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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I've also culled some of those relevant posts on ipseity mentioned above into one post at my blog here.

The linked article references a Radiolab episode that Tim Winton also often mentions when introducing PatternDynamics.

Tim states that if you make a symbol that represents a pattern of organization, you can then make that meaningful – by making a diagram or symbol you “foreground” the principle so that it can be easily seen.

"It is a very, very powerful thing to use patterns as a language. If we don’t have a word in our language for an object, that object is very hard to see."

He then mentions as an example this Radiolab segment on the color “blue” ("Why Isn't the Sky Blue?")– most ancient societies did not have a word for Blue, except for Egypt.

"Typically as a culture, we don’t see patterns of organization or how wholes work. But if you attach symbols to these patterns, then we can see them collectively. And when we can see them, then we can act on them."



theurj said:

This article seems to support the notion of self-designation as necessary for humans to perceive something. It notes that the color blue didn't appear in languages until much later than other colors. We may have seen it but couldn't identify it. Or maybe we just couldn't see it until we could designate it.

"But do you really see something if you don't have a word for it? [...]  [B]efore blue became a common concept, maybe humans saw it. But it seems they didn't know they were seeing it. If you see something yet can't see it, does it exist? Did colors come into existence over time? Not technically, but our ability to notice them may have."

Yes, this is part of what I was trying to convey in my thread on Religion and Radical Empiricism, where I was quoting and commenting on Nancy Frankenberry:

...“The never fully resolved difficulty of Meland’s empirical realism, as it is also of James’ psychology and Wieman’s contextualism, is to reconcile the prereflective flow of the dynamic felt qualities of lived experience with the structures of reflective and linguistic expression. In wrestling with this question over the years, Meland presumed “a primal disparity between language and reality.” … this emphasis may be the inevitable outcome of Meland’s understanding of the nature of language and linguistic meaning as secondary processes of instrumental-expressive value only, apparently playing no constitutive role in the very having of human experiences. …in light of the whole methodological ferment in the humanities in the last two decades which generally has taken language rather than lived experience as the main focus, it may be well to reexamine the thesis of ‘a primal disparity between language and reality.’

“…I would argue that radical empiricism should recognize a reciprocal  and even codeterminate relation between experience and language…"

Here it gets very interesting:

“If this is so, then the complex relationship between qualitative experience and linguistic expression plunges us into a hermeneutical circle which can neither be evaded by the simple correspondence model favored by most realisms nor vitiated by the coherence theory of most idealisms. The range of felt qualities in the lives of individuals is bound up with the level and type of culture, which in turn is inseparable from the distinctions and uses marked by the language people speak. The complexity and intensity of felt qualities as much as of the related energies and valuations of the individual’s structure of experience…The inadequacy of [the correspondence] model is evident when we observe that often in achieving, for example, a more sophisticated vocabulary of the emotions, we acquire, also, a more sophisticated emotional life, not just an expanded power of description….No neat line can be drawn between the increased linguistic ability to identify or differentiate and the altered capacity to feel certain experiences which this enables. Nevertheless, it does not follow from this that saying or thinking makes it so. Not just any new linguistic usage can be urged on us, nor can we induce it voluntarily in ourselves. The distinctive objectivity of the datum of experience, insisted upon by radical empiricism, exerts its own subtle checks upon our socially mediated sign-systems. Yet there seems no way of getting at the structure of felt qualities, in religious or theological inquiry, independently of one’s interpretation of them; for one is woven into the other, and language is in human life the primary agency of the very interweaving.”  

Coming back to PatternDynamics – the above offers a key insight into a possible path forward – if we want a more sophisticated emotional life, we can develop a more sophisticated vocabulary of the emotions. Or we could say that by learning a language useful for understanding systems theory, we can also achieve a more distinct and enhanced experience of living as a member of our ecosystem.  We will then have a stronger set of datum of experience with which to further refine our language, which can further extend our lived experience, as long as we stay engaged in the process of this reciprocal and codeterminate relationship. 

In the PatternDynamics one-day workshop, we do a series of movement exercises that bring attention and focus to increase awareness of the subtle signaling and processing available to us as semiotic beings in a living system.  We then begin learning some of the vocabulary of the sustainability pattern language that is PD.  If we can keep this process going, continuing to come back to exercises that tap into subtle awareness, alternated by increasing our ability to communicate in this new language, there is no telling the advances that are possible. As Tim Winton has said, “The key to complexity is systems thinking, and the key to systems thinking is patterns. The key to patterns is using them as a language..."

Layman beat me to the punch in the comments with his beautifully stated thoughts:

"It is not that "experience" is greater, or takes temporal precedence, over cognition.  Rather it is that one type of patterning is always something more (something ELSE) compared to another type.  Our goal is to bring them together.  When we temporarily find a perfect word for a feeling or numinous experience then, in that moment, neither thinking nor feeling has the upper hand.  They dock together.  It is only their lack of functional synchrony that makes us feel that one is "before" or "more" -- although both these ideas may help us bring them closer together."



theurj said:

My translation using some outside sources is that we cannot help but use our categories in designating anything, hence we can only know or translate reality via such categories. Which is not to say that reality is our categories, only that any reality we can know it filtered through those categories. To know meaning to have meaning, hence semantic nominalism. This is not linguistic nominalism, since our basic categories/image schema are pre-linguistic but have semantic content via our embodied relationships. Hence there is this non-dualistic relationship between our pre-linguistic basic categories and objects which still allows for real objects to exist without that relationship. But when going linguistic we might make two mistakes: 1) forget this embodied grounding and separate the linguistic words from the pre-linguistic meanings; and thus 2) separate embodied meanings in words from reality as such into two distinct and separate ontological realms, one samsara and the other nirvana. Or a formal, metaphysical view by another name.

Image schematic basic categories are our link to experiencing and translating reality, but cannot do so with reality in toto. Nonetheless, reality for us cannot exist without these basic categories. Per L&J language arises from and extends these embodied image schema, so language too has as much claim to our experience of reality once it emerges. There is no going back to some pre-linguistic and pure apprehension of reality as such, since such a chimera never existed in the first place.

I know that some see my neologistic theurjisms as just plain fun and good sport. (And others not so much.) But given the above they just might be enacting novel, postmetaphysical realities. Yeah, I know that's more than a bit egotistical. But if the memes stick to the wall...

theurj said:

Image schematic basic categories are our link to experiencing and translating reality, but cannot do so with reality in toto. Nonetheless, reality for us cannot exist without these basic categories. Per L&J language arises from and extends these embodied image schema, so language too has as much claim to our experience of reality once it emerges. There is no going back to some pre-linguistic and pure apprehension of reality as such, since such a chimera never existed in the first place.

Tim Winton said:

"It is a very, very powerful thing to use patterns as a language. If we don’t have a word in our language for an object, that object is very hard to see."

To continue this theme, I was reading this morning from a bio of Henry Nelson Wieman: At Home in Creativity by Bruce Southworth, and struck by the fact that Wieman was already on to these ideas in 1946 when his book The Source of Human Good was published. 

Southworth writes,

Wieman's focus on quality derives from his belief that "every event accessible to human experience is a quality or a complex of qualities." Our immediate sense experience involves the sensing of qualities or impressions of objects. When we see a red barn, we first of all sense the quality of "redness" before cognizing either "red" or "barn."

...The world and events in the world are infinitely rich with felt quality, but the mind is able to find order only as it discerns structures. A structure is an abstraction, a concept, that the mind formulates in order to organize experience. " 'Structure' is the name we give to the demarcations and interrelations of events whereby we can apprehend them as different events and yet in meaningful relation to one another."

The mind, by providing structures to qualitative events helps us organize the world. But, there is also a determinative order of existence that helps create the mind. Thus, "The 'world' that we experience arises from the cooperation of two factors. One is the response of the organism including all the constructive powers of the mind; the other is the play of influence upon the organism from the outside." 

This is essentially a structuralist view of the mind inasmuch as we gain knowledge through a process of assimilation and accommodation. To repeat: There are constitutive structures of the mind that actively structure experience. At the same time, there are structures to events that help create the mind. In this sense, the universe is not simply waiting to be discovered. Rather it is created by the creativity operating in human experience."

Yes, t and DM.

I'll add how it seems to me what Krishnamurti reported and some of his bias about living. Use thought (language and constructs) mainly when practically necessary. There is important liberative potential in being present with 'what is' prior to categories - maybe related to the "richness" DM that you quote above. He felt that it was when the categorizing judging mind was still, while being alertly present within the world, the underlying intelligence, of which man was then a part, was known; that was "freedom from the known [the usual known]."

I remember from one of his journals that he kept, one report among many similar, when he apparently was in Switzerland, he describes something roughly like the following. *One left the home, walked past the barn and animals, crossed over the bridge hearing the stream and seeing the light off the moving leaves, along the road...all without a single movement of thought.* K was obviously functioning and experiencing distinctions, without words or objectifying constructs (until he wrote of it). This was a precious mode of being, apparently sacred, where observer and observed were not two. He spoke often about seeing without labeling and such.

Wanted to add this type of anecdotal report by K, though I am not quite sure how this meshes and not meshes with these assertions and speculations made by others who are studying and wanting to understand how the mind functions. Wdyt?

Let's go back to the last page, Thompson's closing quote at the end of the book with this excerpt:

"'Enlightenment' or 'liberation'—at least in any sense that I would want to affirm—doesn't consist in dismantling our constructed sense of self, as may happen in certain meditative states."

So yes, we can have pre-linguistic meditative or contemplative experiences, but these in themselves are not enlightenment. And as you note, our unconscious, pre-linguistic basic categories are still in play during such experience. It was only after we came up with the notion of enlightenment did we associate such natural states as that special experience, so enlightenment itself is a linguistic construct. And it is being recontextualized in this forum via IPS constructs. Thompson helps in this project.

Ambo,

Nice story about Krishnamurti.  Here is a 16 minute audio excerpt of a teaching by Shinzen Young on "Working with the Thinking Mind" (from The Science of Enlightenment), that is very much along the same lines as what K. was conveying. My meditation group is currently working with this meditation, which as Shinzen conveys, is quite challenging.

Yes, t, I liked that quote when I read it.

David, thanks for the Shinzen guided meditation! Really enjoyed it. I am in a group that has recently been exploring his book on mindfulness (see below Five Ways.pdf). My mind naturally inclines to Flow, Rest and Do Nothing. I talked about meditation and did a guided meditation yesterday using Flow and Rest with a group of 9 people who had never meditated before. After 30 minutes when I rang the bell not one of them opened their eyes! They were all sitting straight up and full on immersed in their still center. It was awesome to see! What is your group finding challenging with Shinzen's instruction in the guided meditation? 

http://www.basicmindfulness.org/

http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/FiveWays.pdf

e,

What seems most challenging is to notice thought as thought as it arises. It is far easier to notice having had a thought after the fact than to notice it as it arises. It is also difficult to treat thought with equanimity as if it were just so much foam as generated by the ocean, rather than feeling "driven and fixated" on it, or seeing it as who I am ("I think, therefore I am."). 

Thanks for the link to the FiveWays book; I will check it out - this may be a good next step for our group.

- - - - - -

What, after all, is enlightenment?
"Ummm, I guess you could say it is the disappearance of the distinction between enlightened and non-enlightened."

- Shinzen Young recounting the answer of a Japanese Zen Roshi answering the question.

When I did the guided mediation for the newbies on Sunday I was having folks focus on Hear Flow. I said, 'as you attend to hearing you may notice the sounds of a car driving by or the plane overhead...as you hear those sounds don't label the sounds, drop the context and just hear the sounds as energy... as movement within hearing'. Later I said, 'if thoughts arise can you hear them as just energy... as a mental internal hearing movement as you drop the context'. After the meditation one gal said 'dropping the context' was very powerful for her. Shinzen explicates all this very well in his book.

I was doing an inquiry ala John Wheeler with a friend 2 weeks ago. I played the interlocutor. My friend got very deep with the question ' what am I?'. She intuited that she was voidness sans any sense of 'I'. When we were done with the inquiry she was having a problem reconciling this deep sense of who she felt she was with thinking (there was no thinking in voidness for her). I said, 'words don't substantiate anything so what is the problem?'. It was like 'poof'...as she saw the supposed problem she had was no problem at all...with a big ol smile on her face! She saw that she was making problems where none in fact actually existed.

I was reading Greg Goode's Standing as Awareness recently. I used to be on a yahoo group with Greg about a decade ago and finally got around to reading his book. I was never into the awareness type teachings but I have been practicing different ones with some friends who are into them. In the book Greg was talking about how we can stand as the body or mind or awareness and experience life differently with each stance. Standing as a body you see objects, Standing as the mind you see images, thoughts and emotions. Standing as awareness you see "the disappearance of the distinction between enlightened and non-enlightened". :-)



DavidM58 said:

e,

What seems most challenging is to notice thought as thought as it arises. It is far easier to notice having had a thought after the fact than to notice it as it arises. It is also difficult to treat thought with equanimity as if it were just so much foam as generated by the ocean, rather than feeling "driven and fixated" on it, or seeing it as who I am ("I think, therefore I am."). 

Thanks for the link to the FiveWays book; I will check it out - this may be a good next step for our group.

- - - - - -

What, after all, is enlightenment?
"Ummm, I guess you could say it is the disappearance of the distinction between enlightened and non-enlightened."

- Shinzen Young recounting the answer of a Japanese Zen Roshi answering the question.

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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?

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