Mental Processes


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The transpersonal experiences revealing the Earth as an intelligent, conscious entity are corroborated by scientific evidence. Gregory Bateson, who created a brilliant synthesis of cybernetics, information and systems theory, the theory of evolution, anthropology, and psychology came to the conclusion that it was logically inevitable to assume that mental processes occurred at all levels in any system or natural phenomenon of sufficient complexity. He believed that mental processes are present in cells, organs, tissues, organisms, animal and human groups, eco-systems, and even the earth and universe as a whole.

Stanislav Grof (1931 - ) The Holotropic Mind: The Three Levels of Human Consciousness and How They Shape Our Lives
(via Andy Ilachinski)

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...and the Question is:

Do you agree with all or part of this quote?

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And of course for me this initiates a cascade of explorations, many of which will wander far afield,
as various rabbit holes present themselves and draw my attentions...
It's useful to have some sort of record of wanderings and serendipities.

My first intuition was to hunt down the context of Grof's invocation of Bateson (which turns out to be in a section discussing the Gaia Hypothesis of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis), and then to try to grasp what Grof was on about in the wider sense. This reading of Grof is certainly tangential to the Question itself, but I realized that I was too hazy about Grof (just knew that he was involved with Esalen, and that there was something about Breathwork and 'altered states of consciousness' ... I hadn't known about Grof's long involvement with psychedelics in therapy, or about perinatal matrices, or about Transpersonal Psychology, or about "morphogenetic fields"). Chalk it up as a rabbit hole...

I rented (via Amazon) and watched The Way of the Psychonaut (which is part biography, part explication of Grof's connections and methods) and found it quite fascinating.

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Some other materials that will eventually find their place somewhere:

The Brain Doesn't Create Consciousness — It Constrains It: Why we should reposition how we think of the mind. (Matthew at Medium, Member-only)
The theory that consciousness is epiphenomenal is pretty much assumed by much establishment science today. In spite of the fact that no one has ever proposed the faintest inkling of a solution to David Chalmers Hard Problem that points out that even if we mapped every atom in the brain we would not actually arrive at consciousness, the view that we will inevitably stumble upon a feature of the brain that offers us an explanation for consciousness remains strangely persistent...

The epiphenomenal view of consciousness essentially assumes that the brain "emits" consciousness. That is to say the material of the brain contains a set of processes that somehow conspire to produce consciousness 'upwards' causally, like air coming out from an air conditioner vent. This seems like the default position, especially to those who are materialist or scientifically minded, but it has some significant problems...

...a second way of viewing consciousness, not as something the brain "emits" but as something the brain "permits".

In this way of viewing consciousness, consciousness itself is a fundamental substance of reality, perhaps the fundamental substance of reality, and the brain rather than emitting consciousness like a lightbulb being turned on and generating it permits consciousness in your particular experience in the same way a voice constrains air in order to create your particular voice...

...studies of the brain on psychedelics seem to show something in common with the brains of experienced meditators. Although it remains mysterious to some extent, most significant seems to be a reduction in blood flow to an area of the brain called the default mode network...

...So do the experience of meditators, mystics, poets, visionaries or psychedelic trips allow us to witness a more universal consciousness unconstrained by the mind? It seems to me the alternative is eminently less likely, which is that consciousness is emitted by the brain from childhood and the rest of life is spent constructing a functionality that constrains it increasingly restrictively as we get older. Why does the consciousness need to be there? What on earth is it doing?

Colloquy Podcast: Meditation Changes Your Brain. Here's How Richard Davidson interview from Harvard GSAS

...meditation represents a family of exercises that involve the intentional use of our mental capacities to improve our well-being and to nurture human flourishing. You don't need to be in any special place. You don't need to be in any special posture, and you can meditate anywhere any time. ..

...there are literally hundreds of different kinds of meditation practices, and we have classified meditation into at least three broad families of practice. One we call awareness practices, and that's where mindfulness kinds of practices would be. The second we call deconstructive practices. The most important prototype for this is a kind of meditation that, for example, is most commonly done by the Dalai Lama but actually has received very little scientific attention. And it's what we call analytic meditation, where through reasoning, there is a deconstruction of the self, if you will...

...The third category is constructive practice, actually generating a specific kind of emotion. The prototype for that is compassion meditation, where you're actively and intentionally generating this quality of compassion, or it could be kindness but one of these virtuous emotions.

...awareness practices and focused attention and concentration practices mostly affect systems in the brain that are concerned with the regulation of attention. The deconstructive practices are going to affect the default mode of the brain. This is the mode of brain function that has been linked to self-referential thought. The constructive practices, particularly compassion and kindness, will activate positive emotional centers in the brain and also activate, to some extent, perspective-taking areas of the brain that also are involved in empathy.

...Meditation does not involve requiring in any way "getting rid of thoughts." Human minds and brains, at least in large part, are there to produce thoughts. The goal of meditation is not to get rid of thoughts at all. Even the greatest meditation masters, and we've been lucky to study some of them in our laboratory, have thoughts. So, meditation may involve changing our relationship to thoughts, but it doesn't involve getting rid of thoughts.

... In my view, the application of psychedelics to the treatment of specific disorders is different than the application of psychedelics to people who don't have a frank disorder and who otherwise, might be interested in meditation and/or psychedelics for the purposes of further enhancing their well-being or flourishing or spiritual development, whatever that might be.

We know that the nature of a psychedelic experience is at least in part a function of the guide or facilitator that one has....

...meditation is not about the experience we have when we're meditating. We can have all kinds of experiences when we're meditating. We can have blissful experiences. We can also have really difficult experiences. And sometimes those really difficult experiences end up being as important, if not more important than the blissful experiences. And it's not about the experience. And psychedelics produce really dramatic experiences. And often, people get very focused on the experience. And people who have had a psychedelic experience often want to recreate that experience. But it really is not about the experience.

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Another thread that came up, when considering ways to think about "the universe as a whole" as a locus for 'mental processes', invokes sci-fi representations of the consequences of Alien contact (surely a perennial subject in science fiction), and is much influenced by my recent engagement with The 3 Body Problem (the Netflix version, not the trilogy or the Chinese video version).

I find the Bateson listing of mental process locus easy to adopt for terrestrial space, but perhaps the cosmic/extraterrestrial is more of a challenge to wrap the mind around. Mental process as a property of Life seems ...evident..., and I'm easily tempted to include non-Life beings like my rock persons...

Some other Alien Invasion rabbit holes:

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'Default Mode Network' keeps coming up (as in 'analytic meditation', above), and I realized that my grasp of the DMN was hazy at best. So:

Wikipedia DMN

20 years of the default mode network: A review and synthesis Vinod Menon in Neuron 2023 (see my Kindle Notebook)

The Brain's Default Mode NetworkMarcus Raichle in Annual Review of Neuroscience 2015

The Default Mode Network Lewis Crawford 2022 via Omniscient

What are brain networks? Michael Sughrue 2022 via Omniscient the highest level, the brain can be thought to consist of seven main networks - sensorimotor system, visual system, limbic system, central executive network (CEN), default mode network (DMN), salience network and dorsal attention network (DAN).

...Deeper analysis delineates specific subnetworks responsible for specific tasks, comprising subcomponents of often multiple main networks.

One of the most important of these is the Language network which since the original Broca-Wernicke model has expanded dramatically - most recently including a previously unknown area called 55B which has been associated with muscle control when forming speech.

Connectome (Wikipedia)

Connectome Coordination Facility

Groundbreaking Images Reveal the Human Brain at Nanoscale Resolution Jeremy Gray at PetaPixel

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Thinking about the necessity (?) of a medium, a carrier for transpersonal 'mental processes' , we must deal with the notion of the noösphere and thus with both Teilhard de Chardin and Vladimir Vernadsky.

The Biosphere Vladimir Vernadsky (1927)

Teilhard de Chardin on Noösphere (1947)

(NB: benevolent universe (January 2023), and reviewing the bidding (February 2023) for allusions to Vernadsky, Gaia, etc.)

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Dark matter beyond the anthropic world Wolfgang Stegemann at Medium

...It is possible that we are reaching the epistemological limits of our existence here. For us, reality is the physical world as we know it, which we can explore with our means. Let's assume that there were a world beyond this physicality that we perceive, then it would not be accessible to us, even though it would have an effect on us. It would therefore be outside the physical framework that we can detect. This would mean that there would be either unknown forms of matter, or an unknown kind of force, which would interact with matter as we know it and shape it as it presents itself to us.

Our cognitive capacity is initially limited by the limits of our cognitive apparatus. Our senses, our brains, and our cultural experiences influence how we perceive and interpret the world. Cognition has a reconstructive character and does not represent a "true-to-life" image of the world. Our brains reconstruct reality using symbols, language, and cultural knowledge. The question of whether there is a world beyond our perception lies outside our physical framework. This world could be made of unknown matter or a new kind of force. This invisible world would interact with and influence our known matter. We could feel its effects without directly perceiving it... It must be mentioned here that unknown matter or forces or whatever have nothing to do with what is called cosmic or spiritual mind. For these are conceptual objectifications of ideas that elevate human thought to substance.

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The Collective Unconscious (from International Association of Analytical Psychology)

"The collective unconscious is a part of the psyche which can be negatively distinguished from the personal unconscious by the fact that it does not, like the latter, owe its existence to personal experience and consequently is not a personal acquisition. While the personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents which have at one time been conscious but which have disappeared from consciousness through having been forgotten or repressed, the contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness, and therefore have never been individually acquired, but owe their existence exclusively to heredity. Whereas the personal unconscious consists for the most part of complexes, the content of the collective unconscious is made up essentially of archetypes." (Jung 1936)

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ChatGPT: A Partner in Unknowing Dana Karout at Emergence Magazine

...Generative AI is based on language that currently exists. It can show us the limits of conventional knowledge and the edges of our ignorance.

...ChatGPT's designers know well what sorts of questions it is cut out to answer, precisely because there are some questions for which an "average-of-everything-on-the-internet" answer would suffice.

...In the words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke: "Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves."

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And here's another from Andy:

"Creativity gives new forms, new patterns, new ideas, new art forms. And we don't know where creativity comes from. Is it inspired from above? Welling up from below? Picked up from the air? What? Creativity is a mystery wherever you encounter it.


The beginning of wisdom, I believe, is our ability to accept an inherent messiness in our explanation of what's going on. Nowhere is it written that human minds should be able to give a full accounting of creation in all dimensions and on all levels. Ludwig Wittgenstein had the idea that philosophy should be what he called "true enough." I think that's a great idea. True enough is as true as can be gotten. The imagination is chaos. New forms are fetched out of it. The creative act is to let down the net of human imagination into the ocean of chaos on which we are suspended and then to attempt to bring out of it ideas.


What is emerging ... is an evolutionary vision of reality at every level: subatomic, atomic, chemical, biological, social, ecological, cultural, mental, economic, astronomical and cosmic."

- Rupert Sheldrake (1942 - )

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