Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
We have a thread for Varela in this sub-forum so I figured his cohort from The Embodied Mind would be worthy. I've provided some of his recent material elsewhere that I'll move over here. For now this is his homepage. Therein is a link to some of his selected articles, one of which is a condensed version of what will be in his forthcoming book, Waking, Dreaming, Being: New Light on the Self and Consciousness from Neuroscience, Meditation and Philosophy (link). The article is "Dreamless sleep, the embodied mind and consciousness: The relevance of a classical Indian debate to cognitive science" (link). (Kela in times past would have loved this one. Wonder if he's still around out there?) Abstract from the article:
"One of the issues debated between the Advaita Vedānta and Nyāya schools in classical Indian philosophy is whether consciousness is present in dreamless sleep. Advaita Vedānta argues that the waking report 'I slept well' is a memory report and hence requires previous experience, whereas Nyāya argues that the report expresses a retrospective inference. Consideration of this debate, especially the reasoning Advaita Vedānta uses to try to rebut the Nyāya view, calls into question the standard neuroscience way of operationally defining consciousness as that which disappears in dreamless sleep and reappears when we wake up or dream. The Indian debate also offers new resources for contemporary philosophical concern with the relationship between phenomenal consciousness (subjective experience) and access consciousness (accessibility to working memory and verbal report). At the same time, findings from cognitive neuroscience have important implications for the Indian debates about cognition during sleep, as well as for Indian and Western philosophical discussions of the nature of the self and its relation to the body. Finally, considerations about sleep drawn from Advaita Vedānta, as well as the Yoga school and Indo-Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, suggest new experimental questions and protocols for the cognitive neuroscience of sleep and consciousness."
Just found this Thompson et al. article.
Thompson talk at Google:
Hi Edwyrd - of course I like the careful and modest way Evan Thompson talks of neurophenomenology and philosophy, as sciences.
The body of this talk felt solid and plenty nuanced, and the Q&A at the end showed his special care and modesty in generalizing to questions that interested the audience. His context specificity is tight. I respect that a lot. There seems to be a committed discipline to it that he has built and is ongoingly building into his engagement with knowledge and inquiries and the people.
Specifically, I am glad to hear him again acknowledge and refine the basic "states" and how some states are transitionary to others. Here, he teaches on the similarities-commonalities and differences-distinctions among states. I like hearing the term "mind-wandering" that may replace my more positivistic label of my early morning self care and work as partly being "processing" unfinished business. Sometimes I vaguely allude to contemplation to include more casual mind-wandering. "Hypnogogic" - good to hear of that again, a lovely and strangely, potentially frightful phenomenon, of dissolutions and even fallings.
IMO, he does science and "spirituality" a service in how he works.
Edwyrd theurj Burj said:
Thompson talk at Google:
He's one of my favorites, as he sees postmetaphysics much the same as I do.
Embodied cognition and the arts (video below). As a dancer and martial artist, as well as an embodied cognitioner, this talk is particularly relevant to me. I've been saying since forever that these arts are meditative disciplines in themselves. And one doesn't necessarily need the sitting still sort of meditation to achieve meta-cognition.
Having done both kinds my anectodic report is that both sitting and moving meditation induce meta-cognition. But there are no studies on movement meditation to confirm it as yet. That's part of what Thompson is complaining about, and encouraging the scientific meditative researchers to start investigating.
Around 14:20 he said that research has show that perception is different when one initiates movement than when one is passively moved. He did not directly compare perception with movement to perception while completely still, so not sure of those differences.
At 18:20 he reiterates a point made elsewhere, that individual meta-cognition is an internalized form of social cognition, a point I used in the paper on collective enlightenment. He then brings in Vygotsky's work along this line, different than Piaget's. In our paper I also brought in Habermas' use of Mead in this regard. For reference, also see Edwards' 3-part series at Integral World on the depth of the exteriors.
At 23:40 is an important point to my initial inquiry about comparing sitting and moving meditation: "If two cognitive systems include different cognitive practices, the two systems can have different cognitive properties, even when the neural network activations are the same."
At 30:20 I was reminded about a discussion Bruce and I had about Latour's modes of existence related to parts of speech. Latour's prepositional mode could be considered both a part of speech and how the different parts of speech, or modes, interrelate. When discussing attention Thompson said that it has no specific location in the brain but is the whole embodied subject. Attention isn't a particular process or even a collection of processes, but a mode in which processes are related, sort of like Latour's prepostional mode.
Finishing the talk he reiterates the need to extend scientific meditative research to the movement arts. From the above he seems to suggest that movement mediation, which perhaps activating the same brain areas, means something very different via its enaction than sitting meditation. So it is not the same meta-cognitive experience with the two forms.
Having done both kinds I find moving meditation activates and refines the spatial-temporal bodily image schema in a way that sitting meditation does not. In so doing it literally gives multiple views of objects within an immediate field of attention, thereby opening to multiple points of view rather than a fixed point of reference in sitting.
However the attention in sitting meditation, while opening to whatever arises, be it a sound or a thought, or even by focusing one one object, is still within a fixed center or perspective, this notion of a bare attention that theoretically has no center or ego reference. But that rests on an assumption that bare attention itself is beyond reference or perspective, while moving meditation's sort of bare attention makes no such assumption given its ever shifting physical perspective. It seems that sitting mediation is literally fixated while moving meditation is multi-perspectival with no fixed center.
Just some biased ruminations that are sure to fire up the sitters! Have at it.
I'm also reminded of this thread a modality and supramodality.
See this interesting sub-thread about the cognitive self's center of gravity in Bonnie's broader thread about Peterson is highly recommended as a prelude and context for this Garfield criticism of Thompson, "Reflections on Reflectivity. Garfield:
"The apparent unity to my experience is a construction. If to be a self is to be a subject, a unified center of consciousness, we are not selves. Persons, yes, but not selves. Our subjectivity is too complex, too fragmented, too multilayered for that. The transcendental unity of apperception that Kant thought was necessary to our identity (an idea carried over through Husserl into Thompson’s thinking) is, from the standpoint of Buddhist philosophy and from a lot of cognitive science, alas, not even actual. Agency is equally fragmented. Our sense that there is a unity of decision making when we act is simply false. The springs of action are manifold, and we often rationalize our motives ex post facto. These are precisely the phenomena to which Candrakīrti as well as Asanga and Vasubandhu advert when they say that the self as a narrative center of gravity (to use Daniel Dennett’s apt term) or as a center of agency or as something supervenient upon our aggregates—the thing to which we take ourselves to advert when we say 'I'—simply is non-existent."
Therein Garfield also challenges Thompson's notion of consciousness, in effect similar to Wilber's notion as consciousness per se, in that it is a mystification.
"The smoke gets thicker when we turn consciousness into a kind of inner mirror in the context of analyzing it as reflexive awareness, a temptation to which Thompson succumbs partly in the thrall of Yogācāra Buddhism and partly due to the influence of Husserl and his contemporary interpreters. Candrakīrti, as Thompson is well aware, would have none of this (he is one of the most trenchant critics of the idea of the reflexivity of awareness), and neither should we. [...]
"Thompson is right to say that the self-illumination viewpoint regards consciousness as self-luminous like a lamp. But it also regards it as a thing, and it regards the metaphor of illumination, according to which this property or substance, or process, shines out on things in the world so that I can see them. I think that is a terrible metaphor. Things in the world become apparent to us by virtue of their effects on us, not by virtue of a light we shine on them. They shine forth; we don’t."
I used Garfield quite a bit in my discussion of the differences between shentong and rangtong Buddhism in this Ning thread. Shentong indeed mixes and matches Yogacara with Buddhism and hence gets this metaphysical consciousness per se at the heart of reality that Wilber maintains in his writings.
But I'm more sympathetic with Thompson, who on other Buddhist issues sides with Tsongkhapa (rangtong) while arguing against Gorampa (shentong). On this issue of the self Thompson uses a lot from dynamic systems science to support his rangtong position of a constructed self that is not illusory. And that consciousness is primary not in a metaphysical sense but acknowledging that we can't step outside it to measure it.
But like the linked discussion in another thread on developmental dynamic systems, Garfield agrees that this self and consciousness isn't a "narrative center of gravity." I don't see that Thompson is saying that either, but it will require further research.
Recall that Thompson worked with Varela on neurophenomenology. This article on Varela has some pertinent Varela quotes:
"From both the biophysical and the concrete experiential points of view there is no central "I" other than the one sporadically actualized in a linguistic, self-referential mode in communication. The "I" can only be localized as an emergence but it acts as the center of gravity of the subject himself, of his real life experiences" (36).
But said self has no specific location. It is "co-determination of inner and outer." It is a "selfless self" or "virtual self" and yet "can provide an occasion for coupling in a dynamical process." Thus through the history of its interactions it maintains a "cognitive self."
Which of course reminds me of what Edwards et al. said in their article on syntegrity in another application:
“‘Syn-integrality’ resonates in particular with the idea of ‘tensegrity’ as this concept refers to the integrity of structures as being based in a synergy between the inseparable and balanced components of tension and compression (Fuller and Applewhite, 1975). [...] Instead of using compression, ‘syn-integral’ bridging achieves stability by the distribution and concurrent application of tension and pressure on the entire bridge and in relation between its poles. Thus, the integrity of the structure is determined by the distributed tensile stress of the entire system. [...] Remarkably these tensile structures have empty centres. Correspondingly, every point is visible and connectable from every other, suggesting a desirable form of transparency. […] For a tensegrity-oriented approach the centre is a virtual one, rather than being occupied by some dominant body, individual, concept or value. [...] Therefore syn-integral bridging does not follow the ideas of a metaphysical harmony, nor an underlying unity-oriented ideal(ism)" (127-8).