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.
I was re-reading the Levin thread and this post and the one following are of relevance here, so copied below:
I enjoyed the sample chapter, raising many of the themes I explored in the above referenced thread, particularly the means of using language to establish relations with what was pre-language, i.e., nature. And how such attunement is achieved via a bastard reasoning or hyper-dialectic in MP's turn of phrase, which is not merely a return to what was but an an intertwing with the yet to come:
“The attunement...having originally preceded the ego-logical consciousness, is not realized, and does not actually take place, until the belated moment of its reflected recuperation. The 'always already' that memory strives to retrieve is inseparable from a 'not yet,' a future conjectured in hope” (61).
In the following passage I found much akin to my own rhetoric against the totalizing hegemony of "nested hierarchies" posited by allegedly purely quantitative, mathematical models of hierarchical complexity and much exploited in kennilinguist altitude sickness:
"What I want to argue here...is...the voices of the non-identical: what cannot be subsumed and contained...by the 'sober,' tone-deaf concepts produced by our strictly 'rational' understanding—a hearing in excess of, or say beyond, our concepts for grasping and comprehending them; a hearing impossible within the ontologies codified by both rationalism and empiricism, both of which enshrine in reification the structure that positions a subjective interior opposite an objective exterior” (65-6).
Here's an excerpt from my referenced thread that demonstrates “using a mytho-poetic language...to evoke in us...this reconnection with both the always already and not yet."
Levina's language is intended to evoke a “deep, bodily felt sense” that is a “return effected by phenomenology.” It is pre-conceptual in a sense, this return to body. As we've discussed before, only in one sense, since the return is also an integrative move that is more than what was before concepts.... Hence Levinas language uses such mythological motifs and tropes that move us deeper than conventional experience based only on concept, back down into those roots of morality in the body where we are more directly connected to the other. In a way his language is magical in that it takes us to a place both before and after language by the use of language. But language is part of the equation, right in the middle of it, hence Hermes is indeed a messenger that uses language to convey meaning.
Levin makes clear that meaning, like being, builds on the "always already" but is extended into novelty by the "not yet." And these two are in continual relation, at least after the "fall" or "rise," depending on your interpretation, of the ego. But since its advent there is no simple return to the always already of the pre-egoic, no pristine or original awareness. The belief in the latter is in fact one of the symptoms of metaphysics, since it is now the "not yet" that transforms the "always already," but without which the not yet would not exist.
See this recent IW article. Like this thread it correlates brain waves with Gebser's historical levels of mutation. And discusses some of the meditation research. He correlates gamma waves with integral consciousness, something I've also claimed. This thread, as well the the states thread and the Thompson thread, goes into far greater detail though than the IW article.
Here's a twist on the fold: loop quantum gravity. Physicists in black hole research now posit that they can only compress so far because space-time is quantized into "tiny, individual loops that cannot be subdivided any further." This causes black holes to reach that point where they turn into white holes and ejaculate their jizz outward, known as the quantum bounce. They suggest that such a bounce might even be how our universe began in the big bang.
Also recall this from Sara Ross, who is heavily involved with the model of hierarchical complexity, from our prior Gaia thread on states:
“So, if I’m in the 'watching thoughts and objects' meditative mode, per above, I’m functioning with formal operations’ ability to reflect on thought. My physiological system is just humming along in 'on' position, and my brain (neurological) is active, though will gradually slow to alpha wave, a nice and relaxed neurophysiological condition. When my thoughts and visuals cease, my neurological activity goes not 'off' but to like an idling phase and my overt mental actions slide down the orders of complexity to doing nothing - order zero. Total inner silence, except for the awareness that there’s inner silence, nothing going on. While there is nothing going on, zero complexity. During or after (depending on the practice) formal operational reflection on the absence of thought, visuals, etc., along with enjoying the after-effects. In this analysis, rather than transcending (I cannot find anything that’s transcended - can anyone help me out here?) it is gradually turning off cognitive operations till maybe we hit zero complexity (with caveat repeated: if we are reflecting on the silence/void, we are performing formal operations cognitively and are still active, and something would likely be showing up on fMRI brain imaging)” (p. 28).
Vajrayana and Theravada meditation produce different physiological responses (see here).
I'm also going to park here some of my comments from the FB IPS discussion. I already did so in the Sam Harris thread in this post and following, also relevant here.
That last paragraph* is similar to what I've been saying in the fold thread. That the subtle, causal and nondual states are basically the result of meditative training, which accesses and integrates the usual dreaming and deep sleep states. I.e. using the states already available to consciously witness and integrate them. Although in my case the fulcrum between pre/trans is the synthetic ego which does the witnessing and integrating! I know, heresy.
Starting at the end of p. 2 in the fold thread Engler said: "The first point I wanted to make [...] was that it takes certain ego capacities just to practice meditation or any spiritual practice. [...] Psychologically, this kind of practice [vipassana] strengthens fundamental ego capacities, particularly the capacities for self-observation and affect tolerance. It also increases the synthetic capacity of the ego. [...] 'Transcending the ego' [...] has no meaning to a psychodynamically oriented therapist for whom 'ego' is a collective term designating the regulatory and integrative functions" (36).
On p. 3 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 seen as just an illusion (bathwater), hence little effort was put into its other and non-illusory aspects (baby) necessary for healthy functioning.
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. 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).
Recall Epstein's work: "The development of mindfulness...involves a 'therapeutic split in the ego' in which the ego becomes both subject and object, observer and observed. […] Advanced stages of insight meditation involve profound experiences of dissolution and fragmentation, yet the practitioner, through the practice of 'making present,' is able to withstand these psychic pressures. It is the ego, primarily through its synthetic function, that permits integration of the experience of disintegration. In true egolessness, there could be only disintegration, and such a state would manifest as psychosis. […] Thus, mindfulness is not a means of forgetting the ego; it is a method of using the ego to observe its own manifestations."
* Referring to some of the Lingam's comments on excerpt G.
Wilber also asserts that it is the self-system (aka ego) that integrates all of the various aspects of psyche. (See for example his "outline of an integral psychology," particularly page 22.) And that a strong, healthy ego is prerequisite to take such a journey into transpersonal nonduality, lest the trip be into psychotic dissociation. But again, Wilber is a mixed bag here, often framing such transpersonal integration within traditional views and their own confusions, particularly with reference to states.
To clarify, according to Cook-Greuter (CG) and others the ego itself has stages. The synthetic ego function appears at all of its stages. My guess all along has been that it takes at least a formal operational cognitive level per Piaget, which is closely correlated to Cook-Greuter's conscientious (or achiever) ego stage and Spiral Dynamics orange stage. This is where the abstract ego stabilizes and can take a 3rd person perspective on itself, which is in both Engler and Epstein's descriptions above. I claim that this is the witness of meditative awareness, hence it is historically that such traditions emerged when this stage of ego development was also emerging. It might even have been CG's self-conscious (expert) stage, when the 3rd person perspective first appears.
As noted, the term 'ego' has many different meanings depending on the context. I'm using it in the context of developmental research. Even there the ego has different levels. There's body ego and emotional ego and rational ego. It is the last to which I refer when I speak of the synthetic ego. The first two egos also function integratively, hence the general 'synthetic' function. But it's at the rational egoic level that we consciously begin to integrate the previous egos, or ipseity, as Thompson calls it.
Hence we get researchers from a lot of different paradigms noting a different kind of development going on around the rational egoic level. The Spiral Dynamic folks call it second tier, which in their model has this tier as a higher octave above the first tier, is some ways reiterating it but with a different focus. We see the same with Levin's work, where we spiral back down to more consciously integrate the previous levels. We see it in Gebser's work, where the integral-aperspectival does the same. So this is why I use the rational ego as that fulcrum into the second tier. Only in this case the second tier means consciously integrating the previous state-stages you're talking about in this thread through meditative discipline.
As I noted in the fold thread, one can go second tier in this definition but still have a first tier, metaphysical view. The postmetaphysical view could also be considered a different kind of second tier in terms of cognitive development. So we can and do have those who are second tier in terms of cognitive development but not in terms of conscious state-stage development via meditation. And also those who are in terms of state-stage development but not in terms of cognitive development. These two 'lines,' if you will, are not the same. But both indeed require the rational ego to go second tier. That's why I use it as the fulcrum between pre/trans as well as between formal and postformal. But note that different aspects of the rational ego are highlighted and utilized for each of those two lines.
And of course there are some who go second tier in both lines, but that is a very nascent development and at this point there is much legitimate debate as to its meaning and definition. Hence places like this forum, where we explore and iron out those details. We're still infants in this process. That's why I agree with some researchers that the so-called second tier cognitive developments like systemic, meta-systemic, paradigmatic and cross-paradigmatic might be more lateral extensions of formal logic so place them laterally on the Wilber-Combs lattice where the states are usually placed. And the states are then placed above the formop level, not at higher cognitive stages but as the folded and consciously integrated earlier, preconscious levels.
A quick PS. One reason I put the MHC definitions of postformality as horizontal extensions of formal operations is because, as I've explored in depth in the IPS real/false reason thread, they still have the same metaphysical attachments as formop. I use the metaphysical-postmetaphysical line to differentiate formal from postformal cognitive operations. And it's not just me; there's a lot of supporting research I used in several above mentioned IPS threads.
This related paper may be of interest in terms of recontextualizing the 4 states: “Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness.” It was discussed on p. 7 and following in the IPS thread “an integral postmetaphysical definition of states.” In the article they are here discussing a baseline state.
"A central goal of the practice of meditation is to transform the baseline state of experience and to obliterate the distinction between the meditative state and the postmeditative state. The practice of Open Presence, for instance, cultivates increased awareness of a more subtle baseline (i.e., ipseity) during which the sense of an autobiographical or narrative self is deemphasized. Long-term training in Compassion meditation is said to weaken egocentric traits and change the emotional baseline. Mindfulness/ Awareness meditation aims to experience the present nowness, and it affects the 'attentional baseline' by lessening distractions or daydream like thoughts.... From an empirical standpoint, one way to conceptualize these various meditative traits is to view them as developmental changes in physiological baselines in the organism. Finding ways of systematically characterizing these baselines before, during and after mental training is thus crucial for the empirical examination of the long-term impact of meditation" (70).
Another interesting discussion 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.
A couple of points for now. 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.
In section 2.3.1 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.
Thompson is heavily involved in this work and does not consider it to be 'scientific reductionism.' He also takes into account the cultural traditions and explanations for such states, but also finds we must recontexualize them in light of the scientific research. More can be found on this topic in the IPS Thompson thread, where he said: "But whereas the Advaitin takes this minimal selfhood to be a transcendental witness consciousness, I think itʼs open to us to maintain that it is my embodied self or bodily subjectivity, or what phenomenologists would call my pre-personal lived body. In this way, I think we can remove the Advaita conception of dreamless sleep from its native metaphysical framework and graft it onto a naturalist conception of the embodied mind."
I was reminded of this post today, from Fischer and Mascalo, “The dynamic of development of thinking, feeling, and acting over th...,” in The Handbook of Lifespan Development, Wiley and Sons, 2010.
"Human development occurs in media res.[...] Instead of operating as separate modules, thought and emotion [...] person and environment [...] are highly dependent on each other. [...] Person and context operate as distinct parts of an interlocking system. [...] It is necessary to analyze how biology, action and context interact within a relational developmental system. [...] The relation between action and object is an intimate one; actions and their objects mutually constitute each other" (2, 4, 7).
"To speak of the development of psychological structures is not the same as speaking about the development of a person. There are no general or 'all purpose' psychological structures. Although they undergo massive development over the lifespan, psychological structures consist of localized skills that are tied to particular situational demands, psychological demands and social contexts. [...] It is not appropriate to say that an individual functions at a single developmental level, even for a particular skill. Instead it is more appropriate to say that an individual's skills function at a range of levels depending on context, domain, time of day, emotional state and other variables."
Second paragraph from pp. 17, 35-36.
Here is Epstein's article "The deconstruction of the self: ego and 'egolessness' in Buddhist insight meditation." An excerpt from the introductory paragraphs:
"The tendency of contemporary theorists has been to propose developmental schema in which meditation systems develop 'beyond the ego,' yet this approach has ignored aspects of the ego which are not abandoned and which are, in fact, developed through meditation practice itself. [...] Meditation can be seen as operating in different ways on many distinctive facets of the ego, promoting change and development within the ego, rather than beyond it. This view requires that the ego be understood as a complex and sophisticated matrix of structures, functions and representations, rather than as a single entity that could be readily abandoned. It recognizes the indispensability of the ego while at the same time revealing how meditation practice can uniquely modify it, producing an ego no longer obsessed with its own solidity" (61-2).