Was Nietzsche a mindless consumer, or was he just pissed off at God?

On the question of life’s value we will see in Nietzsche’s writing every ‘no’ of Schopenhauer’s answered by an emphatic ‘yes’. Schopenhauer’s will, dread and defiling, something that makes life not worth living, becomes with Nietzsche the ‘will to power’, the basis of all striving and life. We see each gloomy and pessimistic metaphysical notion of Schopenhauer’s answered by a ‘gay science’ and a ‘dancing with light feet’ as Nietzsche dismisses metaphysics and embraces life even if it is the expression of the will to power. For Schopenhauer’s distaste for life, for his preference that it didn’t exist at all, Nietzsche affirms not only life in general, but life in particular -fatality. With the concept of the eternal recurrence he invites us to think of living a life so great, and embracing our fate to such a degree, that we would live it again indefinitely. Nietzsche says ‘yes’. Even though we agree with him we must say ‘no’…

Nietzsche was born in an age where the greatest enemies of life, reason, and knowledge (at least in his eyes it seems) were Christianity and romantic pessimism. These beasts by our time are long gone -only the ruins of their doctrines remain, much of the rubble re-incorporated into heterodox edifices. In our age who are the greatest enemies to our pursuit? Who are the greatest enemies to life, reason, and knowledge? It seems that the triumphant antagonists of knowledge today are sensualists and materialists -seemingly the yea-sayers! We live in a time in which the dominant mode of production requires massive ideological mobilization to reproduce itself. This ideology uses as its primary energy ‘the animal spirits’ or if you will, the libidinal drives of the populace.

Capitalist economies require a continuous and ever-expanding flow of value. Labor and physical materials are the means by which concrete value is added to the production process; but, the commodities produced must also be consumed, without this accumulation would cease and the surrounding social relations would fall apart. The consumer must crave the commodity for society to persist. This craving must be pseudo-religious in nature and each consumption act must realize within the consumer some sort of addition to his being -it must be the means to becoming.

This society is structured such that one is constantly presented with the choice ‘yes’ or ‘no’: consume or do not consume. Marx used the commodity in his writing as a means to move from the particular to the universal. Both obscured and communicated within the single commodity was contained for Marx the whole of capitalist relations. Ideologically, and in our time the same holds. Not merely as rhetoric but as a form of pseudo-religious allegiance the whole of capitalist society may is affirmed in the consumption of the single commodity. In line with this it is implied that one may asserts their refusal of the capitalist worldview through refusing the single commodity.

Capitalist society is no longer a world of simple commodities. The electronic representations that flood the market and our minds do not merely reflect commodity fetishism, but seem to be the technical realization of commodity metaphysics. These images form a seeming multiplicity. For example, they are either news or entertainment, and many of the instances represent world-views that are at odds with each other. Nevertheless, it is most instructive to consider these representations as a totality, a single representation of society -the spectacle. Again, we are offered the choice of yes and no on many levels: will you consume electronic entertainment? Will you allow yourself to affirm these representations? Will the spectacle mediate your reality?

In the production of the commodity we must see an appropriation of the workers’ labor by the capitalist class. In its fetishistic consumption, we must see the assumption of the commodity metaphysic of becoming, an unconscious affirmation of individual expropriation, and an unconscious affirmation of the expropriation of an entire class by another. In the feverish worship of the spectacle we cannot help but witness the active pursuit of indoctrination. Precisely here we find the locus of our contemporary quandary: to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. How can we say yes to life when life is presented as an accumulation of spectacles? How can we say no when we don’t have a place to seek metaphysical refuge?

Instead of claiming the afterworld, the abstract and the divine, today ideology has claimed the profane, it has claimed this life, the individual’s needs, desires, and egotism. What it allegedly delivers us, it in fact alienates from us. The immediate needs and qualities of our being are not handed over to us, they are not made easier for us, they are claimed by the commodity and the spectacle. The labor-power of the worker is alienated from him under the present conditions of production and it is manifested in the commodity itself. Ideologically, the commodity performs a second alienation where it divorces from the consumer of the commodities his essential properties. The needs and qualities are alienated from the consumer, through the advertisement or the manufacture of desire, and magically retained within the commodity. With the entertainment spectacle, the same spell is cast, the needs and qualities of the consumer may only by reclaimed by consumption.

Yes or no?

…If we are to be philosophers we mustn’t get caught in these labyrinthine dichotomies, for we do not want only one or the other. We must never concede this life to the ideology of consumer capitalism. Spectacular society has presented life as a vast accumulation of images. Don’t permit your self-alienation before the spectacle, claim your own life.

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The wise know

Fools who seek enlightenment look abroad for exotic masters

The wise know the mind is the master

-Bodhidharma

 

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Lucid Dreaming: The Ultimate Aesthetic Practice

It is a wonder that lucid dreaming has been passed over by so many. For generations men and women have come and gone, struggling mightily during their time to wrest aesthetic visions from the raw materials of the earth. Whether it was through stone, pigment, sound, the body, or any other medium, the vison and creative power of these people was brought into the world and realized in a sensuous manner. But artists have not been alone! Philosophers are a group that we may with more justification expect to have stumbled upon the practice of lucid dreaming. Their province after all, is quite explicitly ‘the mind’ and ‘wisdom’ along with a whole slew of high flown ideas pertaining to self-mastery through intellectual mastery. How could have they missed the very practice whereby one undeniably masters the mind? -the practice whereby one harnesses the creative and aesthetic power of representation, and may manifest in the instant of a dream what would otherwise take years, or would not be possible at all?

Lucid dreaming is the ultimate aesthetic practice, it is a state in which every manifestation has meaning, and a state in which the intensity and clarity of awareness will literally bring heaven to earth, rend the cosmic veil, or bring the dawning of the clear light… Perhaps artists and philosophers have not been up to the challenge. Perhaps it is enough for these friends of ours to catch one or two golden threads and affix them to cultural memory… But what about psychologists? It is after all within psychology that we find the most sustained attempt to make the psyche in its entirety intelligible for us. The noblest aim of psychology is to facilitate communication between consciousness and all of the psyche that lies in semi-darkness, or inscrutability. Its greatest practices have been those that have helped us to understand the obscure communications between these fields, and the dynamics which connect them. Dreams, and dream interpretation is one such intersection. But even here -to our surprise!- the psychologists have missed the greatest discovery that they could have made, a discovery that would have mandated a total revision of their beginning theses, and consequently their methodology. What use is dream interpretation, the associative unpacking of incredibly obscure representations, when through practicing lucid dreaming one may consciously and while still within the dream ask a dream character what they represent? Even further, in the dream one may ask to see the deepest needs of one’s psyche, or ask for the highest possible vision. The lucid dreamer may, through a practice that resembles an ancient Taoist fable, collapse the dream into itself, consciously reconciling the opposites and tensions present in the manifestation (what is called the dream work, or latent idea) and in so doing arrive at the primordial emptiness and limpid clarity of the void.

Yes, these friends of ours, the psychologists, noble as many of their aims and endeavors are, seem to have missed as a discipline the highest psychic art, lucid dreaming: the manifest cure of the division between conscious and unconscious, the undeniable cessation of self-alienation, the cessation of unconsciousness. We may wonder about theologians, or monastics… Have they found lucid dreaming? Have they through some happy accident, perhaps during the unimaginable trials and vigils of contemplation, stumbled upon this miracle of being? No more than the above wayfarers, or understandably their realizations rested in their vows of silence. Theology, as you most likely will agree with me, is perhaps the most prostrate before its own spurious maxims. However, at this point we must break the rhetorical mold which we have so far used to motivate our story. So far we have confined ourselves only to western society, and the history of western knowledge and art. Even though this designation is fraught with complexities, we have used it here to show that lucid dreaming as understood in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions has not exerted an influence on the West until recently.

It is within Buddhism and Hinduism that the practice of lucid dreaming and its attendant phenomena have been incorporated into the human experience most extensively. Lucid dreaming in these traditions is incorporated into the aesthetic, moral, legal, social, and spiritual domains. We can find texts referring to the practice, its results and its supports, dating from at least 1,400 years ago, and presumably these were long codified practices and systems at that time. Even one of the most foundational suites of spiritual practices in Tibetan Buddhism, the Six Yogas of Naropa, has as one of its yogas the practice of lucid dreaming. Arguably a few more of the yogas could be considered forms of lucid dreaming, but this would require much more space to adequately consider. Nevertheless, the implications of the practice of lucid dreaming in these contexts, and the implications that it must have for us today, are quite different. We should not mistake medieval interpretations for the phenomena themselves, but we should in all earnestness endeavor to understand why it was these people, their beliefs and practices, which enabled lucid dreaming. Sociologically and historically this is quite the Gordian knot, but we do know that the solution is tied up in their practice of meditation. Strictly speaking lucid dreaming is meditation, and I think that in this connection we will also clarify some mysteries introduced above: it is the absence of meditation in the ‘the western intellectual tradition’ which has precluded it from explicitly discovering and incorporating lucid dreaming -as well as a few other things…

Our mold must be broken again, for there are exceptions, and today the exceptions are growing indeed. There are records that suggest lucid dreaming was known in the western world in ancient times, being mentioned by Aristotle, Galen of Pergamon, and St. Augustine of Hippo. In the mainstream philosophical tradition, there are even a few hints at the practice: there is an aphorism in Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil that is undeniably about lucid dreaming, and there is a footnote in one of Freud’s books that mentions it as well. In line with this we must wonder if Carl Jung would understand our present conversation, but I do not know of any of his writings on the matter. In addition to these it has been shown that lucid dreaming had a presence in the western ‘occult’, theosophical, or otherwise fringe intellectual groups for quite some time. P.D. Ouspensky is a notable example, and the researchers Marie-Jean-Léon Marquis d’Hervey de Saint Denys, and Frederik Van Eeden are famous for studying lucid dreaming in the 19th to early 20th centuries. It is from the latter that we received the term lucid dreaming after all. Despite these examples, and even in the case of the last mentioned, it seems that the true profundity of lucid dreaming, its implications and its possibilities have still been missed. These older accounts all seem anecdotal, to be merely personal accounts, or are couched in strange pseudo-religious ontologies.

Today, lucid dreaming studies have undergone a comparative explosion and we must admit that at least a few public figures have grasped its psychological implications. The first resurgence can be identified as occurring during the counter-culture movement where alternate lifestyles, spiritual practices, and the use of psychedelic drugs was popular. Perhaps the most popular author from this time was Carlos Castaneda. Along with this strain there were also a handful of dream researchers who studied lucid dreaming. They established some basic scientific facts concerning lucid dreaming, established its certainty as a practice, have left us with detailed practice manuals, and even with personal accounts. Recently new books have come out detailing the practice in the Buddhist tradition as well as some new translations of ancient Buddhist texts that explicitly deal with lucid dreaming. Nevertheless, in the past twenty years or so, the internet has been the primary medium in which information on lucid dreaming has grown. Every year new forums, websites, and video channels on lucid dreaming crop up, and it would be interesting to try and figure out at what rate this mass of information was growing -in terms of text the internet presence of lucid dreaming has far and away eclipsed the printed material, and perhaps does so on monthly intervals.

The fact that lucid dreaming has seemed to emerge from the occultist manuals of old Europe and the traditions of Eastern religions to become widely known today is indeed a social-psychological riddle. How is it that lucid dreaming has arrived amongst us today? -that an ancient tantric art has become prevalent amongst electro-idolaters? Isn’t it strange that the flighty visitor of genius has come to nest in our vulgar consumer society? We cannot be sure why, but our answer may lie not in the continuity with tradition but with social ontology. Could it be the case that lucid dreaming is a symptom, or an emergent property, of electronic media’s interposition in our understanding? One thesis is that lucid dreaming is really an ontological art -and by extension so is meditation. Perhaps lucid dreaming has arrived in this unlikely place because we are undergoing a profound ontological dislocation. One could, if they granted themselves some permissions, say that humanity is ‘giving up the ghost’, that their beings, and more specifically their spatio-temporal-kinesthetic projections of themselves are being taken up into the electronic web of images. In terms of ‘knowing what is’, screens, electronic sounds, and electronic equipment are required. Not only does the screen interpose in the encounter with the real, but it serves as a substitute. When engrossed in viewing the spectator projects himself into the environment of the film or movie, using the normal faculties of phenomenological framing one subtracts the environment of the immediate space and instead applies their faculties to the screen. After hours, days, years, and even lifetimes of this, one’s own mnemonic continuity becomes inextricable from the electronic environments they have ‘lived’. Tourists, only see foreign cities through the screens of their cellphones, people mediate their communications through the consumption of entertainment, etc. Moderns have, in a sense, had their souls abducted by the incubi and succubae of the spectacle. To get to our explanation of lucid dreaming, perhaps it is in the interstices of this spiritual culling, that a shaft of light has broken through, and a fundamental ontological illusion has been rended, the kind that in previous, slower, and more boring times, took extreme mortification and discipline to effect…

Lucid dreaming and meditation may seem strange subjects to study in times such as our own. It is more obvious to study demographics, ecology, environmental systems engineering, climate history, and the long cycles of economic accumulation. We are experiencing the collision of human history and natural history, a collision which has already cost too much. Countless peoples, life-worlds, species, regions, etc. have been taken up in this movement, incorporated or cast out again and destroyed. We as societies externalize ourselves both socially and materially, and these externalized forms pass from one generation to the next, impinging recursively upon us. They condition us in turn, forming us as tenders to their systems, experts in certain technologies and trades,      but also ideologically, and by extension experientially they shape us. We come to consciousness amongst this already formed social-technical system, and we need not understand its origins, intended purposes, or next development to reproduce it through our activity. In fact, it seems that to the degree we abandon the clichés, winnowed viewpoints, and routinized behavior of our inheritance, we may step outside of this Frankenstein’s monster for an outside perspective. Lucid dreaming liquefies ideology, and is a practice for illuminating the perennial forms of the mind, it may serve as our first step.

Every single lifetime is fragile, and incredibly limited. Existence as a species is fraught with danger, and fortune has been incredibly cruel to the creatures that have preceded us. There is no guarantee that we may rise to the occasion of our moment, collectively and especially individually. Technical understanding and symbolic production are emergent from mutations and selection, the development of history from our species character and the geography and biology of the landscape. In the collision of these forces, there is no harmonizing principle. Nothing will protect us from creating irreversible changes detrimental to our survival. We have collectively taken up the mantel of material development, and feverishly pursued activities that manifestly alter the life-support system of the species, yet we do not know ourselves nor our world sufficiently. Each one of us begins in a fog of narcissism and vulgarity -a great deal is required to even become ‘normal’, what if our survival now requires more? To climb higher, to learn more than previous generations… to break with the past.

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Vehicle to the Absolute Horizon of Experience

Below is another extract from the introduction to the Phenomenology:

Questions important to this investigation.

During the process of exploring lucid dreaming and meditation seeking answers to some simple questions may serve at the outset as an impetus to practice; as one progresses, more difficult questions will appear on the horizon. Here we will set down some of the most important of these types of questions; questions which range from the simple ‘how to’ of lucid dreaming, to questions on how lucid dreaming may reveal the true nature of mind. Some of these are practical, some theoretical, and some more difficult to categorize. On the path of meditation some questions begin to define our seeking, they function like mantras, they are posed not in order to be answered, but because even to successfully pose the question our perception must radically shift. All of these questions should be held in the mind as one reads further; perhaps they may exert an orienting influence for the reader as they do for the seeker.

1║     The first question –and one we have already answered- “what is lucid dreaming?” most succinctly the answer is: ‘lucid dreaming is any dream in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that he or she is dreaming while he or she is still within the dream’. A rather simple definition but only the first step in fleshing out one of the most ephemeral, yet trainable, mystical states of consciousness. Moving on from this basic definition we can further differentiate lucid dreams along both 1) the levels of conscious direction of dream phenomena within the dream, and 2) the degree of awareness gained over the structure of the dream. Progress in lucid dreaming, no matter the end of the practitioner, is best defined by the second point -the degree of awareness that one gains over the dream’s structure. It is the intensity and clarity of this awareness that determines the levels of conscious direction that are possible; but, conscious direction does not necessarily follow from increased awareness.

Before going too far in this direction, for we have reserved space in another part of the phenomenology for that purpose, we will introduce a few more questions of a simple nature –questions that we may hazard answers to right away –and then we will ponder some more difficult questions.

2║ The second question: “Why lucid dream?” For the novitiate answering this question may be rather difficult, but with time and practice in lucid dreaming the difficulty becomes how to give a succinct response.

Though there be many answers, at the forefront of my philosophical reasons is the fact that philosophy must begin with studying the mind, and the dream is a state in which the mind is manifest all around one. Not only is the mind manifest in the dream, it constitutes all manifestation. The places, people, and things of the dream as well as the subjective experience and reflections of the dreamer are all products of mind. Lucid dreaming is the recognition of these dream phenomena as the products of mind, and the exploration of the structure and subtleties of experience in this state. Furthermore, the lucid exploration of the dream offers lessons regarding the mind applicable outside dreaming –lessons that would be hard to learn elsewhere.

My foremost regularly unarticulated and spiritual response: ‘I lucid dream for the unmitigated sense of adventure and deep sense of mysteriousness that it opens up’. The mind overcoming its own adamantine illusions and scouring away the most perplexing self-inflicted absurdities is a joy and mystery that cannot adequately be told.

3║ The third question must be: “How do you lucid dream?” Although there are definite answers to this question I cannot begin to sketch out a complete picture here. I can however say ‘through practice’ and furthermore ‘through specific meditative practices’ each of which train one or another facet of realizing a lucid dream.

4║ The fourth question, and one that is the foundation of the theoretical analysis of lucid dreaming: “How is it that the lucid dream inception meditations of the waking day cause a lucid dream?” This is a question that essentially asks, “what is the medium that is shared by both the waking and dreaming state, but is also capable of serving as an impressionable medium that will carry the ‘effects’ of meditation?” the answer to this question is the understanding. It is not the translattion of an idea nor the translation of a habit, but a reconfiguration in the very representing faculty that is translated from waking to dreaming. This could also be termed ‘a change in the ecology of the psyche’. This answer of ours necessitates a revision of the predominant psychological thesis concerning dreaming. The dream is not a translation of thought, it is a translation of the understanding in its entirety.

So far we’ve pondered questions with rather definite answers ones that will be extrapolated in the pages to come. There are more questions to consider, questions that we may explore time and time again arriving with each questioning only at tentative explanations.

5║ How does lucid dreaming disclose the nature of the modes of consciousness? Since consciousness of the dream is the definitive characteristic of lucid dreaming, and since the measure of a lucid dream’s lucidity is made according to the degree to which consciousness is attained, we have already  overturned the notion of sleep as a necessarily unconscious activity and opened it up to varying degrees of consciousness. Since the degree of consciousness attained in the lucid dream is dependent upon the changes effectuated in the understanding through meditation, the unaffected waking understanding must in some important respects be seen as ‘unconscious’ and the mind of meditation as ‘conscious’.

6║ What does lucid dreaming disclose concerning the true nature of thought? Lucid dreaming is effected via a change in the psychic ecology. This change is caused by meditation, which yokes the representing faculty of mind to awareness such that thoughts may be directed or dissolved. Therefore, in lucid dreaming practice the place and role of thought in the understanding and its place in the translation of the understanding into the dream is changed. We may also consider how our habits of thought and representation are effected by social and material forces –how our perception is routinized. This routinization does indeed become a feature of the understanding, it is translated into the dream, and serves as a mediation between the many elements of the psyche.

7║ What are the implications of the void? We may consider this question alongside the two aforementioned themes: the modes of consciousness, and the true nature of thought. Characteristic of the void state is the absence of manifest conceptual, dream, or physical sensation. Dark, spatially undefined, lacking all temporality, the void is a state in which psychic energy abides in its raw undefined condition –in efference.

Paradoxically, a state so radically devoid of phenomena proves to be a wellspring of hard questions and dizzying necessities. In the practice of Sleep Yoga one abides consciously within the void state. This practice proves that the persistence of conscious awareness into the deep sleep cycle (the apparent correlate to the phenomenological void) is possible. The practice suggests that the maintenance of consciousness throughout the entire sleep cycle is possible. It seems that the translation of consciousness from waking, through the dream, to deep sleep, and to waking again is possible. The void state itself demands the unimaginable: that consciousness is not dependent upon an object nor intentionality, and that the self is not the fundamental source of identity.

Observation of the void state in transition provides some of the most striking and fruitful material for analysis. It seems that the void state is a sort of base from which dreams arise and into which they dissolve. This mirrors the state of clarity and quiescence aimed for in waking formless meditation. When abiding in the quiescent mind thoughts may be witnessed arising and dissolving into it. It would be more analytically correct to say that in this meditative state it is not merely thoughts that arise and dissolve but the entire understanding itself. In Division 2 I will argue that the habituation of the understanding of the waking state, meditative or otherwise, is the key causal mechanism in the appearance of the dream (i.e. lucid or non-lucid) . Thusly, the question of how thoughts, the understanding, and dreams mirror one another in their intersection with the void is an essential one.

8║“What are the implications of the hypnogogic state?” Many people may identify the hypnogogic state as an intermediary state between waking and dreaming, but this is not always the case –oftentimes the hypnogogic state will lead directly into the void state, or even back to waking. Nevertheless, this mistakenly simplified definition does convey the readily apparent nature of the hypnogogic state –the perplexing blend of both manifest mental formations and manifest physical sensations.

Observing hypnogogia will help us in solving the more difficult problems that dreaming presents. For instance, to tackle the question of how thoughts and the understanding are translated into dream i.e. how thoughts become reified –that is, how they manifest into sensuous objects with apparent independent existence- one can look to hypnogogia and witness the actual process occurring. ‘How is identity misplaced in a dreaming subject, or various objects, and how does it move around during a dream series?’ This question can also begin to be grasped by looking at that peculiar state between waking and sleep where one may have alien identities and bizarre actions ascribed to oneself, or possess multiple identities and be in multiple fragmented locations –split between physical sensation and reified mental sensation simultaneously. Another curiosity of the dream that hypnogogia can provide insight into is closely akin to the sense of identity –the spatial sense. In the hypnogogic state we may witness multiple, fragmentary, and sometimes contradictory thought-forms become manifest together creating a spatial sense that eventually, along with the various manifest thought-forms, cohere into a single dreamscape –this may be termed the dawning of the dreaming understanding or oneirogenesis.

9║ To finish off this section, we will ponder some of the more intractable questions posed by our endeavor. “What is the dreamlike nature of reality?”The lucid dream requires an entire re-articulation of what we think to be the essential nature of the dream: unconsciousness. Such dreams require us to find a different essential nature and to attempt an understanding at just how mutable the dream actually is.

Just as the dream mirrors waking life, and is composed of a series of direct translations from waking life, an alteration in its expression so radical to change its apparent essential nature must also be traceable back to that state that serves as its wellspring. A state about which we have just as many misconceived notions: the waking state.

It is the quality of waking life, the ambiance and pace of that state that, in its regular translation into dream, does most to prevent the dreamer from recognizing that he is in a different state of consciousness. However, the connections between these two states do not flow one way only –we may be surprised how often, and in subtle ways, we experience the waking world as if we are in a dream. As much as lucid dreaming is the practice of recognizing ‘dreamlike’ qualities while in the dream and counterposing them to the wakeful qualities, it is just as much the practice of recognizing the dreamlike nature of waking life and meditating on this nature such that one would attain recognition of the dream if one were in fact dreaming. Ferreting out this dreamlike nature, in both states is in fact calling forth illusion and the illusory aspect of experience, and in so doing mitigating their capacity for capturing attention. We may put this process in so many simple terms but the actual practice of staring into a fully encompassing net of illusion, beyond which it is anyone’s guess what resides, is quite harrowing.

Questioning the dreamlike nature of reality at first glance seems to be questioning the dreamlike nature of waking life –true this is one of the most compelling and altogether startling questions– but it must also lead into deliberation over the wakeful quality of the dream and what exactly we mean by ‘dreamlike’. Perhaps given the dreamlike and wakeful qualities of both waking and dreaming we would be better to pose the question anew in terms of illusion.

10║“What is the true nature of illusion?” In the case at hand it seems that both the waking and sleeping worlds are laden in a heaviness, an obscurity, a senselessness in form, and a carnivalesque hyperactivity; in short, they are laden in dream; in other words illusion. Non-lucid dreaming and its correspondent in waking life are the results of misunderstanding the true nature of this illusion, of seeing the illusory as real.

Do I then propose to have access to the real? -a removed and holy land, a barren room behind the stage? I’d just as soon posit reality as the quintessential illusion. The thingification of phenomena, the endless delimitation of a perennial fluidity is illusion. Lucidity is a particular phenomenal standpoint from which one may witness this flow, this play –it allows the true nature of mind to announce itself in unity.

11║What is the true nature of mind? What does it mean when one gains consciousness of representation? When one can recognize the manifestations of thought during the waking day and silence them such that a barren yet sensuously felt world remains? -is one not entering the real? Or, more radically, when one recognizes the myriad forms of dreams, maintains sleep and enters the void, has one not encountered the real? –a base state that is contains neither physical nor mental form? In the case of the waking condition mentioned, has one stepped beyond the confines of the understanding? –has one ceased all mental representation such that one has stepped beyond the horizons of human conditionality? Or is physical sensation part of the understanding still? In the case of the void state, has one transcended contingency and crossed over that yawning gap of the human?

-We are forced to consider the true nature of mind in response to all of these questions… May we have experience or knowledge outside of a representation or mediation? –Perhaps meditation and antipodal states are not transcendent, but merely vehicles that take us to the absolute horizons of human experience…

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An Effort to Understand the Fundamental Pattern of Illusion

Below is an extract from the Introduction to the Phenomenology:

Phenomena of Lucid Dreaming

This investigation focuses on describing and analyzing the phenomena surrounding lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is the practice of consciously recognizing the dream as a dream. In this experience, a certain revolution of the mind is undeniably manifested –it is a clear expression that the dreamer has overturned the regularity of their perception and gained a window into the structure of experience. In this revolution everything is thrown from its comfortable place -the habits that shackle the mind are broken, the transparent prison that previously formed the horizon of all possible experience is shattered, and a new horizon opens beyond its confines. Although lucid dreaming is the clearest expression of this phenomenological revolution, it marks neither the beginning nor the end of it.

Regular dreams appear as independently existent spaces. At the onset of a lucid dream this space transforms and is perceived as a dependently existent space. This means that what once bore the appearance of a world with its own preexisting and impinging logic is revealed as a world that is recursively related with the subject. Even within lucid dreams there is a great variability in the gross manifestation and clarity of phenomena. The ecology of the psyche as a whole, but primarily the placement of awareness within the psyche, determines the lucidity of the dream. When the dream is seen as an independent phenomenon, awareness, control, and consciousness are quite limited. When the dream is understood dependently, awareness, control, and consciousness expand greatly. Therefore, we must think of lucid dreaming as disclosing a truth and ridding us of an illusion. As we continue, we shall find that the distinction between dependent and independent existence is the clearest insight into the nature of illusion in general.

Lucid dreaming is the undeniable and manifest expression of a revolution in one’s perception; meditation plays an integral role in this revolution. The path of meditation is the concerted effort to see beyond not only the provincial illusions of one’s time and place, but to understand the fundamental pattern of illusion. One may set out to practice general meditation as well as lucid dreaming in order to understand the true nature of mind. However, meditation may have a different role for other explorers of the mind. Some people catch irregular and unsolicited glimpses of the mind. Individuals that may not on the surface of things seem destined for such insight. For these people meditation may be a means to stabilize and make familiar what is fleeting and visionary.

Sitting meditation along with lucid dreaming practice has established the means for the gathering of the primary observations of this investigation. There are many forms of specialized meditation, and some are particularly suited for making special types of observations. Lucid dreaming is one type of observational meditation, one in which consciousness is translated into the dream. It is the only practice that allows for the observation and testing of the dream while still within the dream. Other methods of working with dreams rely upon remembering the dream state, and from this memory drawing conclusions. While lucid dreaming may be used in this manner to test theses, it also allows for an immediate evaluation of the structures of consciousness and not merely a proximal one.

Practically, lucid dreaming is the center of this investigation, however it must also be the theoretical center. A simple, and as it so often happens, accidental lucid dream, if reflected upon at length may cast very ominous doubts over our general assumptions concerning the mind. The most important theoretical questions concerning lucid dreaming emerge when it is reflexively applied to waking life. For example, if we are bound by a dream unconsciously, that means that we are trapped within an illusory realm of our own making. This realm bears the character of waking life so well that we mistake it for the real waking world. If this is the case, then how much do we know for certain concerning this waking state? If we know in principle that within the dream our minds are capable of creating a fantasy –a fantasy possessing the sensuousness and clarity of the waking state- then how much of this waking experience may we consider real, and how much might we consider a dream?

Thinking about lucid dreaming quickly leads to dramatic changes in how we see and experience reality. Firstly we will be led to rethink the nature of dreaming, then we will be led into thinking of the waking world as being either partially a dream, or totally a dream. Before long we will begin to wonder what mind actually is. We will wonder at our encasement within it, at its appearance as both mediation that communicates and illusion that obscures. Before long we will have rethought our entire experience and if we endeavor to organize our reinterpretation we may use philosophy to do so.

Phenomenology is the philosophical discipline best suited to exploring the theoretical implications of lucid dreaming. Phenomenology is the study of phenomena. Phenomena are what constitute experience. They are states, objects, thoughts etc. that together create the totality of any given moment.

‘To the things themselves’, is one of the most important maxims of phenomenology. Yet in nearly every phenomenological investigation hitherto this maxim has not been understood deeply enough, and because of this discrepancy the entire edifice of ‘phenomenology’ as it currently stands, should be regarded by us with great suspicion. For ‘phenomenology’ as you the reader encounter it, is anything but ‘the thing in itself’ or ‘things themselves’, it is descriptive, theoretical, more an investigation in articulation than one in actual phenomena.

At the margins of some phenomenological works –hermeneutical jungles and spurious analyses the majority of them- one may intuit a sort of methodology to the madness, a kind of ‘gathering of the phenomenal facts’ that must have occurred beforehand. Yet, phenomenology remains overwhelmingly identified with theory –which is necessarily reading, writing, and thinking – none of which will reveal the true nature of mind nor the true nature of dreams. Phenomenological theorizing deals in appearances: it makes deductions from them, it finds the best way to represent them abstractly, it attempts to uncover their structure. Here we have a trafficking in ephemera –appearances and representations of appearances. In meditation, superfluous mental representations are quieted, and whether or not it is possible to peer over that impassable gulf of the horizon of human experience, meditation at least promises to bring one to that antipodal place. Meditation then, holds faster to the phenomenological maxim: ‘to the things themselves’ than phenomenology itself.

A true phenomenological investigation must include what has hitherto been called phenomenology as well as meditation. True phenomenological investigation brings these two together and in so doing cures the many problems of each in isolation. Meditation reveals phenomena, but it does not speak of them, and empty theorizing does nothing but fill shelves in libraries. -To be phenomenologists we must first be meditators!

Primary observation of the mind must be our first end, and theory, a secondary option useful only if one feels the need for careful articulation. In this way, phenomenology truly begins in experience and in methods to experience. Starting thusly, we may put that conspicuous absence of ‘a phenomenology of phenomenology’ to rest.

We must remember that herein one will only find words, both descriptive and analytic. The meditation and lucid dreaming that furnished the primary material for this work has already occurred -even true phenomenology can only be partially represented.

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The Modern Psyche has Been Invaded

The modern psyche has been invaded. This is something we all know to some degree because it is our psyches which have been invaded. They have been invaded by electronic images. Images that coerce and compel, that titillate and distract, images that in many cases we have sought out ourselves. Few people today, especially young people, are willing to critique electronic images, but I think that the reasons for doing so, are clear enough if they are presented adequately. More importantly the reasons for abstaining from electronic distraction should become clear with some reflection on the topic.

My personal interest in this topic stems from a time when I was studying Buddhist philosophy and the practice of meditation. If any of you have read much Buddhist philosophy, whether it is the ancient sutras, or the newest book down in Boulder you will already understand where I am going with this. In all of these writings, there is a spiritual, or some would say a mental ideal that the meditator is aiming for. We may suffice it to say here that this ideal is one of a quiescent, luminous, and tamed mind. The Buddha statue is unmovable, just as we aim to be, and without moral impurities, as we may also aim to be. The eightfold path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right meditation, is as you can imagine at odds with modern electronic media representations. In fact it is probably easier for us to understand what the eightfold path is by imagining all that electronic society is not.

Don’t mistake me. I am not a Buddhist, but I have at times been carried away by the philosophy and practice of Buddhism. This I can tell you for sure: if you wish to attain the mind of meditation and you participate in the spectacle, you are kidding yourself. They are mutually contradictory. The spectacle conditions the mind so that you are perpetually stuck on the surface of things. As you well know, Buddhist philosophy is quite practical and aims at describing the ways in which our minds and egos are convoluted, selfish, and impure, in order to change them. The spectacle is so distracting that it makes these deeper pursuits impossible; and if one pursues the Buddhist texts further they will find even deeper pursuits such as lucid dreaming, that require an established mental stability.

Let’s say a few words about what the term ‘spectacle’ means. The term spectacle is singular yet it may refer to all electronic, print, and performances that go on in modern societies –or at least the vast majority of them. For this very fact it is a concept that aims to unify these disparate phenomena and to understand them as a totality. We may say that the various spectacles, even though they seem to be of different origins and have different content, are actually unified as an ideological representation. This representation has several features: it has a manifest content, a latent content, and a form.

We may say that the manifest content of a newscast or television program is the storyline, or the most readily apparent happenings. This content may be judged in isolation, and even in isolation we will find the content of the spectacle incredibly lacking in depth, and aesthetic considerations, -in short we will find the content of the spectacle to be just plain garbage. The manifest content does not operate in isolation however, but is usually meant as a means to convey a latent or hidden content. Sometimes this ‘hidden’ content is not so much hidden as obscured, or moved to the back ground, but other times what is hidden is truly menacing. This is a process that is not as esoteric as it sounds, we all know that the youthful teens in coca cola commercials are not meant to teach us about youth or the story of their personal lives, but to get us to buy the product. We also know that the hot chicks in the shampoo commercials, make-up ads, deodorant skits, are there to communicate to us unconsciously that if we are to buy the product then we will possess them, or become them in some manner. It goes on and on, ad infinitum. This seems simple enough, and most adults know better than to take these things at face value, at least most of the time, but so far we have merely scratched the surface.

It still boggles my mind that people think the newscasts are any different than soda pop commercials. And yes, I am including NPR in this net of mine, but let’s pick a piece of fruit hanging from a lower branch first… when we watch Fox News, that satanic trumpet of electro-fascism, we will witness the soda-pop logic of American politics most clearly at work. Hot news cast babes, and graying fatherly figures are offering us the magical aura of political knowledge, and all we must do is internalize their demagogic debate tactics and bring them into the real world. They also try desperately to get us to magically identify our interests with the interests of the rich and elite, and to convince us that this or that suit with a Swiss bank account is one of us. I could go on… but shouldn’t it cause the gravest of suspicion for us that history rarely makes its appearance in these representations? and that in a baseball or football pregame show more statistics and factual information is presented than in these corporate newscasts?

We are too new in this world mediated by electronic images. We have not lived long enough to learn the commonsense lessons that the new medium requires. We are too prone to debasement, too prone to economic and political exploitation, and we too easily abandon ourselves to the succession of images. There have been previous times of such naiveté, times when not only did the new medium mediate the unconscious forces of the individual, but when the medium carried messages from a far greater and more menacing unconscious. These were times when latent social forces found their voice and found a people ready to listen. The rampant and vituperative pamphleteering during and preceding the wars of religion, the newspapers during the formation of nationalisms in Europe, the use of radio in interwar Germany, the television during the cold war, and the labyrinth of the internet.

To come back from the edge of an eternal rant… lets pick up on where we left off and tie the spectacle back more securely to lucid dreaming and meditation. The spectacle also possesses a form. In what has been said so far we have two levels, one of manifest content and one of latent content. One is the obvious communication and one the secret communication. When someone internalizes the message of the spectacle and cannot bridge this gap this gap between contents is the gap of false consciousness. When one has false consciousness one does not understand the contents of their own mind. However, when one puts an evil eye to the spectacle then this gap will appear as obfuscation. Beyond this level of form there is a deeper one. The spectacle conditions our experience as we consume it. This means that by consuming the spectacle the very structure of our minds are altered, which in turn means that when we endeavor to interpret the world the world itself is filtered through this altered mind. This may occur at many different levels. At the level of ideology we will identify Mexicans or other designated outsiders as beings which contaminate the body politic, when in reality it is oftentimes the case that such groups are really what make cheap commodities possible, and enrich the body politic. We may identify one party or another, and yes here I am damning republicans and democrats, as being entities that represent our interests when in fact they are the organized apologists of capital. But beyond this we will experience space and time differently. We may see ourselves as being in a sort of personal movie, we may walk around with our own personal soundtrack in our heads, or be lost in fantasies where are the hero, and we are winning, losing, etc. More importantly the pacing of the images of the spectacle becomes the pacing of our minds, and when we aren’t directly reliving its content, the happenings of our lives appear according to its tempo.

If all of this seems too extreme, then let me ask you this: what is more extreme than murder? Perhaps organized mass murder… this is what war is my friends, even if it is televised and has ample commentators and close ups of explosions. We have seen the products of war in our lifetimes, albeit mediated by a dizzying array of contorted images… war destroys people, communities, and ways of life. It is above all and most simply the industrial slaughter of strangers. Those talking heads on the spectacle box should not get a free pass. They agitate, convince, attempt to justify mass violence. The producers make millions off of creating news-entertainment-products. This is the last proof that the world of the spectacle is morally upside down. The most contemptible are elevated.

The modern psyche has been invaded. Can it be saved?

As much as I wish that this was the spearhead of a Communist-Buddhist mass movement, one in which meditation was only interrupted by the popcorn reading of history, critical theory, and collective labor, I must have my reservations.

How can the modern psyche be saved? The spectacle is totally hegemonic in our society, it is so pervasive that it has become the air we breathe, the ground we walk upon, and the adornments of our souls. We are riding the crest of the collision of natural history and human history. Every species, every people, every region of this earth has been taken up into this movement. And what is this movement? It is many things, and to comprehend it adequately would be to comprehend the course of civilization. Nevertheless, we may say that capitalism, and our current economic system cannot be separated from the origins of the world system over 500 years ago. It cannot be separated from the global capitalist mode of production that began to emerge out of the mercantile centralization of global trade. Our economic system cannot be separated from the mines in San Luis Potosi, from Incan Gold, from the potato and maize, from the clear cutting of the North East, or the furs of the North. The capital that began the movement of globalization was gained by the sweat of captured slaves, indentured servants, Indians on the encomiendas, and the serfs of old Europe. Today, at the far flung corners of the earth, the last regions that have not seen the resource extraction of capitalism are being weighed in the Faustian bargain of modernity. The populations that still possess some semblance of local autonomy or feudal protection are being expropriated and dislocated to produce commodities for a global market. Innumerable peoples, trade networks, and Edens have been annihilated in this five century experiment. And to what end? For whom was this great gamble made? Have any of us contemplated the stakes of such a mode of production?

The spectacle does not contemplate this mode; it is a paltry layer of apologetics upon a mountain of wreckage and human misery. Can the psyche be saved? What is certain is that the spectacle must be dispelled. Then we must ask: will the modern psyche wilt in the face of the nightmare of history? Can modern peoples reorganize themselves for a new mode of production before catastrophe strikes?

Can the modern psyche be saved?

The struggle over the modern spirit is the struggle over the future course of natural history and human history. All social projects of edification are now caught up in this movement: the project of the enlightenment, the project of international socialism, and finally the project of environmentalism. All the highest hopes now stand or fall with the modern spirit: The hope for a better society and enlightenment through reason, the hope that working peoples across the world need not kill each other for the economic interests of their masters, the hope that nature survives the coming decades…

Can the psyche be saved? Can we wake up to the nightmare of history?

-We must rise to the occasion or we will be nothing at all, the pieces will fall through our fingers and the future will mean a new barbarism, a new resource colonialism, a new electro-fascism, and the final eclipse of nature.

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Writing the Mind is the Master

This talk, my book, and the entire intellectual pursuit which set it all off can be traced back to lucid dreaming. Although we will have time later for defining and thinking about lucid dreaming in greater depth, here I will set forth a definition of it. ‘Lucid dreaming is any dream in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that he or she is dreaming, while he or she is still within the dream’. More simply, lucid dreaming is a form of meditation in which one brings consciousness into the dream. You may be in a dream, one in which you are in a room not much different from this one, and suddenly you realize that you are in fact dreaming. You see, in almost every dream we have, we mistakenly think that we are awake. But the very knowledge that we are dreaming allows us to radically alter the appearance and form of the dreamscape. For example, if this were a lucid dream, and your awareness was present and stable, you would be able to change anything about this room, the people in it, etc. anything at all. You could levitate, create new objects, create new dream characters, change the scene entirely, and, if you really wanted to push the boundaries, you could dissolve the dream into nothingness and abide in this nothingness with no thoughts, no images, no sensation, no sense of self. You could abide in a state of pure awareness unsullied by phenomena of any kind.

One of the peculiar things about lucid dreaming, is that unlike our imagined changes, the changes that are made in a lucid dream, manifest themselves just as our experience is manifesting itself now. What I mean is that when you create an object in a lucid dream, for instance, a freshly baked apple pie, your experience of it may be no different from the last real apple pie you ate. The crust, the flavor, the way you can feel the apple slices as you cut the slice, everything may be just as powerfully experienced. In fact, where reality testing is one means of becoming lucid in a dream, I have oftentimes had to do reality tests to make sure that I am still lucid dreaming and have not actually woken up.

One other thing I would like to mention before we begin is psychedelic drugs. When reading over my presentation I realized that I hadn’t written anything about them, and given the fact that I have a picture of Terence McKenna on the hand bill, I thought that I would at least say a few words. McKenna’s quote, ‘Buddhism without psychedelics is armchair Buddhism’, is first of all hilarious, but secondly I think it is a true statement. Psychedelics as well as meditation are two powerful forms of seeking enlightenment, practices that may negate ideology and open up vast fields of experience previously thought impossible.

I could on and on, but now that we all know a few things about lucid dreaming and have tipped our hats to psychedelics let’s talk about the writing project.

This project has been in the works for many years now. I have been working on one form of it or another, in one capacity or another for nearly 5 years… and that is just the writing portion! To be strict, my primary research into meditation and lucid dreaming goes back at least 10 years. Because the project, which for the longest time I thought of as ‘my book on lucid dreaming’, has spanned so much time it has for me almost become synonymous with my own intellectual development. As the project stands today, there are writing portions that are representative of nearly all my intellectual pursuits and fancies. Nevertheless, the project began with one goal in mind, the single pursuit of writing the best book on lucid dreaming.

I had reached a point with my research in lucid dreaming where I had read all or at least most of the available books on the subject, and had researched lucid dreaming rather intensely on the internet. Some of the books, articles, and especially YouTube videos were revelations for me. In these various media I found confirmation of the peculiar and earth shattering experiences that I had been having, as well as intriguing leads into further explorations. I also began to attempt to understand lucid dreaming through these sources on a theoretical level. I am at this point convinced that lucid dreaming is a form of meditation practicable across cultural boundaries, and that it may reveal the fundamental structure of experience. Nevertheless, it seems that the majority of interpretation of lucid dreaming are rather eclectic or theological, interpretations that did not satisfy me.

It became apparent to me as I neared the end of my survey of lucid dreaming theory that most theoretical interpretations of it fell into two categories: they were either confessional, or they were eastern. In the confessional category were the books written by contemporary westerners. In these books the authors share the experiences and practices that they used to induce lucid dreaming for themselves. These authors all shared a similar secular psychological perspective colored of course by meditative practices. While possessing their own merits, these accounts did not offer careful philosophical treatment of LD. In the eastern accounts, I found an even greater phenomenological treasury of experiences, and even more esoteric and strangely effective practices for lucid dreaming. In these books, some of which were meditation manuals from centuries ago, I found a philosophical treatment of the phenomena. Whether it was Buddhist or Hindu a philosophical perspective accompanied the practices and descriptions, but these philosophical perspectives had limited explanatory power for me, and I am sure that they would be found lacking for many other contemporary people. What is one to do with theological interpretations of lucid dreaming when the doctrines of rebirth, karma, the six realms, the bodhisattva’s vow, etc are unacceptable?

I found myself in a position where I believed that I had progressed quite far in the practice of lucid dreaming itself, and could either confirm or deny experiences reported in books or videos. I also found myself in a position where I felt that I could deliver a better, more comprehensive look at lucid dreaming philosophically, and better tease out the meaning of lucid dreaming than others had before me. The occasion for the actual writing project came with an essay assignment that I received in one of my classes at the time. The prompt asked: what is mystical/ mysticism? Naturally I used the topic of lucid dreaming to answer the prompt, and wrote what was maybe a five to ten page essay.

Since that fateful essay assignment gallons of ink have been spilt and reams upon reams of paper scribbled upon, the keyboard of my computer run ragged, and my eyesight severely damaged. I’ve written, re written, un written, began again, re began, and un began, manuscript after manuscript. At one point I even had a 120 page manuscript with chapters, diagrams, and the works. I decided that it was written in the wrong voice with the wrong fundamental assumptions, so I started over.

The current manuscript that I have has luckily survived as a working project for at least four years now, although in  its current shape it is nearly unrecognizable from its beginnings. In the early attempts to write about lucid dreaming I wrote in a way that one would expect a college student to write. I made citations, stuck to the texts, spoke through the words of other, more qualified persons. But as I wrote, I kept feeling that I was lacking philosophical depth, and that in some instances I was reinventing a philosophical wheel that had been in place for centuries or more. This spurred me to read some of the classics of western philosophy. This was a huge mistake. But in all seriousness, it was also a good idea. It was a mistake because it pushed back the completion of my project by years, but it was a good idea because it gave me many examples of what to do, and perhaps more examples of what not to do in a philosophy book.

By the time I reached my current manuscript outline I was committed to three different writing styles, complete with different voices, methods of argument, and general structures. My current manuscript bears the mark of this commitment in its three-part division. The first part is a series of essays. The second a series of aphorisms, and the third is a systematic philosophical argument, or we may say phenomenology. As my project continued over the years, ideas that were previously dear to me but which I could not relate to lucid dreaming were gradually taken up in the larger work as well as a multitude of other ideas that I discovered along the way.

My encounter with western philosophy was essentially an encounter with the three horsemen of metaphysical apocalypse, those who did more to banish metaphysical thought and write materialism indelibly into the dialogue of modern philosophy than any others, these of course were Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Another onslaught of materialists were waiting in the wings, the Frankfurt school of critical theory being notable combatants. To finish my name dropping Kant, and Heidegger had their roles as well. All along I was constantly thinking, “yes, yes indeed, but what about meditation and lucid dreaming?” I was all along placing meditation in the midst of the most stringent materialists and seeing if it could hold its ground. The result?

I now see no contradiction between Meditation and materialist philosophy –     .

 

 

My title, The Mind is the Master, I came up with only a few days ago. The entire time before this, the project had been titled A Philosophy of the Future. I chose this latter title because my favorite book, Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche, has the subtitle prelude to a philosophy of the future, and every time I read the title of my book I thought of myself as being hearkened in the past by Nietzsche, and Nietzsche’s philosophy as being but a prelude to mine. This of course would have been ludicrous to Nietzsche and extremely offensive, but in the vainglorious spirit of the good European I’ve been having my private amusements at his expense.

Aside from this joke of mine I do see an element of truth in the idea of Nietzsche’s philosophy being a prelude to mine. In Nietzsche’s philosophy one may find a deconstruction of the notion of truth and the extreme relativization of social and cultural norms. Where Nietzsche wanders into classicism, the philosophy of power, and the worshipful praise of high modern music, I believe he should have taken things further. In Nietzsche there is a very strong counter-cultural current, after all the term free-spirit comes to us from his books, and it is in this direction that perhaps my philosophy is indeed a realization and conclusion of his deconstruction. One thing Nietzsche never adequately left behind was the influence of the concept and the relativity of experience itself. The world may be rent asunder through meditation, every item of knowledge, spatial, temporal, linguistic, or otherwise, may be consumed in the fire of awareness, a task Nietzsche at best only alluded to.

My new title The Mind is the Master, I took from a quote that had been serving as the epitaph to my phenomenology. The quote is on the pamphlet, and it is attributed to Bodhidharma, the Buddhist patriarch, who is said to have brought Chan Buddhism to China in the 5th or 6th centuries. “It has been said: Fools who seek enlightenment look abroad for exotic masters, the wise know the mind is the master”. The legends of Bodhidharma’s life are numerous and incredible; for instance he was famous for meditating in front of a blank wall for years and plucking out his eyelashes so that he wouldn’t fall asleep.

My work is actually three books, and I have written a preface that serves to introduce all three of them together. You may think of each book as being a volume perhaps. So, one title, The Mind is the Master, followed by a Preface, then a volume of essays, a volume of aphorisms, and a volume of phenomenology.

In the preface I attempt to introduce all the theoretical strands that will be taken up in the following books, and I provide some ideas on how they are all related to each other. I begin with the most ardently materialist theses: that humanity is species and that humanity is situated within history. I then go on to elaborate mankind’s essence as a natural, historical being. This essence is both representation and labor. Man represents the world for himself and he works upon the world to change it through labor. Using this as a foundation, I then go on to consider humanity’s current position both as a natural species and as historical beings. I inquire into what humanity’s role in the natural world is, and where the species is within history. These are no rosy inquiries, for I find that humanity’s relationship to nature is rapacious, and that we are collectively alienated from our own representations and our own labor power. I set the ultimate practical aim of philosophy as the development of a new mode of economic production, one that will be created through applying the logic of environmentalism.

In Book I, the book of essays, I hope to treat many ideas that have been dear to me for some time, but aren’t appropriate for phenomenological writing. I title the book Psychedelic Society, a name which I borrow from a talk given by the late Terence McKenna. This talk was given in 1987 and is available on the internet. In it Terence presents a counter-culture inspired utopian vision of a society inspired by psychedelic drug use. There are many problems with Terence’s talk, but the most important point for me and the essays is his counter-cultural and phenomenological stance vis-a-vis socialization. He argues that culture obscures ‘the mystery’; it dominates the individual, and is patently false. The Psychedelic Society would be a society in which people lived in the light of the mystery of being, a society in which cultural forms were seen as fluid constructs, a sort of utopia. The majority of the essays are my attempt to set up the encounter between this vision and the book Society of the Spectacle written by Guy Debord in 1967. Debord writes that in modern societies electronic images have come to separate the masses from directly lived experience, and exert a totally hegemonic role in controlling the consciousness of the people. In the society of the spectacle, the reality of inequality in society and the exploitation of workers in the workplace by capitalists is obscured by a beguiling host of inanities. In the encounter of these two theorists I argue in the final essay that we actually do live in a psychedelic society, but this is a dystopian version of McKenna’s vision. The mind manifested is the mind of the establishment, the life lived is a life where the mystery is barred.

Book II is a collection of aphorisms on all of the topics already mentioned and many more. The aphoristic style is the best style for recording reflections, ideas, and moments of inspiration. One simply writes the idea or vision as succinctly and directly as possible. One may abandon oneself to the idea completely, and need not worry about adding qualifications, explanations, or taking the idea through all of its implications. Further aphorisms will supply these nuances, and the reader will walk away with not so much as a formulaic philosophy, but an idea of how the author handles ideas.

Book III is finally where I deal with the problem that started it all, the problem of philosophically treating lucid dreaming. During my research I decided that the best form of philosophy to use in treating lucid dreaming was phenomenology. Phenomenology is the study of experience as it arises. While there are many problems with the tradition itself, most notably a lack of reliable method in acquiring primary experience for analysis, I retool the discipline to suit my needs. I divide this book into three sections, an introduction, a descriptive phenomenology, and an analytic phenomenology. In the introduction I define lucid dreaming and argue that phenomenology is the philosophical discipline best suited to treat lucid dreaming and meditation. I also critique the tradition of phenomenology in this section and describe meditation as the practice that must be used to gather the primary experience for phenomenology. In the following section, the descriptive phenomenology, I give detailed descriptions of each state of consciousness, waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and hypnogogia. I also describe how meditation and lucid dreaming change the appearance of these states. In the last section, the analytic phenomenology, I attempt to elaborate the meaning of lucid dreaming and meditation. I attempt to use their disruption of the appearance of everyday perception as a means to identify the structure of experience in general. Along the way, a large number of philosophical ideas that are typically taken for granted are thrown out, some of them the traditional foundations of phenomenology.

In the tradition of phenomenology it is held that consciousness cannot exist without an object, that consciousness is intentional, and that some sort of ego, transcendental or otherwise, is always ordering experience. We don’t have time to go into all of these, but I will say that in light of certain meditative practices, notably formless meditation and the lucid experience of deep sleep, these thesis are refuted. Thusly some of the most important phenomenological conclusions my work comes to are

1) there are phenomena without representation, which is to say there is experience without appearance.

2) Consciousness is not dependent upon an object

3) Consciousness is not dependent upon intentionality

4) The self is not the fundamental source of identity

And some theses that refute notions found elsewhere in traditional western philosophy:

1) The dream is not a translation of thought, it is a translation of the entire understanding

And 2) The persistence of consciousness into deep sleep is possible. Maintaining consciousness throughout the whole sleep cycle is possible

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