Thursday, February 14, 2013

The psychodynamics of meditation

Update below:

Balder started an IPS thread on Washburn and the psychodynamics of meditation. Some of my ruminations to date follow:

As you know I too have used Washburn in my own notions on what happens in meditation. For now a quick comment of appreciation for Jung's discussion of active imagination, which is why I sometimes play the tarot card meditation game. Also note that images are rooted in the protoself and further developed in the core self, both grounded in the brain stem according to Damasio. And I'm making an educated guess that they are directly related to the basic image schemata of cognitive linguistics.

I like the following from the article:

"Jung is correct in saying that meditation is an exercise of the conscious ego." It does so by using unmoving or unmediated attention to decrease its hold on consciousness and open to the unconscious via an "undoing" (159-60).

In light of the recent Damasio posts we might further clarify that the narrative self (rational ego) works to descend back to the core and proto selves (body ego?) So that upon return to the rational ego it might then perhaps be better able to more fully integrate its forerunners, which were to some extent repressed during the infancy of the rational ego with its dualistic metaphysics. Hence, the integral centaur. Or as I prefer for imagery, Cthulhu, dipping into the depths and horrors of our ancient origins (dark shadows), bringing them to the well lit surface for use and conscious guidance, thereby transmuting them into the Golden elixir of the alchemists. Ok dude, easy on the metaphors...I need a tarot card free association...

Which linked to just such a meditation:

First thing, the horse's body is completely covered by an ill-fitting garment making its shape seem grotesque. First impression is that the rider and spectators are celebrating some sort of victory, perhaps that over the bodily and emotional functions. They are all looking ahead to something else, not paying any heed to the horse, who looks sideways at us as if to say: "WTF, take off this silly and ugly overcoat and pay attention to me!"

A few points on the review Balder linked. I agree that we must re-institute some form of transformative practice, but within a postmeta frame. For without that practice we do not re-connect with our unconscious, that archaic wellspring of our bodily heritage. Yet we must not therefore accept the mythic or mythic-rational frames within which such hermetic practices flourished. If we do we get the problems I mentioned above. We even have that problem within Buddhism, as I've criticized at length in various threads. As AP Smith noted, Deleuze himself was not in the least meta-physical or supernatural, his entire oeuvre being about immanence. Why, he asks, tie "spiritual and transformative something so spooky?"

For example, in Ramey's brief essay "Spiritual capital" (referenced above) he criticized Zizek for denouncing ritual, since it is tied to the supernatural. I agree we need the ritual performance (aka theurgy and my fricken' screen name, fer chrissake), but why does the mythic and supernatural baggage have to be attached?

I'm much more inclined towards Levin's postmeta reconnection with our bodily heritage via image and ritual.* His stage 3 goes beyond ego to Self through "the practice of self discipline," highly reminiscent of the recent discussion about Damasio and meditation. This is further developed by stage 4, letting go, "a distinctively spiritual accomplishment" again hearkening back to the meditation (and Washburn) discussion where we go back to more fully integrate what came before, while moving into something that never was.

* see p. 5 of the prior Gaia discussion, referencing pp. 47-8 of The Opening of Vision.

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