Explaining Self: The Cognitive Self

Previously, I introduced the meaning and importance of the word ‘self’ from a psychospiritual vista. If you return to these blogs you will see that I stressed a modern approach to the structure of ego states and personality–closely related to concepts stressed by the Buddha and Gurdjieff.

In this blog series, I will review modern concepts of the psychological development of the ‘concept of selfness,’ the establishment of episodic, or autographic, memory, ego states, and how such operate cooperatively or uncooperatively. Of much importance is Federn’s psychoanalytic concept of ego- and object-cathexis. Such concepts are critically important for understanding the origin of your cognitive self, as a useful psychosocial construct and how it relates to a deeper and truer sense of being present in your life.

Later, we will delve into the source(s) from which our feeling of being present in our bodies derives.

First, there is no hard evidence suggesting that neonates and young children have no sensation or experience of possessing a ‘self’ until somewhere around 18 months (range 16 to 24 months). By self, I am referring to personal knowledge possessed by the child that there exists a ‘me–mine’ entity and action generating agent. It is helpful to understand that the cognitive concept of existing as an agent is a psychological construct and not simply CNS functioning.

Prior to this, a baby appears to be aware of his or her immediate goals and actions in distinction from the goals and actions of others by the end of the first year of life. Such intentionality arising from continuous, bilateral social interactions and exposure to language. However, it is not accurate to claim that baby is aware of himself or herself as an actor per se. Rather, during this period of life babies possesses a ‘protoself’ similar to that functioning in a canine or higher primate.

The protoself functions essentially within the present moment, failing to display any awareness of times past or times future. Exactly, how long the present moment lasts for a dog, chimp, or a baby is unknown. But, from my personal observations, I would say a few minutes at best.

The protoself has access to procedural, implicit memory and declarative, explicit memory. The first memory system necessary for the performance of overt and covert motor actions such as walking, running, mating, eating, swallowing, flight and fight, and so on. Such activities are called scripts by psychologists. The second memory system is necessary for the retention and recollection of important factual data as to past interactions with others, geographical mapping of place, and so on.

For example, a creature having only a protoself will remember encounters with dangerous animals, where food supplies and water sources are located, its burrow and so on; however, there is no actual time sense correlated with such data. The past simply enters the present as if it were just another fact of the present.

For convenience, I differentiate the protoself from the psychological, cognitive construct of self, or the ‘cognitive self.’

In early work on self development, researchers were interested in when human babies achieve self-recognition when looking into a mirror or on a video. In a typical mirror recognition test, a spot of rouge or a little sticker is surreptitiously placed on the child’s nose or forehead prior to allowing the child to see his or her reflection in a mirror. A child who reaches to touch the spot on his or her own face (rather than pointing to the mirror, for example) is assessed as passing the mirror test of self-recognition. Most children pass this test sometime between 16 and 24 months of age. Passing the mirror test is indicative of a child possessing some degree of self–consciousness, evidenced by the behavioral onset of shyness, embarrassment, and inhibition of personal actions.

The evidence supports the contention that before establishment of the cognitive self, as indexed by mirror self-recognition, there can be no autobiographical memory because there is no “I.”
With the appearance of the cognitive self, a psychoneural apparatus, a schema of self, around which memories of personal experience, as to time, place, and persons, can coalesce, allowing for autobiographical memory. The new feeling of self is closely connected to the child’s feeling of a personal past and future, as children develop the understanding that it was the same self that exists in the present that experienced an event in the past.

Although, the beginnings of selfhood appear between 16 and 24 months, the process is not instantaneous or complete until the child reaches the age of 4 or 5. For instance, researchers have studied the understanding of the temporal relation of the present self to the past self in 3 and 4 year olds using a delayed self-recognition paradigm. In this video paradigm, while, the child is engaged in a game of sorting cards, the experimenter surreptitiously places a sticker on the child’s head. Such sticker remaining after the game. A few minutes later, the child watches the video recording and will point to and name his or her image on the screen. However, whereas most 4 and 5 olds noted the sticker and attempted to remove it from their heads, very few 3 year olds did so. This research indicates that the cognitive self is not fully developed, relating past to present selves in a temporal continuum. Additional research found a strong relation between such findings and the richness of children’s recall of personal episodes.

Quickly following upon the heels of the cognitive self comes the ‘theory of mind.’ Theory of mind, conceptualized as children’s ability to attribute mental states as causally related to action, and specifically to entertain the possibility of “false belief” on the part of oneself or another, has been extensively studied over the past 30 years. By age 2, children utilize both emotion and desire, suggesting an understanding that self and others have desires relating to their actions and that others’ desires may be different from his or her own. However, it is not until 4 years of age that children begin to understand that he or she and others can believe something that is not true of the world, hold a false belief. Such knowledge is crucial to understanding that others often differ in their beliefs about the world. Both, ‘theory of mind’ and autobiographical memory involve an understanding of psychological states, their causes, and temporality, requiring meta-representational ability.

Tomorrow, I will cover the development and importance of autobiographical memory for the budding cognitive self and the maturation of the adult ego system. Following this, I will discuss Federn’s model of ego and object cathexis and its importance for differentiation of self vs other. Last, I shall discuss what the Institute has to say about the actual source explaining the arising of the cognitive self and ego states.

Reality Series: The Paths of Work and Study

I would like you to take a few moments considering the methodologies utilized in the ministries of Jesus, the Christ and Gautama, the Buddha. Did either man indulge in pontificating theological and abstract nuances? Did either man discourse primarily with the learned scholars of his era? Did either man arrange his teaching around the acquisition of skillful actions and forbearance from unskillful actions? Did either man teach that the end of suffering is found in the here and now and not in some future existence? Is not the Kingdom of God within just another way to describe nibbāna? And so on and so on . . .

In truth, both teachers lived and interacted amongst persons from all socioeconomic levels, the educated and literate, the simple and nonliterate, the loved or disliked, the householder, and the mendicant. Both teachers focusing upon the alleviation of unnecessary suffering–physical or mental, disease, disability, existential distress, unfair treatment, and oppression. Both having scant time to engage in unnecessary theological discussions.

Developing and offering workable methodologies useful for the alleviation of unnecessary suffering and unskillful thinking is a reliable sign that one is involved with a true esoteric school. The Institute finds much usefulness and benefit from the Buddhist approach.

In truth, we stand on common ground with a number of other sound approaches to life being offered, e.g., the Rosicrucian Order, Gurdjieff, the Buddha, pre-Pauline Christianity, the Self-Realization Fellowship, and Hermeticism.

When you are involved in our experiential lessons, you realize that our approach is twofold. First, we teach the ‘Path of Work.’  Work refers to practical efforts to: [1] arrive at a clear understanding of the real danger in unskillful living, [2] finding a way to escape from unskillful living, [3] getting a ‘taste’ of the Kingdom of God within, [4] working for the welfare and happiness of yourself and others, and many more things.

Personally, I am fond of using terminology introduced to the West by Gurdjieff, though it has been updated so to correspond with modern findings in science and psychology.

Our road to awakening is structured around application of various forms of the Freedom Exercises combined with extensive efforts in self-observation of your current thoughts, feelings, motivations, desires, and actions and self-reflection as to the fruits of your actions. It is a very straightforward approach done in everyday living circumstances.

Parallel to the Path of Work runs the Path of Study. The Path of Study is of secondary importance compared with the Path of Work. For only the Path of Work will remove your illusions and unskillful actions and bring you to stream-entry. The Path of Study is an interesting supplement as it concerns intellectual matters reading upon the construction and physics of the universe and all which is in it. These blogs are part of the Institute’s Path of Study. The Work exercises are for students.

I have found that joining the Path of Study to the Path of Work is efficient.

Tomorrow, I think we will return to our discussion of self and not-self from a modern psychospiritual vista.

Reality Series: Necessity of a School

Happy Boxing Day from Jolly Ole England. Look it up!

As an aside to yesterday’s blog, I want to discuss a question asked frequently by seekers. Is it necessary to affiliate with an esoteric school for efficacious progress toward stream-entry or full illumination? This is a legitimate question which can be objectively answered using actual data gathered by observing the spiritual progress of thousands of students versus that seen in loners and New Age aficionados.

The answer is a resounding YES! You doubt such finding? Consider the following:

[1] History relates that the founders of new esoteric schools attended and studied in existing esoteric schools prior to moving out on their own. Jesus studied with the Esseni in the Levant and with unknown schools located in India (likely Buddhist and Vedanta). Gautama affiliated and studied in two well-known philosophical schools prior to being enlightened under the Bodhi Tree. Both are considered Avatars by many.

[2] Prior to Enlightenment, the Buddha spent six years as an ascetic; eventually, renouncing such efforts as nonproductive.

[3] The early 20th century founder of the worldwide Self-Realization Fellowship, Paramahansa Yogananda, studied under a line of Indian gurus before being sent to America.

[4] Indian metaphysics are transferred one generation to another based upon stable and productive teacher-student study relationships.

[5] Occidental mystical systems, including, the early Rosicrucian, taught that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

[6] Many modern esoteric schools eschew the guru-student relationship (so to minimize personality) for the Dhamma-seeker relationship. The Teachings of the school are the central point (Buddhism, Taoism, Rosicrucianism, and the Institute).

[7] G. Gurdjieff taught that all of us are locked within a great prison called life. A prison existing upon delusion, mechanicalness, and riddled with unnecessary suffering. Moreover, nearly everyone is oblivious to the terror of his or her situation. Why, because we are not conscious creatures, we are mechanical creatures living a fully conditioned life in a state of waking-sleep and delusion.

But, once in awhile, a creature awakens sufficiently to recognize that he or she is imprisoned and seeks the help of a prior escapee and his group so to awaken fully (a theme copied in the movie, The Matrix). Without such help, there can be no escape.

[8] Personally, I have never met, even one person worthy of being given the title, Initiate, who has not studied in at least one esoteric or near-esoteric school sometime in his or her life. Many claim the status, but, do not live the status.  Those who live the status, downplay titles.

However, a most serious problem remains for the student who awakens to the gravity of his or her life situation and seeks relief. How does he or she find a legitimate escapee and a legitimate esoteric school? Modern times have aptly demonstrated how easy it is for sleeping persons to be drawn into a sham school and hypnotized into submission. Take a moment to study the New Age movement and its sham schools arising and falling over the past 50+ years. This is a good exercise for each of you–I am not going to do your homework!

So my advice is student Beware. Do your homework. Does the school exist for the welfare and happiness of its associates? Do the school’s methods actually work? Does the school teach that mankind is transformed one initiate at a time? Does the school claim immediate results sans personal efforts? Are the founders ‘rolling in financial wealth’ at the expense of their students? Does the school utilize aggression to make its students conform? Is the school theological or pragmatic? I could continue for hours, but, I think you have the point.

True esoteric schools need money to do Good Works. Some are donation-based, some ask for monthly dues, others base payment upon your salary (so to be fair to all), some sell media, and many utilize one or more of these methods. It is easy to discover such information for it must be advertized to be followed.  Moreover, ask where the monies go.  Real schools are transparent.

So, dear readers, heed the above and choose wisely. Wisdom is conducive to everlasting happiness and foolishness to more unnecessary suffering.

Reality Series: Be Wise in Your Questions

Greetings and may we all remember what Tiny Tim prayed for at the end of the Christmas Carol, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us, every one!”

On this Yuletide Day, we are going to discuss the importance of applying wisdom when you ask questions; for the questions asked provide the building bricks maintaining your current psychofugal structure.

At this point, one might ask, “But, is not the answer to a question more important than the question? For the answer informs us of what to do or not do.”

I would reply, “Yes, Grasshopper, answers have importance and relevance to your progress upon the ancient path. But, if you are heedless, rash and fail to consider the many answers which might fall out from the question, your path to enlightenment will no longer be straight and true, but, littered with paths leading nowhere or worse, back to where you began.”

So to minimize backsliding and dead-ends, it is imperative to understand and differentiate between the primary categories of questions. Most important, you need to learn the difference between ‘the art of generating skillful questions’ and ‘the disease of generating unskillful questions.’ Skillful questioning is a learnable skill and a necessity for successful traversing of the ancient path to self-realization and mastership. Unskillful questioning will keep you immersed in a life of unnecessary suffering and confusion. Only skillful questioning leads to the Kingdom of God Within (or nibbāna if you prefer), the lasting state of true happiness, simple peace, simple joy, pure well-being, and clarity of mind.

The first and simplest category of questions consist of statements about the objective world. Statements which can be verified to be either true or false, correct or incorrect, agreed or disagreed, and yes or no. Such questions fall under the rubric of ‘the law of the excluded middle.’ For instance, “Is Alex taller than Andrew? Is tomorrow Christmas Day? Is this action skillful? . . ?”

A related category of questions concerns objective facts relating to the world (semantic knowledge). For instance, “How many kilometers from Nice to Lourdes? Where was the Buddha born? At this moment, what would be the most skillful action so to maximize my welfare and happiness? . . ?”

A third category of questions is sometimes used so to guide the questioner to a responsive answer. Usually such questions require the original questioner to answer several simpler questions considered necessary to arrive at the final answer. Such questions may be affirmative or even contrafactual. A good example of such questioning was practiced by Socrates.
The fourth major category of questions consists of questions which cannot be answered skillfully for a number of sound reasons. As discussed yesterday, questions arising from subjective opinion and are mutually exclusionary, such as, “Does God exist or does God not exist?” From an intellectual standpoint, a satisfying affirmative answer is impossible as such answers cannot be established by observation of the physical or mental worlds. Subsequently, the question is unskillful and without useful value as to enlightenment.

Even more important, such questions divert our attention from the major task of discovering skillful answers, “What actions must I take so to end my unnecessary suffering? How does unnecessary suffering arise in my life and why? What actions keep me in a state of unnecessary suffering? . . ?”

Buddha refused to answer the fourth category of questions as he realized that the answer would only bewilder and confuse the questioner even more. Rather than waste time, his teachings were pragmatic. He taught how to differentiate skillful from unskillful actions, self observation and self reflection, paying attention to your mind and desires, and the Four Noble Truths. After all, the good arising from knowledge of an intellectual truth is far less than that good arising from extinguishing unnecessary suffering.

This ends the blog for today. I trust it will be useful in your individual journeys. For it is your task to discover who and what you are, keeping what is skillful and jettisoning what is unskillful. It is your path to enlightenment so do not waste it. Beware the Devil’s counter-argument that you have an infinite amount of time for completing the road to enlightenment. For in truth, none have provided hard proof that you have more than one try, and that try is now in this life!

Reality Series: Self and Not-Self v. Self or No Self

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.

This morning it crossed my mind that I need to clarify something for you. Often, readers presume that an author creates with a specific, concrete plan and distant goal. Such concrete plans and goals commonly underlie papers, theses, and books. But, this is not how these blogs come into existence from non-existence. By temporal and workload necessity, blogs are generally written on the day they are posted and without more than a passing reference to prior blogs.

In other words, dear reader, each blog series is planned and not-planned, thought and not-thought, serial and parallel in explanation, and so on. Or, we could say, [1] each blog has an educational purpose to clarify and be complete in itself and [2] the intent behind any series of blogs is to expand your mental space so you can experience concepts, feelings, and actions from a richer perspective, unique to your psychofugal state. I cannot predict how your mindbrain will react and so I cannot really plan anything for you–so I non-plan for you.

I think you will understand more clearly after today’s blog on the critically important linguistic distinction between ‘self and not-self or non-self’ and self and no self.’ For if one does not appreciate the distinction, he or she will remain ‘lost in the forest of errors.’

If you recall, yesterday, I discussed the fourfold logic using four short phrases. Placing the fourfold logical statements into dyadic form, the first dyad stated, “Self exists and self does not exist.” Perhaps, the meaning of the dyad is simpler to see if I write, “Self exists and not-Self exists?”

If you consider these two terms for a moment, you will see that the dyad of ‘self and not-self ‘ possesses a supporting and conjoining relationship which each other. Each member of the pair is inclusive, and not exclusive of the other. Together, they form one unified, conceptual space. Moreover, such unified conceptual space, presuming the pair members exhaust all allowable possibilities, is a closed, complete set. In fact, they may be a complementary expression of the Absolute.

The linguistic structure of this dyad can be applied to many other ways, including, averring ‘God exists and God does not-exist.’

I think none of you will have much difficulty appreciating the reasonableness of this first dyad and how it can join concepts which seem opposed and exclusive, but, in truth, are not.

Commonly, people use a different formal dyad when they consider selves and God. The vulgate dyad goes, ‘there is a self or there is no self,’ or ‘there is a God or there is no God.’ Notice the exclusionary grammatical conjunction ‘or’ and the denying adjective ‘no’ in the vulgate dyad. Framing the dyad is such a manner creates a divisive tension between the two pair members. The dyad follows the ‘law of the excluded middle.’ Either one is true or the other is true, if one is true the other musts are false.

If one reviews the Buddha’s discourses, one will find that the Buddha argued against all such divisive metaphysics positions. The primary reason being that Buddha saw great benefit in teaching a better way to live ones life and no benefit to arguing philosophy with people who lacked sufficient understanding.

Putting aside suffering and its cessation, divisive dyads are unacceptable utterances and formal positions in linguistics (mathematics) and philosophical thought. The reason being that such dyads form sentences which are self-contradictory and meaningless. For instance, take a more complete, but equivalent sentence, “All selves say there is no self.”

To pose any question, some type of entity must be present so to ask the question. A linguistic analysis of the sentence notes that if ‘self’ is the plural of ‘self’ it contradicts itself. For at least one self must exist to write the sentence. The sentence is ambiguous for it can be interpreted to mean that the ‘set of all selves knows that a certain category of object cannot be classified as a self.’ Again, the sentence is impossible to interpret as the set of all selves is undefined. Or it might mean that the ‘set of all existing selves knows that no self does not exist.’ Regardless, the sentence is not singular in meaning and so should not be asked.

Such sentences are self-contradictory for they refer to themselves inherently. The congruous sentence uttered by a Cretan, “All Cretans are liars,” is similarly ambiguous and self-contradictory. Such sentences in mathematics are said to violate Gödel’s two incompleteness theorems.

The logistic problems which exist with such self-referent sentences are that by being divisive and exclusive, they create two detached circles in linguistic space, i.e., a Venn diagram formed of two noncontiguous and nonintersecting circles which exist in a state of exclusionary tension. Regardless of where we ask the question, we end up in the meaningless space between the circles.

Such cannot happen when we use the inclusive form of the dyad. This dyad is a Venn diagram formed of two contiguous and intersecting circles which share a common area allowing both portions of the dyad to be present as a unit.

As an exercise to further understanding, I recommend a similar analysis of the two remaining dyads so to show why they are not self-referent and are understandable after careful thought.

Tomorrow, we continue with the importance of differentiation as to the various types of questions one can ask meaningfully. Ciao.

Reality Series: The Virtual Self (4)

After reading the existing set of blogs, I feel it prudent to discuss our understanding of the Buddha’s teachings upon the contentious matter of ‘self’ and ‘not-self.’

To appreciate the original teachings of the Buddha, one must consult the earliest doctrinal texts of Theravadins, the Pali pitaka (basket of discourses). Tradition states that shortly after the transition of the Buddha, a council of elders convened a conference of monks so to collect and preserve his legitimate discourses. This body of discourses was recited orally from the 5th to the 1st centuries BCE. It was preserved in writing during the fourth Buddhist council in 29 BCE. .

While, such were composed some 450 years after Buddha’s transition, experts believe that they represent an accurate rendition of the preexisting oral discourses of the historical Buddha.

Over the centuries, the original teaching of the Buddha were corrupted by later commentators as Buddhism spread to other Asian countries. The indigenous populations of these countries practicing different religions and existing under varying social systems, all at variance with the traditional systems of India. For Buddhism to be successfully established in such variant environments, it would be expedient to adapt it to local belief systems and practices. However, though most likely well-intended, such adaptations introducing inconsistent and contrary doctrines into Buddhism which grew and evolved over the last 2500 years.

The easiest starting point for our discussion of self and not-self is by reviewing the four-fold logic model used by the Institute.

In an earlier blog, I introduced the mathematical system of four-fold logic stressed by Buddha. To review, in the earlier blog (The Changing Face of Spirituality 12/12/15), I began with standard logic theory with its ‘law of the excluded middle.’ That is, if one of the two statements ‘X’ or ‘not-X’ is true, the remaining statement must be false. Interestingly, human psychology (arose million of year prior to logic theory) operates similarly. Evolutionary pressures operating on our forebears for millions of years instilled, in each one of us, the innate ability to automatically characterize creatures and objects into friend or foe, dangerous or not, pleasant or unpleasant, liked or disliked, correct or wrong, and so on ad infinitum (referring to the apparent infinity of Aristotle).

During our tale of the Tower of Babel, we moved beyond the ‘the law of the excluded middle’ and into a more user friendly logic system consistent with the operational rules of neuronal circuits of the brain. In the neuronal-based system, both linear causality and associative causality are allowed, i.e.,

Self exists,
Self does not exist,
Self both exists and does not exist,
Self neither exists nor does not exist.

Alternatively, we can expand upon the above by noting that [1] the temporal relationships of standard causality: comes X, comes Y, goes X, goes Y and [2] the ‘here-now’ associative relationships: with X is Y, without X is without Y.

Judicious application of the four-fold logic system to the question of self and not-self avoids the paradoxes and exclusions of standard logic. Clearly, addressing metaphysical questions rationally requires consideration of inherent limitations and contextual nuances reading upon the question asked.

Unfortunately, most arguments over whether or not individuals possess an aphysical self (permanent or not) arise because the proponents employ the law of the excluded middle. Either a person has an aphysical self or he does not. The doctrinal extremes being eternalism proclaiming permanent souls and materialism teaching that man has no soul nor afterlife are materialism. Clearly, finding a middle road is impossible.

So how does one rationally approach the subject? Do we approach the question from a pragmatic, psychological prospective, as did the Buddha? A teaching introduced as a practical method for ending unnecessary suffering and distress and securing abiding happiness. Or do we approach the question from a scientific prospective, observing, hypothesizing, and testing until a proper, temporary model is found so to have a definitive answer, useful or not for living life? Or, perhaps, we do both hoping to maximize the psychological goals?

Tomorrow, we begin addressing the question of self vs. not-self in the context of removing unnecessary suffering so to find a more abiding happiness.  You will find that our explanation is very close to that of Buddha.

Reality Series: The Virtual Self (3)

Yesterday, we introduced a rational neurophysiological explanation for the development of the ‘concept of self.’ Clearly, the development of our ‘individualized feelings of selfness’ is dependent upon psychoneurologic ontogeny; the Institute recognizes that psychobiological factors are insufficient to fully explain the ‘concept of self.’

The Institute does not subscribe to Vedic-type views of a universal soul, the Atman, or other metaphysical speculations (see previous blogs). Neither does the Institute ascribe to later Buddhist view.[1]  I will discuss what appear to be the Buddha’s original teachings on the complementary pair, self and not-self (anatta). At the moment, I will discuss a corruption of the original teachings propagated by later commentaries.  I am doing this since to prevent misunderstanding before it arises. [2]

Briefly, the early Buddha noted that physical existence is plagued by three qualia:

1. All things are impermanence and experience uncertainty, change, and transience (anicca) .

The Institute is in agreement with this statement as far as it applies to things comprised of and utilizing matter-energy in timespace. Impermanence of form applies to all animate creatures, including, the psychoneurological world experience of human beings.

2. The very natural of existence is inherently unsatisfactory as all things, living and non-living, are subject to disease, pain, illness, misery, loss, and suffering (dukkha).

The Institute is in full agreement with this Buddhist tenet. Moreover, the Institute finds truth in the Buddha’s Noble Path and the teachings of Taoism.

3. Many persons misinterpret the Buddha’ actual position on ‘self and not-self.’  Typically, later commentaries taught that the Buddha disagreed with the Vedic concept that animate creatures possess a permanent, eternal, perfect, and unchanging self or soul.  Such commentaries claiming that the Buddha taught that one source of the ‘feeling that we possess a permanent self’ arose from the chaotic operation of five universal factors, or aggregates (skandhas), i.e., form, sensation, perception, mental formations, and consciousness.

1. Form refers to the operational functions of the physical body.

2. Sensation refers to our emotions and sensory organs data.

3. Perception refers to our cognitive functions, including, conceptualization, reasoning, categorizing, labeling, naming, and so forth.

4. Mental formations refers to our belief systems with their cognitive-affective biases, habits, and prejudices and our volition. Also included in the fourth skandha are attentional capacity, pride, desire, vindictiveness, and all other wholesome or unwholesome mental states.

5. Consciousness refers to simple awareness of the existence of something physical or mental.

These five aggregates work together, automatically and mechanically, as soon as awareness of the presence of something via form and sensation arises; perception recognizes the object and assigns a value to it; mental formations are brought into play so that desire or aversion arises; and lastly, consciousness ties the whole experience together as a unit.

The later commentaries claim that Buddha maintained that the continual operation of these psychoneurological factors proves that a permanent, unchanging, eternal self cannot exist.

In Institute terms, we would simply note the whole process using the phrase ‘stimulus-evaluation-response patterned activity’ or SERPA. Moreover, such are seen in all forms of life. Moreover, the five aggregates would simply be recognized as psychological factors, though modern psychology would reclassify such. I think these aggregates help maintain our belief in a personal self, but, miss the mark overall.

Tomorrow, appears to be a good time to discuss the fullness of the Institute’s view as to the concept of self and not-self.  It is quite similar to the Buddha’s original position in the Suttas.


[1] In truth, the set of post-Buddha views as to the existence or nonexistence of an unchanging soul are internally inconsistent. The Theravada teaches anatta, while, the Mahayana teaches inherent Buddha-nature. The Institute teaches neither. Regardless, such views serve as pedagogic strategies for working on enlightenment.

[2] Many fine discussions of the Theravada’s concepts of not-self, impermanence, and unsatisfactoriness of existence and the Mahayana’s concepts of Buddha-nature, emptiness, and non-duality are available online.