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By LLRogers 8 months 6 days ago

Deep immersion in Being tonight. I feel so light, with Shakti flowing through my body. Intense gratitude to you, David. Lyn

By Stephen 8 months 1 week ago

Stephen's picture

I expect by the time I post this on David's website I will be about to return to New York from Havana, so I will have been working on this 5 part series of blog entries for six weeks. I have been doing very little of a “practical” nature. I do housekeeping, a little cooking and take shopping excursions with Marcia. I have been doing some design work for completing some furniture with carpenters and beginning some ironwork projects. I can practice tabla more each day and memorize some poetry. I am re-learning songs from the mystic poets of Bengal I first learned in the 1970s. I am very grateful for this opportunity. I feel a tacit communion with my spiritual brothers and sisters, with my spiritual teachers and with the Avatars with which I have a devotional relationship. Victory to the Mother!

[Note: Editing continues and each time I post I need to replace the previous versions of earlier entries – a process that could continue for my lifetime! So if you have read the previous entries prior to the posting of this one, there have been editing changes that are significant.]

To re-cap what has gone before in this series of blog posts:

1. I shared an understanding of Conscious Union implying an Absolute not only manifesting as infinity but also as an intuitive experience in personal life that pulsates in clarity, ultimately to full clarity as the Conscious Subject. In the present discussion I am putting in play the philosophical position of Vedanta with respect to the philosophy of materialism.

2. Satchitananda is clarifying the experience of the contents of individual Consciousness, our reality, revealing its union with the actuality of infinite Consciousness, the Conscious Subject. Feeling the unlimited experience of Satchitananda is the spiritual teaching of Consciousness itself. An emerging movement in the field of neuroscience is juxtaposed to spiritual teaching in this historical moment.

3. Some neuroscientists say it is not to be concluded that modifications of the contents of individual Consciousness, which are objectively knowable, produce the Conscious Subject. It is a serious current scientific hypothesis that is rooted in the following statement: “nothing we can or could know about the content of what anyone is knowing tells us anything about what it feels like to be anyone”.

4. The scientists who grasp the limitations of a materialistic hypothesis for neuroscience are establishing a new hypothetical paradigm that is necessarily metaphysical. Also, recognized by some is the insight that metaphysics not only pertains to humans, but by logical necessity to the “Mind at Large”. By that is not meant just the physical universe at large, but also what it means to be the universe. My own project here, is to offer the distinction between the materialistic “subject-thinker” [my term], and the metaphysical Conscious Subject or “Mind at Large” inclusive of the “subject-thinker”.

5. Empirical science must conclude that “the brain is a physical entity being in a relationship with a metaphysical Subject having Conscious experience”. The measurable activity of the brain, particularly thought of oneself, is memory reflected from our first person experience and as such is also a second person perspective – our own second-person perspective as “subject-thinker”.

6. Of course we assume other people have minds, but we could easily consider the dual perspective existing for animals, or further, as a feature of organic life. If we are to extrapolate from organic life as a subset of the physical universe we would posit a universal mind: metaphorically matter would be the brain and and what it would be like to be a cosmic Subject would be personal Consciousness as Absolute Consciousness!

7. The materialist philosophy is, according to Vedanta, rooted in a displacement of Consciousness in space. Positing matter without space is a disassociation from what is actual. The Upanishads assert that matter is superimposed in space, and space is superimposed in Consciousness! Just as the illusion of matter without space is a disassociation from actuality, so is living as a “subject-thinker” with the illusion of space without Consciousness.

8. An insight that one is Living with a disassociated image of oneself is a potent realization. Attention to our thought, according to Vedanta philosophy, is a process of thought within the contents of Consciousness that is in practice “meditation” as an activity which nonetheless continues in a state of disassociation. However, this “meditation” is a conditioning of the mind which mitigates the conditioning that generates disassociation, which in the language of Vedanta is better understood as “Maya”.

9. The questions attending the addition of Consciousness as a primitive element has its philosophy of science origins in the Pan-Psychism of Alfred North Whitehead. That material is superimposed on space, and space on Consciousness could be read into the theoretical metaphysical hypothesis in Pan-psychism. However, Pan-psychism as I have seen it represented is a dualistic hypothesis composed of disorganized and organized “individual” insentient things. It leaves simple individuals devoid of Consciousness and so the hypothesis read this way is not nondualism as only some space is superimposed in Consciousness.

10. Vedanta recognizes the reality of individual Consciousness in the actuality of an Absolute Conscious Subject. Its a hypothesis only substantiated by direct experience of a Subject– for a Subject being like that. A Subject like that would have to be an Absolute Subject with an Absolute mind in an Absolute material universe superimposed in Consciousness. Such a Subject could not be a disassociated fragment with a limited mind interacting only with the contents of memory, the domain of thought.

11. Vedanta will change nothing about what is being investigated by science regarding the mind-brain relationship. Vedanta will change the way we look, so we can find out what the consequences of that may be beyond the confines of material determinism or Pan-psychism and so take neuroscience into a novel arena of investigation.

The previous part of this series of blog entries finally argued for a science of attention changing the way we look: seeing without the demand for conclusions required by the content of thought, be it thought conditioned by the nondualism of materialism or the dualism of Pan-psychism. Evidently, the investigation of the “hard problem of Consciousness” in the field of neuroscience is leading a paradigm shift from materialist determinism to metaphysics. The metaphysics of Advaita Vedanta has been introduced as a model for such an investigation as a way, which is no way as it negates time. Vedanta offers a metaphysics to find out if our apparent state of disassociation from what some neuroscientists designate the “Mind at Large”, comes to an end in psychological time. I will clarify that statement at the end of the present blog entry. First, however, I would like to turn to some aspects of current neuroscience itself that suggest the need for such a metaphysical theory for the philosophy of science.

One of the most interesting and significant areas of investigation by neuroscience concerns mental illness, and particularly schizophrenia, and specifically Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – in popular vernacular split-personalities. The significance of this area of investigation pertains to the demonstrable existence of the Subject of a body-mind complex having multiple domains of thought composing thought of self-identity. There are two implications of this. First is implied that thought itself has some organizing function in fragmenting the field of thought. The “I” fragment is what we falsely take to be the Conscious experiencer. As discussed in the last blog entry, this false experiencer, as the “subject-thinker”, is only a second-person perspective. This “subject-thinker” is actually objectively known by the unknowable first-person Subject feeling what it is like to be the Conscious being. The “not-me” fragment is also part of the unified field of thought as the known world from the second-person perspective, existing seamlessly with the “subject-thinker”. This helps us grasp the enigmatic statement “the knower is the known” because the “subject-thinker” is also a second-person perspective!

The second implication of DID arises in the demonstration that the first-person perspective may witness multiple “I” fragments in relation to the “not-me” world. Each “I” is itself then knowing separate sub-worlds in memory. Each “I” has a capacity for recall of memory unique the the experiences of the world of “not-me” by each “I”. The implication is that no “I” fragment of thoughts in the total field of thought could be posited as the first person perspective of individual existence. All content of the mind as thought processes of the brain, as the fragments of “not-me” or “me” worlds of thought are objects of knowledge. Included are thoughts of second-person objective sensory perceptions plus subjective life as “subject-thinker” that are also objective knowledge to the Conscious Subject. Ironically, the “first person perspective” is also just an idea about something unknowable, but the perspective is logically implied as what it is to feel like somebody. It is the designation as a material thought for metaphysical Consciousness in excess of thought.

The metaphysics of Vedantic Advaitic (nondualistic) philosophy, as a philosophy for and of science provides a paradigm for considering the hard problem of Consciousness. It is a paradigm that proceeds from the present discussion of DID as but a prime example. The neuroscience term “disassociation” is excellent because it lends to a possibility of expanding its meaning in the context of the Vedantic assertion of Maya as generative of our individual reality, creating its limitation from feeling the actuality of Satchitananda. For example, the “multiple personalities” evidenced in DID are completely disassociated from each other. At the same time, there is disassociation in the unified field of thought between “I” and “not-I”. In the Vedantic paradigm, that dissociation is questioned with the statement “the knower is the known”. Vedantic metaphysics implies Consciousness as illuminating the unified field of thought, metaphorically and factually lighting the field of thought. What it feels like to to be somebody potentially is feeling like “I am the world”!

The startling aspect of that insight is that the reality of our thought, as well as objective perception of the world as the thought of names and forms, are all unified as reflecting the light of personal Consciousness to Absolute Consciousness itself. Reality is an individual person, thinking she is, as “subject-thinker”, knowing the objects of perception. Well, she is, but the “subject-thinker” is reflecting the light of Consciousness thinking it is that Consciousness. Such is the nature of Maya in Vedanta. A metaphor for this metaphysics is bowls of water reflecting the sun. In each bowl there is a sun (“subject-thinker”), and when all the bowls are broken the sun (Consciousness)remains.

Maya described in this way suggests thinking that the “I” fragment of the sphere of thoughts as being Consciousness, not just reflecting Consciousness, is the ultimate disassociation of a reality from actuality. Maya furthermore leaves us with a sad paradox and a conundrum for our inquiry of the hard problem of Consciousness. The only “how?” for this actuality lies in the fact of “superimposition” as discussed in the earlier part of this blog series. The reflection of personal Consciousness to Consciousness is the material brain superimposed in space also superimposed in Consciousness. Brain activity is a material process of thought in space-time, yet it is also superimposed in Consciousness. So what is the problem in question? Is it not the experience of disassociation from actuality in the reality of a false identification of the “subject-thinker” as the unknowable subject? The actuality is being what it what it is to feel Consciousness in knowing the “subject-thinker”! Is there an ending to the problem in question? Vedanta says the problem does not exist as evidenced in attention to the question disappearing! I am going to explain this very tricky situation as best I can.

The operation of Maya in our life experience is an objective fact. It is measured by the degree of attention allotted to the “subject-thinker” second-person reality perspective of the fragment of unified thought as “me” in relationship with the fragment of unified thought of the “not-me”. That attention is the attention from the first-person perspective which itself can only be what it is to feel Consciousness. The first-person perspective is not the object of attention – which is say the actuality perspective is metaphysical. The operation of Maya is an identification of the metaphysical existence of Consciousness with the “subject-thinker” and all that ensues as disassociation, as the reality of that identification in space-time. Included is all of a human life as the false identification is extended in relationship with the input from the sensory apparatus, with the body generating the content of thought of the “not-me”. Experience is retained as memory and memory meets continuously with new input retained as additional memory. Experience is the bridge between past and future, all belonging to the “subject-thinker” sustained in its continuity by the operation of Maya. Maya is an identification of the metaphysical existence of Consciousness with the “subject-thinker” and all that ensues as disassociation, as the reality of that identification in space-time.

Changing the way we look, seeing without the demand for conclusions required by the content of thought, be it thought conditioned by the nondualism of materialism or the dualism of Pan-psychism, means a science of attention to what is the nature of thought. Deeper attention, attention to our inattention, is a “meditation” process mitigating disassociation. The ending of a limited, dissociated individual paying attention, the birth of the “individual” Meditated by Absolute Consciousness is the ending of the operation of Maya sustaining the “subject-thinker” in time-space! Vedanta does not therefore actually propose a method or way to end the operation of Maya later. It proposes “meditation” to find out if our apparent state of disassociation from what some neuroscientists designate the “Mind at Large”, comes to an end in psychological time.

A science of attention would engender a formal axiom for the necessary metaphysics for neurologists studying the brain for investigation of the hard problem of Consciousness. This axiom is the need to ask what is the timeless state, or the stateless existence, of a living brain while discounting any conclusion depending on the operation of thought because thought is always the past, an operation of memory. An individual being studied by a neurologist could say what she is thinking in the waking state remembering what she is thinking, relate what she remembers from the dream state, and say she remembers nothing about what happened in dreamless sleep. None of that information would tell the scientist what her Conscious experience of her brain feels like sans thought.

There is obviously some measurable differences between a dead brain and a living brain, and between the three states of brain activity mentioned that may be discerned as not activity being known by the “subject-thinker”. Feeling may be discernible from thinking before the “subject-thinker” identifies with the feeling. Feelings or some feelings may transcend thinking. Peak experiences may be feelings that transcend thinking and the baseline of ordinary feelings. Experiences of non-ordinary reality attending shamanic plants or other psychedelics are also being investigated with some presupposition that non-ordinary reality exists in an intriguing metaphysical paradigm transcending thought.

The list of speculations could go on, but why? An argument has been made about the metaphysical paradigm required for investigating the hard problem of Consciousness needing to negate the fragmented field of thought as the source of Consciousness it is reflecting. This is a matter of negating the conditioning put together by thought over the millenniums of brain evolution and the entire history of cultural influences. Reality is everything put together by thought, but thought does not put together Consciousness. If science is going to serve our intuitive desire to explore Consciousness itself in the Absolute actuality reflected by reality, it must expand attention beyond the reflected sun in the bowls of water with the help of “meditation” and the Grace of Meditation. So, on to Part 4: Meditation and Grace.

By Stephen 8 months 2 weeks ago

Stephen's picture

I have been in the new place in Havana for several weeks running now. This series of blog entries is approaching completion. I posted the first one to David's website recently and now this one. It has been a great way to occupy my thought sphere! I may get more posted before I return to New York February 15. My plan is to attend David's Intensive in March and have everything of “Consciousness Alone Exists” up on the website by that time.

First, to recap from Part 1:

1. I shared an understanding of Conscious Union implying an Absolute not only manifesting as infinity but also as an intuitive experience in personal life that pulsates in clarity, ultimately to full clarity as the Conscious Subject. In the present discussion I am putting in play the philosophical position of Vedanta with respect to the philosophy of materialism.

2. Satchitananda is clarifying the experience of the contents of individual Consciousness, our reality, revealing its union with the actuality of infinite Consciousness, the Conscious Subject. Feeling the unlimited experience of Satchitananda is the spiritual teaching of Consciousness itself. An emerging movement in the field of neuroscience is juxtaposed to spiritual teaching in this historical moment.

3. Some neuroscientists say it is not to be concluded that modifications of the contents of individual Consciousness, which are objectively knowable, produce the Conscious Subject. It is a serious current scientific hypothesis that is rooted in the following statement: “nothing we can or could know about the content of what anyone is knowing tells us anything about what it feels like to be anyone”.

4. The scientists who grasp the limitations of a materialistic hypothesis for neuroscience are establishing a new hypothetical paradigm that is necessarily metaphysical. Also, recognized by some is the insight that metaphysics not only pertains to humans, but by logical necessity to the “Mind at Large”. By that is not meant just the physical universe at large, but also what it means to be the universe. My own project here, is to offer the distinction between the materialistic “subject-thinker” [my term], and the metaphysical Conscious Subject or “Mind at Large” inclusive of the “subject-thinker”.

The matter of the universe, all objects of perception, are objectively known through the medium of the brain. What anyone knows is produced this way in the mind of the knowing subject. Consciousness, however, can only be what it feels like to actually be that metaphysical Subject witnessing what is objectively knowable. Neurologists have been inquiring about the nature of brain matter and gathering objective data, measurements, about the modifications of the brain that reflect changes in the personal contents of Consciousness. This, many neurologists call research into the easy problem of Consciousness as opposed to the “hard problem of Consciousness”. What is “hard” is the fact that it is impossible to objectively measure the properties and dynamics of what it feels like to be any particular person, which is why it is metaphysical. This is especially true of the most important experiences of living: like what it is like to feel love or beauty, but also things as mundane as what it feels like to see the color red.

Consciousness, unlike the measurement of matter, cannot be defined as to mass, charge, and other properties and dynamics. A metaphysical hypothesis is needed. This doesn't mean materialistic theories about Consciousness are impossible, however. A couple of theories countering the definition of Consciousness proposed as “hard” are being explored by scientists. One is that Consciousness is an emergent property of matter, but this, even if true of the brain at least, does not hold as an empirical observation since there are no measurable properties of matter that can be identified as constituents of such an emerging Consciousness. Still, nothing about a brain can tell us what it feels like to be the person with that brain. Another theory is that Consciousness is an illusion, an absurd argument that “Consciousness” is not what we mean to designate as our personal experience of reality. “Illusion” is a label being applied to an unknowable metaphysical witness by “scientists” asserting that subjective experience will become objectively knowable eventually. Consciousness does not just magically appear, nor is it going to.

Practitioners of actual empirical science must conclude that “the brain provides the second person perspective of first person experience”. If you were to gather data of my brain activity now, you would have a second person perspective of my first person metaphysical experience of the world. We could not deduce that either perspective produces the other because they are perspectives of one phenomenon. Perhaps, this we could say is the mind phenomenon, whereby external objects are known as thought internally as a second-person perspective. Furthermore, the brain is a physical entity being in a relationship with a metaphysical Subject having Conscious experience. The self-reflective activity of the brain, thought of oneself, is memory reflecting our first person experience and as such is also a second person perspective – our own second-person perspective as “subject-thinker”. Our individual experience of the mind-matter relationship suggests that a mind-matter relationship exists on a continuum throughout the physical universe. Of course we assume other people have minds, but we could easily consider the dual perspective existing for animals, or further, as a feature of organic life. This leads to the metaphysical hypothesis of Pan-psychism introduced to the modern philosophy of science by Alfred North Whitehead. Its a known starting point in the philosophy of science for the historical moment I am addressing now, but more on this later.

I think we are now approaching in this inquiry the topic of personal or individual Consciousness as Absolute Consciousness. For this we are leaving the field of science as it is currently entangled with materialistic philosophy, prejudicial to Consciousness being a phenomenon emerging from matter. Perhaps you could say we are exiting through the door of physics and quantum theory that has been demonstrating the dual nature of matter as particle and wave – inexplicable by a purely materialistic paradigm. At least since Whitehead, the philosophy of science has been struggling with this contradiction in many facets of the mind-body problem. Even considering that thought is a material process in the mind-brain relationship, the Conscious Subject witnessing thought cannot be objectively known. All that can be known is our thoughts about ourselves as what I call “subject-thinker”, one fragment of two in the basic fragmentation of the field of thought. The other fragment is the thought composing “not-me”.

There is a field of thought, a thought sphere, attending human existence. We can easily believe others are the same as myself. We can speculate with some confidence that other life forms are sentient in a similar way, or even that some rudimentary structure of this kind exists in the full range of organic life. If we are to extrapolate from organic life as a subset of the physical universe we would posit a universal mind: metaphorically matter would be the brain and and what it would be like to be a cosmic Subject would be personal Consciousness as Absolute Consciousness! Such Consciousness would shine not only in sentient beings of organic life, but as the experience reflected by all matter. Why? Because Consciousness is another primitive aspect of matter itself. I will be developing a nuanced presentation of Consciousness as a primitive of matter.

A good place to return to now, is with what we actually experience, then proceed in the context of a philosophy that vastly exceeds the scope of materialism. My body-mind complex is such a infinitesimal part of infinite space and even the incomprehensible reach of matter contained in space. Furthermore, the scope of my experience is also very circumscribed in time and space or space-time; or per this discussion, to the catalog of the contents of my individual Consciousness in Absolute Consciousness. I want to explore why I am so isolated from the scope of cosmic mind, why I am so disassociated from the “Mind at Large” suggested by the scientific metaphysical hypothesis that has been introduced as necessary. In this exploration as I am presenting it, I employ the core philosophic position of Advaita Vedanta.

In the Upanishads we find the questions and issues, and logical analysis of individual Consciousness and Absolute Consciousness (“Atman-Brahman”)are exhaustively debated. Neurologists are entering the terrain mapped thousands of years ago in Vedanta. Vedanta, however, has not precluded the advent of quantum mechanics or any study of the material universe, it is the metaphysical hypothesis, paradoxically, for study of the Subject inaccessible to knowledge. I will state the key insight of Vedanta for the present discussion about Consciousness. The materialist philosophy, the default modality of almost all scientists is, according to Vedanta, rooted in a displacement of Consciousness in space. Whether believing Consciousness emerges at some point in time during material processes or if it is just an illusory idea, the materialist understands Consciousness as a kind of epi-phenomenon like the smoke off a locomotive that has no role in the operation of the metaphorical train itself, of matter in itself. This is not what it feels like to be the Conscious Subject according to the Advaita Vedantic nondualism.

The Vedanta asserts that matter is known as forms and the names of forms as thought, thought itself being a material process of the brain occurring in space and creating space-time through the operation of thought. The Sanskrit for the fact of matter in space is perhaps inadequately translated as “superimposition” (possibly confusing because of the common meaning of the term). Matter is “superimposed” in space, but the meaning is not that there are two components, one superimposed on the other. When a material object moves through space, and thereby space-time in that movement, the object is not displacing space like a ship moving through water, it is always occupying space moving or not. That is the meaning of “superimposition” in Vedanta. Positing matter without space is a disassociation from what is actual, like an illusion but it is more subtle. In Vedanta it would be an operation of “Maya”. The term has more nuanced meaning than simply “illusion”. It applies more broadly to the operation of thought in the body-mind experience.

Matter superimposed in space is what we know from a second person perspective of our reality. As to what it feels like to be the Subject, the operations of matter experienced in Consciousness, this is the first person perspective of our individual reality. The Upanishads assert that matter is superimposed in space, and space is superimposed in Consciousness! The second person perspective of matter superimposed in space-time is obvious to someone conditioned by a materialist philosophy. However, that Consciousness is a primitive element of existence, that space is superimposed in Consciousness, is apparently not seen by the vast majority of scientists, or even many scientists recognizing the “hard problem of Consciousness”. The Vedanta points out that just as the illusion of matter without space is a disassociation from actuality, so is living as a “subject-thinker” with the illusion of space without Consciousness. This is a state of mind disassociated from actuality – or to touch on the nuances of Maya, it is the limited state of reality disassociated from Absolute actuality, from the full domain of the Conscious Subject.

It is exciting to me that a number of respected scientists are exploring hypotheses about Consciousness that exceed materialism. I think this is a recognition that without incorporating Consciousness as a primitive feature of existence, the state of experience of such a reality will be disassociated from comprehensive actuality. I do, however, see a problem in the hard problem of Consciousness as conceived by those scientists I know of so far. I hope to find some who may understand the issue of non-duality as I will explain. Materialism is in fact a perspective of nonduality even though it fails to account for Subjective experience. This does not mean, as it seems to be the case with the scientists I have encountered, that a dualism is required. This move seems to be to add Consciousness as an additional separate primitive as a category separate from the category of materialistic primitives (the range of measurable features). I will explore instead the ramifications of the hypothesis of superimposition, which maintains nonduality while accounting for the operation of Consciousness.

An insight that one is Living with a disassociated image of oneself is a potent realization. It should be clear that an objective investigation of what it is to be human is in fact impossible. As for the microcosm, it is also so for the macrocosm. An objective measurement of what it is to be the universe is not possible with a physics tethered to materialism and its absurd faith in such an eventual measurement. Faith is not experience. The macrocosm contains the microcosm as its disassociated image which nonetheless is Consciousness existing as Consciousness in individual mental content. The content of Consciousness for each of us is thought in the brain. Attention to our thought, according to Vedanta philosophy, is a process of thought within the contents of Consciousness that is in practice “meditation”. This “meditation” is an activity which nonetheless continues in the state of disassociation. However, this “meditation” is a conditioning of the mind which mitigates the conditioning that generates disassociation, which in the language of Vedanta is better understood as “Maya”.

The questions attending the addition of Consciousness as a primitive element has its philosophy of science origins in the Pan-Psychism of Alfred North Whitehead. Not to mention the materialists, even many scientists understanding and recognizing the hard problem of Consciousness find the idea of Consciousness existing everywhere, even in sticks and stones, untenable. Whitehead, however, speculated that things that do not have higher forms of experience (“simple individuals”)are involved in things that do have higher forms of experience (“compound individuals”). Compound individuals display features of a mind-brain relationship which emerge from simple individuals which do not. So Pan-Psychism defined this way avoids the problem of how sentient and insentient entities interact. Whitehead's metaphysical hypothesis is that brain cells as compound individuals feel the mind's feelings and the mind feels the feelings of the brain cells. Simple individuals do not have the higher order experience of Consciousness as compound individuals, but since the compound emerges from the simple, the simple cannot be said to be vacuous realities, merely materials in space. The mystery remains as to how the simple is organized into the compound, so it is not really known if this is what happens.

So that material is superimposed in space, and space in Consciousness, could also be suggested as the theoretical metaphysical hypothesis in Pan-psychism. I question, however, if this hypothesis as read by theorists, or even Whitehead, engenders a true nondualism even though it unifies the interaction of sentient and insentient individuals. Like some adherents to Pan-psychism as a viable hypothesis for scientific study, I would agree with the proposition it is still a dualistic alternative to nondualistic materialism. Whitehead's “society of simple individuals” are composed of insentient things while some as yet undiscovered process organizes what is theorized as insentient simple elements which emerge as members of a “society of compound individuals”. Compound individuals may, nonetheless, be something it would be like to be or possess self-Consciousness, such as humans on planet Earth. Still, we can't know. I question it, however, as it leaves simple individuals devoid of Consciousness and so the hypothesis read this way is not nondualism as only some space is superimposed in Consciousness.

Pan-psychism presents dualistic hypothesis composed of disorganized and organized “individual” things. Consciousness remains a mystery to the reality of the body-mind relationship in its apprehension of thought reflecting a content of knowledge to the “subject-thinker”. Vedanta recognizes the reality of individual Consciousness in the actuality of an Absolute Conscious Subject. Its a hypothesis only substantiated by direct experience of a Subject – for a Subject being like that. A Subject like that would have to be an Absolute Subject with an Absolute mind in an Absolute material universe superimposed in Consciousness. Such a Subject could not be a disassociated fragment with a limited mind interacting only with the contents of memory, the domain of thought. This is what is designated here as Conscious Subject.

I have hardly scratched the surface in the study of metaphysical hypotheses as they are being discovered or formulated by neuroscientists, but my sense is an impasse has been reached regarding the inadequacy of materialism in the question of the hard problem of Consciousness. I am suggesting the metaphysical hypothesis of Vedanta regarding the impossible mystery of Consciousness for materialism, not as a method to solve the hard problem mystery for the awareness of the limited content of anyone's personal Consciousness. Vedanta is a metaphysical hypothesis for the ending of that reality as a fragmentation within the domain of the Absolute actuality, the Conscious Subject. The gesture of scientists adopting the working hypothesis of Vedanta will change nothing about what is being investigated, the mind-brain relationship. Vedanta will change the way we look, so we can find out what the consequences of that may be beyond the confines of material determinism or Pan-psychism and so take neuroscience into a novel arena of investigation.

Changing the way we look, seeing without the demand for conclusions of knowledge required by the content of thought, be it thought conditioned by the nondualism of materialism or the dualism of Pan-psychism, means a science of attention to what is the nature of thought. Deeper attention, attention to our inattention, is a “meditation” process mitigating disassociation. The ending of a limited, dissociated individual paying attention. The birth of the “individual” Meditated by a Conscious Subject is the topic of Part 3 on this blog series: “A Neuroscience of Attention”.

By Stephen 8 months 2 weeks ago

Stephen's picture

Since relocating to Havana I have been enjoying, as a aspect of my activity, writing for the blog made available for me by David Spero's website. Writing evokes meditative awareness, along with avocations such as music (tabla), poetry (Ramprasad/Hixon). Also important are taking out the garbage, getting plenty of rest, watching good movies from Cuba's excellent black market, and getting inspiration from a few choice texts always on my bed table (D.S., U.G. and J.K.). I am usually finding fascinating things going on in the world in which I detect some fragrance of the Divine. I go back and forth to New York, now mostly here. This time I brought articles and many videos to feed my latest addiction, Neuroscience, where there is an emerging paradigm shift from materialism to metaphysics with certain scientists and philosophers in the vanguard*. Now with the house acquired and pretty much improved for living, mundane fun has curtailed. Moving here made it possible to live within my retirement means and do more of the things I love most, paying attention that way, raising the sail to the wind of grace. Clarification of Conscious Union is the gift that keeps on giving . The Divine Relationship is everything and is in everything. In the last blog entry, the first written in Havana it seems I started a thread.

[Note: All use of the term “Conscious”,“Subject”, and “Absolute” are capitalized since as the title suggests, Consciousness is Absolute and all that is Conscious is in actuality the Conscious Subject].

In the previous blog entry, I shared an understanding of Conscious Union implying an Absolute not only manifesting as infinity but also inclusive an intuitive experience of personal life that pulsates in clarity from a circumscribed, fragmented experience of internal Conscious individuality, to individuality merged with the external Conscious world, to an experience of what I now designate as “Consciousness Subject”. The topic of that previous entry was the “transmission of enjoyment”. That transmission is defined as clarification of what it actually is for us to be, to exist, a transmission revealing the limitation of pleasure enjoyed in the reality of the body-mind, in the contents of individual Consciousness. Clarification occurs with the realization that the apparent limitation is in actuality the unlimited Bliss of Absolute Consciousness, the Conscious Subject.

The assertion I support is that metaphysical nondualism is best designated as “Satchitananda” (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, as designated by the philosophy of Vedanta). Clarification, or “tasting” more encompassing union exceeding the operation of thought in the body-mind, opens insight that “I am the world” in excess of the occluding range of thought, then to full clarity and Absolute Conscious Union. It is a pulsating periodic clarification of more and more encompassing union, a wave as it were. I have not experienced a permanent state, not a state, of Absolute Conscious Union, but I assume that the tasting of it is revealing that “always having been and will be” actuality. Clarification is not, however, a process or result of the exercise of individual will occurring in thought processes which are not capable of operation outside the brain. The assertion is that Satchitananda is clarifying the experience of the contents of individual Consciousness, our reality, revealing its union with the actuality of infinite Consciousness. Satchitananda is the teacher.

[Note: “individual Consciousness” or “personal Consciousness” denote Absolute Consciousness as manifested in the individual or personal thought sphere).

In this blog entry I am reiterating that our thought, our individual reality as the content of our Consciousness, is limited from knowing the actuality of Consciousness because Consciousness is not an object of knowledge. We think we can teach ourselves the information we need, and so know what Consciousness is. Given the recent history of humanity we are conditioned to find the needed objective knowledge by scientific methodology, a methodology presently imbued with the philosophy of materialism. I support the assertion that there is such a thing as clarification in the mind-brain relationship revealing the actual existing experience of Absolute Consciousness. It is , however, not a personal self-revealed experience that Absolute Consciousness is the case. We cannot willfully create this experience by any path or methodology employing thought operating in time-space. Free will, whether it exists or not, is an operation of thought either way. Either choices are made from memory spontaneously or are determined by memory entirely. Feeling the experience of Satchitananda can only be regarded as the teaching of Consciousness itself. We could and so do call it spiritual teaching. The discussion of this entry focuses on what I have been studying about an emerging movement in the field of neuroscience because of how this movement is juxtaposed to spiritual teaching in this historical moment.

In this endeavor I am putting in play the philosophical position of Vedanta with respect to the philosophy of materialism. Though certainly Sachitananda is the “Guru”, this does not discount the existence of human spiritual teachers. However, they should be vehicles of “Guru” to the degree they have tasted or are tasting Conscious Union - “tasting” evoking the flavor of pleasure merging into awareness if infinite Bliss. In Vedanta various degrees of tasting are categorized, according to specific characteristics of the dissolution or cessation of thought, as different kinds of “samadhi”; that is, involving characteristics associated with degrees of loss of the content of personal body-mind Consciousness. In addition, however, there is no limitation of body-mind Consciousness in the case of an individual human being temporarily, and episodically, functioning fully in the human body-mind with Conscious Union. This is called “sahaja samadhi”. This would be a person one might hope to be associated with as a spiritual seeker as she would be to some extent an active vehicle of the Guru, and available as such.

Then there is the case of a human being continuously in sahaja samadhi. This person is fully human of course, but in a sense, a human of a transcendent register. In Vedanta such a person functioning as a teacher, as a world teacher indeed, is called an Avatar – in some religious traditions analogous to an incarnation of God. But how are we to know? As we have posited Satchitananda as the teacher, but manifested as the Avatar, the possibility of direct relationship arises. To the circle of spiritual seekers organically attracted to this Avatar, she would be a powerful transmitter of the Energy (“Shakti”) which awakens and clarifies the infinite scope of feeling possible, inclusive of the contents of individual Consciousness content, yet infinitely in excess of that limited domain. The transmission of the Avatar is not, to be precise, from a center towards a periphery, but rather a clarification of infinite proportion, nondualistic and omnipresent as Satchitananda.

To we who are associated with David Spero, such transmission is a given personal experience. A characteristic of this circle is that we have had some awakening such that there is recognition and detection of one or more modalities of transmission found in our relationship to David. Our awakening is self-evident. I know the awakening of intuition over decades has been accelerating exponentially since meeting David a few years ago. By “intuition” I mean the experience of Consciousness expressed in the Upanishads by such phrases as “Thou art That”, “All this is Brahman”. Can I say “I know Brahman”? Well, I would answer as that question is answered in one of the Upanishads: “I cannot say I know it not”. The transmission in relationship to David is transmission attending the advent of an Avatar of Shakti, experienced as the Feminine active Awakening Power of the Absolute. It is an active Power in the “Mind at Large” (Note: I also place in quotes certain phrases that are in current usage in the field). For the circle who have entered into a personal relationship with David there is also the potential for an emotional connection, a devotional feeling for David as Divine Mother. Such a Divine Relationship is for us the culmination of Bliss revealed by the Grace of the guru.

To conclude this preamble, let me introduce more clearly how this series of blog entries focuses on what I have been studying about an emerging movement in the field of neuroscience. This movement represents a paradigm shift from materialism to metaphysics. It is important to me how neuroscience is juxtaposed to spiritual awakening in this culturally historical moment. Science is a mainstream element of the current cultural configuration of the world, so its gesture towards metaphysics in neuroscience inspires my allegiance to its foreshadowing a shift in all of scientific study. Culture, being a powerful conditioning agent of society means this paradigm shift, I argue, would change human relationships in clearly beneficial ways.

Obviously, we are predisposed to our experience of Consciousness, to our state of being as experiencers of the personal contents of Consciousness, as being seated in the material operation of the brain. With the operation of thought in the brain we know objectively our own story of personal existence. This is retained by memory and it is with every moment of input from the body's sensory apparatus that this input is met by memory. During the last couple of hundred years our understanding or interpretation of the process has overwhelmingly been influenced by philosophical materialism. Indeed, it is very difficult to think otherwise given the cultural conditioning attending the advancement of civilization through technology. The prevailing model at this historical moment is something like every material particle of present sensory experience being a transition in space-time as a wave between the pole of past memory and the future pole of a novel state of memory. And that is all there is to it. It is a nondualistic material time-space ontology.

Materialistic philosophy, however, has been facing refutation in philosophy of science by a vanguard of neurologists in recent decades. Any inquiry about matter depends on mental knowledge. Knowledge is dependent on the brain. So neuroscience investigates the relationship between mind and brain. All knowledge is contained in the mind of the knowing individual, is content in the Consciousness of that person. Stimulus to the brain received by sensory apparatus, or stimuli indirectly introduced to the brain modifies the contents of Consciousness. Some neuroscientists say it is not to be concluded, however, that modifications of the content of our personal Consciousness, which are objectively knowable, produce the Conscious Subject. It is a serious current scientific hypothesis that is rooted in the following statement: “nothing we can or could know about the content of what anyone is knowing tells us anything about what it feels like to be anyone”.

The neuroscience being discussed is by scientists who grasp the limitations of a materialistic hypothesis. They accept as fact that we cannot measure what it feels like to be someone, and this means a new hypothetical paradigm that is metaphysical is required. The materialist hypothesis is sufficient to gain as much knowledge as possible about objective, demonstrable, information about the physical universe. Metaphysics is not going to somehow reveal anything more in this regard. Metaphysics is needed, however, if we want to try to say anything about Consciousness itself. Recognized by some within the community of scientists exploring an emerging metaphysical model is also the insight that metaphysics not only pertains to humans, but by logical necessity to the “Mind at Large”. By that is not meant just the physical universe at large, but also what it means to be the universe. The purpose of subsequent blog entries in this series is to unpack that metaphysical assertion. Most significantly, to my own project here, is to offer the distinction between the materialistic “subject-thinker” [my term which I think is more helpful than “self-image” or “the self”], and the metaphysical Conscious Subject inclusive of the “subject-thinker”.

* More or less in order of significance:

Scientists: Thomas Metzinger, Rupert Sheldrake, David Chalmers, Bernardo Kastrup

Sam Harris on secular spirituality, but also in interviews with the above

Philosophy of Science: Alfred North Whitehead, Karl R. Popper, Thomas Nagel

Others on “the hard problem of Consciousness”: John R. Searle, Colin McGinn, Kristof Koch, David Ray Griffin, Galen Strawson

David's talk at the Science and Non-duality conference recently is very significant

The interviews of Bernardo Kastrup by Rick Archer also!

By Sean Devlin 9 months 4 days ago

Sean Devlin's picture

Garden of Verse

At the garden’s edge
bending at waist
with forward weight shifting to toes
and nose inside the pedals of the flower
breathing in the fragrance of angels
which is received by the heart and lung
and broadcasted like sunlight
to tissue and cells
and the buzz of bees
gathering pollen and nectar
for the hive of the soul
so its honey may drip
into the mouths of the awakened
so they may taste the divine
and smell the scent of angels
whose fragrance fills my heart and lung
and like a sermon of sunlight
broadcasted to tissue and cell
to pen
to page
and these words like flowers
sit in the garden of verse
for you to lean forward
with your nose between the pedals of the words

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