CONSCIOUSNESS
© C.O. Evans & J. Fudjack

Part 3 - East and West [table of contents]  [previous]  [next]


In a recent book called Consciousness East and West, in a chapter devoted to the discussion of meditational states of consciousness, Pellitier and Garfield assess the literature concerning meditative systems.

There is very little theoretical or research literature that has attempted to interpret the implications of these [meditative systems for Western psychology. One major obstacle to such a dialogue between Eastern and Western systems of psychological insight has been the obscure, esoteric metaphors of the East on one extreme and the rationalistic, mechanistic, and reductionistic jargon of the West on the other. 53

If we read this assessment with the attentive model of consciousness in mind we are in a better position to account for the lack of literature attempting to interpret the implication of Eastern meditational systems for Western psychology. One of the least esoteric and yet one of the most fundamental concepts appearing in Eastern descriptions of meditation techniques is the concept of attention. As Ornstein points out,

There are many clues in other places that meditation is primarily an exercise in deployment of attention rather than in reason or concept formation. And yet the only major attempt in modern psychology to discuss the practices of meditation, using the concept of attention as the central element of analysis, has been that of Arthur Deikman. 54

Yet it is not surprising that psychologists have not taken advantage of the fundamental role of attention, since in Western psychology the terms 'attention', 'awareness', and 'consciousness' are nearly interchangeable. At best, the term 'attention' is distinguished from the others by being

-page 68-

used in such a way as to imply that the awareness or consciousness of a person is being controlled or wilfully directed by that person. Often the term 'selective attention' is added to suggest more vividly this control over or delimiting of awareness. In these psychologies awareness and consciousness are treated as basic undefined terms. In psychological theory as admittedly concerned with Eastern altered states of consciousness as is Tart's we find consciousness, awareness, and attention being conceived of in this way (see quote on page 8). Such psychologies employ a much too simplistic distinction between what is in consciousness for a person and what is not in consciousness. They use a spotlight model of consciousness and can be considered reductionistic in the sense that their use of this concept of consciousness with its oversimple distinction forces them into discussion of subtleties at some other level of description of the person, often the physiological level, in their attempt to explain, in this case, meditational techniques.

The attentive model attempts to take into account, by describing consciousness in terms of a distinction between subsidiary awareness and object of attention, what is left out of the description of consciousness by the spotlight model. We believe that it reflects more accurately than does the spotlight model the experience of being conscious; we believe our use of terms to be consistent with common usage and thus do no consider the model to be introducing a technical vocabulary or jargon. Indeed we believe that in reflecting more accurately the experience of being conscious it offers the possibility of bridging the gap between Western and

-page 69-

Easter psychological insights.

Pelletier and Garfield introduce their chapter on meditation with a short historical review of the attempts made to relate the schizophrenic experience with the mystic experience. In this context they state:

More recent investigations, such as Laing (1965,1967) and Bateson (1961), have been criticized for excessively metaphorical portrayals of the schizophrenic experience. These criticisms are usually directed against proselytizing for schizophrenia, that is, against viewing it as a "desirable" experience similar to the psychedelic experience. 55

In a work entitled "Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia", an earlier work than the one cited in the above passage, Bateson, et. al. introduce the notion of a 'double bind situation' hypothesizing "that a person caught in the double bind may develop schizophrenic symptoms." The schizophrenic is compared with the Zen pupil:

We feel that the schizophrenic finds himself continually in the same situation as the pupil, but he achieves something like disorientation rather than enlightenment. 56

In this section we shall follow this lead by comparing a meditational diagram used in Yoga with the double bind situation. This comparison will consist of an analysis of each in terms of the model of consciousness we have presented. We feel that the analyses we are about to offer do not misconstrue the discussions of either presented by the authorities in the respective fields and will try to exhibit how each analysis is well-founded in this way. We feel also, however, that these analyses will bring into relief aspects which are shared by the double bind situation and meditation with the use of the diagram that are easy to miss in descriptions using a terminology more akin to a model of consciousness other than the one we propose. In performing the task we set out there we hope to show that the

-page 70-

notion of relating schizophrenia to enlightenment by describing them as different reactions to a similar situation is not farfetched. We will then compare descriptions of the schizophrenic experience supplied by Pelletier and Garfield with descriptions of the transcendental states of consciousness of the East. In the course of this comparison we will reveal features of our model of consciousness we have not discussed previously. Our aim in these two parts is to introduce a novel approach to the problem of theoretically interpreting the implications of Eastern meditational systems for Western psychology. That we have confined ourselves to a discussion of a particular diagram, a particular theory of schizophrenia, and descriptions of the states of enlightenment and schizophrenia is not, we believe, a result of any inherent limitations of the approach we are taking. 57 Our decision to proceed in the way outlined above is a product of the desire to present the approach toward reconciliation of Eastern and Western psychological theory as concisely as possible.

The diagram we will be concerned with is a yantra or meditational diagram called the Shri Yantra. 58

-page 71-

Although the diagram appears frequently in the literature concerning Yoga and the class of diagrams of which it is a member is discussed by such authorities as Eliade and Wood, 59 the most thorough analysis of the Shri Yantra itself that we have located is given by Zimmer.

A more dynamic symbol- characteristically Indian in its rendition of growing or expanding form- is represented by the profoundly eloquent Shri Yantra, "Auspicious Yantra", "Yantra above Yantras". Though apparently no more than a geometrical device, this intricate linear composition is conceived and designed as a support to meditation- more precisely, to a concentrated visualization and intimate inner experience of the polar play and logic-shattering paradox of eternity and time. 60

After a discussion of the Yantras in general, their purpose, etc., Zimmer returns to an inspection of the Shri Yantra.

Typical of the whole class are the elements of the Shri Yantra: (1) a square outer frame, composed of straight lines broken according to a regular pattern, (2) an inclosed arrangement of concentric circles and stylized lotus petals, (3) a concentric composition of nine interpenetrating triangles. 61

He embarks upon a discussion of the various components, beginning with the frame, telling the reader that what the "frame represents is a square sanctuary with four doors opening out to the four quarters, a landing before each entrance, and a low flight of steps leading..." 62 After a digression he continues:

Returning now to the Shri Yantra, we may perceive under the abstract linear design this same primal pair [as is exhibited by a male and female figure 'in close embrace']. There are nine triangles in the figure, interpenetrating, five pointing downward, four upward. The downward-pointing triangle is a female symbol corresponding to the yoni; it is called "shakti". The upward-pointing triangle is the male, the lingam, and is called 'the fire' (vahni). .... Thus the vahni-triangles denote the male essence of the god, and the shakti-triangles the female essence of his consort.

-page 72-

The nine signify the primitive revelation of the Absolute as it differentiates into graduated polarities, the creative activity of the cosmic male and female energies on successive stages of evolution. Most important is the fact that the Absolute itself, the Really Real, is not represented. It cannot be represented; for it is beyond form and space. The Absolute is to be visualized by the concentrating devotee as a vanishing point or dot, "the drop" (bindu), amidst the interplay of all the triangles. This Bindu is the power- point, the invisible, elusive center from which the entire diagram expands. And now, whereas four of the shakti- triangles link with their represented vahni-counterparts, the fifth or inner-most, remains over, to unite with the invisible Point. This is the Primal Shakti, consort of the transcendental Shiva, creative energy as a female manifestation of the pure, quiescent Brahman, the Great Original.

Like the Shiva-Shakti images, the Shri Yantra symbolizes Life, both universal life and individual, as an incessant interaction of co-operating opposites. The five female triangles expanding from above and the four male emerging from below, signify the continuous process of creation. Like an uninterrupted series of lightning flashes they delve into each other and mirror the eternal procreative moment - a dynamism nevertheless exhibited in a static pattern of geometrical repose. This is the archetypal Hieros Gamos, or "Mystical Marriage", represented in an abstract diagram - a key to the secret of the phenomenal mirage of the world. [italics ours] 63

We are not advocating Zimmer's analysis of the Shri Yantra. Our reasons for presenting it will become apparent in due course. We have italicized various of the phrases to highlight the connection between this detailed description and the more general description appearing in the first quotation from Zimmer. The 'growing or expanding form' he mentions is identified as the upward expanding series of triangles and downward expanding series. The polar play of which he speaks is also explicated in terms of the interpenetration of these two sets of triangles. The paradox of eternity and time is revealed in a static diagram which nevertheless suggests movement; what cannot be represented has been represented, in some sense. Let us note that Zimmer's discussion of the diagram is

-page 73-

eloquently stated, but let us also note that he unfolds the symbolism of the diagram by telling us that various parts of the diagram represent various things and we may note that the relationship between that which is represented and that which does the representing is established by convention. That the square outer frame represents a square sanctuary with four doors ... etc., is, for example, not obvious by looking at the frame.

We will preface our analysis of the diagram with a brief summary of the essential steps of Yoga meditation., for this will suggest a way in which the diagram can be viewed.

In The Science of Yoga, a commentary on Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras, Taimni tells us that "In the basic literature of Yoga, the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali stand out as the most authoritative and useful book." 64 He tells us that "The three mental processes of Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi constitute Yoga proper..." 65 "The complete process beginning with Dharana and ending in Samadhi is called Samyama in Yogic terminology." 66

Learning the bodily postures and techniques for regulating the breath and having undergone certain intellectual and moral training (involving an effort that we do not mean to understate in dealing with these topics by mere mention of them) is preparatory to entering into the processes involved in Yoga proper. Entering into this stage requires fixating attention upon an object- "First, the series of objects which in the case of the ordinary man occupy the mind, one after another, are replaced by one chosen object, the 'seed' of Samadhi." 67 This first stage, Dharana, is explained: "The main work in Dharana therefore consists in keeping the mind continuously

-page 74-

engaged in the consideration of the object and to bring it back immediately as soon as the connection is broken." 68 In describing the second stage of meditation Taimni employs the notion of a field of consciousness. "As the mind is capable of holding a large variety of objects simultaneously a word has to be used to denote all these objects taken together irrespective of their nature. Pratyaya is a technical word for this total content of the mind." 69 He introduces the term Pratyaya saying that, "the word Pratyaya ... is generally used for the total content of the mind which occupies the field of consciousness at a particular time." 70 Using this notion of the totality of the field of consciousness the second stage is explicated: "...continuity of the Pratyaya is the only thing that distinguishes Dharana from Dhyana from the technical point of view." 71 We could then distinguish between the first and second stage by saying that in the first stage an object is held in attention without any shifting of attention to distracting objects while in the second stage no shifting of attitude toward the object is allowed. In the third stage the attitude toward the object is pared away. This third stage is to reduce "the subjective role of the mind to the utmost limit." 72 This stage is described as "...a new kind of movement or transformation of the mind in which consciousness begins to move in depth, as it were, and the object is denuded of its coverings or non-essential elements like name or form." 73 If we understand the object's 'coverings' to be the tacit assumptions concerning it, we have a description of the third stage as purging oneself of the tacit assumptions or attitudes in respect of the object of meditation or attention.

Returning to the Shri Yantra, how can we conceive of it as an object

-page 75-

for meditation? How is one to fixate attention on the diagram? Well, at first glance the diagram appears to be a symmetrical geometrical design and we know how to fixate attention on such a design by starting at the point of symmetry at its center. However, the Shri Yantra does not have a point around which the design is symmetrically fixed. Zimmer alludes to this by mentioning its elusive center. So in focusing attention inward toward the center we wind up at a point, line, or configuration none of which is a satisfactory center of symmetry. We find ourselves compensating the small center triangle, for instance, by widening our scope of attention to it and some counterpart that promises symmetry and in this way we are forced to widen our scope of attention in steps until we are attending to an area wide enough that it suggests symmetry. But we pass to this wider symmetry- suggestive area by a quantum leap, so to speak - we lose ourselves and find ourselves staring again at the entire configuration which suggests that the diagram is, after all, symmetrically composed. So we focus in toward the center again in search of that elusive point. We either become dissatisfied or distracted by some other activity or we discover the joke, the trick. The diagram is designed to appear symmetrical when we take it, in its entirety, as an object of attention, but is also cleverly designed so as not to have a point of symmetry. It is an illustration of paradox: not so much the paradox of time and eternity as the paradox of a symmetrical object without a point of symmetry - a logical contradiction.

It is instructive to attempt to reproduce the design, the configuration or triangles. It cannot be constructed rotely, triangle by triangle, as

-page 76-

has been suggested, 74 with accurate results. A recipe for its accurate construction, we have discovered, is possible if the illusion to be produced is kept in mind, for the pairs of seemingly identical triangles of which it is composed are actually slightly different although this difference is negligible to the eye. (That the diagram is meant to appear symmetrical when it is taken in totality as an object of attention is evident if a pencil is placed horizontally across the center - what remains above the pencil is symmetrical with what remains below, or at least apparently so, since the differences are negligible to the eye.)

In describing the class of diagrams of which the Shri Yantra is a member, Zimmer says:

A yantra may serve as (1) a representation of some personification or aspect of the divine, (2) a model for the worship of a divinity... (3) a kind of chart or schedule for the gradual evolution of a vision, while identifying the Self with its slowly varying contents, that is to say, with the divinity in all its phases of transformations. In this case the yantra contains dynamic elements.
....
The given pattern may suggest a static vision of the divinity to be worshipped, the superhuman presence to be realized, or it may develop a series of visualizations growing and unfolding from each other as the links or steps of a process.

The latter is the richer, more interesting type, and makes the greater demands upon the initiate. It works in two directions: first, forward as a course of evolution, then backwards again as a process of involution, undoing the visions previously unfolded. 75

Whereas Zimmer's analysis attempts to explicate the Shri Yantra in terms of its dynamic elements, as a diagram which induces a vision, we have pointed out that his analysis is infected with an appeal to representation. In contrast, we have been considering the diagram with respect to

-page 77-

the processes in the individual we believe it to be designed to produce, a focusing of attention inward toward the center and outward, taking a wider scope, then inward again. The expansion and shrinking of the scope of attention is cleverly induced by the diagram's design. Let us explain this in the following way. At first glance, when the diagram in its entirety is the object of attention, it suggests symmetry and attention is deflected to the part of the diagram, its center, where we would expect a point about which the rest of the diagram is symmetrical. We attend to the part with the assumption of symmetry. This assumption is implicit as an attitude toward the part. That the part we attend to does not constitute such a point of symmetry contradicts our assumption. But in widening our scope of attention, the disconcertion disappears, the contradiction eludes us and the diagram as a whole again appears symmetrical. At this stage of entertaining the diagram we are caught in a paradoxical situation, but the paradox is not apparent. It is elusive because one cannot shift his attention so as to bring the contradiction into view. The paradox, however, is felt as a sort of discomfort in trying to fixate attention on the diagram. The diagram is an illusion or magic trick analogous to a type of trick we might imagine in which an object changes as we begin to look away from it but returns to its original appearance when we turn to look toward it. But in the case of the diagram we can say that in delimiting our attention to an area of lesser scope at the center of the diagram we maintain a subsidiary awareness of the rest of the diagram, the diagram as a whole, part of which can be described as the tacit assumption that the diagram is symmetrical. The contradiction which is so befuddling can then be seen as

-page 78-

a contradiction between an implicit assumption and the explicit part or point we choose to attend to in looking for the point of symmetry. That the assumption of symmetry is one pole of the contradiction is difficult to discern because in turning back and entertaining the entire diagram as an object of attention, the diagram appears symmetrical. We can put this in the following terms. Something, X, can be part of that which we are subsidiarily aware of, or it can be an object of attention. Our experience of it as an object of attention will differ from our experience of it as a component of subsidiary awareness. But if the object itself changes to a Y when we are only subsidiarily aware of it and consistently changes back again to an X when we take it as an object of attention we have a peculiar situation in which it is difficult to discern what is wrong but feel nevertheless that something is wrong. The situation we are describing is a double bind situation and we shall discuss this classification of it but let us first note how the diagram under such a description can be seen to 'symbolize' the state of enlightenment. The realization that the diagram is a trick approximates 'enlightenment' insofar as this realization is concomitant with dropping the assumption that the diagram is symmetrical, since the third stage of Yoga, as we have described it, is one of purging oneself of assumptions or attitudes in respect of the object of meditation, a "reduction of the subjective role of the mind to the utmost limit." We shall say more about this third stage in the next part of this study. Here we only wish to remark that the diagram can be seen as inducing a realization (enlightenment of sorts) and in such a way it is a 'symbol' of transcendence.

Bateson et al introduce the notion of the double bind situation in the

-page 79-

following way.

The theory of schizophrenia presented here is based on communications analysis, and specifically on the Theory of Logical Types. From this theory and from observations of schizophrenic patients is derived a description, and the necessary conditions for, a situation called the 'double bind' - a situation in which no matter what a person does, he 'can't win'. It is hypothesized that a person caught in the double bind may develop schizophrenic symptoms. 76

The double bind situation is usually explicated in terms of a contradiction between a message and a message about that message, a meta-message. Such a contradictory pair constitutes the essential component of a double bind situation. For example, the intended receiver of the message: "Do not do so and so or I will punish you" is double-binded inasmuch as he is also subject to the meta-message: "Do not submit to my prohibitions."

The meta-message is thought to be communicated in a variety of ways, usually non-verbal.

Posture, gesture, tone of voice, meaningful action and the implications concealed in verbal comment may all be used to convey this more abstract message. 77
In fact, anything which can function to classify a message can be thought of as conveying a meta-message.
Among human beings this framing and labelling of messages and meaningful actions reaches considerable complexity, with the peculiarity that our vocabulary for such discrimination is still very poorly developed, and we rely preponderantly upon non-verbal media of posture, gesture, facial expression, intonation, and the context for the communication of these highly abstract, but vitally important, labels. 78
The context in which a message is communicated is understood to indicate how that message is to be taken:
There is a gulf between context and message (or between meta- message and message) which is of the same nature as

-page 80-

the gulf between a thing and the word or sign which stands for it, or between the members of a class and the name of the class. The context (or meta-message) classifies the message, but can never meet it on equal terms. 79

We believe that what has not been made clear in previous discussions of the double bind situation is why a contradiction between message and meta-message has the inescapable effect it is thought to have. We believe that the term 'meta-message' has confused the issue. It is easy to think of a meta-message as like a message, differing only in that it is a message about another message. If it is like a message we would expect that our experience of a meta-message is like our experience of a message. We can attend to messages and hence we may think of a meta-message also as a possible object of attention. And as long as such pairs as the sentence pair "Do not do so and so or I will punish you" - "Do not submit to my prohibitions" are taken as the paradigm for the double bind situation we shall find it hard to understand why the contradiction is not apparent to the message receiver. Although later attempts to explicate the double bind rely, as the quotation above exhibits, on identifying meta-message with context, the ramifications of this terminological development are not made explicit.

Let us consider the experience of a person caught in a double bind situation and attempt to describe it, using the terminology of our model of consciousness. First, we can imagine the person to be attending to a message. Second, we can describe the person as having certain tacit understandings in respect of that message - we can describe the person as subsidiarily aware of the context in which the message is received, or attended to. We can call those aspects of the situation he is aware of, albeit

-page 81-

subsidiarily, the experienced or felt context. Third, insofar as the situation the person is in is a double bind situation we can understand there to be some contradiction between the context as he experiences it and the message that he is attending to. With this description it is clear that for a double bind situation to be effective it is necessary that the experienced context never be allowed to become an object of attention for the person being double binded. The experienced context in question must remain in subsidiary awareness if the contradiction is to remain unexposed. The contradictory context will be experienced as a feeling of disconcertion. Let us consider a description of a double binding interpersonal interaction offered by Bateson in order to make clear how a person can be induced not to make explicit that of which he is subsidiarily aware and hence how he can be 'tricked' into experiencing the contradiction (feeling disconcerted) without becoming explicitly aware that it is a contradiction that he is experiencing.

A young man, who had fairly well recovered from a acute schizophrenic episode was visited in the hospital by his mother. He was glad to see her and impulsively put his arm around her shoulders, whereupon she stiffened. He withdrew his arm and she asked, 'Don't you love me any more?' He then blushed, and she said, 'Dear, you must not be so easily embarrassed and afraid of your feelings.' The patient was able to stay with her only a few minutes more and following her departure he assaulted an orderly and was put in the tubs. 80
Bateson continues:
Obviously, this result could have been avoided if the young man had been able to say, 'Mother, it is obvious that you become uncomfortable when I put my arm around you, and that you have difficulty accepting a gesture of affection from me.' However, the schizophrenic patient doesn't have this possibility open to him. His intense dependency and training prevents him from commenting on

-page 82-

his mother's communicative behavior, though she comments on his and forces him to accept and to attempt to deal with the complicated sequence. 81

Bateson here cites the patient's 'dependency and training' as that which prevents him from commenting on the double binding aspects of his situation, as if the patient's failure was not his failure to be aware of the double binding aspects of the situation but merely an inability to express this awareness. As an alternative let us imagine that the son was not explicitly aware of the mother's stiffening, did not notice it. Let us imagine, rather, that he was subsidiarily aware of his own kinesthetic sensations consequent upon putting his arm around her. We can understand then that his withdrawal was motivated by a feeling that something was wrong. We can say that from his point of view his feelings (experienced context) did not fit, or were not appropriate to, the object of attention he was entertaining (loveable mother). Yet insofar as he was only subsidiarily aware of the mother's stiffening he was not aware of it as stiffening on the mother's part and when he withdraws in reaction to his disconcertion she in effect denies that what he was subsidiarily aware of was her stiffening. In effect she acknowledges that he experienced feelings that were incompatible with the object (loving mother) that he was attending to but insinuates that such feelings were negative feelings about her and hence 'inappropriate'.

We can compare this sequence of events with the experience of meditating on the shri Yantra. The mother is unintentionally playing the same trick on the son that the designer of the Yantra is playing on the meditator. Insofar as the mother is the son's object of attention she is lovable, deserving of love. Yet when the son approaches her, puts his arm around

-page 83-

her, relegating her (or part of her) to subsidiary awareness, she changes in a significant way only to change back again to her previous behavior when the son becomes explicitly aware of her as an object of attention. 82 But whereas the meditator becomes aware of the trick and hence the wiser in realizing the mechanism, how are we to understand the result of the double bind situation to the schizophrenic?

A significant difference between the meditator and potential schizophrenic is that the meditator begins meditation with what we will call his attention-deflection habits or mechanisms well established and intact. We suggest that the potential schizophrenic has been prevented from establishing such habits, or experiences a breakdown of such mechanisms. What we mean by attention deflection is the ability to shift attention from one object of attention to another while maintaining an awareness of the initial object, albeit a subsidiary awareness. This ability is none other than the ability to hold something in mind while shifting attention to something else. Yet it is this primitive capability that is retarded by subjecting a person repeatedly and at an early age to the double bind situation as we have described it. For as we have described it, being subjected to the double bind situation is being subjected to a situation in which an object, in having its status shifted from object to attention to component of subsidiary awareness, does not maintain its identity. Not only is the experience of the object different insofar as it is experienced through subsidiary awareness rather than as an object of attention - the object itself has systematically changed, has not maintained its previous identity. Repeated experiences of this type would suggest to the person undergoing them that

-page 84-

that ability we are calling attention deflection is not possible. The person would, in other words, be prevented from learning the art of contexting and might be described as experiencing the world in a state of consciousness employing mere attention shifts, as opposed to attention deflection. Such a state of consciousness would be like experiencing the world as a sequence of objects of attention without the underlying continuity of an experienced context. (It is interesting to note that this state of consciousness most nearly approximates the type of consciousness described by the model of consciousness we have called the spotlight model. But the spotlight model also intends to describe normal states of consciousness and it lacks the fine distinction between subsidiary awareness and object of attention, hence it becomes difficult, using the spotlight model, to distinguish the schizophrenic and normal states.)

Bateson, in the following, is describing the result of double binding on a subject. Although he chooses to speak in terms of messages and meta-messages it is not difficult to translate this terminology and see that he is describing a state of consciousness in which there is a shifting of attention but no simultaneous experience of context. We have put in italics those parts of the passage that could be translated in this way in order to bring them into relief.

If an individual has spent his life in the kind of double bind relationship described here, his way of relating to people after a psychotic break would have a systematic pattern. First, he would not share with normal people those signals which accompany messages to indicate what a person means. His metacommunicative system - the communications about communications - would

-page 85-

have broken down, and he would not know what kind of message a message was83

The absence of meta-communicative framing which was noted in the case of dreams (15) is characteristic of the waking communications of the schizophrenic. 84

Bateson is clearly speaking of an absence of the ability to context or frame objects of attention. What would such an experience be like?
When I move quickly it's a strain on me. Things go too quick for my mind. They get blurred and it's like being blind. It's as if you were seeing a picture one moment and another picture the next. I just stop and watch my feet. Everything is all right if I stop, but if I start moving again I lose control. [Italics ours] 85

The above quotation is a first person account cited by Pelletier and Garfield as exemplifying the loss of the ability to qualitatively differentiate 'between internal and external stimuli' that occur in incipient schizophrenia and LSD reactions. Elsewhere the authors mention that:

In brief, individuals in the SSC [Schizophrenic State of Consciousness] do manifest a hypersensitivity to low-to- moderate range intensity stimulation. Since they are focusing on and responding to marginal stimuli more intensely, they need protection from maximal-intensity stimulation. The compensatory adaptation of hypo-responsiveness to the latter range of stimuli serves as the necessary protective adjustment. [italics ours] 86

We are interpreting this passage to indicate a breakdown of contexting abilities. The schizophrenic, we suggest, will attempt to attend to all stimulation, having been induced to give up on the possibility of organizing experience of the world by breaking it down into an object of attention and a context of which there is subsidiary awareness. 86a (This description obviates the necessity of appealing to the notion of a 'compensatory adaptation of hypo- responsiveness to ... maximal intensity stimulation'.)

Consider the following descriptions in this context (italicizing ours):

-page 86-

...a suspension and/or alteration of those psychological mechanisms that 'organize, limit, select and interpret perceptual stimuli or the undoing of automatic perceptual and cognitive structures [which] permit a gain in sensory intensity and richness at the expense of abstract categorization and differentiation.' 87

"(1) Hyperattentiveness to a narrow range of sensory and ideational stimuli and (2) hypoattentiveness to ordinarily responded to attributes of the environment." 88

As a response to heightened sensory stimulation, both the schizophrenic and the LSD user experience themselves as bound to incidental stimuli. Often distressing is the fact that these stimuli may be incidental while compulsion to attend is experienced as intense and unpredictable. The results of this lack-of-attention inhibition may vary from irritability and confusion to the experience of dissolution of perceptual gestalts. We agree with Silverman's (1969) observation that hypersensitivity to minutiae and hypo-responsiveness to logically higher-order aspects of the perceptual field are, at minimum, antecedents to thought disorder. 89

Behaviour such as maintaining a fixed gaze, closing the eyes, and hiding in corners is an attempt to avoid interaction. Most patients report a blocking phenomena that is most aptly defined by the following subjective report: "I don't like dividing my attention at anytime because it leads to confusion and I don't know where I am or who I am. When this starts I just go into a trance and I just turn off all my senses and I don't see anything and I don't hear anything." (Chapman, 1966) 90

The schizophrenic is attending to what we normally are only subsidiarily aware of and his lack of contexting abilities accounts for the lack of continuity which experienced context provides, hence he appears confused and over-stimulated while at the same time appearing unable to attend to the attributes of the environment we 'normally' attend to.

Of particular interest is the potential of ASC phenomena to illuminate many mysteries of the phenomenology of the self, which is the core consideration of any psychological science. 91

-page 87-

So say Pelletier and Garfield who describe the schizophrenic as undergoing an "experienced loss of an immediate and continuous sense of self." 92 Indeed, they contend that,

What is common to [psychosis, meditative, and drug induced states] is the suspension of the ordinary conception of identity; this experience, according to all religious tradition, is an essential prerequisite to comprehending the true nature of the self. 93

In the preceding discussion of Yoga and schizophrenia we have laid the groundwork for discerning a common feature of the state of enlightenment and schizophrenia. We viewed the schizophrenic experience in terms of an absence of framing or contexting and we quoted a description of the third stage of Yoga meditation as a reduction of "the subjective role of the mind to the utmost limit." 94 We cited a passage from Bateson which compared the relationship between context and message (or, object of attention) with the relationship between word and thing, and saw the third stage of Yoga meditation described as "a new kind of movement or transformation of the mind in which consciousness begins to move in depth, as it were, and the object is denuded of its coverings or non-essential elements like name or form." 95 The absence of experienced context, reduction of subjective role, paring away of conceptual attitudes -- such phrases suggest that what schizophrenia and enlightenment have in common they have in common by virtue of being types of consciousness that depart from normal or everyday consciousness in that such states of consciousness do not permit description in terms of a bifurcation into a subsidiary awareness and an object of attention standing in relation of ground to figure. It is our contention that such states of consciousness are non-normal or 'altered' insofar as

-page 88-

they are exceptions to the model of consciousness which conceives of consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention. 96 It is also our contention that insofar as these states transcend or eliminate this fundamental bifurcation of consciousness they result in an 'experienced loss of an immediate and continuous sense of self', a 'suspension of the ordinary conception of identity".

What we are saying, in other words, is that the experience of loss of immediate and continuous sense of self is a necessary consequence of the absence of experienced context. We are subsidiarily aware of context and refer to this awareness in speaking of tacit assumptions and implicit themes. When this awareness of context is attenuated - when there is an absence of experienced context, a reduction of the subjective role of the mind to its utmost limit, a dropping off of implicit attitudes toward an object of attention - there will be a concomitant loss-of-self phenomenon.

We have proposed a model of consciousness which conceives of everyday or normal consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention and now propose to identify the 'self' or 'subject' of consciousness with subsidiary awareness. In doing this we add a new dimension to our model of consciousness and can describe consciousness (normal consciousness) in terms of the polarity self- object.

Authorities on Eastern religions have in essence identified self with subsidiary awareness. The third stage of Yoga meditation which is described as a reduction to the utmost limit of the subjective mind, a denuding the object of attention of its coverings, we have redescribed as a loss of experienced context, an attenuation of subsidiary awareness. Taimni speaks

-page 89-

of Samadhi, the state which is attained by this process, in terms of "the absence of the mental self-awareness which makes the object shine in a new light." 97 Eliade speaks of it as follows:

the recovery, through Samadhi, of the original non-duality introduces a new element in respect of the primordial situation (that which existed before the twofold division of the real into object-subject). 98

The new element of which Eliade speaks is a freedom from conditioning. The normal consciousness is 'conditioned' in the sense that in normal consciousness we identify ourselves with the prevailing condition or situation -- we experience context through subsidiary awareness but experience it by the mode of feeling. We hold the context in mind while attending to an object, but experience awareness of the context as a feeling about the object. In a manner of speaking we are the experienced context. At any given moment we are the tacit assumptions we make about the object of attention at that moment. Our personalities can be described in terms of the unique habits each of us as individuals have in contexting objects of attention. And sometimes, as our analysis of the work of Bandler and Grinder would have it, our patterns of contexting render certain elements of experience habitually tacit, which can cause self-inflicted suffering.

Perhaps we can distinguish between the experience of schizophrenia and the experience of enlightenment by recalling that the enlightenment experience is prepared for by training in what to expect. The initiate in meditation is told in one form or other to expect a loss-of-self phenomenon, and is prepared for this by being made to follow the prescriptions that would have him regulate his desires and fears, assume an attitude of non-attachment to objects and adopt a stance of non-involvement in his feelings.

-page 90-

The schizophrenic may simply be ill-prepared for this novel state of consciousness and complain of loss of feeling, loss-of-self, etc.:

Perhaps the most marked contrast between the two ASC's (schizophrenia and enlightenment) is in the ability of the individual to deal with the dissolution of the ego and with his break with outer reality. 99
We have been appealing to the East's discussion of transcendental states of consciousness to see what they can tell us about normal states of consciousness by way of contrast. And in this work we hope to do no more than indicate that such discussions tend to support the view that normal consciousness is fundamentally organized into an object of attention and a subsidiary awareness and that the existence of subsidiary awareness provides for a sense of continuity of self in normal consciousness. But in identifying the self with subsidiary awareness we also have in mind a previous work by one of the authors of this present work which proposed a solution to philosophical problems regarding the nature of the self that have appeared in the Western tradition and date back to Hume. This solution entailed identifying the self with what in that work was referred to as 'unprojected conscious- ness' and is here referred to as 'subsidiary awareness'. 100
[table of contents]  [previous]  [next]


Footnotes

53. K.R. Pelletier and C. Garfield, op.cit., p.119.
back to text

54. C. Naranjo and R.E. Ornstein, On the psychology of meditation (New York:The Viking Press,1971), p.142.
back to text

55. K.R. Pelletier and C. Garfield, op.cit., p.105.
back to text

56. G Bateson, op.cit., p.179.
back to text

57. We take the space to briefly mention two further possibilities of comparing Eastern and Western psychological insight using the attentive model. 1) In more thoroughly integrating the concept of feeling into a discussion of consciousness the model provides a theoretical framework that offers an opportunity for comparing the role feeling plays in various meditational practices with its role in various psycho- therapeutic techniques. In the West we find Carl Rogers claiming that a feeling loses its explosiveness when a client brings that feeling into explicit awareness. [C. Rogers, On becoming a person (Boston:Houghton Mifflin,1961), p.318-319, for instance.] Tarthang Tulku, a Tibetan Buddhist, describes a meditational technique designed with a similar purpose in mind. It amounts to turning attention to "the immediate feeling- tone of each item of experience." [T. Tulku, ed., Reflections of mind (Emeryville,Ca.:Dharma,1975), p.13.] With the attentive model in mind we can understand that one could not successfully turn attention to an underlying feeling state without depriving it of its subsidiary status and hence of its contexting function. 2) Many of the Eastern meditational schools include techniques in which one's breathing is taken as an object of attention. Breathing is normally a habitually tacit component of experience and the East shows a great deal of understanding for the fact that breathing patterns correspond to thought processes, to the extent, for instance, that it has been suggested that one is more likely to shift attention from one object to attention to another between exhale and inhale. On the attentive model, one's breathing, when it is not paid attention to, would be conceived of as a component of subsidiary awareness having a contexting function. Milton Erickson seems to be well aware of this as is exemplified by the fact that in inducing hypnosis in one case he intentionally synchronized his words to a patient's breathing pattern, directing the patient's attention only to certain sensations corresponding with the patient's inhalations, explaining in commentary, "nobody notices inspiration and expiration, they're used to that." [J. Haley, ed., Advanced techniques of hypnosis and therapy: selected papers of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. (New York:Grune & Stratton,1967), p.53.]

In the use of another technique Erickson relies on the contexting function unheeded sensations play in consciousness. In this case Erickson intentionally uses a particular word in his verbal communications with a subject each time he witnesses a natural decrease in the rapidity of the subject's eye blink. The subject, who is attending to the verbal communications, does not notice the sensations accompanying eye blink and is not aware of the correlation between word and rate of eye blink. But subsequent use of the word by Erickson evokes slower blinking and an associated drowsy feeling. Essentially Erickson is performing a function similar to the one performed by a biofeedback instrument in a conditioning experiment of Barbara Brown's which we shall discuss in the Addendum. (see page 103).[M.H. Erickson, E.L. Rossi and S.I. Rossi,Hypnotic realities (New York:Irvington Publishers,1976), p.268.]
back to text

58. This illustration is reproduced from M. Eliade, Patanjali and yoga, translated by C.L. Markmann (New York:Schocken Books,1975), p.94.
back to text

59. Discussions of the Shri Yantra can be found in the following selected works:

M. Eliade, Yoga: immortality and freedom, 2nd ed., translated by W.R. Trask (New York:Bollingen Foundation,1969).
E. Wood, Yoga (Harmondsworth,Middlesex,England:Penguin Books,1962).
C.G.Jung, Dreams, translated by R.F.C. Hull (Princeton:Princeton Univ. Press,1974).
A. Mookerjee and M. Khanna, The tantric way (Boston:N.Y. Graphic Society,1977).
back to text

60. H. Zimmer, Myths and symbols in Indian art and civilization, edited by J. Campbell (New York:Pantheon Books,1946),p.140.
back to text

61. Ibid., p,143.
back to text

62. Ibid.
back to text

63. Ibid., p.146.
back to text

64. I.K. Taimni, The science of yoga (Wheaton, III:The Theosophical Publ. House,1967),p.viii.
back to text

65. Ibid., p.291.
back to text

66. Ibid., p.286.
back to text

67. Ibid., p.298.
back to text

68. Ibid., p.278.
back to text

69. Ibid., p.278.
back to text

70. Ibid.
back to text

71. Ibid., p.280.
back to text

72. Ibid., p.283.
back to text

73. Ibid., p.298.
back to text

74. P. Pott, Yoga and yantra, translated by R. Needham (The Hague:M. Nijhoff,1966), p.42.
back to text

75. H. Zimmer, op.cit., p.141.
back to text

76. G. Bateson, op.cit., p.173.
back to text

77. Ibid., p.178.
back to text

78. Ibid., p.174.
back to text

79. Ibid., p.218.
back to text

80. Ibid., p.188.
back to text

81. Ibid.
back to text

82. Indeed, we needn't take too seriously the notion of a sequence in which the mother as son's object of attention behaves in one way and then as she is relegated to the son's subsidiary awareness behaves differently. The double bind would be effective as long as, for instance, her bodily expressions insofar as they were picked up subsidiarily by the son were inconsistent with her words as he attends to them. In this context it is interesting to note that in a volume not previously considered in this study, Grinder and Bandler explicitly deny that a person's gestures and the like can stand in relationship to his verbal communications as met- message to message, and thy go on to discard the notion of meta-message altogether. This forces them into a spotlight model in which all messages stand on the same level as 'paramessages', and Bateson's distinction between a hierarchy of levels in respect of the distinction between meta-message and message is abandoned along with the term. By contrast if we interpret the distinction between meta-message and message in terms of the model, subsidiary awareness/object of attention, we preserve the hierarchical order between meta- message and message because in identifying the meta-message with experienced context, we show the meta role of the meta- message. In terms of the attentive model we experience meta- messages subsidiarily, and we experience messages by contrast as objects of attention. In this way we make sense of the idea rejected by Grinder and Bandler that a person's gestures and the like can stand in relation to his verbal communications as meta-message to message; the receiver of the messages is subsidiarily aware of the speaker's gestures. and aware of his spoken message as an object of attention. Given this understanding of meta-message it is instructive to read the following passage by Grinder and Bandler understanding its references to the therapists feelings as references to his subsidiary awareness or meta-messages. We can then view this passage as one in which Grinder and Bandler, despite themselves, give a fine example of what it is like to experience a double bind...

First, the therapist may fail to detect (consciously) the incongruities--the non-matching messages being presented by the client. Our observations of this situation are that, when a therapist fails to detect incongruities which the client is presenting, the therapist himself, initially, feels confused and uncertain. The therapist's feelings of uncertainty usually persist and he becomes more and more uncomfortable. Typically, therapists report feeling as though they were missing something. (Italics added) J. Grinder and R. Bandler, The structure of magic, vol.2 (Palo Alto:Science and Behavior Books,1976), p.31.
back to text

83. G. Bateson, op.cit., p.182.
back to text

84. Ibid., p.163.
back to text

85. K.R. Pelletier and G. Garfield, op.cit., p.69.
back to text

86. Ibid., p.95.
back to text

86a. Angyal advanced a similar hypothesis when he suggested that the schizophrenic characteristically fails in apprehending and constructing frames of reference or "systems" (see page 40 of this work).

When such a frame of reference is lacking, entirely incongruous elements may be brought together by the patient. This is quite in agreement with the view I am trying to express. Without giving any further examples, I think that one is justified in saying that in the realm of intellectual operations there are certain dimensional media. We may call them fields or realms or frames of reference or context or universes of discourse or strata. Some such field is necessarily implied in any system or holistic organization. The schizophrenic thinking disturbance is characterized by a difficulty in apprehending and constructing such organized fields. [A. Angyal, "Disturbances in thinking in schizophrenia." In J.S. Kasanin (ed.) Language and thought in schizophrenia (New York:Norton Library,1944), p.120.]
back to text

87. K.R. Pelletier and G. Garfield, op.cit., p.96.
back to text

88. Ibid., p.94 Pelletier and Garfield quoting J. Silverman.
back to text

89. Ibid., p.68.
back to text

90. Ibid., p.75.
back to text

91. Ibid., p.102.
back to text

92. Ibid., p.54.
back to text

93. Ibid., p.123.
back to text

94. To show that this idea is not only found in the Yoga tradition but also in Buddhism we offer the following passage in which H. Thera describes the process by which the subject reaches what he alls 'bare attention'.

For instance, the normal visual perception, if it is of evidence or any interest to the observer, will rarely present the visual object pure and simple, but the object will appear in the light of added subjective judgments: beautiful or ugly, pleasant or unpleasant, useful, useless, or harmful. If it concerns a living being, there will also enter into the preconceived notion: this is a personality, an ego, just as "I" am, too! ... It is the task of bare attention to eliminate all those alien additions from the object proper that is then in the field of perception. [C. Naranjo and R.E. Ornstein, op.cit., p.87.]
back to text

95. I.K. Taimni, op.cit., p.298.
back to text

96. In the following passage Ornstein gives a general characterization of the non-normal states of consciousness attained by practitioners of Eastern traditions. We note that his description of them invites understanding them as involving the overcoming of or disappearance of the bifurcation found in normal states of consciousness which we have modeled as subsidiary awareness/object of attention.

The three major traditions that we've considered each speak of developing an awareness that allows every stimulus to enter into consciousness devoid of our normal selection process, devoid of normal tuning and normal input selection, model-building, and the normal category of systems. [C. Naranjo and R.E. Ornstein, op.cit., p.194.]
back to text

97. I.K. Taimni, op.cit., p.283.
back to text

98. M. Eliade, The two and the one, translated by J.M. Cohen (New York:Harper Torchbacks,1965), p.119.
back to text

99. K.R. Pelletier and G. Garfield, op.cit., p.111.
back to text

100. C.O. Evans, op.cit.
back to text