Thursday, September 27, 2012

forms of the Tao mind

After defining the phenomenological-epistemological horizon of their guidelines Varela, Rosch and Thompson outline the several approaches and paradigms of the cognitive sciences:

What Is Cognitive Science?

In its widest sense the term cognitive science is used to indicate that the study of mind is in itself a worthy scientific pursuit. At this time cognitive science is not yet established as a mature science. It does not have a clearly agreed upon sense of direction and a large number of researchers constituting a community, as is the case with, say, atomic physics or molecular biology. Rather, it is really more of a loose affiliation of disciplines than a discipline of its own. Interestingly, an important pole is occupied by artificial intelligence - thus the computer model of the mind is a dominant aspect of the entire field. The other affiliated disciplines are generally taken to consist of linguistics, neuroscience, psychology, sometimes anthropology, and the philosophy of mind. Each discipline would give a somewhat different answer to the question of what is mind or cognition, an answer that would reflect its own specific concerns. The future development of cognitive science is therefore far from clear, but what has already been produced has had a distinct impact, and this may well continue to be the case.
From Alexandre Koyre to Thomas Kuhn, modem historians and philosophers have argued that scientific imagination mutates radically from one epoch to another and that the history of science is more like a novelistic saga than a linear progression. In other words, there is a human history of nature, a story that is well worth telling in more than one way. Alongside such a human history of nature there is a corresponding history of ideas about human self-knowledge. Consider, for example, Greek physics and the Socratic method or Montaigne's essays and early French science. This history of selfknowledge in the West remains to be fully explored. Nonetheless, it is fair to say that precursors of what we now call cognitive science have been with us all along, since the human mind is the closest and most familiar example of cognition and knowledge.
In this parallel history of mind and nature, the modem phase of cognitive science may represent a distinct mutation. At this time, science (i.e., the collection of scientists who define what science must be) not only recognizes that the investigation of knowledge itself is legitimate but also conceives of knowledge in a broad, interdisciplinary perspective, well beyond the traditional confines of epistemology and psychology. This mutation, only some thirty years old, was dramatically introduced through the "cognitivist" program (discussed later), much as the Darwinian program inaugurated the scientific study of evolution even though others had been concerned with evolution before.
Furthermore, through this mutation, knowledge has become tangibly and inextricably linked to a technology that transforms the social practices which make that very knowledge possible-artificial intelligence being the most visible example. Technology, among other things, acts as an amplifier. One cannot separate cognitive science and cognitive technology without robbing one or the other of its vital complementary element. Through technology, the scientific exploration of mind provides society at large with an unprecedented mirror of itself, well beyond the circle of the philosopher, the psycholo gist, the therapist, or any individual seeking insight into his own experience.
This mirror reveals that for the first time Western society as a whole is confronted in its everyday life and activities with such issues as: Is mind a manipulation of symbols? Can language be understood by a machine? These concerns directly touch people's lives; they are not merely theoretical. Thus it is hardly surprising that there is a constant interest in the media about cognitive science and its associated technology and that artificial intelligence has deeply penetrated the minds of the young through computer games and science fiction. This popular interest is a sign of a deep transformation: For millenia human beings have had a spontaneous understanding of their own experience - one embedded in and nourished by the larger context of their time and culture. Now, however, this spontaneous folk understanding has become inextricably linked to science and can be transformed by scientific constructions.
Many deplore this event, while others rejoice. What is undeniable is that the event is happening, and at an ever increasing speed and depth. We feel that the creative interpenetration among research scientists, technologists, and the general public holds a potential for the profound transformation of human awareness. We find this possibility fascinating and see it as one of the most interesting adventures open to everyone today. We offer this book as (we hope) a meaningful contribution to that trans formative conversation.
Throughout this book, we will emphasize the diversity of visions within cognitive science. In our eyes, cognitive science is not a monolithic field, though it does have, as does any social activity, poles of domination so that some of its participating voices acquire more force than others at various periods of time. Indeed, this sociological aspect of cognitive science is striking, for the "cognitive revolution" of the past four decades was strongly influenced through specific lines of research and funding in the United States.
Nevertheless, our bias here will be to emphasize diversity. We propose to look at cognitive science as consisting of three successive stages ... to help orient the reader, we will provide a short overview of these stages here. We have drawn them in the form of a "polar" map with three concentric rings:

The three stages correspond to the successive movement from center to periphery; each ring indicates an important shift in the theoretical framework within cognitive science. Moving around the circle, we have placed the major disciplines that constitute the field of cognitive science. Thus we have a conceptual chart in which we can place the names of various researchers whose work is both representative and will appear in the discussion that follows .
Some textbook representative of the reductionist-cognitivist-interactionist approach to the consciousness and the Self.
The Minsky text is the paradigm of the symbolic approach to the mind and the basic text for Artificial Intelligence.
The Damasio text is the classic (and the only possible) "from bottom" approach to the emergence of the consciousness and Self  practicable in the neurosciences field: the Self existence is taken for granted (since it is an obvious common and
consensual experience) and then proceeding to define several parts and qualities liable to research.
The Popper and Eccles text is a mixture between epistemology and neuroscience, where
it is hypothesized the existence of the "ghost in the machine", that is that there are secret recesses within that hide an existing Self and which don't allow a complete neuroscientific explanation.
The Crick
text, the founder of molecular biology, takes in materialism terms that consciousness (and even the soul hypothesis) may be completely explained on a neuroscience basis.
We begin … with the center or core of cognitive science, known generally as cognitivism. The central tool and guiding metaphor of cognitivism is the digital computer . A computer is a physical device built in such a way that a particular set of its physical changes can be interpreted as computations . A computation is an operation performed or carried out on symbols, that is, on elements that represent what they stand for. (For example, the symbol "7" represents the number 7.) Simplifying for the moment, we can say that cognitivism consists in the hypothesis that cognition-human cognition included-is the manipulation of symbols after the fashion of digital computers. In other words, cognition is mental representation: the mind is thought to operate by manipulating symbols that represent features of the world or represent the world as being a certain way. According to this cognitivist hypothesis, the study of cognition qua mental representation provides the proper domain of cognitive science, a domain held to be independent of neurobiology at one end and sociology and anthropology at the other.
Cognitivism has the virtue of being a well-defined research program, complete with prestigious institutions, journals, applied technology, and international commercial concerns. We refer to it as the center or core of cognitive science because it dominates research to such an extent that it is often simply taken to be cognitive science itself. In the past few years, however, several alternative approaches to cognition have appeared. These approaches diverge from cognitivism along two basic lines of dissent: (1) a critique of symbol processing as the appropriate vehicle for representations, and (2) a critique of the adequacy of the notion of representation as the Archimedes point for cognitive science.

The first alternative, which we call emergence … is typically referred to as connectionism. This name is derived from the idea that many cognitive tasks (such as vision and memory) seem to be handled best by systems made up of many simple components, which, when connected by the appropriate rules, give rise to global behavior corresponding to the desired task. Symbolic processing, however, is localized. Operations on symbols can be specified using only the physical form of the symbols, not their meaning. Of course, it is this feature of symbols that enables one to build a physical device to manipulate them. The disadvantage is that the loss of any part of the symbols or the rules for their manipulation results in a serious malfunction. Connnectionist models generally trade localized, symbolic processing for distributed operations (ones that extend over an entire network of components) and so result in the emergence of global properties resilient to local malfunction. For connectionists a representation consists in the correspondence between such an emergent global state and properties of the world; it is not a function of particular symbols.

The second alternative … is born from a deeper dissatisfaction than the connectionist search for alternatives to symbolic processing. It questions the centrality of the notion that cognition is fundamentally representation. Behind this notion stand three fundamental assumptions. The first is that we inhabit a world with particular properties, such as length, color, movement, sound, etc. The second is that we pick up or recover these properties by internally representing them. The third is that there is a separate subjective "we" who does these things. These three assumptions amount to a strong, often tacit and unquestioned, commitment to realism or objectivism/subjectivism about the way the world is, what we are, and how we come to know the world. Even the most hard-nosed biologist, however, would have to admit that there are many ways that the world is-indeed even many different worlds of experience - depending on the structure of the being involved and the kinds of distinctions it is able to make. And even if we restrict our attention to human cognition, there are many various ways the world can be taken to be.s This nonobjectivist (and at best also nonsubjectivist) conviction is slowly growing in the study of cognition. As yet, however, this alternative orientation does not have a well-established name, for it is more of an umbrella that covers a relatively small group of people working in diverse fields. We propose as a name the term enactive to emphasize the growing conviction that cognition is not the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind on the basis of a history of the variety of actions that a being in the world performs. The enactive approach takes seriously, then, the philosophical critique of the idea that the mind is a mirror of nature but goes further by addressing this issue from within the heartland of science.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

very far Tao

Hubble Space Telescope

economic Tao

“Of all imaginary organisms – dragons, protomollusca, missing links, gods, demons, sea monsters, and so on – economic man is the dullest. He is dull because his mental processes are all quantitative and his preferences transitive. His evolution can best be comprehended by considering the communicational problems of human cultural contact.
Always at the interface between two civilizations, some degree of mutual understanding must be achieved. In the case of two strongly contrasting systems, sharing a minimum of premises, the establishment of a common ground of communication is not easy and will be the more difficult inasmuch as people, in all cultures, are prone to believe that their values and preconceptions are "true" and "natural". Indeed, this preference for one‘s own cultural system is probably necessary and universal. However, one preconception which is cross–culturally widespread and perhaps universal is the notion that more is more that not-so-much and that bigger is bigger (and probably better) than not-so-big.
Thus it is that the dilemmas produced by culture contact are often resolved by focusing on that common premise on which it is easiest to agree, so that the meeting of civilizations is turned into a matter of commerce and an occasion for profit or a jockeying for "power", in which it is assumed that domination of one by the there is the necessary outcome. If we look at the tragedies that occur at the interfaces between two human cultures, it is not surprising that similar tragedies occur at the interface between human societies and ecosystems, leading to gross reduction or slow deterioration. The premises of such encounters have tended to be simplistic, permeating the interpretation of messages, shaping observation, and gradually expressed in the unfolding of events. The premises that led to conflict between settlers and American Indians were the same as those that led to the destruction of the tall grass prairie and that today threaten the rain forests of South America and their inhabitants. 
The alternative would be a shift of our ways of seeing that would affirm the complexities and mutual integration of both sides of any interface. We reduce ourselves to such caricatures as "economic man", and we have reduced other societies and the woods and lakes that we encounter to potential assets, ultimately reducing them in still another sense as the prairie was reduced to desert, ,members of other groups to servitude, or the schizophrenic to the less than human by psychosurgery.
What will it take to react to interfaces in more complex ways?
At the very least, it requires ways of seeing that affirm our won complexity and the systemic complexity of other and that propose the possibility that they might together constitute an inclusive system, which a common network of mind and elements of the necessarily mysterious. Such a perception of both self and other is the affirmation of the sacred.
What do we think a man is? What is it to be human? What are these other systems that we encounter and how are they related?
Side by side with the riddle I want to offer you an ideal – not perhaps ultimately achievable but at least a dream we may try to approximate. The ideal is that our technologies our medical and agricultural procedures, our social arrangements should somehow fit with the best answers that we can give to the Riddle of the Sphinx. I do not think, you see, that an action or a word is its own sufficient definition. I believe that an action or the label put on an experience must always be seen, as we say, in context. And the context of every action is the whole network of epistemology and the state of all the systems involved, with the history that leads up to that state. What we believe ourselves to be should be compatible with what we believe of the world around us.
Notice that the ideal I offer you comes close to being a religious hope or ideal. We are not going to get far unless we acknowledge that the whole of science and technology, like medicine from Hippocrates downward, springs out of and impinges on religion. In two ways all heath practitioners are religious – necessarily accepting some system of ethics and necessarily subscribing to some the theory of body-mind-relations, a mythology, for better or worse. [This should perhaps also be true of all those who act on living systems.] To achieve the ideal I have offered, all we have to do is to be consistent. Alas, to be consistent is excessively difficult and perhaps impossible.
Finally – and here‘s the rub – the disciplines of the new ways of thought are still to be defined. To believe and act in the belief that there is no mind distinct from the body and (of course) no body distinct from the mind is not to become free of all limits. It is to accept a new discipline, probably more stringent than the old.
This brings me back to the notion of responsibility. It‘s a word which I don‘t commonly use, but let me use it here in all seriousness. How shall we interpret the responsibility of all those who deal with living systems? The whole tatterdemalion rout of the dedicated and the cynical, the saintly and the greedy, have a responsibility – individually and collectively – to a dream. The dream is about what sort of a thing man is that he may know and act on living systems – and what sort of things such systems are that they may be known. The answers to that forked riddle must be woven from mathematics and natural history and aesthetics and also the joy of life and loving – all of these contribute to shape that dream.”

Innocence and Experience

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

silencing the Tao

'Silencing' is an illusion that happens when an object that is moving is also changing it's appearance. Normally we can immediately tell if an object becomes lighter or darker, if it changes colour, or if it changes shape. However this recent paper by Jordan Suchow and George Alvarez, published in January 2011, shows something quite extraordinary.

The authors created a number of videos in which an array of dots change their appearance. In one video, the dots keep changing their colour. Initially this is very easy to see. In fact, it is completely obvious what is happening. What happens next however is amazing. The pattern of dots starts rotating. Play the video below, staring all the time at the little white dot in the middle. Initially all the dots are changing colour. What do you see happening to the colour of the dots when they start to rotate?

Instructions: Play the movie while looking at the small white speck in the center of the ring. At first, the ring is motionless and it's easy to tell that the dots are changing color. When the ring begins to rotate, the dots suddenly appear to stop changing. But in reality they are changing the entire time. This failure to detect that moving objects are changing is silencing.
For most people, when the dots start to rotate, they either completely stop changing colour, or they hardly change colour at all. However the reality is that the dots are still changing colour, just as they were before they started rotating. Even when you know that the dots are changing colour, it does not affect the way you see the illusion.
In another, they keep changing their shape:

In another, they keep changing their size:

The authors explore various hypotheses as to why our visual system is fooled. It seems that the faster the movement, the greater the degree of silencing and that movement of the image across the retina is the key factor - if instead of staring at the white dot in the centre of the screen, you watch a particular dot as it moves around the screen, you will then see that it is changing colour, or changing shape, or whatever the change is.
So when an image of an object moves across our retina, our ability to detect changes in that object is substantially diminished.

“SILENCING demonstrates the tight coupling of motion and object appearance. Simply by changing the retinotopic coordinates — moving the object or the eyes — it is possible to silence awareness of visual change, causing objects that had once been obviously dynamic to suddenly appear static.”


first teachings on Tao

 After the encounter with Don Juan, Castaneda begins his first sessions:
My notes on my first session with Don Juan are dated 23 June 1961. That was the occasion when the teachings began. I had seen him several times previously in the capacity of on observer only. At every opportunity I had asked him to teach me about peyote. He ignored my request every time, but he never completely dismissed the subject, and I interpreted his hesitancy as a possibility that he might be inclined to talk about his knowledge with more coaxing.
In this particular session he made it obvious to me that he might consider my request provided I possessed clarity of mind and purpose in reference to what I had asked him. It was impossible for me to fulfil such a condition, for I had asked him to teach me about peyote only as a means of establishing a link of communication with him. I thought his familiarity with the subject might predispose him to be more open and willing to talk, thus allowing me an entrance into his knowledge on the properties of plants. He had interpreted my request literally, however, and was concerned about my purpose in wishing to learn about peyote.

Friday, 23 June 1961
“Would you teach me about peyote, Don Juan?”
“Why would you like to undertake such learning?”
“I really would like to know about it. Is not just to want to know a good reason?”
“No! You must search in your heart and find out why a young man like you wants to undertake such a task of learning.”
“Why did you learn about it yourself, Don Juan?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Maybe we both have the same reasons.”
“I doubt that. I am an Indian. We don’t have the same paths.”
“The only reason I have is that I want to learn about it, just to know. But I assure you, Don Juan, my intentions are not bad.”
“I believe you. I’ve smoked you.”
“I beg your pardon!”
“It doesn’t matter now. I know your intentions.”
“Do you mean you saw through me?”
“You could put it that way.”
“Will you teach me, then?”
“Is it because I’m not an Indian?”
“No. It is because you don’t know your heart. What is important is that you know exactly why you want to involve yourself. Learning about “Mescalito” is a most serious act. If you were an Indian your desire alone would be sufficient. Very few Indians have such a desire.”

Sunday, 25 June 1961

I stayed with Don Juan all afternoon on Friday. I was going to leave about 7 p.m. We were sitting on the porch in front of his house and I decided to ask him once more about the teaching. It was almost a routine question and I expected him to refuse again. I asked him if there was a way in which he could accept just my desire to learn, as if I were an Indian. He took a long time to answer. I was compelled to stay because he seemed to trying to decide something.
Finally he told me that there was a way, and proceeded to delineate a problem. He pointed out that I was very tired sitting on the floor, and that the proper thing to do was to find a “spot” (sitio) on the floor where I could sit without fatigue. I had been sitting with my knees up against my chest and my arms locked around my calves. When he said I was tired, I realized that my back ached and that I was quite exhausted.
I waited for him to explain what he meant by a “spot”, but he made no overt attempt to elucidate the point. I thought that perhaps he meant that I should change positions, so I got up and sat closer to him. He protested at my movement and clearly emphasized that a spot meant a place where a man could feel naturally happy and strong. He patted the place where he sat and said it was his own spot, adding that he had posed a riddle I had to solve by myself any further deliberation.
What he had posed as a problem to be solved was certainly a riddle. I had no idea how to begin or even what he had in mind.
Several times I asked for a clue, or at least a hint, as to how to proceed in locating a point where I felt happy and strong. I insisted and argued that I had no idea what he really meant because I couldn’t conceive the problem. He suggested I walk around the porch until I found the spot.
I got up and began to pace the floor. I felt silly and sat down in front of him.
He became very annoyed with me and accused me of not listening, saying that perhaps I did not want to learn. After a while he calmed down and explained to me that not every place was good to sit or be on, and that within the confines of the porch there was one spot that was unique, a spot where I could be at my very best. It was my task to distinguish it from all the other places. The general pattern was that I had to “feel” all the possible spots that were accessible until I could determine without a doubt which was the right one.
I argued that although the porch was not too large (twelve by eight feet), the number of possible spots was overwhelming, and it would take me a very long time to check all of them, and that since he had not specified the size of the spot, the possibilities might be infinite. My arguments were futile. He got up and very sternly warned me that it might take me days to figure it out, but that if I did not solve the problem, I might as well leave because he would have nothing to say to me. He emphasized that he knew where my spot was, and that therefore I could not lie to him; he said this was the only way he could accept my desire to learn about Mescalito as a valid reason. He added that nothing in his world was a gift, that whatever there was to learn had to be learned the hard way.
He went around the house to the chaparral to urinate. He returned directly into his house through the back.
I thought the assignment to find the alleged spot of happiness was his own way of dismissing me, but I got up and started to pace back and forth. The sky was clear. I could see everything on and near the porch. I must have paced for an hour or more, but nothing happened to reveal the location of the spot. I got tired of walking and sat down; after a few minutes I sat somewhere else, and then at another place, until I had covered the whole floor in a semi-systematic fashion. I deliberately tried to “feel” differences between places, but I lacked the criteria for differentiation.
I felt I was wasting my time, but I stayed. My rationalization was that I had come a long way just to see Don Juan, and I really had nothing else to do.
I lay down on my back and put my hands under my head like a pillow. Then I rolled over and lay on my stomach for a while.
I repeated this rolling process over the entire floor. For the first time I thought I had stumbled upon a vague criterion. I felt warmer when I lay on my back.
I rolled again, this time in the opposite direction, and again covered the length of the floor,lying face down on all the places where I had lain face up during my first rolling tour. I experienced the same warm and cold sensations, depending on my position, but there was no difference between spots.
Then an idea occurred to me which I thought to be brilliant: don Juan’s spot! I sat there, and then lay, face down at first, and later on my back, but the place was just like all the others. I stood up. I had had enough. I wanted to say good-bye to don Juan, but I was embarrassed to wake him up. I looked at my watch.
It was two o’clock in the morning! I had been rolling for six hours.
At that moment don Juan came out and went around the house to the chaparral. He came back and stood at the door. I felt utterly dejected, and I wanted to say something nasty to him and leave. But I realized that it was not his fault; that it was my own choice to go through all that nonsense. I told him I had failed; I had been rolling on his floor like an idiot all night and still couldn’t make any sense of his riddle.
He laughed and said that it did not surprise him because I had not proceeded correctly. I had not been using my eyes. That was true, yet I was very sure he had said to feel the difference. I brought that point up, but he argued that one can feel with the eyes, when the eyes are not looking right into things. As far as I was concerned, he said, I had no other means to solve this problem but to use all I had—my eyes.
He went inside. I was certain that he had been watching me.
I thought there was no other way for him to know that I had not been using my eyes.
I began to roll again, because that was the most comfortable procedure. This time, however, I rested my chin on my hands and looked at every detail.
After an interval the darkness around me changed. When I focused on the point directly in front of me, the whole peripheral area of my field of vision became brilliantly coloured with a homogeneous greenish yellow. The effect was startling. I kept my eyes fixed on the point in front of me and began to crawl sideways on my stomach, one foot at a time.
Suddenly, at a point near the middle of the floor, I became aware of another change in hue.
At a place to my right, still in the periphery of my field of vision, the greenish yellow became intensely purple. I concentrated my attention on it. The purple faded into a pale, but still brilliant, colour which remained steady for the time I kept my attention on it.
I marked the place with my jacket, and called don Juan. He came out to the porch. I was truly excited; I had actually seen the change in hues. He seemed unimpressed, but told me to sit on the spot and report to him what kind of feeling I had.
I sat down and then lay on my back. He stood by me and asked me repeatedly how I felt; but I did not feel anything different.
For about fifteen minutes I tried to feel or to see a difference, while don Juan stood by me patiently. I felt disgusted. I had a metallic taste in my mouth. Suddenly I had developed a headache. I was about to get sick. The thought of my nonsensical endeavours irritated me to a point of fury. I got up.
Don Juan must have noticed my profound frustration. He did not laugh, but very seriously stated that I had to be inflexible with myself if I wanted to learn. Only two choices were open to me, he said: either to quit and go home, in which case I would never learn, or to solve the riddle.
He went inside again. I wanted to leave immediately, but I was too tired to drive; besides, perceiving the hues had been so startling that I was sure it was a criterion of some sort, and perhaps there were other changes to be detected. Anyway, it was too late to leave. So I sat down, stretched my legs back, and began all over again.
During this round I moved rapidly through each place, passing don Juan’s spot, to the end of the floor, and then turned around to cover the outer edge. When I reached the centre, I realized that another change in colouration was taking place, again on the edge of my field of vision. The uniform chartreuse I was seeing all over the area turned, at one spot to my right,into a sharp verdigris. It remained for a moment and then abruptly metamorphosed into another steady hue, different from the other one I had detected earlier. I took off one of my shoes and marked the point, and kept on rolling until I had covered the floor in all possible directions. No other change of colouration took place.
I came back to the point marked with my shoe, and examined it. It was located five to six feet away from the spot marked by my jacket, in a southeasterly direction. There was a large rock next to it. I lay down there for quite some time trying to find clues, looking at every detail, but I did not feel anything different.
I decided to try the other spot. I quickly pivoted on my knees and was about to lie down on my jacket when I felt an unusual apprehension. It was more like a physical sensation of something actually pushing on my stomach. I jumped up and retreated in one movement. The hair on my neck pricked up. My legs had arched slightly, my trunk was bent forward, and my arms stuck out in front of me rigidly with my fingers contracted like a claw.
I took notice of my strange posture and my fright increased.
I walked back involuntarily and sat down on the rock next to my shoe. From the rock, I slumped to the floor. I tried to figure out what had happened to cause me such a fright. I thought it must have been the fatigue I was experiencing. It was nearly daytime. I felt silly and embarrassed. Yet I had no way to explain what had frightened me, nor had I figured out what don Juan wanted.
I decided to give it one last try. I got up and slowly approached the place marked by my jacket, and again I felt the same apprehension. This time I made a strong effort to control myself. I sat down, and then knelt in order to lie face down, but I could not lie in spite of my will. I put my hands on the floor in front of me.
My breathing accelerated; my stomach was upset. I had a clear sensation of panic, and fought not to run away. I thought don Juan was perhaps watching me. Slowly I crawled back to the other spot and propped my back against the rock. I wanted to rest for a while to organize my thoughts, but I fell asleep.
I heard don Juan talking and laughing above my head. I woke up.
“You have found the spot,” he said.
I did not understand him at first, but he assured me again that the place where I had fallen asleep was the spot in question. He again asked me how I felt lying there. I told him I really did not notice any difference.
He asked me to compare my feelings at that moment with what I had felt while lying on the other spot. For the first time it occurred to me that I could not possibly explain my apprehension of the preceding night. He urged me in a kind of challenging way to sit on the other spot. For some inexplicable reason I was actually afraid of the other place, and did not sit on it. He asserted that only a fool could fail to see the difference.
I asked him if each of the two spots had a special name. He said that the good one was called the sitio and the bad one the enemy; he said these two places were the key to a man’s well being, especially for a man who pursuing knowledge. The sheer act of sitting on one’s spot created superior strength; on the other hand, the enemy weakened a man and could even cause his death. He said I had replenished my energy, which I had spent lavishly the night before, by taking a nap on my spot.
He also said that the colours I had seen in association with each specific spot had the same overall effect either of giving strength or of curtailing it.
I asked him if there were other spots for me like the two I had found, and how I should go about finding them. He said that many places in the world would be comparable to those two, and that the best way to find them was by detecting their respective colours.
It was not clear to me whether or not I had solved the problem, and in fact I was not even convinced that there had been a problem; I could not avoid feeling that the whole experience was forced and arbitrary. I was certain that don Juan had watched me all night and then proceeded to humour me by saying that wherever I had fallen asleep was the place I was looking for. Yet I failed to see a logical reason for such an act, and when he challenged me to sit on the other spot I could not do it. There was a strange cleavage between my pragmatic experience of fearing the “other spot” and my rational deliberations about the total event.
Don Juan, on the other hand, was very sure I had succeeded, and, acting in accordance with my success, let me know he was going to teach me about peyote.
“You asked me to teach about Mescalito,” he said. “I wanted to find out if you had enough backbone to meet him face to face. Mescalito is not something to make fun of. You must have command over your resources. Now I know I can take your desire alone as a good reason to learn.”
“You really are going to teach me about peyote?”
“I prefer to call him Mescalito. Do the same.”
“When are you going to start?”
“It is not so simple as that. You must be ready first.”
“I think I am ready.”
“This is not a joke. You must wait until there is no doubt, and then you will meet him.”
“Do I have to prepare myself?”
“No. You simply have to wait. You may give up the whole idea after a while. You get tired easily. Last night you were ready to quit as soon as it got difficult. Mescalito requires a very serious intent.”

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tao components

In the systems approach to the study of consciousness and its states Charles T. Tart introduces the system components:

The Components of Consciousness: Awareness, Energy, Structures

People use the phrase states of consciousness to describe unusual alterations in the way consciousness functions. In this chapter we consider some of the experiences people use to judge what states they are in, in order to illustrate the complexity of experience. We then consider what basic concepts or components we need to make sense out of this variety of experiences. I have often begun a lecture on states of consciousness by asking the audience the following question: "Is there anyone here right now who seriously believes that what you are experiencing, in this room, at this moment, may be something you are just dreaming? I don't mean picky, philosophical doubts about the ultimate nature of experience or anything like that. I'm asking whether anyone in any seriously practical way thinks this might be a dream you're experiencing now, rather than you ordinary state of consciousness?" How do you, dear reader, know that you are actually reading this book now, rather than just dreaming about it? Think about it before going on. I have asked this question of many audiences, and I have only occasionally seen a hand go up. No one has stuck to defending this position. If you take this question to mean, "How do you know you're not dreaming now?" you probably take a quick internal scan of the content and quality of your experience and find that some specific elements of it, as well as the overall pattern of your experience, match those qualities you have come to associate with your ordinary waking consciousness, but do not match the qualities you have come to associate with being in a dreaming state of consciousness. I ask this question in order to remind the reader of a basic datum underlying my approach to consciousness—that a person sometimes scans the pattern of his ongoing experience and classifies it as being one or another state of consciousness. Many people make distinctions among only a few states of consciousness, since they experience only a few. Everyone, for example, probably distinguishes between his ordinary waking state, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. Some others may distinguish drunkenness as a fourth state of consciousness. Still others who have personally experimented with altered states may want to distinguish among drug-induced, meditative, and emotion-induced states. Without yet attempting to define consciousness or states of consciousness more precisely, suppose we ask people who have personally experienced many states of consciousness how they make these distinctions. What do they look for in their experience that alerts them to the fact that they are in a different state of consciousness from their ordinary one? A few years ago I asked a group of graduate students who had had fairly wide experience with altered states, "What sorts of things in yourself do you check on if you want to decide what state of consciousness you're in at a given moment?" Table presents a categorization of the kinds of answers they gave, a categorization in terms of the systems approach I am explaining as we go along.


EXTEROCEPTION (sensing the external world)
Alteration in various sensory characteristics of the perceived world—glowing lights at the edges of things, attenuation or accentuation of visual depth
INTEROCEPTION (sensing the body)
Alteration in perceived body image---shape or size changes
Alteration in detectable physiological parameters---accelerated or retarded heart rate, respiration rate, muscle tonus, tremor
Perception of special bodily feelings not normally present---feelings of energy in the body, generally or specially localized, as in the spine; change in quality of energy flow in the body, such as intensity, focus vs. diffuseness
INPUT-PROCESSING (seeing meaningful stimuli)
Sensory excitement, involvement, sensuality
Enhanced or decreased sensory intensity
Alterations of dominance-interaction hierarchies of various sensory modalities
Illusion, hallucination, perception of patterns and things otherwise known to be unlikely to actually exist in the environment
Alteration in emotional response to stimuli---overreacting, underreacting, not reacting, reacting in an entirely different way
Extreme intensity of emotions
Changes in continuity of memory over time---either an implicit feeling that continuity is present or an explicit checking of memory that shows current experience to be consistent with continuous memories leading up to the present, with gaps suggesting an altered state
Details. Checking fine details of perceived environment (external or internal) against memories of how they should be to detect incongruities
Unusual feeling of here-and-nowness
Feeling of great slowing or speeding of time
Feeling of orientation to past and/or future, regardless of relation to present
Feeling of archetypal quality to time; atemporal experience
Sense of unusual identity, role
Alienation, detachment, perspective on usual identity or identities
Alteration in rate of thought
Alteration in quality of thought---sharpness, clarity
Alteration of rules of logic (compared with memory of usual rules)
Alteration in amount or quality of self-control
Change in the active body image, the way the body feels when in motion, the proprioceptive feedback signals that guide actions
Restlessness, tremor, partial paralysis
Performance of unusual or impossible behaviors---incongruity of consequences resulting from behavioral outputs, either immediate or longer term
Change in anticipation of consequences of specific behaviors---either prebehavioral or learned from observation of consequences
Change in voice quality
Change in feeling of degree of orientation to or contact with immediate environment
Change in involvement with vs. detachment from environment
Change in communications with others---incongruities or altered patterns, consensual validation or lack of it

*This category represents the combined functioning of several subsystems.

A wide variety of unusual experiences in perceptions of the world or of oneself, of changes in time, emotion, memory, sense of identity, cognitive processes, perception of the world, use of the body (motor output), and interaction with the world were mentioned. If we ignore the categorization of the experiences listed in Table, we have an illustration of the current state of knowledge about states of consciousness—that people experience a wide variety of unusual things. While the experiencers imply that there are meaningful patterns in their experiences that they cluster together as "states," our current scientific knowledge about how his wide variety of things goes together is poor. to understand people's experiences in this area more adequately we must develop conceptual frameworks, theoretical tools, that make sense out of the experiences in some more basic way and that still remain reasonably true to the experiences as reported. We can now begin to look at a conceptual framework that I have been developing for several years about the nature of consciousness, and particularly about the nature of states of consciousness. Although what we loosely call altered states of consciousness are often vitally important in determining human values and behavior, and although we are in the midst of a cultural evolution (or decay, depending on your values) in which experiences from altered states of consciousness play an important part, our scientific knowledge of this area is still sparse. We have a few relationships, a small-scale theory here and there, but mainly assorted and unrelated observations and ideas. My systems approach attempts to give an overall picture of this area to guide future research in a useful fashion. I call this framework for studying consciousness a systems approach because I take the position that consciousness, as we know it, is not a group of isolated psychological functions but a system—an interacting, dynamic configuration of psychological components that performs various functions in greatly changing environments. While knowledge of the nature of the components is useful, to understand fully any system we must also consider the environments with which it deals and the goals of its functioning. So in trying to understand human consciousness, we must get the feel of the whole system as it operates in its world, not just study isolated parts of it. I emphasize a psychological approach to states of consciousness because that is the approach I know best, and I believe it is adequate for building a comprehensive science of consciousness. but because the approach deals with systems, it can be easily translated into behavioral or neurophysiological terms. Let us now look at the basic elements of this systems approach, the basic postulates about what lies behind the phenomenal manifestations of experience. In the following chapters we will put these basic elements of awareness, energy, and structure together into the systems we call states of consciousness.

sleeping Tao

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tao neither supernatural nor mechanical - I

Neither Supernatural nor Mechanical

Before we can attempt to discover what it is to hold something sacred, certain barriers must at least be mapped. Every speaker in such a discussion must make clear where he or she stands on a number of topics related to basic premises of this civilization as well as to religion and the sacred. It seems that the particular focus of the epistemological perplexity in which we all live today is the beginning of a new solution for the body-mind problem. A first step towards a solution is contained in the discussion of Jung‘s distinction between Pleroma and Creatura, such that mind is an organizational characteristic, not a separate substance. The material objects involved in the residential heating system – including the resident – are so arranged as to sustain certain mental processes, such as responding to differences in temperature, and self-correction.
This way of looking, which sees the mental as organizational and as accessible to study, but does not reduce it to the material, allows for the development of a monistic and unified way of looking at the world. One of the key ideas developed at the conference on Conscious Purpose and Human Adaptation, some fifteen years ago, was that every religion and many other kinds of systems of thought can be seen as proposing a solution or partial solution to the body-mind problem, the recurrent difficulty of seeing how material objects can display or respond to such qualities as beauty or value or purpose. Of the several ways of thinking about body-mind, many are what I would regard as unacceptable solutions to the problem and these of necessity give rise to a whole variety of superstitions, which seem to fall into two classes. There are those forms of superstition that place explanations of the phenomena of life and experience outside the body. Some sort of separate supernatural agency – a mind or spirit – is supposed to affect and partly control the body and its actions. In these belief systems it is unclear how the mind or spirit, itself immaterial, can affect gross matter. People speak of the power of mind over matter, but surely this relationship between mind and matter: can obtain only if either mind has material characteristics or matter is endowed with mental characteristics such as obedience. In either case the superstition has explained nothing. The difference between mind and matter is reduced to zero. There are in contrast those superstitions that totally deny mind. As mechanists or materialists try to see it, there is nothing to explain that cannot be covered by lineal sequences of cause and effect.
There shall be no information, no humor, no logical types, no abstractions, no beauty or ugliness, no grief or joy. And so on. This is the superstition that man is a machine of some kind. Even placebos would not work on such a creature! But the life of a machine, even of the most elaborate computers we have so far been able to make, is cramping – to narrow for human beings – and so our materialists are always looking for a way out. They want miracles, and my definition of such imagined or contrived phenomena is simple: Miracles are dreams and imaginings whereby materialists hope to escape from their materialism. They are narratives that precisely – too precisely – confront the premise of lineal causality. These two species of superstition, these rival epistemologies, the supernatural and the mechanical, feed each other. In our day, the premise of external mind seems to invite charlatanism, promoting in turn a retreat back into a materialism which then becomes intolerably narrow. We tell ourselves that we are choosing our philosophy by scientific and logical criteria, but in truth our preferences are determined by a need to change from one posture of discomfort to another. Each theoretical system is a cop-out, tempting us to escape from the opposite fallacy. The problem is not, however, entirely symmetrical. I have, after all, chosen to live at Esalen, in the midst of the counterculture, with its astrological searching for truth, its divination by yarrow root, its herbal medicines, its diets, its yoga, and all the rest. My friends here love me and I love them, and I discover more and more that I cannot live anywhere else. I am appalled by my scientific colleagues, and while I disbelieve almost everything that is believed by the counterculture, I find it more comfortable to live with that disbelief than with the dehumanizing disgust and horror that conventional occidental themes and ways of life inspire in me. They are so successful and their beliefs are so heartless.