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Sjahari Hollands - Do We Really Need a New Explanation of the Latihan?

about 'rasa'. From Merin Nielsen, February 7, 2008. Time 7:52

about 'rasa'

On February 4, David discussed rasa in feedback to the article "What is Subud?" He concluded:

>> I'm very curious to see what you, Michael, Helissa, Andrew and Stefan might make of "rasa", in terms of describing your own experiences. (Sorry if I missed anyone!)

That's okay, David. The following is what I make of rasa in relation to a somewhat academic and materialist interpretation of my own experience.

I think rasa corresponds to the mental facility for forming a complete and consistent 'model' of the relationships between one's 'inner states' and elements of the world in general. I will explain this in some detail below. In summary, I support 'Connectionism' as the basis of mind (or mental states), the 'Computational Theory of Mind' as the basis of meaning, 'Higher Order Representation Theory' as the basis of consciousness, and the 'Language of Thought Hypothesis' as the basis of language. Also below are links to reading material on these topics.

According to connectionism, one's model of the world is really a huge, intricate set of relationships between the basic components of one's experience of reality whose myriad 'meanings' are ultimately generated in the form of a neural network. The arrangements and weightings of connections within this gigantic network mirror the relationships between things in the world, such that this isomorphic mimicking is the sole source of semantic meaning. In my view, rasa corresponds well to gradually extending this amazingly complex model to encompass the mechanisms of one's own dispositional nature, including the mind and emotions, in progressively more accurate detail.

However, I think this process amounts to an activity that human nature doesn't readily provide for, since it isn't very relevant to natural selection. While human nature includes the same facilities of consciousness and cognition that are shared by cats, cows and crows, it also comes with a symbol processing capacity that is the basis of language, but which may be turned to purposes other than the everyday enhancement of survival prospects. For cats, cows and crows, environmental stimuli produce sensory mental states that might simultaneously be represented within the animal's world model, where such representations are more or less coarsely analogue. Conscious states are such states that simultaneously have such representations. If these representations subsequently evoke further subtle, internal states, then they are 'cognitions', subject to inference and analysis, and thus useful for enhancing one's survival prospects in many ways. Humanity's extra symbol processing system, on the other hand, can take huge combinations of analogue representations and arbitrarily allocate symbols to them. This sidesteps all the heavy-duty processing of analogue representation. Supervening networks of relationships between symbols then supply a far more efficient shortcut means of modelling the world, as well as permitting relationships themselves to be allocated with symbols. Such 'concepts' can be transmitted between individuals in the form of language.

As per cats, cows, crows and other empathically social creatures, to a limited extent we naturally process representations of our own and others' mental states, via the original system of analogue representation. But the symbol processing system might let us translate all these representations into symbols whose interrelationships can be more concisely modelled, provided there is careful observation and inferential reasoning. This modelling has the potential to be uncontaminated by analogue influences, thus very rational. I suggest that the analogue system can't be successfully applied to the task because it is founded on a fixed range of primitive sensory states, while those concerning our own mental mechanisms are likely to be unprecedented. In that case, it might be important to avoid relying on pre-existing characterisations. Fresh symbols could be adopted as realities of new elements are inferred, and further symbols allocated to the relationships between them. On achieving enough clarity, the symbolic 'digital' model becomes analogue to all intents, accurately reflecting internal reality. The final upshot is that, thanks to evolutionary advantages incidentally conferred by the facility of language, we detect the possibility of modelling our own mental apparatus in finer detail, and independently of its phenomenal contents. Rasa, therefore, might be the application of our symbol processing facility to this end.

David's feedback comment about rasa:

http://www.subudvision.org/lg/Alg3.shtml

(and scroll down to February 4)

links to reading material:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/connectionism/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/computational-mind/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-higher/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/language-thought/

http://www.unc.edu/~ujanel/Simple.htm

also interesting:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/consciousness-representational/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mental-representation/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qualia/

From Merin Nielsen, February 7, 2008. Time 7:54

Some loose definitions and discussion.

1) State (of a human brain) -- a condition involving some sort of 'disequilibrium', whether mild or intense, that may produce a response, whether conscious or unconscious. States include basic and complex sensations, as well as manifesting instincts and emotions. Essentially, they're comprised of the basic stuff of existence, be that physical, biochemical or whatever.

2) Representation -- a mental 'echo' of some state or a combination of states recorded in memory. Each representation is linked to some specific state. It can be analogue or symbolic, complex or simple, but does not in itself involve 'accuracy'. In this view, representations ultimately have no semantic properties apart from the subtleties of their associated states of disequilibrium.

When I smell a flower, my brain is in a corresponding state, and at the same time I have a mental representation of smelling a flower, by virtue of having done this (or things like this) in the past. But each and every representation is linked to others.

blueness + vastness + aboveness = sky (complex).

thirst + beer (complex) + feeling of security = action of drinking.

They are linked together even though some are external, like beer and the action of drinking, while others are internal, like thirst and the feeling of security. The overall arrangement and significance of individual links adds up to a world model. States are characterised by 'fixing' their links among other, ultimately simple states. Once characterised, some types resist re-characterisation, whereas other types are changed easily, depending on the general circumstances of their original inclusion. Many of the links bypass conscious processing. There are many that an individual might be better off without, and others that ought to bypass consciousness in order to be useful. The entire set-up, however, finally comes down to linked states and (more or less complex) representations of states. But consider the trio of a state, its representation and the link between them. Symbolic reasoning lets us isolate the trio and transform the having of it into another state with its own link to its own representation. Thus, for example, we can be conscious of being conscious of being hungry.

3) Model (as a noun) -- the set of all one's representations that are interrelated and associated with each other more or less consistently and 'rationally', though constantly being shuffled around both consciously and unconsciously, with links being added, deleted, reinforced or diminished.

4) Attention -- the mechanism whereby states evoke (or provoke) representations to which they're linked. In a sense, states compete in terms of 'drawing' attention. This appears to allow 'relevant' information to be rationally dealt with in order to resolve the most urgent respective disequilibria.

5) Symbolic reasoning -- the mental capacity for employing symbols rather than direct, analogue representations in constructing a world model. This goes hand in hand with the language facility, which is based on allocating (and arbitrarily re-allocating) symbol associations. Manipulation of symbols provides a powerful shortcut for configuring one's world model, and permits 'rules' to be represented as patterns of relationships that are present among other representations.

6) Cognition -- typically a complex representation, often involving symbols (for humans at least), which is evoked by external stimuli or else by possibly subtle, internal states. Its components can evoke subsequent cognitions. That is to say, through the inner environment of one's world model, cognitions may stimulate sequential sensory states, which amounts to 'thinking'.

Cats, cows and crows are conscious in possessing representations of their sensory states, including various mental / emotional states. Cognition has them analysing and inferring about their external environments, which is effectively modelled in just that manner, by modifying the arrangement of links among the elements of one's experience. Since they lack symbolic reasoning, animals can't engage in abstractions like generalising rules as 'things', and perhaps especially not with respect to their own inner worlds. In the first instance, the human situation is similar. While our attention is capable of elegant symbol processing, especially involving cultural data, it remains fundamentally driven by the same emotional, instinctive and physical disequilibria driving cats, cows and crows.

This means that the symbol processing system is 'burdened' by pre-existing analogue associations imposed upon it by such states of disequilibrium, which dominate the formation of representations. Meanwhile, inference is readily available only when given some background of facts to work with. Despite this, it would seem that a largely separate 'secondary' network of symbolic relationships is required in order to properly model the mechanisms of the mind, with the scheme of analysis and inference beginning almost from scratch.

Before concluding, here's an important point. Whether we use analogue sensory states or symbols for our representations, semantic content never exists within any actual representation. 'Meaning' stems only from the relationships that hold between a given representation and all the rest of one's world model. Thus a sensory state is identifiable only in terms of its 'address' within the network, and even if symbol processing is active, symbols are not represented. The thing represented is a sensory state of the system that has certain relationships with all the other things in the real world. To represent it comprehensively is simply to mirror those relationships.

Merin

From Stefan, February 7, 2008. Time 15:7

Hi Merin,

I'm wondering why you put this brilliant sounding and well researched thesis on this particular page. Is it because Sjahari's article challenges members to come up with a persuasive alternative (to Bapak's) explanation of Subud? (Is this one?)

I guess that I would need either a week of determined study or a simplified version in order to fully understand it. But then I'm struggling generally to keep up with some of the refs to atomic physics and the nature of mind in other feedbacks.

A part of me is enjoying the mental gymnastics. On the other hand when I don't grasp it I feel frustrated. Sometimes I wonder if there's a bit of competetive mental sport going on, which is OK by me so long as I can hit a few balls! I would LOVE though, to see these conversations extended to more latihaners (and ex-latihaners) and hope it's not becoming so rarified as to exclude folk.

Stefan

From Merin Nielsen, February 8, 2008. Time 10:6

Hi, Stefan,

Yep, I attached the above ideas to the feedback on Sjahari's article largely because of what you've just mentioned. These ideas are not directly about the latihan, although I could steer them in that direction, but I'm also sure they are acceptable to fairly few current latihaners, based on the reality that we're all different in terms of our personal dispositions -- which was another theme discussed in earlier feedback to Sjahari's article. One reason why the above notions could be hard to swallow is that they're rather 'mental' / philosophical / intellectual / academic -- which many Subud members are not. Another reason is that they are apparently materialist -- devoid of any other-worldly or supernatural kind of spirituality -- which may also often not suit Subud members. (I'd argue that these views are spiritual in a different way.)

I tried to write out the above ideas in a way that compromises between brevity and clarity, which naturally oppose each other. There's a lot to say while keeping within a reasonable length. There are some tricky words, but I chose to offer definitions just for a few that have special meanings outside of their colloquial meanings. I'm used to this form of discussion in my tertiary studies, and I realise most other people are not used to it, so I expect many people will find it somewhat hard to read, but I doubt that I can write much simpler without tedious lecturing.

Competitive mental sport? Yep, there's a bit of that, but I think in good spirit. And I think there will always be folk who find themselves more or less excluded from any communal activity, just because we all vary in nature and nurture, so we are all excluded from something or other.

My motivation is partly to highlight one more interesting (?) alternative among the wide variety of explanatory approaches that are available, one that suits my own background of experience and way of thinking (which finds enjoyment in trying to solve various puzzles).

Best wishes,

Merin

From Stefan, February 8, 2008. Time 15:19

Thanks Merin,

It takes some guts to swim againstv the tide and I fully support your right to hold and express "apparently materialistic" and scientifically derived views about what others would describe in mystical terms.

Even more than when Subud was founded, the educated public are (rightly) wary of any spiritual movement that draws members into one inflexible cosmology. On the other hand something that can be described in relation to research on consciousness - such as latihan the way you might describe it - could attract interest..

Can the core sense of what you've written be reframed in a more easily digestible form? (As if you were simplifying and summarising it for a popular magazine) If so, I'd be grateful to be "in on" the discussion. I'm drawn to the cat, the crow and the cow and hope they don't get gobbled up by the sneaky crocodile.

Stefan

From Merin Nielsen, February 9, 2008. Time 8:7

Hi, Stefan,

The core sense... perhaps can leave out the issues of connectionism, representation and inference, which concern how sensations become organised perceptions and concepts.

First, there's this thing called rasa: "...." according to Stange, according to David.

It seems that we are somehow aware of the availability of some mysterious, optional (and possibly arduous) process of 'inner development' that goes with being human. But then we should ask what defines being human -- and the natural selection narrative suggests that this is essentially language. In terms of evolution, language bestows a very powerful capacity for our species to jointly process new information. i.e. I can discuss with my friend that there is a lion ten minutes along the track that has just killed an antelope that was chewing on the berry bush that she was just about to visit. This involves our portable, mental world models being sufficiently similar yet flexible to allow us to exchange symbols, usually words, while being able to assign new meanings to symbols, and all the while knowing that each other share this ability.

Thus, there's a very direct link between language and possessing a world model that's at least partly constructed out of symbols. It seems likely that, once our species began using language effectively, the advantage of using symbols for communication was amplified and greatly compounded by the advantages of using them to construct more information oriented world models. Spin-offs include the capacity to recognise and communicate about things like 'rules' and 'causes' and 'laws of nature'. (I think that it also generates the illusion of free will, connected with the representation of 'self' -- but that's a tangent topic.)

Along with our animal cousins (the cats, cows and crows), we still possess the original system of analysing and communicating information about the world, which does not use symbols. It relies on experiences being linked to mental 'events', with sensory details 'biologically' determining the mental details. The resulting world model includes details about our own minds and feelings, as well as other people's minds and feelings. The original system deals with this content because it's important for survival that social animals process certain information about one another's mental and emotional states. Also in this original system, there is a never ending list of priorities to deal with in order to bolster one's ongoing prospects of survival. This list largely determines what our minds notice, and what they'll probably be interested in next, according to whatever world model we've individually got at any particular moment. For human beings, though, the presence of this original system is always interrupting and putting pressure on the new kid on the block, which is our language (symbol processing) system.

Okay. By virtue of being human, we have available a facility of employing symbols to far more efficiently elaborate on the contents of our portable world models. Along with that, our models already incorporate a certain understanding of ourselves as symbol using creatures with minds, though with lots of instincts and emotions affecting our minds' operation. Also by virtue of our humanity, we sense that there's an option of 'inner development'. Meanwhile, it's reasonable to suppose we can apply the symbol processing system to fathoming more complete and consistent details of our own minds. I suspect that these elements of humanity come together in the task of extending one's world model such that it gradually encompasses the mechanisms that generate it. For this to occur, it might well be necessary to establish a nearly independent 'sub-world model', avoiding the original system's influence. And maybe this is rasa.

All the best,

Merin

From Stefan, February 9, 2008. Time 9:27

Thanks Merin,

I find this version easier to cope with (though I realise you gave more complex and rich detail in the first)

Would you agreee that to be able to attune to Rasa one basic requirement is to create a safe and protected situation, so that the instinctive (lizard) brain doesn't interrupt and over-ride the meditation/prayer/receiving/transmission or whatever we name the numinous experience?

Stefan

From sjahari hollands, February 9, 2008. Time 20:50

I will add to this discussion a few more observations, which I am also developing for the purposes of a second article.

Models are developed in order to try to characterize or explain a phenomenon. Once a model is developed that seems to be accurate in describing a phenomenon and predicting what will happen, then it often turns out that the model can be used to develop something new and valuable for the world.

Example. There is a model of the cellular structure of the heart which demonstrates that certain receptors on cells (Beta receptors) are involved in adrenergic stimulation of the heart.

There is also a model, or theory of disease that states that adrenergic stimulation of the heart is bad for the diseased heart.

So the idea was generated from these two models that maybe if we were able to block the beta receptors there would be a beneficial result for people with heart disease. To test this hypothesis a medication was developed called a beta blocker. And it turns out that the prediction was correct. Beta blockers do actually benefit the heart in those individuals.

This example demonstrates how the development of an accurate model of reality can result in new discoveries based on the model’s predictions.

No one believes that the model we currently hold about the heart is the absolute final authoritarian word on the issue. There are actually other models, and some start from entirely different assumptions. But the one we use seems to be the one that describes observations in the best way according to the information we now have.

So lets go back to what has originated this discussion. Bapak’s talks, and the model of spiritual reality he presents there.

First of all, is it a good model? To be a good model, it would have to explain the essential core characteristics of the latihan. (as in my original article.)

In my view the model that Bapak presented to us does this in a satisfactory way. It is inclusive and complete, much more than a lot of other models I have read and explored.

Does that mean that it is “true”? Does that mean that there is some objective and pure truth and that Bapak’s words embody that truth? No.

And noone claims that, least of all Bapak. It is just a model.

What is the purpose of the model? Why do we need a model at all?

The purpose of the model is that we have an understanding of the process we are taking part in by doing the latihan. The purpose of the model is to give us a guideline for moving forward and progressing in this experience.

It is not enough to simply go to the latihan hall every week and do the same thing over and over again year after year, decade after decade, without any awareness of what is going on and without any sense of progression on a spiritual journey. We are on a road here. And it is a road that others have been on.

I actually think it would have been irresponsible for Bapak to have given us the latihan without any model or framework for understanding it.

The model Bapak has provided gives us a way of being more aware of the process we are in and monitoring it through paying attention to it through our awareness.

Awareness is the essential element. And what this model does is give us an aide in awareness.

So the model has a purpose. It has an end in mind, which is the latihan itself.

The model is not an end in itself. To talk about Bapak’s model as an end in itself is to move into discussions of theology. Theological discussions are valid and valuable, but theological truth was not the focus or purpose of the talks and they are not the subject of the latihan or Subud. A discussion of theology is not relevant in any way to the latihan, nor is it relevant in any way to Bapak’s talks. Bapak repeatedly said, over and over that these ideas cannot be understood by the human mind. And he also said over and over that he didnt want his talks taken into the realm of theology.

This I feel is where so many people writing on Subudvision are missing the point, and missing out on the potential value in Bapak’s talks.

They are an aide to the latihan. Nothing more.

From Merin Nielsen, February 10, 2008. Time 0:11

Hi, Stefan,

Yes, sure, that seems to make a lot of sense, and clearly matches the approach of many 'seekers' throughout the ages. Of course, then there's the latihan's reputation (?) of providing access to the same or some similar process even while an individual remains more or less fully engaged with ordinary, everyday living. This seems plausible, although it bears further contemplation.

Crocodiles and lizards - I love them too, but they're not as close to us as cats and cows, in terms of empathy. Crows are not far removed from lizards, but have a sort of demonic charisma.

Hi, Sjahari,

I agree with everything you've said above. Bapak's model is indeed a good model - for those whom it suits. The role of a model is to provide an explanation, and so a useful model amounts to a useful explanation - one that strikes a suitably satisfying cord of resonance (via insight or appreciation) for some individual. I would just add one point to what you have said: the specific model that resonates for anyone depends upon that person's nature and background.

Here I need to clarify our usage of the word 'model', because it's used as a special term within "the model" that I presented above. Thus, in the following paragraph, I'm using it in the same (highly respected) sense that you've adopted.

The model that I presented above is, similarly, not supposed to represent "the truth" (or the absolute final authoritarian word on the issue). It's merely an alternative account that may suit some people better than Bapak's model does. So there's no context of competition between models. Within reason, they all have much the same status, being simply made available for the sake of their potential to cater for the considerable diversity of people's dispositions and background experiences. Bapak's model apparently works best for some of us, but not others. The same goes for what I presented above, or for any other reasonably consistent model of what might be going on in the latihan (or rasa).

For you, Bapak's model serves to explain the essential core characteristics of the latihan in a satisfactory way, and that's fine. It was perhaps the only model that Bapak could have offered, but in any case it has seemingly been of great use to many people. However, it is evidently not useful for everyone - it is definitely not a satisfactory explanation for everyone. For many people, it does not strike the right chord, whereas other models may resonate more comfortably.

As you say, no model is an end in itself. The main motivation for considering any such model is, as you suggest, in order to facilitate a healthy relationship or approach to the latihan. Any model might be employed, but if there's some variety available, then it is more likely that a given individual will have the opportunity to choose a model that suits them better.

Best regards,

Merin

From sjahari hollands, February 10, 2008. Time 1:13

Hi Merin,

It is good to see that we have a common ground of agreement. We seem to agree on the following

1.That the model Bapak presented can be a useful adjunct to the latihan in the sense that he intended it, and as outlined in my above note.

2.That Bapak’s model explains the core elements of the latihan in a satisfactory way.

3. That many members do find it useful.

4. That many members do NOT find it useful and cannot relate to it at all.

5. That any member is free to use any model that suits them better or resonates with them in a way they find to be more satisfactory.

6. We probably agree there are many members who just want to go to the latihan and who are simply not interested in any model at all.

The question I am interested in is this: What is our role and responsibility when faced with the task of presenting an explanation of the latihan to people interested in subud, or to people already in Subud who are struggling with understanding what is going on?

In my view, our responsibility is to provide the whole package. Bapak gave us the latihan, plus a satisfactory model to go along with it. I believe that the new subud member deserves just as much. If we are going to provide the latihan, then we should also provide a model that explains it in a satisfactory way, and which can act as an aide to awareness.

What are our options then?

The first option is to present the model that Bapak gave. Up to now it is the only model we have that actually covers all the essential elements of the latihan.

Another option is to give other explanations, or to give a variety of explanations from which to choose.

What is our responsibility in this? I contend that if we are going to present an explanation different from the one given by Bapak, then we have a responsibility to ensure that it satisfactorily includes all the core elements of what the latihan is.

How can we determine if an explanation does this or not?

Well the first step is to agree on what those core elements are, and that was the topic of my original article in this thread.

Personally I think it is enough to simply give one explanation -- the one that we have already from Bapak. And allow people who dont like it or dont relate to it to develop their own, or to use their own orientations.

But people do deserve an explanation. They deserve to have a model.

The trouble is, and the problem up to now is that there is in fact very little understanding of what the model Bapak presented actually is, and what it actually says, and what kind of relationship to the latihan it actually promotes. People simply dont go to that degree of awareness in themselves. Or they take it as an objective explanation of reality and react to it as a piece of mumbo jumbo religiousity. Both of these approaches miss the boat entirely.

So my conclusions are these.

If a new explanation of the latihan, and the process of the latihan is developed and presented, then it should be able to satisfactorily incorporate all the core principles of the latihan.

Otherwise, let us try to understand in a deeper way the explanation that Bapak used and try to explain it in terms that people from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds can understand.

Can we explain Subud and the latihan using Bapak’s model WITHOUT using any of his language or cultural references? Could we explain it to a Christian using only the western christian metaphor? Have we tried?

That to me should be our goal. That to me is our responsibility. That is how we can move beyond Bapak and do something he wasnt able to do.

Sjahari

From Stefan, February 10, 2008. Time 1:15

Hi Sjahari & Merin,

I agree with both of you that for a lot of people Bapak's model serves well (and is for many latihaners better than a vacuum). As it happens, many of Bapak's perceptions have supported my spiritual explorations:: the latihan as a rediscovery of innate individual abilities, the value in developing ones outer as well as inner resources, the interplay of warring urges and the possibility of becoming more aware of their origin, the role of surrender (which I describe as "letting go") and patience (in my case persistence, which I'm better at than patience.) These pointers and others have helped me keep a sense of direction and take a long-term view of latihan. Having a sort of "faith" in the latihan's potential to guide me through difficulties, I've relinquished a heap of self-limiting anxiety to make some huge and courageous changes in my life.

It's an excellent and vital point that the framework offered is not some fixed and absolute "Truth" but a model which may be helpful.

So I agree with Merin that it could be helpful to a diversity of people to have more than one suggested model.

A second very significant advantage of this: the public when they encounter Subud might now imagine they're seeing a cult who adulate a great sage and unquestioningly repeat his words. Instead they will find something which demonstrates freedom from dogma, independence of thought, and a diversity of exploratory models.

Stefan

From Merin Nielsen, February 10, 2008. Time 5:11

Hi, Sjahari,

Unfortunately, our common ground of agreement didn't last long! I concur with Stefan's last sentiment.

Your point number 2 is misleading. It's like saying that Arnold Schwarzenneger is a satisfactory actor. Some people say 'yes' but others say 'no' to that proposition. As to whether a model is satisfactory, there's no objective fact of the matter. We can only ask whether it is satisfactory to this or that person who has encountered it. Is a certain suitcase heavy? The answer depends on who's trying to lift it.

Other points throughout your posting rely upon this misleading basis. You write:

>> Bapak gave us the latihan, plus a satisfactory model to go along with it.

Subsequently, you refer to the need to provide a model (at least one, although you don't rule out more than one) that explains the latihan in a satisfactory way, and support the option of presenting the model that Bapak gave. Unfortunately, this implies acceptance of the misleading point 2.

Then in reference to Bapak's model, you write:

>> Up to now it is the only model we have that actually covers all the essential elements of the latihan.

This comment is again apparently based on point 2, and I disagree with it. In my view, Bapak's model doesn't cover all the essentials. Nor can anyone say for sure that there's no other model covering all the essentials.

You then contend "that if we are going to present an explanation different from the one given by Bapak, then we have a responsibility to ensure that it satisfactorily includes all the core elements of what the latihan is."

Unfortunately, this relies upon much the same kind of misleading use of the word 'satisfactorily'. Whether any explanation includes all the core elements satisfactorily, there is no objective fact of the matter, because satisfaction is not objective.

You ask:

>> How can we determine if an explanation does this or not?

There's no way of doing this objectively -- but only on a person-by-person basis.

You write:

>> Well the first step is to agree on what those core elements are...

I'm afraid this step is impossible, since people are inclined to disagree implacably on the issue.

You note:

>> ... the problem up to now is that there is in fact very little understanding of what the model Bapak presented actually is, and what it actually says, and what kind of relationship to the latihan it actually promotes.

This might (?) be because it isn't a very clear or useful model, and so people don't relate to it very well.

You conclude:

>> If a new explanation of the latihan, and the process of the latihan is developed and presented, then it should be able to satisfactorily incorporate all the core principles of the latihan.

Again, there would be no objective fact of the matter, neither for Bapak's model nor for any other.

>> Otherwise, let us try to understand in a deeper way the explanation that Bapak used and try to explain it in terms that people from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds can understand.

If there were no possibility of any useful, alternative model, then I'd agree with embracing the only candidate, but respectfully I must disagree.

>> Can we explain Subud and the latihan using Bapak’s model WITHOUT using any of his language or cultural references?

Yes, I can -- to my satisfaction -- though I know my explanation would not satisfy everybody. Whether it satisfies anybody else, who knows?

Best wishes,

Merin

From sjahari hollands, February 10, 2008. Time 5:54

HI Merin: No. I didnt expect the agreement to last very long.

I come from a scientific background whereby a model is created on the basis of observed facts or objective knowledge. The model is then used to make predictions. If the predictions are validated then the model itself is validated.

In the realm we are working in here there is very little in the way of objective knowledge and hence what we have to use as the fundamental building block for the model is a set of assumptions. This is that set of assumptions I tried to identify in my article, and which Bapak’s model is able to explain.

I could easily show how Bapak’s model incorporates and in a sense “predicts” that set of assumption (and I am sure you could do the same).

(By “satisfactory” I simply mean that the assumptions are explained in the model. I am not using the word as a value statement.)

What I am hearing from you however, and dating back to previous conversations here, is that you DO NOT accept the notion that there exists any set of fundamental assumptions regarding the latihan. Therefore, it follows logically according to your view, that there is no model that could encompass the latihan in any kind of explanation at all. And therefore there is no model that could be used as an adjunct to the latihan by which people could orient themselves in the practice of the latihan.

On the other hand, you do on several occasions talk about models that work. Therefore on other occasions you concede the existence of a model. My contention is that if you do admit the existence of a model, then you must also concede that there exists a core set of fundamental truths about the latihan which the model is a representation of.

I have shown here that you are in total contradiction to yourself. You are a paradox. On the one hand you deny the existence of a set of fundamental truths about the latihan. And on the other you concede their existence by implication.

My question to you is this: if you do admit to a set of fundamental truths about the latihan, and the possibility of a model to represent them then____what are they?

What is the fundamental set of truths, or core principles, about the latihan that you accept? This is where in my view we can determine if we have any common ground of agreement or not. And this is the arena in which I believe we should be searching for commonality. We should not be searching for agreement on a “satisfactory” model without first identifying the fundamental truths that the model sets out to predict and explain.

From David W, February 10, 2008. Time 5:56

Hi Merin

Two things:

1 - "The arrangements and weightings of connections within this gigantic network mirror the relationships between things in the world, such that this isomorphic mimicking is the sole source of semantic meaning."

Can you cite me a contemporary philosopher or linguist who thinks that semantics is the mapping of thought onto reality? I can cite you some that don't: Rorty, Dreyfus, the psychologist J. J. Gibson, Jerome Bruner, Wittgenstein, just about anyone in Continental Europe, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Maturana, Varela, Eleanor Rosch, Evan Thompson, Kuhn, Paul Ricoeur, Austin, W.V.O. Quine...

2 - I'm a big fan of plain-speaking, and notice that almost all of the American public intellectuals can do it. The Europeans are hopeless at it. I find your descriptions almost impossible to understand, and I have read a lot of difficult texts.

I ask that you re-write some of your material in plain English.

Best

David

From Merin Nielsen, February 10, 2008. Time 9:55

Hi, Sjahari,

You wrote:

>> What I am hearing from you however, and dating back to previous conversations here, is that you DO NOT accept the notion that there exists any set of fundamental assumptions regarding the latihan. Therefore, it follows logically according to your view, that there is no model that could encompass the latihan in any kind of explanation at all. And therefore there is no model that could be used as an adjunct to the latihan by which people could orient themselves in the practice of the latihan.

On the contrary, I think there are many sets of fundamental assumptions regarding the latihan. And which set you get depends on who you ask.

>> What is the fundamental set of truths, or core principles, about the latihan that you accept?

I could look into this, but haven’t considered it to any significant depth, because the precise set to which I personally cleave is irrelevant to the discussion.

All the best,

Merin

From Merin Nielsen, February 10, 2008. Time 9:58

Hi, David,

1. Andy Clark, University of Edinburgh. Although I’m uneasy about saying that I think (or that he thinks) “that semantics is the mapping of thought onto reality”.

2. Okay, it’s poor writing -- but Stefan says he caught on to my second attempt above! Besides, while plain English is fine for a book of fifty thousand words to properly explain the sort of thing I’m getting at, the constraints of time and this feedback format obviously don’t provide such an opportunity. So please forgive me, but I can’t oblige your very reasonable request on this occasion. Maybe in the future.

Best wishes,

Merin

From David W, February 10, 2008. Time 13:4

Hi Merin. At the risking of taxing the patience of others on this page... If you're uncomfortable with my mapping language, let's go back to your mimetic language:

"The arrangements and weightings of connections within this gigantic network mirror the relationships between things in the world, such that this isomorphic mimicking is the sole source of semantic meaning."

Looking at his wikipedia article ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Clark) there is much that I find fascinating. Several sections stand out:

"Typically, our common or ‘folk’ psychology tells us that thinking is a matter of forming veridical representations of the world such that we may properly interact with it... According to Clark, this folk psychological model which forms the basis of much research in Artificial Intelligence immediately involves us in several intractable problems... The greatest of these is an informational bottleneck... We needn’t reconstruct the world within, as the world is able to serve as its own best model from which we extract information on a ‘just-in-time’ basis. This anti-representationalist stance dovetails with Clark’s view on the nature of cognition... The cycle of activity that runs from brain through body and world and back again actually constitutes cognition. The mind, on this account, is not bounded by the biological organism but extends into the environment of that organism."

Wow. That's brilliant. I want to read more.

But it seems to directly contradict your image of a neural network mimicking the relationships in the world. Your image seems representational: the mind as mirror of nature.

Have you read Rorty's book of that title?

Best

David

From David W, February 10, 2008. Time 13:7

PS: Or Richard Dawkins' The Extended Phenotype, which does for biological phenotype what Clark seems to be doing for mind?

From Stefan, February 10, 2008. Time 16:46

David and Merin,

I'm trying to figure out if you're enjoying a dialogue that is straying further and further from a discussion about Subud, or if it's still somehow connected. If it's a private freeranging conversation for specialist academics, please spell this out, because it's sounding like Klingon to this befuddled reader.

Stefan

From David W, February 11, 2008. Time 5:57

Hi Stefan. Apologies for the Klingon. This is a discussion of Merin's model, which starts this thread. It is of some, perhaps marginal, relevance. But you never know. It won't go on for long, so not to worry.

Hail! -- Koloth

From Philip Quackenbush, February 11, 2008. Time 6:56

Hi, David,

I don't think you're straying that far from the topic, since the words that the founder of the cult used are semantic representation of his world view, and the question (at least in my mind) is just how closely does his world view actually mirror "reality", particularly the "reality" of the "latihan?" My feeling is that IT strays far from the "reality" of the "latihan", in that there seem to be much simpler (get your razor out to trim that obscuring beard, Occam) explanations available for what the "latihan" is, some of which have already been mentioned in the comments to this article, and some in the comments to others. I could briefly mention a few: A (sometimes) moving version of the relaxation response, ideomotor response, ziran (original) qigong, activated kundalini, shaktipat (which may be similar to the previous one), Osho's "freak out and let go" (or some such), one form of self-hypnosis; and some others I could mention have escaped the grasp of my mind at the moment, since I'm about to go to bed, and the ol' brain is getting a bit fuzzy (if I could take the top of my skull off maybe I could use it as a pet).

Peace, Philip

From Merin Nielsen, February 11, 2008. Time 14:17

Hi, David,

Sigh -- I would have been comfortable calling semantics the outcome of mapping reality's elements to thought, with such mapping seen as the deep-down ‘source’ of semantics, yet without being semantics. The “gigantic network” is central to connectionism, and Clark is a prominent connectionist, though in hindsight I ought to have named Daniel Dennett or Paul Churchland instead -- but Clark is cooler. Anyway, I now have at least four questions to address.

1. Does my view correspond to your words “that semantics is the mapping of thought to reality”, or at least words construable as such?

2. Is my image representational, as you say it seems to be?

3. Does Clark actually hold a view corresponding to the words above?

4. Can your Wikipedia extract be legitimately interpreted as contradicting my (slightly indirect) assertion that Clark backs my perspective?

1) Maybe this model of mine needs ironing out. There is a mapping, but it’s at the level of associations, which is strictly non-semantic. Semantics (per cognition) emerge only with representations, coming in to play only with conscious states. I’d say semantics just are conscious states, whereas these constitute a very small proportion of overall mental activity. (Perhaps I’m using the term ‘representation’ in an unconventional way.) We navigate the world both consciously and unconsciously, but the more potent conscious navigator is effectively called upon as the exception, not the rule.

The neural network does not directly mirror a world of objects, but a set of associations between its own states. However, if these sensory brain states are associated with each other in a way that reflects the world, reflecting ‘impacts’ of the world upon the brain/network, then they do reflect relationships between worldly ‘things’, as the brain obviously is one such thing. It’s a device, equipped to filter out various types of impact, being constantly reconfigured in response to the effects of impacts that reach it. The mirror metaphor is poor because a mirror is passive, whereas the network must be continuously interacting with the world. And the bit of Clark that I like is his idea of the network effectively extending out into the world, regarding its components as including bits of the world. (I didn’t originally cover this because it’s a layer of fascinating but non-essential theory.)

2) My image is not properly representational anyway. I don’t posit that thinking involves forming veridical representations, but that the network firstly mirrors the relationships between worldly things in terms of associations with varying weights. This is the unconscious function of establishing the specific links that a given representation entails. Semantic thought is a subsequent process involving established representations.

There’s a huge difference between sensory states and conscious sensory states, which are commonly simultaneous. Sitting in a train, gazing out the window, I’ve got at least a million external, current-time sensory inputs to which my attention could be turned, but my attention could well involve, say, just ten--and while the whole million are actually occurring, the other 999,990 are unconscious. Only ten are being represented. But say I spot a mouse in the train. My attention is suddenly grabbed and a flurry of associated thoughts, both wordy and wordless, cross my mind. Was it really a mouse? Does the train harbour vermin? Is it somebody’s escaped pet? Has anyone else seen it? What’s the right response? Yet I’ve never before seen a mouse on a train, so where do all these associations come from? They arise from the network of relationships that the sensory state ‘invokes’ by virtue of links.

My representations are not sensory (not even the analogue ones). I discuss them in terms of their relationships or links. They are fundamentally ‘linky’, each being distinctly determined by its links with sensory states, where the links are directional. Sensory states can be said to invoke representations via links, but in the other direction the links serve more like passive pointers from representations to whole bunches of associated, basic (primary) sensory states. So representations cannot ‘activate’ sensory states, but this set-up allows conscious representations to activate others that are linked to the same set of sensory states.

3) “We have sketched a particular picture of the cognizer's innards. It is a picture in which the true cognizer is a multi-faceted representor of its (external and internal) world. Such a being combines the basic behavioural fluency made possible by, for example, first-order connectionist modes of representation, with the kind of higher-order representations needed for flexible use of that information. The latter feature was argued to require something more than the relatively unstructured resources of a first-order connectionist system. Whether this amounts strictly to the need for classical symbol manipulation or only to a need for fancier forms of connectionist representation must remain an open question. What seems certain is that the genuine cognizer must somehow manage a symbiosis of different modes of representation--the first-order connectionist and the multiple levels of the more structured kinds.” ‘The Cognizer's Innards: a Philosophical and Psychological Perspective on the Development of Thought’ in Mind And Language vol 8 no 4 1993 p. 487-519

“Words and sentences, on the view I am advocating, act as stable anchor points around which complex neural dynamics can then swirl and coalesce. Instead of thinking of linguistic encodings as enabling informational integration by acting as a common format for the outputs of multiple modules we can then think of the whole process as one not of translation into a single unifying representation but as one of attention-based co-ordination. Words and sentences here serve as kinds of simple, cheap quasi-perceptual marker posts, enabling the agent to attend to specific dimensions of a scene, including specific combinations of aspects of the scene, that would otherwise remain unnoticed. Language emerges as the source of a potent form of surrogate situatedness that makes available new ways of parsing a scene into salient, attendable, components and events.” ‘Beyond The Flesh: Some Lessons from a Mole Cricket’ Artificial Life (In Press)

Words as perceptual marker posts--this is the framework discussed below in (4). Connectionists suggest that representations involve patterns of activity that are sub-symbolic. I think the Wikipedia article doesn’t give the best overview of Clark’s ideas. Clark is not opposed to representation as such, just certain kinds of representation, which the Wikipedia entry fails to emphasise. Some papers are at: http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk/staff/clark/publications.html

You might enjoy his popular science book, “Natural Born Cyborgs”, or “Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again”.

I’ve never read any of Rorty’s own work.

4) Even though my model involves a neural network mimicking the relationships of things in the world, this image is not contradicted by the Wikipedia extract. The point being made in the extract is that we needn’t reconstruct the WHOLE world within, because an interactive ‘framework’ is sufficient, but the notion of a gigantic neural network constituting the respective framework still applies.

Sorry for rambling, but rather tired.

Cheers,

Merin

From Philip Quackenbush, February 11, 2008. Time 17:31

Hi, Merin,

It sounds to me like you should bring your knowledge of Clark to the Wikipedia entry if you have the time to do so. My slim knowledge of semantics is based on trying to read Korzybski's "Science and Sanity" during what I regarded for a long while as a "Subud crisis" but now realize was just delayed teenage emotional angst (like Chopin, I never made love to a woman until I was, like, 28 or 29). In the 1200 pages, he seemed to be saying one thing: that A is not B (that the word [or any abstraction at any "level"] is not the "thing"), and can never be. Subsequent experience has taught me that all suffering in life can be traced back to some variant of taking A to be equivalent to B, so the book did have the effect of restoring my sanity, at least to some degree (though some would question whether it ever did at all).

Peace, Philip

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