Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Re: [neoplatonism] Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...

Expand Messages
  • dgallagher@aol.com
    Jason, Excellent response to Dennis. May I suggest transformed rather than altered ? Most apt your pointing out it s important not to _prejudge_ sameness
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 25 8:10 AM
    • 0 Attachment
      Jason,

      Excellent response to Dennis. May I suggest "transformed" rather than
      "altered"?

      Most apt your pointing out it's important not to _prejudge_ sameness or
      difference, especially in terms of our preferred mode of discursive thinking
      where same and different are presumed or prejudged to be opposites. Hence,
      the reference to the genera in my preceding post.

      In response to your interest in opinion as to whether dialectic itself, or
      self-enquiry, could in itself induce an altered state, I know it to be so;
      but, again, preferring transformed to the word altered because alter, from
      the Latin, means other.

      Regarding dialectic, see Plato, Republic, VI, 511b-c. For me, Plotinus
      provides the "means" for such soaring.

      David



      In a message dated 7/24/2011 4:11:55 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
      Jwingate2002@... writes:




      Dennis,

      <<it really just refers to traditions in which one "loses one's conscious
      self">>

      I would prefer to say that consciousness is in some way altered, obviously
      a big subject. Altered consciousness occurs on a variety of triggers as
      you say, and yes there is much variety but also a great deal of commonality.
      If I'm right Thomas Mether could talk about some of that since he is aware
      of hesychasm and the differences in contemplative traditions for example.

      When it comes to what we can know about the difference between maenads,
      yogis and shamans etc. in their states (and clearly the states are not neatly
      parcelled out one per tradition either) I can't imagine a more complex
      subject. Just in terms of the brainstates a huge amount of work would need to
      be done. Some has been, and I think it's worth checking out. (Thomas
      Mether's choice, Stanislav Grof, is worth anyone's time.) It bothers me when
      someone like McEvilley can quite comfortably state Plotinus experienced
      Nirvikalpa Samadhi! We don't know that. But he did experience something and we
      know it was beyond rationication, and we know it was philosophically
      describable as henosis which I'm sure many others more expert here can take up.

      There are a few useful positions to take IMO. Important not to _prejudge_
      sameness or difference between states, and important to listen very
      carefully to what is said about them. But given that, there are often some very
      surprising commonalities. I think a book like Emma Wilby's --
      _http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/re
      f=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1_
      (http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/ref=sr_1_1?s=b
      ooks&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1) -- comes to some very interesting
      conclusions about early modern witches and cunning folk vis-a-vis shamanistic
      traditions worldwide, things that stand some unreconstructed views on their
      heads. Basically the samenesses are much bigger than the differences
      there, and there is a goodly amount of evidence that such things simply spring
      naturally up out of the human condition and acculturate locally in whatever
      way works. Iatromanteis could be thought of similarly, although of course
      some were far from unlettered!

      Again as an example, although a maenad and a yogi might look rather
      different, they both have been said or shown to exhibit an indifference to pain.
      That is characteristic of the trance state in general too and can be
      induced with hypnosis. Three very different methods of inducing -- ecstatic
      lawless wildness, still thoughtless meditation, verbal heterosuggestion -- yet
      they do exhibit a commonality. The physical correlates of these experiences
      do change the body as well as the mind, sometimes permanently. There are
      plenty of equivalences between siddhis or charisms cross-culturally -- and
      plenty of differences too. So I wouldn't say 'not at all the same' or 'not at
      all different' especially when the exterior could mislead. (I don't know
      any maenads to test now unfortunately ^_^.) In the Chinese qigong fever
      period (1980s and 90s, see Palmer:
      _http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr=1-1_
      (http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=s
      r_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr =1-1) for a gripping account)
      still standing and gentle movement could be qigong, but so could ecstasy with
      frothing and in some cases insanity. The same goes for kundalini yoga to
      some extent. I know a bit of this from the sharp end myself.

      You can broadly divide lower from higher experiences, the latter being
      ones in which some degree of 'ultimate' is experienced. Enlightenment,
      samadhi, unification with the deity, etc., all come in there (and some shamans
      talk about this), and henosis too presumably. The degree to which such states
      are 'the same' or 'equivalent' or 'comparable' is the subject of hot
      dispute in all quarters by all means. You mention 'losing the conscious self',
      for example, but not everyone agrees that what happens in such experiences is
      equivalent to 'losing the self', in the sense of an I-consciousness --
      although in the sense of a quotidian personality, that would be different
      again. (I myself don't credit the personality with demiurgic status exactly.)

      There are lots of things that could be said about that from the purely
      neoplatonist perspective I'm sure. I would love the opinon of anyone here as
      to whether dialectic itself, or self-enquiry, could in itself induce an
      altered state. My opinion is that perhaps it could considering certain parts of
      Ennead V for example.

      Csikszentmihalyi analyzed the 'flow state' you talk about --
      _http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF
      8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1_
      (http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1) -- again,
      Lao-Tzu being Lao-Tzu, some would say that wei wu wei is related strongly
      esp. as regards say a t'ai chi practice for example, or qigong, t'ai chi
      being far more recent. Others would say that Lao-Tzu meant something related
      but wider to do with the way the world is considered by the Taoist. But
      then in general the neoplatonist rereadings of Plato (or Homer) have nothing
      on Taoist rereadings of Lao-Tzu! There are texts in the Tao Canon which
      interpret the whole of Tao Te Ching as one large treatise on breathwork and
      inner alchemy, and they are extremely interesting.

      Best wishes, hope I haven't babbled, it's my favourite subject! Jason





      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Jason Wingate
      David, It s heartening indeed to know that dialectic is providing a means to that kind of experience in this day and age! As far as altered is concerned, I m
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 25 10:19 AM
      • 0 Attachment
        David,

        It's heartening indeed to know that dialectic is providing a means to that kind of experience in this day and age!

        As far as 'altered' is concerned, I'm not wedded to it, in psychology it happens to have been standard for a while. It was only that, like you, I didn't feel 'losing one's conscious self' conveyed the right idea. jw





        ___________________________________________________
        Lightning in an Oak Box





        -----Original Message-----
        From: dgallagher <dgallagher@...>
        To: neoplatonism <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Mon, 25 Jul 2011 16:11
        Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...





        Jason,

        Excellent response to Dennis. May I suggest "transformed" rather than
        "altered"?

        Most apt your pointing out it's important not to _prejudge_ sameness or
        difference, especially in terms of our preferred mode of discursive thinking
        where same and different are presumed or prejudged to be opposites. Hence,
        the reference to the genera in my preceding post.

        In response to your interest in opinion as to whether dialectic itself, or
        self-enquiry, could in itself induce an altered state, I know it to be so;
        but, again, preferring transformed to the word altered because alter, from
        the Latin, means other.

        Regarding dialectic, see Plato, Republic, VI, 511b-c. For me, Plotinus
        provides the "means" for such soaring.

        David



        In a message dated 7/24/2011 4:11:55 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
        Jwingate2002@... writes:

        Dennis,

        <<it really just refers to traditions in which one "loses one's conscious
        self">>

        I would prefer to say that consciousness is in some way altered, obviously
        a big subject. Altered consciousness occurs on a variety of triggers as
        you say, and yes there is much variety but also a great deal of commonality.
        If I'm right Thomas Mether could talk about some of that since he is aware
        of hesychasm and the differences in contemplative traditions for example.

        When it comes to what we can know about the difference between maenads,
        yogis and shamans etc. in their states (and clearly the states are not neatly
        parcelled out one per tradition either) I can't imagine a more complex
        subject. Just in terms of the brainstates a huge amount of work would need to
        be done. Some has been, and I think it's worth checking out. (Thomas
        Mether's choice, Stanislav Grof, is worth anyone's time.) It bothers me when
        someone like McEvilley can quite comfortably state Plotinus experienced
        Nirvikalpa Samadhi! We don't know that. But he did experience something and we
        know it was beyond rationication, and we know it was philosophically
        describable as henosis which I'm sure many others more expert here can take up.

        There are a few useful positions to take IMO. Important not to _prejudge_
        sameness or difference between states, and important to listen very
        carefully to what is said about them. But given that, there are often some very
        surprising commonalities. I think a book like Emma Wilby's --
        _http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/re
        f=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1_
        (http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/ref=sr_1_1?s=b
        ooks&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1) -- comes to some very interesting
        conclusions about early modern witches and cunning folk vis-a-vis shamanistic
        traditions worldwide, things that stand some unreconstructed views on their
        heads. Basically the samenesses are much bigger than the differences
        there, and there is a goodly amount of evidence that such things simply spring
        naturally up out of the human condition and acculturate locally in whatever
        way works. Iatromanteis could be thought of similarly, although of course
        some were far from unlettered!

        Again as an example, although a maenad and a yogi might look rather
        different, they both have been said or shown to exhibit an indifference to pain.
        That is characteristic of the trance state in general too and can be
        induced with hypnosis. Three very different methods of inducing -- ecstatic
        lawless wildness, still thoughtless meditation, verbal heterosuggestion -- yet
        they do exhibit a commonality. The physical correlates of these experiences
        do change the body as well as the mind, sometimes permanently. There are
        plenty of equivalences between siddhis or charisms cross-culturally -- and
        plenty of differences too. So I wouldn't say 'not at all the same' or 'not at
        all different' especially when the exterior could mislead. (I don't know
        any maenads to test now unfortunately ^_^.) In the Chinese qigong fever
        period (1980s and 90s, see Palmer:
        _http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr=1-1_
        (http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=s
        r_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr =1-1) for a gripping account)
        still standing and gentle movement could be qigong, but so could ecstasy with
        frothing and in some cases insanity. The same goes for kundalini yoga to
        some extent. I know a bit of this from the sharp end myself.

        You can broadly divide lower from higher experiences, the latter being
        ones in which some degree of 'ultimate' is experienced. Enlightenment,
        samadhi, unification with the deity, etc., all come in there (and some shamans
        talk about this), and henosis too presumably. The degree to which such states
        are 'the same' or 'equivalent' or 'comparable' is the subject of hot
        dispute in all quarters by all means. You mention 'losing the conscious self',
        for example, but not everyone agrees that what happens in such experiences is
        equivalent to 'losing the self', in the sense of an I-consciousness --
        although in the sense of a quotidian personality, that would be different
        again. (I myself don't credit the personality with demiurgic status exactly.)

        There are lots of things that could be said about that from the purely
        neoplatonist perspective I'm sure. I would love the opinon of anyone here as
        to whether dialectic itself, or self-enquiry, could in itself induce an
        altered state. My opinion is that perhaps it could considering certain parts of
        Ennead V for example.

        Csikszentmihalyi analyzed the 'flow state' you talk about --
        _http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF
        8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1_
        (http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1) -- again,
        Lao-Tzu being Lao-Tzu, some would say that wei wu wei is related strongly
        esp. as regards say a t'ai chi practice for example, or qigong, t'ai chi
        being far more recent. Others would say that Lao-Tzu meant something related
        but wider to do with the way the world is considered by the Taoist. But
        then in general the neoplatonist rereadings of Plato (or Homer) have nothing
        on Taoist rereadings of Lao-Tzu! There are texts in the Tao Canon which
        interpret the whole of Tao Te Ching as one large treatise on breathwork and
        inner alchemy, and they are extremely interesting.

        Best wishes, hope I haven't babbled, it's my favourite subject! Jason

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]









        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Thomas Mether
        Both the Hesychast and Buddhist meditative traditions have a twofold contemplative/meditative component. In Buddhism, bhavana (meditative culture) has prajna
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 25 12:14 PM
        • 0 Attachment
          Both the Hesychast and Buddhist meditative traditions have a twofold contemplative/meditative component. In Buddhism, bhavana (meditative culture) has prajna (analytic/dialectic meditation - cultivation of logical power) and samadhi (concentrative absorption) practice. In Hesychasm, its diakrisis and enstasis, respectively. Ecstasis is both the ground state or raw material of Hesychast contemplative culture and its end. Ecstasis is arche and telos, image and likeness. Ecstasy is being somewhat outside oneself or beside oneself. As ground or raw material, it is thaumazein. Usually translated as "wonder" the Hesychast sense is a stronger one of being awestruck, amazed, at a loss, astonished as a basic existential state of being in the face of our contingency -- that we are and don't have to be. The journey or path or hodos from arche (which is that orginal thaumazein) to telos is the transformation of that thaumazein into contemplation (theoria).
          Divine Liturgy, as work of the people, is the Orthodox substitute for that naughty word related to thaumazein and theoria - theurgy.
           
          Guy Newland and John Powers give a good description of Buddhist meditative culture that could also be used to describe Hesychast meditative culture as a training in the intellectual virtues, making the functioning of nous and dianoia excellent after the model of Posterior Analytics.
           
          Here is Guy Newland's and John Power's points,
           
          "Meditation in Buddhism is twofold. One part is developing the power of concentrative calm-abiding awareness. The other part is the dialectic and the development of logical analysis, first dependent on concepts, and later at a more advanced phaseworking without concepts directly on direct experiential realizations by which both become higher insight and discriminating wisdom after they fusion together as one existential state of being and one cognitive power."
          Next, I quote from the outstanding chapter on “Meditation” in John Powers’ book, Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism (Snow Lion, 1995). His discussion draws from the descriptions and experiences of contemporary meditation masters, Geshe Gedun Lodro, Takpo Tashi Namgyal, and Geshe Lhundup Sopa. I quote-
          "Stabilizing and Analytical Meditation
          Buddhist meditation literature contains many descriptions of meditative trainings that lead to equanimity and insight. An important goal of these practices is the attainment of “a union of calm abiding and higher insight”, in which one is able to remain focused on a meditative object for as long as one wishes and at the same time to analyze its…nature." (Powers, p. 74)
          To continue with Powers’ discussion,
          "Calm abiding is held to be a necessary prerequisite for attainment of higher insight, but meditators must initially cultivate stabilizing meditation and analytical meditation separately. When one has first developed calm abiding, one is not able to remain in that state while performing analysis, and so, one must alternate between calming and analytical meditation. Through repeated practice, however, one develops the ability to maintain the two types of meditation in equal portions at the same time…This, however, is not higher insight. Higher insight occurs when one’s analytical meditation itself generates mental stability and is conjoined with physical and mental pliancy. At this point, one enters into a powerful meditative stabilization that is characterized by stability and a wisdom consciousness that understands the nature of the object of observation. The combination of stability and analysis in a single consciousness serves as a powerful
          counteragent to afflictions and is a potent tool for developing the ability to perceive emptiness directly." (ibid. pp. 79-80)
          Keeping what has been quoted in mind, we return to Newland’s discussion of the development of insight in order to directly realize sunyata according to the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path (his discussion draws from volume 3, chapters 7-9).
          "To meditate on emptiness, we must first identify our most fundamental misconceptions. Through careful practice with a teacher, meditators can learn to locate within their own experience the particular sense of self that is the deepest root of cyclic misery. Once the meditator introspectively locates very precisely the target conception of self, she uses logical analysis in meditation to see whether such a self could actually exist as it appears. Using reason to prove that it does not and could not exist, she realizes emptiness. This knowledge of emptiness, the ultimate reality of all things, is a profound certainty attained through introspective meditation and inferential reasoning."(Newland, p. 23)
          Newland goes on to say, 
          "…it is still a conceptual and therefore, a dualistic kind of understanding." (ibid., 24)
          At an advanced phase, the conceptual element drops away while the logical power of discrimination fuses with the power of yogic direct perception in meditative stabilization. The analytic and logical power of dialectic is now nonconceptual as a discriminative discernment as an aspect of direct nonconceptual and unmediated awareness itself. Newland continues,
          "Strengthening their analysis of emptiness with the power of concentration, bodhisattvas gradually develop deep insight into emptiness. Through the practice of insight, their experience becomes less conceptual…Finally, they are able to know emptiness directly and nonconceptually."(ibid., p. 24)
          A common misconception is that logical analysis always works on or with a concept. On the contrary, logical analysis can work without a concept and work directly with or on a direct perception. As such, it is the discriminative clarity aspect of a yogic direct perception within the state of meditative stabilization. Concepts are left behind but the mental power of logical analysis fuses with direct awareness itself. Thus, contrary to those westerners who have just mistakenly assumed that one leaves logic and analysis behind, the powers of reason and logic are fused with meditative concentration. It is discursive concepts that are left behind -- not the power of logic, analysis, and dialectic. To continue our quotes from Newland on this point,
          "The traditional story of Siddartha’s life tells us that he mastered the techniques of meditative stabilization as taught by non-Buddhist teachers (Udraka and Arada Kalama)well before he found the middle way and attained enlightenment…[W]e might suppose that stopping…thought in a meditative state would be the most liberating move. Tsong-kha-pa argues that meditative thoughtlessness is never going to get us any closer to freedom. Understanding born of careful analysis is at the very heart of the training in wisdom. Only by engaging in this analysis, thinking it through and taking it to heart, do we begin to create the basis for real liberation…In order to find freedom, we absolutely must have meditative insight discerning – and eventually directly perceiving – emptiness. And in order to have such meditative insight, we must…use reason and analysis to understand and know the nature of reality."(ibid., p. 25, 26).
          Otherwise, meditative experience becomes a pathological form of being a blank. This description fits Hesychast practice (except the analysis is not of sunyata, of course), and I suggest, of Neoplatonic dialectic.
          Thomas Mether

           
          --- On Mon, 7/25/11, Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...> wrote:


          From: Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...>
          Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...
          To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
          Date: Monday, July 25, 2011, 12:19 PM


           



          David,

          It's heartening indeed to know that dialectic is providing a means to that kind of experience in this day and age!

          As far as 'altered' is concerned, I'm not wedded to it, in psychology it happens to have been standard for a while. It was only that, like you, I didn't feel 'losing one's conscious self' conveyed the right idea. jw

          ___________________________________________________
          Lightning in an Oak Box

          -----Original Message-----
          From: dgallagher <dgallagher@...>
          To: neoplatonism <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Mon, 25 Jul 2011 16:11
          Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...

          Jason,

          Excellent response to Dennis. May I suggest "transformed" rather than
          "altered"?

          Most apt your pointing out it's important not to _prejudge_ sameness or
          difference, especially in terms of our preferred mode of discursive thinking
          where same and different are presumed or prejudged to be opposites. Hence,
          the reference to the genera in my preceding post.

          In response to your interest in opinion as to whether dialectic itself, or
          self-enquiry, could in itself induce an altered state, I know it to be so;
          but, again, preferring transformed to the word altered because alter, from
          the Latin, means other.

          Regarding dialectic, see Plato, Republic, VI, 511b-c. For me, Plotinus
          provides the "means" for such soaring.

          David



          In a message dated 7/24/2011 4:11:55 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
          Jwingate2002@... writes:

          Dennis,

          <<it really just refers to traditions in which one "loses one's conscious
          self">>

          I would prefer to say that consciousness is in some way altered, obviously
          a big subject. Altered consciousness occurs on a variety of triggers as
          you say, and yes there is much variety but also a great deal of commonality.
          If I'm right Thomas Mether could talk about some of that since he is aware
          of hesychasm and the differences in contemplative traditions for example.

          When it comes to what we can know about the difference between maenads,
          yogis and shamans etc. in their states (and clearly the states are not neatly
          parcelled out one per tradition either) I can't imagine a more complex
          subject. Just in terms of the brainstates a huge amount of work would need to
          be done. Some has been, and I think it's worth checking out. (Thomas
          Mether's choice, Stanislav Grof, is worth anyone's time.) It bothers me when
          someone like McEvilley can quite comfortably state Plotinus experienced
          Nirvikalpa Samadhi! We don't know that. But he did experience something and we
          know it was beyond rationication, and we know it was philosophically
          describable as henosis which I'm sure many others more expert here can take up.

          There are a few useful positions to take IMO. Important not to _prejudge_
          sameness or difference between states, and important to listen very
          carefully to what is said about them. But given that, there are often some very
          surprising commonalities. I think a book like Emma Wilby's --
          _http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/re
          f=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1_
          (http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/ref=sr_1_1?s=b
          ooks&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1) -- comes to some very interesting
          conclusions about early modern witches and cunning folk vis-a-vis shamanistic
          traditions worldwide, things that stand some unreconstructed views on their
          heads. Basically the samenesses are much bigger than the differences
          there, and there is a goodly amount of evidence that such things simply spring
          naturally up out of the human condition and acculturate locally in whatever
          way works. Iatromanteis could be thought of similarly, although of course
          some were far from unlettered!

          Again as an example, although a maenad and a yogi might look rather
          different, they both have been said or shown to exhibit an indifference to pain.
          That is characteristic of the trance state in general too and can be
          induced with hypnosis. Three very different methods of inducing -- ecstatic
          lawless wildness, still thoughtless meditation, verbal heterosuggestion -- yet
          they do exhibit a commonality. The physical correlates of these experiences
          do change the body as well as the mind, sometimes permanently. There are
          plenty of equivalences between siddhis or charisms cross-culturally -- and
          plenty of differences too. So I wouldn't say 'not at all the same' or 'not at
          all different' especially when the exterior could mislead. (I don't know
          any maenads to test now unfortunately ^_^.) In the Chinese qigong fever
          period (1980s and 90s, see Palmer:
          _http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr=1-1_
          (http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=s
          r_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr =1-1) for a gripping account)
          still standing and gentle movement could be qigong, but so could ecstasy with
          frothing and in some cases insanity. The same goes for kundalini yoga to
          some extent. I know a bit of this from the sharp end myself.

          You can broadly divide lower from higher experiences, the latter being
          ones in which some degree of 'ultimate' is experienced. Enlightenment,
          samadhi, unification with the deity, etc., all come in there (and some shamans
          talk about this), and henosis too presumably. The degree to which such states
          are 'the same' or 'equivalent' or 'comparable' is the subject of hot
          dispute in all quarters by all means. You mention 'losing the conscious self',
          for example, but not everyone agrees that what happens in such experiences is
          equivalent to 'losing the self', in the sense of an I-consciousness --
          although in the sense of a quotidian personality, that would be different
          again. (I myself don't credit the personality with demiurgic status exactly.)

          There are lots of things that could be said about that from the purely
          neoplatonist perspective I'm sure. I would love the opinon of anyone here as
          to whether dialectic itself, or self-enquiry, could in itself induce an
          altered state. My opinion is that perhaps it could considering certain parts of
          Ennead V for example.

          Csikszentmihalyi analyzed the 'flow state' you talk about --
          _http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF
          8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1_
          (http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1) -- again,
          Lao-Tzu being Lao-Tzu, some would say that wei wu wei is related strongly
          esp. as regards say a t'ai chi practice for example, or qigong, t'ai chi
          being far more recent. Others would say that Lao-Tzu meant something related
          but wider to do with the way the world is considered by the Taoist. But
          then in general the neoplatonist rereadings of Plato (or Homer) have nothing
          on Taoist rereadings of Lao-Tzu! There are texts in the Tao Canon which
          interpret the whole of Tao Te Ching as one large treatise on breathwork and
          inner alchemy, and they are extremely interesting.

          Best wishes, hope I haven't babbled, it's my favourite subject! Jason

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]








          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Jason Wingate
          Hello Thomas, Very interesting stuff... although the traditions you re talking of haven t directly influenced me, what you re saying makes a good deal of
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 25 4:07 PM
          • 0 Attachment
            Hello Thomas,

            Very interesting stuff... although the traditions you're talking of haven't directly influenced me, what you're saying makes a good deal of sense. Indeed reason extends far beyond concrete thought-objects, and the devaluing of the discursive mind in "meditation teaching" is something I've noticed. But from what you say the dialectical forms of spirituality should be considered extremely healthy.

            You give a very 'perennialist' exposition, seeing the commonalities... could I ask you some questions? What do you see as the most important differences between the traditions you're speaking of? Obviously the objects of contemplation in Buddhism and Hesychasm differ radically -- what are the major effects of that, for example, and how do you see the difference with the henosis of Plotinus, or the theurgic goals of the later Platonists? How similar or dissimilar are these goals? (Without wanting to be controversial,) are the Catholic cloisters doing anything similar to the Orthodox ones in your view? How do your understandings of Grof play into the more general questions?

            (And why is 'theurgy' a 'naughty word'?)


            Best Jason



            ___________________________________________________
            Lightning in an Oak Box





            -----Original Message-----
            From: Thomas Mether <t_mether@...>
            To: neoplatonism <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Mon, 25 Jul 2011 20:14
            Subject: [neoplatonism] Dialectic and Concentrative Meditation and Ecstasy Re: Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...





            Both the Hesychast and Buddhist meditative traditions have a twofold contemplative/meditative component. In Buddhism, bhavana (meditative culture) has prajna (analytic/dialectic meditation - cultivation of logical power) and samadhi (concentrative absorption) practice. In Hesychasm, its diakrisis and enstasis, respectively. Ecstasis is both the ground state or raw material of Hesychast contemplative culture and its end. Ecstasis is arche and telos, image and likeness. Ecstasy is being somewhat outside oneself or beside oneself. As ground or raw material, it is thaumazein. Usually translated as "wonder" the Hesychast sense is a stronger one of being awestruck, amazed, at a loss, astonished as a basic existential state of being in the face of our contingency -- that we are and don't have to be. The journey or path or hodos from arche (which is that orginal thaumazein) to telos is the transformation of that thaumazein into contemplation (theoria).
            Divine Liturgy, as work of the people, is the Orthodox substitute for that naughty word related to thaumazein and theoria - theurgy.

            Guy Newland and John Powers give a good description of Buddhist meditative culture that could also be used to describe Hesychast meditative culture as a training in the intellectual virtues, making the functioning of nous and dianoia excellent after the model of Posterior Analytics.

            Here is Guy Newland's and John Power's points,

            "Meditation in Buddhism is twofold. One part is developing the power of concentrative calm-abiding awareness. The other part is the dialectic and the development of logical analysis, first dependent on concepts, and later at a more advanced phaseworking without concepts directly on direct experiential realizations by which both become higher insight and discriminating wisdom after they fusion together as one existential state of being and one cognitive power."
            Next, I quote from the outstanding chapter on “Meditation” in John Powers’ book, Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism (Snow Lion, 1995). His discussion draws from the descriptions and experiences of contemporary meditation masters, Geshe Gedun Lodro, Takpo Tashi Namgyal, and Geshe Lhundup Sopa. I quote-
            "Stabilizing and Analytical Meditation
            Buddhist meditation literature contains many descriptions of meditative trainings that lead to equanimity and insight. An important goal of these practices is the attainment of “a union of calm abiding and higher insight”, in which one is able to remain focused on a meditative object for as long as one wishes and at the same time to analyze its…nature." (Powers, p. 74)
            To continue with Powers’ discussion,
            "Calm abiding is held to be a necessary prerequisite for attainment of higher insight, but meditators must initially cultivate stabilizing meditation and analytical meditation separately. When one has first developed calm abiding, one is not able to remain in that state while performing analysis, and so, one must alternate between calming and analytical meditation. Through repeated practice, however, one develops the ability to maintain the two types of meditation in equal portions at the same time…This, however, is not higher insight. Higher insight occurs when one’s analytical meditation itself generates mental stability and is conjoined with physical and mental pliancy. At this point, one enters into a powerful meditative stabilization that is characterized by stability and a wisdom consciousness that understands the nature of the object of observation. The combination of stability and analysis in a single consciousness serves as a powerful
            counteragent to afflictions and is a potent tool for developing the ability to perceive emptiness directly." (ibid. pp. 79-80)
            Keeping what has been quoted in mind, we return to Newland’s discussion of the development of insight in order to directly realize sunyata according to the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path (his discussion draws from volume 3, chapters 7-9).
            "To meditate on emptiness, we must first identify our most fundamental misconceptions. Through careful practice with a teacher, meditators can learn to locate within their own experience the particular sense of self that is the deepest root of cyclic misery. Once the meditator introspectively locates very precisely the target conception of self, she uses logical analysis in meditation to see whether such a self could actually exist as it appears. Using reason to prove that it does not and could not exist, she realizes emptiness. This knowledge of emptiness, the ultimate reality of all things, is a profound certainty attained through introspective meditation and inferential reasoning."(Newland, p. 23)
            Newland goes on to say,
            "…it is still a conceptual and therefore, a dualistic kind of understanding." (ibid., 24)
            At an advanced phase, the conceptual element drops away while the logical power of discrimination fuses with the power of yogic direct perception in meditative stabilization. The analytic and logical power of dialectic is now nonconceptual as a discriminative discernment as an aspect of direct nonconceptual and unmediated awareness itself. Newland continues,
            "Strengthening their analysis of emptiness with the power of concentration, bodhisattvas gradually develop deep insight into emptiness. Through the practice of insight, their experience becomes less conceptual…Finally, they are able to know emptiness directly and nonconceptually."(ibid., p. 24)
            A common misconception is that logical analysis always works on or with a concept. On the contrary, logical analysis can work without a concept and work directly with or on a direct perception. As such, it is the discriminative clarity aspect of a yogic direct perception within the state of meditative stabilization. Concepts are left behind but the mental power of logical analysis fuses with direct awareness itself. Thus, contrary to those westerners who have just mistakenly assumed that one leaves logic and analysis behind, the powers of reason and logic are fused with meditative concentration. It is discursive concepts that are left behind -- not the power of logic, analysis, and dialectic. To continue our quotes from Newland on this point,
            "The traditional story of Siddartha’s life tells us that he mastered the techniques of meditative stabilization as taught by non-Buddhist teachers (Udraka and Arada Kalama)well before he found the middle way and attained enlightenment…[W]e might suppose that stopping…thought in a meditative state would be the most liberating move. Tsong-kha-pa argues that meditative thoughtlessness is never going to get us any closer to freedom. Understanding born of careful analysis is at the very heart of the training in wisdom. Only by engaging in this analysis, thinking it through and taking it to heart, do we begin to create the basis for real liberation…In order to find freedom, we absolutely must have meditative insight discerning – and eventually directly perceiving – emptiness. And in order to have such meditative insight, we must…use reason and analysis to understand and know the nature of reality."(ibid., p. 25, 26).
            Otherwise, meditative experience becomes a pathological form of being a blank. This description fits Hesychast practice (except the analysis is not of sunyata, of course), and I suggest, of Neoplatonic dialectic.
            Thomas Mether


            --- On Mon, 7/25/11, Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...> wrote:

            From: Jason Wingate <Jwingate2002@...>
            Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...
            To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
            Date: Monday, July 25, 2011, 12:19 PM



            David,

            It's heartening indeed to know that dialectic is providing a means to that kind of experience in this day and age!

            As far as 'altered' is concerned, I'm not wedded to it, in psychology it happens to have been standard for a while. It was only that, like you, I didn't feel 'losing one's conscious self' conveyed the right idea. jw

            ___________________________________________________
            Lightning in an Oak Box

            -----Original Message-----
            From: dgallagher <dgallagher@...>
            To: neoplatonism <neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Mon, 25 Jul 2011 16:11
            Subject: Re: [neoplatonism] Ecstatic religious experience -- WAS Re: Plato vs. Nietzs...

            Jason,

            Excellent response to Dennis. May I suggest "transformed" rather than
            "altered"?

            Most apt your pointing out it's important not to _prejudge_ sameness or
            difference, especially in terms of our preferred mode of discursive thinking
            where same and different are presumed or prejudged to be opposites. Hence,
            the reference to the genera in my preceding post.

            In response to your interest in opinion as to whether dialectic itself, or
            self-enquiry, could in itself induce an altered state, I know it to be so;
            but, again, preferring transformed to the word altered because alter, from
            the Latin, means other.

            Regarding dialectic, see Plato, Republic, VI, 511b-c. For me, Plotinus
            provides the "means" for such soaring.

            David

            In a message dated 7/24/2011 4:11:55 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
            Jwingate2002@... writes:

            Dennis,

            <<it really just refers to traditions in which one "loses one's conscious
            self">>

            I would prefer to say that consciousness is in some way altered, obviously
            a big subject. Altered consciousness occurs on a variety of triggers as
            you say, and yes there is much variety but also a great deal of commonality.
            If I'm right Thomas Mether could talk about some of that since he is aware
            of hesychasm and the differences in contemplative traditions for example.

            When it comes to what we can know about the difference between maenads,
            yogis and shamans etc. in their states (and clearly the states are not neatly
            parcelled out one per tradition either) I can't imagine a more complex
            subject. Just in terms of the brainstates a huge amount of work would need to
            be done. Some has been, and I think it's worth checking out. (Thomas
            Mether's choice, Stanislav Grof, is worth anyone's time.) It bothers me when
            someone like McEvilley can quite comfortably state Plotinus experienced
            Nirvikalpa Samadhi! We don't know that. But he did experience something and we
            know it was beyond rationication, and we know it was philosophically
            describable as henosis which I'm sure many others more expert here can take up.

            There are a few useful positions to take IMO. Important not to _prejudge_
            sameness or difference between states, and important to listen very
            carefully to what is said about them. But given that, there are often some very
            surprising commonalities. I think a book like Emma Wilby's --
            _http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/re
            f=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1_
            (http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Folk-Familiar-Spirits-Shamanistic-Traditions/dp/1845190793/ref=sr_1_1?s=b
            ooks&ie=UTF8&qid=1311535960&sr=1-1) -- comes to some very interesting
            conclusions about early modern witches and cunning folk vis-a-vis shamanistic
            traditions worldwide, things that stand some unreconstructed views on their
            heads. Basically the samenesses are much bigger than the differences
            there, and there is a goodly amount of evidence that such things simply spring
            naturally up out of the human condition and acculturate locally in whatever
            way works. Iatromanteis could be thought of similarly, although of course
            some were far from unlettered!

            Again as an example, although a maenad and a yogi might look rather
            different, they both have been said or shown to exhibit an indifference to pain.
            That is characteristic of the trance state in general too and can be
            induced with hypnosis. Three very different methods of inducing -- ecstatic
            lawless wildness, still thoughtless meditation, verbal heterosuggestion -- yet
            they do exhibit a commonality. The physical correlates of these experiences
            do change the body as well as the mind, sometimes permanently. There are
            plenty of equivalences between siddhis or charisms cross-culturally -- and
            plenty of differences too. So I wouldn't say 'not at all the same' or 'not at
            all different' especially when the exterior could mislead. (I don't know
            any maenads to test now unfortunately ^_^.) In the Chinese qigong fever
            period (1980s and 90s, see Palmer:
            _http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr=1-1_
            (http://www.amazon.com/Qigong-Fever-Science-Utopia-China/dp/0231140665/ref=s
            r_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311537262&sr =1-1) for a gripping account)
            still standing and gentle movement could be qigong, but so could ecstasy with
            frothing and in some cases insanity. The same goes for kundalini yoga to
            some extent. I know a bit of this from the sharp end myself.

            You can broadly divide lower from higher experiences, the latter being
            ones in which some degree of 'ultimate' is experienced. Enlightenment,
            samadhi, unification with the deity, etc., all come in there (and some shamans
            talk about this), and henosis too presumably. The degree to which such states
            are 'the same' or 'equivalent' or 'comparable' is the subject of hot
            dispute in all quarters by all means. You mention 'losing the conscious self',
            for example, but not everyone agrees that what happens in such experiences is
            equivalent to 'losing the self', in the sense of an I-consciousness --
            although in the sense of a quotidian personality, that would be different
            again. (I myself don't credit the personality with demiurgic status exactly.)

            There are lots of things that could be said about that from the purely
            neoplatonist perspective I'm sure. I would love the opinon of anyone here as
            to whether dialectic itself, or self-enquiry, could in itself induce an
            altered state. My opinion is that perhaps it could considering certain parts of
            Ennead V for example.

            Csikszentmihalyi analyzed the 'flow state' you talk about --
            _http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF
            8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1_
            (http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Mihaly-Csikszentmihaly/dp/0712657592/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1311536969&sr=1-1) -- again,
            Lao-Tzu being Lao-Tzu, some would say that wei wu wei is related strongly
            esp. as regards say a t'ai chi practice for example, or qigong, t'ai chi
            being far more recent. Others would say that Lao-Tzu meant something related
            but wider to do with the way the world is considered by the Taoist. But
            then in general the neoplatonist rereadings of Plato (or Homer) have nothing
            on Taoist rereadings of Lao-Tzu! There are texts in the Tao Canon which
            interpret the whole of Tao Te Ching as one large treatise on breathwork and
            inner alchemy, and they are extremely interesting.

            Best wishes, hope I haven't babbled, it's my favourite subject! Jason

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]









            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.