 2006 in response to Ken Wilber's Wyatt Earp fiasco. A number of disgruntled integralites coordinated to create a space in which to provide a critique and alternative vision of what it means to be "integral" in this wake, one that was open to other voices. Since then everyone has gone off in their own directions and I was the lone survivor, keeping the site alive with occasional posts and cleaning it up from spam infestation. Since I've been creating my own unique integral vision for quite awhile it's time to go off the reservation and start my own blog instead of trying to fit into a format that has long since lost its meaning and purpose.

Aside from participation in the above I've invested a lot of time online at the Integral Postmetaphysical Spirituality forum created by Balder, first located at Zaadz/Gaia and now at Ning. I will continue to hang out  and post there, and cross-post from there to here and back again, as I find my best thinking and writing come from dialogue with other interested and apt parties. In one of my recent posts there I pondered the name of the forum and my relation to it. I resonate with the terms "integral" and "postmetaphysical" but I never did like the term "spirituality," since by nature it implies a duality with something not spiritual, something mundane, something that maintains the absolute-relative divide. So I suggested instead that for me the phrase "integral postmetaphysical nonduality" was more befitting.

Since then I did an Google search of that phrase and at the time, last week, that IPM post was the only instance of it on the internet! While  the ideas are not unique the phrase itself certainly was. Since then I created a post about it at IPM and OI, both of which have now generated a dozen or so internet references. So given that I birthed the phrase, or rather it emerged from my own integral journey these past few years in interaction with an alternative integral community, I thought I would start my own blog with this title and it's first post would give a general idea. What follows is a partial (but true) excerpt copied from the IPM and OI posts:

Out of curiosity I did a Google search on the above three words in parentheses as a phrase. In the entire internet there was only one hit and it was to this forum in my discussion of ladder, climber, view. It is a unique phrase and even more, a valid contender for what this forum purports. It might even be a misnomer to call something postmetaphysical “spirituality” given what I said in the thread:

[Referencing "to see a world," see link] “As for turquoise, it reinjects ‘Spirit’ back into the equation. And therein lies the question for an IPS, how to have a nondual spirituality that doesn’t separate spirituality from the mundane, that doesn’t ‘include’ the metaphysical interpretations from prior WVs. It might even be an expression of a metaphysical WV holdover to call something ’spirituality,’ since the very term indicates the metaphysical notion of an absolute world apart from a relative WV. Granted we can re-define it any way we like but nevertheless its etymology is one of a split, dualistic origin. Another term that can be more easily separated from its metaphysical baggage is ‘nondual.’ Integral Postmetaphysical nonduality? I’ve already made a strong case that the intersection of American Pragmatism with second generation cognitive science is precisely this WV based on postformal cognitive functioning. And AQAL to boot, though they don’t use those terms."

Jana said:

Creating the post-metaphysical nondual spiritual individual therefore cannot be done using the same methods that we have used in our religions, spiritual traditions or commercial spiritual movements.

theurj (me) said:

I’d agree though that we need different methods to achieve IPN than has been available in previous metaphysical traditions. Some integralites believe we can use those same enactive paradigms but just update or recontextualize or reinterpret them. I’ve long argued though that the paradigm form-structures are themselves part and parcel of the metaphysical “experience” thus created so we need more than just a superficial facelift or metaphorical boob-job. I made the same case about “integral” capitalism, that we need to move into a democratic economic model, that we can’t just put integral lipstick on the capitalist pig.


Exactly I am really big on this…mainly perhaps because I am not on the predator side of the equation and want to create a vessel for the emergence of true creativity and true spirit.For starters I propose monthly sovereignty salons that provide a circle-process cauldron suitable for artists, scientists, and philosophers to “cook” a unique, personal expression of the cosmic human.

This is what I am doing…I will tell you how it goes. I am going to use a toy clockface…with Noon being perfect alignment with ones sovereign seat. Then during the course of discussion and exercises if someone feels thrown off their seat, or others think that someone is thrown off, they will move the hour arm to how far they are removed from Noon. This is a tactile way of helping us remember to “maintain” within the push-pull of social interaction. Then we will explore methods of how to regroup, recoup and reestablish our sovereign seat within an ongoing relational exchange. We will be building the language, sensitivities, gestures, games, exercises, visioneering, planning, meditation and practices related around building individual sovereignty and circle-group intercommunion.


[referring to another thread] But does Levin prescribe new technology for attaining this process? As we’re discussing in the IPN thread, will the old methods suffice?

Levin gives some clues to a new methodology above.

“Hearkening requires the disciplined practice of Gelassenheit, i.e. letting-go and letting-be, as a mode or style of listening. In learning Gelassenheit, the art of ‘just listening’, listening without getting entangled in the ego’s stories and preoccupations, one learns a different way of channelling, focusing, attending.”

I am reminded of the practice of vipassana, just observing the breath, listening to the sounds that arise and fall away, watching thoughts float by on scudding clouds. And perhaps more importantly, observing the self that observes all of that, the ego turned on itself, allowing for awareness to disidentify with a self, at least for a moment or two. In this sense the method is not new but rather is ancient. So what makes it different?

“Our practice at stage IV is a practice that needs to take place under the influence of the feminine archetypes: there ust be an appreciation of and a recovery of experiencing modalities that, in our culture, have been traditionally constellated through these archetypes.”

I am reminded of Lakoff’s metaphors for the differences between contemporary political parties, the stern father and the nurturing mother. That we are moving from the former conservative to the latter liberal “archetype,” if you will. And the mother is much more apt at unconditional love for her child, much more apt to listen without judgment, to accept and nourish whatever the child brings home from its adventures. So perhaps our contemporary contemplative practice per above is different in that it is not so much above focus and concentration as it is about openness and allowing. As a sage once sang:

Mother Mary comes to me
speaking words of wisdom
let it be, let it be.

But again, this is not a return to the former matriarchal mode that arose with horticulture. It is not a return to the kind of Goddess worship akin to witchcraft and paganism. It is as Levin notes:

“It brings back what was ‘forgotten’; but it also redeems it by ‘making’ it what it never was.”

As Meredith Brooks once sang:

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I’m a bitch, I’m a tease
I’m a goddess on my knees

Along the lines of hearkening a feminine that never was I’m reminded of John Caputo, from The Weakness of God (IUP, 2006):

“The name of God is the name of an event rather than of an entity, of a call rather than of a cause, of a provocation or a promise rather than of a presence…. I shift from the register of strength to that of weakness, from a robust theology of divine power…and omnipotence to the thin theology of the weakness of god, from the noise of being to the silence of an unconditional call” (12).

And hearken back to this discussion of Lady Gaga, how she is a postmodern, postmetaphysical, nondual hermaphrodite, an old kind of feminine in a new way.


I skipped around in the book a little to get a sense of where he was going, and whether he offered any specific “practices.” You’ve already hit on two of them — hearkening, which he likens to Gendlin’s focusing or Zen shikantaza; and a renewed emphasis on feminine archetypes.

Regarding the former, he writes:

“Since hearkening, the fourth stage, or centre, of listening, is a recollection that demands of us the greatest openness to Being of which we are capable, it is a mode of perceptiveness that we can only achieve by cultivating our capacity for feeling and restoring the connection between feeling and listening. This means, in the important terminology that Eugene Gendlin has introduced, not only that we need to listen to our body’s felt sense of its Befindlichkeit (how we are faring in the various situations of life in which we find ourselves), but also that we need to learn a listening which listens with this bodily felt sense. In other words, we need to cultivate a listening that is deeply rooted in our body’s felt sense of situated being.”

He also touches on a few other practices, including a social communicative practice (a la Habermas) and a proposal to seek, in this context, the conditions of an “ideal listening situation” to complement H’s ideal speech situation — which is first broached and cultivated at stage III, apparently, and then deepened at stage IV. Other suggested practices relate to the cultivation of aesthetic dimensions of listening (through music and cultivation of attention to natural environments).

In one of his endnotes, besides referencing Zen in several places, I notice he briefly discusses Tarthang Tulku’s TSK vision:

“I especially recommend Tarthang Tulku (1977) Time, Space, and Knowledge, Berkeley, Calif.: Dharma Publishing. This book contains a treasury of practical exercises, based on ancient Tibetan Buddhist wisdom, to facilitate the transformation of our habitual way of experiencing ourselves as living in time. I would add that, because of the connection between listening and time, and the way these two figure in the identity of the self, the development of our capacity for listening can change our experiencing of time — and, conversely, changes in the way we live time, changes in the way we experience ourselves as being-in-time, or being-timed, can affect the way we listen, e.g., increasing our listening patience and our tolerance of silence.”


Indeed practices of the body in situated space are key to the cogscipragos of American pragmatism, of how more complex metaphor is built upon more primitive image schemeas of exactly this kind. Mark Johnson, one of those cogscii, in his new book The Meaning of the Body also emphasizes the aesthetic element related to this, as in dance. And of course they’ve always been about the nondual relationship of self-other and inner-outer that is interactive, i.e., a social communicative practice a la Habermas, who got a lot of this from Mead, another of the cogscii. (Btw, Johnson considers Levin as part of this tradition.)

Which brings me to the shift in emphasis of meditation per se from a strictly individual event to more of an interactive event. The former is more of the rugged individualism type that still posits an individual ego self that arises in response to the other-outside whereas the latter recognizes, like the cogscipragos, that it arises within the matrix, if you will. Hence more “feminine” and interactive meditative practices are developing like insight dialogue and what Jana is experimenting with instead of the typical individual meditation practice of sitting in a room, alone together, doing our own practice but not interacting.

All of which reminds me of dance as one of my interactive meditative practices. Even in couples dancing there are those that dance alone while together, not dancing together as a unit. And the latter is the key to partner dancing, to creating an event-performance that is more than the individuals alone, that is about connection and communication, about felt sense, about the body in space. And not just the physical body but also about creating emotional and aesthetic bodies in their own spaces, in time, with knowledge. It is a most delicious TSK practice.

I am also reminded of John Heron’s collaborative inquiry, and what he said about Wilber’s notion of spirituality in “A tangle of levels and lines”:

“Thus Wilber tries to argue that the basic categories for integrating all the lines in higher unfoldment have been uncovered on a single line that has no experience whatsoever of such multi-line integration. The way out of this tangle is gently to propose that the contemplative line is not a spirituality line, that spirituality is not about states, however remarkable and extraordinary, that people get into by a lifetime of individual meditation.

“A more convincing account of spirituality is that it is about multi-line integral development explored by persons in relation. This is because many basic developmental lines – e.g. those to do with gender, psychosexuality, emotional and interpersonal skills, communicative competence, morality, to name but a few – unfold through engagement with other people. A person cannot develop these lines on their own, but through mutual co-inquiry. The spirituality that is the highest development of these lines can only be achieved through relational forms of practice that unveil the spirituality implicit in them.

“In short, the spirituality of persons is developed and revealed primarily in the spirituality of their relations with other persons. If you regard spirituality primarily as the fruit of individual meditative attainment, then you can have the gross anomaly of a “spiritual” person who is an interpersonal oppressor, and the possibility of “spiritual” traditions that are oppression-prone.”

Jana said:

Open Relating and Grokking—The practice of Gelassenheit, (letting-go and letting-be), is a compassionate style of listening meditation and social interaction that comes more from “allowing” the Heart/right-brain wiring to gain prominence. Rather than dissecting our interpersonal interactions through the left-brain’s narrative and status preoccupations. We thus enter “We Space” through the empathetic circuitry by first training ourselves to love our own flesh and our own core by turning the Mind’s Eye within to deeply feel our innate a priori health, thereby restoring the connection between feeling and listening. Growing up in presovereign, dependent families we were taught to look for love and attention outside of ourselves, and so we remain starved of our own affection, health and integration our entire lives. Once we have unconditionally reconnected with ourselves and established the hardware for Grokking, we can then drop the safety-judgment monitoring system (vigilance) of the left-brain’s security narrative. Energy and consciousness that was formerly spent in “scanning for safety and status” can then be channeled into feeling, openness and allowing. The energy that was spent in the paranoia of power differential can then be spent in Grokking, hearkening, or the fully embodied flow of holistic perception…similar to Gendlin’s focusing or Zen shikantaza. This felt-sense mode of perception permits the mystic connection within and without by restoring the bodily felt-sense of listening without the inertia of repression or resistance. In other words, we need to cultivate a listening that is deeply rooted in our body’s felt sense of being situated fully in its own space-time, with spacious knowledge (emptiness-unconditionality), patience and tolerance for silence. Thus permitting the coherent synchronization of information received by all the various modes of antennae. By relating within and without through the opened empathetic circuitry we can then reintegrate those parts of us that have been cut off and deadened, thus recovering our full resources, health and deep humanity.

The energetic of humans caught living within the compulsive ignorance of Borg culture is that of a racehorse in a hamster wheel. In Borg society we spend the majority of our energy suppressing ourselves to maintain the social contracts of deceit. Lies of repression, omission and retreat to sustain a meager survival within the automatic dominant/submission, master/slave relationship transactions permissible within a economically focused society. Breaking out of this energetic to create the world of the sovereign human requires the deep engagement of self-acceptance, Self-love, Self-responsibility and Self-creation. For there are no bridges, no easy direct routes from this culture to the next, thus we must forge our own path through the “Nothing.” In discovering this path we must cocreate all aspects of the sovereign human: language, behaviors, senses, touch, gesture, looks, attitude, sovereign-eyes, responses, discipline, focus, remembrance, vision, direction, motivation, capital, relationships and goals.

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