An Integral Postmetaphysical Definition of States

Inspired in part by Mark Edwards' dissertation, in which he calls for clearer definition of key Integral terms, I would like to open a discussion on this important Integral term.  In his work, Wilber obviously frequently uses the term, states, and discusses several types of states, but (to my knowledge) he does not give a clear, formal definition of this important concept.  Because it is such a key component of AQAL, and also is held by Integralists to be such an important aspect of spiritual realization, I think it would be worthwhile to really look at what we mean by it, and possibly see if we can together craft a satisfactory "Integral postmetaphysical" definition.  I ask specifically for an "Integral postmetaphysical" definition, rather than the definition, because obviously the term will be defined differently in different contexts, and at different stages.

What do you think?  If you're interested, let's give this a try.

To start, here are a few (relevant) definitions from Dictionary.com:

1. the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes: a state of health.
2. the condition of matter with respect to structure, form, constitution, phase, or the like: water in a gaseous state.
5. a particular condition of mind or feeling: to be in an excited state.
6. an abnormally tense, nervous, or perturbed condition: He's been in a state since hearing about his brother's death.


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.

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I think this belongs here, brought to my attention by Integral Options, an article in the 9/13 Integral Review called "The metaphysical instincts and spiritual bypassing in integral psyc...." The abstract:

"Instincts are innate, unconscious means by which Nature operates in all forms of life including animals and human beings. In humans however, with progressive evolution of consciousness, instincts become increasingly conscious and regulated by egoic functions. Biological instincts associated with the lower-unconscious such as survival, aggressive, and reproductive instincts are well known in general psychology. The higher-unconscious, which is unique to human beings, may be said to have its own instinctual processes referred to here as the ‘metaphysical instincts’. In traditional spiritual practices awakening the metaphysical instincts has often been done at the expense of suppressing the biological instincts—a process referred to as spiritual bypassing. This essay discusses how the metaphysical instincts initially expressed as the religious impulse with associated beliefs and behaviors may be transformed and made fully conscious, and integrated with the biological instincts in integral yoga and psychology in order to achieve wholeness of personality."

Ah, nice; I look forward to reading this.  Bahman Shirazi was one of my professors at JFKU when I was a student there.

Skimming Shirazi's article he noted that the 'ego' is necessary for integrating personality. But something more than the ego is necessary for more complete integration, what he calls the higher self. But this too is part of the 'ego' if we look to Cook-Greuter, for it has various levels of development. However for both Shirazi and CG this higher self is caught in a metaphysics of presence. For example, from the article:

"In integral yoga the goal is no less than the complete illumination, transformation and integration
of the psyche and evolution of embodied consciousness" (113).

This and other IPS threads make clear that we can include such integration without delusions of "complete illumination."

Also see this comment for how CG goes there too.

More from Shirazi:

"The various levels of the unconscious (lower, middle, higher in Assagioli, or inconscient, subconscient, and superconscient in Sri Aurobindo) are in actuality not neatly divided and compartmentalized. They are in fact a ‘mixed bag’ of tendencies beyond the reach of the conscious, egoic will" (111).

Earlier he noted that the higher unconscious has its origins in involution, consistent with Aurobindo's (and Wilber's) metaphysics. In my view the reason the levels are mixed is due to my ruminations in this thread, sans the metaphysical involution. Hence the reason he sees both as forms of 'instinct' but only because they are both unconscious. My theory is that the lower unconscious is transformed into the higher unconscious via the conscious, and not that the higher involutionary unconscious does the work from an a priori realm.

Now he is right that some traditional methods bypass the body due to this literally metaphysical premise. But while we must integrate both the higher and lower unconscious for him there is still the same metaphysical basis at root. Where I differ is that we create the higher unconscious; it is not an a prior given we discover or that guides us on its own. And again, his metaphysics of presence taints the project with a firm belief in "making the instinctual processes of both the higher and the lower unconscious fully conscious" (112). This misses entirely the embodied and immanent withdrawn we've explored at depth elsewhere that is not just unconscious but never becomes conscious, at least not anywhere near in entirety. Even though it too is immanent and conditioned and not in the least metaphysically absolute, transcendent or eternal, it is virtually limitless in possible actualities.

First impression, "state" is like any term, a construct, and it might become less useful the more specific we try to construct it. "White" and "black" are useful words, but the eye-brain system can create the impression of white even as the colour-temperature of the lighting changes. "White light" doesn't have to be the whole visible spectrum, it can contain just enough of certain portions, combined, to create "white" light. But of course we use "white" and "black" as words very often and they're useful.

"States" and "stages" just show that some phenomena can appear quickly and others take a lot of time to develop. But it doesn't mean a state isn't a structure. A human being sleeps, dreams, and wakes, but those are all part of human structures -- rocks don't dream. 

Also we have a problem with a statement like, "state of consciousness" -- what's consciousness? Can we describe what the thing is, even before we say it has a number of states? 

Plus there's the notion of "realms" as dreaming isn't just a state, it is a realm in which I may experience a variety of states. A happy dream, a sad dream, etc. as well as a variety of structures. 

So like in Tart's description, we have to resort to the word "pattern". Words like "realm", "structure", and "state" are varying qualities of patterns. Patters which seem to have a building over time, we call "structures", like learning to drive. Patterns which suddenly change to a different pattern, we tend to call "state" (falling asleep, or being too drunk to drive, etc.) 

But again, that doesn't mean that becoming drunk isn't a structural process, all the pathways in the body, all the changes in the brain's function, any less than a raging hot fire in a building isn't a change to that building's structure. Alcohol poisoning can kill the person. "Alive" and "dead" are two "states" but they are also vastly different structures. 

Hi - I hope this is a good thread to post this video on that I find refreshing. Though not quite a sequitur to the direction the thread went, it seems related. I like the ever-day human scale, the proportion, clarity, and directness of Stephen Kotler's presentation of being in the zone [state(s)], within the functioning of consciousness, and some of it's relationship to meditation (scroll down):
http://bigthink.com/think-tank/steven-kotler-flow-states

Hi B, t, and others -

I have been spending a little time this morning reading through the first page of this topic. I like what it is about. And it contains and represents so much knowledge and potential understanding, I need to admit that I feel humbled - again. Fortunately, there is a lot here that I have been interested in for a while and about which I have some bits and pieces of rudimentary understanding.

I may at some point have some questions to ask or comments to make, but now I want to ask for further clarification that goes back to my ongoing understanding/not-understanding of what is "metaphysical" and what is "post-metaphysical".

(I get inner support to ask this basic question from you, Bruce, who made a comment that often men don't like to ask for directions or help, but that asking is ok. Even if I feel slow to get something that seems so basic to the conversation here. Hopefully I am gradually triangulating meaning or spiraling in on this.)

The quote below that I emboldened brought this question foreground for me, again.

"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."

Is what Charles said part "physical" and part "metaphysical", or is it all "physical?" Could you please give me a brief, maybe stereotypical example of what would me "metaphysical trappings?" If they were to be added in or on to this?

If this could be seen as having metaphysical explanation in Charles' quote, maybe you could make a distinction for me between this dryer metaphysics and another more florid type - if this is making sense at all to ask.

Then, what would be the "postmetaphysical" turn - what would distinguish the postmetaphysical musing and explanatory commentary from the existing metaphysics included in his explanation, and certainly the more florid metaphysics that could have been added by someone?

Thanks, ambo

"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)'"

Hey Ambo, i am feeling chirppey this morning so please pardon me for stepping in out of queue. Okay, then, metaphysics: the study of being. Post-metaphysics=post- being i.e. dead ! lol I believed i riffed on a similar theme earlier in this thread. Nonetheless, Wilber posits that all philosophy past Kant is [P]ostmetaphysics, but it's my proclivity to think that Kant was espousing alternative metaphysics; as it is my assertion that metaphysics is inescapable while in this body. My own perspective is that post metaphysics is more aligned with the post-Nietzshean ethos: the DionysionD spirit that Lp riffs on at times. Anyway, that  particular interpretation makes some kind of sense to me. 

Some links on this theme and conundrum . Firstly, there is the Grof/Wilber schism that the first link talks about:

http://www.rainbowbody.com/newarticles/energybody.htm

Therein one can find the assertion that everything past birth is a falling away from perfection ( woohoo western metaphysics), Wilber parted ways with this type of ontology ages ago. And the type of metaphysics presented in that link leads to this type of ontology: 

http://anointed-dribble.blogspot.ca/2013/07/research-paper-about-ra...

Therein one can find a metaphysics that Sam Harris and theurj dispute. It's here that, I think, post metaphysics becomes a viable avenue of interpretation. It's also here that spiritual science starts to have its voice. Here, Wilber asserts that there is a  general consensus among a core group of practitioners that have performed certain injunctions, and that this group of people have satisfied all the requirements for asserting what is most real about life. Ahem, really?

As for myself, I've moved-- over the years-- from Idealism to a type of panpsychism that doesn't assert the separateness of consciousness per se ( at least as to how  humans are  able to perceive reality) but rather, consciousness is innate or immanent within all existence. This leads to a process ontology of spirit in action, and indeed, some type of teleology (purpose) . However, similar to Kant's noumena, I-at the same time-believe that there is something that humans can't know about the nature of reality. It's this space wherein I leave room for ___ ( panendeism). Although , I am fine being called a gapper!

Anyway, Chatreuse alters one's state in such a way that only booze named after a colour can:) Thank-you Grindhouse. Cheers! Amen…..

Good, Andrew - I plan to read these links.

Do you have an opinion about the quote by Charles Tart in my prior post? Is that a metaphysical exploration/explanation of his? Does it express 'metaphysical trappings' - or is it more fundamentally descriptive, hence not metaphysical?

Maybe you can see a little where I am hung up here. Or not :)

In regard to this quoted paragraph, what added into this might be 'metaphysical trappings'? And what would then turn it post-metaphysical?

Ok, I think I get that you are saying there is plenty of disagreement about what is post metaphysical and hence you gave me the links. Do you think there is any controversy about what is metaphysics?

Engage this if you like :) - thanks.

Hi Ambo, R.Scott didn't send me a refund for the stinky Prometheus so my Ka$h is going to the final Hobbit  movie in short time. It sounds like Tart is describing science 2 and 3 . Studying academically interior states of being. I like his systems approach, but it seems to fall strictly within the materialist/naturalist approach; which seems to me to fall within traditional metaphysics ( the study of being). If we say that he discards ALL immaterialism or invisibility as an explanation for qualia , etc., then, to me, at that point, he is using post metaphysics if we define that as the abandonment of  all explanations of reality that posit some type of 'supernaturalism' ( a word I am not fond of). 

My last post in the last paragraph describes my take on things these days. The links i posted get into all kinds of metaphysical trappings, and for me, i take more of a post-mythological approach to such claims ( whether Buddhist, Christian , or Scientology, etc.)

 Gotta run, I hope that helps a bit, but Bruce's reply would surely be more coherent. 

Hi, Ambo, this is a question we have circled back to numerous times on this forum.  I tell you this not to complain about your bringing it up again, but to say you're in good company here:  it has been a point of inquiry for us, too.  

If you take metaphysics as essentially identical to ontology, the study or philosophy of being, then Tart's piece is still metaphysical in that sense, as is Wilber's.  Both concern themselves with the nature of reality, or aspects of reality (such as a systems ontology of consciousness, in Tart's case).  

Post-metaphysics can mean one of at least two things:  1) a theory which is generally naturalistic and empirically grounded, avoiding especially positing supernatural (non-natural, non-empirical) entities or causal factors; and 2) a theory or philosophy which specifically attempts to avoid a particular form of metaphysics which has come under critique in the post/modern age, namely the metaphysics of presence.  Wilber addresses the former by arguing that any theories about an aspect or dimension of reality that are devoid of means of helping you to confirm or disconfirm that aspect or dimension (injunctions which help you to enact that reality) are metaphysical in the 'bad' sense; and he addresses the latter with his critique of the myth of the given and the "view from nowhere" (which you're probably familiar with from his writings).  The two are closely related, with the former representing something like the modern contribution (broad empiricism) and the latter representing the postmodern contribution (the reality we perceive is not simply given, as is, by nature, but is uniquely enacted or co-constructed by the subject (and the intersubjective and interobjective networks in which s/he is embedded).

Not sure if this clarifies or muddies the water!

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