THE VARIETIES OF VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE
VIRTUAL REALITIES BEYOND THE DIALOGICAL SELF
by Iona Miller, ©1993
ABSTRACT: The basis of the human psyche seems to be a collective of selves -- a multimind in a multiverse. Independent and autonomous, they relate with one another mostly unknown to the outer awareness. The extreme form of splintering seen in Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) simply reflects an extreme form of multiplicity with conflicting perspectives. The "multistate paradigm" of human nature extends toward a psychology and spirituality that is polytheistic, even pantheistic. Dialogue is a form of imagery which creates and sustains a worldview through the means of imaginal conversations.
Within the fabric of multiple centers or vortices within the psyche, an on-going dialogue emerges which ranges from selftalk (ego to ego), through "group" discussion (ego with subpersonalities), to spiritual dialogue (ego with transpersonal entities). Beyond the dialogical realm lies the unspeakable experience (untranslatable) of the Void or Clear Light, the realm of archetypal light and sound as pure consciousness. The "Word" helps us create and define reality. Conversation as well as observation defines our reality. Dialogue of the self with its various conscious and unconscious forms creates a series of "virtual realities" which form the basis of self-simulation and world-simulation. These forms are limitless in number, far beyond the classic archetypes such as persona, anima/animus, etc, suggesting the notion of "radical pluralism."
"One of the most harmful illusions that can beguile us is probably the belief that we are an indivisible, immutable, totally consistent being....Each of us is a crowd. There can be the rebel and the intellectual, the seducer and the housewife, the saboteur and the aesthete, the organizer and the bon vivant--each with its own mythology, and all more or less comfortably crowded into one single person." --Piero Ferrucci, WHAT WE MAY BE
"We conceptualize self in terms of dynamic multiplicity of relatively autonomous I positions in an imaginal landscape. The I has the possibility to move, as in a space, from one position to another in accordance with changes in situation and time. The I fluctuates among different and even opposed positions. The I has the capacity to imaginatively endow each position with a voice so that dialogical relations between positions can be established. The voices function like interacting characters in a story." --Hermans, Kempen & van Loon, "The Dialogical Self"
THE VIRTUAL REALITY OF POSSIBLE SELVES
Fictional virtual realities are constructed by aspects of the self as imaginal conversations. Imaginal dialogues play a central role in our daily lives, existing alongside actual dialogues and interactions. The dialogical self can be seen as a multiplicity of I positions or possible selves, with a decentralized, polyphonic character. This view dissolves the sharp "self-not self" boundary. Ecological fundamentalism has sought absolute truth in nature, but nature rejects this naivete. The notion of "relativity" implies that there is no absolute truth, therefore, no absolute self. Thus arises the notion of "radical pluralism", which is reflected in our chaotic modern society as exposure to virtually every religious belief, every political view, and a myriad of social values.
There is no central belief system in a pluralistic society. The social construction of reality is up for grabs. The whole concept of reality has been called into question by a variety of ideologies and lifestyles. There are widening splits within traditional belief systems. There is transition in human cultural evolution, with the new paradigm in dialogue with the old, seeking a new synthesis. The move is toward a substitution of "story" for Truth, reflecting that sense of movement, change, flow.
Perhaps the hallmark of Post-Modern philosophy has been disbelief or skepticism of all "metanarratives." The breakdowns of the story lines of religions, ideologies, even science has led to chaotic social change. We are beginning to realize, individually and as a world-wide culture that "realities" are all human constructions. The task becomes one of "catching ourselves in the act" of creating our own "reality" from the flow of events. Human truth is always an engagement of mind with experience. The sociological message of Chaos Theory and CCP is that we don't have to fear the collapse of what we think we are. We don't need to fear the collapse of our personalistic belief system, nor our belief in absolute truth.
VARIETIES OF SELF-SIMULATION
According to Tart (1990), "Contemporary neurology and psychology show that we already live in one or more internal virtual realities, generated by neurological and psychological processes. Stable patterns, stabilized systems of these internal virtual realities, constitute states of consciousness, our ordinary personality, and multiple personalities." All these aspects of self have their own dialogical component. Reality is constructed as much by "conversation" as "observation." The dialogical tendency of the psyche has been noticed and utilized by both mystics and psychologists. Examples include meditative encounters with wise figures, such as Christ, the Beloved, an Inner Healer, guide or shaman figure. The dialogue might even take place with an animal or object. Other pluralistic spiritual constructs include the chakra system and the multiple states of consciousness circuit of the Tree of Life in Qabala.
Examples from psychology include "self talk," cognitive restructuring, ego states, psychodrama, "invisible guests." Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Psychosynthesis have the technique of the "Parts' Party," round-table discussion, or board meeting, giving voice to the various semi-autonomous subpersonalities. It provides a forum for the airing of conflicting views, empathic alignment, circumspect judgment, and personification of conscience. Transactional Analysis (T.A.) posits three dialogical ego-states--Parent, Adult, and Child. The dialogical content consists of "scripts, games and rackets." Gestalt psychology uses dialogue such as the "two chair technique" to create imaginal spaces for therapeutic process.
In these "virtual realities," point-of-view is shifted between the various entities imaginally engaged in the dialogue. The participant becomes the imaginal other, and speaks "as if" that other. The self takes the actual perspective of the other, outside the self. That other may be one or several dream figures, as well as familiar or unfamiliar people, in an imaginary social world. The other is "felt" to be there. Oneself is conceived of as I (self as subject) or Me (self as object, viewed as the main figure in the story of one's life). I is observer; Me is observed. I is an author; Me is an actor in the psychodrama. I construes another person or being as a position I can occupy and this position creates an alternative perspective on the world and self. If that "other" is transpersonal in nature, the engagement becomes one of the ego with the unconscious (I-Thou), emphasizing the bodily nature of thought and imagination.
The "I" constructs an analog space and metaphorically moves in this space. I is not a center of "control" but actively engaged with the autonomous flow of primal consciousness. Transpersonal theory is wholly based on the "Dynamic-Dialectical Paradigm," conversations between the ego and the dynamic ground of psyche (Washburn, 1988). Its static representation is the "Structural-Hierarchal Paradigm." In the therapeutic context, Jungians refer to this dialectical process as "active imagination," engagement of the ego and the unconscious. Active imagination is patterned after the alchemical meditatio, which consisted of an imaginal dialogue between the alchemist and his alchemical process, personified in various forms.
Active imagintion is a process in which the imagination and the images it throws up are experienced as something separate from the ego--a "thou" or an "other"--to which the ego can relate, and with which the ego can have a dialogue (Edinger, 1972). It is a dialectic of development, like the Hegelian "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis." Narration (storytelling) puts the general human condition into the particulars of experience. It locates experience in space and time, even imaginal space and time. Imaginal others, despite their invisible quality, are typically perceived as having a spatially separated position. Metaphor--what the experience is like--is the structure producing coherent, ordered experiences.
The metaphors are usually those of physical experience. Creative engagement with chaos means direct experience of self as a changing, pluralistic, multi-dimensional entity. This existential philosophy of "dynamic co-consciousness" is process-oriented, rather than "state-oriented" even though we employ the term state to imply a stable-yet-transitory condition. This is not an experience of a static "self" moving through process, but rather existential experience of self as process. Based on a plurality of perspectives, a plurality of consciousness, a plurality of worlds, this notion means giving breath to many voices.
Dialogue reveals the essential pristine nature of the character's psyche, and psyche's character. Our consensus consciousness is not our natural condition, but a construction within cultural constraints. This construction is semi-arbitrary. The constructivist approach in psychology conceives of the self as dialogical, a view that transcends both individualism and rationalism (Hermans, Kempen & van Loon, 1992). It is a concept of self that takes the role of the body, or embodied nature of the self into consideration. It is based in the notion that story telling is cross-cultural. Narration is a root metaphor. These stories help order world and self.
We can investigate this dialogical realm which is familiar from mysticism. It creates a mind-space with multiple positions possible for multiple selves. The result is a multiplicity of dialogically interacting selves, in a variety of "as if" (virtual) realities. The free flow of fantasy as internal dialogues with various aspects of the self allows for creative development of higher thought. These fictions, like myth, may not correspond to reality, but they contain "constructs" which are freely fashioned of empirical elements. Constructs are ways in which some things are construed as being alike and yet different from others. Chaos theory and CCP are radically "de-constructionalist" metaphors.
W. Brian Arthur, an economist from Stanford University suggests that, "Science is about the creation of metaphor." Today tidy metaphors are insufficient and we need to, "go beyond order and construct systems from simple premises that turn out to be very, very messy." In terms of the structure and limitations of language, virtually anything we say or write can be contradicted. Oddly we create our essence from this paradox. Tart (1990) reminds us that Korzybski, the founder of semantics, admonishes us that "the map is not the territory." Tart adds that most of the time we prefer the map, since the map is organized and orderly. Yet, the territory tends to be messy and inconsistent. Co-consciousness on the individual level means plurality of selves; in CCP it means the virtual reality of mutually shared therapeutic space, with plurality of consciousness available to both participants simultaneously, from the infinite field of possibilities.
CO-CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE HOLOGRAPHIC PARADIGM
The holographic paradigm is a constructed model of consciousness derived from neuropsychology and quantum physics. It views the processing of mental forms as occurring within the context of part/whole relationship, where the identified part exists within the code of the whole. Against the backdrop of the holographic paradigm, the therapeutic relationship is a shared partnership, also a co-consciousness. The "cure," as insight, is already within the client, within the interactional relationship, though it has not become manifest, "unfolded" and "explicate."
The patterning or configuration of experience, intent, and behavior form a "tendency to isomorphism". The therapist sees in the clinical material through perceptual process recurrent, identifiable forms. Any small piece of clinical material may contain the total configuration, both past and future. It is the resonance or expansion and re-expansion of this awareness over time that leads to change rather than particularized insight itself. Insight does not result from learning but results from a subsequent phenomenological shift in the holographic template called insight.
Insight results from expansion and overload rather than from a specific, focused understanding. Within the process model, the total patterns of experiencing within the organismic whole which have remained unattended became the holographic blur. In other words, this part of the unconscious is not regarded as a preexisting form. Drive manifestations in thought, repressed memories, archetypal themes, and so on are particularized meanings, cognitively derived from the holographic "frequency domain"--the stage of transforming sensory data across the entire brain. Because the frequency domain deals with the density of events, time and space are collapsed in it. Not until these mathematical transforms are reversed does the object or image reappear as concrete, three-dimensional reality "out there." In the frequency domain itself there is no out there (Pribram, 1982).
Pribram's "frequency domain" is Bohm's "implicate order" while the image domain is "explicate order." The transformative process may be holographic. The manner by which old and new identities are assimilated, by which affects are released, are potentially deepened by therapeutic trance, especially process-oriented trance--absorption in the dynamic flow of psychic imagery. Sometimes the client's mental representations are dominated by form, especially that initiated by past experiences. Other times, consciousness is dominated more by formlessness, uncommitted attention, receptivity to new ideas.
Between frames, or states of consciousness are transitive or "empty" moments in which vague, unformulated experience occurs. These states make it possible to assimilate those "contents" of conscious and unconscious into the self--providing a sense of space for play and experimentation. CCP broadens the capacity to "toy" with form and formlessness. Shifts can be made back and forth, holographically reflecting back the wholeness of the self. It includes the creative capacity to be formless in consciousness, and to shift to the "form-dominated," content-focused, representational realities of ego states (Watkins, 1978).
In the shifts made from these particulari-zations of consciousness to ones of formlessness, the relational ground of the client and therapist may be said to holographically exist. In this state of formlessness of consciousness, in the safety of the therapeutic process, the client may temporarily suspend the sense of objectifying the self into a particular image reflected by others and experience "pure being." In this transitional space, the client is neither required to commit his consciousness to a particularized experience or reality, nor to a state of fantasy, though these factors are present in the whole person. The person is able to be "between channels," and to remain whole as well--an experience of somato-psychic unity. We can refer to this "state" as amorphous cognition, the nonrepresentational activity of the psyche (Arieti, 1976).
There are on-going transforms in the frequency domain. If reality as we know it is only a contraction of consciousness, process-oriented therapy may be a way of making the whole patterning of healthy, balanced self-organization more available through progressively acquired transitional states. It is possible that during co-consciousness, the therapist's and client's organizations of consciousness in some way literally and not metaphorically cross into a wave length or plane in which there is neither reality nor fantasy but the enfolded-implicate-primary reality that is mutually shared.
The metaphor is superseded by the holographic blur of a possibilities of form--form overcome by formlessness--finally free from groping around using inadequate analogies. Simulations can run through the past and future, trying different scenarios and responding in advance to probable future environments. Randomness has gotten a bad reputation because of ignorance of its power. "Purposeful randomness" is a survival mechanism in nature--a disorderly dance that is rather disorienting yet somehow rewarding. But combined with selection it yields purposeful behavior and leads to adaptation. It begins to sound a lot like dreaming. Elaborate sequences shift gradually into something quite different, hinging on some minor detail that brings forward a scene from some other story line...as if another story had been running unseen.
William Calvin (1987) postulates that, "the sequencer currently connected to the language system might be the talking-to-ourselves aspect of consciousness and foresight, but the other sequencers would still be hard at work subconsciously, busy piecing together other scenarios at random, most of them nonsense, when checked against our memories, but a few being realistic." He posits a number of independent sequencing circuits in the brain, potentially explaining much of foresight, free will, and imagination.
VORTICES OF THOUGHT
Why are structures formed? Why do repetitive patterns occur? Using David Bohm's concept of implicate and explicate ordering, Shainberg (1987) suggests that the explicate order is what we see as form. He asserts that human consciousness and language are relatively autonomous subtotalities, but they also create fixed points in this universal forming which block further transformations with inner conflict or interpersonal problems. He uses the same analogy Graywolf developed independently in CCP: these points become like rocks around which the stream of life moves.
By definition these fixations are part of the explicate as well as the implicate order. Form is not an isolated definitive outlined thing which relates to other objects. Its structure is the active process, a structuating event, that is making a relationship to all other active processes. When we experience our own relative consistency within the formative process, we assume that we are a continuous being with a capacity to respond, which we think of as our 'self,' in connection with other continuous forms.
According to Shainberg, this self-simulation becomes fixed on ideas or images of good (or bad) situations that have occurred in its experiences. It then attempts to replay them in the present because they worked (gave pleasure) in the past. When consciousness meets new situations and checks with memory for help in defining the nature of the new situation, it often depends more on memory for determining what is in front of it than it does on the perception of reality, or raw experience.
This tendency to live in terms of memory is most serious in those whose life since childhood has been tense and conflicted, and who have been able to integrate the uncertainties of their reality. While thoughts, images and feelings are processes which connect "things" in the movement of relationship, they can also fix the relationships into specific old forms. The fixation into repetitive behavior that is characteristic of human beings is part of what we might think of as the "form of repetition" in nature.
We observe that the repetition forms in consciousness when it consistently meets the present with the past. Whether it is in the form of repeating an old relationship or attempting to obtain the goal of a particular desire, consciousness uses the same mechanism to engage the present. And that mechanism is itself a repetition of a past event. So, at many levels, and among them human consciousness, nature is expressing the form of repetition. The explicate form--the memory image--becomes a nodal point which demands that a new situation becomes like an old one. When a particular thought or focus in consciousness dominates a person's behavior, this flow in human relationship is inhibited. Such foci force relating processes into a vortex by insisting that the movement of relationship stay in its orbit.
Such vortices lead to separation, conflict, emptiness. The matrix of thoughts creates a focus around which there are relationships that form a vortex and make up a fragmented subsystem, a 'relatively autonomous subtotality' which, in contrast to other subtotalities, brings about conflict with the larger whole. The vortex fragments off from the movement that is occurring in the other aspects of the universe. It is not receptive to information from those aspects.
The fixed ideas organize the relationships in the present and bring about a system of relationships that keep the vortex operating in a way which, to some extent, separates the system from the larger whole. This response repeatedly unfolds a form which restricts the movement in the implicate, but we don't seem to respond to any feedback we notice about that restriction. Despite psychological conflicts or psychosomatic illnesses the security in the repetition is read as preferable to any change. We might guess that if this form were connected with the flow of the implicate its characteristics would be transformed by the integration with that flow and the block would be released and more open relationships would unfold. But, unfacilitated, this doesn't happen with much regularity.
Without process work, such as CCP, the form maintains itself and there is no action by the brain to create a more harmonious relationship with reality. Apparently the agreement brought about by this subsystem has provided pleasure and security which is communicated to the brain as more satisfactory than the alternatives memory promises beyond the repetition of these safety measures. As children, we naturally form a center, a 'self' to focus our relationships. But that focus naturally dissolves when each ordered condition opens new relationships to other foci around us. That changing moving process of relating is after all the essential insecurity of human existence.
THE SELF THEN IS A RELATIVELY AUTONOMOUS SUBTOTALITY THAT UNFOLDS IN THE IMPLICATE AND IS DISPLAYED IN THE EXPLICATE, ONLY TO BE DISSOLVED AGAIN INTO THE IMPLICATE. Our brains are another subtotality and the responses that flow through them are part of the explicate order as well. The thoughts and images construct the self but that flow of responses in the brain includes the seductive offering which comes with the promises of security in the repetitions of memory and mother's support for identifying with some fixed ways of living.
The propaganda of consciousness seems to be that if we choose one identity, one self, one set of plans for how to be in the world, we might find security and pleasure. But dedication to the realization of that image fixes a person's relationship in the explicate order and in some sense curtails flow in the implicate order. When fixation occurs in the natural world, for example in the unfolding of genetic programming, its purpose is to maintain a balance with the whole movement of the implicate order and its connection. The curtailment of flow insinuates pathology. The life process of people caught in such an image is a circular form that operates inside its own criteria and does not connect with the elements of the reality outside of its defined fragment. What is most astounding in this image process is the way the individual commits himself completely to the virtues of the state through thought and internal dialogue.
THE REPETITIVE USE OF THOUGHT ACTS LIKE A ROCK IN A STREAM. The vortex is formed as a result of forces exercised by the form of repetition in consciousness. The pull to repeat the desirable memories draws all other relating processes of the implicate order into the orbit of the explicate focus. The person who is absorbed by the fixation of this self-image responds to those aspects of reality which enable execution of that image. But individuals who are caught in the repetitive process that makes a vortex do occasionally become aware of their fragmented condition and their inadequate relationship to the greater whole of the implicate order. Moving into realms not controlled by thought, their fixation dissolves when their behavior opens into relationships of a more formless nature. A vortex is formed based on the premise that the image provides certainty and security. The contradiction to realize the fixed image of what life should be and the movement of the implicate order creates a deep strain at the core of being. Repeating the same behavior again and again narrows the frame of mind. The fixation is dissolved through transformation by something larger than the self-simulation.
There are many different ways in which we sense the limitations of our thought and manage to find connections to the implicate order beyond. The therapeutic dialogue brings release from the trap of self-orientation. Being with another whose worldview is more expansive is part of it. So is immersion in the flow of creative process. The narration of the therapeutic process goes back and forth among the participants creating a dialog which is the matrix of a mutual virtual reality. When the dialogue partners see that thought gets into a frozen state, or that the same images are appearing chronically in different form, the process dissolves the state, and the oscillation around the vortex stops.
Discussion after the session and follow up lead to a new story about what constitutes self. Shainberg concludes that, "points of order or centers of organization are inherent to the implicate order as it unfolds into the explicate. These points always create something of a vortex around them as they provide for interactions and further relationships in that flow." Thus the new primal self-image is better adapted, stabilizing. Fixed images in consciousness are only relatively fixed points as there are numerous relationships intertwining and unfolding from them, even if they do form a vortex. We are left with the image of psyche as vortices within vortices within vortices. This image is precisely that of a "strange attractor" in chaos theory. Edward Lorenz defined it as consisting not "of a simple point, curve, or higher-dimensional manifold, but [it] contains an infinite complex of manifolds..."
MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER
Studies of dissociative states in Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) disclose that simple confabulation is not an adequate model for the syndrome. Conscious role-playing could not duplicate certain abilities. We can consider a possible role for state-dependent learning in the phenomenology of MPD (Silberman, et al, 1985). Patients may experience themselves as several discrete alter personalities who do not share consciousness or memories with one another. Disparate personality states compartmen-talize information and learning. Both drugs and mood states have been shown to induce state-specific encoding operations and retrieval strategies, and provide specific cues for accessing previous experience. Information acquired in a given state remains available in memory, but inaccessible when remembering takes place under different retrieval (state) conditions. MPD patients may provide more powerful markers and contexts for encoding and retrieving previous experience than does the conscious role playing of personality states by controls. MPD cannot be "faked," because dissociation creates super-normal phenomena in memory, cognition, learning, and psychosomatic manifestations. In contrast to classical state-dependent learning phenomena, however, which are generally more robust under free recall conditions, the partial dissociation of MPDs tended to be more pronounced under recognition. Highly dissociative MPDs may have allergies or other specific illnesses in some alters and not others. Tart (1990) offers a model for MPD based on the World Simulation Process approach. He roots its purpose in survival and adaptability by construction of rapidly functioning internal models of the real world. "Simulation" of the self, providing a sense of continuity of identity, is part of its purpose, also. It includes psychophysical coherence between self image and external reality, but usually includes a sense of an internal psychological self beyond bodily compo-nents. A core psychological pattern tends to control other aspects of the World Simulation Process, automatically organizing the rest of experience around itself in a way that further supports the basic pattern. These patterns/systems try to stabilize themselves, preserve themselves, maintain identity. For example, anger or any other core pattern can become the dominant core of the World Simulation Process, which automatically (mis)interprets sensory patterns of the world and self in a way consonant with core pattern. Since the virtual reality created by the WSP is "reality" for the time being, it is very difficult not to completely identify with the virtual reality as experienced and accept it as "real" reality. He notes that "while we ordinarily completely and automatically identify with the self that is produced by the World Simulation Process, we do not have to...There is a great freedom available, a kind of enlightenment, when you realize that the world and self you take for granted because they are an immediate perception are actually, in a vitally important way, an interpretation, a simulation, not final reality." When the WSP gives us virtual realities that differ from the real world in significant ways, we begin to behave maladaptively, creating both real world consequences and/or psychological suffering in ourselves and others. Deciding what is "real" in the world is heavily influenced by the virtual realities already created by our WSP. Tart defines a person with MPD as "someone who has two or more well developed core patterns, constellation patterns that can take over his or her World Simulation Process such that the person temporarily lives in a virtual reality that constitutes an identity, a personality, a state of consciousness...that is experientially perfectly real." He considers a "normal" person to have only one well developed pattern, yet with considerable degrees of multiplicity. The "neurotic's" WSP differs in areas of suffering and maladaptive functioning. The "psychotic" lives in a virtual reality so obviously different from the virtual reality range of "normals" that it is obviously different, perhaps constituting a threat to themselves and others. POLYTHEISTIC CONSCIOUSNESS The "multiple" model of human nature suggested by MPD research invites comparison with the work of such theorists as psychologist James Hillman, and other archetypal and imaginal psychologists, such as Bolen, Miller, and Woolger. In the conventional model of psyche proposed by modern psychology and medicine, human nature is described largely in terms of an all-important central ego. All other facets of psychic experience are considered subordinate and relative to it. Hillman has argued for a psychology that acknowledges all the myriad facets of our nature as important and integral to our general psychic well-being. Whereas Western psychology has largely tended to be "monotheistic" in its emphasis upon rational ego-awareness, Hillman has suggested the need for a more "polytheistic" view of psyche, one that might draw fruitfully from the pantheons of ancient mythology for a more fitting representation of psyche's diversity and needs. RADICAL PLURALISM The Creative Consciousness Process recognizes all these varieties of pluralism, but suggests an even more iconoclastic view--radical pluralism. CCP is not based in dialogue with any inner figures, but in "becoming" whatever image the psyche suggests within the process of flow. Thus, it moves beyond identification, beyond alters, beyond personification, beyond archetypes as godforms, even beyond humanism, into the psychoid realm of nature. The radical deconstructionalist stance promotes the direct experience of pluralistic consciousness in whatever form it appears, and fosters movement toward formlessness--destructuralization. Thus one may begin a consciousness journey as the "dream self", dream figure, or even background, but move quickly through these symbolic "doorways" to less structured forms or patterns. Rather than engaging any aspect or presentation of self in dialogue, the movement is toward one of immersion in the free flow of consciousness wherever that leads. One may become an object, a force of nature, a tiny mote, a color, a spiral, even empty space. The dialogue, or narrative, comes not from engaging imaginal figures but within the co-conscious exchange of subject and guide, a dynamic, emergent story which deepens and "carries" the process forward. The direct experience of "de-personification" of psychic elements points to the "psychoid" nature of the psyche, and fosters the realization of connection to the greater whole. One comes to perceive directly and experientially that one is potentially all of it. Consciousness seeks to take on imaginal and physical form, and we partake of that experience at any level of existence within the "virtual space" of the therapeutic context. Much like the Buddhist concept of anatman--no self or no soul--we can experience directly what it means to be pure consciousness incarnating through a multitude of forms, culminating in the impressionistic experience of formlessness. As all things, we are neither this nor that--no thing. As pure potential, all possibilities exist for re-structuring prior to the return to ordinary consciousness. We can experience directly that we are not a "self" or even "selves" moving through a concrete reality. We are consciousness in search of itself, experiencing the panoply of multitudinous, dynamic, energetic forms. The entity we are has no "stable" center in the classical sense, only an apparently contiguous memory of self and world simulation. This sense of a confined self can be radically destructured through consciousness journeys, which facilitate the perception of the flow of events. No two journeys are ever the same, though certain patterns and forms tend to persist and recur. You can never step into the same river twice. CCP helps us move deeper into the psyche, past "thinking-feeling-believing" levels of the psyche, below mythic patterning, even below primal existential patterning. Below any hierarchical systems is a state of pure being. This process of "diving deep" through the layers of acquired constructs "destratifies" perceptual consciousness leaving its pure state undiluted by interpretive overlays. The dialectical paradigm, even though it is a dynamic model, is always stuck in the narrative of "what it is like" to be actively involved in a certain condition, event, or entity. This metaphorical perception of reality is always a step removed from direct, unconditioned experience, which can only be non-reflective. That is why, in terms of Buddhist mystical states of consciousness (jhanas), in this absorption there is no-perceiver and no-perceived. It is even beyond awareness of no-thing-ness, beyond infinite consciousness. The four formless states include contemplation of infinite space, infinite consciousness, the realm of no-thing-ness, and the realm of neither perception-nor-nonperception. Daniel Goleman describes the "formless jhanas" as follows: The next level is attained by achieving the consciousness of infinite space, and then turning attention to the element of infinite awareness. Thus the thought of infinite space is abandoned, while objectless infinite consciousness remains. This marks the sixth jhana. Having mastered the sixth, the meditator attains the seventh jhana by first entering the sixth and then turning contemplation to the nonexistence of infinite conscious-ness. The seventh jhana is thus absorption with no-thing-ness, or the void, as its object. That is, consciousness has as its object the awareness of absence of any object. Mastering this jhana, the meditator then reviews it and finds any perception at all a disadvantage, its absence being more sublime. So motivated, the meditator can attain the eigth jhana by first entering the seventh, and then turning attention to the aspect of peacefulness, and away from perception of the void. The delicacy of this operation is suggested by the stipulation that there must be no hint of desire to attain this peacefulness, nor to avoid perception of no-thing-ness. Attending to the peacefulness, he reaches the ultrasubtle state where there are only residual mental formations. There is no gross perception here at all: thus "no perception"; there is ultrasubtle perception: thus "not-nonpercep-tion." This eigth jhana is called the sphere of "neither-perception-nor-nonperception." The same degree of subtlety of existence is here true of all concomitants of consciousness. NO MENTAL STATES ARE DECISIVELY PRESENT, yet residuals remain in a degree of near-absence. T
his beingness beyond all states is so subtle we can't say whether it is or is not. It is the ultimate limit of perception--the virtual reality beyond the dialogical self. CCP never strives to recreate any of these states during the journey, but time after time the flow of consciousness leads to reports which match these descriptions. Consciousness journeys function like a guided tour of potential states, potentiating them, and initiating their unfolding into the explicate as emergent and stabilizing resources. The dissolution into formlessness happens at the "edge of chaos." In this condition we speculate that free-flowing matter and energy are capable of self-organization. The implied "self" in this case is pure consciousness in dynamic evolution through multiple forms in multiple universes.
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