Metaphysical Systems

Metaphysical Systems Image
A little while back, Adrian Ivakhiv (at the Immanence blog) posted this three part series on the bodymind - but it's not the traditional bodymind philosophy of yoga, or somatic psychology, or embodied consciousness. Instead, Adrian has been working on a combination of the Zen teachings of Shinzen Young and the process relational philosophy of Peirce, Whitehead, Deleuze, and even Ken Wilber, among others.

I'm posting a little bit from the beginning of each post - I highly encourage you (if you are interested in Buddhism and process relational philosophy) to go read the whole series.


By Adrian J Ivakhiv

May 30, 2011

"Working with Shinzen Young's system of mindfulness training, which I've described here before, and thinking it through in the process-relational logic I've been developing on this blog (and elsewhere), is resulting in a certain re-mix of Shinzen's ideas, and of Buddhism more generally, with Peirce's, Whitehead's, Wilber's, Deleuze's, and others'. Here's a crack at where it's taking me... "

"I've divided this into three parts due to its length. Part 1 builds on Shinzen's "5 ways to know yourself as a spiritual being," which presents five core mindfulness practices, to develop a basic classification of ways in which the human bodymind can know itself and the world. Part 2 deepens the model by pushing beyond traditional dualisms through incorporating what Shinzen calls "flow," which is analogous to the central insight of process-relational philosophies about the fundamentally processual nature of subjectivity or mentality, objectivity or materiality, and the dynamic and interdependent relationship between the two. Part 3 provides some concluding thoughts and caveats."

As I've written here before, Shinzen Young's system is one of the most comprehensive practical systems of mindfulness/meditation training I've ever come across. Based in the Zen (Shingon) and Vipassana traditions of Buddhism, but developed with reference to numerous other traditions including Vajrayana and Christian mysticism, the system is also deeply resonant with the process-relational themes explored on this blog.

What follows is an attempt to expand and develop Shinzen's approach so as to encompass not only meditative techniques but the full range of options available to the human bodymind, whether meditative or spiritual in intent or not. This will be done with particular reference to the logical and phenomenological categories of C. S. Peirce and, to lesser degrees, the process philosophy of A. N. Whitehead and the AQAL system of Ken Wilber.

Read the whole post.

* * * * * * *


By Adrian J Ivakhiv May 30, 2011

"This continues from the previous post, where Shinzen Young's model of core mindfulness practices was expanded into a system of classifying what a human bodymind can do. Here the model is deepened following the process-relational insights that are at the core of Shinzen's system as well as of other (especially Mahayana and Vajrayana) Buddhist systems, and of the philosophies of A. N. Whitehead and, in some respects, of C. S. Peirce, Gilles Deleuze, and other process-relational thinkers. This part is followed by a concluding segment, found here. "

Tweak #2: "How a Bodymind Can Be Made to Flow"

Here's where things start to get "really" interesting. For most Buddhist (including Shinzen's) and process-relational views, subjectivity and objectivity are not static conditions or "poles" holding up the universe. Rather, they are results - outcomes, however temporary and however ultimately insubstantial - of a less differentiated, more flowing activity, which Shinzen calls flow, and which metaphysical systems like Whitehead's, Bergson's, Peirce's, and Deleuze's attempt to analyze at a microscopic and/or rigorously conceptual level.

Let's pause to consider what this term "flow" refers to. Shinzen defines it in part as a phenomenological category that is experienced in a variety of flavors - as expansion and contraction, undulation, vibration, tingliness, percolation, electricity, and so on - and in part as the experience of the ontological fact of impermanence, or "anicca "(in Pali). Flow is partnered with "vanishing", for which Shinzen uses the notational label "Gone" (in the same way that he uses the terms "See, Feel, Talk," and so on, as labels for observed activities).

So, on the one hand, "flow" is indicative of the fact that everything passes; on the other, of the ebullient energy of life, i.e. that things continue to arise. This corresponds with the ontology of percolating creativity described so carefully by Whitehead, which I've built on to posit that there is a circulatory undulation - a movement between the subjectivation and the objectivation that constitutes every moment or "actual occasion" - which gives rise to all form. If we can learn to pay attention to this movement as it arises, we can get a feel for its many flavors (vibration, expansion-contraction, and so on), and as a result the "subject" and the "object" begin to melt into the very act of becoming.

(Here's an application of this to my cinematic/ecological ontology, in which what is "real" is considered to be the dynamic and interactive process by which subjectivity and objectivity - or subjectivation and objectivation - arise relationally in specific events or encounters making up the moment-to-moment self-constitution of an evolving universe. For some further thoughts on the differences between Whiteheadian and Buddhist notions of "flow," see the "Afterword" in Part 3 of this series.)

Read the whole post.

* * * * * * *


By Adrian J Ivakhiv May 30, 2011

This is the concluding part of a three-part article. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 here. They should be read in the sequence in which they were published.


All of this can be related to the triad of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful - or, in their Peircian sequence, aesthetics, ethics, and logic. Aesthetics, as Peirce conceived it, is most directly concerned with firstness; ethics, with secondness; and logic, with thirdness.

I've elsewhere suggested that "logic" may not be an adequate term for the kind of understanding that thirdness implies, and that "eco-logic" may be better, since logic suggests a process for understanding (in general), whereas "ecology" specifically suggests a process for understanding relation, wholeness, and "patterns that connect."

It may also be appropriate to use Ken Wilber's term "vision-logic" here, even though my use of it would be somewhat different than his. Wilber characterizes "vision-logic" as a historical stage of development that emerges only with the " transcendence" of a postmodern "green" stage (in his color-coded Spiral Dynamics lingo). I would posit it instead, for the purposes of the model being developed here, as attainable, in some specific way, by any bodymind from within its own particular situatedness.

A few definitions, then:

* "AESTHETICS, in this system, is the cultivation of skillful observation and perception of appearances or "arisings."

Traditionally, aesthetics has been defined according to some definition of "beauty," but the latter is culturally variable. Observation, on the other hand, is thought to be measured according to the criterion of "accuracy," but this, too, is culturally variable (as scholarship in science and technology studies has shown). Once we move out of mind-matter and subject-object dualism, however, and into the space of nondual "flow," it becomes evident that aesthetics involves the perception of the "wholeness" of what appears in its arising and passing, i.e. "as" flow - as forms that emerge in patterned relationship with other forms. This is observation of something (anything) brought to its thirdness, or to its completion.

Read the whole post.

Tags: Adrian J Ivakhiv, What a bodymind can do, Immanence, Zen, Buddhism, Shinzen Young, process relational philosophy, Peirce, Whitehead, Deleuze, Ken Wilber, 5 ways to know yourself as a spiritual being, Psychology, Philosophy, Spirituality, ssubjectivity, dualism, flow, interdependent relationship

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