Publication 5671

Shear J. (2014) Meditation as first-person methodology: Real promise – and problems. In: Schmidt S. & Walach H. (eds.) Meditation: Neuroscientific approaches and philosophical implications. Springer, New York NY: 57–74. Fulltext at
Meditation as a scientific first-person investigative tool has been discussed for decades, but remains largely a mere idea. One reason may be lack of relevant theory. Maps of mind developed by meditation traditions could prove helpful. The map used by orthodox Indian traditions, for example, identifies six phenomenologically distinct levels (senses, discursive thinking, discriminative intellect, pure individuality and pure consciousness/emptiness). This map, if valid, would have implications for many fields. It would indicate, for example, that the introspective awareness of major philosophers such as Descartes, Hume and Kant was open to particular levels and not others, and suggest why each favored particular theories and found particular problems unresolvable. Identification of physiological correlates of the levels could provide evidence for the map’s validity. Significant correlates of the deepest level already appear to be identified. Research relevant to other levels has been conducted. Identifying correlates of all the levels would provide an objective way to evaluate many mind-related questions. It would also provide an objective, tradition-invariant way to identify individuals capable of sustaining attention at specific levels and using meditation to investigate diverse levels-related topics. Meditation research faces strong questions of appearances of bias. A consortium, including researchers associated with competing traditions and non-associated researchers, overseeing replications and meta-analyses could respond to these questions directly.

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