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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See this recent article supporting Thompson's notion that in heightened states of self-awareness brain waves are synchronized, coordinated and distributed in whole brain networking.* An edited excerpt:

"Vanderbilt University researchers took a significant step toward answering these longstanding questions with a recent imaging study, in which they discovered global changes in how brain areas communicate with one another during awareness. [...] Focal theories contend there are specific areas of the brain that are critical for generating consciousness, while global theories argue consciousness arises from large-scale brain changes in activity. [...] Unlike the focal results seen using more conventional analysis methods, the results via this network approach pointed toward a different conclusion. No one area or network of areas of the brain stood out as particularly more connected during awareness of the target; the whole brain appeared to become functionally more connected following reports of awareness.

"'We know there are numerous brain networks that control distinct cognitive functions such as attention, language and control, with each node of a network densely interconnected with other nodes of the same network, but not with other networks,' Marois said. 'Consciousness appears to break down the modularity of these networks, as we observed a broad increase in functional connectivity between these networks with .' The research suggests that consciousness is likely a product of this widespread communication. [...] Consciousness appears to be an emergent property of how information that needs to be acted upon gets propagated throughout the brain."

* It also relates to the definition of integral as the self-system which integrates the various states, stages, lines etc. Hence the latter is 'enlightenment' rather than particular, specialized and metaphysically-inflected states. Or a particular stage in that process.

PS: I have some reservations about that last sentence. To be continued.

"'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."

Got Evan's book as a gift a few months ago. Quite enjoy what I've read so far. Regarding the quote above. That is great for Evan and most normative psychologically oriented people interested in spirituality. It's great that they have found a sense of liberation that they can affirm! However, there is a group of outliers for whom the constructed sense of self disappears for good and not just in a meditative state. For them emptiness (aka non-self) is not just a philosophy thought about after reading a Buddhist book or a temporary state of meditation but a 24/7 lived reality. Check out this research paper. After studying 1200 or so people who are "enlightened" Jeffrey found 4 broad locations in which these people could be categorized (he's said there could be 6 or 8 locations if he wanted to parse the data that way). Folks like Evan, Wilber and just about everyone here seem to be philosophizing about the first 3 locations (Wilber at times seems to talk about Location 4). Jeffrey found people who have gone further still but there were not enough of them to form a definitive view so he calls that location 4+. The Integral perspective can include Location 4 people if those that think integrally can tolerate the self line of development stopping or turning transparent for those outliers.

"Location 4 and Beyond. Another major transition occurred at Location 4, which includes both the transitional location and those beyond it where the experience it ushers in continues to deepen. All remaining vestiges of self-related thoughts are gone by this point, as are experiences of emotion. Feelings of deep interconnectedness and union with God, an all pervasive consciousness, and so forth also disappeared. These participants reported having no sense of agency or any ability to make a decision. It felt as if life was simply unfolding and they were watching the process happen. Severe memory deficits were common in these participants, including the inability to recall scheduled events that were not regular and ongoing. Participants who progressed to this location from one or more previous ones reported the highest level of well-being. Often this amazed them as they did not imagine anything could have been better than Location 3."

Hi e - at quick run-through, I find this paper very interesting, theoretically and personally. Thanks, ambo

My review of the book at Integral World.

Hi Edward - this is an excellent review. I'm not surprised since how you kept us updated was already fine.

Your questions, divergences from Thompson, and your refinements/additions made sense to me.

I gave more careful attention to the front end of your review and then my attention/energy waned a bit. A person could spend a lot of time with this, and of course the book, and get a good grounding in several disciplines related to consciousness.

I don't know if it is too late to edit your 'printed' article, but in case you are interested, there were a couple of typos I noticed, I'll mention those - I hope it is not presumptuous of me.

But first I'll mention one detail in the first chapter, paragraph 3, where I found the lack of precise language available to us very mildly perturbing. This is the problem as we sort through relative synonyms and distinctions that we encounter in a lot of places, even in 'science'. It seems to me that "apprehend" unfortunately leaves a little to be desired for heirarchical neuro-processing and languaging precision and clarity - but I think I get the point in: "He starts by defining consciousness as 'that which is luminous and has the capacity of knowing' (13). That is, its luminosity reveals or makes manifest that which appears to perception, while its knowing means the ability to apprehend what appears."


Ch 2 Pgr 1 - "in" rather than "is"? "According to object-oriented ontology, even a non-living object still has some response-mechanism/experience to/of other objects, though that could hardly be called consciousness is the sense herein described."

Ch7 Pgr 2 - "temporoparietal" or "temporo-parietal" rather then "tempoparietal"? "This is confirmed with brain studies showing the tempoparietal junction being affected, which is responsible for these perspective shifts."

Impressive article to my ears, Edward.

theurj said:

My review of the book at Integral World.

Thanks Ambo. Yes, the document can still be edited and I'll take a look at your suggestions. The typos we can change for sure. What would be your preferred verb instead of apprehend?

I smile because I don't have a better one.

The upper left of the below pasted chart of Ken's, doesn't help much. As I looked in a couple of online dictionaries to try to graduate the change of apprehension from prehension, imprecision continued from the original grasp or hold on to.

I wonder if General Semantics has anything to say about it. They are the first source in my life that lead me to commit to the progressive complexity of sensation to perception. I like how ken's chart took the stand on prehension then especially irritability (probably a biological convention) before sensation, but prehension - seems slightly arbitrary. At least, I don't know the history of it. Maybe it is in one of his books.

I think for precision, it would maybe require careful notation of the increasing complexity of processing, and maybe circuitry. I remember in anatomy/physiology, vision was a good process model for increasing integration from the cones and rods of the retina on back through optic nerve and visual cortex. However, as you alluded in the article, the brain isn't just complexifying circuitry.

I'm nattering - hah - I don't know, so "apprehend" it is, for the nonce, eh. Or?

EDIT - 4 quad diagram didn't paste well, but you probably remember the hierarchy of UL.


Interesting discussion here. I tend to think that Wilber tends to use "prehension" in a Whiteheadian sense. I haven't read this article, but I will, it looks useful anyway: Whitehead's Revolutionary Concept of Prehension by Charles Hartshorne.

A ways back in this thread, I think I mentioned some possible correlations with Evan Thompson's scheme and those of H.N. Wieman.  As an exercize, I made this matrix chart below, seeing how some different schemes line up, and correlating them to the chakras.  I don't mean to conflate all of these schemes as being somehow the same or equal, but there are some definitely interesting parallels, especially between Wieman, Winton, and Odum.  I hadn't even thought to include Wilber until reading your post.  I had to leave out some of Wilber's steps, and combine two of them to make them fit into 7. The thinkers considered are T. Collins Logan, Henry Nelson Wieman, Tim Winton, Howard T. Odum, Talcott Parsons, Evan Thompson, Ken Wilber.

Hi David - wow on your table :) Nice collation.

At a glance this looks like an interesting and pertinent bio-philosophical exploration of prehension. I'd have to read it carefully to see if maybe I resonate a lot with its utility and validity - it does seem elegant so far.

I had an initial surprise and glitch when I read the second sentence in the second full paragraph on pdf page 4 (book page 256.) The idea that the past (implying the working of a sort of memory, already) was necessary to the conditions of the experience of prehension, so far back on the chain/hierarchy of relationship to other, as Ken placed it before irritability. I maybe could get to concurrence with that, but a kind of 'recognition' based on past exposure/contact, I wouldn't have thought of as essential, until now. On an other hand, perhaps digging ontologically backward, past exposure to something is always already implicit. Anyhow - hmmm. IOMH :)

DavidM58 said:


Interesting discussion here. I tend to think that Wilber tends to use "prehension" in a Whiteheadian sense. I haven't read this article, but I will, it looks useful anyway: Whitehead's Revolutionary Concept of Prehension by Charles Hartshorne.

Middle Way Society interview of Thompson on the book here. Will comment later after listening.

Around 5:30 he talks about how cognitive science is perhaps the most interdisciplinary of the sciences. Also how the different disciplines, while having their own enacted paradigms, nonetheless temper and interrelate with each other in a sort of meta-philosophy.* It reminds me of Stein's ecology of mind and of course Rifkin's ecological consciousness.

* Since that's pretty much what philosophy is anyway, the meta is superfluous and narcissistic. But heh, if I don't add the meta it won't be integral, right?

Around 6:30 he's asked about the main theme of the book, which he replies "the nature of consciousness." Growing up in Lindesfarne, consciousness was interpreted more from a transcendent, spiritual perspective. His education saw it more from a materialist perspective. So he wanted to see how cross-pollinating those perspectives would yield insight into both without being either.

I recall asking Alan Combs in FB what he thought of Evan and he said something to the effect that he preferred his father William Irvin because Evan was too reductionist. I think Combs is from that transcendent and elevationist old school, and Thompson does a good job at not only not being reductionist but rather well integrates the spiritual/material perspectives. Again, ecological thinking. Which of course pisses off many in either of the two camps.

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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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