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States of Consciousness, by Charles Tart

  States of Consciousness

    Charles T. Tart

        17.   Higher States of Consciousness

A common reaction to the proposal for creating state-specific sciences is that the project is not necessary, that there is already a superior d-SoC for understanding things. Orthodox scientists {122} aver that the ordinary, "normal" d-SoC is the best, most rational d-SoC possible, so we need only continue the scientific research already begun in that state to ultimately find answers to all our questions. On the other hand, some people who have experienced d-ASCs believe that there are higher d-SoCs in which Truth can be directly known so we need not develop sciences in these d-SoCs, only experience them: ultimately we can experience states of enlightenment in which all that is worth knowing or attaining is known and attained.
    However, the feeling of being in direct contact with the Truth is no guarantee that such contact has actually been achieved. Such feelings are a part of being human, but such "certain truths," when acted upon, often turn out to be false. They do not work. A primary rule of science is that you must test your understandings against the observable area of reality/experience to which they apply: if observed experience does not tally with the prediction of your truth/theory/understanding, then your truth/theory/understanding is false or needs revision. Scientifically, we cannot broadly assume that any particular d-SoC is higher, in the sense of supplying more insight into truth; we must study and test the various aspects of various d-SoCs in detail. Since a principal task of science is reliable, detailed description, it seems preferable to discard the idea of higher states altogether at this stage and concentrate on description.
    Yet since experiences of d-ASCs often describe them as higher or lower states, we should, to be adequately descriptive, examine more closely the idea of higher states.
    What does a person mean when he says, "I'm high" or "I'm in a higher state of consciousness"?
    On its simplest level, the statement "I'm high" simply means that I feel better now that I did under some other condition. If I had a bad toothache a few minutes ago, and now the pain has stopped, I can say that now I'm high. I feel much better than before. If I am neurotic in my ordinary d-SoC and suffer constant tensions, fears, and anxieties, and I get drunk and feel good, again I can say I'm high by comparison. To reverse this, if I become frightened or feel sick when I am drunk, I can use the phrase "I'm high" to describe my ordinary d-SoC in which I do not feel frightened or sick.
    If, then, we clearly describe the reference states and the way in which the current state differs from it, the statement "I'm high" is a useful relative description. Unfortunately, people usually employ the phrase without any clear description of the reference state or the specific way in which the current condition differ from it. Add to this the great individual differences in ordinary d-SoCs, and the degree to which the common language of consensus reality glosses over these differences, and you can see that "I'm high" is usually an ambiguous phrase indicating only that I feel better than in some other, unknown condition. Perhaps I am in a state of fear and anxiety now and that is better than the terror I experienced a few minutes ago, or perhaps I feel blissfully at one with the whole cosmos.


Higher and Lower d-SoCs

    There is a more specific use of the adjectives higher and lower, where the user envisions some absolute ordering of d-SoCs on a value scale. Thus higher and lower become much more specific, less relative, terms. Five such value scales are discussed below. None are scientific scales in the sense of being subjected to prolonged and precise scrutiny by groups of scientists; no such scales exist at this stage of our knowledge.
    The first value scale is depicted in Figure 17-1. It is the value-scaling of d-SoCs implicitly held by most Western intellectuals. I stress that it is held implicitly: it is conveyed along with the general value system of our society in the enculturation process, without need for a teacher to say explicitly, "Complete rationality is our goal and anything less than that is an inferior, lower state of consciousness."
    The primary value in this scheme is rationality, adherence to logic and values our culture believes are true. The scheme recognizes that the ordinary state is occasionally neurotic, in that rationality is often replaced by rationalization of processes based on unconscious drives and emotions. If only we could be cured of these occasional neurotic flaws, it is reasoned, we could be completely rational (although we do not like "completely rational" to being equated with being computerlike). Dreaming is a lower d-SoC because there are many logical flaws in it and the dreamer is out of touch with (consensus) reality. Psychotic states[1] are even lower in these ways, and toxic psychoses (states induced by major poisonings) are usually the most irrational and out-of-touch states of all.
    Some ambivalent recognition is given to the value of creative states, so they are shown between ordinary rationality and dreaming. Most intellectuals consider such creative states the province of artists or fringe intellectuals, not themselves, and, since these states are associated with emotionality, they are viewed ambivalently. Marijuana intoxication is generally valued about the same as dreaming: it is irrational and out of touch, but probably not too harmful. Psychedelic-drug-induced changes in consciousness are considered more dangerous and out of touch, like psychoses.
    This ordering of these conditions and d-SoCs is not scientific for it has never been made explicit and subjected to detailed examination to determine how well it orders reality. Further, its implicitness under ordinary circumstances makes it a barrier to better understanding. When a value system or a set of assumptions is implicit, you do not know you have it, so you do not question its value. You automatically perceive and think in terms of the value/assumption system. For example, anything said by a person labeled "psychotic" must be viewed as a sign of his craziness, not to be taken at face value. Patients are crazy; the doctors are sane.
    Many individuals have valuations of d-SoCs somewhat different from the scheme shown in Figure 17-1, of course, but this generally represents the d-SoC valuation system of most intellectuals, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and scientists—the people thought to be authorities in these matters.
    A quite different valuing of d-SoCs is held by many people we can call hip. As is true of the orthodox ordering, there important individual exceptions, but the scheme fits many people, especially the young. If you are a parent whose valuation system is orthodox you may well have experienced some bitter arguments with your sons or daughters whose valuation system is hip.
    In this system (Figure 17-2) the highest states are mystical experiences, often experienced in conjunction with psychedelic-drug-induced states of meditative states. Creative states and marijuana intoxication are next in value, and some of the experiences of the higher states can be achieved in them, albeit at reduced intensity. Then comes an open or loose rationality, an ordinary d-SoC in which, because you do not take too seriously the apparent rationality of your culture's consensus reality. You can function well enough in an ordinary d-SoC, but you do not value that d-SoC as highly as do those who have no other reference experiences of higher states.
    Ordinary, neurotically flawed rationality is the next lower state. A state of complete rationality is valued somewhere between open and ordinary rationality, a reflection of existing suspicion of a totally unemotional, computerlike state. Dreaming is generally considered somewhat lower than ordinary rationality, although it is recognized that some dreams can be inspired; psychoses and toxic psychoses are at the bottom of the value continuum. As with dreaming, there is recognition that psychotic states can sometimes be very high, however.
    Which of these two value continua is true? Which is more useful?
    Neither. In neither have details about each state and the performance potential with respect to specific tasks in each state been clarified.
    Can you argue that the orthodox ordering is more workable for surviving in consensus reality? What about those other adherents to the relatively high state of ordinary rationality who order napalm dropped on children to protect them from________ (fill in your favorite-ism)? Can you argue that the hip ordering is better for realizing oneself? What about all the starving children in countries like India, where mystical states have long been considered the highest by cultural norms? Or the near total failure rate of communes of American young people who accept the hip value ordering?
    I offer not answers to these questions. Indeed, the questions and examples I have chosen are designed to illustrate how poor our understanding is at present. Higher or lower for what specific thing? That is the question we must keep constantly in mind.


Three Explicit Orderings

    Three systems for value-ordering d-SoCs are described below to illustrate that explicit and detail orderings are possible. Two are from the Buddhist tradition and one from the Arica traditions. While none of these is scientific, each is capable of being cast as a scientific theory and tested.
    Figure 17-3 presents an ordering of nine d-SoCs that are all higher than ordinary consciousness. These are d-SoCs[2] to be obtained sequentially in seeking enlightenment through a path of concentrative meditation in Buddhism.
    The underlying value dimension here might be called freedom. The Buddha taught that the ordinary state is one of suffering and entrapment in the forms and delusions of our own minds. The root cause of this suffering is attachment, the (automatized) desire to prolong pleasure and avoid pain. The journey along the Path of Concentration starts when the meditater tries to focus attention on some particular object of concentration. As he progresses, his concentration becomes more subtle and powerful and he eventually moves from formed experiences (all form has the seeds of illusion in it) to a series of formless states, culminating in the eighth jhana, where there is neither perception nor nonperception of anything.
    Figure 17-4 illustrates another succession of higher states within the Buddhist framework. Here the technique involves not one-pointed, successively refined concentration, but successively refined states of insight into the ultimate nature of one's own mind. Starting from either the state of Access Concentration (where ability to focus is quite high) or the state of Bare Insight (proficiency in noticing internal experiences), the meditater becomes increasingly able to observe the phenomena of the mind, and to see their inherently unsatisfactorily character. The ultimate goal is a state called nirodh, which is beyond awareness itself. Nirodh is the ultimate accomplishment in this particular version of Buddhism, higher than the eighth jhana on the Path of Concentration. The reader interested in more detail about these Buddhist orderings should consult Daniel Goleman's chapter to Transpersonal Psychologies {128}.
    The third ordering (Figure 17-5) is John Lilly's conceptualization of the system taught by Oscar Ichazo in Arica, Chile. More background is available in the chapter by John Lilly and Joseph Harts in Transpersonal Psychologies {128}, as well as in Lilly's Center of the Cyclone {35}.
    In the Arica ordering the value dimension is one of freedom and of which psychic center dominates consciousness. The numerical designation of each state indicates the number of cosmic laws supposedly governing that state, as expounded by Gurdjieff (see Kathy Riordan's chapter on Gurdjieff in Transpersonal Psychologies {128} and Ouspensky {48}), with a plus sign indicating positive valuation of that state. For example, in the +3 state only three laws govern; a person is less free in the +6 state, where six law govern. A minus sign indicates negative emotions. Thus the ordinary d-SoC, the-24 state, is a neurotic one of pain, guilt, fear, and other negative emotions. The-24 state is also under 96 laws, making it less free, as the number of governing laws doubles at each lower level.
    Lilly notes that this ordering of highness does not hold for all possible tasks in this scheme. The +12 state and higher, for instance, involve a progressive loss of contact with external reality and so become lower states if one has to perform some external task like driving a car or eating.
    Now, is the +24 state higher or lower than the sixth jhana? Is the state of realization on the Path of Insight higher or lower than the +3 state? Which state in these three orderings is best for coping with the world food shortage? For understanding an artist's message? For dying?
    Arguing a particular answer to any one of these or similar questions involves first fully understanding the system that defines one state, and then fully understanding the system that defines the other state. We must grasp the many implicit assumptions that underlie the world-view of each system. If we do not, we waste our time using common words that carry dissimilar implicit assumptions. When we understand the world-views behind these systems, we still must examine how well each system orders the experience/realities of its own practitioners and how well it orders and explains experiences by nonpractitioners.
    What, then, is a higher state of consciousness? It is something many of us long for; it is something some of us have put into our value ordering systems; it is a reality that exists under various sets of circumstances. But it is not something we can handle well scientifically, at least not at this stage of our knowledge. But we can begin by making our system of valuing states explicit.



    [1] I use "state" very loosely in this chapter, for we do not know whether all of these value-ordered "states" arc stable d-SoCs. (back)
    [2] We do not know enough about these states in scientific terms to be sure whether they represent nine d-SoCs with the quantum jump between each or a smaller number of d-SoCs, some of whose distinctions actually are differences in depth within a d-SoC For purposes of discussion here, however, we will assume these jhana states, and the states described in Figures 17-4 and 17-5, are all d-SoCs. (back)


Figure 17-3.
Higher states of consciousness on the
Buddhist Path of Concentration

(back to text)
Neither perception nor nonperception,
equanimity and one-pointedness.
Awareness of no-thingness
equanimity and one-pointedness.
Objectless infinite consciousness,
equanimity and one-pointedness.
Consciousness of infinite space,
equanimity and one-pointedness.
Equanimity and one-pointedness, bliss,
all feelings of bodily pleasure cease.
Feelings of bliss, one-pointedness, and
equanimity. Rapture ceases.
Feelings of rapture, bliss, one-pointedness.
No thought of primary object of concentration.
Hindering thoughts, sensory perception, and awareness of
painful bodily states all cease. Initial and unbroken sustained
attention to primary object of concentration, feelings of
rapture, bliss, and one-pointedness
Hindering thoughts overcome, other thoughts remain. Awareness
  of sensory inputs and body states, primary object of concentration 
dominates thought. Feelings of rapture, happiness, equanimity.
Initial and sustained thoughts of primary object.
Flashes of light or bodily lightness.


Figure 17-4.
Higher states of consciousness on the
Buddhist Path of Insight

(back to text)
Total cessation of consciousness.
Contemplation is quick, effortless, indefatigable.
Instantaneous knowledge of Anatta, Anicca, Dukkha.
Cessation of pain, pervasive equanimity
  Realizations of the dreadful, unsatisfactory, and wearisome nature of physical and 
mental phenomena, physical pain, arising of desire to escape these phenomena.
Perception of vanishing of mind and objects, perception fast and
flawless, disappearance of lights, rapture, etc.
Clear perception of the arising and passing of each successive mind moment,
accompanied by various phenomena such as brilliant light, rapturous feelings,
tranquility, devotion, energy, happiness, strong mindfulness, equanimity toward
objects of contemplation. Quick and clear perception,
and attachment to these newly arisen states.
These processes seen as neither pleasant nor reliable. Experience of Dukkha,
unsatisfactoriness. These processes are seen to arise and pass away at every
moment of contemplation. Experience of Anicca. Impermanence. These
dual processes are seen as devoid of self. Experience of Anatta, not-self,
as distinct and separate processes.
Mindfulness of bodily function, physical
sensations, mental states, or mind objects.
Previous attainment of access.
Concentration on path of
  Achievement of ability to notice all phenomena 
of mind, to point where interfering thoughts
do not seriously disturb practice.


Figure 17-5.
Higher states of consciousness in the Arica system.
Some still lower states are not shown.

(back to text)
Classical Satori. Fusion with Universal Mind, union with God, being
one of the creators of energy from the void. Functioning in the Ma'h
spiritual center above the head.
Being a point source of consciousness, energy, light, and love.
Astral travel and other PSI phenomena. Fusion with other entities
in time. Functioning in the path mental center in the head.
Blissful, Christ-attuned state. Reception of Baraka (Divine Grace),
cosmic love, cosmic energy, heightened bodily awareness. Highest function
of bodily and planetside consciousness, being in love, being in a positive LSD
energy state. Functioning in the Oth emotional center in the chest.
Professional Satori or basic Satori. All the needed programs are in
the unconscious of the biocomputer, operating smoothly: The self is lost
in pleasurable activities that one knows best and likes to do. Functioning
in the Kath moving center in the lower belly.
The neutral biocomputer state. Absorption and transmission of new ideas,
  reception and transmission of new data and new programs, doing, teaching, 
and learning with maximum facility. Emotionally neutral.
On the earth, excellent reality contact.
Neurotic states, negative states: Pain, guilt, fear, doing what one
has to do but in a state of pain, guilt, fear. Slightly too much alcohol,
small amount of opium, or first stages of lack of sleep.

Chapter 18

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