Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I decided to move this post over to its own thread to work on this. I'll also move other related past posts over from other threads to riff on later.
The last post reminded me of something I've been working on using Bergson via Bryant. It's not completely thought through yet, with gaps still, but I thought I'd get it down here and then work on it further.
Now where Bryant might be akin to something like the MHC is in his endo-relational organizational structure. Recall in TDOO his distinction between exo- and endo-relations, and its correlation with intensional and extensional relations in a set (212). Endo-relations reside in the structural organization of its elements, the elements themselves not being autonomous entities. Hence the elements of this set cannot be otherwise; they must be in a relatively fixed pattern to maintain an entity's autonomy (214).
Bryant uses Bergson's diagram on memory to show how endo-relations are maintained (232).
It is similar to hierarchical nests but not quite. ABCD shows the unfoldment of an entity over time. A'B'C'D' show the memory of the entity, which feeds back into its unfoldment and also allows for future anticipation. But what is unfolded and remembered-anticipated is how an entity selectively organizes its structural elements in relation to its environment. This can and does change in response to these relations, but even when it changes it maintains a relatively stable endo-relational structure to maintain autonomy.
Where Bryant didn't go with this, and I do, is in relating this to the Wilber-Combs lattice. As I've laid out in different posts and threads, we might loosely correlate A'B'C'D' with our early development using MHC's stages with Gebser's, from pre-operational/archaic (D') to primary/magic (C') to concrete/mythic (B') to abstract-rational (A'). Formal rationality begins at A, which can be then trained to retrieve through focus and memory to integrate the previous levels throuch meditative or contemplative methods.
But here is where it diverges with the MHC and uses a twist or fold in the W-C lattice. I've claimed that the MHC continues to get more complicated with it's postformal stages, not fully remembering and then integrating the previous stages by not taking into account how the meditative process works. When integrated via meditation there is a fold or twist in both the W-C lattice and in Bergson's diagram above. Hence we get something more akin to Levin's bodies as the integrative process unfolds in reverse order, the prior magic and mythic becoming the transpersonal and the prior archaic becoming the ontological.
This relates to the W-C lattice in that the higher stages are the meditative integration of earlier state-stages in reverse order: gross-abstract, subtle-magic/mythic, causal-archaic. These are the third tier in the lattice. But whereas the lattice continues to differentiate states from stages in postformal levels a la the MHC, the states and stages undergo a transformation in the fulcrum of formal operations with meditation. i.e., they are heretofore more fully integrated and that differentiation is now replaced a la Gebserian IA awaring and the prior analysis-synthesis (de-re) above.
Relating this back to Bryant's endo-relational structure, the endo-relational elements are structurally organized in a specific and nested way akin to transcend and include. Wilber senses that there is a difference between enduring and transitional structures akin to Bryant's endo- and exo-relations. Wilber even uses Luhmann in ways similar to Bryant but not in this way, since Wilber's enduring structures are cogntive like pre-formal to concrete to rational. These would be more akin to Luhmann's independent and autonomous exo-relations.
Engler goes on to note that some forms of meditation uncover psychodynamic processes but that in itself doesn't facilitate insight into them. The meditative traditions often discourage working with such contents, instead seeing them as manifestations of delusion (43-4). It seems the same is thought of the 'ego' when see as just an illusion (bathwater), hence little effort was put into its other and non-illusory aspects (baby) necessary for healthy functioning.
"Traditional Buddhist meditation manuals don't mention these [psychodynamic] issues. Systematic Buddhist psychology (Abhidhamma) lists fifty-two mental factors defining discrete states of consciousness [....] But there is no mention of [...] depression, no mention of mental illness as we understand it or of psychiatric disorders. No mention of personality, family or relationship issues as such" (45).
Reading further into Engler's chapter on the different kinds of self it struck me from the onticological perspective. That is, each suobject is indeed autonomous, a real and unique self like no other. And it is constructed and impermanent. Without inherent (metaphysical) self-existence it has real (both virtual and actual) existence nevertheless.
This is interesting. In discussing a non-dual state he said "the ego functions as a synthetic principle without organizing experience around a self" (58). This section also reminds me of Damasio's different selves and Thompson's use of that work. (See this post and several following, all relevant to this thread.)
On 63 Engler talks about the 8 jhanas (absorption) accessed via concentration. He doesn't say this will inevitable lead to the ideal ego and the ego ideal but it could. He then lists the other problems that may arise with this practice from a (or his?) Buddhist perspective: they are temporary states, in themselves they do not lead to liberation, they lack a moral grounding. Hence the other aspects of Buddhism to include such practice in a larger context, including insight meditation.
On 68 he talks about how we access no self via meditation, how we observe the actual process of constituting our self representation from moment to moment. Through this we see the self is not only constructed but requires continual reconstruction from one moment to the next via memory. This process, as I suggested, goes 'back' or 'deeper': "The nanas or 'stages of insight' in vipassana practice actually represent progressively earlier stages in the entire sequence of information processing, pattern recognition, and conceptualization by which we bring a self and a representational world into being each instant" (68).
This reminds me of the very first post in this thread, how Bergson sees memory reconstructing us continually, since our 'self' is not a fixed or enduring 'inherent' structure. I.e., per Bryant our thoughts arise and vanish immediately, and only through our endo-structural organization with its 'memory' do we reconstruct them time and again. There simply is not enough processing capacity in our CPUs to retain all those thoughts, feeling, etc. Our contingent endo-structure must continually renew itself to survive.
Though Bryant uses the terms of dynamic systems instead of Buddhist meditation. And where these two domains cross is in the work of Thompson. I'll address that later.
On 75 we begin to see the differences with something like Bryant's onticology and his critique of relationism. For Engler (and Buddhists generally) our dependent arising translates into "there is nothing more than the totality of our relation with everything else in this moment. They are no-thing apart from these relations" (75). Although directly after he notes that emptiness "cannot be known directly," only by knowing form. And it is here where there is a similarity to OOO's virtual realm, but the difference still depends (pun intended) on the relation of relations and autonomy. And how this expresses in Engler's Buddhist notion that no 'self' remains in this process, whereas indeed it does for onticology and dynamic systems.
In your inquiry, have you looked yet into Morton's use of some of these concepts in Realist Magic? While he is a shentong-pa (not your preferred type of Buddhist), he is the only OOO thinker to my knowledge* who has attempted to relate OOO to Buddhism in a more-than-cursory way. (Searches under emptiness, relationism, no-self, Nagarjuna, and lava lamp produce some relevant tidbits).
* Besides either one of us
In chapter 3 of Realist Magic Morton compares Metzinger's no-self Buddhism to lava lamp (process-relationism) ontology. He sees it as an example of undermining and calls it "ontotheology." He adamantly asserts that "there is something 'underneath,' 'different from' (or what have you) relations."
Here's a link to Thomson et al's article Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness. I discussed it in this post and following. He uses Damasio's work to contextualize his empirical results. This post gives a brief summary of that work and is further discussed thereafter. A couple relevant excerpts from the referenced posts follow.
Another interesting discussion in the meditation/neuroscience paper is on ipseity. On 45 it is described as "bare awareness" without an object. On 64 it is described as "the 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 narrative self.
This bare awareness or ipseity is directly related to a sense of I-ness, ipseity itself referring to this 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 apperceiver and I-centric. It is even associated with "bodily processes of life regulation" (65), 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.
A few points on Damasio above related to the previous meditation article on ipseity and awareness. Note that consciousness is not the same as basic mind awareness. The former requires a 'self' and the latter is bereft of one. Core consciousness pre-dates the narrative self and is focused in the present only. It seems this is the 'bare awareness' from the meditation article, which requires ipseity (self), and is not the same as the unconscious 'mind' process (awake awareness) that Damasio distinguishes.This is congruent with my earlier speculations that it requires an 'ego' to meditate, which goes down into the 'mind.' I didn't have Damasio's more refined definitions then, so the ego to which I referred might be more like the core consciousness than the narrative self?
I've also made the connection that the Witness of meditation fame is indeed the ego. Granted I have to re-frame the ego with more specificity in light of Damasio. In this regard the following is from p. 18 of Self Comes to Mind:
"Countless creatures for millions of years have had active minds happening in their brains, but only after those brains developed a protagonist capable of bearing witness did consciousness begin, in the strict sense, and only after those brains developed language did it become widely known that minds did exist. The witness is something extra that reveals the presence of implicit brain events we call mental."
Also of note is that the proto-self is housed in the brainstem and is literally the body-mind, which communicates via image (schemas?) and primordial feelings connected to "sheer existence" (20-2).
In section 2.3.1 of the meditation paper it seems to indicate that the practice in general is through the core self, not the narrative self. They in fact use Damasio as a source for these parts of the self. Section 2.3.2 says that consciousness is the result of integration of various brain areas and is not relegated to any particular area, except the proto-self, according to Damasio. Section 2.3.3 notes that at least some forms of meditation are geared to the core self (ipseity) under the narrative self. Hence it gets close to our autonomous functions of life regulation and stabilize them in a more homeostatic balance, including emotional equanimity. This of course provides a more stable and healthy base for the narrative self, so that it is less twisted with neurosis etc.
This post references an article that puts the two types of meditation (focus and open) in this neurological context. I remarked:
Also of interest from the last article is how in the beginning it compares what I've excerpted above with Descartes' dualism, the mind being an immaterial 'ghost in the machine.' At the end he comes full circle, noting this same dualism is inherent to not only Husserl's transcendent consciousness but also to traditional Buddhist notions of transcendent awareness.
This has been of course one of my own criticisms with various brands of shentong above and in other threads. I explained it as as aspect of the rational ego, the autobiographical self or formal operations in MHC-speak. That's where the Cartesean split occurs, so that when we unwind in meditation to the core self, that first reflective 'I,' we misinterpret it as some form of world-transcendent, metaphysical entity.
Hence the next step beyond the autobiographical self, the centaur, takes us into postmetaphysics, once again grounding these natural states with neuroscience, validating the states but refuting the transcendent interpretations. And as I've said above and elsewhere, we can get more complex in our 'operations,' but until we re-embody and anchor those in our core and proto-selves via meditation or some similar methodology it's all just more complex, yet less integrated, psycho-babble still caught in Cartesian dualism. The real/false reason thread is a good place for review.
That is, the postmodern, postformal operatives got the interpretation right* but lacked the proto- and core self integration. While the traditional meditators integrated the prior selves, yet were still stuck in formal interpretations.
* Except for the researchers into stages like the MHC. As I argued in real/false reason, there is a big difference between those that manifest postformality and those that study it. The latter seem to me to be stuck in the dualism, even the model itself, and the thread provides ample evidence to that effect.
I'd like to refresh some posts on the difference between elements and substances per Bryant, for I see a relation between Wilber's distinction between basis and transitional structures. We discussed this starting on p. 71 of the OOO thread. Recall in TDOO, chapter 4.1 Bryant notes that elements are not substances but rather are the stuff that substances create and organize in their endo-relations, i.e., elements "are not ontically pre-given." The endo-relations of any suobject, individual or social, is not the same as how suobjects can also be nested within other more inclusive suobjects. While elements are subsumed within a subobject, per above the smaller suobjects are not themselves subsumed parts of the larger but rather subsist within the environment of the larger suobject. Hence they retain their autonomous substance.
Since Luhmann is a source for both Bryant and Wilber let's look at his article "The autopoeisis of social systems." For Luhmann thoughts are the basic elements in conscious systems, as communications are for social systems. And he means basic elements, not holons (or substances in assemblages), for such elements are undecomposable.
"Conscious systems and social systems have to produce their own...basic elements, that is, thoughts and communications...which vanish as soon as they appear" (9).
On pp. 9-10 elements must be ephemeral, for a system cannot store and maintain them all. They must be disintegrated and reintegrated on a continual basis. Also his discussion of time and renouncing "a stable and enduring presence" echo Bryant's use of Derrida.
In this article Maturana and Varela find cognition to the the element(s) of biological systems (3). Also note:
"In addition to temporalisation, Luhmann deontologises the concept of element. Elements are
defined as elements merely through their integration into the system. Outside or independently of the system they have no status as elements; i.e. they are 'not ontically pregiven' (Luhmann 1995a: 22). Elements can, of course, be composed of different components, which could be analysed independently of the system, but as elementary units they are only defined through their relation to other elements and in this sense through the function they fulfill for the system as a whole" (6).
"In Luhmann's theory the 'human being' is not conceptualised as forming a systemic unity. Instead it has to be understood as a conglomerate of organic and psychic systems. The former consists of biochemical elements, the latter of thoughts. Both systems are operatively closed against each other: no system can contribute elements to the respectively other system. The systems are however structurally coupled; i.e. their respective structures are adjusted to each other in such a way as to allow mutual irritations" (9-10).
So, our organic base is not transcended and included in our mental life but is rather an entirely separate system?!
in Chapter 5 of TDOO. In 5.2 he discusses the intensional and extensional relations of Badiou's set theory. In the former elements of the set are ordered in a particular way, whereas in the latter the elements can be related in multiple ways. I.e., elements in the latter are not defined by their relations whereas they are in the former. He relates this to his exo- and endo-relations respectively. So a particular suobject can be composed of smaller parts with their own substances, but their relations to the larger suobject are exo-relations. Whereas the organization of the endo-relations between those smaller parts is what is undecomposable in the larger suobject, what is particular to that suobject's substance. Hence the endo-relations themselves are not another suobject with substance but what make the larger suobject unique.
Hence per above indeed our biological parts are independent of our thoughts and they irritate each other via structural coupling. Thus the parts are not holons if by that we mean they are completely enveloped and subsumed within the higher order thoughts. But each biological part is a holon in that its endo-relations are indeed completely subsumed and organized within it. Hence Bryant's strange mereology.
From this Bryant blog post:
"This is one reason I’ve elsewhere proposed that the proper being of objects has the status of a ghost or a poltergeist. The proper being of an object is not its parts (other objects), but is rather a ghostly endo-relational structure that cannot directly be perceived but only inferred.... It is that assemblage of powers, attractors, or singularities (tendencies presiding over the entity as act) that make up its proper being."
Recall this post on p. 3 addressing how Buddhism via meditation uncovers the ephemeral nature of elements (or aggregates) that must be continually reconstituted. On p. 74 of the OOO thread I discussed the possible relationship with Bryant per above. We can still see differences though. For example, in Buddhism generally there is no substance if by that we mean primordial or universal essence, i.e., lack of inherent self existence. And yet the notion that all things are causally produced and interrelated is akin to Bryan't substance, as it too does not have a universal existence but rather a unique, temporal, materially produced individual existence. One difference with Buddhism is that there is nonetheless something in an object's substance that is non-relational, at least exo-relational. However the endo-relations are indeed still relational and a suobject is still coordinating other substantive subject-parts within it, but it is in the organizational structure wherein lies its ephemeral, transient elements.
From an overview of aggregates they are indeed temporary and fleeting, but they would seem to preclude, or at least don’t differentiate, the kind of substance Bryant describes using Luhmann and Varela. In fact, the Buddhist definition of aggregate pertains not only to mind-thoughts but the physical world as well. Granted physical forms indeed come and go, but while they are manifest they don’t seem to have the kind of autonomous substance above. So I’m wondering how we might find a homeomorphic equivalence with aggregates pertaining to structural endo-relations, and that something that remains in excess of them what Bryant calls substance.
Continuing from the linked article, in Abhidhamma Form “arises from experientially irreducible physical/physiological phenomena.” It seems at least here we have an autonomous suobject (substance)? And when a human contacts a suobject (form) then there is the process of the human perceiving, feeling and forming its own information about that independent suobject, i.e., for Bryant translating it. Like Bryant this translation isn’t a direct correspondence with the suobject, since it must translate via the process of the aggregates or endo-relations. And in this sense the endo-relations like aggregates are indeed ephemeral, the stuff from which the organizational structure builds and maintains.
Consciousness is one of the aggregates. The aggs seem more like the usual developmental ladder: body-perception-emotion-mind-consciousness. They are 'real' in a sense, the Buddhist 'problem' being getting attached to or identifying with them, not in their conditional and impermanent reality per se. All of the aggs can be recontextualized as nested 'levels' to the actual, smaller and substantial part-suobjects in a larger suobject. But not their structural relations per se, which do not enter into local manifestation as body, emotion or thought. Very sticky wicket.
My own experience of being an immature Buddhist monk
leads me to want to nuance some of the standard claims.
It is considered a rather poor buddhism
or simply short-hand
to assert that there is no "inherent self-existence".
That is a meditative tool.
For thousands of years, the more complete truth statement has always been:
"there neither is nor is not inherent self-existence".
As Theurj notes, the claims of non-substantiality are generally heuristic or affective descriptions for becoming unbound from identification with dynamic aggregate forms -- not ontological statements of a primordial void.
I would suggest that classic statements such as:
Emptiness is also empty of itself...
are attempts to language an exo-relational reality structure.
"Dharma" itself may be readily construed as set of dynamic real-objects
which appear within, and as, but are not limited to the conditional forms of subtle and gross reality.
Locally effective aspects of the dharma appear at
but are not limited to
the level of the relational organizational structure of interdependent beings.
So the habit of using non-substantialist terminology
should not lead us to exaggerate the
absence of primordial somethings
in Buddhistic philosophy.
My recent posts on Wilber's basic and transitional structures (here and following), plus the above ruminations, are starting to gel a bit more. Wilber has the worldview levels as transitional, in that they transcend and replace. Weiss thought that Gebser saw them more as discreet and discontinuous. The latter is more in line with Luhmann and Bryant, in that they are exo-relations between autonomous substances, not so much transcended and replaced but discreetly and discontinously autonomous, interacting with each other via structural coupling in asemblages. Recall that for Luhmann this also applies to our bodies and minds, which would include even Wilber's basic 'cognitive' structures.
However Wilber's inkling about transcend and include is correct but more likely via what Bryant is calling endo-structural relations between elements. These elements are not autonomous substances and are transcended and included. They are not the same as the Buddhist aggregates, which per above are more in line with Wilber's transcended and included basic structures.
What is the endo-relational structure is those virtual "powers, attractors, singularities or tendencies" that do not enter into the actual. The actual is the ground of the exo, the virtual of the endo. In a very real (pun intended) sense this corresponds to the absolute or causal with the relative or caused traditional dichotomy. But as we see, for OOO this distinction is not transcendent but transcendental, since even the virtual real is immanent.
And it is in this sense that it corresponds with the emptiness of emptiness doctrine, for even the virtual lacks completely independent existence, requiring constructed elements to survive and maintain its own constructed autonomy. A virtual substance might not be reduced to its exo-relations but it surely interdepends on them for its continued existence. No exo-relations, no endo-relations.
But this is not the end of the story. There's more on endo-relations to come, as one of my mentors (in)famously (re)iterated.