[An ASKLEPIA FOUNDATION Journal]
THE VARIETIES OF VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE
VIRTUAL REALITIES BEYOND THE DIALOGICAL SELF
by Iona Miller, ©1993
ABSTRACT: The basis of the human psyche seems to be a collective
of selves--a multimind in a multiverse. Independent and autonomous,
they relate with one another mostly unknown to the outer awareness.
The extreme form of splintering seen in Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD)
simply reflects an extreme form of multiplicity with conflicting perspectives.
The "multistate paradigm" of human nature extends toward a psychology and
spirituality that is polytheistic, even pantheistic.
Dialogue is a form of imagery which creates and sustains
a worldview through the means of imaginal conversations. Within the
fabric of multiple centers or vortices within the psyche, an on-going dialogue
emerges which ranges from selftalk (ego to ego), through "group" discussion
(ego with subpersonalities), to spiritual dialogue (ego with transpersonal
entities). Beyond the dialogical realm lies the unspeakable experience
(untranslatable) of the Void or Clear Light, the realm of archetypal light
and sound as pure consciousness.
The "Word" helps us create and define reality. Conversation
as well as observation defines our reality. Dialogue of the self
with its various conscious and unconscious forms creates a series of "virtual
realities" which form the basis of self-simulation and world-simulation.
These forms are limitless in number, far beyond the classic archetypes
such as persona, anima/animus, etc, suggesting the notion of "radical pluralism."
"One of the most harmful illusions that can beguile us is probably the
belief that we are an indivisible, immutable, totally consistent being....Each
of us is a crowd. There can be the rebel and the intellectual, the
seducer and the housewife, the saboteur and the aesthete, the organizer
and the bon vivant--each with its own mythology, and all more or less comfortably
crowded into one single person."
--Piero Ferrucci, WHAT WE MAY BE
"We conceptualize self in terms of dynamic multiplicity of relatively
autonomous I positions in an imaginal landscape. The I has the possibility
to move, as in a space, from one position to another in accordance with
changes in situation and time. The I fluctuates among different and
even opposed positions. The I has the capacity to imaginatively endow
each position with a voice so that dialogical relations between positions
can be established. The voices function like interacting characters
in a story."
--Hermans, Kempen & van Loon, "The Dialogical Self"
THE VIRTUAL REALITY OF POSSIBLE SELVES
Fictional virtual realities are constructed by aspects of the self as imaginal
conversations. Imaginal dialogues play a central role in our daily
lives, existing alongside actual dialogues and interactions. The
dialogical self can be seen as a multiplicity of I positions or possible
selves, with a decentralized, polyphonic character. This view dissolves
the sharp "self-not self" boundary.
Ecological fundamentalism has sought absolute truth in nature, but nature
rejects this naivete. The notion of "relativity" implies that there
is no absolute truth, therefore, no absolute self. Thus arises the
notion of "radical pluralism", which is reflected in our chaotic modern
society as exposure to virtually every religious belief, every political
view, and a myriad of social values. There is no central belief system
in a pluralistic society.
The social construction of reality is up for grabs. The whole concept
of reality has been called into question by a variety of ideologies and
lifestyles. There are widening splits within traditional belief systems.
There is transition in human cultural evolution, with the new paradigm
in dialogue with the old, seeking a new synthesis. The move is toward
a substitution of "story" for Truth, reflecting that sense of movement,
Perhaps the hallmark of Post-Modern philosophy has been disbelief or skepticism
of all "metanarratives." The breakdowns of the story lines of religions,
ideologies, even science has led to chaotic social change.
We are beginning to realize, individually and as a world-wide culture that
"realities" are all human constructions. The task becomes one of
"catching ourselves in the act" of creating our own "reality" from the
flow of events. Human truth is always an engagement of mind with
The sociological message of Chaos Theory and CCP is that we don't have
to fear the collapse of what we think we are. We don't need to fear
the collapse of our personalistic belief system, nor our belief in absolute
VARIETIES OF SELF-SIMULATION
According to Tart (1990), "Contemporary neurology and psychology show
that we already live in one or more internal virtual realities, generated
by neurological and psychological processes. Stable patterns, stabilized
systems of these internal virtual realities, constitute states of consciousness,
our ordinary personality, and multiple personalities." All these
aspects of self have their own dialogical component. Reality is constructed
as much by "conversation" as "observation."
The dialogical tendency of the psyche has been noticed and utilized by
both mystics and psychologists. Examples include meditative encounters
with wise figures, such as Christ, the Beloved, an Inner Healer, guide
or shaman figure. The dialogue might even take place with an animal
or object. Other pluralistic spiritual constructs include the chakra
system and the multiple states of consciousness circuit of the Tree of
Life in Qabala.
Examples from psychology include "self talk," cognitive restructuring,
ego states, psychodrama, "invisible guests."
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and Psychosynthesis have the technique
of the "Parts' Party," round-table discussion, or board meeting, giving
voice to the various semi-autonomous subpersonalities. It provides
a forum for the airing of conflicting views, empathic alignment, circumspect
judgment, and personification of conscience.
Transactional Analysis (T.A.) posits three dialogical ego-states--Parent,
Adult, and Child. The dialogical content consists of "scripts, games
Gestalt psychology uses dialogue such as the "two chair technique" to create
imaginal spaces for therapeutic process. In these "virtual realities,"
point-of-view is shifted between the various entities imaginally engaged
in the dialogue. The participant becomes the imaginal other, and
speaks "as if" that other. The self takes the actual perspective
of the other, outside the self. That other may be one or several
dream figures, as well as familiar or unfamiliar people, in an imaginary
social world. The other is "felt" to be there.
Oneself is conceived of as I (self as subject) or Me (self as object, viewed
as the main figure in the story of one's life). I is observer; Me
is observed. I is an author; Me is an actor in the psychodrama.
I construes another person or being as a position I can occupy and this
position creates an alternative perspective on the world and self.
If that "other" is transpersonal in nature, the engagement becomes one
of the ego with the unconscious (I-Thou), emphasizing the bodily nature
of thought and imagination. The "I" constructs an analog space and
metaphorically moves in this space. I is not a center of "control"
but actively engaged with the autonomous flow of primal consciousness.
Transpersonal theory is wholly based on the "Dynamic-Dialectical Paradigm,"
conversations between the ego and the dynamic ground of psyche (Washburn,
1988). Its static representation is the "Structural-Hierarchal Paradigm."
In the therapeutic context, Jungians refer to this dialectical process
as "active imagination," engagement of the ego and the unconscious.
Active imagination is patterned after the alchemical meditatio, which consisted
of an imaginal dialogue between the alchemist and his alchemical process,
personified in various forms.
Active imagintion is a process in which the imagination and the images
it throws up are experienced as something separate from the ego--a "thou"
or an "other"--to which the ego can relate, and with which the ego can
have a dialogue (Edinger, 1972). It is a dialectic of development,
like the Hegelian "thesis, antithesis, and synthesis."
Narration (storytelling) puts the general human condition into the particulars
of experience. It locates experience in space and time, even imaginal
space and time. Imaginal others, despite their invisible quality,
are typically perceived as having a spatially separated position.
Metaphor--what the experience is like--is the structure producing coherent,
ordered experiences. The metaphors are usually those of physical
Creative engagement with chaos means direct experience of self as a changing,
pluralistic, multi-dimensional entity. This existential philosophy
of "dynamic co-consciousness" is process-oriented, rather than "state-oriented"
even though we employ the term state to imply a stable-yet-transitory condition.
This is not an experience of a static "self" moving through process, but
rather existential experience of self as process.
Based on a plurality of perspectives, a plurality of consciousness, a plurality
of worlds, this notion means giving breath to many voices. Dialogue
reveals the essential pristine nature of the character's psyche, and psyche's
Our consensus consciousness is not our natural condition, but a construction
within cultural constraints. This construction is semi-arbitrary.
The constructivist approach in psychology conceives of the self as dialogical,
a view that transcends both individualism and rationalism (Hermans, Kempen
& van Loon, 1992). It is a concept of self that takes the role
of the body, or embodied nature of the self into consideration.
It is based in the notion that story telling is cross-cultural. Narration
is a root metaphor. These stories help order world and self.
We can investigate this dialogical realm which is familiar from mysticism.
It creates a mind-space with multiple positions possible for multiple selves.
The result is a multiplicity of dialogically interacting selves, in a variety
of "as if" (virtual) realities.
The free flow of fantasy as internal dialogues with various aspects of
the self allows for creative development of higher thought. These
fictions, like myth, may not correspond to reality, but they contain "constructs"
which are freely fashioned of empirical elements. Constructs are
ways in which some things are construed as being alike and yet different
Chaos theory and CCP are radically "de-constructionalist" metaphors.
W. Brian Arthur, an economist from Stanford University suggests that, "Science
is about the creation of metaphor." Today tidy metaphors are insufficient
and we need to, "go beyond order and construct systems from simple premises
that turn out to be very, very messy."
In terms of the structure and limitations of language, virtually anything
we say or write can be contradicted. Oddly we create our essence
from this paradox. Tart (1990) reminds us that Korzybski, the founder
of semantics, admonishes us that "the map is not the territory."
Tart adds that most of the time we prefer the map, since the map is organized
and orderly. Yet, the territory tends to be messy and inconsistent.
Co-consciousness on the individual level means plurality of selves; in
CCP it means the virtual reality of mutually shared therapeutic space,
with plurality of consciousness available to both participants simultaneously,
from the infinite field of possibilities.
CO-CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE HOLOGRAPHIC PARADIGM
The holographic paradigm is a constructed model of consciousness derived
from neuropsychology and quantum physics. It views the processing
of mental forms as occurring within the context of part/whole relationship,
where the identified part exists within the code of the whole.
Against the backdrop of the holographic paradigm, the therapeutic relationship
is a shared partnership, also a co-consciousness. The "cure," as
insight, is already within the client, within the interactional relationship,
though it has not become manifest, "unfolded" and "explicate." The
patterning or configuration of experience, intent, and behavior form a
"tendency to isomorphism".
The therapist sees in the clinical material through perceptual process
recurrent, identifiable forms. Any small piece of clinical material
may contain the total configuration, both past and future. It is
the resonance or expansion and reexpansion of this awareness over time
that leads to change rather than particularized insight itself.
Insight does not result from learning but results from a subsequent phenomenological
shift in the holographic template called insight. Insight results
from expansion and overload rather than from a specific, focused understanding.
Within the process model, the total patterns of experiencing within the
organismic whole which have remained unattended became the holographic
blur. In other words, this part of the unconscious is not regarded
as a preexisting form.
Drive manifestations in thought, repressed memories, archetypal themes,
and so on are particularized meanings, cognitively derived from the holographic
"frequency domain"--the stage of transforming sensory data across the entire
brain. Because the frequency domain deals with the density of events,
time and space are collapsed in it.
Not until these mathematical transforms are reversed does the object or
image reappear as concrete, three-dimensional reality "out there."
In the frequency domain itself there is no out there (Pribram, 1982).
Pribram's "frequency domain" is Bohm's "implicate order" while the image
domain is "explicate order."
The transformative process may be holographic. The manner by which
old and new identities are assimilated, by which affects are released,
are potentially deepened by therapeutic trance, especially process-oriented
trance--absorption in the dynamic flow of psychic imagery. Sometimes
the client's mental representations are dominated by form, especially that
initiated by past experiences.
Other times, consciousness is dominated more by formlessness, uncommitted
attention, receptivity to new ideas. Between frames, or states of
consciousness are transitive or "empty" moments in which vague, unformulated
These states make it possible to assimilate those "contents" of conscious
and unconscious into the self--providing a sense of space for play and
experimentation. CCP broadens the capacity to "toy" with form and
Shifts can be made back and forth, holographically reflecting back the
wholeness of the self. It includes the creative capacity to be formless
in consciousness, and to shift to the "form-dominated," content-focused,
representational realities of ego states (Watkins, 1978).
In the shifts made from these particulari-zations of consciousness to ones
of formlessness, the relational ground of the client and therapist may
be said to holographically exist. In this state of formlessness of
consciousness, in the safety of the therapeutic process, the client may
temporarily suspend the sense of objectifying the self into a particular
image reflected by others and experience "pure being."
In this transitional space, the client is neither required to commit his
consciousness to a particularized experience or reality, nor to a state
of fantasy, though these factors are present in the whole person.
The person is able to be "between channels," and to remain whole as well--an
experience of somato-psychic unity. We can refer to this "state"
as amorphous cognition, the nonrepresenta-tional activity of the psyche
There are on-going transforms in the frequency domain. If reality
as we know it is only a contraction of consciousness, process-oriented
therapy may be a way of making the whole patterning of healthy, balanced
self-organization more available through progressively acquired transitional
It is possible that during co-consciousness, the therapist's and client's
organizations of consciousness in some way literally and not metaphorically
cross into a wave length or plane in which there is neither reality nor
fantasy but the enfolded-implicate-primary reality that is mutually shared.
The metaphor is superceded by the holographic blur of a possibilities of
form--form overcome by formlessness--finally free from groping around using
inadequate analogies. Simulations can run through the past and future,
trying different scenarios and responding in advance to probable future
Randomness has gotten a bad reputation because of ignorance of its power.
"Purposeful randomness" is a survival mechanism in nature--a disorderly
dance that is rather disorienting yet somehow rewarding. But combined
with selection it yields purposeful behavior and leads to adaptation.
It begins to sound a lot like dreaming. Elaborate sequences shift
gradually into something quite different, hinging on some minor detail
that brings forward a scene from some other story line...as if another
story had been running unseen.
William Calvin (1987) postulates that, "the sequencer currently connected
to the language system might be the talking-to-ourselves aspect of consciousness
and foresight, but the other sequencers would still be hard at work subconsciously,
busy piecing together other scenarios at random, most of them nonsense,
when checked against our memories, but a few being realistic."
He posits a number of independent sequencing circuits in the brain, potentially
explaining much of foresight, free will, and imagination.
VORTICES OF THOUGHT
Why are structures formed? Why do repetitive patterns occur?
Using David Bohm's concept of implicate and explicate ordering, Shainberg
(1987) suggests that the explicate order is what we see as form.
He asserts that human consciousness and language are relatively autonomous
subtotalities, but they also create fixed points in this universal forming
which block further transformations with inner conflict or interpersonal
He uses the same analogy Graywolf developed independently in CCP: these
points become like rocks around which the stream of life moves. By
definition these fixations are part of the explicate as well as the implicate
Form is not an isolated definitive outlined thing which relates to other
objects. Its structure is the active process, a structuating event,
that is making a relationship to all other active processes. When
we experience our own relative consistency within the formative process,
we assume that we are a continuous being with a capacity to respond, which
we think of as our 'self,' in connection with other continuous forms.
According to Shainberg, this self-simulation becomes fixed on ideas or
images of good (or bad) situations that have occurred in its experiences.
It then attempts to replay them in the present because they worked (gave
pleasure) in the past. When consciousness meets new situations and
checks with memory for help in defining the nature of the new situation,
it often depends more on memory for determining what is in front of it
than it does on the perception of reality, or raw experience.
This tendency to live in terms of memory is most serious in those whose
life since childhood has been tense and conflicted, and who have been able
to integrate the uncertainties of their reality. While thoughts,
images and feelings are processes which connect "things" in the movement
of relationship, they can also fix the relationships into specific old
The fixation into repetitive behavior that is characteristic of human beings
is part of what we might think of as the "form of repetition" in nature.
We observe that the repetition forms in consciousness when it consistently
meets the present with the past.
Whether it is in the form of repeating an old relationship or attempting
to obtain the goal of a particular desire, consciousness uses the same
mechanism to engage the present. And that mechanism is itself a repetition
of a past event. So, at many levels, and among them human consciousness,
nature is expressing the form of repetition.
The explicate form--the memory image--becomes a nodal point which demands
that a new situation becomes like an old one.
When a particular thought or focus in consciousness dominates a person's
behavior, this flow in human relationship is inhibited. Such foci
force relating processes into a vortex by insisting that the movement of
relationship stay in its orbit. Such vortices lead to separation,
The matrix of thoughts creates a focus around which there are relationships
that form a vortex and make up a fragmented subsystem, a 'relatively autonomous
subtotality' which, in contrast to other subtotalities, brings about conflict
with the larger whole.
The vortex fragments off from the movement that is occurring in the other
aspects of the universe. It is not receptive to information from
those aspects. The fixed ideas organize the relationships in the
present and bring about a system of relationships that keep the vortex
operating in a way which, to some extent, separates the system from the
This response repeatedly unfolds a form which restricts the movement in
the implicate, but we don't seem to respond to any feedback we notice about
that restriction. Despite psychological conflicts or psychosomatic
illnesses the security in the repetition is read as preferable to any change.
We might guess that if this form were connected with the flow of the implicate
its characteristics would be transformed by the integration with that flow
and the block would be released and more open relationships would unfold.
But, unfacilitated, this doesn't happen with much regularity.
Without process work, such as CCP, the form maintains itself and there
is no action by the brain to create a more harmonious relationship with
reality. Apparently the agreement brought about by this subsystem
has provided pleasure and security which is communicated to the brain as
more satisfactory than the alternatives memory promises beyond the repetition
of these safety measures.
As children, we naturally form a center, a 'self' to focus our relationships.
But that focus naturally dissolves when each ordered condition opens new
relationships to other foci around us. That changing moving process
of relating is after all the essential insecurity of human existence.
THE SELF THEN IS A RELATIVELY AUTONOMOUS SUBTOTALITY THAT UNFOLDS IN THE
IMPLICATE AND IS DISPLAYED IN THE EXPLICATE, ONLY TO BE DISSOLVED AGAIN
INTO THE IMPLICATE.
Our brains are another subtotality and the responses that flow through
them are part of the explicate order as well. The thoughts and images
construct the self but that flow of responses in the brain includes the
seductive offering which comes with the promises of security in the repetitions
of memory and mother's support for identifying with some fixed ways of
living. The propaganda of consciousness seems to be that if we choose
one identity, one self, one set of plans for how to be in the world, we
might find security and pleasure.
But dedication to the realization of that image fixes a person's relationship
in the explicate order and in some sense curtails flow in the implicate
order. When fixation occurs in the natural world, for example in
the unfolding of genetic programming, its purpose is to maintain a balance
with the whole movement of the implicate order and its connection.
The curtailment of flow insinuates pathology. The life process of
people caught in such an image is a circular form that operates inside
its own criteria and does not connect with the elements of the reality
outside of its defined fragment. What is most astounding in this
image process is the way the individual commits himself completely to the
virtues of the state through thought and internal dialogue.
THE REPETITIVE USE OF THOUGHT ACTS LIKE A ROCK IN A STREAM. The vortex
is formed as a result of forces exercised by the form of repetition in
consciousness. The pull to repeat the desirable memories draws all
other relating processes of the implicate order into the orbit of the explicate
focus. The person who is absorbed by the fixation of this self-image
responds to those aspects of reality which enable execution of that image.
But individuals who are caught in the repetitive process that makes a vortex
do occasionally become aware of their fragmented condition and their inadequate
relationship to the greater whole of the implicate order. Moving
into realms not controlled by thought, their fixation dissolves when their
behavior opens into relationships of a more formless nature.
A vortex is formed based on the premise that the image provides certainty
and security. The contradiction to realize the fixed image of what
life should be and the movement of the implicate order creates a deep strain
at the core of being. Repeating the same behavior again and again
narrows the frame of mind.
The fixation is dissolved through transformation by something larger than
the self-simulation. There are many different ways in which we sense
the limitations of our thought and manage to find connections to the implicate
The therapeutic dialogue brings release from the trap of self-orientation.
Being with another whose worldview is more expansive is part of it.
So is immersion in the flow of creative process. The narration of
the therapeutic process goes back and forth among the participants creating
a dialog which is the matrix of a mutual virtual reality.
When the dialogue partners see that thought gets into a frozen state, or
that the same images are appearing chronically in different form, the process
dissolves the state, and the oscillation around the vortex stops.
Discussion after the session and follow up lead to a new story about what
Shainberg concludes that, "points of order or centers of organization
are inherent to the implicate order as it unfolds into the explicate.
These points always create something of a vortex around them as they provide
for interactions and further relationships in that flow." Thus
the new primal self-image is better adapted, stabilizing.
Fixed images in consciousness are only relatively fixed points as there
are numerous relationships intertwining and unfolding from them, even if
they do form a vortex. We are left with the image of psyche as vortices
within vortices within vortices.
This image is precisely that of a "strange attractor" in chaos theory.
Edward Lorenz defined it as consisting not "of a simple point, curve,
or higher-dimensional manifold, but [it] contains an infinite complex of
MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER
Studies of dissociative states in Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) disclose
that simple confabulation is not an adequate model for the syndrome.
Conscious role-playing could not duplicate certain abilities.
We can consider a possible role for state-dependent learning in the phenomenology
of MPD (Silberman, et al, 1985). Patients may experience themselves
as several discrete alter personalities who do not share consciousness
or memories with one another.
Disparate personality states compartmen-talize information and learning.
Both drugs and mood states have been shown to induce state-specific encoding
operations and retrieval strategies, and provide specific cues for accessing
previous experience. Information acquired in a given state remains
available in memory, but inaccessible when remembering takes place under
different retrieval (state) conditions.
MPD patients may provide more powerful markers and contexts for encoding
and retrieving previous experience than does the conscious role playing
of personality states by controls. MPD cannot be "faked," because
dissociation creates super-normal phenomena in memory, cognition, learning,
and psychosomatic manifestations.
In contrast to classical state-dependent learning phenomena, however, which
are generally more robust under free recall conditions, the partial dissociation
of MPDs tended to be more pronounced under recognition. Highly dissociative
MPDs may have allergies or other specific illnesses in some alters and
Tart (1990) offers a model for MPD based on the World Simulation Process
approach. He roots its purpose in survival and adaptability by construction
of rapidly functioning internal models of the real world. "Simulation"
of the self, providing a sense of continuity of identity, is part of its
purpose, also. It includes psychophysical coherence between self
image and external reality, but usually includes a sense of an internal
psychological self beyond bodily compo-nents.
A core psychological pattern tends to control other aspects of the World
Simulation Process, automatically organizing the rest of experience around
itself in a way that further supports the basic pattern. These patterns/systems
try to stabilize themselves, preserve themselves, maintain identity.
For example, anger or any other core pattern can become the dominant core
of the World Simulation Process, which automatically (mis)interprets sensory
patterns of the world and self in a way consonant with core pattern.
Since the virtual reality created by the WSP is "reality" for the time
being, it is very difficult not to completely identify with the virtual
reality as experienced and accept it as "real" reality.
He notes that "while we ordinarily completely and automatically identify
with the self that is produced by the World Simulation Process, we do not
have to...There is a great freedom available, a kind of enlightenment,
when you realize that the world and self you take for granted because they
are an immediate perception are actually, in a vitally important way, an
interpretation, a simulation, not final reality."
When the WSP gives us virtual realities that differ from the real world
in significant ways, we begin to behave maladaptively, creating both real
world consequences and/or psychological suffering in ourselves and others.
Deciding what is "real" in the world is heavily influenced by the virtual
realities already created by our WSP.
Tart defines a person with MPD as "someone who has two or more well
developed core patterns, constellation patterns that can take over his
or her World Simulation Process such that the person temporarily lives
in a virtual reality that constitutes an identity, a personality, a state
of consciousness...that is experientially perfectly real."
He considers a "normal" person to have only one well developed pattern,
yet with considerable degrees of multiplicity. The "neurotic's" WSP
differs in areas of suffering and maladaptive functioning. The "psychotic"
lives in a virtual reality so obviously different from the virtual reality
range of "normals" that it is obviously different, perhaps constituting
threat to themselves and others.
The "multiple" model of human nature suggested by MPD research invites
comparison with the work of such theorists as psychologist James Hillman,
and other archetypal and imaginal psychologists, such as Bolen, Miller,
and Woolger. In the conventional model of psyche proposed by modern
psychology and medicine, human nature is described largely in terms of
an all-important central ego. All other facets of psychic experience are
considered subordinate and relative to it.
Hillman has argued for a psychology that acknowledges all the myriad facets
of our nature as important and integral to our general psychic well-being.
Whereas Western psychology has largely tended to be "monotheistic" in its
emphasis upon rational ego-awareness, Hillman has suggested the need for
a more "polytheistic" view of psyche, one that might draw fruitfully from
the pantheons of ancient mythology for a more fitting representation of
psyche's diversity and needs.
The Creative Consciousness Process recognizes all these varieties of pluralism,
but suggests an even more iconoclastic view--radical pluralism. CCP
is not based in dialogue with any inner figures, but in "becoming" whatever
image the psyche suggests within the process of flow. Thus, it moves
beyond identification, beyond alters, beyond personification, beyond archetypes
as godforms, even beyond humanism, into the psychoid realm of nature.
The radical deconstructionalist stance promotes the direct experience of
pluralistic consciousness in whatever form it appears, and fosters movement
toward formlessness--destructuralization. Thus one may begin a consciousness
journey as the "dream self", dream figure, or even background, but move
quickly through these symbolic "doorways" to less structured forms or patterns.
Rather than engaging any aspect or presentation of self in dialogue, the
movement is toward one of immersion in the free flow of consciousness wherever
that leads. One may become an object, a force of nature, a tiny mote,
a color, a spiral, even empty space.
The dialogue, or narrative, comes not from engaging imaginal figures but
within the co-conscious exchange of subject and guide, a dynamic, emergent
story which deepens and "carries" the process forward. The direct
experience of "de-personification" of psychic elements points to the "psychoid"
nature of the psyche, and fosters the realization of connection to the
One comes to perceive directly and experientially that one is potentially
all of it. Consciousness seeks to take on imaginal and physical form,
and we partake of that experience at any level of existence within the
"virtual space" of the therapeutic context.
Much like the Buddhist concept of anatman--no self or no soul--we can experience
directly what it means to be pure consciousness incarnating through a multitude
of forms, culminating in the impressionistic experience of formlessness.
As all things, we are neither this nor that--no thing. As pure potential,
all possibilities exist for re-structuring prior to the return to ordinary
We can experience directly that we are not a "self" or even "selves" moving
through a concrete reality. We are consciousness in search of itself,
experiencing the panoply of multitudinous, dynamic, energetic forms.
The entity we are has no "stable" center in the classical sense, only an
apparently contiguous memory of self and world simulation.
This sense of a confined self can be radically destructured through consciousness
journeys, which facilitate the perception of the flow of events.
No two journeys are ever the same, though certain patterns and forms tend
to persist and recur. You can never step into the same river twice.
CCP helps us move deeper into the psyche, past "thinking-feeling-believing"
levels of the psyche, below mythic patterning, even below primal existential
patterning. Below any hierarchical systems is a state of pure being.
This process of "diving deep" through the layers of acquired constructs
"destratifies" perceptual consciousness leaving its pure state undiluted
by interpretive overlays.
The dialectical paradigm, even though it is a dynamic model, is always
stuck in the narrative of "what it is like" to be actively involved in
a certain condition, event, or entity. This metaphorical perception
of reality is always a step removed from direct, unconditioned experience,
which can only be non-reflective.
That is why, in terms of Buddhist mystical states of consciousness (jhanas),
in this absorption there is no-perceiver and no-perceived. It is
even beyond awareness of no-thing-ness, beyond infinite consciousness.
The four formless states include contemplation of infinite space, infinite
consciousness, the realm of no-thing-ness, and the realm of neither perception-nor-nonperception.
Daniel Goleman describes the "formless jhanas" as follows:
The next level is attained by achieving the consciousness of infinite
space, and then turning attention to the element of infinite awareness.
Thus the thought of infinite space is abandoned, while objectless infinite
consciousness remains. This marks the sixth jhana.
Having mastered the sixth, the meditator attains the seventh jhana by
first entering the sixth and then turning contemplation to the nonexistence
of infinite conscious-ness. The seventh jhana is thus absorption
with no-thing-ness, or the void, as its object. That is, consciousness
has as its object the awareness of absence of any object. Mastering
this jhana, the meditator then reviews it and finds any perception at all
a disadvantage, its absence being more sublime.
So motivated, the meditator can attain the eigth jhana by first entering
the seventh, and then turning attention to the aspect of peacefulness,
and away from perception of the void. The delicacy of this operation
is suggested by the stipulation that there must be no hint of desire to
attain this peacefulness, nor to avoid perception of no-thing-ness.
Attending to the peacefulness, he reaches the ultrasubtle state where
there are only residual mental formations. There is no gross perception
here at all: thus "no perception"; there is ultrasubtle perception: thus
"not-nonpercep-tion." This eigth jhana is called the sphere of "neither-perception-nor-nonperception."
The same degree of subtlety of existence is here true of all concomitants
of consciousness. NO MENTAL STATES ARE DECISIVELY PRESENT, yet residuals
remain in a degree of near-absence.
This beingness beyond all states is so subtle we can't say whether it is
or is not. It is the ultimate limit of perception--the virtual reality
beyond the dialogical self.
CCP never strives to recreate any of these states during the journey, but
time after time the flow of consciousness leads to reports which match
these descriptions. Consciousness journeys function like a guided
tour of potential states, potentiating them, and initiating their unfolding
into the explicate as emergent and stabilizing resources.
The dissolution into formlessness happens at the "edge of chaos."
In this condition we speculate that free-flowing matter and energy are
capable of self-organization. The implied "self" in this case is
pure consciousness in dynamic evolution through multiple forms in multiple
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