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November 13, 2010


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Speaking of transcending matter, it's nice to see David begin to transcend traditional materialism.

Spirituality differs from religion in that the one is a journey, an investigation into reality, and not a retrospective, historical dogma.

And true Spirituality differs from true Science only in the tools of research.

Philosophically, they are identical.

The Lane's write:

"The implications here are enormous for spiritual disciplines which wish to be viewed as promoting a scientific outlook. Any meditational discipline that wishes to be seriously taken as a science must ground itself in the very thing it wishes to transcend."

But they have it wrong, almost a straw man.

Meditational disciplines are all about getting in touch with reality, grounded in it directly, intimately and only transcending illusion so that we may be grounded in reality.

Where does any meditation practice speak to transcending reality? It is the opposite, getting us in touch with reality. So, right away, the definition of the aim of meditation practice provided by the Lane's
is false.

The notion of transcending reality is very far from meditation practice. That is what happens with mental conception. Mental ideations, reflections, constructions of reality - these are always at some distance from reality itself. To get "into the dirt" you have to transcend limited thinking, and the limitations of the human mind to consider things well beyond the senses.

The notion of transcending mental concepts of reality and replacing those with direct perception, that is the goal of most forms of meditation. Meditation practices in the main consist of techniques of quieting the mind so that we can really have direct perception, instead of everything filtered through biological sense stimulation and mental reconstruction.

And research on meditation practice demonstrates that indeed our ability to control parts of our own biological functioning are far greater through meditation practice.

Now, no current philosophy that rejects spirituality transcends mental conceptions. At best they do as David and Andrea are doing - replacing one set of conceptualizations with another, albeit a finer set. Yet that finer set of notions is still a set of notions. It isn't actually reality.

The very problem the Lane's address, and Wittgenstein eloquently comments upon is that all mental processes develop definitions, labels, since mental understanding is symbolic and not actual. Language is a symbolic representation of something else. In the limited realm of mental thinking, that is as close to reality as one can get. The brain must interpret and symbolize into its own definitions.

But meditation practice offers a wholly different method of understanding reality - to merge directly with it!

Then language, terms, symbols, arguments, all re-presentational, all constructed images of reality are unnecessary and replaced with - yep, REALITY.

So replacing one set of definitions with another is just polishing the car.

But taking it for a drive is much more fun.

Real science involves investigation, and when philosophy is false is where it is not grounded in investigation. The person doing the philosophizing should really also be doing the investigation. That is a good scientist, interested in learning the truth.

When the two are disconnected and the writer is just spinning mental conceptions, however eloquent and reflective of reality, they are not actually getting closer to reality. In fact, they are disconnected from it.

Every good scientist knows that you must "see it for yourself" and experience it, play with it, manipulate it, see how it responds, how it works to know about it and to know it.

So, when you can play with matter and energy then you can learn something real about it for yourself.

That is really what pure science is all about.

The mental yarn spinning that comments negatively on spirituality and claims the high ground of objective truth, but is not based on personal connection to reality is just another belief system disconnected from reality.

Spence, I like the notion of "direct perception." But neuroscience tells us this isn't possible. You said:
The notion of transcending mental concepts of reality and replacing those with direct perception, that is the goal of most forms of meditation. Meditation practices in the main consist of techniques of quieting the mind so that we can really have direct perception, instead of everything filtered through biological sense stimulation and mental reconstruction.

Most of the workings of the brain/mind (mind is the brain in operation) are outside of conscious awareness. The brain/mind uses prior experiences, and habitual or instinctual processing (it's been found that babies aren't blank slates, and neither are we), to arrive at a view of the world that, to us, is "just there."

That is, we aren't aware of how our awarenesses came to be, since brain activity outside of consciousness obviously can't be known to us.

So it's very difficult, if not impossible, to theorize that humans have an ability to see things "as they are" through some sort of direct perception.

Mindfulness does seem possible, though. Meaning, we can be better aware of what is within awareness -- recognizing that what that is has been processed through unavoidable neurological activity outside of our awareness.

In other words, we aren't disembodied beings, some sort of "pure consciousness" that's able to see reality entirely objectively.

Brian, I would argue that so long as we live in the world of our own mental conception we are entirely "disembodied beings".

The very facts you speak of support a much more parsimonious explanation: We generally live in a world of conception.

You are arguing that this is all we can experience. But then you rightly claim that we are consciously aware of very little of the activity that goes on.

Let's say for the moment that spiritual and physical reality are actually the same thing, but we don't know enough about it to understand that. If that is so, then simply getting in touch with what your actual experience is, defacto, is spiritual development. But to do that, you have to quiet all the noise generated from past conditioning and the body's built in sensory filters.

The world you see around you may be real, but you are only seeing what your brain has constructed.

Is it possible to see it any other way?

All the evidence about meditation research shows us that things we are not aware of in our own brain arise to our conscious awareness simply by learning to still the mind, to be at peace.

And, from an anecdotal perspective, this is a common occurence which meditation only refines. Everyone knows that if they calm down and give themselves time away from a problem, when they return to it their thinking is much clearer, they see things they did not see before. Meditation is that process accelerated.

As for the experience of consciousness, if our brains can manufacture fantastic fantasies, who knows what sort of brainstorms await us when we begin to look at it directly!

That is what Chitta is, mindstuff. In meditation, at some point, you can see it. Then all the geometric shapes in neon approach, to a rhythmic beat, undulating and they emerge and reshape themselves, and they merge into a creature, a flow of shape whose surface changes in the most complex ways. Machinery, formulas, bizarre creatures, they are all their and instantly, without any effort. It is actually a little effort to keep that creature at bay so you can watch its infinite variations.

I'd say that could keep one occupied in mediation for a while!

Is it biological? It must be.

Is it something more? It is certainly more than traditional science has yet documented.

But the Saints know all about it.

Is that biological? Of course! You can see the brain functioning!

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