I will be appearing at The Society for Consciousness Studies Conference 4pm on June 3 at The Graduate Institute in New Haven.

Here is Part One of my address at the Conference in 2015.

And here is preview of my notes for next Saturday’s presentation. (It could change, but probably not much.)

Presentation: “Finding You in a World of It”
Rick Barrett
Notes: Society for Consciousness Studies Conference, June 3, 2017
Yale University/The Graduate Institute, New Haven, CT

“The nameless was there before the sky and the earth were born.
The named is the mother of the ten thousand things.
In nothingness you will see its wonders;
In things you will see its boundaries.
These two come from the same origin, although they have different names.
They emerged from somewhere deep and mysterious.
This deep and mysterious place
Is the gateway to all wonders.” Daodejing tr. Eva Wong

  • In almost forty years of study and practice in Chinese internal martial arts and in energy healing I have witnessed many phenomena that are not adequately explained by conventional scientific and/or philosophical models. To me, they are the “wonders emerging from somewhere deep and mysterious.”
  • Understanding these phenomena, thereby making them teachable skills and states of being, requires moving beyond the representational thought of the intellect to a non-representational “knowing.”
  • To make the distinctions I would like to make here, let me clarify what I mean by consciousness. It is, as psychologist George Miller said, “a word worn smooth by a million tongues.”
  • It is helpful to me distinguish consciousness from the broader category of awareness.
  • A workable definition for awareness is “responsiveness to the environment.” Consciousness here is defined as “awareness of awareness.” An amoeba could be said to be aware (responsive to environment) but lacks the hardware to qualify as conscious. We humans are aware of much more than we are conscious of.
  • Awareness that we are not yet aware of is called PreConscious. We are all aware to some degree of our heartbeat. To become conscious of it may require either getting very still or very active. Millions of bits of information are registered by our senses each second.
  • The conscious mind, the It-mind has a very narrow bandwidth, probably 15-40 bits of information per second. Take a look around the room for one second. Notice how little of all that you are aware of that you can consciously explain. Most of your awareness is PreConscious, Eye of Flesh. Your conscious mind can only give you the headlines.
  • Consciousness is the “naming” function. It is the “mother of the ten thousand things.” It establishes boundaries.
  • SuperConsciousness transcends and includes both PreConscious and Conscious levels of functioning. It is awareness beyond naming, beyond boundaries. “In nothingness you will see its wonders.”
  • The “named” and the “nameless” “come from the same origin.” “They emerged from somewhere deep and mysterious…the gateway to all wonders.”
  • These three levels of awareness  follow Bonaventure’s “Eye of Flesh,” “Eye of Mind,” and “Eye of Contemplation.” PreConscious. Conscious. SuperConscious.
  • Awareness could then be envisioned as an hourglass shape, with the Conscious mind represented by the narrow neck between PreConscious and SuperConscious.
  • Human development, as explained by Combs and Wilber, says the child moves from the sensorimotor functioning of the infant to gradually evolving intellectual development where one can recognize and name differences, similarities, and identities.
  • The developmental model leans heavily on Jean Piaget’s work. Piaget considered that intellectual development depended on increasingly more complex schemas, or patterns, learned through one’s life, beginning with simple schemas like grasping and crawling to walking, talking to reading, writing, and arithmetic and so on.
  • Combs writes, “Each level of achievement, each new and more sophisticated schema, is built from the schemas below it.” The schemas learned in the sensorimotor period become absorbed in the more complex schemas of later stages so that we can quite easily walk, chew gum, and discuss quantum physics on our cellphones all at the same time.
  • Even though the vast preponderance of awareness occurs at the PreConscious level, the self tends to identify with the more sophisticated functions of representational thought, the Conscious mind. Much of body awareness is reduced to the schemas of the Eye of Mind and the ability to name things and construct a meaningful narrative.
  • We leave the Eden of PreConsciousness when we learn to mentally objectify things and create abstractions. While this is a vital part of human development, it is also the source of suffering when the imbalance becomes too great. If we return to Eden with full consciousness, a transformation occurs.
  • When awareness is focused directly on physical sensations, absent the “naming” function of the representational mind, body-mind integration is possible. This body-mind integration leads immediately to a SuperConscious state. Much of the surprising power of Chinese internal martial arts depends on the synergy produced this way.
  • In the SuperConscious state one is not limited by the “naming” function of the Conscious mind, the “mother of the ten thousand things.” One is in “objectless awareness.” “In nothingness you will see its wonders.”
  • In the Combs/Wilber model, SuperConsciousness transcends and includes Conscious and PreConscious functioning. We can think and feel while in a SuperConscious state, often at a very high level. Athletes “in the Zone,” artists in a “Flow” state, and the taijiquan master are examples of body-mind integration in SuperConsciousness.
  • Since both martial arts and energy healing demand some predictability in results, merely labeling something is not an adequate explanation. Ken Wilber’s “Three Strands of Valid Knowledge” necessary for ascertaining validity at any level of being are:
  1. Injunction. Some practice or protocol that produces a specific result. It is a map for a particular type of experience.
  2. Apprehension. Direct experience resulting from the injunction. If you follow the map faithfully, one can replicate the desired results.
  3. Confirmation. Communal confirmation of the results by those qualified to understand the injunction and who have themselves actually performed it. (Only those who understand and have ridden a unicycle are qualified to confirm an injunction about riding unicycles.)
  • The language I use to explain these injunctions and the distinctions I make are necessary for faithful execution of the injunctions. To explain the results I draw on the Integral philosophy of Leslie Combs and Ken Wilber, the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski, the research of cell biologist James Oschman, and most important, Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue.
  • Buber’s seminal work, I and Thou, is the primary inspiration for “Finding You in a World of It.” Buber says there are two ways of consciously being in the world, “I-It” and “I-You.” In I-It, everything thing is objectified and seen as an object of experience. In I-You there are no objects, no experience, only relation.
  • Buber writes:

Those who experience do not participate in the world. For the experience is “in them” and not between them and the world.
The world does not participate in experience. It allows itself to be experienced, but it is not concerned, for it contributes nothing, and nothing happens to it.  
The world as experience belongs to the basic word I-It.
The basic word I-You establishes the world of relation.

  • The It-world is the world of the “named,” of experience, of the “ten thousand things.” Everything in the It-world has been mentally objectified, including the self. Everything is an object. “Named you see its boundaries.”
  • In the I-You we move into the “space between thoughts,” beyond the mind that compulsively names things, “objectless awareness.”
  • Buber explains:

When I confront a human being as my You and speak the basic word I-You to him, then he is no thing among things nor does he consist of things.

He is no longer He or She, limited by other Hes and Shes, a dot in the world grid of space and time, nor a condition that can be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. Neighborless and seamless, he is You and fills the firmament. Not as if there were nothing but he; but everything else lives in his light.

  • I now compare these two modes of being—I-It and I-You, the experiential and the relational—to two different operating systems on a computer. Like the one’s that drive a PC and a Mac. I can’t run my PC programs on my Mac, and vice versa. It’s not like they just use different symbols for the same things. They process information differently.
  • In the experiential, I-It mode, we objectify things (that is, we turns them into objects in our minds) and in the relational, I-You mode, there are no objects. There is only NOW. In my object-based (experiential) consciousness, I do not participate. I encounter the surfaces of things only. I concoct a narrative to make sense of what is happening. In my non-objective awareness, there is no story. I and You resonate together, “neighborless and seamless” says Buber.
  • “The basic word I-You can only be spoken with one’s whole being. The basic word I-It can never be spoken with one’s whole being.”
  • Participatory consciousness requires both operating systems, the I-It and the I-You. In I-You, we encounter someone or some thing in the present moment. In I-It, we try to make sense of what has happened and try to anticipate what will happen. This takes time to process through the nervous system. When we are thinking, the mind is no longer engaged with the present moment.
  • I call the integration of I-You and I-It “Meeting.” Meeting requires that you encounter another with your whole being while also being conscious of the context of the encounter.
  • Meeting, as I envision it, has four steps:
  1. To encounter with your whole being, you must be in a state of wholeness. In this case, wholeness is considered body-mind integration producing a highly coherent state.
  2. Mindfulness is conscious awareness of what is going on: thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and environment.
  3. Presence requires the conscious decision to occupy a moment in space and time.
  4. Relating means encountering another reciprocally, as a partner in the shared moment. We resonate together soul-to-soul, in non-objective awareness.
  • Each of these steps is distinct but interconnected. Each is necessary for Meeting. True Meeting requires SuperConsciousness.
  • Buber wrote, “All real living is meeting.”

The following injunctions are designed to provide an apprehension of each of these steps as a unique function.

  1. Coherence/wholeness.
  2. Body-mind integration.
  3. Mindfulness.
  4. Presence.
  5. Engagement.