Tuesday, July 9, 2013

An ecology of the self

David Loy co-authored this article which begins with this quote from Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra:

"I saw that ordinary people believe they have a self and that everyone they meet has a self. They think of it as within the body. Because it is not like that, I have shown that the self is not there in the way it is thought to be. This is expedient means, the right medicine. But that does not mean there is no self. What is the self? If something is true, is real, is constant, is a foundation of a nature that is unchanging, this can be called the self. For the sake of sentient beings, in all the truths I have taught, there is such a self."

One interesting thing about the article is that an infant's brain operates in the delta frequency, a child in the theta. It seems it's not until the beta range in adolescence that we start to develop a rational egoic self. The we can develop a sense of ecological sense of self and finally a universal sense of Self, the latter equated with Buddha-nature and ground of all.

Recall earlier in the thread how I noted meditation tends to go from beta back to theta back to delta, a 'return' journey through the different selves. Is so doing it can then integrate the earlier selves and transform them into subtle (eco) and causal (universal) selves. And the fulcrum point between pre/trans ego is this synthetic ego.

I’m reminded of Cook-Greuter’s stages of ego development. An excerpt from the construct-aware stage:

“They realize that the ‘ego’ has functioned both as a central processing unit for all stimuli and as a central point of reference and self-identity. […] Unlike earlier stages, Construct-aware persons are aware of the ego’s clever and vigilant machinations at self-preservation. This is the first time in development that the ego becomes transparent to itself” (28).

To paraphrase Engler, it takes and ego to be transparent to the ego.

Cook-Grueter's description of the construct aware sounds strongly akin to how Epstein defines the synthetic ego, as well as its capacity for self-reflection and transparency. Also see this post where Bonnie posted a CG article and my comments in the following post. I'm going to enclose that post below and comment later where I still agree and where I've changed my mind.

One immediate problem I see with CG's scheme is that despite her protects to the contrary she maintains the increasingly complex hierarchical scale from postformal into ego transcendence, as if one has to be postformal first before going post-symbolic. In other words, as I criticized Commons et al in the real and false reason thread, it extends this formal operational, linear progression into post (and post post) formal operations. Whereas I don't think it even requires postformal operations to go post-symbolic. However one can, and often does, interpret post-symbolic experience metaphysically so it does require a postformal interpretation to go postmetaphysical.

Now CG does go into the state v. stage differentiation, which is import here. Here she agrees with Wilber that the transcendental experience is available at any stage but only as a fleeting “state” experience. We then interpret it from the level of our ego development or “stage.” When one can stabilize these states they can become higher stages. Here she agrees with Wilber before he went postmetaphysical with the WC lattice, but she hasn't kept up with this last development. Hence she continues to interpret the post-symbolic with eastern meditative descriptions of ego transcendence in very metaphysical terms. At least Wilber is moving away from this, although not completely.

Now CG does note that Commons et al with their higher postformal stages are still stuck in more complex symbolical thinking, a criticism I also had in the real/false reason thread. And I agree with CG that there is a different kind of processing that happens in post-symbolism attained through methods like meditation. But where we part ways is when she continues to frame it in those traditional eastern, metaphysical ways. And she has this “stage” after construct aware, which most traditional meditators never reach.

Hence she starts conflating the construct-aware stage with some of the traits of the meditative tradition, like noting at this stage is the first time the ego becomes aware of itself, transparent to itself. I do not disagree that this stage is valid, or that one characteristic is indeed this ego awareness and transparency. It is indeed a further development over how most meditators interpret their nonetheless ego “transcendent” experiences. The latter thought does not equate to this level of interpretation.

CG's reasoning though is that such “state” experiences per above are only temporary for such meditators until they stabilize them in such higher stages. No, they never ever have to reach a higher than formal stage to stabilize such transcendent experience. Without the WC lattice and postmetaphysics her model is still quite limited about this apparent dilemma.

Another romantic and metaphysical notion CG maintains is that these “state” experiences are themselves the goal of enlightenment, and that they are what they seem on the surface: direct, immediate and unmediated by symbol, aka our friend the myth of the given all over again. All gift-wrapped in traditional interpretation that the symbolic ego is the bad guy here, the one that prevents us from this permanent, pristine, pure and ever-present experience of God. We see this in her unitive stage, where one merely accepts, and directly perceives, reality “as is.”

Again, I have no disagreement with even the unitive stage, just her metaphysical interpretation of it and its placement in the scheme (see references below). Another thing I noted in the real/false reason thread is that one can be partially post (or post post) formal in some domains or contexts while still remaining formal or metaphysical in others. Or even within the same domains in different contexts. There isn't a a monolithic one-size-fits-all “stage.” That in itself is still a formal characteristic carried over into an otherwise post (or post post if you're really into being superior, as developmentalists tend to be) view. All of which of course would say I haven't yet reached the unitive stage because of what I just said. In that they still remain like Wilber tied to their monolithic and hegemonic kosmic addressing.

My opinion if further reinforced by CG's concluding propositions, that we take up a traditional meditative practice and surrender to the guru to be properly “verified” in our ego transcendent experiences, and to help stablize them. Recall the traditions themselves are still stuck in metaphysical interpretations, interpretations that CG retains in describing the unitive stage and beyond. Still mix-and-matching like Wilber in this, but as I said, Wilber, while still guilty of it, has gone beyond it in ways CG has yet to fathom.

As to my own interpretations of all this, which are well know to long-time readers of the forum, see for example the referenced real/false reason thread as well as more recent threads like “what 'is' the difference,” “integral postmetaphysical nonduality,” or “kosmic addressing of mystical experience.”

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