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10 thoughts on “Waking Dreaming Being

  1. says:

    Really liked the book although it wasn't always easy to read and I'm sure 10% of it whooshed right past me Great mixture of

  2. says:

    I'm always eager to read any book that combines Buddhism science and philosophy Love this stuff Sections of Thompson's book are fascinating insightful and truly enlightening But the mind numbing scientific data and uber dense analytic language wore me down and became overwhelming and joy killing Too bad

  3. says:

    This is one of the most uniue and important books of our time and maybe beyond our time I discovered this book in a most unlikely place it was recommended by Swami Sarvapriyananda You would never think a Hindu Swami would recommend a book on Western neuroscience But this is what makes Thompson's book different to the rest Thompson himself was brought up on Eastern philosophy especially Buddhism But the link between Sarvapriyananda and Thom

  4. says:

    A curet's egg While I thouroughly admired the ideas explored here and the enormous scientific acumen of the author I think that the task he's set himself to add scientific weight to some of the key findings of Buddhist and Hindu thought becomes near impossible at this level To some extent Daniel Goleman did a better job in Destructive Emotions His science is less exhaustive perhaps but his prose has heart

  5. says:

    A challenging read but also an incredibly original and compelling approach to the uestion of consciousness and animal minds There was a great review of this book in the New York Times in which the reviewer remarked that More than evolution tha

  6. says:

    This promises to be a terrific reading experience but I have a compliant The construction of this book by a major university

  7. says:

    Intriguing reviews at NYT and NDPR

  8. says:

    Triangulating between Buddhism neuroscience and phenomenology Thompson offers a thought provoking challenging engagement wit

  9. says:

    “In the Yogācāra model of the workings of consciousness an individual mental stream that’s capable of conceiving of itself as a subject of experience does so by drawing on a subliminal repository of psychol

  10. says:

    Superb book that will be revisited throughout my lifetime Planning to add a deeper review after a reread

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Waking Dreaming Being

He remembered past or anticipated future As we fall asleep the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves but the self reappears in the dream state If we have a lucid dream we no longer identify only with the self within the dream Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self the I as dreamer Finally as we meditate either in the waking state or in a lucid dream we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as me We can also experience sheer a. A challenging read but also an incredibly original and compelling approach to the uestion of consciousness and animal minds There was a great review of this book in the New York Times in which the reviewer remarked that More than evolution than inexhaustible arguments over God s existence the real fault line between science and religion runs through the nature of consciousness am not sure this is true since the scientists themselves find themselves in an explanatory gap which is unable to bridge where mind maps to the brain and what the mechanism is That is why we have theories ranging from Christof Koch s IIT theory to neuro nihilists like Dennett and Hoftstadter to those like Chalmers and maybe the author of this book who are tackling the issue in terms of energy fields and even to that of seeing consciousness as a fundamental emergent phenomenon like energy or time Koch has even entertained via the lens of M superstates Many forms of Buddhism coincide with the neuro nihilist view of the self as a mirage or illusion Thompson sympathetic to Indian and Tibetan contemplative traditions does not go down this route and sees consciousness as a process Something that is real but continuously emergent He explores this notion by looking at what happens to our minds when we sleep and dream This aspect of the book is absolutely fascinating The chapters on death and enlightenment are uite moving Highly recommend this one most interesting read so far in 2019

CHARACTERS Waking Dreaming Being

Wareness itself distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the selfContemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with euanimity Thompson weaves together neuroscience philosophy and personal narrative to depict these transformations adding uncommon depth to life's profound uestions Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acuired by contemplative. In the Yog c ra model of the workings of consciousness an individual mental stream that s capable of conceiving of itself as a subject of experience does so by drawing on a subliminal repository of psychological information about itself while attending to its own mental states and preattentively experiencing itself as the conscious subject of this attentive activity74 For example suppose the thought I feel anxious arises in the mental stream The thought comes about because there s an implicit and involuntary propensity to experience certain situations as anxiety producing and certain body sensations as anxiety attention is drawn to the elicited feeling of anxiety and there s a preattentive awareness of attending in this way Yog c ra calls the subliminal repository of psychological propensities the store consciousness layavij na the attention to mental states mental consciousness manovij na and the preattentive awareness mind manas I ll call them the mental repository the inner mental awareness and the preattentive mind Whereas the inner mental awareness takes mental states thoughts emotions and so on as objects of attention the preattentive mind provides the feeling of being a conscious subject Given the presence of this feeling whenever the inner mental awareness attends to a mental state that state is experienced not as floating freely but as belonging to the mental stream So in our example when mental attention is given to the feeling of anxiety the anxiety appears not as belonging to no one but as belonging to the same mental stream as does the mental attention to it In other words from the inside perspective of the mental stream the anxiety appears as mine In this way the preattentive mind functions as a base or support for the mental stream s ability to attend to its own states via the inner mental awareness and to be aware of them precisely as its own to feel that they are mine At the same time the mental repository the store consciousness functions as a long term support for the preattentive mind The mental repository contains all the habits tendencies and propensities of an individual being Traditionally it s described as containing seeds or latent dispositions that eventually sprout or manifest in one s mental life given the right conditions In modern terms it can be described as a kind of data bank or repository of information belonging to an individual stream of consciousness a first person mental file 75 It ensures not only that there s mental continuity across the gaps or breaks in ordinary consciousness but also that there s mental continuity across the gaps or breaks resulting from certain deep meditative states known as cessations In these states any sense of being a conscious subject is said to disappear and the body is sometimes said to enter a state of suspended animation76 Indeed the concept of the store consciousness was probably first introduced in order to account for the mental continuity across the gaps that cessations produce in the stream of consciousness77 Although traditionally the store consciousness is said to carry on from one lifetime to the next from a cognitive science perspective it makes sense to think of the concept of the store consciousness as pointing toward what today we know as the huge amount of cognitive and affective functioning going on in our bodies and brains beneath the surface and across the gaps of consciousness78 We re now ready to see how the self designating error enters the story The preattentive mind mistakenly designates the mental repository as a self by mistakenly attributing to the mental repository the role of being an I or ego that s wholly present at each moment and that owns the mental stream79 In reality however the mental repository is a subliminal data bank not an ego and it s a constantly changing process not a substantial thing Hence the impression that there s a self is a mental fabrication and what the fabrication represents doesn t exist Since the preattentive mind is responsible for this error the preattentive mind is also called the afflicted mind kli a manas In its afflictive role it doesn t function merely as a mode of preattentive self awareness it functions also as the delusion that a substantially real self underwrites this mode of awareness Consider again the thought I feel anxious This thought has a present tense I Me Mine form and seems to refer to an inner self that has the feeling and accounts for the fact that the feeling feels like mine I Me Mine thoughts can also take a self projection form such as I am going to be so happy when I go on vacation I can see myself at that meeting and I know it s not going to go well I remember being a shy and anxious kid and so on Such thoughts seem to refer to one and the same inner self that existed in the past exists now and will exist in the future According to Yog c ra however although the pronoun I in such thoughts seems to refer to or to designate a self it doesn t refer at all for there s no self to be its referent no independent ego that was wholly present in the past is wholly present now and will be wholly present in the future Such a self simply doesn t exist what exists is only the mental representation of such a self superimposed on changing mental and physical states It follows that I Me Mine thoughts are never literally true for there s no self of which they could be true Nevertheless you habitually and involuntarily take yourself to be referring to your self when you think such thoughts In this way you re caught in the grip of a deep and fundamental error Although the enactive account of the self that I m proposing is close in one way to the Yog c ra account it also differs from it in another important way Although I agree with Yog c ra that our sense of self or I Me Mine is mentally constructed I don t think it follows that there is no self or that the appearance of the self is nothing but an illusion Although some illusions are constructions not all constructions are illusions The self is a case in point To say that the sense of self is a mental construction or rather that it s a process under constant mental and bodily construction doesn t logically imply that there is no self or that the sense of self presents an illusion80 As Jonardon Ganeri points out the Yog c ra claim that the sense of self is an error doesn t logically follow from the Yog c ra model of the stream of consciousness as dependent on a mental repository and as including both a preattentive awareness of itself and a mental capacity to bring attention to bear on its own states81 Instead we can take this model as contributing to an analysis of how the self understood as a process and not a thing comes to be constructed Part of the issue here is whether as some Buddhist and Western philosophers claim thinking of a stream of consciousness as mine is an error or in other words whether experiencing the stream of consciousness from within as being mine is a delusion I want to explain now why I think there s a basic and natural sense of the mineness of experience that isn t a delusion82 Ordinarily when you re aware of a thought emotion perception or sensation you feel it as your own For example sitting in meditation I suddenly realize I ve been daydreaming about a planned yoga vacation in the Bahamas I mentally note fantasizing and return my attention to the breath Yet even though I note the fantasizing in an impersonal way thinking fantasizing occurring instead of I m fantasizing there s a basic way in which the fantasizing feels mine I don t mean in the way that the content of the fantasy feels mine when I inhabit the fantasy and identify myself with its main character Nor do I mean in the way that it would feel were I to go on to identify with the fantasizing by thinking I always daydream when I try to meditate or I m a great daydreamer but not a very good meditator Self related processing proliferates in these thoughts and meditation practice involves learning to notice how and when this happens and how to disengage from it What I mean by saying that the fantasizing feels mine is that it shows up as an event in my field of awareness and nowhere else So too does the witnessing and the mental noting of both the fantasizing and the subseuent self evaluation All these mental events happen in this field of awareness here the one that feels mine This sense of mineness isn t a function of where attention happens to be focused for it s basic than selective attention In particular it can t be based on introspectively attending to mental states or experiences and identifying them as mine In order to identify something as mine I need to recognize some characteristic property the thing has know that the property pertains to me and know that I m the one identifying this property But how do I know these things In particular how do I know that the act of identifying the mental state is my act of identification If we say I know this because I can in turn introspectively identify this act then we re headed off on an infinite regress because now I need to know that this second act of meta identification is mine too83 For example suppose there s some internal cognitive process that tags experiences with the self referential label mine so that when I attend to an experience it feels like mine by virtue of my reading the label This process will work only if I know that I m the one reading the label But if we say that the way I know that the reading of the label is my reading is by my reading another label that tells me the first reading is mine then we re facing a vicious infinite regress because now I need to know that this second reading of this second label is also my reading and so on Similarly for a mental state to seem mine when I attend to it I need to be aware that I m the one attending in this way and must already experience this awareness as mine The upshot is that it can t be right to say that what makes a mental state or experience appear as mine is that I attend to it and identify it as mine on the basis of some characteristic property or label Rather there must be a basic preattentive and nonidentifying way that I experience the mental stream as mine84 The preattentive mind in the Yog c ra account of consciousness plays precisely this role For this reason the preattentive mind can be described as a preattentive mode of self awareness If the function of the term I isn t to refer then searching for a referent for the word especially in the form of a thing or entity or substance is misguided It s not the case that the job of the word I is to refer to a self and that the word fails because there is no self Rather the function of the term I is to enact a self To think or say I is to engage in a self individuating and self appropriating form of I making One individuates oneself as a subject of experience and agent of action by laying claim to thoughts emotions and feelings as well as commitments and social practices and thereby enacts a self that is no different from the self appropriating activity itself Again the self isn t an object or thing it s a process the process of I ing or ongoing self appropriating activity89 Ganeri s image is an enactive one the self is a whirlpool of self appropriating action 90 Candrak rti belonged to the philosophical school of Madhyamaka founded by N g rjuna and later Tibetan philosophers regarded him as one of the principal exponents of the subschool Pr sa gika Madhyamaka His view of the self was different from the Yog c ra view 91 it is especially relevant to us today because it provides an important corrective to neuro nihilism Candrak rti presents his view in the form of a commentary on N g rjuna s chapter on the self the text uoted at the beginning of this chapter and he repeats N g rjuna s basic argument if the self independently exists then it s either really different from the mind body aggregates or really the same as them but since it s neither it doesn t independently exist On the one hand if the self were really different from the five aggregates form registering feeling appraising perceptioncognition stereotyping inclination readying and consciousness orienting or attending then it could be identified and described without reference to them but it cannot be so identified and described The self can be conceived of only in relation to the aggregates and as dependent on the aggregates On the other hand if the self were really the same as the aggregates then the self and the aggregates would be conceived to have all the same attributes But the self is conceived of and is experienced as one thing whereas the aggregates are plural Since the self can t be conceived of in either of these two ways as the same as or different from the aggregates it can t be a real entity that is an independently existent thing But here s the crucial point Candrak rti doesn t conclude that there is no self This would be to succumb to the nihilist extreme which says that since the self has no independent existence it has no existence at all Instead Candrak rti concludes that the self is dependently arisen In other words the self exists dependent on causes and conditions including especially how we mentally construct it and name it in language Recall the Pr sa gika Madhyamaka idea that whatever is dependently arisen depends for its existence on a basis of designation a designating cognition and a term used to designate it In the case of the self the five aggregates are the basis of designation the thought that projects self onto the aggregates is the designating cognition and the pronoun I is the term used to designate it Notice that this designation isn t an ordinary referential one it s performative it s how the mind body aggregates self individuate as I and self appropriate as me and mine Since the self arises as a mental projection onto the mind body aggregates it s not different from the mind body aggregates in the sense of existing independently of them it s dependent on them as its basis Yet the self isn t the same as the mind body aggregates for it exists only in relation to the cognition that projects it and what that cognition projects is the idea of a whole or unitary self not an impersonal composite of mind body processes The self is like an image in a mirror The image depends for its existence on the mirror the mirror is the basis for the image but the image isn t one and the same thing as the mirror nor is it made of the same stuff as the mirror for as an image it exists only in relation to an observer Notice that the mirror image though observer dependent isn t a subjective illusion So too the self though mind dependent isn t a subjective illusion Nevertheless the way that the self appears does involve an illusion even if it s not the case that there is no self or that the appearance of the self is nothing but an illusion The illusion or delusion is taking the self to have an independent existence like taking the mirror image to be really in the mirror Notice that the image as such isn t an illusion it s the taking of the image to exist in the mirror that s the illusion Similarly it s not the appearance of the self as such that s the illusion it s taking the self to exist independently that s the illusion92 Notice too that contrary to neuro nihilism the illusion isn t that the self appears to be a self substance That view of the self is theoretical and doesn t accurately describe our experience The conception of the self as a substance isn t a cognitive illusion it s a false belief that derives from philosophy Descartes in the West and the Ny ya school in India not from everyday experience Neuro nihilism mistakenly diagnoses our self experience as being committed to a certain philosophical conception of the self and thereby overintellectualizes our experience Candrak rti however says that the fundamental illusion is that we take the self to exist by virtue of itself or by virtue of its own being when in reality its existence is dependent The illusion is cognitive and existential Another important point is that undoing this illusion through highly developed meditative concentration combined with acute analytical insight doesn t mean destroying the appearance of the self as independent it means not being taken in by the appearance and believing that the self is independent This ignorant and deep seated belief not the appearance of the self as such habitually deludes us into thinking feeling and acting as if the self were independent


A renowned philosopher of the mind also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep dreaming and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of mind casting new light on the self and its relation to the brainThompson shows how the self is a changing process not a static thing When we are awake we identify Waking Dreaming Epubwith our body but if we let our mind wander or daydream we project a mentally imagined self into t. Really liked the book although it wasn t always easy to read and I m sure 10% of it whooshed right past me Great mixture of Eastern religionphilosophy mixed with Western neuroscience and psychology I really liked the discussions of normal waking consciousness compared to other forms of consciousness such as dreams or meditation Good not 100% positive review in the NYT made me want to read this

  • Hardcover
  • 496
  • Waking Dreaming Being
  • Evan Thompson
  • en
  • 21 March 2017
  • 9780231137096