• Jack Cummins
    2.3k
    Here, I am not looking at understanding how consciousness works, but more about the experiences of it, especially transformational states, or peak experiences. I became interested in this partly through reading the writings of Colin Wilson's, including his first book, 'The Outsider'. Recently, I read his last one, which was written before he died in 2013, 'Superconsciousness: The Quest for the Peak Experience,' in which he spoke of his lifelong searching for peak experiences.

    In 'The Outsider', Wilson explores the perspective of many creative artists and writers, including Keats, Van Gogh, Camus and Nietzsche. He suggests that what characterises the outsider is a sense of seeing deeper than most other people. He includes a discussion of Camus's 'The Outsider', about how the character, Mersault went through the motions of his mother's death without emotionally. He also looks at the world without values of the outsider, and attempts to create meaningful romantic ones too.

    While Wilson talks about the pain and suffering of the outsider, he is also interested in the visionary dimensions of those who perceived differently from others, including William Blake and Rimbaud.

    Throughout his many books, the theme of transformation of consciousness is central to Colin Wilson's thinking, and expressed fully in his final one. Here, he describes how he first became interested in peak experiences, as described by Abraham Maslow, as the top category in the hierarchy of needs. Wilson defines peak experiences as 'that sudden feeling when life is revealed as infinitely wonderful.' He looks at this in the contexts of searching for sexual union, mystical experiences, as well as in heightened states of consciousness within processes of creative expression.

    He does also consider the peak experience in relation to philosophy. He mentions Kant, and while not dismissing the idea of the noumenon, he suggests that 'we can never know this reality'. He also argues that Wittgenstein's philosophy is inadequate, stating that, 'The real problem with such a view is that it sets out to impose limits on the world and its meaning.' Wilson argues in preference for William James's emphasis upon 'how human beings can live at much higher levels'.

    I have only offered a very brief summary of Colin Wilson's ideas for reflection. However, I will ask to what extent does the idea of an outsider, as a person who sees differently, make sense to you? Also, how might we think about peak experiences, and their value? Do you have any thoughts on the the idea of transforming consciousness?
  • schopenhauer1
    5.6k
    I have only offered a very brief summary of Colin Wilson's ideas for reflection. However, I will ask to what extent does the idea of an outsider, as a person who sees differently, make sense to you? Also, how might we think about peak experiences, and their value?Jack Cummins

    Genius is the ability to leave entirely out of sight our own interest, our willing, and our aims, and consequently to discard entirely our own personality for a time, in order to remain pure knowing subject, the clear eye of the world; and this not merely for moments, but with the necessary continuity and conscious thought to enable us to repeat by deliberate art what has been apprehended and "what in wavering apparition gleams fix in its place with thoughts that stand for ever! — Arthur Schopenhauer
  • synthesis
    915
    'Superconsciousness: The Quest for the Peak Experience,' in which he spoke of his lifelong searching for peak experiences.Jack Cummins

    It certainly has been an era of "peak everything."

    From my perspective, peak (whatever) can only be found through absolute simplicity (which contains all things).
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I appreciate your quote from Schopenhauer, and I have managed to download a copy of his, 'The World as Will and Representation', which is one of my priorities in my reading list. I certainly believe that he had a great mind.

    My own thread may be far too obscure to be taken seriously on a philosophy forum, because it is about the development of our own consciousness, and I am not sure that many see this as being of much importance in the climate of our times. It appears to me that we are being seen more as numbers, rather than individuals with ideas, as the spectrum of thinking becomes a mere shadow of science, and, most especially, neuroscience. It all seems to be about reductive explanations, and I may be seen as ridiculous for thinking about peak experiences, as being of any significance.
  • jgill
    1.2k
    My own thread may be far too obscure to be taken seriously on a philosophy forumJack Cummins

    Actually, it's a refreshing departure from the babbling brook. :cool:
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Thanks, that is reassuring because it does seem that in many ways the philosophical questions seem to becoming mere questions of language. It almost appears as if philosophy is like an appendix to what is seen as facts, and the absolute truth, as proclaimed with philosophers who are coming from the domain of the physical sciences.
  • spirit-salamander
    89
    However, I will ask to what extent does the idea of an outsider, as a person who sees differently, make sense to you?Jack Cummins

    I like the perspectives of intellectual outsiders. But they often make the mistake of absolutizing their insights, of looking at them monocausally or of hastily setting them as a foundation of a system of thought. At that point, there seems then to be something fanatical or irrational about them, even though they have grasped something brilliant and ingenious perhaps only in a "small" respect, but which gets lost in the public discourse because of their appearing confusion.
  • schopenhauer1
    5.6k
    It all seems to be about reductive explanations, and I may be seen as ridiculous for thinking about peak experiences, as being of any significance.Jack Cummins

    It's about survival, comfort, and entertainment and how society mediates these for people. First you're thrown into the world, then you find yourself getting hungry, discomforted, and bored. Then you find justifications for various actions of daily activity in order to meet these broad needs of survival, discomfort, and boredom within your enculturated socioeconomic context. When you try to get good enough at an activity and your interest level is vey high, you might describe that as a "peak" experience.

    However Schopenhauer's artistic "genius" is more akin to penetrating the everydayness of an object and seeing it for its form. Music was seen as akin to will itself and not just the form of an object, but the noumenal. So the artist sees peels back the layer of Plato's materiality (the shadows) reveals them in their Forms, and perhaps music is a form, but the Form of the essence of all Forms, the striving of the thing-in-itself.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    It may be true that certain outsiders are in danger of presenting their ideas as absolute. This is a big problem as we read the writings of particular writers of importance, and I don't think that there are any easy answers, because individuals may have reached certain degrees of awareness. These degrees of awareness are open to questions, as are the psychologists of a writers, so, we may be left in the position of thinking, in the midst of the critical scrutiny, in mainstream rendition of ideas.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k


    The question of simplicity of truth, or otherwise, arising in meditation and other practices, opens many areas for considering of experience. I am certainly not wishing to point to any as being superior above others. However, I am thinking about states of consciousness as an important, and possibly area which has been a bit neglected in thinking of the wider questions of human experiences and existence.
  • MondoR
    224
    What I have learned is that increased awareness comes from lots of study and practice. However, people don't want to put the effort into it, so they put for promises of enlightenment from meditation. If only life was so easy.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I certainly hope that peak experiences go beyond entertainment. As much as I love music and the arts, I do hope that this dimension of experience is connected to some source beyond our usual experiencesm
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    There may not be any outward criteria for thinking about effort put into meditation and other practices. It may be that we are empirical practitioners, who have to wait and see...
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Obviously, we lack Shopenhaurer's genius but, perhaps, through greater understanding, we can make a certain headway in penetrating beyond the superficialities of our experiences. it may takes us time, and the results fall far short of the geniuses, towards whose insights we may aspire, but it may count for something, even if only on a subjective level of aspirations and imaginations of touching upon the heights of transcendent experiences.
  • MondoR
    224
    Meditation may be relaxing, and one may gain some self awareness, but you Are what you Do. There are no shortcuts.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Of course, there are no shortcuts and we cannot go beyond the limitations of who we are, and what we may become..But, I do believe that it is worth us trying, even though we can probably never touch upon the heights which some of the most enlightened individuals have reached. It would seem like a swindle if we are only able to think of settling for the mundane, and nothing more.
  • MondoR
    224
    Forget about heights. Maybe you get some adulation which ultimately is quite empty. What has meaning is not what others do, but what you do with your life.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    Perhaps, you are forgetting that I am not talking about my own life, which I have not disclosed, because it is a public forum. I am sharing the ideas about peak experiences for others to think about, with no set agenda of my own, but presenting ideas, with openness towards their discussion as an aspect of philosophy discussion.
  • Brock Harding
    30
    Our consciousness, awareness, emotions and views are formed by intermodulation between sensory input and the brain. Physical intermodulation examples can be seen in non-linear devices and radio waves where two signals modulate to form intermodulation.

    Acknowledging this helps us to be aware of what these forms actually are; a level or dimension of consciousness that we ourselves create. Our acceptance of these forms determines our reality. These forms develop with age and determine how we perceive our ‘being’.

    There exists a perspective continuum within which an individual’s consciousness resides. Our individual perspectives determine our place on the perspective continuum. Where perspectives differ, there is potential to breach the ‘perspective gap’ and reach a mutual understanding (‘perspective gain’). The greater the ‘perspective gap’ the more difficult it is to realise or manifest that ‘perspective gain’. Therefore, it follows that a lesser ‘perspective gap’ is easier to span and reach a shared perspective.

    I call the concept of realising ‘perspective gain’ ‘perspective mining’. The interesting thing about ‘perspective mining’ is that it is subject to the ‘observer effect’ in which the view of another perception is tainted by the bias of the observer and may change the interpretation of what is actually being considered or conceived resulting in misunderstanding.

    This misunderstanding, particularly where the observer is perceiving a limited view or event, can lead to conflict between opposing views. Conversely, the ‘observer effect’ can seem to reveal great insights where a limited perspective or event informs a broader perspective i.e., something appears to be miraculous or mystical where a finite idea or event aligns with the broader beliefs or concepts of the observer.

    The trick with ‘perspective mining’ is to recognise we are all placed somewhere on the perspective continuum and that our own bias will likely affect what we are perceiving. Through this process, we can change the focus from merely recognising differences to seeking ‘perspective gain’ or mutual understanding.

    By understanding what our sense of self actually is and where we are placed on the perspective continuum, we can enable ourselves to seek wisdom from other perspectives both outside and within the context of our own.

    I believe that this should be a two-step process as how can we understand others if we do not fully understand ourselves first. Accepting that we are physical beings, and that our concepts of self, soul and belief are the outcome of a physical process, we can see past ourselves to reach a higher shared consciousness, 'being' or 'humanity', within each of us.

    As it stands, humanity seems to be consumed with idealisations of self, spirit, soul and belief. I acknowledge that these concepts are functions of a physical process but posture that there needs to be a paradigm shift in our perspective before we can see past ourselves to seek understanding and wisdom from the ideas and views of others.
  • synthesis
    915
    The question of simplicity of truth, or otherwise, arising in meditation and other practices, opens many areas for considering of experience.Jack Cummins

    If you are 100% present (or aware), how can any experience be "more peak" than that? IOW, it's not the experience that makes it peak, it is the awareness.

    This is why those who have developed great awareness find "miracles" in all things.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I am definitely suggesting that it is possible to see miracles in all things, as Blake spoke of seeing heaven within a grain of sand. I do also believe that it is possible to experience some elements of the miraculous even amidst unpleasant experiences, because it is about states of awareness really. That is probably how artists can transform or transmits suffering into creative work.

    I do think that being present can in itself be a peak experiences, but I am also thinking of how meditation can lead to transcendent states. I do think that this relates to what Gopi Krishna, and some others have spoken of, as the awakening of kundalini consciousness. However, that is a process which probably should occur naturally, rather than by conscious effort. Also, it is something which can involve or result in some great imbalances, so it is not something to be thought about, or spoken of, lightly.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I definitely believe that we need to understand our own selves, and perspective, as a starting point for our higher individual and shared consciousness. Of course, how we understand peak experiences, does depend on our underlying perspective or worldview, with some people ranking them of being of more significance. However, I do think that many people do not even think about such matters at all. If anything, I have found that on some people look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but do like really place much emphasis on how he focuses on peak experiences.
  • synthesis
    915
    I do think that being present can in itself be a peak experiences, but I am also thinking of how meditation can lead to transcendent states.Jack Cummins

    There are many different types of meditation, but let's say you were able to achieve near perfect awareness (is this what gives small children such joy in their play?), what more could you possible do?
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    I will ask to what extent does the idea of an outsider, as a person who sees differently, make sense to you?Jack Cummins
    Perfect sense. A psychotic, a psychopath, a poet, a philosopher, a physicist, a persecuted migrant, a POW, a trafficked slave – in extremis, how can they not "see differently" from the margins of sanity?

    Also, how might we think about peak experiences, and their value?
    I think in terms of what Jaspers says are 'limit-experiences' or Bataille refers to as 'the impossible' (abjection), that is, involuntary psychological or intellectual situations so extreme the impacts of which make comprehending, even articulating, them even to ourselves, in effect, impossible (e.g. traumas of shame / betrayal / violence, psychotic breaks, interminable grieving, involuntary deliriums, crippling disgust, prolonged involuntary isolation, suicidal hope, suicidal despair, murderous starvation, unrelenting terrors, near-fatal withdrawal sickness, orgiastic convulsions, etc). As far as the value of experiencing such "peaks" (limits), the lyric

    "God is a concept
    By which we measure
    Our
    Pain"


    comes to mind because "values" are more-than-subjective priorities (we) set against – imposed on us by – the 'limit-experiences' (peaks) that involuntarily afflict us, or which starkly call our integrity as persons into question; they function, as it were, at least as ethical and aesthetic parameters. 'Limit-experiences' (peak) don't have value so much as they constitute value-ing (i.e. selecting, interpreting, affirming ... as Nietzsche says) by threatening to undermine us or drive us to undermine ourselves. Is one even a subject – does one have full agency – before one has reflectively undergone such extremis?
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I think that you make a good point when speaking of people who have different perceptions being, or viewed as unwell mentally. Obviously, there are those who really do have psychotic ideas and those who are just creative Bohemian. There is a whole spectrum, and many who speak of their peak experiences may be labelled as unwell, even though they are not. I am sure that many of the most creative people of all times, if they had lived in our times may have been detained in hospital and medicated against their will. They may not have created their greatest work at all.

    I find that even beyond talking about peak experiences, a lot of people think that philosophy is peculiar. The people who live in the same house as me seem a bit puzzled about how I spend so much time reading and writing. As far as I can see they seem to spend most of the time on practical tasks. I am inclined to be completely minimalist over practical tasks, such as cooking. I probably get my room so untidy because I am spend so little time tidying. I also can't bear sport, playing or watching it. I think most people see me as an arty misfit.

    One other matter, is the whole idea of outsider art, and that is about different perceptions, and of art created by people who have not been trained in art school. There is also the perspective of being on the edge in alternative music subcultures, ranging from goth, emo, punk and rap. I do think that music is often an expression of peak states of consciousness. I don't create music, but I do find that listening to it is a way of accessing certain states of consciousness. This may also connect to the shamanic quest. I definitely see John Lennon, whose lyrics you quoted, as well as so many of the great rock stars as being shamanic figures.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    The question as to what we would do if we reached higher states of consciousness is interesting. Perhaps, we would create more art and write more, with better quality, as a result of the inspiration. Hopefully, it would generate greater care and compassion for others too.

    Another aspect, though, is the opposition between doing and being. In Western society, there is so much emphasis on doing. I know many people who can't cope with not doing. Even if they are on a bus or train, they seem to need to be occupied, even if it by looking at a magazine or crossword. Also, even though it may not be actual 'doing', so many people spend hours watching television, almost to block out just 'being'. Really, I am quite happy to do nothing frequently, as I prefer the being mode, rather than constantly wishing to be 'doing' tasks or activities.
  • Brock Harding
    30
    I can see a problem with those that do push for peak experiences. I think it is important to be honest about what is conceptualised when someone seeks self actualisation. For instance is a person actually obtaining a heightened state of consciousness if they focus on things such as their spirituality or is this merely a form of mental masterbation. I propose that the later is the case as the body having a spirit is a construct of the mind with no physical manifestation. If anything it occupies the mind with a false actualisation. The key to true self actualisation is understanding what we are, how our mind works and then seeking how that relates to the broader world and others.
  • Brock Harding
    30
    Mental masterbation would certainly explain the widely reported sense of euphoria certain people feel with peak experiences.
  • Jack Cummins
    2.3k

    I agree that 'understanding what we are, how our mind works and then seeking how that relates to the broader world and others' is very important. However, I would dispute the idea of euphoria as 'mental masturbation', although there may be some people for whom that may be true. Possibly, many who use drugs to get high would be coming more from that perspective, although I don't make judgements about people using drugs, because the reasons may vary.

    I think that people come with different motives. Personally, I would wish for peak experiences as a basis for inspiration for life. But one aspect which comes into the picture is the random nature of the peak experiences, because they cannot be conjured up by choice. In the experiences which I had which border onto peak experiences they came unexpectedly, even though I had read literature on them. Really, I began reading Colin Wilson's books and it was only at some point in my reflection upon them, that I realised that I had an interest in them. Generally, though, my own wish for such experience is connected to often feeling miserable, and wishing to overcome this.
  • Brock Harding
    30
    I feel your pain. Peak experiences, near or otherwise, can create turmoil and confusion. I believe that a true peak experience is inevitably so as it is the mind struggling to make sense of the complex and varied world we live in and the vast array of sensory input that we take in through writings, music, multi-media etc. The good news is that, based on my experience, you eventually come out the other side with a clearer grasp on reality and who you are. My prior posts on the 'perspective continuum' and how the brain physically works and makes constructs was intended to help clarify things for people in the turmoil of a peak experience, based on my revelations.

    Be aware that a peak experience is not always an extreme experience. The fact that you are posting your perceptions and philosophising at the moment shows that you are self actualsing now.
  • Valentinus
    1.2k

    One of the elements that has always appealed to me with Maslow's approach is the way that the less one becomes driven by what is lacking, the more one has to do something with the sufficiency. The actualization is all mixed up with working with others. Becoming more capable is like love. It hurts.
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