You are pretty close. Let me give you a quick rundown of the practice and experience so that when I answer the next part of your question, you will have that as reference.StatusX said:However, you claim you are going above and beyond normal, materially correlated experience. Allow me to try to roughly explain how I interpret your description of the union, and please correct me if I'm wrong. You think the brain is sort of the physical channel of consciousness. Consciousness exists in a non-physical realm and interacts with the physical world by mingling up with the brain in some way. When you have this union experience, you are leaving the brain and experiencing pure consciousness, with no physical ties whatsoever. Is this close to what you're saying?
From the way union practice works, I’ve come to believe my consciousness is constricted by the brain. The first step toward union is letting go of the body, which is felt as the body relaxes. Surprisingly, jaw tension is the biggest factor in letting go (this is historically reported too). As one relaxes one feels one’s body energies integrate, so that is a sort of mini-union right there.
If one can learn to turn one’s attention 180 degrees around and look directly back at that point of “subjective” consciousness, and allow the mind to quiet, an inner brightness and vibrancy become apparent (these are totally independent of the senses; in fact, sensory deprivation makes them more apparent). If one can then relax into that, a very subtle and gentle pulse can be felt, and then one can relax further into that. At this point, if one can stay “with” everything, union is possible. There seems to be nothing one can do to make it happen other than to continue to focus on letting go to the inner facets without expectation.
When union does occur, one suddenly feels blended into something very bright and expansive, breathing becomes so subtle it seems suspended. Every great once in awhile (for me it’s happened maybe ten times over 30 years) very subtle harmonies seem to pass through consciousness giving it a thrill. And every once in awhile (for me, maybe once or twice a month) the merging is so complete one experiences something I can only describe as “bliss” (if I practiced more, I think I could achieve “bliss” more).
This full “bliss” experience is rich, it renders one speechless (you could talk but it’s the very last thing you want to do), and you feel like you are (okay, I know this is going to sound trippy) part of the entire universe, not just your body. Also, one’s vision is altered. Everything looks much brighter and sparkly, almost like someone changed your internal light bulb from 100 watts to 150 watts; and the view of external reality tends to look panoramic all the time (I really enjoy this part of the experience, I call it “seeing”). The brightening and panoramic aspects have become a permanent part of my conscious experience, which is also commonly reported.
Here’s a couple of favorite quotes of mine of past union practitioners to give you a sense of how people try to express the experience. The Sufi Nimatullah Wali, “In the prison of form we still rejoice—watch what we do then in the world of essence . . . we are drowned in the universal ocean, we do not seek water now.” Monastic Julian of Norwich, “And then the Lord opened my ghostly eye and shewed my soul . . . I saw the Soul as it were an endless world, and as it were a blissful kingdom.”
Yes, except I wouldn’t attribute reason or memory only to the brain. I’ll explain below.StatusX said:If so, here's the problem I see with it: How do you know? I assume you can remember the experience whenever you want. So, in some way, it is tied to your physical brain in that you were able to store it in memory. You also reason about the experience, although you claim the experience itself transcends reason. Now, I doubt you are reasoning while having the experience, as that would go against all you have said. So you are reasoning based on the memory of it. Is this correct so far?
My view is that the brain helps consciousness organize itself so that instead of being dedicated to one thing (simple awareness), it is taught to compartmentalize regions of itself for special functions (like thinking and short term memory). In union, when one is lifted out of the constriction the brain is causing, one can see what it is doing to one’s consciousness. At that time (union) one returns to wholeness, but what’s been learned about how to compartmentalize is retained. Over time one learns to prioritize the holistic experience over compartmentalizing (just to be clear, it isn’t one or the other, it is which is given first priority).StatusX said:Now, if reasoning and memory are governed by the physical brain, and not the pure sensitivity, they supervene of the laws of physics. This mean that in principle, they could be reductively explained in terms of neurons and physics. So how do you know your reasoning about the union is correct if it is governed by the very laws you have decided you've transcended?
My answer to your implied point, why there is such a correlation between brain states and consciousness, is because we are absorbed into the brain like water saturating a sponge. We are dependent on it, especially without union experience to offer another avenue of perception. Without that escape route, and personal experience of it, then I’d have to agree with your point. In fact, a lot of so-called “spiritual” people IMHO are reasoning from a view that is fully brain dependent; the idea of spirituality appeals to them, but they don’t really know much experientially. That’s partly why I believe this whole subject is not given proper consideration by the practical minded . . . i.e., because so many people are talking from imagination and what they’ve read, rather than from what they have personally experienced.
There is still another issue which is, is my description dualistic? No it isn’t, but this is too complicated of a subject to detail here. But basically the consensus among union practitioners is that the essence of consciousness and what is physical is the same primordial, existential stuff but differentiated by the conditions they are subject to. My characterization of the main difference I see is “mass.” I say that because union shows a homogeneous background substance between all the “things.” This is what the Zen monk Kakuan was talking about when he said in the experience of union, “. . . all merge in No-Thing. This heaven is so vast no message can stain it. How may a snowflake exist in a raging fire?”
I don’t get this. How am I claiming “union exists independent of your personal experience of it”? Do you mean that others have reported experiencing it? If that’s what you mean, then it is no different than using other’s reports of subjectivity to confirm such a thing exists.StatusX said:I've explained the difference before. In making subjective judgments about the subjective world, subjectivity is not just the best tool but it's the only tool. But with the union reports, you are using subjectivity to make judgments about the objective world. By objective, I don't mean material. I mean you are claiming the union exists independent of your personal experience of it. This further fact cannot be known a priori.
If you mean I am saying that union experience reveals aspects about reality unavailable to the senses (which I have said) that too is no different. We accept that sense data reflects aspects of reality don’t we? Union is simply another conscious avenue for receiving information. Some have even referred to it as a “third eye.”
Absolutely. However, you are not going to be able to make a fair evaluation based on my report alone. At a minimum, you are going to have to study the phenomenon of union experience; and to really know, you’d have to experience it for yourself. My point is simply that we should look at all the areas of human consciousness that have been reliably reported to see if it helps us understand consciousness better.StatusX said:I need to be a skeptic, to not accept a potential explanation for a phenomenon until it has been shown beyond doubt to be the only reasonable one. If I can present an coherent alternative explanation for the union reports, I call that progress. It allows us to strip them both down and determine which is the truth, which I want to find as much as you.
I cannot see how union can be passed by. It is so unusual. It produced the Buddha and, in my opinion, Jesus (and many others mostly unknown to the average physicalist ). Also in my opinion, even followers of these men today do really understand it was union (a full and permanent blissful sort, not in and out like me) that made these men so special to those who knew them. I think ethnocentric conditioning is why modern consciousness studies has decided to pooh pooh it all as weird Eastern stuff or religion.
I’m saying, forget about all the weird religious and mystical trips people have attached to it, and just focus on the experience of union itself. What is this consciousness potential? And what is it about reality that allows this consciousness potential to be realized?