The Future of the Body – Part 2

(In last week’s post we looked at the overview of a remarkable book, The Future of the Body, that has an encyclopedic cross-cultural study of the extraordinary potentials that human beings embody. This week and the next I will share some notes I made from the book. Of the 12 capacities that the book identifies and details out, we will look at ‘Cognition’ in this post.)


The supreme intellectual capacities evident in some works of genius, by which great artistic or other productions are apprehended ‘all at once’; and the unitive knowledge inherent in mystical experience, which differs from ordinary thinking described, for example, by Plato, Plotinus and other Neo-Platonist philosophers, by the authors of the Upanishads and other Indian seers, by Christian mystics, and countless sages of the Kabbalistic, Hasidic, Sufi, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions.

Examples of nascent expressions in everyday life:
– Correctly sensing unexpected danger.
– Correctly anticipating a melody before it plays on the radio or a dramatic event before it happens etc.
– Apprehending an exceptionally complex and original set of ideas all at once, in conjunction with great excitement and joy.

Evidence of evolution from animal to ordinary human to metanormal (extraordinary) development:
Specialized organs and internal networks to transmit information within the organism, culminating in human symbol-making and self-reflection mediated by the central nervous system.
Cognitive skills developed by intellectual training, logic, and stimulation of the imagination through art and philosophy.
– Mystical illumination described in words such as — In that which is the subtle essence, all that exists has its self. That is the True, that is the Self, and thou, Svetaketu, art That (तत्त्वमसि श्वेतकेतो, Chandogya Upanishad, VI.8.7)
– Creative works marked by extraordinary immediacy, ease, and completeness, which come ready-made as if from powers beyond ordinary consciousness. Mozart for example, said he saw many of his compositions ‘all at once’, and Blake claimed he received poems by ‘dictation’. In Platonic, Sufi, Kabbalistic, and Vedantic traditions, inspired works of this kind are said to come from God, the gods, the One, or Brahman.

Practices that foster this attribute:
Transformative practice can develop cognition by bringing new material into its purview or by articulating and strengthening its processes. Several practices also facilitate cognitive activity in general. For example:
– The resolving of psychological conflicts that impede imagination or analytic thought, as in good psychotherapy.
– The recall of repressed or habitually unnoticed imagery; for example by emotional catharsis or witness meditation, so that such imagery enriches mental processes.
– The reduction of inhibition to unusual ideas, imagery, or associative process; for example, by psychotherapy, meditation, or philosophic reflection that makes them philosophically and morally acceptable.
Strengthening concentration.
– Integration of analytic, holistic, and imaginative thought by the study of philosophy, myth, artistic works, or religious symbols.

– Exercising unfamiliar types of knowing; for example, through:
>>> concentration on evocative ideas, visual images, sounds, or other stimuli.
>>> intensely imagining new worlds suggested by fantastical literature, contemplative writing, dreams, or altered states of mind.

>>> establishing contact with ego-transcending realities by:
—– imagining such realities with concentrated attention till tangible contact with them is established.
—– prayerful communion with them.
—– surrendering to their activity.
—– noninterfering self-observation that deepens an awareness more fundamental than particular mental contents.
—– deliberately emptying the mind so that its fundamental essence is directly experienced.

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