INTRODUCTION TO PAPERS BY MEMBERS OF THE LIFWYNN FOUNDATION PRESENTED AT
THE 42ND ANNUAL MEETING OF THE SOCIETY FOR PHENOMENOLOGY AND THE HUMAN SCIENCES (SPHS) NOVEMBER, 2003
Lloyd Gilden, Ph.D.
An important aspect of the research of The Lifwynn Foundation involves phenomenological experience, subjective awareness. As early as 1913 Trigant Burrow, a pioneer in social psychiatry who later established the Foundation, emphasized the importance of the preconscious foundations of human experience. He recognized that the organism constitutes the ground of being, the ever-present origin, as Gebser1 later described it. And that the acquisition of language, which transforms the maturing human into a conscious, thinking person, tends to obscure and transform our organic relationship to the world. Burrow was particularly concerned with the consequences of the use of language on human social behavior, attributing much of the strife and destruction of human history to the development of self-oriented, authoritarian and prejudicial tendencies arising with the power of language to dissociate the thinking subject from the objects represented by his thoughts. As this sense of detachment occurs, the tendency to perceive oneself as separate from and, therefore, often in conflict with other people becomes our dominant mode of relating.
At the suggestion of Steve Rosen, a presentation at the 42nd annual meeting of SPHS was created by a panel of the members of the Lifwynn Foundation to elucidate some of the problems of human adaptation to our physical and social environments. Our objective was to convey the principle that transformation of human social behavior from its present dysfunctional mode to a more adaptive mode can be achieved by a two-pronged approach:
groups and Lifwynnís social self-inquiry2
In keeping with these objectives, and to provide the opportunity for the audience to have direct experience of the phenomena addressed in the papers we had prepared, we decided to forego formal presentations, and invite the audience to participate in a dialogue on the topics of our papers. (The written papers are available in the section of this website entitled Papers Presented at 42nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences.)
Toward this end, Adair Nagata began the session inviting the audience to participate in an exercise in bodymindfulness, a term she created, which combines the ideas of "the systemic, integral nature of lived experience encompassing all aspects of being: body, emotion, mind, and spirit" and "a Buddhist concept and practice of cultivating awareness. . . [that] includes a flow of biological information that can help us relate more skillfully." Adair emphasized that, "The bodymindfulness practice focuses attention on oneís intrapersonal state," and that "for effective interpersonal and public communication. . . it is also important to recognize the phenomenon of resonant communication between bodyminds. . ."
After Adair guided the audience in a bodymindfulness practice, which encouraged the participants to Be here now and to tune into their internal state, particularly as it was being manifested in their breathing, Jack Wikse introduced the idea of "slowing things down," a concept he credited to the philosopher Martin Heidegger. If we are to overcome our human predicament where, according to the quote from Emerson in Jackís paper, "things are in the saddle and ride mankind," we must understand the nature of our thinking. For the most part, we experience ourselves as subjects who stand at a distance from objects, and assume we can exert volitional control over them. But, in actuality, as Emerson observed, we are to a great extent controlled by things to which we have been conditioned by our culture to respond reflexively.
Jack described an alternative way of thinking that is characterized by gelassenheit, Heideggerís term meaning the "releasement toward things" into openness. Rather than being dominated by (the illusion) of free will and purposeful intentionality, the horizon of our thinking opens to the unexpected and the unknown. When this happens a deepening of our experience of the world occurs, including awareness of our interconnected- ness with our fellow human beings. Releasement and openness thereby alter the way we engage in social interactions. It promotes an awareness of the way we are participating in discussion. We become more aware of our tendency to impose our personal agendas that drive our interpersonal dialogues.
Steve Rosen joined the dialogue and elaborated on the roles of self-reflexiveness and the dynamics of the form of dialogue developed by David Bohm3 in fostering a more adaptive form of relationship to the world.
Steve differentiated between abstract self-reference and concrete self-reference, as it occurs, for example, in the existential phenomenological writings of Kierkegaard and Karl Jaspers. When we look at ourselves abstractly it tends to be in a detached way, and we "split off. . . from the one who does the viewing." "In the more concrete kind of self-reference . . . I donít hold myself at a distance in reflecting on myself [and] . . . self-reflection occurs from within, on the embodied level of lived subjectivity."
Each of these modes has consequences on our social behavior: abstract self-reference tends to inhibit communication and promotes, in Jaspers words, "self-concealment, arbitrariness and obstinacy;" with concrete self-reference, which is practiced in Bohmian dialogue groups and social self-inquiry, "participants relate to one another on the basis of an awareness and willingness to share their "hidden agendas": underlying assumptions and motives, feelings and projections, defensive maneuverings, etc."
Steve proceeded to elaborate on the process of participation in dialogue, and made the point: "Dialogue is in fact not all talk any more than silent meditation. In dialogue, speech and silence blend dialectically to allow participants to become centered and present as they engage each other." Hence, somatic practices, such as Adairís bodymindfullness, and verbal processes are involved. This set the stage for Lloyd Gildenís presentation.
After reviewing the role of language in the development of humanityís alienation from our physical and social environments, and quoting Burrow, who observed that we suffer from "an inadvertent but nevertheless biologically unwarranted overemphasis on both the word and the head that produces the word,"4 Lloyd suggested that there are many signs of a trend toward an alternative mode of social adaptation, a new stage in the evolution of consciousness. Gebserís integral consciousness was cited as such an advance, and Feurersteinís definition of integral consciousness was quoted: " [the] capacity to render self and the world transparent or diaphanous. . . [The] ever-present origin [the apersonal core of the human personality] is not only intuited, felt, or conceptualized, but also concretely perceived . . ."5
Lloyd proceeded to describe and then present a computer-generated representation of the form of somatic practice called neurofeedback, which he believes facilitates development of awareness of concrete self-reflexivity and integral consciousness. Neurofeedback involves recording a personís brain activity, referred to as the electroencephalogram or EEG, and feeding back to him signals representing various states of activation, such as vigilance, relaxed wakefulness, or deep relaxation. As the person learns to discriminate the spectrum of neurofeedback signals, he develops a high degree of awareness of his subjective states, and becomes capable of modulating them in ways that promote adaptive adjustments to the exigencies of events taking place in his physical and social environments.
The innovation of the panelís engaging in a dialogue with the audience, rather than reading our papers seemed to be an effective way to bridge the gap that ordinarily exists between those making presentations at a conference and their audience. We took the opportunity to be concretely self-reflexive, and encouraged others to do the same. In the spirit such dialogue, then, the reader is invited to share his reactions to our papers, which accompany this introduction. We will not only be interested in your thoughts regarding the ideas discussed in the papers, but, also, whatever hidden agendas, underlying assumptions and motives, feelings and projections, defensive maneuverings, etc. you might care to share with us.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1.Feurerstein, G. Structures of Consciousness. Lower Lake, CA: Integral Publishing, 1987.
2. A description of the group process of Social Self-Inquiry is presented in the paper by
Alfreda Galt entitled The Laboratory of the ĎIí which is available on this web site under the
heading of Publications.
3.A description of the protocol of Bohm dialogue groups can be found at
4. Burrow, T. Preconscious Foundations of Human Experience. New York: Basic Books,
5. Feurerstein, G. Structures of Consciousness. Lower Lake, CA: Integral Publishing, 1987.