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In an email conversation, my friend and achieveabillibuddy Ian challenged me on some salient and fundamental points to the thesis of secular transcendence and its benefits.  I owe Ian a great debt of gratitude for the challenge and his continued improvement of the Socratic Method in conversation.  I detail the conversation that let to a more modern description of transcendence – High-Definition Consciousness – in dialogue format below.

Ian:  I was doing some research on consciousness this weekend – mainly just watching TED talks – and I am not clear on what the connection among consciousness, transcendence, and meditation are?  I assume that meditation brings about transcendent consciousness, is that right?

Me:  I propose three ways:  meditation, study (accumulation of knowledge), and play.  Meditation is the most commonly highlighted one throughout history but I would contend that anything that brings on a sense of “flow” or that shows us “how to get in the zone” is linking to a transcendent consciousness.

Ian: What are the benefits of transcendent consciousness?

Me: Great question, thank you for asking it, it is very focusing!  My answer, is perspective.  I think that the more transcendent one has become the more likely they are to narrate their own lives, to see around corners, to understand the consequences of their own actions… to model their lives accurately.

Ian:  How can you tell if someone’s consciousness has transcended?

Me:  Another key question! Secular transcendence comes with a burden of proof through scientific means. In my mind, there should be a measurable change in 1) least case: brain chemistry in higher cognitive functions (pretty much proven) and 2) greatest case: a measurable change in something in the universe/quantum.

Brain scan of meditation

Brain scan of meditation. By Nicole Elliot

As I spoke to before, I am moving away from a materialistic theory of the multiverse to a more holographic one, a projection of information that at the most fundamental levels is connected back to an object. I am not overly compelled by the idealistic or conscious universe even though some of the paradoxes of quantum mechanics are taken into account.

Ian: So, per our discussion, do I have this about right:

1. Meditation →
2. changes to brain chemistry and/or a measurable changes in the universe/quantum →
3. Changes in perspective →
4. A greater understanding of action and consequence →
5. Wiser life choices →
6. A happier life

It seems to me that steps 1, 2, and 3, have no intrinsic value. They only have value in so much as they can increase a person’s knowledge, right? For example, a blow to the head can cause a change in perspective but it probably won’t help a person. Steps 4, 5, and 6 on the other hand have intrinsic value. Which makes me wonder what knowledge about which action/consequence relations are better brought about through meditation than through traditional scientific means?

Me:  I am not sure that I agree with your intrinsic valuation entirely. First, meditation has more than mental benefits so you would have a number of these ‘flows’ that in aggregate begin to beg the question, is there a quantity and quality of items where the mean produces a desirable ends to where it in-itself is valuable. Changes in the brain or multiverse will have further benefits both eventually and instantaneously (reduced stress etc). And while logically arriving at happiness, certainly this strays from Buddhist teachings which are prone to enlightenment beyond states of joy and suffering to seeing them as a related union, a yin-yang.yin-yang

Ian: Maybe I’m thinking about this all wrong.  Maybe meditation is more like acupuncture; it just makes people feel better.  No real knowledge is gained, just more happiness.  How would you describe the benefits?

Me: Most disturbing is my failure to convey perspective. Maybe you get a different perspective from banging your head or getting high but is is not a higher perspective, enlightenment or wisdom. At best it is perspective without flow, to use their words, it’s not truth.

writerFrom a purely knowledge based approach, I think the perspective change is transformative, the difference between being a character in a play and being its author.  It is accelerated experience by training the mind to broaden, to concentrate, and to reduce everpresent noise so focus and oneness with the moment and nature can occur. It is certain been proven through science to be more than a placebo.

Ian:  I don’t think you’re failing to convey your thesis… the problem I’m having is with what I’m watching on the internet.  Specifically I don’t understand…

  • What do they means when they say “consciousness”?
  • How does meditation increase consciousness?
  • What benefits does of an increased consciousness?

I know the answers exist – as you say, the data supports the benefits, — I just haven’t grasped them yet. Maybe I just need to try it to understand.

Me:  Consciousness is memory, thought, emotion, and what you perceive. It is the movie that is your life. It plays when you are awake and only components, the subconscious, are available to you when you are asleep.

Interesting choice of words, increase consciousness. Staying with the movie analogy, with meditative practice, the movie of your life is in High-Definition instead of black and white. It deepens your consciousness to a state of supra-consciousness, a consciousness of not only yourself but of (pick your metaphor) oneness, other dimensions, parallel universes, the image-object nature of the holographic universe, a conscious universe, G(g)od(s).

Again the benefit is perspective. Have you read “Flatland” by Edwin Abbott Abbott? You can probably get it for free as it was written in 1884, but it is a terrific novel about the perspective we have over 2D creatures and the perspective that 4D creatures would have over us. Similarly, “Einstein’s Dreams” is another wonderful novella speaking of the perspective we gain through an understanding of scientific concepts like the entropic arrow of time, relativity, and dimensions (to name just a few, this is my most highly recommended book.) These are benefits of perspective from transcendent knowledge or what I call wisdom, but the same sort of perspective gain is available to transcendental mindfulness, which I call enlightenment.

Ian:  Wow, that was a super good response that spoke to me.  I especially like how you equate consciousness to a movie, with increased consciousness equating to HD.  I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned but I’ll wiki them later.