Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript - The Book That Can’t Be Read

This 2011 documentary on the mysterious "Voynich Manuscript," named for its discoverer, Wilfrid Voynic, who found it in a trunk owned by Athanasius Kircher, one of the most famous scholars of the 17th century. The book had come to Kircher through Johannes Marcus Marci in the hope of Kircher being able to decipher it.
Much of the manuscript resembles herbal manuscripts of the 1500s, seeming to present illustrations and information about plants and their possible uses for medical purposes. However, most of the plants do not match known species, and the manuscript's script and language remain unknown. Possibly some form of encrypted ciphertext, the Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II. It has defied all decipherment attempts, becoming a famous case of historical cryptology. The mystery surrounding it has excited the popular imagination, making the manuscript a subject of both fanciful theories and novels. None of the many speculative solutions proposed over the last hundred years has yet been independently verified.[4]
The documentary comes from National Geographic, so it's not as cheesy as some of the stuff the Discovery Channel runs these days. Be sure to check out the Wikipedia entry as well.

The Book That Can’t Be Read (2011)

The Book That Can't Be Read
Men have always tried to encode secrets, military communication, love letters, forbidden knowledge, and most secret text is eventually decoded, but among all of history’s cryptic writings one stands out. It’s the world’s most mysterious book written by an unknown author in an odd alphabet and brilliantly illustrated with puzzling images. For centuries, it defies all attempts to unveil its secrets. Now, for the first time, experts analyze the ink, pigments and parchments of the Voynich Manuscript.

What secrets are hidden between these lines? Who wrote them and why? At the headquarters of the US Military Intelligence Service, experts succeeded in decoding Japan’s so called Purple Code. William Frederick Friedman, the service’s Director is one of the world’s best cryptographers. For practice between jobs, Friedman and his team decode ancient cryptic texts. One by one, the codes are cracked, but one book, The Voynich Manuscript, stubbornly defies all attempts to decode it. Unnerved, the cryptographers give up. It’s the only code they’re unable to crack.

The roughly 200-page manuscript, with its strange symbols has been a mystery for decades. At the beginning of the 20th century, an antiques dealer from New York visits Villa Mondragone near Rome looking for precious books. His name is Wilfrid Voynich. Villa Mondragone is home to many historical texts from a Jesuit school. Wilfrid Voynich is allowed to inspect a trunk that comes from the estate of Athanasius Kircher, one of the most famous scholars of the 17th century.

Among various manuscripts, the trunk contains an unusual book. Voynich buys the manuscript, and for the rest of his life tries to decipher it. He dies without even coming close to a solution. After Voynich’s death, the manuscript ends up at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale. The library possesses a wealth of literary gems, but probably none as famous as the Voynich Manuscript. Rene Zandbergen is one of the leading experts on the Voynich Manuscript and has been working on it for years.

When Rene first saw an image of the page of the Voynich Manuscript, he immediately had the feeling this is something he can decipher, this is something he can read, but as the years went by, this turned out to be wrong, so he couldn’t read it like so many other people before him.

Watch the full documentary now - 46 min

Rice Protein as Good as Whey Protein for Exercise Recovery and Improving Body Composition

For a couple of decades now, the "experts" have maintained that animal proteins are superior to plant-based proteins. More specifically, whey protein has been considered the premier source of protein supplementation for athletes and weight lifters (or sometimes egg protein).

However, a new study shows that rice protein is just as good as whey protein for exercise recovery and generating changes in body composition. This is great news for vegetarians and vegans who want to be sure they get adequate protein.

Full Citation:
Joy, JM, Lowery, RP, Wilson, JM, Purpura, M, De Souza, EO, Wilson, SMC, Kalman, DS, Dudeck, JE, Jäger, R. (2013, Jun 20). The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performanceNutrition Journal, 12:86 doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-12-86

The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance

Jordan M Joy, Ryan P Lowery, Jacob M Wilson, Martin Purpura, Eduardo O De Souza, Stephanie MC Wilson, Douglas S Kalman, Joshua E Dudeck, Ralf Jäger


Consumption of moderate amounts of animal-derived protein has been shown to differently influence skeletal muscle hypertrophy during resistance training when compared with nitrogenous and isoenergetic amounts of plant-based protein administered in small to moderate doses. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to determine if the post-exercise consumption of rice protein isolate could increase recovery and elicit adequate changes in body composition compared to equally dosed whey protein isolate if given in large, isocaloric doses.


24 college-aged, resistance trained males were recruited for this study. Subjects were randomly and equally divided into two groups, either consuming 48 g of rice or whey protein isolate (isocaloric and isonitrogenous) on training days. Subjects trained 3 days per week for 8 weeks as a part of a daily undulating periodized resistance-training program. The rice and whey protein supplements were consumed immediately following exercise. Ratings of perceived recovery, soreness, and readiness to train were recorded prior to and following the first training session. Ultrasonography determined muscle thickness, dual emission x-ray absorptiometry determined body composition, and bench press and leg press for upper and lower body strength were recorded during weeks 0, 4, and 8. An ANOVA model was used to measure group, time, and group by time interactions. If any main effects were observed, a Tukey post-hoc was employed to locate where differences occurred.


No detectable differences were present in psychometric scores of perceived recovery, soreness, or readiness to train (p > 0.05). Significant time effects were observed in which lean body mass, muscle mass, strength and power all increased and fat mass decreased; however, no condition by time interactions were observed (p > 0.05).


Both whey and rice protein isolate administration post resistance exercise improved indices of body composition and exercise performance; however, there were no differences between the two groups.
The article is open access - read it here.

Controversial Spiritual Teacher Andrew Cohen Stepping Down from Role as Guru and Leader of EnlightenNext

Where the title reads "controversial spiritual teacher," please read abusive guru, the designation he has had on this blog for as long as I have been following the integral community and its assortment of associated male perpetrators. Andrew Cohen has been one of the most overt abusers through his use of authoritarian control over followers, much of which is documented on the blog What Enlightenment??! and EnlightenNixt, the compendium/companion site where many of the older posts are archived.

See also William Yenner's American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out and Luna Tarlo's The Mother of God (Tarlo is Cohen's mother, a former follower, and a cogent observer of Cohen's controlling and manipulative tactics).

There has been growing issues around Cohen and his EnlightenNext organization over the past several years.

A few years ago (2010), they put up for sale their Fox Hollow compound in the Berkshires (MA). Although they maintained that the sale was in response to a more international presence of the organization, there were rumors floating around the Web that they had fewer devoted students, which meant less money coming in.

In 2011, EnlightenNext (the magazine formerly known as What Is Enlightenment?) ended its publication run of over 19 years and 47 issues, due to the "widespread financial challenges of the print industry."

Both of these events seem more serious in retrospect than they did at the time. According to information posted yesterday at What Enlightenment??!,
Sources close to EnlightenNext have since told us that criticism of Cohen began in the upper echelons over four years ago. Sometime over a year ago, some of these senior students were ordered by Cohen to meet together in London, apparently to attempt to purge themselves of their rebelliousness. Instead, at their meetings their questioning of Cohen’s authoritarian style of leadership deepened. They eventually stopped sending Cohen notes of their meetings, as expected and required. Soon they were joined in their dissent by other EnlightenNext leadership. A united front formed. As if this were not shocking enough, we heard that things had recently come to a head in a meeting between senior students and Cohen in Europe. A line was drawn in the sand, it was said. Not being satisfied with Cohen's response, a number of leaders left the community. Many other members followed suit.
And of course, Cohen's PR team is trying to spin the defections - and the fact that Cohen is steping away from his role as Guru and as leader of EnlightenNext - as simply the next progression of the organization's evolution.
EnlightenNext appears to be attempting to explain the changes as part of a natural evolution away from the authoritarian-mythic “blue meme” guru model, using terminology originated by Don Beck and Chris Cowan in their Spiral Dynamics model of human development, a model which has been widely adopted by Integral Theory teachers and thinkers, such as Ken Wilber. The PR Plan also identifies the need to address “Founder’s Syndrome,” a situation where the founder of an organization impedes its development. These theoretical explanations, with no mention of the harm Cohen and his organization have done to students and with no inkling of empathy for the suffering those students endured, make one wonder whether EnlightenNext’s culture of authoritarianism and abuse will really change. 
And what to make of the silence of those in the leadership who reportedly parted from Cohen? Although supposedly disaffected with Cohen, Jeff Careirra taught an on-line EnlightenNext program as recently as last weekend. Carter Phipps, who has been living in the Bay Area of California for almost a year, promoting his book “Evolutionaries” and participating in Integral community-related activities, has not publicly disclosed his split from Cohen or his future plans. Other students and EnlightenNext leaders have publicly remained similarly silent.
If you doubt the people around Cohen are well-trained in manipulated their public message, the good folks at What Enlightenment??! posted the PR plan being implemented around the coup d'etat led by Cohen's senior students.

It makes for interesting reading: 
From: Rosalind Bennett <>
Date: June 15, 2013, 7:09:43 PM EDT
To: Rosalind Bennett <>
Subject: PR & Communications plan for Andrew

Hello there, 
I just sent out the email below to the current Core students (Defining, Resolute and Committed Core) and also wanted you all to hear about our PR communications plan for Andrew. I'm sending this to everyone who I know is involved in the current programs and who I've personally spoken to, please feel free to forward this email on to others involved who would like to hear the messaging going forward. 
Thanks so much, 
Dear All, 
I wanted to let you know the PR communications plan for Andrew that will roll out in the next few weeks. 
As most of you know Joel Pitney and I are responsible for Andrew's PR and media platform and we have been working on a message to the broader public regarding the situation we are in the midst of with Andrew, and all the subsequent changes. 
Many of you have contacted us sharing your urgency around making a public statement, and we thank you all for your input! We have taken everything you have said into consideration and come up with a plan that we are very happy with. 
Before I go any further I want to point out that while we're working very closely with Mary, Aterah, Morgan and the Education Department in our communications, what Joel and I are specifically responsible for (and what we've outlined in this email) has to do with communications from the Andrew Stream (to the broader public, Andrew's personal relationships, etc), and not the communications for the education programs and long retreats. 
We felt it was imperative to get an "outside perspective" on our PR communications as, being close students of Andrew in this emotionally charged situation, it's very difficult to envision the right message for the public at large. Our primary consultant has been our PR advisor Nate Winstanley. Nate is not only an excellent PR consultant, but he also trained in crisis management. He has been working with us for the last several years, and is fully appraised of Andrew's history, the history of EnlightenNext, and the current situation. Given his experience and his friendship with Andrew, we feel that he is the perfect person to help us with this messaging now, and his input has been invaluable. 
Nate has helped us to see that the most important point to consider in relationship to our PR strategy is that there is a tremendous difference between communicating to our "internal" audience of past and present students, and our "external" audience of people who follow Andrew's work, but are not part of any formal structures or communities (see a breakdown/description of our audiences at the end of this email). Nate also stressed how important it is that our public messaging be appropriate to our external audience, and that this should not be expected to address the issues that pertain to our "internal" audience of past and present students. 
He made it very clear that from an outside perspective, what is currently happening represents an evolution of both our organization/movement and Andrew's work. The fact that Andrew is acknowledging his mistakes, has stepped down from his role as Guru, and will be stepping down as head of the organization, is a reflection of the fact that our movement is changing and growing, and that Andrew is taking the necessary time off to reflect, respond, and take the next step in his own development. 
For the internal group of past and present students, Andrew must find a different and appropriate way to make peace; and, as most of you know, this internal process has already begun. He has already stepped down from his Guru role, which is on hiatus until spring 2014, and he is in the midst of responding appropriately to many past and present students. 
Another very important distinction in our messaging that Nate helped us to understand has to do with how to announce Andrew's "sabbatical." He clarified that to frame the time that Andrew will be taking to reflect and respond as a sabbatical is not accurate. Given that Andrew will be doing a minimum of teaching work during this period, (the retreats and French forum) and that our many programs and content streams will continue in some form, from an outside perspective calling this time period a "sabbatical" would be confusing. Instead he suggested we emphasize in our public messaging that Andrew is stepping down from leadership, both within the organization and the spiritual community, and will be taking time to reflect and respond. 
So in our public statements, which will launch on Andrew's blog on June 28th (see Blog Themes below for more detail), we will announce that Andrew is "stepping down from leadership" rather than "taking a sabbatical." We feel that this is also more authentic as to what is actually happening, so please consider this in your own communications. 
Our public messaging will center around a series of blog posts which will be published on all of the sites where Andrew writes (BigThink, HuffPo, etc) in addition to They will be on two themes outlined below. The first blog will also be accompanied by an email to our list announcing Andrew's decision to step down from leadership and offer some description of how the EnlightenNext programs will be continuing forward: 
Confronting Founder's Syndrome: In this initial post, Andrew lays out what is happening for him right now in the context of "Founder's Syndrome," which is a common phase that organizations go through when due to a lack of willingness to give up control its visionary Founder gets in the way of the further evolution of the organization. He'll announce in this post that to address this situation, he's stepping down from leadership of both the organization and the spiritual community, and will radically reduce his teaching engagements to take time to reflect and respond. 
The Death of A Mythic Guru: In this second post (which may end up in multiple parts), Andrew will speak about his own development as a Guru and how he created a "mythic" Guru model within the postmodern world, outlining the negative and positive consequences of that. He'll talk about how difficult it has been for him to recognize the mythic structures within himself, and how he's going to now take the time necessary to develop both himself and the teachings. 
Below is a list of the various communications that will go out to our different audiences over the next month:
  • Today: Overview of communications strategy/plan to the Defining, Resolute, Committed, and Past students (this email!)
Next few weeks: Series of calls/emails to various donors.

  • 6/28: Blog #1 on Founder's Syndrome will go up on BigThink

  • 6/28: Accompanying the blog will be an email to our email list announcing that Andrew is stepping down from leadership and giving a brief overview of what kinds of offerings they will continue to get from both Andrew and EnlightenNext.

  • 7/6: Guru & Pandit Virtual Broadcast on the theme of The Death of A Mythic Guru

  • 7/12: Blog #2 on The Death of A Mythic Guru goes up on BigThink

Thank you all for taking the time to read this. I apologize for the length of this email, but we felt it was important that we keep everyone informed as much as we can during this challenging period of our lives.

Also, when we have an approved plan of how Andrew's business line will be going forward, I'll send out another email. 
Best wishes all,
Ros & Joel 

Below is a description of the various audiences that we're reaching out to and an overview of the basic messaging strategy for each: 

Past and Present Students:
 Includes all Defining, Resolute, and Committed Core students and people who have been close students in the past. We are the people who are the most affected by what is happening and have the most investment in the whole situation and subsequent changes. These communications have several dimensions: First and foremost, Andrew is following up personally with people, both current and past students. Second, we as his communications team want to keep everyone abreast of our overall communications, so that everyone knows why we're saying what we're saying.

This audience has a significant overlap with past and present students. Since they have all committed financial support to Andrew and EnlightenNext, it is important for us to communicate how the current situation will affect Andrew's and the organization's short and long-term future, and the financial implications of this. We will be reaching out to communicate directly with our current donors within the next few weeks.

Blog Readers:
 This is our broadest audience and consists of people who engage with Andrew's content on a wide variety of external platforms (BigThink, Speaking Tree, HuffPost, etc). This audience is least familiar with Andrew and sees him more as a spiritual thought leader and less as a Guru with a community of students. This audience is the least interested in hearing about the details of our current situation, and our plan to communicate with them is through a series of blogs in which Andrew will speak about the current situation in more of a philosophical/cultural context (outlined in the Blog Themes section).

Email List:
 This is a group of about 35K people (~12K of which are very active) who receive consistent communications from us about new content, events, and products. This audience is a mix of people, but generally has more familiarity with Andrew's role as a teacher and also leader of our organization. Our primary communications to them will draw upon themes in Andrew's blog, but speak specifically about how we as an organization plan to respond to this situation and how that will affect the content and programs that they are used to hearing about.

Integral/Evolutionary Community: 
This is the segment of our public audience that is most familiar with the deeper dimensions of Andrew's work as a Guru and spiritual innovator. This audience has been following Andrew's work through the magazine, through the Guru & Pandit dialogues, and through other platforms like Craig Hamilton's, and is more familiar with the spiritual and philosophical stands that Andrew has taken in the post-traditional spiritual world. Our plan for this audience is for Andrew to use some of the remaining Guru & Pandit Virtual dialogues with Ken this year to explore some of the "Mythic-to-Post-Mythic-Guru" themes that are at the heart of the current situation.

Rosalind Bennett

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mind the Brain Podcast Episode 01 – The Neuroscience of Art, Beauty, and Aesthetics

This is the first podcast in a new series from PLOS ONE, Mind the Brain.

About Mind the Brain
Linking neuroscience research, psychological disorders, health and well-being. The Mind the Brainteam follows. Click for full bios.

Mind the Brain Podcast Episode 01 – The Neuroscience of Art, Beauty, and Aesthetics

By Ruchir Shah
Posted: May 16, 2013

Hello readers, my name is Ruchir Shah, and I am the newest contributor to the Mind the Brain blog. I am a neuroscientist by training, but have a passion for story telling as well. I will be contributing a regular neuroscience podcast series to this blog, and I want to thank my fellow Mind the Brain bloggers for the opportunity to present my work. I’m delighted to be joining this excellent group of scientists!

For my first podcast in this series, I talk to Bevil Conway, who is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Wellesley College. Bevil has studied visual art as well as the mechanisms of visual perception, and has an active interest in the intersection between those two disciplines.In this podcast, we discuss the nascent field of “Neuroaesthetics”, and whether neuroscience can actually help us understand our experiences of beauty and aesthetics.

The term “aesthetics” means different things to different people, and from a neuroscience perspective it can involve sensory perception, emotional processing, attention, decision-making, and reward. We discuss how philosophers and neuroscientists have attempted to define this concept, and what we currently do and do not know about the neural basis for experiencing beauty. We then dive into a neuroscientific analysis of artwork, and whether we can glean any universal principles of aesthetics from such an approach. Finally, we discuss some fascinating case studies of how specific brain diseases or lesions can actually enhance art production, and what this might mean for how we perceive and experience beauty.

You can listen to and download the podcast here.

I hope you enjoy, and if you’re interested in learning more, you can read more of Bevil’s work on neuroaesthetics here, here, and here.

This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Mu-Ming Poo, Ph.D. - Neural Plasticity: From Synapse to Perception

This is a video from the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series.

Neuroplasticity is one of the hot topics in neuroscience, with new discoveries being published all of the time - in fact, there is a whole journal devoted to the topic. Here is a little background on neural plasticity from Wikipedia:
Neuroplasticity (from neural - pertaining to the nerves and/or brain and plastic - moldable or changeable in structure), also known as brain plasticity, refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses which are due to changes in behavior, environment and neural processes, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how - and in which ways - the brain changes throughout life.[2] 
Neuroplasticity occurs on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes due to learning, to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to injury. The role of neuroplasticity is widely recognized in healthy development, learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage. During most of the 20th century, the consensus among neuroscientists was that brain structure is relatively immutable after a critical period during early childhood. This belief has been challenged by findings revealing that many aspects of the brain remain plastic even into adulthood.[3]  
Decades of research[6] have now shown that substantial changes occur in the lowest neocortical processing areas, and that these changes can profoundly alter the pattern of neuronal activation in response to experience. Neuroscientific research indicates that experience can actually change both the brain's physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology). Neuroscientists are currently engaged in a reconciliation of critical period studies demonstrating the immutability of the brain after development with the more recent research showing how the brain can, and does, change.[7]
This presentation is for professionals, but it's good.

Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series

The cognitive functions of the brain, such as learning and memory, depend on the ability of neural circuits to change their properties of signal processing after the organism has used the circuits. Many of these use-dependent changes (“plasticity”) occur at synapses where signals are transmitted between neurons. Depending on the pattern of neuronal activities, repetitive synaptic transmission could cause long-term potentiation (LTP) or long-term depression (LTD) of the synapse in its efficacy for future transmission. Dr. Poo will summarize his studies on how the timing of neuronal activities spikes in the pre- and post-synaptic neurons and if it determines whether a synapse undergoes LTP or LTD. This phenomenon is known as Spike Timing-Dependent Plasticity (STDP); STDP may provide the mechanism for coding and storing the information on the temporal sequence and interval of sensory signals, two key elements of episodic memory. He will also discuss how neural plasticity shapes the development of neural circuits and offers the potential for functional recovery from injuries and diseases of the adult brain. Finally, to show that higher cognitive functions, such as self-awareness, may originate from experience-dependent neural plasticity, he will present preliminary findings showing that mirror self-recognition, a cognitive function known to be limited only to humans and great apes, could be acquired by rhesus monkeys following training for visual-somatosensory association. 
Author: Mu-Ming Poo, Ph.D., Paul Licht Distinguished Professor in Biology, University of California, Berkeley; Director, Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shanghai 
Runtime: 01:09:22
Download: Download Video

Eric Utne - Have You Given Up?

Utne Reader ran a survey targeted at Boomers back in 1986, asking them if they had given up the ideals of the 1960s and 1970s. Now, 37 years later they are the same questions . . . and some new ones, as well.

If you are willing, take a few minutes to fill out the survey - the link is in the article.

Have You Given Up?

by Eric Utne

“Have you given up?” That’s the question we asked Utne Reader readers almost 30 years ago. The question assumed that Utne Reader readers had lived through and perhaps participated in one or more of the '60s and '70s movements for change: civil rights, anti-war, women’s rights, environmental protection, natural foods, gay rights, and anti-nuke, among others. We wanted to know if the readers still cared about what was going on in the world, whether they believed they could make a difference, and to what extent they acted on their concerns.

With the help of Jay Ogilvy at Stanford Research Institute and Brad Edmondson at American Demographics magazine, we designed the survey to be easy to take and evocative. It’s also highly scientific and statistically rigorous—not. We ran the survey in the Oct./Nov. 1986 issue, and reported the results in an article titled “Boom with a View,” in the May/June 1987 issue.

The results were fascinating. We found that the Utne Reader survey respondents were highly educated, well heeled, and very active on behalf of the issues they cared about. For the most part, their idealism was intact, and they still acted on their ideals. But the readers were skeptical, if not downright cynical, about traditional party politics. And their most burning issues had become more focused, and more local. Some other findings were quite surprising, but we’ll save those for later.

So ... here we are again. We’d like to hear from you. Were you an egalitarian activist on the barricades? A frat house couch potato? A Peace Corps volunteer? A stay-at-home parent? A secret operative changing the system from the inside? Did you march in Selma in the ’60s, or serve with the Special Forces in Vietnam? Did you door-knock for McGovern, or hang out on a hippie commune in the ’70s? Or both? Did you canvas for the PIRGs in the ’80s, Greenpeace in the ’90s, and march against the invasion of Iraq in the ’00s? Or did you spend that time doing mergers and acquisitions, speculating in currency exchange rates, or trading junk bonds on Wall Street? No matter what your age, even if you weren’t a glimmer in your parents’ imagination until the turn of the millennium, if you’re old enough to read this, let us know what you’re thinking about today.

Some things have improved over the last few decades. Now there’s Survey Monkey for instance. It’s a lot easier and faster to do a survey over the internet.

Click here to take the survey

We’re asking the same questions we asked 27 years ago, to see how we’ve changed, or not changed (and for the fun of it). And we’re asking a few new ones.

Are you (still) trying to change the world? Getting anywhere? What are the issues that you care most about? How do you invest your time, energy, and money to make a difference? What issues do you want to learn more about?

We think you’ll enjoy pondering the survey questions, and we know we’ll be grateful for your answers.

And please, share the survey with your friends. It’s not necessary that respondents know the magazine, but we’d especially like to hear from current and former Utne Reader readers. The more the merrier, and the more meaningful the results will be.

We’ll report our findings in a future issue of Utne Reader, online at, and in a book that I’m writing with Jeri Reilly about aging and activism in the 21st century.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lexi Neale - The AQAL Cube for Dummies

In the current Integral Leadership Review, Lexi Neale was finally persuaded by Russ (Volckmann, owner and founder of the Review) to write a dumbed-down version of his AQAL Cube theory for the ILR.

It's a long article and very much worth your time to read. For the purposes of this post, I am only including the author's note at the beginning and the 2nd major section of the paper, on how the cube relates to individual human beings. I can see a potential use for this in Integral Psychotherapy.

I'm not a huge fan of the "quantum consciousness" piece (locality and nonlocality) he adds to the model, especially in light of using the Hameroff/Penrose model. Their theory is speculative at best, and simply wrong in the minds of many cognitive neuroscientists and quantum physicists.

About the Author

Lexi Neale has a varied background. He studied Zoology and Psychology in 1966-1969, B.Sc. , London University. In 1971 in Glastonbury he met his thirteen-year-old Master, Prem Rawat, just arrived from India. Prem Rawat teaches a time-honored integral practice that he calls Knowledge of the Self – as in Know the Knower. Lexi Neale is affiliated with The Prem Rawat Foundation, an award-winning charity providing aid for the relief of human suffering. Contact and ( He is also a member of the Integral Research Center as an Integral Theorist. Contact Lexi Neale personally at

The AQAL Cube for Dummies

Lexi Neale

Download article as PDF

Lexi Neale

Author’s Note: The above title is not intended to be demeaning, dear Reader, but more of an inside joke between Russ and I. Russ has twice approached me about an AQAL Cube article, and has twice shied away from what I sent him. His complaint? Too complex! So I have finally relented and taken his observation to heart. I sincerely hope that the following extension of Ken Wilber’s AQAL Square model is at least comprehensible, if not acceptable!

Since Ken introduced my AQAL Cube extension of his Integral model, the AQAL Square, on, archived June 12th 2009, it has been “the best of times, and the worst of times” (A Tale of Two Cities) as in a tale of two models. In an introduction he wrote for Part 2, archived November 4th 2009, where I pitched the AQAL Cube as Wilber-6, he said “In my mind, of course, it is definitely not Wilber-6, just a thoughtful extension of Wilber-5.” And in my mind, of course, I am still challenging that!

It is true that the AQAL Cube vastly complicates the Integral model by introducing AQAL Non-locality into the mix, and also the liberal notion of Eight Fundamental Perspectives PER PERSON, but the complication has more to do with the effort of having to transcend/include establishment Integral concepts rather than complexity per se. I let you be the judge of that. Going back to Ken’s comment “a thoughtful extension of Wilber-5”, I decided that should be my guide in writing this article, by keeping to the aspects of the AQAL Cube that truly are extensions of the AQAL Square.

* * * * *

The AQAL Cube per Person

Now we go deeper into our Self-system. Ken’s AQAL Square affords the Self-system two First Person Quadrants (Upper and Lower Left). Ken himself has said that the AQAL Square is really a Third Person model describing First, Second and Third Person phenomena. We now reconsider that blatant admission of flat-land. This is where established Integral Theory gets taken for a really wild ride in a very powerful car!

Remembering how Ken’s Third Person “Inside”’, “Outside”, “Individual”, “Collective”, “Interior” and “Exterior” perspectives recombine to produce the Eight Fundamental Perspectives (Fig. 1), the same logic can be applied to our First Person: As well as our Consciousness Self and our Cognitive Self we also have a Singular Self, a Plural Self, a Subjective Self, and an Objective Self, which recombine in the same way to produce the Eight Fundamental First Person Perspectives. Suddenly our two-cylinder car becomes a V-8!

Since the beginning of language the First, Second and Third Person pronouns have defined our self and each other: Me Tarzan, You Jane. And it is in language that we express our intuitive knowledge of our own Self complexity. Fig.2. shows the First Person Cube and its eight First Person pronouns expanding through the Levels.

Figure 2. The First Person Cube

The Quadrants above, 1,3,5,7 are the Non-Possessive Personal Pronouns, and the Quadrants below, 2,4,6,8 are the Possessive Personal Pronouns. The first thing that is apparent is how the Non-Possessive Quadrants 1,3,5 and 7 are intangible First Person identities, and how the Possessive Quadrants 2,4,6 and 8 are tangible First Person experiential attributes of those identities. The differentiation is exactly the same as between Non-Local Consciousness and Local Body-Mind. In other words, our entire cultural history has endorsed the notion of a Four Quadrant “Experiencer-as-Consciousness”, and a correlated Four Quadrant “Experience-as-Mind”.

The second thing we notice about the First Person Cube is that there is no differentiation in English between the two “I’s” and ”We’s” as First Person pronouns in the Subjective Octants 1,2,3 and 4. Language is a two-way street: One the one hand it identifies pre-existing perspectives as a common experience, which then become cultural givens; but on the other hand, in naming them, it can culturally bias some perspectives at the expense of others. Cultures that are objective diminish the subjective; cultures that are collective diminish the individual; cultures that are materialistic diminish the non-material – by not differentiating them. In Russian there is a differentiation between an “inner We” and an “outer collective We” as in “We the people”. In Yiddish there is a differentiation between “I” as a spiritual identity and the “I” of everyday life.

In evaluating his “8 Zones”, Wilber encountered this anomaly himself in differentiating an Inside “I” from an Outside “I”; and an Inside “We” from an Outside “We”. I quote[7]:
‘ – for example, the experience of an “I” in the UL Quadrant. That “I” can be looked at from the inside or the outside. I can experience my own “I” from the inside [Octant 1], in this moment, as the felt experience of being a subject of my present experience, a 1st person having a 1st person experience. If I do so, the results include such things as introspection, meditation, phenomenology, contemplation, and so on (all simply summarized as phenomenology… But I can also approach this “I” from the outside [Octant 2], in the stance of an objective or “scientific” observer. I can so in my own awareness (when I try to be “objective” about myself, or try to “see myself as others see me”) …Likewise, I can approach the study of a “we” from its inside or its outside. From the inside [Octant 3], this includes the attempts that you and I make to understand each other right now. How is it that you and I can reach a mutual understanding about anything, including when we simply talk to each other? How do your “I” and my “I” come together in something you and I both call “we” (as in, “Do you and I – do we – understand each other?”). The art and science of we-interpretation is typically called hermeneutics. 
‘But I can also attempt to study this “we” from the outside [Octant 4], perhaps as a cultural anthropologist, or an ethnomethodologist, or a Foucauldian archaeologist…And so on around the quadrants. Thus, 8 basic perspectives and 8 basic methodologies.’ (The Octant designations in brackets are mine.)
In other words, Wilber completely endorses the Left Octants (1,2,3 and 4) of the First Person AQAL Cube, but he does not extend this argument to the First Person Right Hand Quadrants (5, 6, 7 and 8). He does, however, mention the objective-self issue:
‘If you get a sense of yourself right now – simply notice what it is that you call “you” – you might notice at least two parts to this self: one, there is some sort of observing self (an inner subject or watcher); and two, there is some sort of observed self (some objective things that you can see or know about yourself… The first is experienced as an “I”, the second as a “me”… I call the first the proximate self (since it is closer to “you”), and the second the distal self (since it is objective and “farther away”).’
The Proximate and Distal Selves are an Octant 1 and Octant 5 differentiation on the First Person AQAL Cube. Octant 5 is the Distal Self, or the way I formulate my Proximate Self as a Persona in its true etymological sense, as my mask, as how “I” want others to identify with “Me”. This is the All Level “Me” Inside. (Note: This differentiation of the Distal Self or Persona is not the persona of fulcrum 4.) And the correlated behavior of this Persona is “My” personality Outside, where Octant 6 pertains to “My” personality through “My” behavior. The Enneagram as elucidated by Riso[7] makes this differentiation very clearly.

Equally, the Social Persona or our identification with “Us” Inside, and the Social Personality-behavior in “Our” tribe Outside, follow the same First Person differentiations. These eight important First Person Self-differentiations have not yet been made in Integral Psychology, even though they are experientially self-evident to the point where Wilber himself identified six of them, with “Us”.

Integral Theory does in fact obliquely identify the Self-system as a First Person Octo-Dynamic. I noticed how the various Lines of the Self System in the AQAL Square Upper Left have an eerie correspondence with the First Person Eight Fundamental Perspectives. Naturally, this needs to be played out in Integral Research, but I propose that the correspondence self-evidently corroborates the First Person AQAL Cube:
Octant 1: Proximate Self as the Consciousness-as-experiencer “I”. Core self-identity witnessing through Levels of assumed identity states. Lines: Proximate Self-identity, spiritual identity. Representative Levels of Self-identity-as-witness are: Red – Id identity fused with the Lower Mind; Orange – Ego identity fused with the Lower Mind; Blue – Soul Consciousness differentiated from Mind. Violet – Non-Dual Supreme Witness.

Octant 2: Cognitive Self as the “I” Mind. Experiential identity through Fulcrum Levels of intelligence structures. Lines: All Intelligences, such as cognitive, affective, psychosexual, aesthetic, spiritual. Representative Levels of experiential intelligence are: Red – sensing, feeling, emoting; Orange – thinking; Blue – visioning; Violet – wisdom/Akashic experience.

Octant 3: Inter-Proximate Self as “We” Consciousness. Shared self through Levels of assumed identity states. Line: inter-proximate self. Representative Levels are: Red – Inter-Id as fused “I-We”; Orange – Inter-Ego “We”; Blue – Inter-Soul “We”; Violet – Non-Dual “We”.

Octant 4: Cultural Self as the “We” Mind. Interpretive shared or common experience as cultural intelligence. Lines: moral self, worldview self. Representative Levels are: Red – Tribal member (fused “I-We”); Orange – cultural independent; Blue – cultural visionary; Violet – spiritual iconoclast.

Octant 5: Distal Self (Persona) as “Me” Consciousness. Objectively differentiated from the Proximate Self of Octant 1, the Persona is self-referential as a Self-image. This is the intentional persona of the Enneagram, the objective evaluator of the Self-system and home of the Self-judging Super-Ego. After death existence or Bardo is a projection of this self-evaluation as our Non-Local All-Level Persona. Line: intentional persona. Representative Levels as State-stages are: Red – Id-centered, 4th Bardo; Orange – Ego-centered, 3rd Bardo; Blue – Soul-centered, 2nd Bardo; Violet – Pneumo-centered, 1st Bardo.

Octant 6: Behavioral Persona as “My” Mind. Objectively differentiated from the Cognitive Self of Octant 2, the Behavioral Persona is the objective expression of Mind as our Personality and its Enneatypes. Lines: behavioral personalities as applied to cognitive, affective, psychosexual, aesthetic, spiritual. Representative Levels as Structure-stages are: Red – magic; Orange – rational; Blue – integral; Violet – spiritually wise.

Octant 7: Inter-Distal Persona as “Us” Consciousness. The Social Self-image is a fused “Me-Us” until socio-centric, after which the Social Identity differentiates. Identification with family, organizations and affiliations. After-death identification with others is through the correlated Non-Local All-Level Social Persona. Line: interpersonal. Representative Levels as State-stages are: Red – symbiont; Orange – server-dominator; Blue – integrator; Violet – compassionate.

Octant 8: Social Persona as “Our” Mind. The Social Persona evolving as organized and cooperative behavior and experience of social situations. Lines: sociocultural, relational, ethical. Representative Levels as Structure-stages: Red – tribal member; Orange – nationalist; Blue – globalist; Violet – utopian.
In the interests of developing a fully Integral model, I suggest that Integral researchers of the Self-system identify their field of research as an Octant in each Person.

Gratitude to The Pema Chödrön Foundation

Back in April, on behalf of SACASA, I sent an online application to The Pema Chödrön Foundation, which offers a program providing Ani Pema's books to non-profit organizations who wish to use them for the people they serve. A couple of weeks ago I received notification that our application had been approved.

Yesterday I received a box with 10 copies each of four of Ani Pema's books that I requested based on their useful for our clients and their accessibility for non-Buddhists. There were single copies also 5 audio (CDs) courses and a DVD.

We are so incredibly grateful to The Pema Chödrön Foundation for their generous gift to our organization and our clients.

If you find it in your heart to donate to the Foundation, please do so, they rely on donor support to pay for the program. 

SACASA also relies on donations to support our work, and you can DONATE here.

Book Initiative

The PCF ‘book initiative’ aims to make Pema’s books and recorded teachings available to underserved individuals, and the organizations that serve them, free of charge.

This program is for the benefit of those who have no access to Pema’s teachings, and to groups and not-for-profit organizations who serve people in need.

If your organization would like to participate in this initiative, an application can be found here: Application Form

On behalf of Pema and The Pema Chödrön Foundation, we want to thank our donors for their support, and the Oliver S. and Jennie R. Donaldson Charitable Trust for two generous grants to this initiative. It is because of their support that we’re able to offer Pema’s teachings to those in need.

If you’d like to support the Book Initiative you can do so below.

David Eagleman - Unsolved Mysteries of Neuroscience: The Binding Problem

This brief article comes from Big Think's In Their Own Words series of posts. Big Think interviews experts who are either at the top of their fields or disrupting their fields. This blog presents key ideas from the experts in their own words.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman is author, most recently, of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (2011). For more on what we do NOT know about the brain, see his 2007 article in Discover Magazine, 10 Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain.

Unsolved Mysteries of Neuroscience: The Binding Problem

JUNE 16, 2013

The binding problem is when you look at what's happening in the brain, you find there's a division of labor. You have some parts of your brain that care about vision, some about hearing, some about touch. And even within a system, like vision, you have parts that care about colors, parts that care about orientations, parts that care about angles. And how this all comes together so that you have a unified perception of the world is one of the unsolved mysteries in neuroscience.

We’re not aware of that division of labor. Everything seems like it’s perfectly unified to us. So this is still something we’re all working on.

One thing that's very clear to us now, though, is that vision is not like a camera. It’s not like light signals hit your eye and work their way up to the top and they move up some hierarchy and then they get seen. Instead, vision is all about internal activity that's already happening in your head and there's a little bit of data that comes up these cables and modifies or modulates that activity. But, essentially, all you're ever seeing is your internal model of what you believe you're seeing out there.

So this is a very different viewpoint from what is presented in college textbooks on vision. In other words, even the textbooks need to catch up on what we already know about how perception actually works.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


Werner Herzog's "Wheel of Time" (Tibetan Buddhism)

Werner Herzog's Wheel of Time, a documentary film ostensibly about the two Kalachakra initiation ceremonies in 2002, has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 7.1 rating at IMDb . . . with good reason. The film is as quirky as are all of Herzog's documentaries, and beautifully filmed, as is also true of his work over the last 20 years.


Wheel of Time (2003) - A Film by Werner Herzog


Wheel of Time is a 2003 documentary film by German director Werner Herzog about Tibetan Buddhism. The title refers to the Kalachakra sand mandala that provides a recurring image for the film.
The film documents the two Kalachakra initiations of 2002, presided over by the fourteenth Dalai Lama. The first, in Bodhgaya India, was disrupted by the Dalai Lama’s illness. Later that same year, the event was held again, this time without disruption, in Graz, Austria. The film’s first location is the Bodhgaya, the site of the Mahabodhi Temple and the Bodhi tree. Herzog then turns to the pilgrimage at Mount Kailash, after which the film then focuses on the second gathering in Graz.

Herzog includes a personal interview with the Dalai Lama, as well as Tibetan former political prisoner Takna Jigme Zangpo, who served 37 years in a Chinese prison for his support of the International Tibet Independence Movement.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Julian Ford, Ph.D. - PTSD Becomes (More) Complex in the DSM-5

Julian Ford is one of the experts in the field of complex PTSD (an as yet un-approved diagnosis in the DSM, and not for a lack of effort). Over at his Psychology Today blog, Hijacked by Your Brain, he has posted a two-part examination of the changes to the PTSD diagnosis in the DSM-5.

I like the addition of the dissociative subtype for PTSD. The research suggests that 15-30% of those who have PTSD have persistent dissociation as a key feature. This sub-type is very strongly coorelated with childhood abuse and neglect, which is where the notion of complex PTSD comes from - research has shown that of those who develop PTSD following an adult experience of trauma (war, rape, other violent crime, natural disasters, and so on), there is also a strong correlation to childhood abuse and neglect.

When we are abused, neglected, belittled, and shamed as children, we do not develop the resilience necessary to get through traumatic events without serious complications. This is not a perfect cause and effect, but the link is clear and there are piles of research in support of this thesis.

Dr. Ford, along with Jon Wortmann, is the author of Hijacked by Your Brain: How to Free Yourself When Stress Takes Over (2013), after which the blog is named.

About the Author:
Julian Ford is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and Director of the University of Connecticut Health Center Child Trauma Clinic and Center for Trauma Response Recovery and Preparedness (, the creator of the TARGET© treatment model for adult, adolescent, and child traumatic stress disorders, and CEO of Advanced Trauma Solutions, Inc., the exclusive licensed provider of the TARGET© treatment model.
Ford is also co-author of Treatment of Complex Trauma: A Sequenced, Relationship-Based Approach (2012, with Christine A. Courtois) and co-editor (along with Courtois) of Treating Complex Traumatic Stress Disorders (Adults): An Evidence-Based Guide (2009).

PTSD Becomes (More) Complex in the DSM-5: Part 1

Heading in the right direction, but still not as complex as the brain

Published on June 11, 2013 by Julian Ford, Ph.D. in Hijacked by Your Brain

The diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has undergone much more than a minor tweaking or superficial facelift in the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-5. This guidebook to psychiatric diagnoses, released in May, now defines PTSD as a trauma and stressor-related disorder, not a disorder primarily of anxiety alone. Like our understanding of the brain and behavior, PTSD has become much more complex—and for millions of trauma survivors who have experienced difficulties that go well beyond the symptoms included in PTSD up to now, and the tens of thousands of clinicians who provide treatment to affected trauma survivors, the change is long overdue, but extremely welcome.

Bottom line, PTSD is now described as a disorder of persistent reactivity in all of the domains of self-regulation, and not just troubling memories and chronic anxiety[1]. Distressing memories of past traumatic events and intense stress reactions to reminders that occur in current life continue to serve as the cornerstone of PTSD.

Now, however, these forms of "intrusive re-experiencing" of traumatization are understood as playing out across the full range of ways in which we regulate ourselves: emotions, body functions and health, thinking, motivation, behavior, relationships, and ultimately our sense of self or identity.

Trauma doesn't just terrify or horrify us—it also forces us to make profound biological adaptations in how our brain operates. Basically, the brain is a control system that keeps our body functioning properly. In other words, the brain regulates how our body functions to keep us alive, and when our body is safe and working well, the brain extends its efforts to the "higher" functions that enable us to not only survive but also to become a conscious individual—a self or an identity that makes each of us and our lives unique and not only pleasurable (or tolerably painful) but meaningful.

When the brain detects serious threats to our bodily survival, traumatic stressors such as severe accidents, disasters, violence, abuse, or betrayals, the alarm system in the brain is activated and literally hijacks the rest of the brain's operations in order to put all systems in emergency mode until the threat is escaped or overcome.

This might seem like a simple shift in brain functions that leads to a temporary fight-flight reaction or adrenaline rush that is intense but quickly passes. And in many cases, both with ordinary stressors that are not traumatic threats to our lives as well as with traumatic survival threats, the alarm reaction in the brain does rapidly subside. We’re left somewhat shaken or jangly, but no worse for the wear with a brain that re-sets automatically to its normal modes.

However, as we've described in Hijacked by Your Brain, PTSD is what happens when the brain's alarm system doesn't automatically or rapidly re-set itself. When the brain's alarm continues to signal danger even though safety has been restored, the brain's overall functioning remains in an altered state that is the chronic stress response. Survival trumps self-regulation in this case: staying alert and ready to react in fight-flight mode to the next assault or betrayal takes precedence over sorting out our emotions and thoughts, taking care of our body's health, considering our core values and who we aspire to be.

In service of a commendable goal, survival, the brain's alarm system has hijacked the "higher" operations of the brain itself, keeping us alert and ready for action, and therefore alive. In this state, however, life becomes a constant struggle that involves unbearable tension and ultimately emotional as well as physical exhaustion (hence the depression and physical health problems that so often occur with PTSD).

People living with PTSD, therefore, are not just troubled by terrible memories, worries, and anxieties. More fundamentally they have high functioning brains that have become trapped in survival mode. That's why PTSD is complex, because it's about a fundamental change in how the brain (and body, and mind) are operating. It is not a disease, and not an injury to the brain (although when this has happened as well, such as when the survival threat is a blast explosion or another severe physical injury to the head, the combination of PTSD and traumatic brain injury creates additional major challenges).

How can someone re-set a brain's alarm that's stuck in PTSD (survival mode), so that self-regulation can be restored? That is the $64,000 question, which I'll tackle in Part II of this series on the implications of PTSD becoming defined in a way that is appropriately more complex in the DSM-5.

Hijacked by Your Brain blogs are co-authored with Jon Wortmann. Visit our website at You can follow us onfacebook or join us on twitter @hijackedbook.


* * * * *

PTSD Becomes (More) Complex in the DSM-5: Part II

Recovering from (Complex) PTSD by Regaining Self-Regulation

Published on June 16, 2013 by Julian Ford, Ph.D. in Hijacked by Your Brain

In the DSM-5 released in May, PTSD just got more complex. It added a new symptom domain of "negative alterations in cognitions or mood," and expanded the hyperarousal domain to include aggressive, reckless, or self-destructive behavior. It also added a sub-type characterized by dissociation (drastic reductions in physical arousal and conscious emotion and thought). These changes reflect advances in science and clinical practice, which echo what trauma survivors have been saying for decades (if not centuries): PTSD is a radical shift from normal self-regulation to being trapped in a constant state of alarm.

To understand, and recover from, PTSD, it's essential to understand what the brain and body do to "self-regulate" under ordinary circumstances—because this is what's lost in PTSD and must be regained in recovery. Self-regulation is a delicate and complicated balancing act in which the brain and body constantly adjust to maintain a balance between mobilizing (being highly activated) and re-grouping (down shifting into less activated states).

Mobilization is essential to experiencing pleasurable excitement, enthusiasm, and achievement. But too much mobilization for too long leads to tension, frustration, recklessness, and even self-harm. Similarly, when the body and brain re-group, this can produce pleasurable and healthy states of relaxation, calm, and mindful acceptance. However, when re-grouping becomes extreme and persistent, the result can be emotional shut-down and exhaustion, depression, despair, or dissociation. Self-regulation is the constant balancing act between mobilization and re-grouping that enables us to be optimally effective and to feel true satisfaction.

Trauma is a threat or injury that requires self-protective stress reactions—essentially fight or flight—which hijack the brain and body in order to achieve the one goal that is a higher priority than being effective and satisfied: survival. Post-traumatic stress disorder derives its name from this key fact: PTSD is a disorder because the the brain and body have become trapped on a roller coaster of dysregulation. PTSD involves rocketing into extreme states of stress reactivity (mobilization in the form of terror, rage, and uncontrollable impulses) and plunging into equally extreme states of being shut-down (exhaustion, emotional numbing, despair, and dissociation). From this vantage point, PTSD clearly is about much more than fear and anxiety, involving the full range of emotions and undermining our body's health, our ability to think clearly, to set and achieve goals, and to fully participate in and benefit from relationships.

A particularly important new symptom of PTSD highlights an important aspect of the loss of self-regulation: "Persistent and exaggerated negative expectations about one’s self, others, or the world (e.g., “I am bad,” “no one can be trusted,” “I’ve lost my soul forever,” “my whole nervous system is permanently ruined,” "the world is completely dangerous")." PTSD thus is inherently complex, and all about the loss of self-regulation that occurs when survival dominates how a person thinks, feels, and behaves in every area of his or her life. PTSD replaces the "me" who was growing, learning, and becoming a unique person before the trauma(s), leaving only a desperate survivor who may have no clear sense of identity and who may even hate or loathe herself or himself.

Although the dilemma of post-traumatic self-dysregulation is indeed complex, as is the array of therapies that have shown promise in treating (complex) PTSD , the key to recovery is not rocket science. Survival threats can cause the brain to be hijacked by its own alarm system, so the key is to re-set that alarm system so it's no longer in survival mode.

Re-setting the brain's alarm requires seven steps, which are at the heart of every effective treatment for (complex) PTSD despite their many differences:

Focus mentally on a single thought that you choose because it is what's most important and positive in your life at this moment—not what's most urgent or problematic, nor what's a lifetime away, but what you value most and what represents the very best part of your life right now.

Recognize the triggers that signal problems or danger: don't ignore them, but don't obsess or ruminate about them, just make a mental note to be alert.

Experience the emotions that are signals from your brain's alarm, but also the sustaining emotions that seem to get lost in the midst of stress reactions but actually are always present if you just look carefully for them; emotions like joy, hope, love, pride, security, enthusiasm, determination.

Evaluate your thoughts not to judge or alter or eliminate them, but to distinguish between the defensive (or offensive) thoughts that are generated by your brain's alarm from the sustaining beliefs that also can get lost in alarm reactions (but actually are always available when you focus on your core values).

Define your goals so that you can tell the difference between defensive (or offensive) goals that are potentially useful warnings from your brain's alarm and the sustaining goals that are based on your core values.

[Choose] Options that enable you to achieve your sustaining goals and to live according to your core values, while being aware of and open to using other options that are more defensive (or offensive) if you are faced with a genuine threat to your, or others', survival.

Make a contribution by doing the one thing that each of us can do to make everyone safer, healthier, and more effective: continue to practice these simple steps in your own individual ways, and in so doing become a role model for responsible self-regulation.

These seven steps spell FREEDOM. They are not a pre-packaged set of techniques for self-improvement. They have to be done by each person in their own individual way. They enable you to use your mind to shift out of survival mode and your body to resume the natural state of self-regulation that is lost whenever anyone becomes trapped in the alarm state that the DSM-5 calls PTSD.

Hijacked by Your Brain blogs are co-authored with Jon Wortmann. Visit our website at You can follow us onfacebook or join us on twitter @hijackedbook.

Jochen Fromm - Solving the Problem of Subjectivity

From the CAS-Group Blog (CAS = complex adaptive systems), Jochen Fromm discusses how Google Glass and GoPro cameras might allow us to solve the problem of subjectivity by offering us a point of view of the person engaged in a particular activity.

He gives the example of a helmet camera on a mountain biker. I have mountain biked, but I am not a skilled rider such as, say, a professional racer. The perspective of a professional rider would feel much different as I watched then my own perspective, for example, the speed, the maneuvers around obstacles, or the descent on a steep mountain will be significantly different between myself and a professional.

Still, it's an interesting article.

Solving the Problem of Subjectivity

Posted by Jochen Fromm (jofr)

Google Glass and GoPro cameras make it easier than ever to show what it is like to be someone or to do something, because they show the world from a first person perspective and from a deeply subjective point of view. Everybody is able to record his own personal film from his individual point of view. If you ever wondered for example what is it like to take part in a Kayak Championship, then watch these videos and you will get a glimpse of it:

What is alpine skiing or mountain biking like? Watch these videos and you will get a first impression. We say “so this is what it is like to..” if we experience ourselves, if we are in the same situation, if we travel along the same path. 

Why does this help to solve the problem of subjectivity? Because apparently “wearable” camera/camcorders such as helmet cameras show the world from a certain point of view, from the point of view of a particular subject. And as Thomas Nagel said [1] “..every subjective phenomenon is essentially connected with a single point of view, and it seems inevitable that an objective, physical theory will abandon that point of view”.

And as we have seen earlier, because subjective experience is path dependent we can solve the hard problem of consciousness by simply following the same path, showing for example what it is like to be an adventurer.

What is subjectivity? According to the “Oxford Companion to Philosophy” [2], subjectivity is a term that “often refers to unargued or unjustified personal feelings and opinions as opposed to knowledge and justified belief”. It goes on to say that “subjectivity has been argued [..] to be the ultimate obstacle to any reduction of the mental to the physiological. Subjectivity, on this account, is phenomenological experience, or ‘what it is like to be’ a certain conscious being”. And..
“the notion of subjectivity is also used, particularly in multicultural contexts, to underscore the importance of perspective, the fact that everyone sees the world from his or her (or its) individual vantage-point, defined in part by nature, by culture, and by individual experience” [2]
The vantage-point, the point of view and the first person perspective of the subject can apparently be well understood by cameras which show what the subject sees. What they do not capture directly is what the subject feels. The secret ingredients of subjective experience are emotions. Emotions are, according to Martha Nussbaum [3], “highly discriminating responses to what is of value and importance”, they are “judgements of value” and indicate which things are important to us and our well being. They also always belong to someone and contain an in eliminate reference to that person, they “view the world from the point of view of my own scheme of goals”. In principle, they “see the world from my point of view”.

Martha Nussbaum argues subjective experience means to make judgements of value. They involve emotions which contain a reference to a certain subject. In general one can speak of subjectivity if there is someone who makes a value judgements, for a example a jury. In sports there are “subjective” disciplines like dancing and figure skating which are assessed and judged by a jury. And there are “objective” disciplines where the results can be measure (was it short/long, light/heavy, slow/fast).
  • Subjective means to assess values
  • Subjective: making value judgements (good/bad) and assess values
  • Objective: making value measurements (short/long, ..) and measure values
  • Subjective means emotions are involved, which contain a reference to the subject
  • Subjective: in relation to ourselves, emotions involved
  • Objective: in relation to other things, no emotions involved
  • Subjective means there is a jury somewhere, which has to make a value judgement
  • Subjective: if there is a jury somewhere which has to make a judgement
  • Objective: if there is no jury, if it an be measured physically
So far so good, does it help us to tackle the problem of subjectivity? Yes. The longer the path we follow a certain person, the smaller the difference becomes between watching what a person does and experiencing what a person feels. Consider this film of the Mountain Games Steep Creek Championships. Notice the difference to the small Kayak clips above? There is an additional soundtrack. Sound effects and film music are used in films to represent the character’s emotions [4].

We do not only see what the actor sees, we also feel it to a certain degree because the sound effects and film music trigger certain emotions. We can see in films what is like to be in a train crash, to cancel your wedding, or to murder someone. And the sound additionally tells us what it feels like to be in that situation. The effect is so profound that humans indeed go to dark rooms to watch humans pretending to be other humans. Films allow us to view the world through the eyes of someone else. When we watch a photo or a film, we see the world through someone else’s eyes – those of the photographer or filmer. In films we learn to see the world differently, since everybody has a unique perspective and an individual point of view. And now we have even the devices that show it.
[1] Thomas Nagel, “What is it like to be a bat?” in “Mortal Questions”, Cambridge University Press, 1979
[2] Ted Honderich (Ed.), “Oxford Companion to Philosophy”, Oxford University Press, 1995
[3] Martha Nussbaum, “Upheavals of Thought”, Cambridge University Press, 2001
[4] Timothy Corrigan and Patricia White, "The Film Experience: An Introduction", Bedford/St. Martin’s; 3rd edition, 2012