Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I decided to move some posts over here from the announcement section, as this is more than the announcement of the Science and Nonduality Conference. I'd like to explore the relationship in the title, since as I said I've gone roundabout on this topic in several threads. I'd like to bring the relevant posts from those threads to bear in this one, focusing on how nonduality can be postmetaphysically reframed in light of this neuroscientific research. For now here are the posts so far from the previous thread.
Here's an interesting seminar in the upcoming Science and Nonduality Conference connecting image schemas with nonduality. Recall I've done this is a number of threads.*
Dr. Frank Echenhofer (Professor of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies)
"Over the last 15 years there has been a very interesting development within linguistics that may offer new insights regarding the relationship between dualistic thought and nondual experiencing. This development has been the research and writing regarding image schema, all artfully explained in Mark Johnson's book The Meaning of the Body. An image schema is one of many recurring pervasive cognitive structures that are formed from our bodily interactions, our linguistic experiences, and our culture. In contemporary cognitive linguistics, an image schema is considered an embodied prelinguistic structure of experience that shapes the mapping of conceptual metaphors.
"Research studies in cognitive psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience support this notion of image schema. This presentation will provide a new look at the relationship between dualistic and nondual experiencing in light of what is known about how image schemas shape our experiences."
Echenhofer mentioned Mark Johnson, who with George Lakoff wrote my embodied nondual Bible, Philosophy in the Flesh. In my research I came upon this book available free at scribd, From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics (Mouton de Gruyter, 2005). The following excerpt is from Johnson's introductory chapter "The philosophical significance of image schemas":
“The chief problem with Kant's account is that it is based on an absolute dichotomy between form and matter. He thought there could be 'pure' form—form without empirical content—and his problem was to explain how this form could get connected to the material aspects of experience.... Kant's general metaphysical system... seems to me to be too laden with a disastrous set of fundamental ontological and epistemological dichotomies.... However, what is worth salvaging from Kant's account is his recognition of imagination as the locus of human meaning, thought, and judgment. Kant correctly recognized the schematizing, form-giving function of human imagination. Imagination is not an activity of alleged pure understanding or reason, but rather is an embodied process of human meaning-making that is responsible for the order, quality, and significance in terms of which we are able to make sense of our experience. What Kant called the 'faculty of imagination' is not a discrete faculty, but rather multiple processes for discerning and utilizing structure within our experience.
“Moreover, we must not think of imagination as merely a subjective, idiosyncratic private 'mental' operation to be contrasted with objective thought and reason. Imaginative activity occurs, instead, in the ongoing flow of our everyday experience that is neither merely mental nor merely bodily, neither merely cognitive nor emotional, and neither thought alone nor feeling alone. All of these dimensions are inextricably tied up together in the perceptual and motor patterns of organism-environment interaction, which provide the basis for our patterns of understanding and thought. What we identify as the 'mental' and then contrast with the 'bodily' dimensions of our experience are really just abstractions from the embodied patterns and activities that make up that experience. What we call 'mind' and 'body are not separate things. Rather, we use these terms to make sense of various aspects of the flow of our experience. Image schemas are some of the basic patterns of that flow.
“It took the non-dualistic philosophies of people such as William James (1890), John Dewey (1958), and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1962)--and later, the burgeoning work of neonate cognitive neuroscience—to articulate a richer embodied view of imagination, meaning, and thought. James, Dewey, and Merleau-Ponty all shared the fundamental insight that mind and body are not two things or substances
And here are my prior posts referenced above. I will transfer many other such posts to this thread. For now, from this one:
I recall a recent thread linking to an Beams and Struts post that says Wilber, while trying to include a lot of different topics and fields, just gives a general overview of them and doesn't go into their details. And the devil (and god) is in the details and hence some of what Wilber "includes" is partial at best and often so incomplete as to challenge the very broad generalizations he makes. So let's return to the basis of thought in the body.
Wilber's infamous 4-quadrant graph shows the progression from prehension to irritibility, sensation, perception, impulse, emotions, symbols, concepts in the upper left quadrant. And indeed this is the hierarchy that L&J also recognize from their research. But unlike Wilber, in their detailed study of the specifics of this early development they uncover many things Wilber glosses over or ignores. (Or perhaps he just skimmed the material for a few choice quotes or ideas that fit his preconceived agenda and moved on?) For example, due to the structure of our brains perception requires that it reduce the multitude of sensations into smaller units for processing via categorization. And this inherent, biological, neural categorization is the very basis for all further developments into the more abstract kinds of thought like symbol and concept.
L&J get more refined that Wilber's general graph above as elucidated in this article. The basis of their hierarchy is the image schema involving sensori-motor and proprioceptive experience. These basic categories include part-whole realationships via gestalts and mental imagery. So here we have a physiological basis for the holon concept Wilber is so fond of. Holons aren't an apriori part of the structure of the universe apart from the brain that perceives them, just as math is not. Holons and math are not involutionary* but evolutionary givens firmly grounded in the body and its interactions with the environment. We can eliminate the metaphysical underpinnings of Wilber's edifice by simply going into the details of his own sources.
*You can also see from the footnote cited above how Wilber lists the 20 tenets as part of the involutionary givens, which are based the holon concept.
And another things occurs to me. From above we can see how later concepts like math and holons arise from very primitive brain and consciousness structures. All of which supports my oft-repeated thesis that as we meditate we go backward into these previous evolutionary structures but mistake them for involutionary or ultimate/absolute structures of the universe itself. Naturally these early brain and consciousness structures made no such claims. It was only at the latter levels of abstraction that we confused this, not having the benefit of such neuroscientific research to which L&J refer. However the likes of Wilber did have such access and if he'd taken the time to go into the details instead of shaping the broad generalities to fit his metaphysical agenda this wrong track could have been avoided. But he is not alone in this; the general developmentalist path did so too, like Commons et al but instead through the metaphysical math route. But both false reasonings arise from the same deficient-rational, formal-operational level and they don't have to with a few minor tweaks.
And from this one:
Recall page 7 of the real and false reason thread, where Iglowitz criticized nested hierarchies thus:
"This classical categorization therefore expresses an absolute, rigid and nested hierarchy of levels and containment. In Lakoff’s terms it expresses a hierarchical 'container schema.' Ultimately, (because they are nested), at the limits these processes specify (1) a largest concept: 'something,' (defined by no atomic properties), whose extension is 'everything,' and (2) a smallest concept: a particular 'object' in reality, (or possible reality), defined by all its atomic properties. Given the classical paradigm then, reason necessarily begins with 'something,' (the most general concept), and points, inexorably, to some 'thing,' i.e. a specific object."
This is a prime example of kennilingus in showing the dichotomous and metaphysical relationship between strict materialism and idealism. The type of nihilistic materialism referenced above though decries the notion of a fundamental constituent part as well as a fundamental general everything. I commented in page 7 of the referenced thread, discussing L&J's basic categories:
So our basic categories are embodied in image schemas that arise from our interactions with the world. Recall that one characteristic of these basic categories is the part-whole gestalt, aka hierarchy. Since image schemas and basic categories operate below conscious attention we’ve come to assume that they are inherent to the world themselves and thus project this notion of 'natural hierarchy,' with its most developed forms in Aristotelian nested, categorical hierarchies. All of which assumes a basic, particular and inherent 'constituent' as foundation at the bottom and/or a general and inherent 'being' as foundation at the top. Meanwhile the process actually begins in the middle of the classical taxonomy and we get more specific 'downward' and more general 'upward' from there on a useful but constructed hierarchy. This doesn’t necessarily eliminate hierarchy per se, just contextualizes it is a more naturalistic, nondual way and only eliminates its dualistic and metaphysical elements, elements which have some form of inclusivism and hegemony at its core. The notion of holons as involutionary givens is one of those metaphysical elements, and as we’ve seen this is much better explained by the part-whole gestalt properties of basic image schemas.
Some comments from p. 6 of the real and false reason thread:
Related to this, I came across an article other day which supports the idea of a continuous "base state" in the brain, even through deep dreamless sleep. I do not know if this can be correlated with the phenomenological/experiential reports, or the spiritual realizations, of contemplatives, but it's a possibility.
This "foundational" state has a low frequency, which relates to previous threads pointing out research on brain wave frequency over a low-to-high continuum from the unconscious (dreamless sleep, deep meditation) to subconscious (dream, reverie, lighter meditation) to conscious (rationality etc.). Also note that this state is "metaphorical" and below conscious awareness, supporting L&J's contention about the cognitive unconscious and how it builds on basic level categorization via image schemas that develop into metaphor. And also note that this state is not located in a particular area of the brain, like the brainstem which is usually associated with very slow waves and primitive drives like survival. This state operates though the brain as a whole, also supporting my contention of integration of all prior brain structures-states.
And said integration can only occur after the emergence and development of the ego-witness, which does the "observing" and the integrating, though possibly not until at least a systematic, postformal, (aka postmetaphysical) operation (aka false and real reason). Ironically, prior to this integration formal operations tend to see such states metaphysically, as this is the very nature of formal operations.
This is my way of getting at the relation of pre-reflective, “nondual” experience and the dualistic way we interpret it via egoic rationality. Which when integrated can provide a novel or postmetaphysical “nonduality” in that the experience of unity consciousness (one) and dual interpretation (two) is neither and both of those options, i.e., not one, not two and both one and two.
And this from p. 7 of that thread:
L&J discuss basic-level categories in PF (28-30), saying that it is the level at which we interact optimally with the environment and hence they are quite accurate. So much so that it appears as if our categories are actually representing that world as it is. Hence it is an easy step to metaphysical realism. These image schemas remind me of Dharmakirti's "pure particulars" from the prior "myth of the given" discussion, since they seem to function in much the same way, as the next of kin to reality as such and removed from it by the slimest of margins. However also like Dharmakirti anything beyond the basic-level category loses this almost direct connection.
In "Developmental aspects of analytical psychology" Jean Knox shows that we must recontextualize Jung's notion of archetype into the more recent and accurate notion of image schema. The former is still caught in a metaphysical net of at best a priori mental constructs and at worst involutionary givens.
"This developmental model for archetypes requires us to re-categorize them, removing them from the realm of innate mental content and acknowledging them as early products of mental development" (27).
This also supports my notion that these early enactments of embodied, pre-reflective and unconscious development are what we use to contact those seemingly metaphysical, nondual "states" of unity consciousness.
Kennilingus has it right when he said that Jung's archetypes were prototypes from the pre-personal past. Of course he took if further in differentiating "real" archetypes, which were, according to BHOE:
"The real archetypes are subtle seed forms upon which all of manifestation depends" (326). And these archetypes are the first forms from the unqualifiable Emptiness/Dharmakaya/nirguna. So the intuition was right that Jung's version were indeed prototypes, and that archetypes are next to the unity consciousness of nonduality, though not in the metaphysical way he proposes.
Also see this interview with the kennilingus in ILR June 2010, if you think the view in BHOE has been upgraded:
"Jung’s archetypes are not the archetypes that the perennial philosophy talks about, like Plato or Plotinus. An archetype is the first form in manifestation. In Plato, for example, it is described as a geometric form, triangles, squares and circles, and so on. In Buddhism there is the Vasanas, which is some form of collective memory. For Jung, though, when he was looking at these mythic forms they seemed to him to be some sort of primary forms. Just because in the developmental sequence we find archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, etc., where mythic is one of the most noticeable levels, when we go back and we look at the primitive tribes and so on, what we see are mythic forms with their mythic roles, there were God’s and Goddesses. But those aren’t really archetypes in the perennial sense. Those are simply roles that you have available at the magic and mythic levels of development. So they’re more like prototypes in Jung, just roles coming into existence in fulcrum 3 and fulcrum 4."
Also see Excerpt A, footnote 26 for more on his "postmetaphysical" interpretation of these first forms.
Following are some posts from “an IP definition of states” thread, quoting the previous “status of states” thread (link in the former thread):
From Feb 21, 2009, 8:42 AM I said:
Here are some excerpts from New Developments in Consciousness Research by Vincent Fallio (Nova, 2007). For me it indicates that so-called “spiritual” states of consciousness probably arise in very early levels of consciousness and associated brain structures. Hence there is a very real sense in which “primordial” awareness is ancient, in that it arises from these early brain structures. But it is not timeless or absolute; it is grounded in our psychoneurophysiology.
"On a lower level can be found the state of alertness or of being conscious, which refers to a basic level of consciousness or matrix as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. This aspect of consciousness is clearly related to the concept of tonic attention, and is also related to neural mechanisms in the stimulatory reticular system, the thalamus, the limbic system, basal ganglia, and the prefrontal cortex' (81).
And from the Feb 21, 2009, 3:11 PM post quoting Fallio some more:
"…a basic level of consciousness as a generalized state in which the system is receptive to information. In this sense awareness could be related to a tonic or basic attention; it is therefore important to realize that this type of consciousness should be understood as a 'condition for' and not so much as a function or cognitive process. As a result of this it can be affirmed that this notion of consciousness, this state of being aware, is a state that does not contain information'" (68).
Then I said:
Balder opens the SOS thread discussion noting that states are enacted as well, not apriori, absolute, or timeless givens. Now if we look at tonic attention described above it is pre-reflective, something naturally "given" by virtue of our embodiment and with which we are familiar long before language or the "I." In that sense it is apriori and given. It is also close to being a direct correspondence with the natural environment, mediated only by the senses, which are accurate enough to allow for pragmatic interaction (survival) with said environment. But this tonic attention, which we share with the animal world, is not ecstasy or samadhi; it requires an "I" (which is social to begin with) to differentiate and qualify experience as such. And unless you're a wolf baby you're going to get your "I" fairly quickly, only to be alienated from your tonic "self" by formal operations, more or less so depending on your culture. As Levin makes clear, while this "I" might be in part the differentiation from the "self" (and hence gets bad press as antithetical to it), without this "I" to look back and integrate the likes of the tonic "self"* an integrated body-mind is not feasible. Unless you're born a wolf baby and never interact with humans you'll never get this unadulterated tonic attention back. Or you obtain cortical brain damage maybe, which does seem the case upon entering certain integral institutions. And metaphysical interpretations of such state experiences don't help the matter, as if they are separate from stages, a point Balder also makes in his opening statement. (Which metaphysical belief is a symptom of said brain damage.)
* I put "self" in scare quotes because it is ludicrous to call it that prior to the ego, as if it is the type of inherent, timeless, metaphysical and pristine "state" we re-discover like an ultimate Self, a retro-romantic notion. This is part of what needs to change in a postmeta description.
I've referenced this work before but it's appropriate here, "We are live creatures" by Mark Johnson and Tim Rohher. An excerpt:
"We begin by describing the non-dualistic, non-representational view of mind developed by James and Dewey.... We cite evidence from comparative neurobiology of organism-environment coupling ranging from the amoeba all the way up to humans, and we argue that in humans this coupling process becomes the basis of meaning and thought. We describe the patterns of these ongoing interactions as image schemas that ground meaning in our embodiment and yet are not internal representations of an external reality."
This is the thread where I quote Wilber on archetypes. And where I quote Knox. I found this interesting MA thesis which discusses Knox, "Jung and Spinoza: archetypes relocated." Some excerpts:
"Jean Knox observes how it is difficult for other fields to take archetypal theory all that seriously when amongst the Jungians there is so much confusion about what archetypes are even."
"Knox asserts that archetypes should not be thought as innate biology nor as metaphysical universals, but rather as image schemas, pitting them squarely in developmental psychology, somewhere between attachment theory and the work of Piaget. Knox claims that Jung described archetypes in four different ways: 1. Archetypes as 'biological entities in the form of information' encoded in the genes. 'They provide instructions to the mind as well as the body'; 2. 'Organizing mental frameworks of an abstract nature,' a set of rules that are never experienced; 3. Symbolic material that contains 'representational content' and therefore creates meaningful experience; 4. 'Metaphysical entities which are eternal and are therefore independent of the body.'"
See the thesis for Knox's explanations of each. You can find it easily by searching on "Knox."
It appears that we cannot theorize for long without ending up with three interlaced domains -- roughly categorized as materiality, imagination & differential syntax of possibilities. Or gross, subtle & causal. Wherever we attend to their various commonalities or blendings we experience an idiosyncratic effect that is dubbed "nondual".
Seems to me that it is basically irrelevant whether the causal "pure semantic" possibilities are conceived as involutionary forms or evolutionary forms. The structure which is implicit in viewing it either way is ambivalent to which way it gets viewed. But there remain a number of interesting "contingent" forms which are imaginatively enacted in combination with basic neurobiology and which have often provoked exaggerated claims about their prior eternal universality.
Image schemas are interesting players here. They are so low on the totem that they can negotiate material which is casually referred to as thoughtless experience. And yet we do not ever entirely find ourselves justified in the reduction of virtualities and semantics to emergent processes.
The result of all this is that we must accept and attempt to work with the interpenetration of "domains" at every layer of functioning. An in examining this interpenetration we must keep in mind that much of what gets called nondual ought really to be categorized as causal (and that causal never appears purely but always in a gross and subtle context of enactment). Nondual is actually only applicable when a particular state is found to be non-different from another state while the particular state in which one does not have access to conventional differences is simply as aspect of the Causal.
I'd say this is where Edward bitch-slapped Kenny and won the argument over defining what IPMS is . I get that this isn't much of a victory when the ref is a theist ! Sorry, I call them as I see them. Once again though , although I concede that a type of IPMS could be reality; I also believe Wilber could be right -but again , his views are metaphysical ; and of course , I could also be right when I claim that God could be something completely unknowable to a human being ( and completely transcendent while also being completely immersed in the material universe ). A philosophical, paradoxical, panentheist perspective to be sure . Once again, though, a multiplicity of camps arguing over the true nature of reality .