Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
You can see right off that several "zones" are represented in these definitions. An Integral definition, or series of definitions, would include even more zone-perspectives, and IMP may suggest ways these various types of "states" can be correlated. But simple differentiation of zone-specific definitions will also be important, since I believe the failure to do this probably contributes not infrequently to conflicts and misunderstandings in Integral discussions.
As we discussed in an earlier series of threads (The Status of States), Wilber's use of certain states (particularly causal and nondual) seems still to involve certain metaphysical commitments, which we critiqued at length. But I don't recall that we really arrived at any workable, formal definition of states, or understanding of what is involved in "state training" and "state stabilization" in spiritual development or "realization," so I'd like to return to this question here, if you're interested.
One systems-theoretic, naturalistic definition of states has been attempted by Charles Tart:
"Now I shall formally define a discrete state of consciousness (d-SoC) for a given individual (and I emphasize for a given individual) as a unique configuration or system of psychological structures or subsystems. The structures or subsystems show some quantitative and minor qualitative variation in the way in which they process information or cope or have experiences, but the structures or subsystems and their energetic pattern of interactions comprise a 'system'. The operations of the components, the psychological structures,interact with each other and stabilize each other's functioning by means of feedback control such that the system, the discrete state of consciousness, maintains its overall patterning of functioning within a varying environment. That is, the parts of the system that comprise a discrete state of consciousness may vary over various ranges if we look at individual components, but the overall, general configuration, the overall pattern of the system remains recognizably the same. As an analogy, you can drive your car faster or slower, with a varying number of passengers in it, or change the color of the seat covers, but it retains its identity as the system we know as an automobile. So one may have variations in consciousness, such as being more or less activated, more or less aware of the environment, etc. that represent quantitative changes in certain subsystems or structures of the system, but they do not change the overall, recognizable configuration of the system as being that of our ordinary [waking] state of consciousness, or, for that matter, of any particular discrete state of consciousness. The way to understand a discrete state of consciousness, then, is not only to investigate the structure of the parts in a more and more molecular way, but also to be aware of the way in which the parts interact and the 'gestalt' system-properties of the configuration that arise that may not be predictable from a knowledge of the parts alone." (Tart, THE BASIC NATURE OF ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS: A SYSTEMS APPROACH)
One question that I bring to this (among many) is whether we can define states postmetaphysically, but in a way that still respects and accounts for the "profundity" and power of certain state realizations -- that still can serve, in a sense, as a horizon of aspiration, without the metaphysical trappings.
I'm exploring a few thoughts in relation to this question and will post more on that soon. In the meantime, I just wanted to post this initial question and get the feedback of other members here, if you're interested.
From Epstein's book Open to Desire(Gotham, 2006):
“Desire is our vitality...that which gives us our individuality and at the same time keeps prodding us outside of ourselves.... It is 'the natural'.... The infinite can be known through an acceptance of, and opening to, the unending quality of yearning. My interest in writing this book, in fact, is to correct the misperception that Buddhism strives to eliminate desire” (9-10).
Now how is this relevant?
For example this from part 1:
"The current integral theory model of states is committing a category error, the Pre-trans Fallacy #2 to be precise, when it proposes that individuals access transpersonal states and/or realms when they enter into the natural states of dream sleep and deep sleep. This error has important implications for the whole of the Integral theory of states.
"How on earth...could Ken...the great surveyor of this previously unknown territory of the PTF errors, lose sight of this core landmark on the AQAL map in his treatment of states? Well, I have a few suggestions. One is his unswerving reliance on some aspects of the pre-modern Vedantic view of states."
Yes, thank you for posting that, Edward. I (re)read Part 1 last night (and agree with Edwards that the traditional conflation of dreaming and sleeping with transpersonal states is problematic -- not only "myth of the given," but PTF too). In Dzogchen teachings, according to some teachers, the experience of clear light is only dharmakaya when perceived with insight and in the right conditions, so deep sleep "in itself" can't be equated with it.
I also saw he had a good definition of "state of consciousness" that will be useful to keep in mind:
"A state of consciousness is the unitive status that characterises a subject's frame of phenomenal or experiential reference."
Edwards notes near the end of Part I that there is indeed a "given" in the Atman is Brahman principle, "that God is present ...in all his fullness." But this is a metaphysical given versus the kind of given I'm talking about above. While I agree with him that this given is not the same from a more developed perspective, that this state is not realized until later, this metaphysical remnant remains and will be expressed more in Part II.
I appreciate Edwards' caution beginning Part II that pre-modern spiritual traditions were not aware of stages leading to egoic identity and hence made many pre-trans conflations. Even Vedanta and (Vedanta influenced) Vajrayana, while avoiding some of these PTFs, nonetheless is a "tangled mixture" still clinging to other conflations that Wilber retains. Edwards' worthy goal then is to differentiate between the pre-trans elements within these traditions, focusing on Vedanta.
Edwards notes the PTF notion of a "return" to a primordial, nondual unity, which of course is only after a "fall" from grace, said fall caused by the dual (Devil) Ego. Hence we often find retro-romantic notions of returning to a pristine origin before the fall. Even Edwards' presentation of the "true" Maharshi, who apparently does not equate deep sleep with the causal realm, nevertheless maintains the metaphysical idea that there is a "true" causal realm that must overcome the "illusion" of maya. Ironically the Devil is quite tricky to be hiding in the midst of such supposed nonduality.
Not surprisingly Wilber comes to our rescue in asserting that it is the self-system (aka ego) that integrates all of the various aspects of psyche. (See for example his "outline of an integral psychology," particularly page 4.) And that a strong, healthy ego is prerequisite to take such a journey into transpersonal nonduality, lest the trip be into psychotic dissociation. But again, Wilber is a mixed bag here, often framing such transpersonal integration withing traditional views and their own confusions, particularly with reference to states.
Now here's an interesting section from Part II, quoting Osborne on Maharshi:
"In fact, one name for the true state of realised being is the Fourth State existing eternally behind the three states of waking, dream and deep sleep. It is compared with the state of deep sleep since, like this it is formless and non-dual; however, as the above quotation shows, it is far from being the same. In the Fourth State the ego emerges in Consciousness, as in sleep it does in unconsciousness."
Aside from the metaphysical words like "true" and "eternal" it is significant in that the Fourth State (was that Virginia in the US?) "the ego emerges in consciousness." The ego, hmmm. Edwards' diagram following this quote are illuminating in showing the pre-personal states of deep sleep, dreaming, rational ego, and then transpersonal "structures of identity" which integrates all of them.
And yet what does the integrating? What gets us past the ego? I.e., could it be done prior to the development of an ego? Can we ever go back to a state or stage that was before the ego once it emerges? Obviously we can enter nondual states of awareness where the ego is temporarily suspended, but is it the same state as before the ego came along?
i've long thought that it's absurdly funny that the most elevated state that a human being can attain in the known universe is akin to being dead!lol go figure..........
um, it seems to me that wilber and edward's are both arguing from the position of the primacy of consciousness. fwiw, my vote is for edward's in that dreaming and sleeping are not directly tied into trans=personal states although there does seem to be a figurative correlation in much the same way that cycles and seasons reflect possible reincarnation themes....anyone who's ever suffered through bouts of depression will testify how much one sleeps through those episodes and there is certainly no advancement into nondual enlightenment because of the extra sleep...
so, perhaps we have a wilber 6 in the making? there was something that always bugged me about the wilber-coombs lattice and i think edward's has gone a long way in explaining my unease with the grid. having said that, if you stack subtle and casual on the top end of stage development my gut feeling is that also creates another set of hypothetical problems which probably can't be resolved with this kind of map making...iow's, it might all be too complex and chaotic to fit into any nice tidy grids......but i like the idea of superconscious as opposed to unconscious deadness!lol