Subud Vision - Discussion

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

Discussion continued from this page

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.



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,


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,


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 ( 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?



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.


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:

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.



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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