Reality has always been virtual. The nervous system generates an abstract simulation of its own functions in consciousness, constructively resulting in the sense of individual self. Perception is merely a series of the nervous system’s best-guesses (inferences) about the causes of perception. Therefore, all perceptual information is a virtual model of the world in which the individual enacts himself. The individual, then, is also a virtual construction co-enacted with his virtual model of the world. In other words, the limited individual self (ego-personality) is a convenient illusion, a permutation of awareness, utilised to manipulate its own models, and in turn the models on which others operate. This leaves awareness as the only constant, and knowingness (knowledge) as the interface between self and world. All models of self, be they physical or subtle, are virtualised representations that allow the mind to establish relationship with symbols, phenomena, and perceptions. These models can be permuted and developed to one’s taste, provided specific techniques are applied to sculpt and remodel consciousness.
Homo sapiens has been engaged in virtuality at least since the species become bipedal, which freed up the hands, giving way to symbolic gesturing and tool-making. A tool virtualises the environment by creating a proxy between self and object that transforms the model of self-other and thus conscious perception. The modern term “virtual reality” is a formalised technological representation of the virtuality principle that has, through sufficiently convincing multi sensory stimulation, facilitated the individual to experience full presence and immersion in technologically constructed virtual worlds. Through advancing VR technology, the human mind can experience additional exogenous (externally-generated) virtualisation beyond her own endogenous (internally-generated) forms of it.
Almost as contentious and multifarious a word as the word “God”, consciousness is the experienced field of attention at any given instant. Consciousness is perception, conditioned by the functional capacities of the conscious subject. Consciousness exhibits types, levels, and degrees. The ground nature of consciousness is equal among all life, and the relative experience thereof varies according to the affordances of the entity’s functional capacities. With transformative intention, consciousness is not only a means to experience, but treated as end unto itself—an agent can make decisions that are “good for consciousness”, i.e. that benefit the total operational capability of his/her experience over time. While consciousness is conditioned, it is possible to cultivate non-dual (unconditioned) awareness, although the availability of contents of which one is aware is conditioned. In this sense, those contents can be analysed in terms of consciousness.
Agency is the sense of having will or volition. When there is agency, there is a feeling or sense of being able to voluntarily execute actions according to one’s intention and an expected effect. The subjective sense of agency is a foundation for the sense of self-worth and a driving force of individual growth. The degree of agency possessed by an individual is contingent on the degree to which the individual has awareness and of his/her subconscious content and mechanisms and the ability to skilfully and effectually work with them. Structural elements present in one’s social and cultural environment are factors that affect one’s objective degrees of freedom and play a part into he degree of agency that is perceived or believed by an individual. While it can be analysed via objective measures, agency is enacted subjectively, and the subjective experience of agency is the operational starting point and preservative, within duality, for freedom and all decisions, transformations, values, and actions.
Spirituality & Self-Cultivation
"Spirituality" is a conventional word which ultimately represents the capacity of consciousness for experiencing sublimity. Mankind's spiritual sensibility is engraved in the symbology of the world’s religions and in the arcana of virtually every culture that has ever existed. The spiritual capacity is available in the mystic and secular man alike, the former’s expression only more self-aware and/or formalised than the latter’s. Sublime experience of consciousness is contingent upon the individual's cultivation of this capacity and its representation in her neurobiology. This can be approached non-dogmatically through self-cultivation, a practice-based functional approach that utilises specific techniques as tools for transforming various aspects of consciousness, leveraging attention and neurobiological functionality in order to generate particular kinds of experiences. As such, the person of spiritual sensibility can be referred to as the practitioner. In this view, ‘spirituality' does not adopt any “supernatural”, mythical, or superstitious allure, and is only the progressive and direct apprehension of one’s own natural being. The potential of the spiritual practitioner's path is highly dependent on the management of individual agency vis-a-vis the nature of one's transformational intentions. This includes the development of a healthy ego-personality, playful experimentation, sublime experiences, resolution of subconscious conflicts, discernment, life balance, physical culture, healthy interpersonal relationships, openness to new developmental pathways, and resolve.
Neuroscience is the current scientific field of intrigue in the cultural zeitgeist of the Western mind. The brain is regarded as the final biological frontier in understanding ourselves. The fascination with the brain is a modern secular form of mysticism, specifically complexity mysticism. While the secular scientist and rational enthusiast might delight in the belief that she is free of any spiritual sensibility, she derives a quasi-spiritual high from a transfixion on the horizons of neural networks and the engineering of brain-mimicking artificial intelligence. The historical significance of neuroscience is at once the cavalier dive of material reductionism into an indecipherable organ as well as the election of the brain as the mirror which science must wipe clean to refine the way we view ourselves as agents situated in a complex world. The recognition of this cultural and scientific role of the brain is a frontier not only in biological understand, but in self-understanding as we try to make sense of the complexities of perception.
Neuroscience examines the plasticity of nervous system function under controlled situations and its capacity to self-repair. Neuroscience is currently focused on elucidating the workings of the gross (textbook) nervous system anatomy, the physical neurones and their cellular environment. Recent developments in the cognitive neuroscience of body representations is building a preliminary understanding of what can be called the ‘subtle' nervous system, which would correspond with the subtler energies of transformational methods and can be regarded by neuroscience as a functional virtual model/overlay atop the gross nervous system enacted by the mind. The current state of brain imaging and stimulation methods measure and alter, respectively, the function of the gross nervous system. These and novel technologies can be refined and developed to interface with the subtler neurobiological anatomy.
Sovereignty is the de facto supreme authority of an individual over herself. She puts no head above her own, is able to enact healthy boundaries for efficacious operation in the world, consciously discern what is hers vs. what isn’t, weigh out and non-aggressively make decisions in her own best interest while preserving the sovereignty of others. She is able to healthily assimilate and discard the the advice of others depending on values, circumstance, and timing. She makes a balanced effort to account for her subconscious projections in her everyday transactions. She is discerning in what she allows into her individual space, be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. She is mindful of other’s subconscious or conscious motives with regards to her involvement and with how she therefore chooses to engage with others across circumstances. The sovereign individual also maintains that other individuals are the best judge of each of their respective interests.
Liberty, given the individual as a de facto starting point for all will and action, is the indivisibility and unalienability of the individual-in-the-world. In a liberty ethos, the curtailment of externally or conceptually self-imposed restriction in turn increases freedom, or the degrees of available states an individual can experience and actions taken. The sovereign individual is cautious/sceptical about about structures and ideologies that violate individual liberty. The gestalt of the actions of free individuals results in the large-scale spontaneous self-organisation of networks of voluntary associations between sovereign individuals. Liberty and freedom are fundamental tenets for maximising individual agency and development and effective cooperation among individuals.
The liberty ethos at once preserves selfhood as the operational mechanism for development and eschews common misconceptions in groups/circles about the benefits of subservience to other individuals and the (sub)conscious adoption of toxic ideologies beyond the useful base techniques that they may offer. The practitioner would do well to always ask of an authority, practice, ideology, or framework, etc., “Does this increase or decrease the sovereignty of the individual?” Crucially, the liberty of all others, regardless of the lifestyle, is respected insofar as it does not impugn on the liberty of another.
Reality (Gk. “Kosmos") is a non-linear dynamical system whose workings are exceedingly complex. The attribution of linear cause-and-effect is often overly simplistic and contorts the far more chaotic and dynamic properties of a system in which multiple agents act. It is equally beguiling to attribute agency to a specific individual organism or group thereof to account for the emergent properties of a system containing myriad interacting factors—the 'truth’ of any matter within it is far more mercurial and non-discrete depending on perspective and the conditions at any given points in space-time. The grasp of the human intellect is often futile in comprehending the vast complexity of reality, and it attempts to simplify it by misattributing agency and cause-effect to individuals and sequences of events. The human being is a collection of agents of various types— viruses, bacteria, microbiota, cultural memes, allegedly self-generated ideas, implanted thoughts and belief systems and structures, subconscious influences, connections to other beings, etc—all of which lay the brickwork to construct the ego-personality that oneself and others perceive to make up the whole of a human agent.
The sufficiently developed mind of an individual can get a sense of the many factors and fragments of a complex system that diffract, refract, obscure, and condition one’s view of reality, and he thus has a sublime and humble appreciation for his own self's limited perspective, which is at once the cornerstone on which he must rely for knowing about reality. He develops a relaxed, alert intrigue in the perspectives of others—the existential arbitrariness and the particular enchantment for each individual—and a compassion for the fractures in the lenses that colour others’ perception of their world. The resultant worldview is one in which what is perceived as reality is a sublime complex system of layered prisms (the factors and fragments) that shape the light of awareness of agents, which in turn are prisms in their own right, contributing to a collective constellation of conditioned subjectivity and expressed objective structures.
Complex systems often exhibit stability around certain homeostatic states. Criticality is the point or state at which a complex system undergoes a phase transition. One example is the transition from default brain activity to an epileptic seizure. Each and every molecular and electrical signal in the nervous system is theoretically able to contribute to a kind of “butterfly effect” on the whole system, depending on what states are available and imminent. As a part of spiritual development, the practitioner would seek to find the optimal balance points between stability and criticality of states. Stability allows for exploration of depth of a state, and criticality allows for nimble transitions to other states that are more adaptive and contextually appropriate for a given situation or environment. With interoceptive (internal bodily) awareness and understanding of neuroscientific concepts, this capability can be trained at the phenomenological level of subjective experience, such that the practitioner feels responsive to the environment while also able to deepen and stabilise that state as called for.
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