Wednesday, December 27, 2006

good, bad, Principle, ...?

I don't really have a clear question or idea here, but I'm wondering about different approaches to spirituality. Stuart Davis, for example, is very positive. You get the feeling that everything is ok, and even though you're being challenged, you are still loved and someone will hug and comfort you along the way. Bernadette Roberts, on the other hand, makes the journey sound like constant pain and emptiness, and lack of comfort. Even Stuart Davis points out that a lot of our life serves as anesthesia, but he phrases It as "Love has no opposite".

supreme doctrine

A few days ago, I read part of a chapter where Benoit is talking about affectivity. His use of language (originally French, but I think the translator did an awesome job) is very specialized, and I can't really explain exactly what he means by affectivity. But basically, he says that if you look for your own affectivity, you won't find it. It's not the absolute Principle, nor is it a relative (formal) phenomenon. You will find images of happiness or sadness, but no actual fundamental good or bad affectivity. So I tried looking, and it was very strange. It seems so basic that affectivity is real; it's what I work for constantly. And there are clearly lots of "images" about it. But if I try to direct my attention to the thing itself, it doesn't exist where I thought it would be.

What the hell.

I really want people to like me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

reality is awareness

I suddenly had this thought as I was on the bus, and it seems to explain a LOT. My old question was, how does phenomenology connect to ontology? For example, why do human brains (a particular configuration of molecules) have "consciousness" and other configurations of molecules don't?

There are the classic explanations for how mind and matter relate. A) Dualism says mind and matter are two fundamentally separate things that can influence one another. My spirit could make a decision and push around some molecules in my brain; and sensory events impinging on my brain could influence my spirit. B) Materialism or Idealism says that matter or mind (respectively) is the only real thing and the other is an illusion. C) Epiphenomenalism, like dualism, says that mind and matter both exist, but mind has no causal power. Sensory events in the brain can influence my spirit, but my spirit is a passive reflection of reality and can't influence anything.

Here's the new answer: matter is mind. This is so simple. Of course a rock is aware as a rock -- that's what it is! A rock doesn't have self-awareness in the sense of a reflexive arc like humans do; a process that feebly tries to represent some aspects of the entity of which is it a part. It's just a rock.

This is why humans are aware (or, in another sense, have the illusion of being aware) of a lot of reality. When the brain instantiates a pattern that mimics a pattern in reality (i.e. when the brain has any representation), that pattern IS aware as itself, so we have the awareness of what seems to be the thing we are representing. Of course, our representation is not the thing itself, so we're not really aware OF the thing itself. Brains happen to be highly concentrated areas of representation.

So humans are not aware OF reality. The representation in the brain is aware as itself, and it shares characteristics with the thing in reality. Maybe you could even go so far as to say that nothing is aware OF anything.

So I wonder what non-dual awareness is. Or is it just that insomuch as things are not dual, they are aware as everything?

Monday, December 04, 2006

genpo roshi, ego, reality

Watching the first few of these videos did something to me. That, along with a video of Ken Wilber talking to some other guy. I started to really change my basic orientation to the self. Genpo Roshi pointed out that all of those aspects of the self that we try to pretend don't exist are actually serving valuable functions. Ken Wilber said that at the center there is always the contraction of self. I was like, holy shit. It also made me rethink what I said in my last post. I have been trying to dissect out where the "badness" is in the Universe. It was making me really confused, because the same essential contraction, or recursion, or duality seems to be in all manifestation -- not just the human ego. Does that make all of manifestation a pathology? But now I'm thinking: that's what manifestation is. Now my confusion is kicked back to this: what is the process of enlightenment, then? It's not causing the mind to stop manifesting, is it? Maybe it's very psychological. Maybe it's even specific to the detailed implementation of a human brain. Maybe it's embracing the lower-level contraction into a higher-level contraction. Any thing that happens in reality has to be that, right? Are there non-dual events? The non-dual creates another manifestation during enlightenment, I suppose. Maybe reality is constructed such that particular manifestations can be deeply embracing of all manifestation in a way that goes beyond our current understanding of state and information.

Friday, December 01, 2006

What is agitation in the brain?

I feel like it's starting to be the right time for me to ask the question: what processes in the brain are mental agitation (i.e. non-spontaneous, non-True, self-protecting thoughts; illusion or Samsara)? Here are a few possibilities:

1) It's not a feature of the physical brain. It's something spiritual that can't be reduced to mechanistic processes.

2) It's any neural activity at all. Any manifestation is inherently dual; the richer the manifestation, the more pronounced the duality. When the manifestation goes away, what's left is the Self.

3) It's neural activity that is out of sync with reality. I see a tree, but for some reason my representation of a fish is activated instead. (This example is a sensory-level misrepresentation; maybe what would correspond in Wilber's framework to psychosis. Most practical examples would be much more subtle, like lying to oneself about motivations.) Interestingly, this could help explain development. The lower levels of representation have to be in sync with reality before higher levels can form, because otherwise the conflict with reality agitates the lower-level representations to the point where the higher-level structures are unstable.

4) It's recursive neural activity. When the flow of information is somehow circular in a network or system of networks, the brain is no longer representing reality and instead representing "itself", which isn't really anything. The internal dynamics of that circular network are the self. Those dynamics are not really a representation of anything, although some other system could represent them. This is surprisingly similar to Benoit's analogy of a short-circuit. If you hooked the output of a thermostat up to its own input, it might go into an oscillation (if there were a time-constant), or an unbounded growth, which would be the internal dynamics of the recursive system. Strangely, if all manifestation arises from feedback processes, could all manifestation be a kind of agitation; self-creating unreality? But what does that mean for it to be unreality? We started with the idea that the recursive activity in the brain was unreality because it didn't represent the outside reality. But there's no outside reality to all of reality. What the hell?