Showing posts with label Tao Level 3 and beyond. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tao Level 3 and beyond. Show all posts

Sunday, July 20, 2014

1000 Taos: the conclusion of Tao

In the 1001 posts (433 in this english partial version) of the full italian version of this blog an attempt was made to describe the complexity of multi-levels systems and processes that in this century will bring a radical destructive and irreversible change of the global ecosystem, here identified with the myth of KaliYuga.

The two main guidelines are represented by Global Dynamics Processes - GDPs - the description of the physical-chemical-biological-social-mental and environmental processes involved starting from the hierarchical levels of natural sciences and of the knowledge domains to the logical levels of knowledge of knowledge.

The second guideline is called Pattern which Connects and is mainly based on the wide variety of ideas developed in the systemic-cybernetic-environmental fields by Gregory Bateson, subsequently carried out in the neurosciences and sciences of cognition fields by Francisco J. Varela and Humberto Maturana and finally merged in the modern science of complexity mainly due to the work of Edgar Morin.

Into these two guidelines - interlaced with each other - there are the connected lines of Tao, based upon the 81 chapters of Tao Teh Ching, the one of Synchronic Tao, based on the description ensemble of the 78 +1 symbols of Tarots, Tao Interlude and, starting at a specified point, the one of of Tao Level 3 and beyond, linked to the two main guidelines for descriptions in areas higher then the logical level 2 of complexity.
The full italian and this partial english versions coincide till June 13, 2011; afterwards only some selected posts are published in the english version, tagged Over The End of Tao.

The evolution of the real KaliYuga - not mythological - in the next decades is naturally unpredictable, both because it involves an ensemble of the most complex systems known, and because phenomena and conditions never occurred in the past will become effective.

Though everything brings to believe that quantitatively the global ecosystem will be destroyed or radically transformed, it is always possible that in a highly complex system of this type relevant choices and actions different from the past may lead to other types of evolution.

One moment it was there, another moment it is gone.
One moment we are here, and another moment we have gone.

And for this simple moment, how much fuss we make - how much violence, ambition, struggle, conflict, anger, hatred.
Just for this small moment!

Just waiting for the train in a waiting room on a station, and creating so much fuss: fighting, hurting each other, trying to possess, trying to boss, trying to dominate - all that politics.

And then the train comes and you are gone forever.

Heaven's Reason is to benefit but not to injure;
the holy man's Reason is to accomplish but not to strive.
© Elena Cinguino Illustrations

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

the last words of Tao

wat Pho Buddha, Bangkok
Last Words of the Tathagata

      216. Then the Bhagava said to the Venerable Ananda:

      It may happen that (some among) you have this thought: 'The Doctrine; (lit, the word) is bereft of the Teacher of the Doctrine; our Teacher is no more.' But Ananda, it should not be so considered. Ananda, the Doctrine and Discipline I have taught and laid down to all of you will be your Teacher when I am gone.

      Ananda, when I have passed away, bhikkhus should not address one another as they do at present by the term 'avuso' (Friend) (irrespective of seniority). Ananda, the senior bhikkhus should address the junior bhikkhus by name, or by family name, or by the term 'avuso'. And the junior bhikkhus should address the senior bhikkhus by the term 'bhante' or 'ayasma' (Venerable Sir).

      Ananda, after I have passed away, the Samgha, the Order of the bhikkhus, may, if it wishes to, abolish lesser and minor Rules of Discipline.

      Ananda, after I have passed away, let the Brahma penalty be imposed upon Bhikkhu Channa.

      "But, Venerable Sir, what is the Brahma penalty?"

      Ananda, let Bhikkhu Channa say whatever he wishes to. The bhikkhus should neither advise him nor admonish him, nor deter him.

      217. Then the Bhagava addressed the bhikkhus thus:

      O Bhikkhus, if any bhikkhu should happen to have any uncertainty or perplexity regarding the Buddha, or the Dhamma (the Teaching), or the Samgha (the Order of bhikkhus), or Magga, or the Practice, then, bhikkhus, ask (me) questions. Do not let yourselves feel regret later with the thought that 'even though our Teacher was (with us) in our very presence, we were not able to ask him questions personally in return.'

      When this was said, the bhikkhus remained silent. ..............

      For a third time, the Bhagava said:

      O Bhikkhus, if any bhikkhu should happen to have any uncertainty or perplexity regarding the Buddha, or the Dhamma, or the Samgha, or Magga, or the Practice, then, bhikkhus, ask (me) questions. Do not let yourselves feel regret later with the thought that 'even though our Teacher was (with us) in our very presence, we were not able to ask him questions personally in return.'

      For the third time, too, the bhikkhus remained silent.

      Then the Bhagava said to the bhikkhus:

      O Bhikkhus, it may be that you do not ask questions out of respect for the Teacher. Then, bhikkhus, let a bhikkhu tell a companion (his uncertainty or perplexity).

      Even when this was said, the bhikkhus continued to remain silent.

      Then the Venerable Ananda said to the Bhagava:

      "Wonderful it is, Venerable Sir! Marvellous it is, Venerable Sir! I believe that in this community of bhikkhus not a single bhikkhu has uncertainty or perplexity regarding the Buddha, or the Dhamma, or the Samgha, or Magga, or the Practice."

      Ananda, you say this only out of faith. Indeed, Ananda, the Tathagata knows for certain that in this community of bhikkhus not a single bhikkhu has uncertainty or perplexity regarding the Buddha, or the Dhamma, or the Samgha, or Magga, or the Practice.

      Ananda, amongst these five hundred bhikkhus, even the least (in attainment) is a Sotapanna, a Stream-enterer, not liable to be reborn in any apaya realm of misery, assured (of reaching desirable realms of existence or of teaching the end of dukkha), bound for (the three higher levels of Insight, culminating in) Enlightenment.

      218. Then the Bhagava said to the bhikkhus:

      O Bhikkhus, I say this now to you: "All conditioned and compounded things (sankhara) have the nature of decay and disintegration. With mindfulness endeavour diligently (to complete the task)"

      These were the last words of the Tathagata

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat
Part Six: The Passing Away

The Blessed One's Final Exhortation

1. Now the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: 'Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.' But it should not, Ananda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone.

2. "And, Ananda, whereas now the bhikkhus address one another as 'friend,' let it not be so when I am gone. The senior bhikkhus, Ananda, may address the junior ones by their name, their family name, or as 'friend'; but the junior bhikkhus should address the senior ones as 'venerable sir' or 'your reverence.'

3. "If it is desired, Ananda, the Sangha may, when I am gone, abolish the lesser and minor rules.

4. "Ananda, when I am gone, let the higher penalty be imposed upon the bhikkhu Channa."

"But what, Lord, is the higher penalty?"

"The bhikkhu Channa, Ananda, may say what he will, but the bhikkhus should neither converse with him, nor exhort him, nor admonish him."

5. Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "It may be, bhikkhus, that one of you is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice. Then question, bhikkhus! Do not be given to remorse later on with the thought: 'The Master was with us face to face, yet face to face we failed to ask him.'"

6. But when this was said, the bhikkhus were silent. And yet a second and a third time the Blessed One said to them: "It may be, bhikkhus, that one of you is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice. Then question, bhikkhus! Do not be given to remorse later on with the thought: 'The Master was with us face to face, yet face to face we failed to ask him.'"

And for a second and a third time the bhikkhus were silent. Then the Blessed One said to them: "It may be, bhikkhus, out of respect for the Master that you ask no questions. Then, bhikkhus, let friend communicate it to friend." Yet still the bhikkhus were silent.

7. And the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Blessed One, saying: "Marvellous it is, O Lord, most wonderful it is! This faith I have in the community of bhikkhus, that not even one bhikkhu is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice."

"Out of faith, Ananda, you speak thus. But here, Ananda, the Tathagata knows for certain that among this community of bhikkhus there is not even one bhikkhu who is in doubt or perplexity as to the Buddha, the Dhamma, or the Sangha, the path or the practice. For, Ananda, among these five hundred bhikkhus even the lowest is a stream-enterer, secure from downfall, assured, and bound for enlightenment."

8. And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

How the Blessed One Passed into Nibbana

9. And the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And rising out of the fourth jhana, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. And rising out of the attainment of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he attained to the cessation of perception and feeling.

10. And the Venerable Ananda spoke to the Venerable Anuruddha, saying: "Venerable Anuruddha, the Blessed One has passed away."

"No, friend Ananda, the Blessed One has not passed away. He has entered the state of the cessation of perception and feeling."

11. Then the Blessed One, rising from the cessation of perception and feeling, entered the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the fourth jhana. Rising from the fourth jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the first jhana.

Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And, rising from the fourth jhana, the Blessed One immediately passed away.
Wat Pho Buddha, Bangkok

Monday, July 14, 2014

a new Tao

You ask me: What according to you is the most significant thing that is happening today in the world?

A new man is emerging. The image of the new man is not yet clear, but the horizon is becoming red and the sun will soon be there. The morning mist is there and the image of the new man is vague, but still a few things are very crystal clear about the new man.
And this is of tremendous importance because since the monkey became man, man has remained the same. A great revolution is on the way. It will be far more deep-going than the revolution that happened when monkeys started walking on the earth and became human beings. That change created mind, that change brought psychology in. Now another far more significant change is going to happen that will bring the soul in, and man will not only be a psychological being but a spiritual being too.
You are living in one of the most alive times ever.
The new man has already arrived in fragments, but only in fragments. And the new man has been arriving for centuries, but only here and there. That's how things happen. When the spring comes it starts with one flower. But when the one flower is there, then one can be certain: that spring is not faraway—it has come. The first flower has heralded its coming: Zarathustra, Krishna, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus—these were the first flowers. Now the new man is going to be born on a greater scale.
According to me, this new consciousness is the most important thing that is happening today. I would like to tell you something about this new consciousness, its orientations, and its characteristics, because you are to help it come out of the womb—because you have to be it. The new man cannot come from nowhere, he has to come through you. The new man can only be born through your womb. You have to become the womb.
Sannyas is an experiment to clean the ground so that new seeds can fall in. If you understand the meaning of the new man, you will be able to understand the significance of sannyas too. And it is because sannyas is concerned with the new man that the old orthodoxies of all kinds are going to be against me and against sannyas, because this will be their end. If sannyas succeeds, if the new man succeeds, the old will have to go. The old can live only if the new man is prevented from coming.
It cannot be prevented now, because it is not only a question of the new man's coming into existence, it is a question of the survival of the whole earth, of consciousness itself, of life itself. It is a question of life and death. The old man has come to utter destructiveness. The old man has reached the end of his tether. Now there is no life possible with the old concept of man but only death. The old man is preparing for a global suicide. The old man is piling up atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, in order to commit a collective suicide. This is a very unconscious desire. Rather than allowing the new man to be, the old man would like to destroy the whole thing.
You have to understand, you have to protect the new, because the new carries the whole future with it. And man has come to a stage where a great quantum leap is possible….
The new man will have to find new forms of community, of closeness, of intimacy, of shared purpose, because the old society is not going to disappear immediately. It will linger, it will put up all kinds of fight to the new society—as it always happens. It has so many vested interests, it cannot go easily. It will go only when it becomes impossible for it to remain in existence.
Before it goes the new man will have to create new kinds of communes, new kinds of families, new communities of closeness, intimacy, shared purpose.
That's why I am trying to create a small commune where you can be totally yourself—away from the structured and the rotten world—and you can be given absolute freedom. It will be an experiment, because the future is going to move on those lines. It will be a small experiment but of immense significance….
This, according to me, is the most important phenomenon that is happening today. A new man is coming into existence. The first rays are already on the horizon. Prepare yourself to receive the new man. Get ready. Become a host to the guest who is just about to knock on your doors at any moment. And that's what sannyas is all about: a preparation—getting ready to receive the new man. It is going to be a great adventure to receive the new man. It is going to be risky, too, because the old will not like it.
Now you can understand why the orthodox mind is against me. I am preparing their graveyard, and I am preparing for something new. I am preparing a garden for the new. You are to open your hearts for the new. Uproot all the weeds of the old, drop all the conditionings that the old has given to you, so you can receive the new. sos114
I teach a new man, a new humanity, a new concept of being in the world. I proclaim Homo novus. The old man is dying, and there is no need to help it survive any more. The old man is on the deathbed: don't mourn for it—help it to die. Because only with the death of the old can the new be born. The cessation of the old is the beginning of the new.
My message to humanity is a new man. Less than that won't do. Not something modified, not something continuous with the past, but utterly discontinuous.
Man has lived up to now not truly, not authentically; man has lived a very pseudo life. Man has lived in great pathology, man has lived in great disease. And there is no need to live in this pathology—we can come out of the prison, because the prison is made by our own hands. We are in the prison because we have decided to be in the prison—because we have believed that the prison is not a prison but our home.
My message to humanity is: Enough is enough. Awake! See what man has done to man himself. In three thousand years man has fought five thousand wars. You cannot call this humanity healthy. And only once in a while has a Buddha bloomed. If in the garden only once in a while a plant brings a flower, and otherwise the whole garden remains without flowers, will you call it a garden? Something very basic has gone wrong. Each person is born to be a Buddha: less than that is not going to fulfill you.
I declare to you your Buddhahood.

You ask: How can I become the new man that You speak about?
When I say the new man, I mean the conscious man. Humanity cannot be saved if the conscious man does not arrive. In the past it was not so necessary, but now it is absolutely necessary, it is a must. If the new man does not arrive on the earth, if more and more people are not going to become conscious, alert, awake, then this earth is doomed. Its fate is in the hand of the stupid politicians, and now they have immense power of destruction, such as they never had before. That is something new.
Just five years ago they had so much power that they could have killed every single human being seven times—although you don't need to kill any human being seven times, once is enough. We had five years ago so much atomic energy—atom bombs, hydrogen bombs—that we could have destroyed this earth seven times. And within five years we have really progressed—now it is seven hundred times! We can destroy seven hundred earths like this earth, and we go on piling up…. And any moment, any mad politician can trigger the process of self-destruction.
The coming twenty years are going to be the most dangerous in the whole history of humanity; it has never been so dangerous—we are sitting on a volcano. Only more consciousness, more alertness can save it; there is no other way. We have to de-automatize man. The society automatizes you. It creates efficient machines, not human beings.
My effort here is to de-automatize you. I am doing something absolutely antisocial. The society makes you a machine and my effort is to undo it. I would like this fire to spread and reach to all the nooks and corners of the earth, to help as many people as possible to be conscious. If in a great quantity consciousness grows on the earth, there is a possibility, a hope, we can save humanity yet. All is not lost, but time is running short. Everything is being controlled by politicians and by computers, and both are dangerous. Politicians are mad. It is impossible to be a politician if you are not mad enough. You have to be absolutely insane, because only insane people are power-obsessed.
A sane person lives life joyously; he is not power-obsessed. He may be interested in music, in singing, in dancing, but he is not interested in dominating anybody. He may be interested in becoming a master of himself, but he is not interested in becoming a master of others.
Politicians are insane people. History is enough proof. And now computers are dominating. You know the saying: To err is human…. That is true, but if you really want to create a great mess, human beings are not enough—you need computers. Now machines and mad people are dominating the whole world. We have to change the very foundation. That's what I mean by a new man.
A new man means more conscious, more loving, more creative. This whole process is possible through being more meditative. Become more meditative, silent, still. Experience yourself deeply. In that experience, a fragrance will be released through you. And if many many people become meditators, the earth can be full of a new perfume.

August 1978

Thursday, March 27, 2014

a legacy for Tao - VIII

Angels Fear Revisited:
Gregory Bateson’s Cybernetic Theory of Mind
Applied to Religion-Science Debates

Mary Catherine Bateson

Logical Types in Mental Process
Gregory’s postwar research on communication was carried out in the context of psychiatry, with a focus on pathology and its etiology. The research of the Bateson group started out oriented towards solving the problem of schizophrenia, yet all the time that they were talking about schizophrenia they were also talking among themselves about humor, about poetry, and about religion, all of which involve switching back and forth between logical types – but the work was published as research on pathology. They identified the double bind in families, defined in relation to the logical types, as a possible cause (or trigger) of schizophrenia, yet once the work is taken out of its immediate context, it becomes clear that the double bind is pervasive. Double binds are by no means limited to the families of schizophrenics and indeed they may be characteristic of all multiply coupled and embedded systems such as we discover in the natural world, and do not always result in pathology.
On the one hand, religion seems to depend upon logical type confusion, so it is fairly easy to connect religious experience with psychopathology. On the other hand, religious traditions look like ways of dealing with the limitations of other kinds of knowledge and the need to function at many different levels, with inevitable conflicts and ambiguities between them. It may, for example, be possible to describe a condition like obesity in strictly physiological terms, yet an understanding of the diverse and multiple causation of different cases of obesity will range from genetic to socio-economic and ideological factors, with multiple possibilities for contradiction and inappropriate intervention at different levels. It is not easy to integrate biomedical understanding with explanations of psychological and social processes. As individuals, we can hardly help experiencing knowledge as fragmented. Scientific method depends on cutting questions down to size by breaking them into manageable pieces. Scientists necessarily focus on parts of the whole and, like laymen, must take most of it – the findings of others which they have not confirmed – on faith in the markers of scientific communication.
Inevitably, in periods of great scientific progress, there is a tendency to exaggerate that progress, and we are in a period today when some scientists and much of the general public seem to believe that focusing on the DNA molecule is the answer to everything and, more ominously, to the control of everything. Yet genetic causation also depends on the transmission and interpretation of messages at other systemic levels, and on complex contextual conditions that convert what appears to be a lineal causal system into a circular one. As with political power, causation always goes both ways. The general public is, in a curious way, buying into a form of biological fundamentalism that is itself dangerous because of the metaphors of unilateral control that it proposes. Overemphasis on “master molecules” and “selfish genes” is as likely to lead to authoritarianism as is monotheism.
There are many kinds of ignorance that lead to maladaptive and destructive behavior, including the distorted perception that Gregory connected with conscious purpose and a variety of distortions connected in other ways with religion, such as the initial rejection of attempts to slow global warming and the Kyoto Treaty by Evangelical Christians because we are in the last days and the world will end
shortly. At Burg Wartenstein Gregory proposed that it might be useful to construct a typology of error. Both in our empty-headed school committees and in our dogmatic economists, in fact in many professions and sometimes in scientists as well as in religionists, there is a form of ignorance that is newly dangerous, and we are all at risk of slipping into it.
It may be impossible to arrive at an internally consistent understanding of the world that integrates the details at every level – and certainly impossible for an individual. But thinking in terms of systems offers a different kind of holism where we can see the similarities between ourselves and systems of many kinds, not only organisms but ecosystems and human communities, and we can see them living, responding, and changing. The details must be left to specialists but the patterns still connect.
It is important to keep on trying to understand the limits of science – and at the same time, not to become too arrogant about the understanding that has been achieved. Gregory says of scientists, “We are arrogant about what we might know tomorrow but humble because we know so little today”. We need somehow to build a bridge that allows people to deal with the limits of what they can know scientifically, and still have a mythic and aesthetic sense of their world. Fundamentalism is for many an adaptation to a sense of loss, and loss properly inspires compassion. The student I described earlier came to mind, after I had not thought about her for 20 years, because she was devastated, her foundations were shaken by her recognition of the deep feeling and passion of others. But her foundations were built on a fallacy, and the name of that fallacy is not Christianity, it’s not Islam, it’s not even religion – it’s a fallacy about the truth values of religious statements that may still be valuable for an integrated life. Gregory was convinced of the possibility that systems theory and biology might meet in a description of the natural world that would persuade our species, no longer looking outside that world for explanations of its wonders, to treat it not only with respect but with reverence and recognition.
Gregory was pursuing the use of cybernetics to describe natural systems as wholes in ways acceptable to science, which would still evoke wisdom and a sense of the sacred. In doing this he developed two interrelated analytic tools both for science and for popular understandings of science. One of these was the use of communications theory and the logical types. The other was an understanding of the mental characteristics of systems created by communication, within and between organisms.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

science & experience of Tao

Igor Morski
The search for a Self in the enaction perspective, considering worlds of consciousness and experience without ground analyzed according to the Abhidharma Buddhist tradition, has to answer in a circular way to the question "how can there seem to be a coherent self when there is none?". The answer returns to the recursive circularity between science (in particular cognitive sciences) and experience without falling in the abyss of Nihilism:


Laying Down a Path in Walking

Science and Experience in Circulation

In the preface we announced that the theme of this book would be the circulation between cognitive science and human experience. In this final chapter we wish to situate this circulation within a wider contemporary context. In particular we wish to consider some of the  ethical dimensions of groundlessness in relation to the concern with nihilism that is typical of much post-Nietzschean thought. This is not the place to consider the many points that animate current North American and European discussions; our concern, rather, is to indicate how we see our project in relation to these discussions and to suggest further directions for investigation.
The back-and-forth communication between cognitive science and experience that we have explored can be envisioned as a circle. The circle begins with the experience of the cognitive scientist, a human being who can conceive of a mind operating without a self. This becomes embodied in a scientific theory. Emboldened by the theory, one can discover, with a disciplined, mindful approach to experience, that although there is constant struggle to maintain a self, there is no actual self in experience. The natural scientific inquisitiveness of the mind then queries, But how can there seem to be a coherent self when there is none? For an answer one can tum to mechanisms such as emergence and societies of mind. Ideally that could lead one to penetrate further into the causal relationships in one's experience, seeing the causes and effects of ego grasping and enabling one to begin to relax the struggle of ego grasping. As perceptions, relationships, and the activity of mind expand into awareness, one might have insight into the codependent lack of ultimate foundations either for one's mind or for its objects, the world. The inquisitive scientist then asks, How can we imagine, embodied in a mechanism, that relation of codependence between mind and world? The mechanism that we have created (the embodied metaphor of groundlessness) is that of enactive cognition, with its image of structural coupling through a history of natural drift. Ideally such an image can influence the scientific society and the larger society, loosening the hold of both objectivism and subjectivism and encouraging further communication between science and experience, experience and science.
The logic of this back-and-forth circle exemplified the fundamental circularity in the mind of the reflective scientist. The fundamental axis of this circulation is the embodiment of experience and cognition. It  should be recalled that embodiment in our sense, as for Merleau-Ponty, encompasses both the body as a lived , experiential structure and the body as the context or milieu of cognitive mechanisms. Thus in the communication we have portrayed in this book between cognitive science and the tradition of mind fullness/awareness, we have systematically juxtaposed the descriptions of experience taken from mind fullness/awareness practice with descriptions of cognitive architecture taken from cognitive science.
Like Merleau-Ponty, we have emphasized that a proper appreciation of this twofold sense of embodiment provides a middle way or entre-deux between the extremes of absolutism and nihilism. Both of these two extremes can be found in contemporary cognitive science. The absolutist extreme is easy to find, for despite other differences, the varieties of cognitive realism share the conviction that cognition is grounded in the representation of a pregiven world by a pregiven subject. The nihilist extreme is less apparent, but we have seen how it arises when cognitive science uncovers the nonunity of the self yet ignores the possibility of a transformative approach to human experience.
So far we have devoted less attention to this nihilist extreme, but it is in fact far more indicative of our contemporary cultural situation. Thus in the humanities - in art, literature , and philosophy - the growing awareness of groundlessness has taken form not through a confrontation with objectivism but rather with nihilism , skepticism, and extreme relativism. Indeed, this concern with nihilism is typical of late-twentieth-century life. Its visible manifestations are the increasing fragmentation of life , the revival of and continuing adherence to a variety of religious and political dogmatisms, and a pervasive yet intangible feeling of anxiety, which writers such as Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being depict so vividly.

It is for this reason (and because nihilism and objectivism are actually deeply connected) that we turn to consider in more detail the nihilistic extreme. We have reserved this issue until now because it is both general and far reaching. Our discussion must accordingly become more equally concerned with the ethical dimension of groundlessness than it has been so far. In the final section of this chapter we will be more explicit about this ethical dimension. Before doing so, however, we wish to examine in more detail the nihilist extreme.

Nihilism and the Need for Planetary Thinking

Let us begin not by attempting to engage nihilism directly but rather by asking how nihilism arises. Where and at what point does the nihilist tendency first manifest itself?
We have been led to face groundlessness or the lack of stable foundations in both enactive cognitive science and in the mindful, open-ended approach to experience. In both settings we began naively but were forced to suspend our deep-seated conviction that the world is grounded independently of embodied perceptual and cognitive capacities. This deep-seated conviction is the motivation for objectivism-even in its most refined philosophical forms. Nihilism, however, is in a sense based on no analogous conviction, for it arises initially in reaction to the loss of faith in objectivism. Nihilism can, of course, be cultivated to a point where it takes on a life of its own, but in its first moment its form is one of response. Thus we can already see that nihilism is in fact deeply linked to objectivism, for nihilism is an extreme response to the collapse of what had seemed to provide a sure and absolute reference point.
We have already provided an example of this link between objectivism and nihilism when we examined the discovery within cognitive science of selfless minds. This deep and profound discovery requires the cognitive scientist to acknowledge that consciousness and selfidentity do not provide the ground or foundation for cognitive processes; yet she feels that we do believe, and must continue to believe, in an efficacious self. The usual response of the cognitive scientist is to ignore the experiential aspect when she does science and ignore the scientific discovery when she leads her life. As a result, the nonexistence of a self that would answer to our objectivist representations is typically confused with the nonexistence of the relative (practical) self altogether. Indeed, without the resources provided by a progressive approach to experience, there is little choice but to respond to the collapse of an objective self (objectivism) by asserting the objective nonexistence of the self (nihilism).
This response indicates that objectivism and nihilism, despite their apparent differences, are deeply connected-indeed the actual source of nihilism is objectivism. We have already discussed how the basis of objectivism is to be found in our habitual tendency to grasp after regularities that are stable but ungrounded. In fact, nihilism too arises from this grasping mind. Thus faced with the discovery of groundlessness, we nonetheless continue to grasp after a ground because we have not relinquished the deep-seated reflex to grasp that lies at the root of objectivism. This reflex is so strong that the absence of a solid ground is immediately reified into the objectivist abyss. This act of reification performed by the grasping mind is the root of nihilism. The mode of repudiation or denial that is characteristic of nihilism is actually a very subtle and refined form of objectivism: the mere absence of an objective ground is reified into an objective groundlessness that might continue to serve as an ultimate reference point. Thus although we have been speaking of objectivism and nihlism as opposed extremes with differing consequences, they ultimately share a common basis in the grasping mind.
An appreciation of the common source of objectivism and nihilism lies at the heart of the philosophy and practice of the middle way in Buddhism. For this reason, we are simply misinformed when we assume that concern with nihilism is a modem phenomenon of Greco-European origin. To appreciate the resources offered by these other traditions, however, we must not lose sight of the specificity of our present situation. Whereas in Buddhism, as anywhere else, there is always the danger of individuals experiencing nihilism (losing heart, as it is called in Buddhism) or of commentators straying into nihilistic errors of interpretation, nihilism has never become full blown or embodied in societal institutions.
Today nihilism is a tangible issue not only for our Western culture but for the planet as a whole. And yet as we have seen throughout this book, the groundlessness of the middle way in Mahayana Buddhism offers considerable resources for human experience in our present scientific culture. The mere recognition of this fact should indicate that the imaginative geography of "West" and "East" is no longer appropriate for the tasks we face today. Although we can begin from the premises and concerns of our own tradition, we need no longer proceed in ignorance of other traditions, especially of those that continually strived to distinguish rigorously between the groundlessness of nihilism and the groundlessness of the middle way.
Unlike Richard Rorty, then, we are not inspired in our attempt to face the issue of groundlessness and nihilism by the ideal of simply "continuing the conversation of the West." Instead, our project throughout this book owes far more to Martin Heidegger's invocation of "planetary thinking." As Heidegger wrote in The Question of Being,

We are obliged not to give up the effort to practice planetary thinking along a stretch of the road, be it ever so short. Here too no prophetic talents and demeanor are needed to realize that there are in store for planetary building encounters for which the participants are by no means equal today. This is equally true of the European and of the East Asiatic languages and, above all, for the area of a possible conversation between them. Neither one of the two is able by itself to open up this area and to establish it.
Our guiding metaphor is that a path exists only in walking, and our conviction has been that as a first step we must face the issue of groundlessness in our scientific culture and learn to embody that groundlessness in the openness of sunyata. One of the central figures of twentieth-century Japanese philosophy, Nishitani Keiji, has in fact made precisely this claim. Nishitani is exemplary for us because he was not only raised and personally immersed in the Zen tradition of mindfulness/awareness but was also one of Heidegger's students and so is thoroughly familiar with European thought in general and Heidegger's invocation of planetary thinking in particular. Nishitani's endeavor to develop a truly planetary form of philosophical yet embodied, progressive reflection is impressive.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tao identity states

Igor Morski
Following the description of the observation of internal states of the consciousness system, Charles T. Tart discusses the description and properties of the self-observation of identity states, created by the sense of identity subsystem of consciousness:

Identity States

Self-observation, observation of others, and psychoanalytic data indicate that various stimuli can produce marked reorganizations of ego functioning very rapidly, even though these all remain within the consensus reality definitions of "normal" consciousness. These identity states are much like d-SoCs and can be studied in the systems approach framework. They are hard to observe in ordinary life because of the ease and rapidity of transition, their emotional charge, and other reasons. The isolation of knowledge and experience in various identity states is responsible for much of the psychopathology of everyday life.

Definition of Identity States

The concept of d-SoCs comes to us in commonsense form, as well as in terms of my initial research interests, from people's experiences of radically altered states of consciousness—states like drunkenness, dreaming, marijuana intoxication, certain meditative states. These represent such radical shifts in the patterning, the system properties of consciousness, that most people experiencing them are forced to notice that the state of their consciousness is quite different, even if they are poor observers. A person need not have developed an Observer in order to notice such a change in his state of consciousness: so many things are so clearly different that the observation is forced on him.
Although this is the origin and the main focus of the concept of d-SoCs, the systems approach is applicable to important variations occurring within the overall pattern we call the ordinary d-SoC, variations that can be termed identity states. My own self-observation and much scattered psychological data, particularly data gathered in the course of psychoanalytic investigations, indicate that as different situations impinge on a person and activate different emotional drives, distinct changes in the organization of his ego can take place. Certain drives become inhibited or activated, and the whole constellation of psychological functioning alters its configuration around them.
The most cogent formulation of these data into a comprehensive picture is that of the Armenian philosopher and spiritual teacher, George Gurdjieff. The following selection from Ouspensky's report of Gurdjieff's early lectures expresses Gurdjieff's idea that we have many "I's," many little egos:

"One of man's important mistakes," he said, "one which must be remembered, is his illusion in regard to his I."
"Man such as we know him, the 'man machine,' the man who cannot 'do,' and with whom and through whom everything 'happens,' cannot have a permanent and single I. His I changes as quickly as his thoughts, feelings, and moods, and he makes a profound mistake in considering himself always one and the same person; in reality he is always a different person, not the one he was a moment ago. "Man has no permanent and unchangeable I. Every thought, every mood, every desire, every sensation, says 'I.' And in each case it seems to be taken for granted that this I belongs o the Whole, to the whole man, and that a thought, a desire, or an aversion is expressed by this Whole. In actual fact there is no foundation whatever for this assumption. Man's every thought and desire appears and lives quite separately and independently of the Whole. And the Whole never expresses itself, for the simple reason that it exists, as such, only physically as a thing, and in the abstract as a concept. Man has no individual I. But there are, instead, hundreds and thousands of separate small I's, very often entirely unknown to one another, never coming into contact, or, on the contrary, hostile to each other, mutually exclusive and incompatible. Each minute, each moment, man is saying or thinking 'I.' And each time his I is different. Just now it was a thought, now it is a desire, now a sensation, now another thought, and so on, endlessly. Man is a plurality. Man's name is legion."
"The alternation of I's, their continual obvious struggle for supremacy, is controlled by accidental external influences. Warmth, sunshine, fine weather, immediately call up a whole group of I's. Cold, fog, rain, call up another group of I's, other associations, other feelings, other actions. There is nothing in man able to control this change of I's, chiefly because man does not notice, or know of it; he lives always in the last I. Some I's, of course, are stronger than others. But it is not their own conscious strength; they have been created by the strength of accidents or mechanical external stimuli. Education, imitation, reading, the hypnotism of religion, caste, and traditions, or the glamour of new slogans, create very strong I's in man's personality, which dominate whole series of other, weaker, I's. But their strength is the strength of the 'rolls' in the centers. "And all I's making up a man's personality have the same origin as these 'rolls'; they are the results of external influences; and both are set in motion and controlled by fresh external influences."
"Man has no individuality. He has no single, big I. Man is divided into a multiplicity of small I's."
"And each separate small I is able to call itself by the name of the Whole, to act in the name of the Whole, to agree or disagree, to give promises, to make decisions, with which another I or the Whole will have to deal. This explains why people so often make decisions and so seldom carry them out. A man decides to get up early beginning from the following day. One I, or a group of I's, decide this. but getting up is the business of another I who entirely disagrees with the decision and may even know absolutely nothing about it. Of course the man will again go on sleeping in the morning and in the evening he will again decide to get up early. In some cases this may assume very unpleasant consequences for a man. A small accidental I may promise something, not to itself, but to someone else at a certain moment simply out of vanity or for amusement. Then it disappears, but the man, that is, the whole combination of other I's who are quite innocent of this, may have to pay for it all his life. It is the tragedy of the human being that any small I has the right to sign checks and promissory notes and the man, that is, the Whole, has to meet them.
People's whole lives often consist in paying off the promissory notes of small accidental I's."

Gurdjieff's concept of these rapidly alternating I's is similar to the systems approach concept of d-SoCs. If we call each I an identity state, then each (1) has an overall pattern of functioning, a gestalt, which gives it a system identity and distinguishes it from other identity states; (2) is composed of structures/subsystems, psychological functions, skills, memories; (3) possesses unique properties not present in other identity states; (4) presumably has some stabilizing processes, although apparently fewer than the ordinary d-SoC as a whole, since identity states can change so rapidly; (5) functions as a tool for coping with the world, with varying degrees of effectiveness; and (6) requires an induction process to transit from one identity state to another, a requisite stimulus to bring on a new identity state.
These alterations in functioning that I call identity states can thus be usefully studied with the systems approach to consciousness. Yet they are almost never identified as d-SoCs in ordinary people, for several reasons.
First, each person has a large repertoire of these identity states and transits between one and another of them extremely readily, practically instantly. Thus, no obvious lapses or transitional phenomena occur that would make him likely to notice the transitions.
Second, all these identity states share much psychological functioning in common, such as speaking English, responding to the same proper name, wearing the same sets of clothes. These many common properties make differences difficult to notice.
Third, all a person's ordinarily used identity states share in his culturally defined consensus reality. Although certain aspects of reality are emphasized by particular identity states, the culture as a whole implicitly allows a wide variety of identity states in its definitions of "normal" consciousness and consensus reality. Within the cultural consensus reality, for example, there are well-understood concepts, perceptions, and allowed behaviors associated with being angry, being sad, feeling sexual desire, being afraid.
Fourth, a person's identification is ordinarily very high, complete, with each of these identity states. He projects the feeling of "I" onto it (the Sense of Identity subsystem function discussed in Chapter 8). This, coupled with the culturally instilled need to believe that he is a single personality, causes him to gloss over distinctions. Thus he says, "I am angry," "I am sad," rather than, "A state of sadness has organized mental functioning differently from a state of anger." The culture also reinforces a person for behaving as if he were a unity.
Fifth, identity states are driven by needs, fears, attachments, defensive, maneuvers, coping mechanisms, and this highly charged quality of an identity state makes it unlikely that the person involved will be engaged in self-observation.
Sixth, many identity states have, as a central focus, emotional needs and drives that are socially unacceptable or only partially acceptable. Given the fact that people need to feel accepted, an individual may have many important reasons for not noticing that he has discrete identity states. Thus, when he is in a socially "normal" identity state, being a good person, he may be unable to be aware of a different identity state that sometimes occurs in which he hates his best friend. The two states are incompatible, so automatized defense mechanisms (Gurdjieff calls them buffers) prevent him from being aware of the one identity state while in the other. This is, in systems approach terminology, state-specific knowledge. Ordinarily, special psychotherapists techniques are required to make a person aware of these contradictory feelings and identity states within himself. Meditative practices designed to create the Observer also facilitate this sort of knowledge.
The development of an Observer can allow a person considerable access to observing different identity states. An outside observer can often clearly infer different identity states, but a person who has not developed the Observer function well may never notice his many transitions from one identity state to another. Thus ordinary consciousness, or what society values as "normal" consciousness, may actually consist of a large number of d-SoCs, identity states. But the overall similarities between these identity states and the difficulty of observing them, for the reasons discussed above, lead us to think of ordinary consciousness as relatively unitary state.
Gurdjieff sees the rapid, unnoticed transitions between identity states, and their relative isolation from one another, as the major cause of the psychopathology of everyday life. I agree with him, and believe this topic deserves intensive psychological research.

Functions of Identity States

An identity state, like a d-SoC, has coping functions. The culture a person is born into actively inhibits some of his human potentials, as well as developing some. Thus, even in the most smoothly functioning cultures, there is bound to be some disharmony, some conflict between a person's emerging and potential self and he demands placed on him to which he must conform in one way or another if he is to survive in that social environment. The psychopathology of everyday life is abundantly obvious and has been amply documented by psychological studies.
At the fringes of consciousness, then, there is a vast unknown, not simply of relatively neutral potentials that never developed, but of emotionally and cognitively frightening things, conflicts that were never resolved, experiences that did not fit consensus reality, feelings that were never expressed, problems that were never faced. Immersion is consensus reality in the ordinary d-SoC is a protection from this potentially frightening and overwhelming unknown; it is the safe, cultivated clearing in the dark, unexplored forest of the mind.
An identity state is a specialized version of the ordinary d-SoC, a structure acceptable to consensus reality (ignoring obviously pathological identity states). The extrainformational "This is me" quality from the Sense of Identity subsystem added to certain contents/structures constellates the energies of consciousness around them and produces an identity, a role that a person partially or completely identified with for the time. The identity "eats energy."
A particular identity state thus acts as loading stabilization for the ordinary d-SoC; it absorbs much available energy that might otherwise activate unknown and perhaps implicitly feared contents that are not acceptable. When you "know" who are, when you take on an identity state, then you immediately have criteria for dealing with various situations. If I am a "father" in this moment I know that certain things are expected and desired of me and I can cope well within that framework with situations involving my children. If the situation changes and I now become a "professor," then I have a new set of rules on how to cope with situations involving people who have identified with the roles of "students."
Some of a person's most important problems arise when his is in an identity state that is not really suited to the situation: my children are unhappy when I am a professor when they want a father, and I am not comfortable when my students want me to be like a father when I think the role of professor is more appropriate.
Being caught in a situation in which one has no ready role to use and identify with is unusual. For most people such situations can be lightly confusing or frightening, since they do not know how to think or act. They can become susceptible to any authority who offers ready-made roles/solutions in such situations. If the country is "going to hell" and nobody seems to have any answer, it may feel much better to be a "patriot" and blame "traitors" than to live with your confusion.
On the other hand, lack of an immediately available role can offer a unique opportunity to temporarily escape from the tyranny of roles.
Once a person has identified with a role, the resulting identity state stabilizes his d-SoC not only through loading stabilization, but through the other three stabilization processes discussed... When he is coping successfully and thus feeling good in a particular identity state, this constitutes positive feedback stabilization; he tends to engage in more thoughts and actions that expand and strengthen the identity state. If the fear of having no identity is strong and/or the rewards from a particular identity state are high, this can hinder escape from that identity state. Consider how many successful businessmen work themselves to death, not knowing how to stop being businessmen for even short periods, or how many men die within a few years of retiring, not having their work identity to sustain them.
Success from being in a particular identity state encourages a person to avoid or suppress thoughts and actions that tends to disrupt that state: this is negative feedback stabilization. A "good soldier" is obtaining valuable information about enemy troop movements—information that may save the lives of his buddies—by torturing a native child: he actively suppresses his own identity state of a "father" is order to function effectively in his "soldier' identity.
Being in a particular identity state also functions as limiting stabilization. The identity leads to selective perception to make perceptions congruent with the reigning identity state. Certain kinds of perceptions that might activate other identity states are repressed. The tortured child is perceived as an "enemy agent," not as a "child." This keeps emotional and attention/awareness energy out of empathic processes that, if activated, would undermine and disrupt the "soldier" identity.
Identity states, then, are both tools for coping with the environment and ways of avoiding the unknown. The degree to which they serve mainly one or the other function probably varies tremendously form individual to individual and identity to identity. Some people are terribly afraid of anything outside the few narrow identities they always function in: by staying in one of the other of those identity states constantly, they never feel the fear of the unknown. Others have less fear of the unknown, but find the rewards from functioning in a few identity states are so high that they have no real need or interest to go outside them. The latter type probably characterizes a stable, well-integrated society, with most citizens quite content in a socially accepted identity states.
For discussion of radically altered discrete states like hypnosis or drunkenness, the concept of the ordinary d-SoC as relatively unitary is useful. As the systems approach becomes more articulated, however, we shall have to deal with these identity states that exist within the boundaries of the ordinary d-SoC and that probably also function within the boundaries of various d-ASCs.
In this book, I continue to use the terms discrete state of consciousness and discrete altered state of consciousness to refer to the rather radical alterations like hypnosis or drunkenness that gave rise to the concept in the first place. I use the phrase identity state to indicate the more subtle division.

Friday, February 28, 2014

a legacy for Tao - VII

Angels Fear Revisited:
Gregory Bateson’s Cybernetic Theory of Mind
Applied to Religion-Science Debates

Mary Catherine Bateson

The Fundamentalist Error Today
It is probably no coincidence that at the same time that these old epistemological debates resurface, we are seeing a renewal of apparently religiously inspired warfare all over the planet, and we are seeing a resurgence of the kind of understanding of faith that was expressed by my fundamentalist student who believed in the literal truth-value of religious texts. We are seeing not only Islamic fundamentalism, not only Christian fundamentalism, but also Jewish fundamentalism, Hindu fundamentalism, and patches of Buddhist fundamentalism (although Buddhism has some built in protections). Fundamentalism is not limited to “religions” however – it arises in Marxism and psychoanalysis, and, most seriously in America today, in free market economic fundamentalism and the strict construction of the Constitution, constitutional fundamentalism.
So a pattern of thinking – this style of taking things literally rather than regarding any text as having multiple levels of meaning with the interpretation changing over time, always depending on the context – is becoming a widespread epidemic. Both Christians and Muslims are increasing in numbers, and in many places, especially Africa, the forms of Christianity and Islam that are spreading are the most literal and the most supernaturally oriented, without the polite reinterpretation of texts as myth or metaphor that is fairly common among believers in the West.
Much of this has developed since Gregory’s death, but I remember arguing with  him in the 1970s that fundamentalism is by definition a modern pathology. Certainly the ancients took the creation story as true. But, without the modern concept of scientific knowledge as a particular kind of knowledge that is established and modified in specific ways, truth had a different, more ambiguous meaning. Fundamentalism attempts to give to non-scientific ways of knowing the status that is given to science, but it omits the openness of science to new evidence that is essential to that status.
Although what is happening in the United States these days looks fairly strange from the vantage point of Europe, what is equally worrying is that so many educated people throughout the industrialized world have simply become deaf to religious language, and have no access to thinking about the meaning of religion in people’s lives and motivations. Fundamentalists think their beliefs are “true” in a simplistic way, while others think they are “false” in a simplistic way. Scientifically educated people have not only ceased to believe particular doctrines but they have lost the capacity to empathize with those who do, transforming methodologies and useful heuristics, like reductionism, into ontologies. We need to be equally on guard against multiple kinds of illiteracy, for aesthetic and spiritual illiteracy may be as dangerous as scientific illiteracy.
Some of the pathologies of contemporary life may be due to the loss of kinds of knowledge that are now unacceptable because of the way they are coded and mixed with muddle-headedness. The rise of fundamentalism in a secularizing world is reminiscent of the Gospel story,

44 Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished.
45 Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.
(Matthew xii:44–45)

44 Allora dice: Ritornerò nella mia casa donde sono uscito; e giuntovi, la trova vuota, spazzata e adorna.
45 Allora va e prende seco altri sette spiriti peggiori di lui, i quali, entrati, prendon quivi dimora; e l’ultima condizione di cotest’uomo divien peggiore della prima. Così avverrà anche a questa malvagia generazione.
(Matteo, 12:44-45)
where a man is cleansed of an unclean spirit who then comes back with seven others more evil than himself and, finding the man’s soul swept and garnished, moves back in with his companions. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. I think that the only defense against what I take to be a dangerous and erroneous set of attitudes towards religion is a much more flexible understanding of the possible meanings of faith, as contrasted with belief, in people’s lives, and in the lives of scientists. There is an apparent symmetry of mutual blindness.
There is still however a need for an integrative level of scientific description such as Gregory found in cybernetics. Perhaps our view is necessarily dependent on multiple alternative descriptions – we may even need a little help from some of the nine and sixty tribal ways to understand the world. It has been a mission of anthropology to collect and make available these multiple visions. What we ask of science is first of all, that it always include a degree of tentativeness and openness – and second, not that it be true but that it fit the evidence, which is very different. One could ask the same kind of questions of mythologies of many sorts. Do they fit? Do they offer an interpretative frame for the adaptation of a cluster of human beings in a particular environment?
Much of Gregory’s portion of Angels Fear was written at the Esalen Institute, in California, where Gregory went to live after his cancer, in the year before his death. In one essay written there, titled “Neither Supernatural nor Mechanical”, Gregory says he is horrified both by conventional scientific and technological views of the world and by the supernaturalism of Esalen. “The problem is not, however, entirely symmetrical,” he wrote, “I have, after all, chosen to live at Esalen, in the midst of the counterculture, with its incantations, its astrological searching for truth, its divination … My friends here love me and I love them … The beliefs of the counterculture and of the human potential movement may be superstitious and irrational, but their reason for being … was a good reason. It was to [generate that buffer of diversity that will] protect the human being against obsolescence”. The bracketing of a portion of the previous sentence indicates an insertion that I made in editing, for one of the strangely attractive features of Esalen is the comfort with which a huge miscellany of beliefs manage to co-exist. No zero sum truth there. Gregory feels sure that his counterculture friends are talking nonsense, but perhaps the nonsense is connected to something worth knowing, which might promote a degree of sensitivity or empathy with other organisms and a degree of perception and response to the pattern which connects.