Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
The paper Michel Bauwens and I wrote to be in the next issue of Spanda Journal. Shared here with permission of the Journal. IPS forum is featured at the beginning to set the postmetaphysical stage. The abstract:
Enlightenment has had broadly different definitions is the East and West. In the East it is seen as an individual accessing meditative states that transcend the world of form in a metaphysical reality. In the West it is more about individual development to abstract reasoning, which can accurately represent empirical reality but is itself an a priori, metaphysical capacity. Enlightenment in either case is based on metaphysical individual achievements. However the postmetaphysical turn has questioned such premises, instead contextualizing both meditative states and abstract reasoning within broader socio-cultural contexts. Enlightenment itself has thereby been redefined within this orientation and is seen more as a collective endeavor that is collaboratively enacted.
Discussing Balder, from the paper:
So how then does spirituality express postmetaphysically? First of all it is no longer a domain diametrically opposed to the material domain. Another hallmark of metaphysical thinking is this opposition, with the spiritual or absolute domain the source and cause of the material or relative domain. Postmetaphysical spirituality acknowledges the virtual realm, akin to the absolute realm, but in a very different relationship with the actual or material domain. The virtual domain is still generative of the actual, but its own genesis lies not in a metaphysical plane but within its relationship to the actual in a co-generative process.
Alderman (2013) discussed this process via the emerging field of object-oriented ontology (OOO). A number of metaphysical systems, both east and west, saw the absolute realm as a primal whole underlying the relative realm, or fundamental element(s) from which the rest of the material realm was constructed. However OOO equally opposes an overlying process relationship between all things, that objects can only be understood in their relationship to each other. The idea of an object’s substance is reconfigured avoiding either of those extremes that express more generally as ‘the myth of the given.’ More specifically, e.g., it expresses as the reduction of reality to our direct access to it in toto like the metaphysical notions of eastern meditative traditions, or our direct access to reality via representational models of reason typical of western empirical traditions.
Some more from the paper:
Lutz et al. (2007) explore the various senses of self involved in the meditative process. The meditative state is described as bare awareness without an object, a "minimal subjective sense of ‘I-ness’ in experience, and as such, it is constitutive of a ‘minimal’ or ‘core self.’" It is also "a form of self-consciousness that is primitive inasmuch as: 1) it does not require any subsequent act of reflection or introspection, but occurs simultaneously with awareness of the object; 2) does not consist in forming a belief or making a judgment, and 3) is ‘passive’ in the sense of being spontaneous and involuntary." This is distinguished from our social, narrative self.
This core self is directly related to a sense of I-ness, one’s autonomous individuality. So while it might be before the narrative self with its sense of egoic history, it is a self-awareness nonetheless, unique to its perceiver and self-centric. It is even associated with "bodily processes of life regulation,” generally the most primitive brain. So in itself it is not enlightened consciousness but lizard survival awareness, and only through training is this self-regulatory attentional baseline modified and refined.
Training of our base awareness with its co-arising sense of self is, as noted by Thompson above, an internalized social process. The narrative social self is needed to abstractly ‘witness’ our baseline core self and integrate it with the other aspects of consciousness. Damasio (2012) noted that only after humanity developed a narrative social self sense with language were we capable of consciousness. He also noted that the core self is built upon the proto-self, which is non-conscious at the neural level and communicates via images. This level regulates the human organism in response to external objects in the environment. Even this level is tied to relationships with others external to itself. Said image schemas have been explored in depth by Lakoff (1999) as the very foundation of all later developments. From both ends the accomplishments of individuality and metacognition are generated from correlational social and environmental factors.
Btw, there's a lot of griping about only deconstructing the current system. This paper is about a few of the reconstructive efforts to build a new system. And building that infrastructure is already well underway, including a better, postmetaphysical way to view enlightenment itself.
A FB IPS thread that supports this one on Thompson's talk entitled, “Ethics of Science and Experience in the Age of the Anthropocene,” he discusses the relationship between science and contemplative practice in the context of our current geological age of human impact on planet Earth. Using the concept of the “lifeworld” originated by the German Phenomenologist Edmund Husserl, Dr. Thompson explores how the natural sciences arose from an attempt to bypass their origin in our subjective lived experience. The global crises we now face demand that science adopt a new ethics and culture arising out of an “indigenous” world view that is cosmopolitan in the true sense of the word: We must all learn to see ourselves as citizens of a single global community.
"Our present way of life needs to die. Specifically, carbon-fueled, global neo-liberalism capitalism is unsustainable" (8:05). This is immediately following by an exploration of how both science and contemplative practice are both enmeshed in said neo-liberal capitalism. You don't hear that considered very often regarding meditation.
Later on he makes the point of how science (or meditation for that matter) can only be explored within the horizon of our lifeworld. Which reminded me of the following quotes making the same point:
“The lifeworld reveals only a portion of itself in any dialogue because it exists as a phenomenological ‘background’ of pre-theoretical, pre-interpreted contexts of meaning and relevance….the vast proportion of lifeworld convictions always remain in the background during any discussion…. The lifeworld itself cannot be the proper them of communicative utterances, for as a totality it provides the space in or ground upon which such utterances occur, even those that name it explicitly….it remains indeterminate.... Speaking for the lifeworld as if one could step outside of it and know it directly inevitably leads one to 'invoke a cosmology,' a 'metaphysics of the thing-in-itself'"(235-9).
Morris, Martin (2006) “Between deliberation and deconstruction” in The Derrida-Habermas Reader, U of Chicago Press, 231-53.
Continuing the Thompson link, science has been based on bracketing the lifeworld in an attempt to get outside of it in complete objectivity. But in so doing it has shunned its ethical responsibility that must arise in our lived experience of the lifeworld. Hence contemplative practice, which focuses on that lived experience, can ground science within that ethical background.
However there are two obstacles within the Buddhist contemplative traditions. One is exceptionalism, that of being a kind of mind science different from and superior to all other religious expression. Another is neuro-centrism, the idea that the mind is in the brain. These obstructions reinforce the neoliberal capitalist worldview by "objectifying the mind as the brain and making meditation about individual well-being in a consumerist culture" (33:20).
Buddhism is most certainly a religion in the sense of creating meaning and ethics through ritual and shared practices, so not exceptional in that regard. Also the mind is not located in the individual brain but rather is a relation of embodiment within a culture and natural environment. So in overcoming both of these obstructions meditative states must be situated in a shared, global lifeworld.
What he didn't talk about is how Buddhist contemplative traditions, like science, objectify meditative states by claiming they too are outside of a lifeworld and provide direct access to reality as it is. He did situate meditative states within a lifeworld but didn't critique their penchant for claiming privileged access to reality as such. Recall Morris' comment above on stepping outside of the lifeworld, thereby invoking a metaphysics of the thing in itself. Buddhism is just as guilty of this as science.
The third paragraph of the CE papter is reiterated in the other thread. However the first two paragraphs not so much in the other thread.
Thompson (2015) comments on how Advaita sees meta-awareness as one that transcends the world of manifestation by directly perceiving the absolute. But Thompson sees such a state as an embodied, pre-personal base state of consciousness, recontextualizing the traditional metaphysical explanation into a “contemporary naturalist conception of the embodied mind.”
What is being accessed is a baseline attention that is fully embodied and thereby limited by that embodied constraint. Such a consciousness without an object doesn't lay claim to access to the reality of All, or even access to all of our personal cognitive unconscious or collective unconscious. It's just accessing that embodied part of our natural awareness available to us by virtue of having the body and brain we do with all its limitations.
But Thompson (2015b) goes much further than this state being embodied within an individual. Additionally it is embedded, enactive and extended (4E) within a community. Heretofore the mindfulness state (meta-awareness) has been treated by neuroscientific research as an individual affair generated and contained in the brain. While the individual brain indeed is a necessary prerequisite, it is only a part of how such states are generated. The other parts are the broader context in which this phenomenon occurs.
Now also here.
Footnote 2 makes a key point:
Bryant (2011b) discusses how Bhaskar sees the difference between the transcendent and transcendental. The former assumes a metaphysical foundation for knowledge as described above. Transcendental deduction bypasses such a framing by speculating on what virtual preconditions must be supposed for knowledge to be possible. The virtual by this definition is multiple and immanent without any need of a transcendent, metaphysical underpinning. Bryant (2008) explores this in depth in another book about Deleuze.
Nobuhara (1998) asserts that for Hartshorne relative (r) terms are the basis of absolute (a) terms, noting: "As the concrete includes and exceeds the abstract." The ever-changing relative domain includes within itself the abstract absolute. He defines the absolute as supremely relative, or surrelative.
Another way of approaching the asymmetrical relationship between the relative and the absolute is through basic categories and image schema as elucidated by Lakoff (1999). Recall that these prototypes are in the middle of classical categorical hierarchies, between the most general and the most particular. Basic categories are the most concrete way we have of relating to and operating within the environment. Thus both the more particular and more general categories are more abstract. And yet our usual way of thinking is that the more particular the category the more concrete or relative the object it represents is and vice versa.
Which is indeed related to the absolute being asymmetrically dependent on the relative, if by relative we mean those concrete image schema which are the basis of more abstract derivations. It's easy to confuse them because our 'common sense' associates the more concrete objects of the world with the most particular objects on our constructed hierarchies; the same for the most abstract and ephemeral of thoughts, which do not seem physical or material. And yet these hierarchies are not constructed that way, instead being from the middle up and down via image schema and basic categories.
Such things are unconscious and not readily apparent. So of course we can 'reason' from both the bottom-up and top-down in such hierarchies if we associate the relative with the most particular and the absolute with the most general or abstract. But we do so from the most concrete of image schema, the actual relative, while the top and bottom of the usual, classical hierarchy are the most abstract.