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
What we should take away from Jaynes is not the particulars of his model but the general sense that alternative neurological modes, associated with both advanced and primitive states, may have been common in our ancestors -- and they their artwork, stories, etc. may reflect different neural architecture or neural chemistry. What, for example, if people a 100 000 years ago has 0.1% more natural DMT molecules in their brains? That could be a huge variation. Just different degrees of integration between neural structures and different environmentally induced degrees of brain healthy may be huge. All those things may alter individuals in terms of where and how they perceive information arising to their consciousness.
What I am saying is very general. That difference in the brain, epitomized by differences in degrees of integration of brain systems, played a role in determining how our subjective and subtle experience is perceived -- relative to current general norms. And that integrative neural practices, sustained by particular environments (symbolized by but certainly not limited to what we currently call meditation) may contribute to a general trend in which subjectivity is expanded to experience more phenomena as occurring within its definition of itself.
And, in keeping with all this, it is perhaps even probably that certain people did this very well. In particular I tend to feel that esoteric proto-lineages among prehistoric humans taught embodied disciplines that generated increased coherence between different brain systems (e.g. head, heart, body). These greal-souled individuals may not only have given rise to the early historical esoteric wisdom schools but also have had many hybrid experiences of "communication" or "communion" with profound subtle realm entities. Experiences which might have been common in the past but made sense or where workable for these shamanic individuals who, by various methods, increased their subjective integration to a point where these phenomena were less like a confounding dream and more like a useful bit of information about the universe.
So add all that to your exemplary mirroring...
Agreed, sir! Hey, any thoughts on Lane's article at I.W.? That the subtle is going to be engineered on masse via virtual reality ?
Oh, by the way, on the web page I linked . One commenter said there was an opposing theory to Jayne's that hypothesized the opposite of what Jayne's asserted . That sounded very much like the ideas put forward by theurj.
I haven't read Lane's article but that concept is an old one. The electronically-mediated neurosensory convergence of the digital, subtle and psychedelic is easy to get carried away with... and just as easy to unjustly dismiss. It is a plausible function of human History to accomplish the bridging between the gross realm and subtle realm through technological innovation. And virtual reality is one important piece of that puzzle. It is just art carried into a more immersive realm and we have routinely expected subtle nourishment, subtle encounter and subtle integration to be produced by appropriate human relationships with art. However I would also suggest that we are not in an electronic age but a bio-electronic age in which our digital interfaces perpetually amplify our concern for the ecological and somatic. And that may mean that we will favor a variety of other kinds of techno-subtle interfacing. We already have many. Better virtual reality will be one. So will improvements in our comprehension of the physics of the massless, the economic quantification of ecological and human well-being, the elaboration of means of production based in fractal, biomimetic and complex systems rather than linear replication. A certain kind of academic mind looks first to socially popular forms of mental experience as the locus of subtle energy but machines operating at nanoscales within our flesh and a more delicate technologically enabled understanding of how to live more symbiotically with bacteria and viruses may be as important or more important as inter-domain machinery.