[From: Bruce Nevin (Mon 92044 13:48)]

Bill Powers (920501.1430)

Yeah, unusual perceptions are good entertainment. A central problem is
that we can't determine how much of what seems to be going on is a
tissue of imagining and ignoring. I assume that the most frequent use
of the imagination loop is to fill gaps in perceptual input to match
expectations. Given the nature of the perceptual hierarchy and
perceptual control, unexceptional, routine perceptions seem more suspect
than unusual ones. I'll come back to this. I have to establish my bona
fides first.

Shifting levels works as a kind of Jacob's ladder. So do some other
techniques. What is essential and invariant? At any level of
perception, there is always a point of view. Identifying with the point
of view rather than that perceived or the process of perceiving has the
effect of shifting up a level only because then another level of
perception then comes into view, unobscured by what had been under
attention. (Better: unobscured now that we no longer take it as our
point of view, but the subjective impression is like the first way of
saying it.) The experience of shifting levels is the experience of
identifying with one level rather than the other. The point of view or
witness is something other than either. One can identify with that
without the experience of first identifying with a succession of levels
of perception as point of view on the next level below. The unattached
witness experienced when looking at the highest accessible level is
actually available everywhere and one can identify with it even while
looking at level n from level n+1. There is much greater freedom in

(Bill Powers (920418.0800) ) --

Concerning continuity and discontinuity, I have been a bit at a loss to
correlate our respective mappings of words to perceptions. I agree that
in general perceptual signals at

The lower levels of ECS are continuous; only the
higher ones introduce sampling and discrete variables.

Skipping to a later point in your post, where you quote me saying:

I would suggest that one of the "priorities" of the brain (at least the
mammalian brain) is precisely to "fictionalize," in the sense that
higher levels of control in a sense substitute the perception of
continuous constructs for discontinuous lower-level perceptions.

You respond:

And I claim that you're not looking directly at the world of lower-level
perceptions when you say that, but at DESCRIPTIONS of that world. The
descriptions are discontinuous. The world isn't. There's no reason why the
imagination connection can't exist in any brain at any level (but the

This is mostly aimed at somebody I must have sounded like. I hope I can
show that I am not confusing map and territory. I agree that categories
we project onto the world are discontinuous, and that we use category
perceptions to parse or "punctuate" a world comprising evidently only
continua into discontinuous elements. But how do you know that the
world is continuous? The world itself, apart from our perceptual

No, even that isn't the right question. How do we know that
continuities in sensory signals correspond to continuities in the
perceived world? We don't, and we can't. We can and do presume that
they do. The last sentence quoted above indicates how discontinuities
could be masked at any level. I am not clear what the mechanism might
be for evoking the imagination loop--perhaps the input function of an
ECS can call for a signal to fill a gap when most of its other
requisites are met. Clearly, it does happen. And if this process can
happen for any ECS, it can fill gaps in perceptual input from all

But I'm getting the explanation before the experience to be explained.
That's why it won't come out right.

Also later in that post, you say

Perhaps we're thinking of different kinds of continuity and discontinuity.

I think so. Consider the case where you are deliberately attending to
one perception for an extended period of time, ignoring others as they
come to awareness and returning attention to the chosen perception.
(Or, easier, attending just to perceptions of a certain type from a
restricted set of sensory input mechanisms, such as touch sensation on
the rim of the nostrils.) Interesting things happen when you do this.

First thing you notice, of course, is how hard it is to hold one's
attention steady against the normal process of letting attention drift
among higher levels waiting for some error signal to become prominent.

Then, with some practice, you notice how very much is going on in the
periphery of attention. (Except that any of it is liable to become the
new focus when you are distracted once again.) A constant up and down
of perceptions, memories, and imaginings. Certainly nothing constant
there except change! Or is the appearance of discontinuity perhaps a
function of passing a threshold of awareness? But this is all
peripheral to your chosen focus of awareness. There seems to be a
gradient "threshold" of awareness, if indeed the term is still
applicable at all.

As your ability to stay focussed on a chosen perception sharpens, you
notice that the perception to which you are attending is itself not
constant. Again, is it the perceptual signal or one's attention to it
that changes? Who can say? Does it matter? Whatever the basis, when
you look persistently for more than a few tens of seconds at a time,
impermanence (inconstancy, even discontinuity) appears to be the rule.

Except for the point of view, the witness. Not itself observable,
except indirectly in a sense, reflected in the very process of
observing. That is continuous. Seemingly.

I said:

Close attention to perceptions (e.g. the vipassana meditation
described, taught, and practiced by various Buddhist traditions)
discloses impermanence and discontinuity at lower levels of perception,
masked by the continuity of perceptions at higher levels.

I am suggesting that for purposes of higher level control fluctuations
and discontinuities in lower level perceptual signals are filled in out
of memory and imagination, so that when they reach the comparator of the
higher level ECS it is as though they had been continuous and steady at
the lower level. I say this because my experience suggests that with
prolonged attention to selected perceptions (with no purpose other than
attention, and beyond that some motivation for engaging in the practice,
usually verbalized as the expectation that such practice will be
eventually in some way beneficial)--with prolonged attention, maybe the
input functions of higher-level ECSs give up patching over fluctuations
and discontinuities out of memory and imagination. Perhaps I am wrong,
and these appearances I report all represent flaws in the lens of
awareness. Whatever that is. But even when you attend to one intensity
sensation (not easy!), that ECS is not disconnected from higher-level
control systems just because your attention excludes them. If
higher-level control systems call for a filling gaps in the signal out
of memory by way of the imagination loop, is there any way to notice?
Perhaps just this way: persisting long enough that higher level ECSs
give up and their control ceases to be an active factor.

Caveats notwithstanding, I am trying to point at *experience* that
anyone may have, as it relates to hierarchical perceptual control

The experience I am trying to point at does have effects on one and in
one, effects that don't arise from projecting categories onto the world
of perception or changing one's beliefs and disbeliefs (though beliefs
and category perceptions may be affected). In this experience,
eventually, whatever it is that one may identify with at one time or
another as constituting a self or ego turns out to be part of the soup.
This has no more to do with philosophizing than experience using the
Method of Levels does, though one can talk at length about either.

In any case, "dissolving the ego" is no great shakes as a plum for the
Jack Horner Memorial Enlightenment Prize. Just another thing to be
noticed. Oh. Right. There never was anything there to be dissolved.
Sure looks like there is, even now. And we may still act as though
there is. But now we know better.

Greg (private post, I trust it's OK to quote this):

my own main interest in perennial-philosophers has
always been as an amateur anthropologist trying to figure out why they keep
coming back for more (Hindu self-inflicted wounds, Zen hemorrhoids and
boredom, and so forth) of what doesn't seem (to me) to be very enjoyable in

I think holding out ecstasy as a reward is at best a well intended fraud
perpetrated on behalf of those who otherwise would not poke into these
questions. Similarly for heaven and hell, etc. Students of comparative
religion often make the distinction between exoteric and esoteric
teachings. Jesus told some things to his disciples that he didn't tell
to others, cautioned against casting pearls, etc. My take is that the
direct, personal experience is always esoteric, and anything else,
certainly anything one could call religion, is more or less exoteric.
That doesn't stop me from being a member of a Quaker meeting and
participating in the life of the meeting on terms generally congenial
to fellow participants (which, like your mileage, varies). But for me
this discussion is not about religion.