In this blog I will explore the territory that lies at the intersection(s) of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, Buddhist Studies, and the many disciplines that are collectively known as “meditation.” It will serve as a record of my reflections on the project of self-understanding, and as a resource for practitioners of the contemplative arts, in the hope that others of similar intellectual proclivities may contribute.
The range of topics to be assayed here encompasses anything and everything that might be of use in understanding what happens when the mental faculties are recruited to the task of systematically examining and managing themselves. In these pages I will raise some of the questions that have arisen for me in moments of puzzlement over one or another aspect of the contemplative arts. Readers of this blog are invited to join me in pondering them.
My primary aim is to improve our mutual understanding of the methods of self-exploration and to bring out in finer grain the details of what happens when mind attempts to investigate mind. To that end we will explore the teachings of the spiritual traditions—mainly, but not exclusively the several religious streams derived from the life and teachings of the Buddha–as they have come down to us. As the title of this post suggests, we will also look at them from the outside, with an eye to testing time-honored theories and revising them where necessary. It is my hope that these investigations and other, similar undertakings will lead to improvements in the pedagogy of contemplation, by encouraging such activities as the following:
• the increased sharing, comparison, and analysis of first person accounts by experienced meditators;
• the clarification and standardization of the terminology and classification of contemplative practices;
• the growing familiarity of contemplatives with the literature of the cognitive sciences and philosophy
• more dialogue between the various groups of people whose researches are centered on the human organism’s modes of self-communication.
Although this blog will mainly treat of technical matters peculiar to “meditation” in general and the methods of engaging in extraordinary mental processes (EMPs) in particular, it will not exclude controversial topics where they are relevant and potentially fruitful. My background and biases will be detailed elsewhere.