February 23, 2015

We misperceive others as separate and competing

Joseph Vrinte - 2002 - ‎Preview might also reasonably ask how anyone could hope to understand something as biological as a lotus without first beginning ... Put bluntly, there just is no such thing as a mudless lotus. We need not and should not end with the mud, but we certainly need to at least begin there. If psychoanalytically inclined thinkers, then, can be accused on concentrating too much on ... such as Aurobindo can be accused of concentrating too much on solipsistic sexless lotuses growing out of nothing.
  1. Don Salmon
    This is an absolutely brilliant – intuitively so! – article. Jan and I , in a way, based our whole analysis of the evolution of consciousness on this short passage from Sri Aurobindo’s commentary on the Kena Upanishad. I spent 5 years reflecting on that passage and in this short article you’ve led me to new insights. Wonderful! Thanks.
This is a brilliant – and unfortunately all-too-rare recognition of the extent to which supposedly “neutral” neuroscience is pervaded by underlying assumptions from the Western philosophic position. Though not a philosopher (I’m a clinical psychologist) I attempted to point to some of the limitations and pitfalls in contemporary attempts to integrate Indian philosophic/psychological ideas with contemporary science: -

What if We Took Indian Psychology Seriously?
by Don Salmon, PhD - September 8, 2001
"The significance of the lotus is not to be found by analyzing the secrets of the mud from which it grows here; its secret is to be found in the heavenly archetype of the lotus that blooms for ever in the Light above.... The superconscient, not the subconscient, is the true foundation of things.... You must know the whole before you can know the part and the highest before you can truly understand the lowest. That is the promise of the greater psychology awaiting its hour." Sri Aurobindo
Contemporary exploration of traditional Indian psychology generally proceeds by viewing it from the perspective of modern psychology. What might it be like to reverse this stance - i.e., to look at modern psychology - both experimental psychology and psychotherapy - through the lens of Indian psychology? Is it even possible to understand Indian psychology on its own terms; in other words, to take it seriously?
I am currently working on a book which explores the psychological understanding and vision expressed in the writings of the Indian philosopher-yogi Sri Aurobindo3. During a recent trip to India, I spoke with several students of his writings who are engaged in scholarly work. Upon revealing that one of my major aims is to look at modern psychology from Sri Aurobindo's point of view, they warned me that nobody in academia would take such a work seriously. Though previously aware of the controversy involved in such an endeavor, I had perhaps unwisely chosen to minimize my concerns. When confronted with this warning, I realized I needed to rethink the potential difficulties and objections to my approach. This article is the result of my efforts to understand how Indian thought has come to be considered acceptable only when filtered through a modernist lens. I attempt here to set forth some suggestions as to how it might become more acceptable to speak of things like "Truth" and "the Divine" ("Sat" and "Brahman") without using psychoanalytic, relativistic or reductionistic lenses; in other words, to take Indian psychology seriously.4
In an essay describing his teaching, Sri Aurobindo begins:
"The teaching of [Integral Yoga] starts from that of the ancient sages of India that behind the appearances of the universe there is the Reality of a Being and Consciousness, a Self of all things, one and eternal. All beings are united in that One Self and Spirit but divided by a certain separativity of consciousness, an ignorance of their true Self and Reality in the mind, life and body. It is possible by a certain psychological discipline to remove this veil of separative consciousness and become aware of the true Self, the Divinity within us and all.5
Here are some examples of the way various lenses have been used to interpret a passage like this:
1. Phenomenological: Look at Sri Aurobindo's description of his teaching simply as an attempt to describe an experience he has had, clothing it in language which is natural to him based on his familiarity with Indian culture. In viewing the passage this way, set aside consideration as to the "Truth" of what Sri Aurobindo is saying. In other words, leave aside concern as to whether or not he is describing "Reality". This approach is especially common amongst writers belonging to the psychological sub-discipline of transpersonal psychology, that branch of modern psychology which is most directly engaged with the experiential aspects of Indian psychology.
2. Historical: Approach this passage historically, examining it in light of Sri Aurobindo's social and educational background. For example, it might be asserted that as a politician working for Indian independence, Sri Aurobindo's perspective was partially determined by a desire to present the Indian people with a philosophy which could serve them in their fight for liberation.
3. Psychoanalytic: Examine Sri Aurobindo's belief that he is describing Reality with a capital "R2". A psychoanalyst might consider what instinctive or emotional need Sri Aurobindo was fulfilling through his belief in the "One Self". Considering that his mother may have suffered from bipolar disorder (manic-depressive psychosis) the analyst might, for example, assume that Sri Aurobindo needed a comforting mythology to compensate for a lack of sufficient parenting in his early childhood.
4. Neuroscientific View Sri Aurobindo's experiences and ideas as by-products of the stimulation of various parts of the brain. According to the book, "Brain Science and the Biology of Belief", mystical states such as "Void Consciousness, Nirvana, Brahman-Atman, the Tao", can be explained "on the neurological level... as a sequence of neural processes set in motion by the willful intention to quiet the conscious mind".6
5. Postmodernist: Understand Sri Aurobindo's philosophic and psychological outlook as nothing more than a particular limited and conditioned mental framework. A postmodernist might also consider Sri Aurobindo's attempt to present an all-encompassing worldview as evidence of a naivete which leads him to believe he can understand the world beyond the limits of his biological, cultural and social conditioning.
In recent years, many have attempted to build a bridge between Indian and modern (i.e. "Western"7) psychology. Like others who are sympathetic to both the Indian tradition and modern science, I was delighted when Herbert Benson, for example, presented meditation as an empirically verifiable "relaxation response"...
When a sufficient core of contemplative researchers have developed and stabilized the faculty of intuition, this soul-study may lead to a re-evaluation of much present-day knowledge of the physical world in the light of a new experientially-based understanding of the interdependence of consciousness and matter. It may also lead to a re-evaluation of the nature of the human mind in light of its Source in the Divine Reality within which subject and object are One. And, guided by the promptings of his or her soul, in harmony with the soul of the world, the psychotherapist may discover an integral transformational process which confirms Sri Aurobindo's maxim, "All Life is Yoga".
In the passage which follows, Sri Aurobindo invites us to still for a moment the voices of doubt and fear, to take a leap of faith across the threshold of the mind, and have a glimpse of "what infinite enjoyments.... what luminous reaches of spontaneous knowledge, what wide calms of our being" may lie in wait if we would dare to take Indian psychology seriously:
"Lift your eyes towards the Sun; He is there in that wonderful heart of life and light and splendor. Watch at night the innumerable constellations glittering like so many solemn watchfires of the Eternal in the limitless silence which is no void but throbs with the presence of a single calm and tremendous existence; see there Orion with his sword and belt shining...

"Don Salmon and Jan Maslow, in their highly readable and accessible book, lead ... encounter with Infinite Presence, and to seeing through the eyes of Infinity.

Don Salmon, a clinical psychologist and composer, received a grant from the InfinityFoundation to write a comprehensive study of yoga psychology based on ...
In writing about parapsychology, and about Sri Aurobindo's yoga psychology in general, Jan and I sought to ground it in such a vision of an all-pervading Divine Consciousness manifesting as all that we experience, a way of seeing which we have called "seeing through the eyes of infinity". Seeing everything and everyone in this way is, in Sri Aurobindo's words, to see that "all are in the Divine, all are the Divine and there is nothing else in the Universe."[22]. [22] Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, p. 112.
As I wrote in the opening of this essay, our ultimate aim in the first several chapters of our book was to prepare the way for an open-minded consideration of the inherently metaphysical vision of yoga psychology by showing that there is no inherent conflict between such a vision of an all-pervading Divine Reality and the findings of science - contrary to what the more dogmatic materialist scientists would have us believe - and contrary to what our unconscious assumptions, conditioned by a culture dominated by materialistic assumptions, may lead us to believe. It was an extraordinary challenge to do so in a way that fully honored both the integrity of the scientific endeavor and the radical vision of the yoga tradition. Jan and I would be very interested to hear from you if you feel that we have succeeded in any measure.

Don Salmon, a clinical psychologist and composer, received a grant from the Infinity Foundation to write a comprehensive study of yoga psychology based on ...
To list just a few of the elements of the yogic vision such a view would allow for: 
The so-called "laws" or regularities of nature — rather than having arisen purely by chance, could be seen as a purposeful means for creating stability in the material universe in order to allow for the orderly manifestation of a previously unmanifest consciousness into a world of form. What we've called "chance" may come to be seen as a suprarational action of an intelligence greater than mind; which manifests in matter as an interaction between apparent regularities or "laws" of nature and apparently "chance" circumstances; which manifests in animals as instinct; in contemporary humans as intuition; and which may one day manifest in its fullness as a "supramental" consciousness. 
As a corollary to this, from the yogic view, it seems our understanding of the laws of nature would have to change. But this doesn't necessarily mean the "overthrow" of several centuries of science, potentially plunging" us into a new dark age — as many skeptics/debunkers fear. The "laws of nature" that have been developed in regard to the physical or material universe may come to be seen as a special case: that is, under certain conditions — i.e., when consciousness is essentially "asleep" (or "hidden", or almost entirely "involved"), matter acts in one way. As consciousness "evolves" or starts to wake up, and as the physical matter associated with that consciousness (or more accurately, manifesting — or itself a reflection of — that consciousness) becomes more complex, the laws change, becoming more plastic, more variable, less subject to the confines of material space and time. It seems that a more sophisticated and less physical-bound science would not necessarily have any great difficulty providing an integration of the behavior of matter when the consciousness associated with it is asleep (which corresponds to our current "laws of nature") and the behavior of matter when the consciousness associated with it is more awakened (which might correlate with a future, broader understanding of the laws/habits/patterns of nature"). (The book, Irreducible Mind, by Edward Kelly, has an excellent description of Frederick Myer's evolutionary theory of consciousness which relates quite directly to this issue of "laws" of nature). 
Evolution might be seen to have the "purpose" perhaps the playful purpose — of expressing that initially unmanifest or hidden consciousness in increasingly complex forms (this would make sense of "emergent" phenomena such as life and mind) 
Our individual lives might be seen to have a "purpose" — perhaps the awakening to an awareness that who we truly are is a particular focus of the hidden Consciousness, and then a conscious opening to the force (shakti) behind the evolutionary process, choosing to allow it to transform us — physically, emotionally and mentally — that a still fuller expression of the unmanifest consciousness may manifest in and through us. 
Our aspirations and ideals might be seen — not simply as complex forms of adaptation for the sake of survival — but as reflections of a subliminal awareness of a capacity to express a greater consciousness beyond the mind (supramental). 
Conversely, our greed, hatred, and ignorance might be understood — not as an expression of our fundamental nature — but as the expression of a stage of evolution in which large portions of our consciousness are still largely hidden or asleep, leading us to misperceive others as separate, competing "selves" rather than as infinitely varied expressions of One causal consciousness. 
Society itself might be understood to be a vehicle for the collective expression of a greater consciousness. As with the individual, even the greatest apparent evil in society might be understood as the inevitable expression of the individuals within that society who are as yet unawakened to their true nature, ignorantly taking themselves to be separate and competing entities rather than evolving, collective expression of the greater consciousness. 
In our book on yoga psychology, Jan and I attempted to carry out the experiment of "trying on" the full yogic version of the above possibilities — what we call "the view from infinity" — that is, simply seeing what it would be like to see things. everything through a yogic lens. We attempt to draw out the implications this view may have for the understanding of cosmology, biological evolution, psychology, as well as personal and social transformation. Our experiment is based largely on the work of Sri Aurobindo and his colleague Mira Alfassa, who we believe present a profound and compelling vision of yoga psychology, one that is truly "post-metaphysical" in the sense of being beyond intellectual speculation, yet subject to contemplative, intersubjective, empirical validation. We believe that their work may one day serve to help us come to terms with the implications of parapsychology, and ultimately, with the implications of a view which "sees" the entire world, every aspect of our experience, emerging out of, existing within, and constituted of an infinite Consciousness.
And now, in full, the Honorton quote with which I began this essay:
I believe in science, and I am confident that a science that can boldly contemplate the origin of the universe, the nature of physical reality 10-33 seconds after the Big Bang, anthropic principles, quantum nonlocality, and parallel universes, can come to terms with the implications of parapsychological findings--whatever they may turn out to be. There is no danger for science in honestly confronting these issues; it can only be enriched by doing so. But there is a danger for science in encouraging self-appointed protectors who engage in polemical campaigns that distort and misrepresent serious research efforts. Such campaigns are not only counterproductive, they threaten to corrupt the spirit and function of science and raise doubts about its credibility. The distorted history, logical contradictions, and factual omissions exhibited in the arguments of the three critics [Ray Hyman, James Alcock and James Randi] represent neither scholarly criticism nor skepticism, but rather counteradvocacy masquerading as skepticism. True skepticism involves the suspension of belief, not disbelief. In this context, we would do well to recall the words of the great nineteenth century naturalist and skeptic, Thomas Huxley: "Sit down before fact like a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly to wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads or you shall learn nothing." Charles Honorton, from his essay, "Rhetoric Over Substance: The Impoverished State of Skepticism"
NOTES [1] Physicist Ulrich Mohrhoff has a wonderful online journal dealing with non-physical phenomena in relation to scientific thought, at

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Individuals, books, sites and institutions challenging materialism - Posted on June 21, 2014 by Don Salmon I’ve put together here a list of books, scientists, philosophers and organizations (online and “physical”!) who are challenging the materialistic views which are perhaps the greatest impediment to the progress of science. Here are some recommendations of books to read … Continue reading →
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Science and tradition - Page 111
A. K. Raina, ‎B. N. Patnaik, ‎Monima Chadha - 2000 - ‎Snippet view
The first is the apaurusheya concept, and the second, the notion ofpramana. 4. Contribution of the Apaurusheya Concept A key requirement of a scientific proof is that it should be apaurusheya. The Sanskrit word 'apaurusheya' may loosely be ...

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