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James Austin's 458-page
expansion of a 1998 "twin" runs to nearly 1200, defying general
readers with a neuro-dense Part III (Note 1 below) he advises (xxi) "laymen
can skim." Slosh through cortex-related Eastern meditative disciplines, "mystical"/unitive
"experience" (See lexicon below for this glossary term
truant.), and Eastern poetry he considers "pretty words" disrooted
(Note 2) from "direct" experience (yet  a meditator "steps
out of" experience), though his "Roshi" (master) places Zen
closest (452) to poetry. "The" Zen experience intersubjectively
moot, his "personal" odyssey charms most, as would physiochemical
description of more than his eyes (Ch. 96), hopefully expressing recognized
bodily feelings symbolically or analogically with more fervid depiction of his experiential
"journey" (3, implying "links" he does not well make)
through "kensho-satori" (Note 3) into fuller "insight-wisdom"
(Note 4). He could have begun the book from page 380 to that part's
end, focusing on "empty fullness" (and "full emptiness"),
skipping the misapprehended "oceanic" (300, 381) that French poet
Raymond Rolland conveyed in 1927 to Freud's distorting hand. Like his
confreres in burgeoning neuro"science" (See lexicon.), these medical
savants surf what they know well so that drunk with their brew they view
themselves experts in all fields, as if scanning secondary philosophical
literature makes them latter-day Aristotles or their nerve-knowledge makes them
"psychologists," as Austin assumes (Note 5), urging an "I-Me-Mine"
notion passing for "self," apparent Buddhist cant (impossibly "reduced"
to the "physical" ), which the rest of us call "ego."
Alas, lack of reference shows him untouched by literature on self-ego/I-me/"objective"-"subjective"
issues--social-scientific, analytic, philosophic, ranging from G.H. Mead,
through Goffman, culture-personality studies, Kohut, variant "social
psychologies," to the humanistic-transpersonal (Austin's spare reference
to Maslow no remedy), including Jung's"ego" subsumed in that "center
of my totality" "Self." He could have used an "Eastern"
artist-palette image (Bober, 1984, p. 39) with the "hole" the vaunted
Western "ego" engulfed in the wood arc as expansive "self,"
often put down among us. Richer the single-hewn-drum image, the "djembe,"
hourglass-shaped with tuning strings connecting a hide head to a "waist"
"belt" just above which a circling string wends tightening with "knots"
the "verticals" each representing for me a bio-psycho-historical "force"--genetic-congenital
variance, "intelligence," perception, ethnicity, age, gender-role,
family, region, nation, historical period--producing a roughly balanced, tuned
head, its degree of tautness also affected by "cultural" humidity or
dryness. In "tension" one's "self" strikes a best "I'm-dancing-as-fast-as-I-can"
balance. (See my lexicon for a view Austin can't well stuff in his suitcase.)
I suggest here two pivotal pulls
making the author ambivalently Zen--one (307), his confessed inferior "similarity"
to his Sunday-painter father--conscientious, visual, sensitive to color and
form--"he highly talented in oils, I dabbling in watercolors" and,
two, a Unitarian upbringing (xxiii) his "near-atheist" Buddhism does
not overcome given endless "theurgic-upper-case" terms from "Being"
he protects from cross-out by Heidegger (392) to other Cosmic Categories (his
glossary directly ties "mysticism" with "the Ultimate Reality
principle") neither earth-bound nor meaningful, with a final apology for "gassho,"
the "joining together of two opposing palms" in Hindu-style "respect,"
and "bowing" (458). These psychodynamics condition a tremendous but
unfocused output torturedly flip-flopping between professional Western dualism
(as his term "allocentric" shows) and the merged monism Zen practice
Granted, Dr. Austin struggled half
a century forging his professional-personal opus. Poets/seekers can appreciate
"taste's" (Ch 55) synesthetic unitivity; chapter epigrams will appeal
and edify; centuries of Asian poetry offer brain-/"soul"-teasing
suggestions. The Preface through Part II puts the book in a nutshell. With any
meditative background you skim that chapter, skipping five through eight on "ego"
as nine's neologistically neuro-"scientific" "interpreter"/"commentator"
merely "lateralizes" (Note 6) Freud's Cs/Ucs qua memory/executive
consciousness. In 1998 (577) he both claims and denies "moonlight"
as a Zen metaphor--a "clear, cold moonlight-like quality bathes [his]
entire scene"--in advanced Zen, saying "I am not referring to this
lunar view as a simile. It is an internal fact of experience," but in
2006 (405-6) the experience is a "primary visual illusion," yet (408)
it was not an "as if" impression: "Moonlight registered as a
soft, immediate, visual fact." (Need to spare Zen experience the
nihilating categories of "delusion"/"hallucination"
tortures him. Actual "moonlight" floods the brain? At 9 a.m.
, "that morning's daylight" , with "no real moon . . .
its visible source" ? What's up, Doc?) A century after 14,000 "just-so"
"instincts" had been abandoned he fuses "sex" and the
peculiarly Western culture complex of "romantic love" (255,
347) coming from southeast France almost to the year in 1150 CE. His
etymologies are either simplistic/noncommittal, distortively "interested,"
or misapprehended (Note 7). Annotated bibliographies fusing endnotes would
save pages of duplicated referential commentary.
The witnessed suffering of a
Siddhartha can produce (perhaps as one more attachment?) expanded "experience"
of the "big-S" self, rather than a "via negativa"
diminution yielding "insight-wisdom." "Kensho" by
communication, never found in Austin, follows. Over fifteen weeks in a
graduate process group after a woman's presence "pecked" at the "shell"
of my awareness until we talked at a wrap-up party (Bober, 1984, pp. 9-10) I
can claim having "stopped the world" (Castañeda), "confirmed"
in Feild's Sufi work. Finally alone, we two simply lying side by side, "our
lungs filled and emptied with the same breath" within a concrete sense of "oneness."
That "effable" (through painting or music as well?) experience "expressed
itself" as "We were being breathed." like "kinhin"/"witness"
(316, "Walking was continuing by itself."/235). (Against Austin some part of the individuated person always "reports" such
experiences. Cf. Assagioli on "higher self.")
I propose a
neuroendocrinological track Austin eschews (1998, p. 83), fruitfully pursued by
his colleagues of the "UPenn school" (he backhandedly 
pooh-poohs?). D'Aquili and Newberg (pp. 24-6), "too late" for 1998
(768, Note 13) yet not included in 2006, offer the most concise empirically
based theory of "mystic"/unitive (See lexicon.) experience--"when
everything comes together, all at once" (Walterreit)--on which they
unfortunately impose infantile religiosity. "Spillover" (or "reversal")
between "arousal structures" (sympathetic) and "quiescent
structures" (parasympathetic) occurs which, as I formulate it, balances an
outflow of "personal-magnetic" energy with a relaxed receptiveness
underlying all mystic experience (Note 8). This experience forges itself in
the sensorium through innumerable byways--emotion, psychology, culture,
history, and ideology. The "experient's" feeling may vary
much less. This recalls massotherapy research reported below. It speaks of
the "experience" of bouncing between two closely placed tennis
rackets, thermostat-like. D'Aquili's image suggests the "mutual-induction"
coil in a car--the "primary" windings induce a current in the "secondary"
windings. A "mutuality" in both cases may be a co-buildup of "energy"
to a point of maximum potential. For me the "next step" is to fuse
neuroendocrinal processes with "grounded" representational (See
lexicon.) "expressions" of mystic experience, as in Borchert's
reproduction (p. 288, Fig. 123) of "Roshi" Juan Yepes's perfective
way to "Monte Carmelo." It seems an unintended diagram of the brain
with the occipital areas toward the bottom of the page and a kind of spinal
path to the mystic Elysium called by the Taoists the "diamond or crystal
center" (Bober, May review. Cf. "Roshi" Teresa de Avila's "Rey"/"sol"
[p. 11], "cristal" .) roughly encapsulated in the shape of the
corpus callosum and the anterior and posterior commissures, more or less
enclosing structures comprising the limbic system--amygdala, hippocampus,
thalamus, and hypothalamus.
In a massotherapy class (Bober,
1981) I presented a physiology paper entitled "The 'Sun Ganglion,'
Consciousness, and Compassion." A deeply frustrated attempt to
corroborate a "solar plexus" experience I had in a training
(large-group) setting at Bethel, Maine, it synthesized "naturopathic,"
Eastern, "occult," and "modern Western approaches." The
following crystallizes that attempt (Bober, 1984, pp. 57-8):
The continuing experience of myself
as both receiver and sender (Puharich, pp. 17-18) of information through the "solar
plexus," the neural mass around the coeliac ganglion, originally motivated
this synthesis. A sun-like funnel, as it were, takes in from the "macrocosm"
and reflects back into the internal "microcosm," whence information
goes "up" forming words or artistic expression, reminding me of an
old glass Silex percolator I'd watch pushing boiling water up to become "coffee."
This process relates the
thoracolumbar and craniosacral divisions of the CNS relative not only to the
adrenals ["suprarenals" in England; actually a neurotransmitter dump
site] and other "glands" such as the hypothalamus but also to the
heart, blood pressure, and what is negatively described as "fever,"
clearly related to the "glow" of peak-experiencing and expanded
communing. Thermostatically the sympathetic operates through adrenergics such
as norepinephrine and cholinergics such as acetylcholine keeping the organism "see-sawing"
in a narrow arc. Vaso-constriction and -dilation raise and dissipate body heat
in these "higher emotions." While the hypothalamus regulates the
experience of pleasure herein, we need to consider joy, love, compassion as
experiences Western medicine can probe. Unfortunately, animal experimentation
blinds us to their (subtler) feelings. (Uncountable times entering the Yale
Medical Library I passed a portrait of the physiologist Harold Saxton Burr who
poked electrodes into trees to gauge potential difference, a suggestive tool,
probably the source of "biorhythms.")
A quarter of a century later
produced a second ("Eastern") "confirmation" as a photo in
Sha (p. 80) showed nearly the exact position of hands I'd stumbled upon at a
period of intense unitivity in my life at that Bethel training. He places this
"Xiu Lian" ["shoo lee-en"] between the nipples, though the
photo sets the heels of the palms closer to the "solar plexus" just
below the breastbone. He shows the fingers turned up more, flower- or cup-like
("lotus," he says), while I splay them right out in front. I also
place the heels of the palms lower, roughly half way between the sternum and
the navel. I move splayed hands near or far, rotating them "to the clock"
as if optimizing radio reception (possibly a kind of holographic "phantom-limb
'memory'" of the umbilicus?), ultimately sensing the "right"
position. Tuning a spot through which "information is sent and received"
corresponds with what Sha (p. 79) calls the "message center," the
locus of the middle Dan Tian (Tien), or "cauldron." This center (p.
37) lets you commune "directly with your mind, the organs and cells"
and with "sources" "outside" yourself. In this way (p. 31)
you can "send and receive" information between you and "everything
in the universe." Such "corroboration" suggests we can "reproduce"
what Taoists learned intuitively (See lexicon.), highlighting the difference
between "Eastern" experience and "Western" experimentation.
(How hard could it be for Austin to put a subtly sensing "grid"
between people who experience such communication? Perhaps neurologically
sophisticated D.O.s like John Upledger are tuned to such subtleties.)
Swedenborgian Balzac's "The
Atheist's Mass" (pp. 2-3) has "surgeon" Desplein announce that
he may have known of the "solar (message) center," "When he
detected a cerebral center, a nervous center, and a center for aërating the blood--the
first two so perfectly complementary that in the latter years of his life he
came to the conviction that the sense of hearing is not absolutely necessary,
nor the sense of sight for seeing, and that the solar plexus could supply their
place without any possibility of doubt. . . ."
War" Julia (Sears) Seton, M.D. (Cf. Dumont) know this source, fusing
knowledge of physiology and "mystical" literature, here condensed,
which I challenge Austin and myself to advance? Her chariot-and-buggy mystics
only used metaphors (See lexicon.) at their disposal--the "reins"
flowing back from the horses to the focal point in the hands of the driver. I
imagine reins leading back from multiple pairs of percherons, or,
alternatively, "funnel-hands." Though her "reins" idea,
unfolded with Jungian flavor reaching unitive heights, is a century old it
knows no time. I've added other results of her experience placing them in
(psycho-)logical order. Although she reads "metaphysical," her
insights free of reference (apparently much of biblical source) or concrete
referent, I tried to gird her views with "modern" physiological
prophets and mystics of old sang ever of their solar center . . . [ascribing]
to the reins, knowledge, joy, pain and pleasure. The conscious command of the
psychical functions through concentration of the mind and usage of the Solar
Plexus has been the method of the seer for all time. . . . The solar plexus is
the center of man's universe and through it he is one with all things. This is
the "single eye." "Take heed, therefore, that thine eye be
single, for if thine eye be single thy whole body will be full of light."
"[M]y reins instruct me in the night seasons"--thus giving the clue
to all visions and prophecies--and we know clearly what these men of old
vaguely hinted, for the "reins" are . . . the solar plexus center of
the body, a vital point which makes for wholeness in union with our higher
centers of the physical brain, the abdominal brain of the physical body--the
great storehouse of universal energy and wisdom . . . . The massage of the
Solar Plexus through this breath gives one increased circulation of blood to
the solar center and this increases its attracting power; with a full stream of
psychical energy flowing in from without, a full stream of power is released by
the cells of the Solar Plexus itself. This electro-radiant energy flows over
the sympathetic nerves and is transmitted to the cerebro-spinal nerves and
centers, and a warm glow begins to pervade the physical flesh. Over this cord
there is continually passing in and out through the reins . . . the impulses we
call life. All sight, hearing, feeling, and emotion, all subjective
sensation are the product of the activity of these currents acting upon the
solar plexus brain and nerves and through these upon the physical brain and
In addition to points made in my
May review regarding "mystical experience," especially its needing no
suppression of ego/self, I add in evaluating Austin that it
1. does NOT require purgation, "ego-/self-lessness"
(self [rather, "ego"] endures "absorbed") or "self"-conquest.
2. IS both "sensory" and "mental" ("emotional"
as well) eminently and exclusively of, from, and through the "body."
3. IS ordinary, NOT "rare" or "in addition,"
just infrequent, NOT alter-ed/-nate consciousness/reality, just "variant".
4. is NOT highfalutin', higher, extreme (or mild, mini, or "less"),
"true"/"false," more or less "authentic" or "fully
developed." As with 3., it's our legacy as human beings (363).
5. is NOT a hierarchy or path, or series of degrees or
stages, but rather, filled "moments." (Werner Erhard's est
granted "samadhi" in two weekends wrapped in three Wednesdays.)
6. does NOT involve "fusion." A part of the "self"
always experiences the "state."
7. DOESN'T require a guru or any guide whatsoever.
To Austin's credit he opposes a presumably "disintegrative"
"mental illness" (1998, 30) and integrative "mysticism"
I gloss below (Lexicon) to regale the reader.
Assagioli, Roberto. Psychosynthesis. New York: Penguin, 1976.
Austin, James H. Zen and the Brain. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998.
[Balzac, Honoré de.] The Works of Honoré de Balzac.
Vol. VIII. Jealousies of a
Country Town. Lost Illusions. The Atheist's Mass. New York: Bigelow, Brown, 191?
Bober, Anthony Peter. "Me, the Struggle to Be: An
Odyssey of Uncovery, Unfoldment, and Completion of the Self." M.A. Thesis. Center
for Humanistic Studies. 1984. Item No. 1324326
________. "The 'Sun Ganglion,' Consciousness, and
Compassion." Physiology paper presented in the Myomassology class taught
by Irene Gauthier, Southfield, Michigan, April 27, 1981.
________. Review of Gerald G. May, The Dark Night of
the Soul, San Francisco: Harper, 2004. Reviewed June 17, 2005, Metapsychology
Online Reviews 9:24
Borchert, Bruno. Mysticism: Its History and Challenge.
York Beach, ME: Weiser, 1994.
Castañeda, C. Separate Reality. N.Y.: Simon, 1971.
d'Aquili, Eugene G., and Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical
Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapolis:
de Avila ("De Jesus"), Teresa. Las
Moradas/Libro de su Vida. Mexico, D.F.: Porrúa, 1992.
Dumont, Theron Q. The Solar Plexus or Abdominal Brain.
N.p.: No publ., N.d.
Feild, R. The Last Barrier. N.Y.: Harper, 1976.
Lewis, C.T., and Short, C. Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon, 1966.
Puharich, Andrija. Beyond Telepathy. Garden City,
N.Y.: Anchor, 1973.
Sha, Zhi Gang. Power Healing: The Four Keys to
Energizing Your Body, Mind, and Spirit. New York: Harper, 2002.
[Privately printed, offered for
Sha, Zhi Gang. Soul Study: A Guide to Accessing Your
________. Zhi Neng Medicine: Revolutionary Self-Healing
Methods from China.]
Upledger, John. SomatoEmotional Release: Deciphering
the Language of Life Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2002.
Walterreit, Linda C. "What Is the Experience of the
Moment When Everything Comes Together, All at Once?" Masters' thesis,
Merrill-Palmer Institute, August, 1980.
1. 31 chapters reducible to 3.1, along
with rough technicalities from others, placeable on the internet as research
notes for the cognoscenti. (Though against "drug mysticism" he
spends inexplicable time on nitrous oxide, Grof, and addiction.)
2. Word descriptions become "paradoxical," so to
speak, as the right brain laughs up its sleeve at the naively rational left.
3. "Enlightenment" can mean to "have a light"
or "feel lighter" inside; "ecstasy" can signify "standing
outside of (as a clone)" or expansion beyond like ripple-rings around the
proverbial pebble in the pool.
4. Heights of capitalist mystic experience cannot be denied
outright even to Robber Barons or Teapot Domers amidst "distracting" "beehive
activity." [1998, 532; 2006,39]
5. He ignores operant versus classical conditioning or traditional
"arousal" qua neologistic "quickening"  and burlesques
"hypnosis" (See Lexicon.) .
6. "Bicameral" usually covers front-rear of both
lobes, if not also the neo-, paleo-, reptilian-cortical gamut.
7. He mistakes "sympathy" (2006, 96) for "empathy"
whose "original German word" (2006, 266) rather translates as "Einfühlung"
from Greek, gives the unLatin spelling "aequinimitas"
(1998, 581), and implies "education" from "educere" (1998, 120; 2006, 66), yielding "eduction," rather than the correct source "educare,"
8. A T'ai Chi Ch'uan/taijiquan saying states that "all
the secrets of the universe are found in the moment between exhalation and
inhalation." (Cf. 391, "chih shi"?)
Experience: the etymological core (Lewis, p. 693) of
the word is to "try, prove, put to the test, (reflexively) make a trial of
one's powers." (Bober, 1984, p. 37)
Hypnosis: other-guided focus. This increases
imaginative attentiveness as "focus" implies. "Other" may
be another person or an Assagiolian "higher self," but all hypnosis
is self-hypnosis. Many in a demonstration group were "gone"
hearing the yodeling record Milton Erickson brought thinking it an "induction."
Impropulsion: movement from within, activating and
enlivening outer (and "inner") "objects" in a synergistic
process of reciprocal growth, challenge, discovery.
Intuition: generally, it means capturing an
immediate sense, knowledge, or realization about something and holding it with
conviction, even if that conviction is at times not well founded. Less
nebulously it is a "seeing" as if with the whole being, the self as
Jung propounded it, upon becoming rooted to some "object." As one
peers into it, restudies the material, steeps in it, a magma of concepts and
Mysticism: an experience sensed,
psychophysiologically, as warmth and "electromagnetic" ("centrolodic")
flow to, from, and through the body directing heightened communion with the "world"/"other"
/"object" producing an overwhelming "impropulsion" toward
representational expression yielding a psychologically interconnective ("unitive,"
"centractive," "centrofluxive") insight, irrevocably
shifting the contouring of self and world. (One of his books suggests "ineffability"
for Greek "mu" though "mueo" means "initiate into
mysteries" and "muo" "shut," as eyes (perhaps mouth,
ears, and other orifices. This keeps the secret of the mystery cult and allows
you to "go in" before expanding out.)
simmering process ever arising from mute psychophysiological realms until
expulsed grappling hooks of insight lash experience to cogently arresting
linguistic imagery. Raynor C. Johnson (Watcher on the Hills: A Study of
Some Mystical Experiences of Ordinary People. London: Hodder, 1959/NY:
Harper, 1960, p. 27) refers to a radio talk by William Golding who speaks of
language that "fits over experience like a straight-jacket."
Neurophysiology: this non-specialist in medicine
hopes to refer to the operations of the peripheral nervous system [including
the (para-)sympathetic (autonomic, generally)] as it relates to the spinal
cord, brain, and para-cortical systems as they impinge on conscious and
unconscious processes involved in "unitive" experiences.
Self: the total experiencing center of the human
being comprising for that individual all she or he has been, is, may become in
thought, feeling, spirit, mood on the levels of the conscious and unconscious
through reflective inner-directed and other-directed involvement in the world
(Bober, 1984, p. 39).
Unitive: less ambiguous, stained by "mystic"
history this refers to that kind of experience that carries conscious/ego/"everyday"
awareness inclusively to a full, deep, rich rooting in the "romance"
of everyday wonders, merely linguistically different from "peak-experience."
[As "peak" is not an adjective, the term logically requires a
© 2006 A. P. Bober
A.P. Bober has studied a psychology
spanning Skinner and a humanistic-clinical view based on existential
phenomenology and had been a PhD candidate in a substantive yet philosophic
European-based sociology including the "critical" view. His
teaching augmented courses in group theory/"small-group developmental
dynamics" (lab) while introducing "sociology of knowledge" and "issues
in biological anthropology," with publications in the first two
fields. Currently he is writing a book on mystical experience as
metaphorically tied to neurophysiology.