CONSCIOUSNESS
© C.O. Evans & J. Fudjack

Addendum I -
Final Discussion [table of contents]  [previous]  [next]


We have devoted much space in the preceding pages to presenting the theoretical reasons favoring adoption of the attentive model. We have argued that certain controversies within specific areas of science are the product of philosophical prejudices in respect of the nature of consciousness, and are resolved upon adoption of the model. And we have shown that a variety of consciousness-related topics could be understood from the common perspective the model provides.

A model of consciousness provides a language of subjective experience, one which a person can use to discourse about his or her inner states, feeling states, and consciousness. The success of a model of consciousness, then, will depend not merely upon what we have called its integrative power in respect of theory, but upon whether the language it offers is adaptable to handling the problem of reporting subjective experience. It must therefore, on the one hand, avoid the biases against the fruitful application of language to descriptions of inner states, feeling states, or consciousness, and articulate the presuppositions about consciousness embedded in our natural language. It must on the other hand, provide a perspective for determining the compatibility or lack of compatibility that technical scientific terms and theoretical constructs have with subjective experience. For to the extent that such theories have a bearing on reality they will be found, in direct proportion, to be compatible with descriptions based upon subjective experience. The perspective the attentive model offers, we suggest, is the one presented by subjective experience.

As such, it offers a fundamental understanding of the nature of consciousness which can be used by the individual to come to grips with his

-page 183-

or her life situation, by facilitating a meaningful appropriation by the individual of the theories which would explain the experiences he or she is living or the therapies or techniques which would provide instruction in directing the course the experience takes.

We must remember that the therapeutic, meditative, and biofeedback techniques we have been dealing with are techniques applied to people. They are either people who have come for relief from some form of stress or suffering, or they are people utilizing the techniques as a means to self-actualization and ultimate enlightenment. In both cases we are dealing with techniques which cannot be discussed without taking into consideration the question of how the people to whom the techniques are applied are affected by them. That is to say, they are techniques necessarily concerned with subjective experience. Thus a language of mind, a model of consciousness, an articulation no less of the understanding which their own language presupposes, makes language available to the subject of these techniques for coming to terms with the theories underlying these techniques. To show the subject a way in which he can relate his language and therefore his discourse about inner states, or subjective experience, with the theories he meets in the course of therapy or meditative training will make it possible for him to make a cognitive appropriation of those theories, and thus understand his subjective experience as explained by those theories. It will enable the theories in question to be structured in the consciousness of the individual, and thus to become presuppositions of his weltanschauung202

The people who seek therapeutic benefits from psychotherapy, meditation, or biofeedback training, are often people who wish to rid themselves

-page 184-

of the symptoms of stress. They are often drawn to such forms of therapy because they have been persuaded by the argument that stress causes tension and tension causes psychosomatic distress or pain. The techniques therefore are often described as relaxation techniques, and indeed the claim that meditative and biofeedback techniques are techniques of relaxation is not only an established fact, but one of the central discoveries of the biofeedback movement.

Accordingly, if the attentive model of consciousness can help a subject to understand how to relax, and why or in what sense the technique he is learning to use is a relaxation technique, then its practical value will have been illustrated. By helping him to understand his relaxation techniques and integrate them into his life situation it helps him to practice them more effectively.

Meditative and biofeedback techniques teach the subject that there is something over which the subject can gain control; the control of which can always be employed to bring about relaxation. That something the attentive model identifies as subsidiary awareness, and it instructs us that relaxation comes about as a result of a change in subsidiary awareness. It entails the further observation that every technique of self-control is a technique of bringing about change in subsidiary awareness. The model allows us to deduce two further observations, and both of these relate directly to subjective experience and allow us to understand that the concept of subsidiary awareness is itself a concept of subjective experience. Changes in subsidiary awareness are experienced, according to the model, as changes in feeling state. Thus the first observation we can make is that we learn to relax by

-page 185-

changing the way we feel. Relaxation consists in putting ourselves in a different feeling state. However, understanding the model means having a very precise understanding of what a feeling state is. It means understanding that the feeling state is experienced in a different manner than is an object of attention such as a passing perception, memory, or image. The concept of subsidiary awareness is a concept of subjective experience because it identifies this different manner in which a feeling state is experienced.

The subject may understand well enough what we are saying and agree that when he or she is relaxed his or her feeling state has changed but not know how to bring about the change in feeling state to the desired feeling of relaxation. The next instruction we get from the attentive model is that one way to change the feeling state is to change the objects of attention which have been occupying the subject's mind. It further would direct us to focus on making into objects of attention that of which one was having subsidiary awareness. In the most typical situation this would entail directing attention to the subject's body.

This understanding leads us to the second observation which we have asserted could be deduced from the model; namely, that we change the way we feel by changing the way we context the situation, since the contexting we do with subsidiary awareness is experienced in the mode of feeling. Either we can leave the situation (or actively rearrange it) or we can alter our bodily posture in the situation. According to the attentive model, our bodily posture is an externalization of the way we are contexting the situation, so if we alter our posture we alter, simultaneously, both our

-page 186-

attitude or the way we feel in the situation and our contexting of it. By directing attention to various parts of the body and relaxing them we melt away the contexting achieved through posturing. The relaxation of the body, measured by physiological indices, is described, at another level of description, as the dissolution of a pattern of contexting.

Thus, the attentive model, in claiming that bodily posture is experienced subsidiarily as a feeling state affords us the discovery that we can bring about a change in feeling state (and thus gain control over it to some extent) by changing bodily posture. What the subject has to do to achieve this end is make of his bodily postures his objects of attention, with the intention of undoing them. By undoing her or his postures the subject enters the state of relaxation which is the prelude to deeper meditative states and more profound psychotherapeutic encounters. For it is the first step in restructuring consciousness.

But this leads us to a third observation which the model allows us to make. The feedback relationship between underlying feeling state and object of attention, the mutual influence between the two, makes the adoption of a holistic approach to self-control obligatory. Control over bodily postures or physiological processes does not happen independently of the activity in which the subject's attention is engaged, the storyline of objects of attention he is experiencing. Attention must cooperate in the venture. Yet the direction attention takes is influenced by the feeling state the subject is in, the feeling state which is the experiential correlate of the very physiological processes he is trying to control. When we turn

-page 187-

attention in the ways prescribed for controlling bodily posture or physiological processes, in other words, we begin to feel silly, distracted, bored, or sleepy. Or when we attempt to prevent the mind from wandering in desultory fashion from one object of attention to another we soon discover more 'urgent' matters pre- empting the meditational object. Our feelings, in these cases, are automatically compensating for transgressing the limits our habitual patterns of contexting put on the activity of attention.

We are likely to end up telling ourselves in such cases, "I could deploy attention in that fashion if I felt like it, but I don't, at least not at this moment". And on the attentive model, this statement makes sense. For it is simply a way of saying that we choose the objects of attention which we feel appropriate to the situation we are in-- objects of attention, in other words, appropriate to the contexts we experience. Various tasks which demand particular sequences of attention will be successfully performed to the degree in which the context is felt to be appropriate for attending to that sequence of objects of attention. And we might say, analogously to the claim that learning is state- specific (which means that activities learned in a particular state of consciousness are more successfully performed in that state) that objects of attention are context-specific. In any case, although the appeal to feeling might explain the inability to deploy attention in unfamiliar ways it does not justify the use of such an appeal for rationalizing away the lack of control over attention. 203

And this is a significant point, since we are apt to believe that we manifest a greater control over attention than observations from simple

-page 188-

meditational experiments warrant. That is to say, we feel justified in ascribing a greater degree of control over ourselves by appealing to the fact that we do not 'feel like' turning attention in the direction in question as long as we do not recognize that our feelings reflect the contexts we experience. In this context it is important to remember that cultures and societies and their institutions impose a variety of such contexts on the individual. Individuals have what we might call a repertoire of socially sanctioned roles, each of which defines for the individual the way in which he contexts the world about him and, accordingly, achieving relaxation becomes a political activity, for what may at first glance appear to be a simple procedure for 'relaxation' will meet with resistance derived from deeply entrenched cultural attitudes implicit in the social context. It is for this reason that meditative techniques usually are accompanied by more abstract metaphysical, ethical, and social systems of thought and praxis- - ones which prescribe attitudes which are correlatives to the deeply entrenched cultural attitudes that the subject is bound to come up against at some stage in meditation-- the fear of death, the pull of ambition, guilt, or whatever.

On the attentive model, then, the first stages of the restructuring of consciousness, whether the process involved is a meditational technique, a biofeedback technique, or one which utilizes paradox or confusion, is a destructuring stage in which attention is freed from the restrictions of injurious contexting patterns and the individual gains a degree of freedom to re-learn, re-associate objects of attention with previously incompatible

-page 189-

or foreign feeling states. The person who has taken cognitive possession of the attentive model of consciousness can use it as an aid to facilitate use of these established consciousness- expansion techniques or as a framework for his or her own attempts to cope with over-rigid and repetitious patterns of contexting and bodily posturing. We offer it in the hope that it can help each one of us become more like one of Don Juan's uncanny animals which can be told apart from other animals due to the fact that they have no habits and never take the same path twice. 204


[table of contents]  [previous]  [next]


Footnotes

202. We mean to allude here to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's tenet, 'Knowledge is structured in consciousness.' See, D. Postle, Fabric of the universe (New York:Crown Publishers, 1976)
back to text

203. C.O.Evans, "Freewill and attention", Theoria to Theory (1975), p.189-205.
back to text

204. C. Castaneda, Journey to ixtlan (New York:Simon and Schuster,1972), p.101.
back to text