For those who have been following the interesting exchange of views about consciousness and the brain in comments on a recent blog post, I'm pleased to present the final score on a debate about whether there's evidence that awareness can be free of filters and concepts.
Commenter Spence Tepper ended up without scoring a debate point due to his religious dogmatism. Commenters Appreciative Reader and myself scored numerous debate points because we used facts and logic. Tepper never actually played the debate game, choosing to ignore calls to produce evidence for his assertion.
Bottom line: you can't win a game unless you're willing to play the game. Calling out "I won!" from the sidelines is a spectator sport, not a genuine sport.
Here's how Appreciative Reader put it in his typically courteous and reasonable fashion.
Most of what you say now, in this last comment, is reasonable, and I agree generally with most of that, I guess.
Except! Except, that isn't what this was about, was it. You'd claimed, originally, that meditation enables us to bypass the model-building thing of our brain, and bypass those mental filters to apprehend reality directly. That extravagant claim of yours is what Brian had flagged, and asked you to substantiate. And pre-empting exactly this kind of bobbing and weaving, I'd wondered if you could do that, without changing the subject etc.
(Here's your own words, that Brian had quoted there: "...if we can go to that place of awareness within ourselves free of filters, a place where filtering and conceptual reconstruction do not function, who knows what we may experience? Maybe God? But no label would work there. Maybe reality directly. Maybe pure experience of the moment. Maybe the moment is eternity." And you've said similar, often enough, other times as well.)
If you'd been able to substantiate that claim, then that would have been fantastic. I'd have been first to accept it, and change my mind and my worldview accordingly. If you hadn't been able to do that, even then, had you directly admitted that that isn't evidenced, but merely how it appears to you, personally and subjectively, and what some religious traditions teach, fair enough, no harm done. We'd then have known clearly where we stand. And nor would that have detracted from your experiences --- except we wouldn't be then looking at them as (allegedly) a "direct" apprehension of reality.
As it happens, you did neither. In your reply to Brian, you simply doubled down, with this further extravagant and unevidenced claim thrown in: "You have experience but it is often entirely beyond the thinking brain, and so without impression, zero memory. You think you saw nothing. But thinking is the problem. You saw something, you can't think of it. (...) You'll have to Grok it. Sartori it."
Once again, the claim that in meditation you experience something that is beyond the thinking brain. In as much as these words of yours are linked to what you'd said before, presumably you mean to imply that this is that direct apprehension of reality, that you'd referred to earlier.
In other words, all you did was to "substantiate" your extravagant claim, with yet another extravagant and unevidenced claim.
And now, now you present to me very reasonable comments, very wise views on meditation, and indeed evidenced opinions on meditation. All of which I agree with. Except none of them have anything to do with that original claim.
The one part of your comment now that does directly deal with that original claim is where you say: “Part of that reality reconstruction the brain does all the time. We don't have to be a willing, mindless participant in that.”
That’s worded kind of ambiguously, but it seems to indicate that meditation allows you to go outside of the reconstruction, the model building, that the brain does. In which case it’s simply you repeating your original claim, yet again, in different words, instead of substantiating it. (And yes, like I said that's worded ambiguously. If you didn't mean to convey that by those words, then fair enough, I take this last back. But in that case, again, this has nothing to do with your original claim at all.)
As for the Mayo Clinic link, it’s a cool article, and I enjoyed reading it. But it’s simply a general article written by the clinic staff, a kind of overview of meditation, and it doesn’t come close to providing the kind of evidence we’re talking about here; and nor does it actually claim, either, that meditation helps you apprehend reality directly and minus the filters of mental model-building.
It's a straightforward issue. You know my views on meditation. I'm a fan, and in fact a practitioner and aspirant myself. I agree that meditation is generally beneficient, in terms of what you've discussed here, and more. In general I'm interested in knowing more about all of that, sure.
But the issue we're focused on at this time is this: Can meditation enable us to bypass the model-building via which filter we apprehend reality indirectly, so that we might be able to apprehend reality directly? That had been your claim. Can you substantiate it? If not, then I don't see the issue with clearly admitting it, and retracting that original claim. (And nor do you need jettison that POV altogether. You can always present it, instead, and if you like, as a speculation, maybe, rather than as fact. We can speculate all we want, about whatever we want, why not, as long as we're clear that speculating is all we're doing.)
Not to force the issue beyond this! And apologies if any of my comments in this thread appeared less than fully courteous. Absolutely no offense intended, Spence. Cheers.