Time, intentionality, and a neurophenomenology of the dot 1 by

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Charles D. Laughlin

Carleton University

Thus perceptions of things are primordial experiences in relation to all memories, fancy presentations, and so forth. They are primordial in the sense in which concrete experiences can be that at all. For closer inspection reveals in their concreteness only one, but that always a continuously flowing absolute primordial phase, that of the living now.
...The object is just that which is grasped and posited in adequate intuition as a primordial Self, transparent in virtue of its primordiality, and absolutely transparent in virtue of the completeness of the meaning and its complete primordial filling-out... .
Edmund Husserl, Ideas


The purposes of this paper are twofold: First, I wish to correct a systematic bias in Husserlian transcendental phenomenology. This bias is in favor of intuition of essences of meaning and against the intuition of essences of sensation. This bias is explained as a product of Husserl's mind-body dualism. Second, I suggest the possibility of a neurophenomenology from a biogenetic structural point of view. This neurophenomenology merges the knowledge of essences derived from mature contemplation with knowledge of the structures of experience derived from neuroanthropology. After addressing these two issues I proceed to describe the sensorium from a neurophenomenological perspective, and the constituent element of perception, the dot. I hypothesize that experience arises in the dialogue between prefrontal cortical processes and sensorial processes, that experience is constituted within a field of sensorial dots that arise and dissolve in temporal frames. I conclude that Husserl's view of the phenomenology of time is essentially correct and is both in keeping with findings from current neurophysiology, and amenable to a modern scientific view of consciousness and to many of the religious traditions encountered by ethnographers. The implications of a neurophenomenology for the anthropological study of consciousness are suggested.


Explanations in the anthropological study of consciousness, and related studies of cosmology and religion, often founder under the weight of theoretical inadequacy. As Baruss (Baruss and Moore 1992, and elsewhere in this issue) makes clear in his critique of scientific views of consciousness, there is very little consensus about the meaning of consciousness or about methods for operationalizing ideas about consciousness. With regard to anthropology specifically, there exists no commonly held theory of consciousness that accounts for the invariant, universal structures of consciousness within the context of which the cross-cultural and interpersonal variance in states of consciousness are explained. This inadequacy is especially felt during periods, such as the present concern for so-called "postmodernism," when the discipline is under the influence of extreme cultural relativism.

During these historical episodes, the schism between mind and body is theoretically and methodologically accentuated. This is because attention to cultural variation without simultaneous recognition of invariance is possible only at the expense of ignorance about the embodied nature of mind -- that is to say, brain. And ignorance of the embodied nature of mind is only possible in the absence of a degree of self-awareness in the ethnographer. When the fieldworker does become interested in his or her own phenomenology, the fact of the embodiment of mind becomes quickly apparent and a theoretical schism between mental and physical being becomes increasingly untenable. It becomes untenable because it violates an expanding body of direct experience to the contrary.

When ethnographers wish to train themselves phenomenologically, where should they turn for guidance and instruction? There are of course a number of eastern traditions from which to choose. But there is also a long tradition of phenomenology in western philosophy that may be more in tune with the goals of science. However, a common drawback with western philosophical traditions is that they may be laden with cultural presumptions perhaps only apparent to the ethnologist who is used to ferreting out the subtle nuances of culture. In this paper I wish to critically appraise one major branch of western phenomenology -- Edmund Husserl's transcendental phenomenology -- for its relevance to the anthropological study of consciousness. A critical approach is necessary in order to render Husserl's account in terms that better reflect the requirements of the ethnographic enterprise.

Mind-Body Dualism in Husserl's Phenomenology

A principal weakness in Edmund Husserl's phenomenology occurred because of Husserl's systematic bias toward the study of meaning (the "noetic" and "noematic" acts of consciousness) and away from the study of sensation and "pure" perception ("hyle," "hyletic data," "primordial filling," "sensuous filling," "primordial state of being filled out," "primordial givenness," "primordial impressional data," "sense primordially filled out," etc.). This bias resulted in a relatively rich series of meditations upon the factors of consciousness that produce meaning, but a paucity of reflections upon the sensory quale that fulfill (erfullen) meaning in perception. Consequently, the meaning of such terms as "hyle" and "filling" remain half-baked and obscure in Husserl's writings (see Miller 1984: 135; Dreyfus 1972: 135). This bias was due in part to a pervasive mind/body dualism inherent in Husserl's thinking:

Thus strict adherence to the form/matter, mind/body dichotomy dictates the future development of Husserl's phenomenology away from a phenomenology of perception. For if even in perception one must always separate the act of meaning from the act of intuition which fills that meaning, it follows that one can have an account of the interpretive sense....but no account of the corresponding intuitive sense. One can have an account of what the mind takes the object to be but no account of our bodily interaction with the object in perceiving it.

Dreyfus 1982: 108

Husserl's mind/body dualism is hardly surprising considering: (1) that it is a tacit attitude in his Euroamerican enculturation prior to becoming a contemplative and philosopher, and (2) that he apparently neither discovered, nor incorporated into his project the deep calming and centering techniques used in other western and non-western contemplative traditions. The latter point is crucial because these techniques are known to evoke experiences of non-duality and totality upon which a non-dualistic assessment of phenomena may be grounded (see Laughlin 1986a, Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990:308-318, Laughlin et al. 1986).

In all fairness, there is some indication that Husserl himself was aware of the strictures he had imposed upon his phenomenology as a consequence of this bias (see Dreyfus 1982: 107). Furthermore, as obscure and tentative as he tended to be about the nature of the "hyle," it is clear that Husserl was aware that primordial perception is "filled" with sensory quale, and that the organization of quale is both universally given to all phenomena and knowable via eidetic intuition (see Husserl 1931: 194 on "primordial given," 380 and 398 on "filling-out," and 1970b: 290 on "fulfilling sense").

In order to make Husserl's account of consciousness relevant to the cross-cultural context of anthropology, it is necessary to balance his account of experience by fleshing out the phenomenology of the "hyle" -- of the "sensuous matter" -- and to explain the order of primordial sensation. I choose to do the latter by way of a neurocognitive theory of intentionality, time consciousness and perceptual intermittency. The result will be a kind of neurophenomenology that combines the description of some essential features of perception as ascertained by contemplation with known or suspected neurocognitive processes correlated with those features. I will first discuss the advantages of a neurophenomenology, then proceed to a discussion of the sensorium and the basic unit of sensory perception, the "dot." Finally, I will explore the intentional and temporal relations among fields of dots and related neurocognitive findings. In the end I will have sketched a theory of the structures of experience that at least shows how an ethnological account of experience may be construed so as to treat both the invariant structures of experience and the cross-cultural and interpersonal variance in experience.

An Introduction to Neurophenomenology

The neurophenomenological approach used in this study originates from an application of biogenetic structuralism, a perspective described briefly in an earlier article in this journal (Laughlin 1992).2 Biogenetic structural theory conceives of human mentation as a function of the nervous system, and the nervous system as a relatively autonomous community of cells the network-like organizations of which operate as partially isomorphic models of the organism and the organism's environment (see Arbib 1972, Varela 1979, Metzler 1977, Maturana and Varela 1980, Piaget 1971, Pribram 1971, and Yates 1985 for consonant views). The initial structure of all neural models is determined by the genotype and forms the primordial stance of the cognitive being towards self and world. It is this genetically predetermined structure which we term neurognosis, and which accounts for much of the panspecies invariance in mentation. The totality of neural models produced by an individual nervous system is termed that individual's cognized environment, and the organism (including the nervous system producing its cognized environment) and its environment taken together is termed the operational environment.3

The cognized environment may thus be conceived to be partially isomorphic with the operational environment (see d'Aquili, Laughlin and McManus 1979: 17; also Varela 1979: 238ff). The world of experience is actively co-produced by the set of neural models linked together, or entrained in the moment to mediate that world. In Husserlian terms, this flow of neural entrainments is responsible for the "constituting" of the phenomenal world (1931: 168). Husserl's notion of constitution does not, of course, imply simple causality, but rather means the coalescence of various factors to produce the meaningful object or event in the phenomenal world (Follesdal 1974: 379). That the process of constitution involves physiological processes is at least partially acknowledged by Husserl when he requires kinaesthesis for sense impressions (see Landgrebe 1981: 59), a theme picked up later and elaborated in the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty (1962). And, of course, the research in modern neuroscience confirms the involvement of physiological systems in mediating these relations (e.g., Pribram 1991).

The cognized environment is thoroughly neurognostic in nature. It is characterized by numerous invariant patterns recognizable in experience and imposed by the inherent structure of the neural networks mediating it. Invariant patterns include such features as natural categorization (Herrstein 1982, Rosch 1977), location of the body and other objects in space (Mountcastle et al. 1984), size constancy (Varela 1979), learning (Keil 1981) and apparent motion (Ramachandran and Anstis 1986). For other features see Metzler (1977), Laughlin (1991) and Laughlin and d'Aquili (1974). Perception and behavior are very much a part of a feedback loop in which the function of behavior is to manipulate events in the operational environment (including the body) to bring experience into accord with cognized expectations (Powers 1973: xi; see also Richards and von Glasersfeld 1979, Arbib 1972, Varela 1979).

The human nervous system as potentially reflexive. The neural processes that have evolved to attend, cognize and respond to events in the outer operational environment (i.e., "the world") may also be directed to those in the inner operational environment (i.e., "the being"). In other words, the human brain is capable under certain conditions of reflecting upon its own essential processes (Maturana and Varela 1980). In the western philosophical tradition such reflexivity is commonly called "phenomenology," and is exemplified by the transcendental phenomenology of Edmund Husserl (1931, 1977), a school of thought that is currently having considerable effect upon North American thought in various disciplines (see Ihde 1986: 1-26).

Neurophenomenology pairs the insights of phenomenology with the advances made in modern neuroscience. The advantages of phenomenology derive from practitioners who have developed the skills of a mature contemplative,4 skills that include a special attitude which makes it possible for the researcher to focus full attention upon the factors of their consciousness. The "phenomenological attitude" is marked by the suspension of belief in the existence or non-existence of phenomena and a re-directing of attention to the factors that produce phenomena and cognitions oriented upon phenomena. The "attitude" is also marked by a decline in cultural influence over both orientation and interpretation of experience -- What Heidegger called "authentic" experience (see Baruss in this issue). This attitude is opposed to the "natural attitude" of the naive observer who takes the existence or non-existence of things, as well as the culture's world view, for granted -- Heidegger's "inauthentic" experience). The pursuit and maturation of the phenomenological attitude (via a series of "reductions" or "epoches;" see Husserl 1931, 1977, Koestenbaum in Husserl 1967: xx, Miller 1984: 175, Schmitt 1967) produces a state of mind marked by astonishment and wonder, and by a cognition relatively free of the constraints of culturally conditioned frames of reference (see Fink 1981: 24; for an eastern view of this state of mind, see Suzuki 1970). This freedom allows the inner directed study of the factors of consciousness as objects of awareness, rather than conditioned attention to phenomena naively presumed from the natural attitude to be "out there" somewhere and requiring response (see Funke 1981: 72).

It is clear from a study of Husserl's writings that he meant by the phenomenological attitude nothing less than a radical transformation of consciousness that leaves the contemplative profoundly and irreversibly changed. He was obviously not advocating the sort of "as I gaze out of my study window with pen in hand and perceive the oak tree" level of naive introspectionism that pervades Cartesian philosophy, as well as many approaches to consciousness in psychology. Naive introspectionism is the "phenomenology which studies the phenomenon of the world prior to the transcendental reduction" (Spiegelberg 1978: 723). Indeed, if the phenomenological attitude were all that easy to attain, Husserl would hardly have expended so much effort describing how to attain it? On the contrary, he was describing a method that requires a life-long dedication and transcendence of personality and ego boundaries:

....Consequently for me, the meditating Ego who, standing and remaining in the attitude of epoche, posits exclusively himself as the acceptance-basis of all Objective acceptances and bases ... there is no psychological Ego and there are no psychic phenomena in the sense proper to psychology, i.e., as components of psychological men.... By psychological epoche I reduce my natural human Ego and my psychic life -- the realm of my psychological self-existence -- to my transcendental-phenomenological self-experience. The Objective world, the world that exists for me, the only world that ever can exist for me -- this world, with all its Objects, I said, derives its whole sense and its existential status, which it has for me, from me myself, from me as the transcendental Ego, the Ego who comes to the fore only with transcendental-phenomenological epoche.

It is only through an often lengthy period of phenomenological maturation that the contemplative comes to perceive the essential features of perception -- there existing "grades of clearness" of intuitive insight leading to "full clarity," or "absolute nearness" in apperceiving the "pure self-givenness" of the object (Husserl 1931: 194). The attributes of consciousness -- the factors that co-produce (or "constitute") the cognized environment -- are intuitively apprehended and discovered to be the fundamental order of mentation (Levinas 1967). Husserl's "essences" are distinguished from "facts"5 by virtue of their universality ("eideticity") and the absolute certainty ("apodicticity") in which they are known (Husserl 1931: 51ff). Once apprehended, the essential factors producing phenomenal consciousness may be described. As Joseph Kockelmans puts it:

Phenomenology is not interested in "factual facts" but in the essences of the immediate given phenomena. Husserl uses the term "essence" to indicate that which in the intimate self-being of an individual thing or entity tells us "what it is." Every such essence can be expressed by a concept.

(1967: 80; emphasis mine)
The orthodox phenomenological method is merely descriptive of a process of intuitive analysis -- or so Husserl claimed. Phenomenology, on his account, takes procedural steps to uncover essences which are known directly and intuitively, and that knowledge is then described using concepts. This project presumably avoids passage through any interpretive theory -- at least a debatable point. In any event, neurophenomenology utilizes this descriptive base by seeking the mechanisms or processes that are the structural underpinnings of essences. The practice of phenomenology trains the contemplative state of mind in which the study and description of essences may occur. Neurophenomenology explains these essences by reference to invariant neurognostic structures mediating perception and cognition. Because our approach requires mature contemplation, neurophenomenology cannot go too far astray from the essential data of direct experience. We are thus able to avoid many of the pitfalls inherent in naive introspection and ego psychology, both of which begin and end their observations from the point of view of "natural attitude" assumptions and theories (see Laughlin 1986a, 1986b).

I am not advocating a single school of phenomenology. There are many phenomenologies from which to choose, both domestic and foreign. Moreover, researchers are free to blend the methods obtained from alternative phenomenological approaches. The present study by insights gained by practising both Husserlian transcendental phenomenology and Buddhist insight meditation (vipassana, or mahamudra; see e.g., Vajiranana 1975 and Wang-ch'ug Dorje 1978). Among other benefits, this merger of techniques has provided a counter-balance to Husserl's bias towards meaning, for although Buddhist insight practice may involve analysis of the factors of consciousness (as in Abhidhamma), it is ultimately oriented in the direction opposite to the study of the mundane structures of meaning and phenomena, and towards the study of the essential impermanence of meaning and phenomena (satipatthana; see Mahasi Sayadaw 1978).

Not all forms of phenomenology are equally useful for the kind of project advocated here. For example, Ricoeurian hermeneutics may be quite handy for recovering the meaning of textual material (Rasmussen 1971), but it is useless as a method for intuiting essential principles of perception. This is because the views of Ricoeur, in keeping with those of Heidegger, Sartre and others, deny the possibility of contemplation as a ground for ascertaining the essential properties of mind. These philosophies reject the notion that there are ahistorical structures of mind and that these structures may be directly apperceived (see e.g. Rorty 1979: 8). As a consequence, these philosophies are inherently dualistic. They cannot possibly simultaneously hold the views (1) that mind is a function of the nervous system, and (2) that the nervous system is neurognostic in its organization, but the mind is not. The only contemplative phenomenologies that can merge with the neurosciences to produce a neurophenomenology are those, like Husserl's, that admit the possibility of apperception of essences.
The Dot

It may become apparent to the mature contemplative who studies the "primordial impressions" of sensory objects that these "impressions" are comprised of almost infinitesimal particles. In different traditions, these particles have been variously labelled (e.g., yod in Kabala, bindu in Hindu and Buddhist tradition), but because they tend to be first apprehended in visual perception, I will simply call them dots. It should be understood, however, that the contemplative can readily ascertain that quale in all sensory modes are comprised of dots. I am describing, therefore, a multimodal sensory essence that may be readily and eidetically intuited, much as anyone who cares to look may apprehend the "dots" comprising a television image. Sensorial dots are commonly missed to naive introspection: (1) because most people are not interested in, nor are they trained to concentrate upon the essential features of their perception, and (2) because most people have not developed the depth of calm requisite to perform the necessary reduction. With sufficient incentive and training it is quite easy to become aware of the activity of these minuscule and momentary sensorial events and their patterns of organization within perceptual forms. Dots are seen to be the building blocks of objects and movement in the sensorial field, and once apprehended, they may be apprehended at any time as long as the requisite awareness is present to consciousness.

After the reduction has been performed, the sensorium is experienced as a field of dots that is perceptually and cognitively distinguishable into sensory modes, and within sensory modes into forms and events. The fundamental act of perception is the abstraction and reenforcement of invariant features within the order of an unfolding and dissolving field of dots (see Gibson 1979). The cognized environment is realized within the sensorium by ordering fields of dots with recognizable (re-cognizable!) configurations. Playing with metaphors for the moment, the sensorium is like a back-lighted screen comprised of a field of dots. One is normally aware of the cognized movie, but not of the projector. One intuits the principles of mind that manifest as apparent regularities in the functioning of the projector. But in the case of the sensorium there is no screen. A screen is a thing that is still apparent when the movie stops. There is really no "thing" to perceive when the sensorial movie stops. So the sensorium is more like a hologram projected into space. But there is no "space" there either - spacial extension being just another cognized illusion that vanishes with the movie. So, the sensorium is like a magic theatre with no screen, no projector, and no space. In other words, the sensorium is a plenum void constituted by and for the mindbrain.

Some caution needs to be exercised here, for philosophizing upon the grounds of naive introspection will often lead to a perilous passage between the Scylla and Charybdis of solipsism and structural determinism (see Lockwood 1989:294-315). In solipsism lies the pitfall of concluding that perception is without essential structures, and totally the product of history and enculturation. In structural determinism lies the opposite pitfall of reduction of experience to either some sort of Levi-Straussian exegesis, or to physiology. In fact, the intuition of essences is inevitable in the course of mature contemplation, but the structural underpinnings of those essences are largely a mystery.

Of course, I am describing dots from my own experience of them, but there is nothing really novel about my version of dots. Equivalent descriptions are available from various sources. So, before I go further into the neurophenomenology of the dot, let me place the notion of dot into a broader historical perspective.

Prime Potency and Other Notions

The notion of dot is equivalent in some respects to Lonergan's (1958: 442) concept of "prime potency." Potency is the raw "material" of experience, the "stuff" that makes up that about the phenomenal world that is to be known. As such, potency exists as a set of primitive limitations upon form and activity. It is "the potency of the lowest level that provides the principle of limitation [read essence] for the whole range of proportionate being" (ibid: 442). Apprehension of prime potency -- of dots -- is the result of what Michael Polanyi (1965) called a "logical disintegration" of form into its constituent phenomenal fragments. In biogenetic structural terms, dots are the prime potency of the cognized environment as it unfolds and dissolves in the sensorium.

The concept of dot is also similar to Whitehead's (1978) notion of "actual entity" or "actual occasion." But dot is intended primarily as a descriptive empirical, rather than a theoretical or metaphysical category. Dots are decidedly not our version of McCulloch's (1965: 37) "psychon," the theoretical basic psychic unity. In this respect the dot is analogous to the ancient Sanskrit concept of bindu (meaning "dot" or "drop;" see Woodroffe 1974) which is the elemental particle of prana, the fundamental cosmic energy -- again, an empirically derived descriptive concept. Trained yogis come to know the bindu by direct experience as the building block of phenomena from the most gross object such as a table or a planet to the most subtle like the breath or spirit.

Empirical dots and theoretical "atoms" are likely to be related. I suspect that early atomist theories in western metaphysics and science, as well as eastern ontologies, are grounded in the unconscious projection upon the world by the mindbrain of its own essential organization. The idea of something like a "monad" as the ultimate constituent of the universe goes back at least to the early Greeks, and in the 18th century is specifically referenced by Leibnitz in his Principles of Nature and Grace. Many philosophers over the centuries (including Kant, Husserl and Whitehead) have put forward monadologies. The term monad derives from the Greek root meaning "one" or "unit," and is used in some cases to refer to a simple, irreducible particle of reality from which all composite things in the universe are constructed. The monad is frequently conceived as a source of power in its own right, and, as in the case of Whitehead's "actual entity," a scintilla of consciousness as well.

The concept of monad seems closer to a mental particle than, say, the notions of atom or molecule, but it is usually not clear (and this is the crucial point) to what extent the monad is intended in these philosophies either as an empirical descriptive term, or strictly to apply to consciousness rather than the whole universe. The "atomistic" views of pre-Socratic Greek philosophers like Heraclitus and Empedocles were almost certainly based upon mystical contemplation (see Edwards 1967: 477ff, 496ff). Empedocles (a physician and in the latter part of his life a confirmed mystic) saw the world of the senses as being in constant change, and as being comprised of a perpetual remixing of tiny, permanent entities (ibid: 497). However, the views of many later philosophers such as Descartes, although also positing atomistic foundations, seem more based upon rational analysis than upon introspection. A significant difference between early Greek and later European ideas of monads is that the early views -- and the one most akin to direct perception of dots by contemplatives -- stressed the living and active nature of these particles, often associated with the subtle element fire (see Burtt 1954: 87-90), whereas most later philosophers took a more mechanical view of their natures (see Merchant 1980). An interesting exception to this trend was the 17th century philosopher, Pierre Gassendi, who tried with some success to introduce the early Greek conception of the atom as an active particle into science (Merchant 1980).

As apprehended in contemplation, dots have minute spatial extension and are always contiguous within the sensorial field. Apparent space is a neurognostic cognition imposed upon topological relations among dots. In other words, dots are perceived to have extension and to make up the entirety of sensorial "space" with no real space between dots. Extension interpreted as "space" between objects is a relational interpretation. Such "space" or "emptiness" is readily seen by the contemplative to be a "plenum void;" i.e., full of impermanent, contiguous dots. Any place one concentrates within the sensorium one will find contiguous dots. I am speaking here of the topological relations among dots in the field comprising any given moment of consciousness. I will come to the temporal relations among epochs of dots in a moment.

An interesting artistic example of the projection of the dot-nature of sensorial events upon the operational environment is to be found in the work of the 19th century neo-impressionists. The painter, Georges Seurat (1859-1891), collaborating with other artists like Paul Signac (1863-1935), used the science of perception of his day as a guide to replicating what he saw in nature (Homer 1964: 236). These artists used the "pointillist" technique of painting "tiny dots of pure color" (Lake and Mailard n.d.: 336) to depict line, shade and form. This technique was used relatively informally by the earlier impressionists like Monet, Renoir and Pissaro, but it was Seurat and his followers who brought this process to full awareness. It seems unclear just how conscious Seurat was of the dot-nature of his own actual perception. It is, however, quite clear that he appreciated the ease with which the observer can lose awareness of the elements making up the picture while fully apprehending its theme. When criticized of producing patchwork quilts, the neo-impressionist would suggest the critic back up until the eye was no longer attracted to the dots and could thus appreciate their perceptual effects (Homer 1964: 159). It should again be noted that whereas the pointillist technique often leaves spaces between dots of paint, there are no such spaces between sensorial dots.

Our notion of dot differs theoretically from other comparable eastern cosmological and western philosophical notions in that ours does not entail any ontological claims about the nature of the outer operational environment apart from the act of perception. Furthermore, in keeping with Husserl's views about hallucinations, fantasies and the like, phenomena are comprised of dots whether or not the stimulus initially eliciting the phenomena are internal or external to the nervous system. The perceptions of both a car "out there" and a car "in a dream" involve the constituting of an object within a field of dots (more on this below).

Summarizing, dots are intuitively apprehendable events that are momentary to perception and that contribute to enduring objects such as forms, color patches, textures, melodies, etc. All verbalizations, images, percepts, perceptions of physical space, edges and boundaries of forms, and the like, are comprised of dots. Yet dots themselves are apprehended as having no enduring form or substance. They are transitory, impermanent and without stable internal structure, while being experienced as vibrant, scintillating and alive. Dots provide the finest grade of sensorial "texture" of which human awareness is capable of resolving within any sensory modality. It is accurate to say both that without dots there can be no phenomenal form or awareness, and that there are states of mind in which the only awareness of phenomena is awareness of a field of dots as a field (see Buddhaghosa 1976 on the arupa jhana states in Buddhist psychology).

Dots, Photons and Columns

Dots are certainly not perceived photons. I have reviewed the relations between quantum events and dots elsewhere (Laughlin 1986a) and have concluded that perception at the level of the dot is already an abstraction and imposition upon the cognized environment of patterns of invariance detected in the operational environment. To quote Baumgardt (1972), "There is no light, but we may see light. Light is a sensation and thus has no physical existence." I would add: it has no physical existence apart from the activity of the sensorial neural processes mediating light consciousness. Our understanding of the neural structures mediating the dot is thus far speculative, but along with Polyani (1965: 806) we would argue that such structures are fairly fixed relative to the flexibility of higher cognitive operations mediated by more complex and more plastic neural entrainments. Sensorial dots are probably produced at the cortical level of organization (see Doty 1975), and are unlikely mediated by the activity of a single cell (Powers 1973:39). It is more likely that sensory particles are mediated by columns in secondary and tertiary sensory cortex, and obtain much of their initial ordering ("primordial givenness") via hypercolumnar organization.

A cortical column is a functional unit that may be comprised of 10,000 or more neurons, plus support cells (see Marrocco in LeDoux and Hirst 1986, and Sawaguchi and Kubota 1986 for reviews of columnar organization). The relationship between sensorial dots (mediated by cortical networks) on the one hand, and the activity of individual receptor cells at the periphery of the nervous system on the other hand is very complex. It involves a topographical transmission of patterned activity into the brain, a regularity of transmission that functions to maintain an adaptive isomorphism of the cognized environment with patterns of stimulation at receptor sites.
A Neurophenomenology of the Dot

I noted earlier that the sensorium is cognitively and perceptually distinguished into sensory modalities. This is the state of affairs in normal consciousness, although modalities may become somewhat confused as in cases of synaesthesia (Marks 1975) where one may "see" a symphony, or "hear" a painting (mediated by cross-modal neural networks; see Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974). There are, however, states of mind attained in mature contemplation during which the entire sensorium is experienced as a single field (bounded or unbounded, finite or infinite) within which the fields of dots of different modalities blend into a single monad (the so-called coincidentia oppositorum). This is an absorption-state (see Fischer, this issue). During this experience consciousness is indistinguishable from the sensorial monad, the sensorial monad indistinguishable from consciousness. Awareness is of totality, undifferentiated phenomena, and perhaps even infinitely extended space in which the unfolding field of energy in the being flows without hindrance -- totality and flow being, in fact, the two major attributes of "higher" states of consciousness in various contemplative traditions (Goleman 1977). In this state of mind the contemplative may direct awareness toward the common essential nature of dots and dot fields, without having to distinguish visual dots from somaesthetic dots, from auditory dots, etc.

As we have seen above, unlike the view of the physical world propounded in atomist theories, dots are seen to be contiguous -- there is no space surrounding dots. This is the "plenum" characteristic of emptiness, or voidness (Skt., sunyata; Tib., stong pa nyid), according to some schools of Mahayana Buddhism. Dots arise (Skt., uppada in Theravadan Buddhism), have a momentary duration (Skt., thiti) and then dissolve (Skt., bhanga; Govinda 1974: 133). They thus have a momentary occurrence (Skt., cittakhana, the so-called "thought moment").

The field of dots is thus continuously being renewed. Although the constituted phenomenal object may endure in awareness, the dots comprising the object do not endure, and in fact may not be held beyond the duration of their momentary occurrence by any act of will whatever. This is the characteristic known in some schools of Mahayana Buddhism as the "pure voidness" of things. Seeing clearly that all phenomena, including phenomena identified with self, are constituted from such insubstantial "stuff" is also one aspect of the anatta (meaning essentially no permanent soul, self or substance) realization in Buddhist phenomenology.

This is not to say that the neural network -- the akasa, or unperceived structure of experience -- comes into existence and passes away with the dot (which is its function and phenomenal correlate). Rather, the intermittency of activity of the network is experienced as the momentary occurrence of the dot. Nor do I wish to leave the impression that every sensorial network is continuously producing dots in consciousness. Far from it, for a network can only produce a dot in the sensorial field if it is entrained to the greater intentional network mediating experience. In all likelihood, most sensorial networks will remain latent, or excluded from consciousness much of the time.
Dots, Drops and Gaze

There is a certain ambiguity in some eastern descriptions of the dot, an ambiguity with interesting neurophenomenological implications. The Sanskrit term bindu (Tib., thig le) refers both to "dot" and to "drop" (see Chang 1963: 125). One reason for this ambiguity is that a "dot" becomes a "drop" during contemplation under certain circumstances. With the application of sufficient concentration upon any visual dot, an interesting phenomenon occurs: a spherical "drop" or "bubble" arises with the topographical position of the initial dot being located at its center. Above a certain intensity of concentration, no visual dot can be attended without the drop arising as well. The experience may become more elaborated to become drops within drops, or circles within circles. The elaboration may continue to a full-blown tunnel experience (see MacDonald et al. 1989 on "portalling" experiences cross-culturally), that in turn may become a doorway leading one into a multiple-reality experience. Thus, bindus are interpreted in Tantric Buddhism as being symbolic of the very essence of mind.7

An explanation of the neurophysiological structure mediating the dot/drop ambiguity appears to be fairly straightforward. Drops are circular images comprised of dots (in the sense we use the term here) topologically related to the central dot by an unseen, but well researched neurognostic organization known as the "receptive field." Cells and networks of cells in various sensory modes are known to exhibit excitatory and inhibitory influences in concentric rings around them (see Barlow and Mollon 1982 for various discussions of receptive fields). I suspect that intensification of concentration upon any dot causes an augmentation of activity in the column mediating the dot, and this augmentation reaches a threshold where its activity is sufficient to produce concentric rings of excitation and inhibition that are experienced as rings, tunnels or spheres. This is one of many examples of the extent to which dots influence each other in hidden ways via entrainments that are themselves not apparent to introspection.

Indeed, one of the things one realizes about dots is that, while they are discrete perceptual events, they do not occur at random. Their appearance "before the mind" is usually related in a wave-like manner. That is, one has the intuitive impression of a wave of dots without being able to perceive the mechanism that determines the wave. This is something like the impression one gets from an old time movie marquee made up of a field of light bulbs that blink on and off to produce an apparent wave of moving text. The wave is an ordering of the temporal relations among dots whose activities are mediated by an unseen, neurognostic structure capable of producing apparent motion in experience. I suspect that this fundamental neurognostic relation has been unconsciously projected into the thinking of modern physics resulting in the perennial wave-particle ambiguity in accounts of quantum events. Waves are an essential feature of the temporal organization of dots in all sensory modes. They unfold across numerous perceptual epochs (see below) and may become involved in the constitution of form and motion at the mundane level of perception.

It is the spontaneous scintillation and irrepressibility of the arising of dots that imposes the fundamental "givenness" of phenomena, both in their dot-ness (Husserl's "primordial givenness") and in their intuited relations ("self-givenness;" Husserl 1931: 194ff). In Husserl's words:

Apprehension of the essence has accordingly its own grades of clearness, just as in the case of the particular [read "dot-ness"] which floats before our gaze. But for every essence, just as for the corresponding phase of its individual counterpart, there exists, so to speak, an absolute nearness, in which its givenness is in respect of this graded series absolute, i.e., pure self-givenness. The objective element does not only meet one's gaze as "itself" in general, and we are not only aware of it as "given," but it confronts us as a self given in its purity, wholly and entirely as it is in itself.

(Husserl 1931: 194)

Thus, fields of dots (the "primordially given") and intuited relations among dots (the "self-given"), two of the essential ingredients of phenomena comprising the cognized environment, have gaze.8 By gaze I mean that they have, as it were, a life of their own. They are somewhat autonomous and actively command the attention of prefrontal intentional structures to which they may appear (to the contemplative at least) in "absolute nearness" and with intense clarity. It is this "givenness" that is the tipoff in phenomenology of an essential neurognostic structure in cognitive neuroscience. The apprehension by the contemplative of both dots and relational waves of activity among dots is tantamount to the brain recognizing and modelling its own essential organization, an organization that normally operates unconsciously to naive perception.

There is now ample evidence that the brain processes the topographical relations among dots in a parallel fashion and in discrete association areas distributed over wide areas of cortex and subcortical tissue (see Barlow and Mollon 1982, LeDoux and Hirst 1986). These relations such as line and edge formation, color contrast, apparent motion, figure-ground, and depth perspective are combined into a unitary perceptual environment, probably by prefrontal intentional processes. It is as apparent to contemplation, as it was to the neo-impressionists, that lines and edges are constituted in consciousness by hue and brightness contrasts among dots and not as solid strokes of color. Lines and edges are intuitively apprehended relations among the dots, and are mediated by the appropriate neurognostic structures that have evolved to produce them.

These relations obtain whether the field of dots is initiated by receptor cells at the periphery (indicating sensations about events external to the being) or by neural networks in the central nervous system (indicating hallucination, or imagination). The same essential dot and relational cortical structures are involved in constituting phenomena in either case. How to treat the difference between a "real" or "imagined" object has been a perennial problem for theories of intentionality in transcendental phenomenology (see e.g., Follesdal 1969: 680). It is largely a false problem from a neurophenomenological point of view, for one realizes that phenomena initiated in either case are finally constituted within the central nervous system utilizing the same neurognostic structures which impress their organization upon experience.

One may even readily understand how relations or "noemata" (read "meaning") may be apprehended without their being "filled in" by dots; i.e., are "empty" (Husserl 1962, Follesdal 1969: 686). One may be conscious of the idea of "line" without a phenomenal line being present to perception. The same may be said about waves or any of the other essential relations one may apprehend among dots. This is possible precisely because the neurocognitive structures mediating those relations may operate independently of those producing the sensorial field of dots. It is the intuitive apprehension of these relations in all their pristine clarity that likely lies behind formal logic, mathematics (Husserl 1969), and geometry (see Beth and Piaget 1966), whether the projection of those intuitions upon formal thought and mathematical symbolization are consciously apprehended or not.
Dots, Perceptual Intermittency and Time Consciousness

A significant feature of the appearance of dots is their intermittency. We have already noted above that dots arise, endure a moment and then dissolve. They can no more be wilfully caused to abide longer than their natural cycle than can the florescent dot composing a television image. They are by nature momentary in duration, and their nature is conditioned by the organization of the neurognostic structure of the cells mediating them.

But, as we have said, dots do not generally arise and dissolve at random. Far from it, for it is apparent to the contemplative that fields of dots arise and pass away in unison. Fields of dots are as intermittent in occurrence as are individual dots. The arising and dissolving of a single field of dots may be termed a sensorial epoch.9 Perceptual epochs arise and dissolve serially much as a run of photographic frames produces a "moving" picture in the cinema. Perceptual frames pulse or flicker through consciousness, as does awareness of them.

This is an important essential feature of perceptual phenomenology, for it is not readily apprehendable to naive introspection. For example, in his otherwise trenchant interpretation of Husserl's phenomenology of perception and time consciousness, Izchak Miller argues against the thesis of perceptual intermittency. In so doing he makes the revealing statement:

The evidence [for intermittency] is supposed to be reflective observation, provided that we concentrate hard enough. I must confess that my reflection did not reveal the "coming into being" of my stream of consciouness of a long sound of a constant pitch to proceed seriation like the tick-tocks of a clock, and I do not believe that my failure merely reflects the shortcoming of my power of concentration.

(1984: 167-168, emphasis added)

On the contrary, I suspect Miller's failure to detect the pulsing intermittency of his perception does reflect the level of concentration he was able to apply to the problem. It is one thing to critically philosophize about time, it is quite another to perform the reduction requisite to the direct intuition of perceptual dots and temporal intermittency. Contemplation is a skill and one that requires training. Again, one should ask, why go to the trouble of performing any phenomenological reduction at all if every essence is immediately apprehendable to casual introspection? Perceptual intermittency is generally not apprehended until perception of form (i.e., "car," "sound of constant pitch," "taste of sole almandine") has been reduced so that concentration is solely upon the essential ingredients of perceptual acts.

When the contemplative becomes fully aware of perceptual epochs and can apprehend the arising and dissolving of them as they occur, then he may be said to have performed the reduction to the real, ongoing "now" (in Buddhist terms, the cittakhana) as opposed to the "now" of mundane perception (the "serial now," or khanapaccupana). The latter, tainted as it is with the "natural attitude," is a cognitive concatenation of perceptual epochs with memory and anticipation -- or more imprecisely, the past, present and future (see Husserl 1964: 62; also see relevant discussion by Lockwood 1989:261-293).

This is also well known among western phenomenologists. Ricoeur (1984) notes that this view was a cornerstone of Augustine's philosophy of time. Likewise, Husserl (1964: 48ff; see also Landgrebe 1981: 59, Miller 1984: 85) saw the "primal impressional datum" of perception as being a synthesis of recently past acts of perception ("retention"), of the streaming present ("now points") and of the anticipated future ("protention"):

...the continuity of running-off of an enduring Object is a continuum whose phases are the continua of the modes of running-off of the different temporal points of the duration of the Object. ...Since a new now is always presenting itself, each now is changed into a past, and thus the entire continuity of the running-off of the pasts of the preceding points moves uniformly "downward" into the depths of the past. ...Every primordially constitutive process is animated by protentions which voidly constitute and intercept what is coming, as such, in order to bring it to fulfilment.

(Husserl 1964: 49-50, 76)

The relations among memories of patterns abstracted from recently past epochs, the "now" or current epoch, and anticipated soon-to-arise epochs are, as Husserl (ibid: 81) noted, "primordial" -- that is, fundamental to the neurognostic organization mediating perceptual acts. These are cognitions that entrain with the sensorial structures mediating the fields of dots to produce enduring objects and the continuity of events.

The temporal organization of experience is a complex matter, however, and involves areas of the brain in addition to those mediating perceptual epochs. The role of prefrontal cortical intentional processes in selecting, exciting and ordering sensorial activity into a temporally meaningful plan has been discussed elsewhere (Laughlin 1986b; see also Pribram 1971). I have suggested that phenomenal experience is constituted within the dialogue between prefrontal cortically imposed order ("intentional meaning") and sensorially imposed order ("perceptual meaning").

Part of the dialogue between prefrontal and sensorial structures seems to involve septal-hypocampal centers in the midbrain. Orbitofrontal projections from prefrontal cortex richly innervate the hypocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal projections enter the lateral septal area (see Gray 1982: 65ff). These areas are also connected to secondary sensory areas and seem to receive sensory information that is already abstracted from the initial processing in primary sensory cortex. That is, in the phenomenological sense, the sensory information arriving at septal-hypocampal sites appear to be "noematic" abstractions from the "primordial filling" of primary sensory cortex, that "filling" already being a rudimentary abstraction of events in the operational environment.

It was once thought that the hypocampus was a memory storage center. It is now suspected that the septal-hypocampal system does not store memories, but is an area that anticipates what will be found in the next sensory epochs and attempts to match what does arise to that which is predicted from memory constituted elsewhere (perhaps in the temporal lobe) in the brain. It is, in Husserlian terms, an area (perhaps the area) of the brain specialized to concatenate recent "retention" (abstracted knowledge of past epoches), the stream of "now points" (currently arising and dissolving epochs) and future "protentions" (anticipated future form of epochs). EEG recordings from sites in both prefrontal cortex and hypocampus indicate significant slow wave negative activity relative to attention to sensory events. Prefrontal theta seems to be associated with concentration upon sensory objects, and slow wave, low amplitude prefrontal waves (so-called "contingent negative variation," or CNV) with anticipation of delayed events (see Fuster 1980: 96, Stuss and Benson 1986: 70). Hypocampal theta seems to be an artifact of a general pacemaker function (see Gray 1982). The relations among these various slow wave forms and perceptual epochs is not known, but they almost certainly involve the temporal organization of cognitive and perceptual functions.
Perceptual Intermittency and Alpha Rhythms

Hidden to naive perception is the intermittency of "fulfilling" dot fields that arise and dissolve in epochs and that blend with other cognitive functions to co-produce the "natural attitude" present. For mundane (pre-reduction) consciousness, intentional and perceptual ordering are perpetually focused upon secondary and tertiary abstract relations (Husserl's "noematic acts"), rather than upon the fields of dots that arise and dissolve in "primordial fulfilment" of those relations. Yet, dots and epochs are actual and are available in every moment of phenomenal consciousness for the trained contemplative to apprehend. That Husserl realized the perceptual epoch ("now point") as essential in experience and not merely an idealist abstraction is clear from comments he made in both his The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness (1964: 48, 57, 60, 62) and as recorded in Cairns (1976: 17).

There exists an important literature in the neurosciences relevant to our discussion of sensorial epochs. This research is ongoing and there remains a good deal of controversy on findings and interpretations in this field. Nonetheless, this research is suggestive of the neurophysiological substrate of perceptual epochs -- epochs being variously termed in this literature "perceptual moments," "temporal frames," "excitability cycles," "central intermittency," and "perceptual frames" (see e.g. Varela et al. 1981). There is substantial evidence for some sort of central temporal processing based upon a minute perceptual unit within which temporal discriminations cannot be made (see Sanford 1971, Harter 1967, Steriade and Deschenes 1985, Efron 1970 and Childers and Perry 1971 for relevant reviews). Stimuli of different durations which are phase-locked to cortical rhythms and presented within an epoch will be perceived as simultaneous, whereas stimuli presented across epochs will be perceived as sequential (Varela et al. 1981), or in apparent motion (Ramachandran and Anstis 1986). The duration of an epoch seems to average around 100 msec (1/10 of a second) and is more or less equivalent to the wavelength of the EEG cortical alpha rhythm (Childers and Perry 1971).

The extent to which cortical EEG reflects the precise phasing of local sensorial events remains uncertain. Evidence reported by Gho and Varela (n.d.) suggests a more complex relationship between epochs at the local sensorial level and global measures of cortical EEG of the sort reported above than previously thought. Nevertheless, perceptual epochs would still seem to exist and last roughly 100 msec, thus producing a basic unit of perceptual time within which temporal discriminations cannot be made.

The arising and dissolving of fields of dots occurring within a single epoch thus provide spatial extension without temporal seriation. This is, for the contemplative, the experientially pure form of Whitehead's (1978) "mode of simultaneity." Essential temporal relations which participate in constituting enduring objects and events -- relations such as the waves and drops discussed earlier -- are mediated by neural entrainments established across multiple epochs.10 This is the experientially pure form of Whitehead's "mode of causal efficacy." The function of the sensorial epoch may prove to be one of synchronizing parallel processes involved in constituting a phenomenologically unitive experience. This suggestion would be in accord with the so-called "excitability cycle hypothesis" (see Harter 1967) which posits epochs of sensory delivery into consciousness. This is the hypothesis best supported by the neuropsychological data so far.

Contemplation also supports this hypothesis, for the direct experience of sensorial epochs is of pulsing intermittency in the arising and dissolving of fields of dots. Cognitions pertaining to apparent motion involve tracking changes in spatial relations between epochs. Mind you, the activity of dots within an epoch is vivid and dynamic. There is activity within the epoch, but no temporal attributions obtain within it. Temporal attributions are imposed by cognitive abstraction upon relations detected between epochs. Direct experience also argues for caution in presuming that the activity of dots, and the sensorial structures mediating dots, are necessarily time-locked to stimuli. There is a great deal of spontaneous dot production in the sensorium apparent to direct perception and due no doubt to the fact that the structures mediating them are organizations of living cells that may, and often do produce intrinsically initiated activity. I suggest that direct contemplation supports Pinneo's (1966) distinction between the "phasic" (time-locked to extraneous stimuli) and "tonic" (intrinsically initiated) activity of sensorial structures.

Relevance to the Anthropological Study of Consciousness

There are at least three considerations that have led us to conclude that a neurophenomenology of consciousness is important to anthropology. First, anthropology has evidenced an increasing interest in a broader range of human experiences, especially in the role played by extraordinary and transpersonal experiences in producing world views (see Turner this issue; also see Winkelman 1992, Turner and Bruner 1986, de Rios 1984, Peters and Price-Williams 1980, Grindal 1983, Young and Goulet n.d.). Moreover, some ethnographers seem to be leaving themselves open to active involvement in native procedures which may lead to alternative states of consciousness (e.g., Katz 1982, Laderman 1991).

These experiences require interpretation and perhaps explanation within some kind of theoretical frame. It is thus methodologically critical for the ethnographer to understand that, although the practice of phenomenology often leads to extraordinary experiences, participant in native procedures that lead to extraordinary experiences does not necessarily lead to competence in phenomenology. One may have all kinds of extraordinary experiences without those experiences resulting in either the skill or understanding that comes with a disciplined exploration of one's own consciousness. Training as a phenomenologist may prepare the fieldworker to critically evaluate extraordinary experiences that arise in the field within a framework that may be independent of the native interpretation of those experiences (see Young and Goulet n.d. for a discussion of this issue).

Second, an appreciation of the universal principles of consciousness acts as a check against excessive cultural relativism. The neurophenomenologically prepared ethnographer is able to interpret cross-cultural variations within the context of universal structural principles. For example, if my account of the structure of internal time consciousness is accurate, then we would expect the perception of time in all peoples to be fundamentally the same, although the interpretation and expression of temporal relations may vary across societies according to temporal enculturation. We would also be sceptical of ethnographic accounts that claim that people do not experience the flow of time the way we do, that deny all tensing in languages, or that claim that some peoples have no notion of past, present or future. What I am suggesting here about time consciousness is similar to what Hamill (1990) has empirically demonstrated for patterns of logic cross-culturally, namely that ethnology should acknowledge that cultural variation is developed by the same brainmind, and the same complement of neurognostic structures.

And if my account of dots is correct, then it may lead to a better understanding of a variety of symbolic themes cross-culturally that involve part-to-whole relations. For example, understanding that the perception of all people is produced as a field of dots might shed light on such diverse practices as the Tibetan "mandala offering" where the practitioner constructs a mandala our of rice grains on a mirror and then wipes it off, and the elaborate mandalas constructed by Navajo healers from ground rock of different colors (the so-called sand paintings), and that are wiped away after their use.

Finally, a neurophenomenology, as with other types of phenomenology, can help to clarify what ethnologists mean by "consciousness." Definitions of the concept can become grounded in the direct study of the factors and principles of consciousness, rather than being an uncritical outgrowth of ideology and world view (as Baruss discusses elsewhere in this issue). Moreover, a more sophisticated understanding of our own consciousness can act as a remedy to simplistic, ego-psychology views of consciousness that have the effect of exaggerating the differences between our consciousness and that of the native, particularly where non-Euroamerican systems of inhanced self-awareness are concerned.


1. I wish to thank Allan Moffit, Jon Shearer, Brody Shearer, Lois and Gerard Chetelat, Francisco Varela, Roland Fischer and Judy Young for providing me with information used in this study. They are not to be blamed for my excesses and errors in view.

2. Biogenetic structuralism (Laughlin and d'Aquili 1974, d'Aquili, Laughlin and McManus 1979, Rubinstein, Laughlin and McManus 1984, Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990) is an interdisciplinary approach to the anthropology of consciousness. It is grounded in evolutionary biology and the neurosciences. We have tried wherever possible to integrate data derived from direct experience (i.e., phenomenology), observation of behavior and observation of neurophysiological processes. Biogenetic structural analyses have centered particularly on the symbolic function and its relations to experience (Laughlin, McManus and Stephens 1981, Laughlin et al. 1986, Laughlin and Stephens 1980), especially religious and mystical experience (Laughlin, McManus and Shearer 1984, Laughlin, McManus and Webber 1985, MacDonald, Cove, Laughlin and McManus 1989).

3. We borrowed the terms cognized and operational environments from Rappaport (1968), but have considerably altered and expanded their meanings in a variety of works (see d'Aquili et al. 1979), Laughlin and Brady 1978: Chapter 1, Laughlin, McManus and Webber 1985, Rubinstein, Laughlin and McManus 1984: 21, Laughlin, McManus and d'Aquili 1990:82, and Laughlin et al. 1986).

4. Technically speaking, a mature contemplative is a meditator who has realized at least stage four, but has not necessarily realized stage twelve of the insight practice known in Buddhist psychology as the Satipatthana path of meditation (see Buddhaghosa 1976: Volume II; Mahasi Sayadaw 1978). This is roughly equivalent to the level of development of Brown and Engler's (1980: 160) "insight group" or above. In the Tibetan mahamudra tradition (Wang-ch'ug Dorje 1978) this is roughly equivalent to the stage of "signless concentration" or above (Brown 1977: 256). At this level "the yogi sees subtle cognition in 'fore-clarity' [gsal-ngar] that is as a stage before it is built up into higher cognitive events. Adjectives such as clarity, brightness, and clear light are commonly used; the mind is seen in terms of light rays" (Brown 1977: 256-257). In a western philosophical mode, the mature contemplative is one who has developed the discipline Husserl (1977) termed the "phenomenological reduction," the "bracketing" of the question of the existence or non-existence of, and contemplation of the essential features of, phenomena. The contemplative is able to enter the state of "transcendental subjectivity" in which he may study the nature of the "pure ego," the insubstantial subject for whom the phenomenal world is constituted.

5. "Facts" are propositions about observations that are performed from a certain point of view (or "horizon") which is informed from a phenomenologically uncritical "natural attitude." Facts are relative to point of view and are thus open to dispute. They are not apprehended from the "pure awareness" of the phenomenological attitude (see Husserl 1931: 61ff).

6. Emptiness in Husserlian phenomenology does not have the same scope of meaning as emptiness in the Buddhist sense. Husserl means by emptiness that a noemata (a meaning) is empty until "filled in" by primordial impression (see Follesdall 1969: 686) -- that is, by dots. Buddhist psychology holds that even primordial impressions are "empty" of any permanent substance or soul.

7. There reaches a stage in the maturation of a contemplative when bindu in the "drop" sense arises to the mind's eye and remains present to visual awareness whenever sought. The perpetual availability of this drop-like image is naturally symbolic (is a patibhaga nimitta, or "secret sign;" see Laughlin, McManus and Webber 1985) of reaching a stage of unified awareness, and there are warnings in various tantric texts about "losing the drop;" i.e., of losing that level of concentrated awareness in spiritual development.

8. I wish to explicitly dissociate my use of "gaze" from the Lacanian use of that term.

9. My use of the word "epoch" here should not be confused with Husserl's use of the term "epoche" as more or less synonymous with the reduction.

10. Maintenance of patterns of entrainment across epochs would, when they become apparent to contemplative awareness, constitute the finest, most subtle grade of what we have elsewhere called "phases" and "warps" of consciousness (Laughlin et al. 1986).

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