8 pages


From the Phenomenological Reporter's Notebook
of Carlton F. "Perk" Clark

1. Arthur Deikman Speaks on 'Barriers to the Absolute'
Charley Tart Pops 'the Ethical Question'

2. David Chalmers to Become an Associate Director
of Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona

Appointment slated for 1999

3. Get Your Heads Ready for Tucson IV!
Coming in the year 2000!

Deikman: A Tale with an Ethical Conclusion after All

Perk Clark flew over to Santa Monica in May of this year, hot on the trail of Sufi scholar Dr. Arthur Deikman, M.D., of the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco. Deikman is one of the clearest voices on the Continent when it comes to speaking on mindfulness. "Psychotherapy, Spirituality and the Evolution of the Mind" was the name of the conference where he was speaking. His topic there was: "Barriers to the Absolute."

Dr. Deikman was fresh off an early departure from the Tucson III conference in Tucson, "Towards a Science of Consciousness," where MAM had hoped to interview him. He dropped his planned discussion of a non-reductive (experiential) approach to this science. "I withdrew from the Tucson III conference," he e-mailed to Perk, "because my presentation was inappropriately assigned to the Ethics section and there was no way to change the situation. So I won't be available for the interview. Sorry."

We had considered his paper "'I' = Awareness" to be one of the most probative papers on consciousness so far presented from the beginning of that whole enormous Tucson interdisciplinary effort.

Introspection reveals that the core of subjectivity -- the 'I' -- is identical to awareness. This 'I' should be differentiated from the various aspects of the physical person and its mental contents which form the 'self.' Most discussions of consciousness confuse the 'I' and the 'self.' In fact, our experience is fundamentally dualistic--not the dualism of mind and matter--but that of the 'I' and that which is observed. The identity of awareness and the 'I' means that we know awareness by being it. -- from the Journal of Consciousness Studies, 3, No. 4 (1996) -- the whole text is found at www.zynet.co.uk/imprint/online/Deikman.html

So we were sorry to miss our chance for an interview in Tucson--so much so, that Perk, who is a student of Sufi teachings, followed this teacher out of the Sonoran Desert all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

It's not that Dr. Deikman has anything against ethics, by the way. His books will make that plain. His fortÈ is making the essence of Moslem Sufi knowledge accessible to students who know how to learn. He is a very spiritual man. Especially because of this misunderstanding in Tucson, he is a voice that ought to be heard.

Tucson (October 31, 1998)--Down by the ocean, Arthur Deikman spoke on the topics of "connectedness"and "knowing." He alluded to a long history of mystics who have contemplated these ideas. He said that William James set the tone when he said that overcoming all the barriers between an individual and the Absolute is the *ultimate achievement*.

What are these barriers? How can one penetrate through them and actually reach this "ultimate achievement?"

Dr. Deikman described two basic functions of human consciousness. [This is a theme developed at length in his book "The Observing Self: Mysticism and Psychotherapy (Beacon Press, Boston, 1982).] The first of these functions is "ordinary instrumental consciousness," and the second is "receptive consciousness."

Ordinary instrumental consciousness is the part of our mind whose purpose is to act upon the world. It entails objects, logic, and language. This is the realm of "the survival self." It is a point of view from which the Seven Deadly Sins are regarded as virtues! This mode of being develops because (as Piaget put it) we use our bodies as templates for understanding the way to be in the world. Concepts of space, time, and causality are all built upon body experiences. This mode strives always for *permanence*. It's hard from this point of view, Deikman noted, to imagine such things as the universe coming to an end, let alone that "all things change."

The other main function of consciousness is what Deikman calls "receptive." This operates with the purpose of receiving the environment, as it is, blurring boundaries, *merging* with that world, rather than acting upon it. His point is that by employing advanced meditative skills like "intention" and "self-awareness," a person can produce different forms of consciousness than the ordinary forms of consciousness. This effort, he said, assists a person in overcoming the barriers to the Absolute.

Deikman said that if, for instance, you would like to experience the world in a connected way, you ought to practice certain things which involve *forgetting the self*. Included among these are meditation, renunciation (remembering that all things pass), and service.

But he emphasized that this last element, service, must be differentiated from "doing good." In "doing good," where one is rewarded for meritorious acts, one is still caught up, subtly, in "the acquisition mode." The service model in Dr. Deikman's view is called "serving the task at hand." In this "serving the task at hand," one experiences "relief from self-consciousness and self-reference." [Dr. Deikman's book elaborates on this concept by exploring the nature of meaning, and transcendence.]

He has observed that people in psychotherapy frequently complain that their lives lack "meaning." And this may, indeed, be a function of neurotic problems that interfere with their capacity to love. Their "meaninglessness" may also be a function of "self-centeredness." This can be generated by a person remaining consistently in instrumental consciousness, or "object consciousness," since this mode of consciousness strives for an impossible permanence and possession of all that it desires.

The solution for meaninglessness that Deikman illuminates in his body of work involves transcending the motivations of this object consciousness. That is where the method of service to the task is brought into action. The mystics have called this "serving the Truth," or serving the larger flow of reality which is beyond our smaller self-centered truths. When one can feel identified with--not our smaller self-centered "truths"--with this larger Truth, then this is the "being connected to the Absolute" that is being referred to. One becomes connected with this larger "identity," the Absolute, and serves that. Fear diminishes. And meaning is *perceived*. [Of course . . . one has to do this, not just think about it, in order to perceive it.]

Deikman told the conference gathering: "Most major world problems today reflect the gaps that are inherent in instrumental consciousness." He asserted: "We have to consider that true service is the gateway to knowing connection." And, connection creates openings to peace.

As Dr. Deikman is a psychiatrist, many physicians and psychotherapists in the audience wished to know how these healing ideas could be applied in their practices with clients. He said we can help them "to identify and eliminate illusory sources of survival anxiety." He said that therapists can help their clients "relinquish some of the demands of the self."

To the mindfulness teachers in the audience, he had this to say: "Another benefit of this model is that one can use these ideas to evaluate a spiritual teacher." The question Dr. Deikman raises is whether a given teacher reinforces the "survival self" in his or her students, or instead works towards reinforcing "other-centered consciousness" in them.

At this point, one of the mindfulness teachers in the audience stood up. It was Dr. Charles T. Tart, Ph.D.--and Perk's notes reflect that he was not at all surprised to see that "Charley" was there, because this is one of the few other clear voices in the field of awareness training in this country today.

[See Perk's in-depth coverage of Dr. Tart's methods in the Summer 1998 issue of Mindful Awareness Magazine, "Charles Tart to Tucson III: 'Mindfulness Matters.'" Perk's article can also be accessed through Dr. Tart's own website at www.paradigm-sys.com/cttart/ through the "New Additions" link.]

Here they were now, Deikman and Tart, two such clear minds in the same space, eyeball to eyeball, that is, receptive consciousness *with* receptive consciousness. Here is the magic moment. Dr. Tart is a philosopher and a student and teacher of the methods of G. I. Gurdjieff and those of Vipassana Buddhist Master Shinzen Young. He is a leader in the Transpersonal Psychology community in America. And he is one of the top non-reductive pioneers in the conscientious effort to bring "awakened experiential knowledge" into the discussions that are now going on among scientists in the broad Consciousness Studies Scene.

"How do you discriminate between 'I should serve,' and 'Service to the task at hand?'" Charley asked. Now Dr. Deikman may have scratched his head for a moment on that one. [Perk's notes reveal no such observation here.] Yet here we are back to that old "ethical question" again. It must have been Fate! Hadn't Deikman just walked away from that one, five hundred miles from here, at Tucson III? (Was this just like the ancient tale of the man who tried to elude Death in Tehran?)

In this somewhat apocryphal account that MAM is presenting here now of that meeting of the mindful minds by the ocean there that day, they say that a little smile came upon the mouth of the Sufi psychiatrist at that point. It was time for--what else?--a Sufi story!

There was this person who was being given a tour of hell. In this setting, people were seated at a banquet table covered with food. But they were starving. They each had their arms tied to boards that were around their necks, so that they could not reach the food that their hands could grasp with their mouths. They were tantalized and suffering terribly. Their hellish lives had no meaning. And they were stuck there without anything to do but complain.

Later, this same person was given a tour of heaven. In heaven, people were again seated at a banquet table covered with food. Again they were each tied-up in exactly the same fashion. However, this time . . . . . they were all dining happily together!

They were feeding each other...

Carlton F. "Perk" Clark, MSW, ACSW, is a Tucson psychotherapist and an Editor and Staff Reporter in the field for Mindful Awareness Magazine, www.tucsonet.com/mindfulness . Do you have some insights on mindfulness for his phenomenological reporter's notebook? You can reach him by e-mail at perk@azstarnet.com

Also see, Perk's article on Dr. Tart in the Summer issue.

P.S. How do you distinguish between "I should serve," and "Service to the task at hand"--between object consciousness in the acquisition mode and receptive consciousness? How can we break through the barriers of our all-so-human alienation and suffering to reach a state of knowing connectedness with the Absolute? All you have to do is just wake up, and, whatever it is that you're doing now . . . don't do it for your self.

U. of A. Recruiters Sign a Key Player
for their Consciousness Studies Team
in time for the Big ("Hard Problem") Game

Tucson (October 31, 1998)--Dr. Alfred W. Kaszniak, Ph.D., Director, Consciousness Studies, Professor of Psychology, Neurology, and Psychiatry, the University of Arizona, has announced in the Consciousness Bulletin, Fall 1998, that Dr. David J. Chalmers, Ph.D. will be joining the University of Arizona Philosophy Department in 1999.

Dr. Chalmers will also become an Associate Director of Consciousness Studies, joining Director Kaszniak and present Associate Directors Stuart Hameroff, Jim Laukes, and Alwyn Scott in directing the Center for Consciousness Studies there.

Author of books and articles on the philosophical contemplation of the human mind, Dr. Chalmers is perhaps best known for his illuminating survey of the work of his fellow scholars and scientists that pertains to what is being called "the Hard Problem"--the question of what to do about that simple phenomenon of human life that is called "experience"--which is perhaps the least-well-understood aspect of our human consciousness. His most recent book is "Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem" (MIT Press, Boston, 1998).

If he is not the one who coined the term, Dr. Chalmers is certainly the one who made the Hard Problem well-known among the many scientists of all kinds who have been pooling their efforts in making Tucson I-III the most important conferences of their kind in human history.

Presently a philosopher at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a cognitive scientist who has despaired that the cognitive approach, by itself (a reductive approach), can do the job of cracking the Hard Problem, Dr. Chalmers is the author of the most discussable paper that has been produced so far by the hundreds of consciousness scientists who have been gathering at Tucson I-III to probe and understand the human mind, "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness." This paper has been described as "landmark" and "virtuoso." Although it doesn't yet contain the answer to the Hard Problem, it does, however, "point the way."

MAM readers can find the whole text of this fascinating paper at: http://ling.ucsc.edu/~chalmers/papers/consciousness.html

Coming Attraction in the New Millenium:
Tucson IV

Tucson (October 31, 1998)--The fourth meeting of the worldwide interdisciplinary series of conferences sponsored by the University of Arizona, Tucson IV, "Towards a Science of Consciousness," will be held from April 10-15, 2000, in Tucson, Arizona.

The time is already here for those with knowledge of non-reductive (i.e. experiential) approaches to this broad research effort into the understanding of the human mind, to be contemplating making their work and discoveries available at this next history-making gathering. Those with reductive (i.e. cognitive) approaches have been heavily represented already, and will be represented again.

The Consciousness Bulletin is a publication of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona that is supported by a $1.4 million grant from the Fetzer Institute, which also sponsors the Tucson I-IV Conferences. Scholars and scientists can contact the Consciousness Bulletin staff by e-mail at center@u.arizona.edu for information about their call for pre-proposals for a research grants program.

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