Tag Archives: psychology
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Shifting Sands

28 Sep
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Wanton Violence

25 Aug
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Optimal Ego Development

21 Aug

Preface and Introduction -The Apophatic Assertion

20 Jul
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Garden of Paradise

20 Jun
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Are you Awake or Asleep?

2 May

The Universality of the Mystical Experience

18 Apr

The Universality of the Mystical Experience
Over the centuries and throughout many cultures, ordinary people as well as monks and mystics, have reported personal experiences that transformed their lives and perspective on life and existence. While interpretations of this experience have differed, researcher Walter Stace outlined important common characteristics which distinguish them from any other kind of experience. These include: * The Unitary Consciousness; the One; pure consciousness. * All life is interconnected and the One is in all things. * Non-spatiality, non-temporality. *Sense of objectivity or reality. * Peace, bliss, serenity, rapture. *Feeling of the sacred or mysterious. * To be transcendent, immanent, indescribable, ineffable. *No judgmental quality. *”Insight into depths of truth unplumbed by the discursive intellect.” *Transiency
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Most transcendent experiences have a short occurrence, but their effect persists. While the discernment of this Reality is subjective, it is not exclusively personal as the experience has been shared often throughout different epochs and localities. Although a supramundane experience can occur spontaneously, it is usually discerned profoundly after living virtuously and immersion in deep states of meditation. In that consummate state of awareness, the illusory boundaries of the separate self dissolve and there is no longer any cognitive distinction between subject and object, and time and space disappear.
To paraphrase psychologist William James: ‘This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute … we become aware of our oneness, however, (labeling it as) “union with God” is only one possible interpretation of it, which should not, therefore, be given as its definition. The same experience can be interpreted non theistically as in Buddhism…. All this can be experienced and felt without any creed at all. … The mystic in any culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical experience.’ All this can be experienced and felt without any creed at all. … The mystic in any culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical experience.’ This discernment can be experienced without any ideology at all and it is still understood as sacred and spiritual.
The Apophatic theology proposes that instead of aiming for worldly glory, wealth, or power, it is far more worthwhile that we become fulfilled with our own existence and strive for virtue, goodness, and a quiet mind to eventually gain access to the essence of Being or ‘God’. In fact, as Angelus Silesius wrote, ‘God’ is a pure No-thing; concealed in now and here; the less you reach for ‘Him’, the more ‘He’ will appear.’ The All is the divine immanence that embraces all.

Language and Reality Construction: A Process of Abstraction

17 Feb

The first words that an infant learns are normally simple nouns with
repeatable syllables, such as ‘puppy’, ‘papa’, or ‘mama’. However, as
the number of concepts and sounds in a child’s repertoire increases,
language becomes progressively abstract. As we grow from infancy to
maturity and develop our capacity for language and critical
evaluation, we naturally categorize experiences into classes that
share certain characteristics, for example: Animal, Vegetable,
mineral. The game of 21 questions nicely illustrates this process. As
we gain experience, and this continues through all phases of our
active mental life, we both place experiences into already defined
categories, such as Animal: dog or cat, breed; and create new
categories where we don’t find the existing ones convenient. Each of
these classes and there is an exacting logical science for
classification, is a level of abstraction. As the class of objects grows,
new subclasses, more abstract formulations, occur. Carried far
enough and we have, as in the field of natural history, the story of life
on this planet and an array of scientific subjects, an encyclopedia of
species, and specializations that fill a catalog.

Scholar Korzybski identified a problem with abstractions in that the
further along the chain you go the greater the distance you get from
the original, first-order, experience. Reality loses its concreteness
and concreteness is the foundation of a sane, rational mind. One
major problem with this process is that we tend to think that the
word represents the thing itself. Ultimately you get into
philosophical debates about whether categories or forms have
independent existence and the mind-body split, a phenomenon
Korzybski concluded was one of the major pathologies of modern
life. Related to this pathology is identification.
The Buddha calls this process of mental construction papañca,
“elaboration,” “embellishment,” or “conceptual proliferation.” For the
Buddha, the elaborations block out the presentational immediacy of
phenomena; they let us know an object only “at a distance,” not as it
really is. But the elaborations do not only screen cognition; they also
serve as a basis for projections. The deluded mind, cloaked in
ignorance, projects its own internal constructs outwardly, ascribing
them to the object as if they really belonged to it.

As a result, what we know as the final object of cognition, what we
use as the basis for our values, plans, and actions, is a patchwork
product, not the original article. To be sure, the product is not wholly
an illusion, not sheer fantasy. It takes what is given in immediate
experience as its groundwork and raw material, but along with this, it
includes something else: the embellishments fabricated by the mind.
In the end, the original direct experience has been overrun by
ideation and the presented object appears only dimly through dense
layers of ideas and views, like the moon through a layer of clouds.
Language, then, enables us to conceive and express about objects
and relationships with no concrete physical referents. Examples
include hypothetical relationships, mathematical concepts, and
highly complex social constructions such as ‘liberty’ or ‘justice’. Once
constructed via language, these mental entities, rules, obligations
and expectancies govern human thought and action to a remarkable
degree. In short, language shapes not only communication but also
understanding. Our “worldview is inescapably shaped by” our
language.7 Language clearly draws our attention to certain aspects of
the world and influences our judgment about it.

Language gives a name to an object for purposes of easy
communication. When it has the sanction of others, it becomes a
convention. There would be no shared world that human beings
enjoy in common if there were no shared dimension of this
subliminal awareness. It is only through conceptual categorization
that we can objectify ourselves in contrast to others and in relation to
remembered pasts and anticipated futures. “It is a final irony,”
Deacon concludes, “that it is the virtual, not actual, reference that
[linguistic] symbols provide, which gives rise to this experience of self.
This most undeniably real experience is a virtual reality”
1. Most of this,
though, occurs without our awareness of it.

Our ‘shared virtual world,’ which arises in correlation with the
common cognitive structures and linguistic categories, is so deeply
engrained and so utterly habituated that it occurs almost
automatically and nearly unconsciously in every moment. Our
human worlds are collective and consensual, yet unconscious,
construct, and the concepts are invested with the necessary flexibility
and set on their tracks to proliferate. The uninstructed average
person succumbs to it; the disciple training on the Eightfold Path
resists it, and the Emancipated Ones transcend it. Concepts for them
are “merely worldly conventions in common use, which he made use of,
without clinging to them” (D. N. I. 202). The Buddha reminds us that
language is only based on conventional usage and that these worldly
usages are not to be taken with an absolute perspective.
Over the course of a lifetime, this shared-world of linguistic concepts
becomes deeply engrained in our thought and speech patterns.
Indeed, these concepts are unavoidable when we learn to speak and
live as members of a specific culture. Of these concepts, perhaps the
the most elaborate and deeply engrained psychological category is our
concept of the self, which evolves and is defined dependent on and in
relation to a complex web of other concepts. Since language provides
most of these concepts to us, one can easily agree that in large part
our sense of self reflects our cultural inheritance, the shared reality
that we tacitly agree upon with others.

Our concept of self-arises from a perceived division between
subject and object, which contains yet further divisions within itself.
On the one hand, there is the self as agent, the subjective I who
performs various actions at the moment. On the other hand, there is
another view of the self, the objectified ‘me’, as an enduring entity
with a set of personality traits that we evaluate and judge according
to cultural norms. This split becomes evident when people say things
such as “I am a very intelligent person”. Such an expression is only
coherent if we accept a split between our self in the moment, and a
deeper, more permanent, and reflective self. At this point it is
significant to remember that the human brain is a rather creative
storyteller that uses language to organize the world of conscious
experience, thereby efficiently making sense of the otherwise
overwhelming volume of perceptual information processed by the
nervous system. Building stories to describe the world of concepts
around us, it means at the same time defining ourselves, an idea
referred to the “narrative self”.9 Let’s put it more simply: as we gain
mastery of our native language, we begin to use words to tell stories,
and in these stories, we create what we call ourselves. This ongoing
and reflective personal narrative constructs the fiction of a time-bound, continuous self. The great drawback to the structure imposed
by language is that our words emphasize the separateness of things at the expense of perceiving the unity of experience.
Transcending the Dualism of Language
For the Buddha, the central snare of language is that we become
confined in the misconception of the identifications of the self which
are encouraged from the grammatical use of agent and object. Once
we establish the intentional ‘I’ as part of our lexicon, I-related thoughts
enter our inner dialogue of mental chatter. We select the ‘I’ thoughts
that build and maintain a story about ourselves that we are willing to
accept; we are all creative writers in the service of the self. As a result,
our reality is filtered through the selective and often self-serving vision
of our subjective I lens. Engrossed and compelled as we are in our
stories and our I, me, and mine, which are founded on dualism, we
cannot comprehend the actuality of existence, which in turn leads to

our state of suffering. We now turn to the question of how to
transcend this unhappy state.
In Buddha’s psychology, the term Nāma-rūpa or ‘name-form’ is used
to describe the interplay of psychological and physical processes,
which define a human being. Nāma(name) refers to the
psychological dimension and includes processes such as feeling,
attention, and perception. Rūpa(form) refers to physical substance,
and provides some consistency and recognizability to the individual,
giving shape to abstraction. However, in keeping with the doctrine of
Anattà (no-self), neither nāma nor rūpa has any meaning or
significance without the other: they are complementary or mutually
necessary. Rūpa can secure a basis in consciousness only in
collaboration with nāma, and vice versa. In other words, without an
observer, there is no object. We perceive the world in dualistic terms
because language helps make any unity experience elusive to our
cognitive apparatus. Enlightenment becomes possible when one
understands that the shared social world, which includes a self, is a
construction, and becomes open to directly experiencing the unity,
which underlies Nāma-rūpa and other apparent dualities.
Importantly, this unity cannot be fully grasped by exercising
one’s intellectual faculties alone because that inevitably brings
symbols and concepts back into the picture, which is self-defeating.
Instead, Buddhist meditative practice teaches disciples to clear their
mind of concepts in incremental stages, gradually dissolving the
illusory boundaries which confuse us.

Through a systematic meditative practice, we can free our
perceptions from all the restraints and burdens of the preenlightened mind and achieve Awakening – a non-verbal appreciation of the world as it continuously comes into being.
Adherents of the apophatic tradition hold that ‘God’ or (X) is beyond
the limits of what humans can understand, and that one should not
seek ‘God’ by means of intellectual understanding, but through a
direct experience.
So, Awakening consists in seeing and reflecting on things just
as they are, impartially, without exclusion, bias, attachment,
obstructions, or distortion. The grasper-grasped relationship ceases.
When this transcendence is achieved, the use of language and
symbols to describe a God or mystical being is easily seen through as
mere human language fascinations and abstractions. There is the
clear recognition of the inadequacy of human language to describe
God or the divine essence.
In the apophatic tradition, this fetish of using language and cognitive
constructions to create a dualistic reality is stepped back from. There
is no attachment to this as it is seen for what it is, a fantasy, or as
Deacon called it ‘virtual reality, perhaps at times a helpful one but
still a fantasy. Instead, as the Buddha taught in the seen shall only be
the seen, in the heard only the heard, in the sensed only the sensed,
in the cognized only the cognized.

Language and Reality Construction: A Process of Abstraction
Of the Book, God is No-thing. The Apophatic Assertion. Copyright Rodger
Ricketts Psy.D.,2020. All rights reserved. Protected by international copyright
conventions. No part of this chapter may be reproduced in any manner
whatsoever, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, without the express
permission of the Author-publisher, except in case of brief quotations with due
acknowledgment. Published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Platform

Social Consequences of the Dualist/NonDualist perspective.

16 Feb


Usually the social and relationship consequences of the dualist
rationalist perspectives have not been explored in depth. In fact, there
is little exploration regarding the direct social consequences of the
adoption of either perspective after a focus on language, cognitive
modeling, spirituality, and Awakening.
Therefore, I want to use the excellent detailed analysis of the modern
Jewish philosopher and educator, Martin Buber shows that
whichever of the two perspectives (Non-Dualist/Dualist) one uses,
there are significant relational consequences. Here is a good place to
remind the reader that the Dualist and non-dualist perspectives are
not exclusive from one another.

Martin Buber’s (I and Thou) and (I and It)
Martin Buber is best known for his 1923 book, Ich und Du (I and
Thou), which distinguishes between “I-Thou”, in which the du or
thou, is intended to convey the most intimate and loving relation
possible. Thou means the you in a subject-to-subject relationship,
while “I-It” is a relationship of subject-to-object modes of existence.
‘I’ is not a solitary concept that stands alone unconnected; ‘I’ is
always in relation to ‘It’ or ‘Thou.’ This relation indicates the two
basic ways in which we relate to the world.
In the I-It relationship, the subjects are independent, isolated, and
separate from a world that consists of things. According to Buber,
most human beings solely adopt the I-It dualistic perspective over
the I-Thou. The ‘I-It’ relation is dominated by categories of dualism,
like ‘friend’ and ‘enemy’, and focuses on universal definitions, while
in the I- Thou relationship, human beings are aware of each other
through unity of Being.

Alienation
I-It is a relationship of separateness, detachment, and ultimately
alienation created by the dualistic subject/object dichotomy.
Identifications appear by comparing and setting themselves apart
from others. So long as you “have” yourself as an object, your
experience of self and others is as of a thing among things.
Once a subject, in the subject/object dyad, is analyzed as an object,
the subject becomes an object or an It. When both objects and
people are analyzed (subject-object relation) and judged by their
capacities, they become means to an end. The I is experienced as
isolated from the It, resulting in “alienation”.

To view the world as an “objective reality” separated from my
consciousness and universal Being is a form of alienation. The state
or experience of being alienated includes
isolation, estrangement, separation, and severance. Alienation is the
state of being as an outsider or the feeling of being isolated, as from
others or the original being. This experience is expressed poetically
by songwriters Simon and Garfunkel; ‘I am a rock, I am an island, I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate.’

Alienation is the process whereby people become foreign to the Being of
which they exist in. This is the dominant alienation in modern
society. As Derrida wrote, “Face-to-face relationships, communities of
direct caretaking, control, and ownership of one’s own labor power, all
these are giving way more and more to relations mediated by cell
phone, digicam, digital communications replacing the immediacy of
speech.”
He describes well the virtual world of I-It.
The principle of alienation is found in all the great religions namely,
the idea that people in the past have known the non-dualistic
Absolute and lived in serenity and harmony. But with the
development and rise of the ‘I’ analytical linguistic world, there was a
rupture that left people feeling like strangers to each other and in
the world. Also, there has often been the vision that at some time in
the future this alienation will be overcome, and humanity will again
live in harmony with itself and Nature.

The I–It is the mode of experience in which we engage the world as a
detached object. It is based upon the axioms of logical
empiricism/positivism: objectivity, determinism, abstractive
contemplation, and a utilitarian approach to the other. This is the
method of the rational investigation of truths and principles of
science and philosophy, through which we come to understand
things abstractly and intellectually, eventually for our egocentric use.
Buber claimed that modern Western culture believes that this
dualistic mode is the fundamental way for human beings to
participate with the world. Therefore, other perspectives, which are
vital to our authentic and awakened spiritual existence, are dismissed
and even vilified.
While I-It is relevant to everyday living, the obstacle is its

overwhelming predominance in modern technocratic society, with
its basis on the principles of logical empiricism/positivism:
objectivity, determinism, abstractive contemplation. It is a
mechanistic model of the universe as a machine, and the rational
and empirical is operational in all areas of study with the grand

vision of Humans gaining mastery over everything. In the end, however, it creates a state or experience of being alienated.
SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS
In social relationships, the alienated I-It individual is primarily
egotistic and selfish and finds it problematic to empathize and put
oneself in another’s place. They find it wearisome to be accessible
and receptive because they are eremitic and solitarily orientated.
They fear experiencing disappointments and disapprove of
acquiescing.
Yet, every success cannot satisfy their craving for indisputable
success. They rigidly think in or act in an egotistical manner of
accepting only what pleases them and tenaciously maintain their
likes and dislikes. Their personality stagnates by not maturing and
from not expressing their own creative capacities. Therefore,
encapsulated, they never come to know the opportunity and
satisfaction of interconnections and empathy with the world. The rigidity
of the ego ‘shell’ is one of the afflictions of the solitary ‘I’, and
integration with the inner refuge of peace, serenity, and nothingness
is absent.
The self, therefore, remains preoccupied with maintaining, by means
of the organization of rigid structures or schemas, its secure position
in the historical world. Through their filtering ‘glasses’, a person
believes they perceive the world ‘the way it really is’, rationally and
logically. If success is created, the egotistical person attributes it
only to their own efforts, which only strengthens and heightens the
the wall separating them from the realization of their interconnectedness
with all
.
The imagined self, preoccupied with establishing and classifying facts,
constantly acts to satisfy its worldly cravings. With these fixed points
of view, the world is clearly divided into a dualism of selfworld/otherworld, subject/object, etc. While a person needs to be
skillful to manage the world well, the predominance of the self-centered perspective, with its claims of supremacy, distorts not only
a person’s personal and social status but any possible spiritual
connection with existence, in which there is an apperception of
oneness and inter-being to be realized with experience, insight and
practice.
The egotistic life constantly seeks to thrill itself in the available ways
of the sensual materialistic life. The intensity of their cravings varies,
but the feedback loop is continuous and based on the subject/object
duality. This exaggerated ignorance based on dualism creates
foolishness and unhappiness. At the root of why many people seek relief
in many ways is a clear example of spiritual sickness, and hence
suffering, i.e. alienation from life. Egocentric ignorance creates
suffering for self and others.
Modern Society
Buber believed that with modern technological society increasingly
supporting the I-It dogma, the loving relationship between
individuals and nature, between other sentient beings,
understanding their identity and the divine in an apophatic sense has
become increasingly more obscure and incomprehensible. He wanted
to revive the link between the individual with the deepest levels of
existence. To do that, he considered it necessary to unveil the
impediments that hamper a person’s capacity to see and understand
the No- thingness.
As a result of the modern trend, it continues to become more
difficult to develop an appreciation of an immanent, universal being.
The problem is rooted in the supposition of the primacy of the
dualistic subject-object relation. Buber believed that there had been
a dramatic shift from relation to separation, creating a growing crisis
of existence in ‘modern’ society. He believed that the relationship
between individuals and people and creation continues to become
increasingly that of I-It.
The doctrine of Inherent Self

Even the study of modern Western philosophy and psychology yields
mostly the narrow point of view of the World of It, which easily
exacerbates the difficulty of a person achieving a transcendent
understanding of the World of Being. These disciplines mostly teach
the doctrine of self, or ‘I’, denoting an awareness of a firmly held
identity which includes three factors. First, there is stability and
permanence of the self throughout all life changes. Second, one’s ‘I’
or self is unique. Third, there is a clear separation of the subject from
the object, or ‘other’. Therefore, in the consciousness of the normal
person who firmly believes in the cultural affirmation of their ‘I’,
there is a splitting off from the primal unity of life which lies beyond
the pairs and duality of opposites.
Once a person firmly believes that I am ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’, their life
is experienced through the comparisons of opposites: subject and
object, me and other, mind and body, etc. Every effort to categorize
and rationalize the reality of the human condition drives a person
first to one extreme and then to the other. Even more, they believe in
the deep split between the static ‘I’, entrenched within the habitual
cognitive patterns, and everything else.
In the techno-scientific cultures, even though the normal flow of
normal daily life and experience seems to confirm this, there is the
the faulty view of the reality of entities that exist independently from the
observers.
Furthermore, the use of simple operational agreements of daily life
for successful predictions of the consequences of most of our actions
with objects also contributes to supporting this implicit view. Therefore,
without being instructed beyond this perspective of the dualistic,
inherent, and craving I, it is almost impossible in the modern world
to understand how to achieve Awakening of Emptiness. I wrote
about this underlying fallacy in the previous chapter Why We Can’t
Know.
OVERCOMING ALIENATION
As all Awakened teachers have known, ‘Without rationality,’ humans
cannot live. But the person who lives with ‘It’ alone is not a spiritual
and complete person. Much of the alienation, greed, anger, and
heedlessness of modern living is the result of our living only
heedlessly in the I-It world. As is attributed to Albert Einstein, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has
forgotten the gift.”
The overcoming of alienation occurs as awareness and consciousness

increases, by recognizing that the external world is not separate from
the interiority of consciousness and that, as philosopher Hegel
expressed it, the “I is the We, and the We the I.” ‘I’ can then be said to
recover from alienation, which characterizes my I-IT everyday
engagement in the world, when a person regains their pure
subjectivity. This book expresses that conviction for the possibility of
a final state of connection, friendliness, and unity.
The immanence of the divine is always present in one’s own being,
and it is the possibility to learn how to unveil the Absolute, and live
life through that purified conscience. Through the inner refuge and
the experience of emptiness, there is an opportunity for knowing the
equanimity and serene awareness within. By becoming accessible
and empathic, one opens to the mysterious sense of something
beyond the I and the explicit world and is sensitive to the hints of the
spiritual experience of agape, sublimity, and transcendence which
constantly urges transformation and development. Buber, reflecting
the mystic’s insight, moved into a position undercutting the subject-object dichotomy. I-Thou (You) involves understanding how we all are interconnected, a part of a whole. The “I” is not experienced or
sensed as singular or separate; it is the “I” with the All of Being. The
next chapter will explore more in-depth Buber’s I-Thou perspective.

Of the Book, God is No-thing. The Apophatic Assertion. Copyright Rodger Ricketts Psy.D.,2020. All rights
reserved. Protected by international copyright conventions. No part of this chapter may be
reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or stored in a retrieval system or transmitted,
without the expressed permission of the Author-publisher, except in case of brief quotations with
due acknowledgment. Published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Awareness of our oneness

15 Feb

Although a supramundane experience can occur spontaneously, it is usually discerned profoundly after living virtuously and immersion in deep states of meditation. In that consummate state of awareness, the illusory boundaries of the separate self-dissolve and there is no longer any cognitive distinction between subject and object, and time and space disappear. To paraphrase psychologist William James: ‘This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute … we become aware of our oneness, however, (labeling it as) “union with God” is only one possible interpretation of it, which should not, therefore, be given as its definition. The same experience can be interpreted non theistically as in Buddhism…. All this can be experienced and felt without any creed at all. … The mystic in any culture usually interprets his experience in terms of the religion in which he has been reared. But if he is sufficiently sophisticated, he can throw off that religious creed and still retain his mystical experience.’ This discernment can be experienced without any ideology at all and it is still understood as divine and spiritual.

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