Foreword by Stephen Batchelor

He begins by noting how the word meditation has changed in response to the influx of Asiatic religion into the West, and its countercultural appropriation thereof. It used to mean reflective thought but now it relates to a spiritual practice, usually sitting quietly still. Same for the word mindfulness. And yet the West had tended toward the secularization of this practice, divorcing it from its religious Buddhist underpinnings. Westerners are more interested in its practical results in terms of reduced stress, a more balanced personality, lower blood pressure and so on.

This has also led to Buddhists reconsidering some of their religious tenets, like reincarnation. Should it be considered a relic of its religious history? Should westerners include some of the ethical injunctions from its religious roots? And what of the scientific study of meditation? Thompson tries to bridge the gap between first-person accounts of spiritual experiences and how they manifest in 3rd person scientific studies. Each perspective can learn from and modify the other through 2nd person philosophical dialogue and collaboration.

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Ordinary waking consciousness has a clear and separate sense of self, the I-me-mine of the ego. This dissolves in the hypnagogic state where we are fused and absorbed with whatever is arising. Spellbound as he calls it. One thing this state shows is that the self-sense is not a fixed and permanent structure but more fluid and changeable. In this state we are open to “more creative thinking and intuitive problem solving” (125), especially if we learn to consciously maintain that delicate balance between waking and sleep. The latter, of course, isn't completely spellbound and absorbed.

Freud saw this state as a regression, going back before reflective awareness and the reality principle. Mavromatis follows this line with a transpersonal twist: it need not be regressive but progressive as the sort of double awareness described above between waking and dreaming. Meditation can also elicit this state on the way 'down' the brain wave ride as noted above, but Theravada advises against staying in it as it lacks clarity, while Zen thinks its illusion and should be ignored. It also can lead to being absorbed and spellbound by the random images and sensations, which is seen as ego attachment. But as we've seen, this need not be the case if one applies one's trained attention to keeping that balance between waking and dreaming. This is akin to the sort of philosophical dualism in these traditions that sees relative and ultimate reality as completely different orders. And any intermediary between them that connects/separates them in mutual embrace, like this state, must itself also be of the illusory realm. (See the Batchelor thread.)

In dreaming the ego self in relation to another world reemerges, albeit a dream ego in a dream world. This can be from a first or third-person perspective, and/or alternative between them. Thompson thinks though that the third-person dream perspective is different from the hynagogic state in that in the dream there is an identification with a world, even if one can dispassionately observe the first-person self. There is no semi-coherent world in the hynagogic state. But again, there can be if one applies one's awareness and concentration training to it. But why bother if one sees it as an illusion and waste of time?

Memory also shifts between first and third-person perspectives. For one this shows that our memories are tied up with the present, thus there are no pure memories of how things exactly happened in the past. This explains how one can for example falsely remember being raped by a family member under the influence of a therapist with an agenda, or falsely remember past lives under the influence of a particular ideology. On the positive side third-person memories develop a self-othering perspective that allows up to see ourselves from another's point of view, thus enabling empathy and social cognition through an autobiographical or narrative sense of self. The latter self-reflective capacity therefore should not be so downplayed as some form illusory self, whereas the pre-reflective biological self awareness obtained in meditation should not be elevated as ultimate reality in contradistinction from where we actually get our empathy and compassion.

This can been seen in first-person memories, where we experience the entire field of our experiences from the inside. This is much more like the meditative experience of pure awareness, where we go below the reflective self and are absorbed in nondual interaction with either an object of focus or with pure awareness itself. Remember the DL saying in the 9th paragraph of chapter three above that when one is in this state one doesn't have access to third-person reflective thought. It is only upon later reflecting on this state via field memory of what it felt like is when we attach some metaphysical interpretation to it. This is reinforced by brain studies showing field memories are located more in the older brain areas. I suggest the same is true of field experiences of pure awareness. (See the states thread and the fold thread, the latter particularly on the function of memory.)

To be continued.

In non-lucid dreams our dream subject, either in first or third-person, is captivated. This is because the brain areas associated with conscious control, metacognition and reflection are deactivated. More basic, intense emotions like fear or elation are activated along with more primal brain areas. However in lucid dreams we can reactivate metacognition and some degree of conscious control. So what's going on in this state? The next chapter explores this.

Please say more???  A pretty unfocused prompt...

So here's a shot in the dark...

Suppose that "gross" is, in most cases, a synonym for "solid things".  Stuff. Material. 

Suppose, further, that the abstract dynamic of "energy" is always a kind of evocative phantasy which virtually connects changes in various concrete phenomena.  Therefore, even physical energies (gravity, nuclear, electromagnetic, etc.) are relatively "subtle" compared to gross stuff.

Suppose, also, that tautological/syntactical presuppositions such as "causal entities" are necessarily infinite, indefinite, nonlocal, dimensionless, etc. and -- even if we think of them as dynamic -- always seem as much logical as manifest. 

The result is that "energy" approximately suggests the subtle realm -- running from the dynamic abstraction of gross objects in relationship up to the implicit logical necessity of unmanifest patterning. 

Without making absolute claims we can see that "energy" is almost "subtle".  Which does not surprise us if "qualitative-flow-form" (as it says in the Christmas Wiki) is the nature of subtle reality. 

This does not negate the types of energies suggested in Wilber's excerpt but it challenges them to clarify themselves...

DavidM58 said:


Please say more.

Layman Pascal said:

... In fact it is arguable that almost every definition of "energy" falls on a subtle spectrum... 

Layman, your shot in the dark hit its mark, thank you. I was wanting to hear more about your idea of energy existing on a subtle spectrum.

Very interesting, I think you are on to something. Systems ecologist Howard T. Odum saw everything in relation to energy. Matter is merely embodied energy, and information, whether held in a book or in a brain is also a form of embodied energy - one of the highest quality transformations of energy.

And here are some of Tim Winton's thoughts about energy, from his ITC 2013 paper (The Meaning of Planetary Civilization: Integral Rational Spirituality and the Semiotic Universe):

"The first of these, energy, has a curious ontological status. It potentiates change; we can measure and quantify its effects, but we cannot measure and quantify it. No one has ever encountered energy as a substance. Its ontological status (quantity) is dependent on its quality of inducing change–quality being something we normally associate with epistemological status. Therefore, in the concept of energy lies the extension into the actual, from the intransitive, of the sign/object relationship, and therefore it has a certain ‘aliveness’ that animates and enchants reality."

Defining subtle entities as convergent identity of quality, dynamic flow & virtualized form (as I do) brings us very close to the way that most people conceive of "an energy".  It is feasible, in principle, to refer to the energetic facet of gross & causal reality as their subtle facet. And this is supported if you view gross, subtle, causal and nondual and necessary elements of any kind of experience.  As I do.

Tim Winton's thoughts put me in mind of something else.  I have been thinking a lot lately about the reasons why the interior domains have been (seemingly) under-emphasized in Modernity.  And one of the outstanding problems is the very same issue which I think prevents the development of a good phenomenological science of subjectivity.  It is the failure to quantify

Normally we have a sort of mystical feeling that quantity is associated with "stuff" and quality is associated with either subtle or internal vagaries which defy the rules of material science.  We forget what a creative affair quantification really is.  We forget that the use of algebraic logic to identify both functional components & reliable patterns of paired changes ("energy") was not immediatley obvious to our ancestors.  People invented that.  Even artistically.  To speak in quantification speaks is a language that we try, fail, try, fail, try, succeed a little, check with each other, etc. 

Quantification is one aspect of the (perhaps "subtle level") insight which was able to achieve radical progress in material science over the past few centuries.  In order to rebalance the situation we need to achieve similar success with subjective and intersubjective and systemic sciences.  And that means -- quantification.

The peculiar standoffishness between quantification and subjectivity holds us back.  It appears to be a feature when it may really be a bug.  Or simply a lack of the will to try to convert difficult and vague things into consistent symbolic amounts.  

I'm aware we may be diverging a bit from Thompson...I trust theurj will reign us in if he feels the need.

Howard T. Odum regularly paired energy quality with energy quality. Most will say a btu is equal to another btu, regardless of its source. Odum would point out that you don't get the same quality of energy from a btu of coal as you do from a btu of electricity. It actually takes about 3 btus of low quality energy (coal) to transform into 1 btu of higher quality energy (electricity). As energy transforms, it gains in quality, but it declines in total quantity, due to entropy. There's always some quantity of energy lost in the transformation process. I think this applies to subtle as well as gross energies.

Layman, I'm also wondering how you think this concept of quantification relates to the "Intellectual-Mental-Rational Consciousness" (Gidley's hybridized term).  Just today I was reading from her paper,

"He [Gebser] used the term rationality primarily to characterized the deficient mental consciousness because of its partiality and tendency to quantification." (p. 92)

And quoting Gebser: "Today, while the integral is overdetermining and dissolving the mental-rational consciousness, the mental capacity of thought is being mechanized by the robots of calculation - computers - and this is being emptied and quantified. (p. 538)" (p. 99 of Gidley's paper).

Layman, it occurs to me that another area you might be interested in exploring, in relation to quantification, is the work of process-relational theologian and radical empiricist, Bernard Loomer. In his later work he tended to emphasize what he called the "SIZE" of God. You can catch a flavor of it in his essay on Two Conceptions of Power (unilateral power or relational power). Loomer identifies God as the totality of the world, conceived as concretely actual. The Size of God was his best-received essay.

"[By size] I mean the stature of a person's soul, the range and depth of his love, his capacity for relationships. I mean the volume of his life you can take into your being and still maintain your integrity and individuality, the intensity and variety of outlook you can entertain in the unity of your being without feeling defensive or insecure. I mean the strength of your spirit to encourage others to become freer in the development of their diversity and uniqueness. I mean the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions. i mean the magnanimity of concern to provide conditions that enable others to increase in stature."

- Bernard M. Loomer, "S-I-Z-E," Criterion (1974), quoted by Nancy Frankenberry (Religion and Radical Empiricism)

Chapter Five

In a lucid dream one's attention is split: we know we are dreaming yet we still experience the dream ego in a dream world of fantastic, vidid and shifting events with some limited control. At least some of waking memory becomes accessible. Some methods are more likely to elicit lucid dreams: changes in the sleep cycle, melatonin and carefully observing hynagogic imagery as one dozes off (see, told ya). Another is using auto-suggestion before sleep each night that you will become lucid during dreaming.

To understand dreaming Thompson differentiates different aspects of awareness: witnessing, its changeable contents, and identifying contents as the self. In non-lucid dreams even though we're aware of a lot of changing contents we only identify with the dream ego at the center of the contents. In lucid dreaming we can stand back and witness not only the contents but the dream ego as well, thereby expanding our sense of self. So who or what is this witness?

To answer that question Thompson's waking-dream body again flits about to the difference between knowing one is dreaming versus dreaming one is dreaming. His first argument is that they feel different and seem different in waking memory. In the first there is a kind of attention lacking in the second. There are also different brain-imagery readings. By practicing witness awareness during the hypnagogic state one can then maintain it into a lucid dream state. He also describes a similar Tibetan Buddhist dream yoga technique. Without such witness awareness the imagery in the hynagogic and dream states become absorbing and one can then be just dreaming that they're dreaming. The latter lacks clarity and the ability to direct your attention. Even so, the quality of ever-shifting content typical of dreaming is mostly beyond one's control, even with witnessing awareness.

Subjective reports though are not enough to differentiate dreaming lucidity. Tests of dreamers showed that their eye movements during that state matched their physical eye movements. A dream study instructed dreamers to move their eyes right and left a certain number of times when they because lucid. Upon awakening they reported on the dream eye movement which matched the physical eye movements. Their brain waves also confirmed that during the eye signals they were indeed in REM sleep.

EEG studies of verified lucid dreamers show increased gamma wave activity in certain frontal brain areas more typical of the waking state. Brain waves are also more synchronized across brain areas. This does not occur in non-lucid REM sleep. However this does not mean that lucid dreming, or lucid waking for that matter, are limited to specific brain areas but rather the coordination of distributed whole brain networking.

However as noted earlier even in lucid dreaming control of content is extremely limited compared to the control of the waking state. So some wonder if lucid dreaming isn't more a dissociation than an integration. However it can also be said that ordinary waking consciousness also doesn't have much control over its content unless one is trained in some form of witnessing attention. In both states witness training allows one to disidentify with the dream ego and waking ego. True, but even without such training waking consciousness does not have the wild and disconnected scenarios of dreams unless one is schizophrenic. Perhaps then the dreaming witness state allows for a reintegration of at least some of the typically ignored or missed internal and external data during waking?



Hear, hear!  

Many models exist of how quantity and quality interact.  If one ox goes up one hill in one hour... how many hills does half an ox go up in half an hour?  Of course a half-ox probably goes up no hills!  Quantity affects quality.  

Likewise my chums at the Aetherometry Institute claim that different forms of massless electricity create different kinds of photons which have different effects on living organisms.  

And, as we all know by now (unless we work for the Cola companies) a CALORIE IS NOT JUST A CALORIE.


The fact that very advanced frontal left-brain activities are needed to ponder abstract quantification means that, historically, it will emerge where people specialize in "one side" of our thinking.  However this does not mean that the great Saints of the West (from Pythagoras to Plato to Einstein) were narrowly rational.  One wag once said that he became a writer because he lacked the imagination for mathematics. 

Our general sense that rational/quantitative/abstract is the alternative to imaginative/holistic is a great and petty stumbling block.  We have paid too much attention to academic rationality & tech geeks... and not enough attention to the Founders.  By "founders" I mean the people who artfully invented ways to clarify intuition into quantitative symbols of exquisite consistency and coherence.  It is well known and commonly lamented that our schools teach the memorization of achieved mathematical formulae rather than the methods by which Euclid, say, was able to create geometry. 

Without observing the creative nature of mathematization we learn a stupid dichotomy.  And our lazy mindset (coupled with our lame educational practices) helps intuitive, holistic children feel they should not make the "inhuman" effort to enter quantitative space.  Why do we persist in feeling that trans-rational philosophers are different from contemplative mystics?  It is, in many ways, because we refuse to embrace the daunting sensations involved in approaching a rigorous field that will present us with many failure to comprehend.  

So we have sundered the poetic spirit from the quantitative.  It is understandable but unnecessary.  It holds back both our narrow rationalists and our poets.  We must re-learn the creativity of quantification that was known to ancient ponderers... and upon which the transformation of our technological and social systems now depends. 

The 20th discoveries of Chaotic, Fractal & Complex mathematical systems should be intuitively instructing us that the way forward is a convergence of the qualitative and quantitative.  


I don't know Loomer but I'll check him out. 

At this moment, DM, that sounds beautiful to me.

DavidM58 said:

Layman, it occurs to me that another area you might be interested in exploring, in relation to quantification, is the work of process-relational theologian and radical empiricist, Bernard Loomer. In his later work he tended to emphasize what he called the "SIZE" of God. You can catch a flavor of it in his essay on Two Conceptions of Power (unilateral power or relational power). Loomer identifies God as the totality of the world, conceived as concretely actual. The Size of God was his best-received essay.

"[By size] I mean the stature of a person's soul, the range and depth of his love, his capacity for relationships. I mean the volume of his life you can take into your being and still maintain your integrity and individuality, the intensity and variety of outlook you can entertain in the unity of your being without feeling defensive or insecure. I mean the strength of your spirit to encourage others to become freer in the development of their diversity and uniqueness. I mean the power to sustain more complex and enriching tensions. i mean the magnanimity of concern to provide conditions that enable others to increase in stature."

- Bernard M. Loomer, "S-I-Z-E," Criterion (1974), quoted by Nancy Frankenberry (Religion and Radical Empiricism)

I was re-reading this today from L&J's Philosophy in the Flesh (pp. 4-6), and it seems like a good place to interject some excerpts, as they are in line with Thompson's naturalistic neurophenomenology:

"Reason is not 'universal' in the transcendent sense; that is, it is not part of the structure of the universe. It is universal, however, in that it is a capacity shared universally by all human beings. What allows it to be shared are the commonalities that exist in the way our minds are embodied.

"The phenomenological person, who through phenomenological introspection alone can discover everything there is to know about the mind and the nature of experience, is a fiction. Although we can have a theory of a vast, rapidly and automatically operating cognitive unconscious, we have no direct conscious access to its operation and therefore to most of our thought. Phenomenological reflection, though valuable in revealing the structure of experience, must be supplemented by empirical research into the cognitive unconscious.

"There is no poststructuralist person—no completely decentered subject for whom all meaning is arbitrary, totally relative and purely historical contingent, unconstrained by body and brain. The mind is not merely embodied, but embodied in such a way that our conceptual systems draw largely upon the commonalities of our bodies and of the environments we live in. The result is that much of a person’s conceptual system is either universal or widespread across languages and cultures. Our conceptual systems are not totally relative and not merely a matter of historical contingency, even though a degree of conceptual relativity does exist and even though historical contingency does matter a great deal. The grounding of our conceptual systems in shared embodied and bodily experience creates a largely centered self, but not a monolithic self.

"There exists no Fregean person--as posed by analytic philosophy--for whom thought has been extruded from the body. That is, there is no real person whose embodiment plays no role in meaning, whose meaning is purely objective and defined by the external world, and whose language can fit the external world with no significant role played by mind, brain, or body. Because our conceptual systems grow out of our bodies, meaning is grounded in and through our bodies. Because a vast range of our concepts are metaphorical, meaning is not entirely literal and the classical correspondence theory of truth is false. The correspondence theory holds that statements are true or false objectively, depending on how they map directly onto the world--independent of any human understanding of either the statement or the world. On the contrary, truth is mediated by embodied understanding and imagination. That does not mean that truth is purely subjective or that there is no stable truth. Rather, our common embodiment allows for common, stable truths."

Chapter Six

The chapter begins with wondering if our waking life is a sort of dream, and what is real anyway? Tibetan dream yoga begins with maintaining mindfulness in waking life and treating it as if it were a dream. This creates the habit if mindful attention that can be extended into actual dreaming. However this tradition does not find either state to be more real than the other. Thompson mentions Madhyamaka and Yogacara supporting this view, and I'd say only the Yogacara-influenced Madhyamaka version does so. Bottom line and as noted earlier, both waking and dreaming are illusions compared with the really real, pure awareness from which all phenomenon springs. Through training of this witness, and using it to disidentify with both the waking and dream state, one can enter pure awareness in both the waking and deep sleep state and have direct access to the non-illusory, non-physical, really real.

Western lucid dream techniques tend more toward reality testing in the dream state, like reading a passage in a book and then re-reading it to see if it changed or not. One also does this reality testing when awake to create a habit that carrier over into dreaming. Here the assumption is that the waking state is more real. (This doesn't work with conservatives, as they've lost the capacity for reality testing in waking life.) This perspective takes the waking state, and its measurement of objective reality, to be much more stable and doesn't accept it as illusion. While I'll admit that this approach also has its own inherent biases, and is based on a constructed self awareness, it at least doesn't hold to a metaphysically supernatural really real beyond the pale of natural phenomenon. (It is also metaphysical as the representation model, and as I've argued elsewhere both the above are symptoms of formal operational cognition from different angles.)

In a discussion of how the brain affects the mind and vice-versa, he notes that the former is know as downward causation because the mind is apparently higher or above the brain or body on a hierarchical scale. He finds this misleading but accepts if for now to make a point. (My hope is that he returns to it and explores something more akin to the fold thread but I won't hold my breath.) The point being, it's a two-way street with brain-mind causation based on neurophenomenological experiments, lucid dreaming being one example. Recall that the dream ego's can direct its dream eyes to make movements that cause the physical body's eyes to do the same. If one stops moving the eyes in the dream state this can cause one to wake up. As noted earlier, REM sleep activates some of the same brain areas and waves as the waking state. So some evidence suggests that consciously performing motor skills while dreaming, much like waking imagination, can increase performance on those skills while awake. This is also supported by Lakoff's notion of real reason in that it is metaphorically built on these sensori-motor image schema in a two-way causal relationship.

To be continued, it's a long chapter.

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What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

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