Levels of Consciousness

Created October 7, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

The idea that there might be a stepladder of different states of being goes back into antiquity, far earlier than the earliest written records. We all know that sometimes we’re on and sometimes we’re not.

Plato implied there were at least two states of being when he wrote, “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.”

What he meant by being conquered by oneself was allowing oneself to be taken over by incorrect inner biases, including fear, anger, conceit, vanity, ego. Conquering those things is what he meant by conquering yourself.

India during the time preceding the rise of written language – going back thousands of years before Plato – was aware of the stepladder of self, and sang about it in memorized sung poetry passed on from generation to generation. They knew that there was a spiritually elevated state of consciousness in which one became aware of being part of God. They also realized that before that stage was reached there were intermediary levels of consciousness. One of these was nivritti, the state in which one was no longer attached to the desires for sensory experiences.

Later in the development of this natural philosophy (science), Gautama Buddha developed the idea of nonattachment in language that anticipated modern psychology. The Greek Stoic philosophers including the greatest of them all Epictetus (must-read The Enchiridion) further honed these ideas into operational language that average human beings could understand, and can follow the practices that bring about this state of detachment. The Greeks saw a condensed stepladder which included hubris, the state of entrapment in ego which is the norm today vs. apatheia, the state of detachment (nivritti).

Also in India there evolved techniques for controlling the senses and which were therefore helpful in attaining detachment. Two paths are reported by Daniel Goleman in his classic The Meditative Mind: The Varieties of Meditative Experience. In this valuable work Dan shows a definite stepladder construct called the Visuddhimagga (tracing back to Buddhism), with one path involving concentration and the other path utilizing insights, both ultimately reaching the state of highest spiritual oneness with the Universe and The One Self causing it.

In India there is another map called the Chakra system, which postulates a seven-stage process anticipatory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in which the individual conquering himself/herself over the course of a lifetime (or a series of them), passes through the motivational stages of Security, Pleasure, Power, Love, Creativity, Self-Knowledge, and Self-Transcendence.

Levels of consciousness and the stages of evolution in a person’s own life are definitely related. The way they are related is that the stages in life construct is the longterm view and the levels of consciousness concept is the shortterm view. For example, in every stage of my life I experienced second-to-second changes in my level of consciousness, gradually as I moved up the chakra stages spending more and more of my time in the higher states (Observer and Flow states). You might say that the stages of life are a typology and the levels of consciousness are a phenomenology.

In Judaism, those attaining the Observer state (the lowest state in which the mind is enabled to conquer the ego by metacognition and self-metaprogramming) are called menschen (singular=mensch). In the I Ching, the “superior man” has approximately the same meaning. These are foreshortened stepladders into two possible conditions similar to the Greek hubris/apatheia, whereas other conceptions of the journey involve many more states, such as Visuddhimagga and my own map cited below, as well as an interesting stepladder created by a synthesis of the Rig Veda and Piaget’s developmental stages.

These ancient (and modern day) observations about what the mind can do are very relevant to our world today. Our own Western psychology, in a fight to gain the respect of the “harder” (easier to prove) sciences such as physics and chemistry, has straightjacketed and blindered itself into a heavy emphasis on behaviorism, because of its visibility from outside the subject. This to some extent mirrors Plato’s concerns about how our senses can be fooled, implying to modern minds the need for an external observer to observe the observer. However Plato had his own solution which was to employ the mind without the senses, which was more in line with the Eastern traditions cited above.

As a science, today’s Western psychology has skipped over the value of inner observation out of a distrust for the reporter of inner experiences. This is truly throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Our behavioristic psychology has been strongly involved with neurosis and psychosis, which definitely deserve attention, but insufficiently sparse with regard to the positive possibilities of the mind. Future psychology must repair this faster than present forces end the race too soon.

It might also be seen as a circularity of reasoning. Because individual scientists have ego, whatever they write about what happened within them internally will be distorted by their desire for self-aggrandizement, therefore  causing Western psychologists to think: let us measure third-party-observable behavior and place a stiff taboo on introspective reporting being considered acceptable within science. The reason this is circular is that without the knowledge of the techniques by which to reach higher states of consciousness we cannot get the ego out of the way; but because ego is ubiquitous in modern world culture and rules it, we are unable to learn those techniques that would remove the ego from its hypnotic Orwellian power over us, leading us to our doom.

That’s why I write about these ancient subjects, because they are a necessary part of our immediate future, if we are to have a future. The future psychology must make introspective data admissible within guardrails to be established and verified by third-party observations of behavior. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi gave us that validation system: it is the obviousness of the Flow state, a term which he coined. Some of what attracts human attention through the media is the Flow state that athletes demonstrate, as do great musicians, and performers of many types that we can see on our devices. We are appropriately awestruck watching what a human being can accomplish if they follow the requisite techniques to conquer themselves, as Plato put it.

In my book You Are The Universe, Chapter 21 is devoted to Levels of Consciousness, and offers a construct involving five levels of Flow state, starting with the Flow state of the body, and ultimately attaining the Supreme Flow state of the spirit. The levels shown in that chapter represent my own experience as organized around the map created by Oscar Ichazo and adopted by John Lilly, which was informed by the speculative stepladders of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

One of the techniques on the stairway to heaven, up Jacob’s Ladder, that is common to all religions is meditation, but it is not alone, it’s joined by contemplation and concentration. All three of these techniques require the conquering of the senses directly, one of the paths up the Visuddhimagga. The other path involving insights is represented in modern thought, for example, by my manual Mind Magic which is a compendium of mental/emotional self-interventions resulting in the conquest of oneself (specifically the ego part).

Levels of consciousness are important because in the race between education and destruction (H.G. Wells), if we as a species do not bring the subject of levels of consciousness to the forefront of the world media conversation, and into our lives as a daily regimen, we are at great risk of not being able to avert racial suicide which is visibly in its early stages even to an optimist like me. It is the failure of our science and education system worldwide (including the religions) that while maintaining the pomp and ceremony and numinous traces of the teachings of Christ and Buddha et al, we have eaten the seed and thrown away the fruit.

Getting billions of people to recognize that there is an internal stepladder to be climbed and helping them as they try to make their way up the stairway is a herculean task. I see no way around it. We definitely need to start with world leaders and would-be world leaders. May divine intervention make it so.

Love to all,

Bill

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The Future Psychology

Created September 30, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Why think about the future of psychology, aren’t the rush of current discoveries enough? We are close to proving ESP. What else do you want?

A common phrase in marketing nowadays is “early wins”. It means when you have a Big Idea, it’s good to have some immediate tangible benefits.

Physics has had a never-ending run of early wins going back as far as you can go. Rubbing two sticks together was an early win of physics, the discovery of how to cause fire. The unbroken string continues through television and atom bombs, space travel, the Internet, virtual reality, cyborgism and perhaps cyborgasm.

What has psychology done for us lately? People continue to benefit from psychotherapies of all kinds. Research continues on all fronts. Nothing quite so spectacular as physics in the pragmatic big picture.

Could there be?

Why should we postulate a possible breakthrough by which psychology can become as relevant to the average person as physics?

Because what could be more important to us than us, ourselves? Any tangible improvement in our abilities to function effectively has more value than our pastimes. (Like love and war, television and VR.)

What if that shift de-necessitated war – naturally, coming from insides of us, out. No longer needing that psychotic entertainment form.

It has to emerge naturally or it is just another feeble hope that everyone will play nice forever, despite having been killer apes since before the beginning. We have to de-evolve away from the bloodlust by natural causes, stuff like psychotherapy and yogic meditation is where the new wave will come from in psychology.

The new wave will center on the notion of helping the human race improve cognitive and all other functional capabilities of consciousness. Therefore its metrics will be guided by experimental performance trials and verified increases in individual effectiveness. Analytics will be set up to deconstruct effectiveness into separate components including such types of effectiveness as creativity, imagination, hunches, system1, system2, etc.

Should new wave psychologists focus more on the structure of the mind, or on its functions? In consciousness, structure is function. However, connecting the physical neurological manifestations which happen concurrently with experiential qualia, is one horizon at which to aim. Many are working in this field which has been ably led by Dr. Richard Davidson since he and Daniel Goleman and their famous friends including Ram Dass started the trail. Richy has identified the brain signatures of meditative states and made the connection to beneficial health effects.

“Interventions” is a term used to signify third party actions with a goal in mind. The new wave psychologists will ultimately wind up testing all sorts of interventions to determine the Efficacy Lift Score (ELS) for each one. The epigrams in my book Mind Magic will be in that long conveyor belt of interventions worth testing.

Although the general drift will be to assuage but not be dominated by one’s own ego, the ego always has a way of sneaking back in. In this case the ego will cause there to be hierarchical thinking related to levels of consciousness, where people will strive to give the appearance of having a higher level of consciousness than the others. That will be unfortunate but it will be managed with appropriate forethought.

The idea that some of us are in a more effective state of consciousness, and the experience that we ourselves have, of going up and down in level of effectiveness, leads to the notion that there are organically-defined states or levels of consciousness in a ladder, and that this will turn out to be a scientific fact.

In an earlier post, I theorized what this ladder might look like, based on the work of Abraham Maslow and of Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, and my own experiences, shown here and more detail in that post:

Given the human tendency to oversimplify, objective research into levels of consciousness may be tarred as elitist. That too can be clarified. It’s desirable not only for the one person but for all of us, for the one person to be effective. Wanting to make everyone more effective is not an elitist thought.

You have the opportunity to get ahead of the crowd. Test alternative interventions to see if they increase your effectiveness by watching these short videos, here or here.

In next week’s edition: A Brief History of Levels of Consciousness Research.

Love to all,

Bill

 

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Walking In Someone Else’s Moccasins Is Rarely Accomplished

Created September 23, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

It’s so easy to say things but so hard to ever do them actually.

That bit of advice associated with Native Americans but probably evolved within every culture in the world is most profound: put yourself in their shoes. What would you be thinking, feeling, and doing?

It requires a willing imagination to do something like that. Most of time people are just saying those things not even attempting to actually do them – because they think they already got the point, but didn’t.

Hearing any old proverb, one tends to assume they are now obeying it having been reminded of it. As if it is easy to do. Just hear it, remember agreeing with it, set it aside and express agreement, then move on, coming from exactly the same place you were in before hearing the mantra.

It is easy to actually test out the proverb, but it does require concentration, time, patience, openness, imaginal powers (many of us have let that muscle atrophy), and a genuine desire to understand the adversary of the moment.

In the Acceleritis Culture, one does not have time for such fripperies.

We might think a person is strange who actually took a minute to mentally/emotionally put himself in another person, sense what that would feel like, enduring the discomfort of the long pause in the conversation. Because it’s not just a proverb, it’s an exercise, something you make time to do, because it’s one of your responsibilities as a human being.

Some ancients in every culture came up with this same exercise and the proverb is merely the mnemonic to remind us to do the exercise, pointed at each person with whom you have any discomfort.

There was a time when the human race automatically understood stuff like this, and knew it was a level above the importance of choosing the right style or watching the right influential. Perhaps from an ethical point of view the Neanderthals were the Golden Age.

I jest to make a point. Our obligation being the stewards of right now, is to make this the Golden Age.

Admittedly that seems laughable given the darkness of the latest half decade, but we have to remember that we are the same brave people we were before the present darkness set in. That gaiety will return. It can Be Here Now.

We are all affected, we therefore are each responsible for sauve qui peut. (Save as many as you can.)

We seem to have lost respect for the dignity of the human race. Realizing this can lead us to become more courageous, serious and open-minded.

If God is watching, let’s make Her proud. (We should rotate God’s pronouns every 2000 years.)

We can’t endlessly shrink from debate with people who seek to debate with us, or seek otherwise to possibly to do us harm. “We” must speak together with “them” (the us/them tendency is built into our language) only after agreeing to keep it nice, and then keeping it nice.

Fortunately we have that age old adage exercise, Moccasin Imagination Mode (MIM). Before thinking of talking about it, see if you can begin to feel the way they do about it even just a little bit. You’ll gain an understanding of larger issues you never thought about before.

Here’s a report of my recent MIM exercise. It had been brought about by the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and then the articles about colonial brutality. In my MIM, I imagined many scenes out of many times, and felt strongly one way then another. In one vision I saw and heard the Queen saying, with a tear in one eye, “We thought we were sharing civilization.”

The tendency to demonize one another is demonic.

Share warmth.

Love to all,

Bill

 

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What Unites Us and What Divides Us

Created September 16, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Please allow me, courtesy of Wikipedia, to begin with all of the stanzas of Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner, including the fifth stanza added by Oliver Wendell Holmes Senior in 1861. For I believe that these lines most truly express what unites US:

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country, should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

When our land is illumined with Liberty’s smile,
If a foe from within strike a blow at her glory,
Down, down with the traitor that dares to defile
The flag of her stars and the page of her story!
By the millions unchained, who our birthright have gained,
We will keep her bright blazon forever unstained!
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
While the land of the free is the home of the brave.

Would you be surprised if any American would object to anything said in the Star Spangled Banner? The song has conveyed our bravery, our love for liberty, and that we acknowledge our protection by God. Well, yes, that last part about God, at least three out of ten Americans today would say “Whoa!” to that one. In fact each of the two political parties in the US are led by people who claim that God is on their side, and they’re nowadays likely to claim that the opposition is not aligned with the Almighty. So far, then, we are divided by our disagreement as to whether God is on the side of Republicans or Democrats.

How silly. Any Being worthy of being called God would not choose sides among Her children. And if my Theory of the Conscious Universe happens to be right, we are made out of Her, and represent Her, with what we think of as our self actually being The One Self, combining all opposites, all deviations, all avatars, all of us.

But from the standpoint of this article, so far, we have identified one factor (God) which has been used divisively lately. Let’s continue the analysis.

Freedom, Liberty, Individual Agency without unnatural restrictions. We all want that, right? I don’t hear any objections. Freedom is something we all want.

Willingness to fight and die for what we believe in. Troublemaking as it is, yes, it is in the core of our being, here on the continent that revolted from the old ways. We have always been fighters. Balancing that with also being better diplomats – in the class with Franklin and Jefferson – might be a good thing.

In the era of Locke and Montesquieu imagining what the optimal organization of government might be, Jefferson and other Founding Fathers became impressed by the way the Native Americans governed themselves via a “stacked-government” model, giving tribes autonomy yet coming together as a federation of tribes for accomplishing larger missions, such as increasing sediment yields to the Delaware River basin. This idea became known as federalism. We still practice it today. We fought a Civil War over it and that system’s inability to agree on a slavery policy. States’ Rights are a second factor dividing us. Or is it?

There is no question as to the power of the States today. It is an established fact. So long as there is true unrigged unobstructed unweighted voting by all, if someone does not like what the voters decided, they can move to another State. Although there is talk of changing the Constitution, States’ Rights are in no visible danger, so far as I can see. If it’s a factor that seems to be dividing us, we ought to agree publicly that we are not actually divided on that one point. What we may actually be disagreeing about are the ways in which free voting needs to be protected for the benefit of all citizens.

And we might also benefit from similarly scrutinizing what else appears to be dividing us, because in many cases we shall emerge from the process with a more specific set of disagreements, smaller and more controllable than the general animosity would suggest. If we can speak civilly to one another about such matters again I predict we will find that there is much less disagreement on specifics, and once we do that, our minds can creatively collaborate to find a synthesis in those areas of true dispute. We owe it to ourselves to attempt this and to doggedly pursue the process, point by point, until at least the hypnotized part of the divisiveness goes away.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior, son of the poet and physician of the same name who added the final stanza to the National Anthem, the son being the most famous of the Supreme Court Justices, and an intellectual thought leader who, a Republican, influenced progressives such as FDR. His 1881 Common Law is the history and logic of how the law evolved. According to History.com, “He emphasized both that the ‘life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience’ and that the law develops according to the ‘felt necessities of the time’ rather than according to any set of deductive premises.”

Thus doth the Law rest upon “the felt necessities of the time”.

That would be worrisome if our necessities are always changing. But they are always the same, or they wouldn’t be necessities in the first place. We shall always want our freedom, and most of us would want our equality. But there that equality thing – that’s a third divisive item (after God and States’ Rights). Or is it?

It’s possible to think “I myself must be treated like an equal by everyone” and at the same time say “but I work hard for my money, and I don’t want one of my equals to be a person who gets a handout out of the money I pay for taxes”.

Transfer payments are definitely a divisive factor. I first wrote about that in my 20s, suggesting that we invest in developing people with our transfer payments, with an eye toward gradually reducing the need for transfer payments.

If not the best answer, at least it suggests that we might get creative.

Those divisiveness factors we’re reviewing – God, liberty, equality, free speech (the latter item covered below) – are not meant to be an exhaustive list, so please think further and identify other causes of division.

Please do use this method of speaking civilly and peeling the onion to find where true disagreement lies (if it is there at all) and to try for solution directions to take together.

So far the list has been pretty rational and cognitive. How about that larger part of ourselves? The subconscious, emotional, non-rational part that makes 95% of our decisions according to Harvard don Gerald Zaltman?

The possibly biggest divisiveness factor is not a rational thing. It’s more of an animal-instinctive feeling: “These people are not for me at all.” Right now that’s how we are sorting ourselves into these two groups (Red and Blue), while the rest of us are trying to bring us all back to the table as citizens of the USA.

Metacognition, which humans apparently do better than the other species although the jury’s still out, is the art and science of watching what is going on in your own mind and inner theatre of feelings, and understanding the why of it. Here’s how metacognition applies to this situation.

We can actually turn the tide on this divisiveness thing by catching and neutering that automatic response of being repelled by a perceived “Other” group. Hold that automatic response with your will and your mind, like a dangerous squirming toad, and inspect it. What did it feel like? Who did it remind you of? When in life did you start to feel that way?

Don’t accept the feeling of being repelled by a person. It’s more of an alarm signal about you than about that other person. Meditate on what it is in you. In less than a week you shall definitely have a deep intuition about it.

Who said “I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”

It was Abraham Lincoln.

We are all in this together and are collectively losing the game. This shocks game theorists. Why would there be just losers? How could that even be?

The weaponry stacked around is certainly enough to make this a dead planet.

Wasn’t WWII bad enough?

We have to accept each other.

We need to be able to cooperate or none of us may survive.

Give up the “bad guy” idea. (Don’t stop incarcerating criminals convicted by due process of law, whether seditionists, murderers, rapists or whatever. No one should be exempted from such accountability to justice. It’s more useful to think of them as being psychologically diseased/unbalanced than as “bad guys”. The “bad guys” construct triggers autonomic emotional reactions that are pragmatically obstructive to solution finding. We can think more effectively and creatively without that construct.)

Then we can easily talk the rest of this out so that each tribe can be satisfied. But not if we can’t talk to each other without negative emotion flaring up. Master your selves. Talk civilly and respectfully to all.

Free Speech, the Right guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, became a divisive factor when the enormous megaphone called the Internet happened.

We felt that we were given license to say anything we pleased, true or false, whether it would hurt someone else’s feelings or not. Not all of us activated that. But many tens of millions got into it as if they had been holding it in since kindergarten. And they are now a bit stuck in it. If they try to back out of it too gracelessly they will be attacked from all sides.

The people still walking around in rage. Stop avoiding them. They need help. Have infinite patience. They will be blessed by it. You will be blessed by it. Use this post as a study guide to prepare for such meetings with your own ideas about what are the divisive factors and how can we peel each one away like an onion so that we can see reality together, agree on what we see at that moment, or do further research on any areas in which we cannot agree. But always civilly in recognition of the seriousness of the situation in which we had all better be on one side, the side of the human race, or we are quite literally doomed.

Love to all,

Bill

 

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