Introduction to Learning and Transformation
Learning is the foundation for peak cognitive processing, interpreting modes of perception and whets the appetite for knowledge. Knowledge is the foundation for understanding and lays the groundwork for transformation through the four sources. The four sources  are:
- Effective Struggle
- Surrender / sacrifice
Understanding the function, process and structures of thought is a beginning to perceiving the place of cognition in a quest for knowledge. Understanding and developing cognition is a good first step in exploring consciousness on all levels. Thought and cognition lay the groundwork for all learning.
Let us start where we are.
The Function and Process of Thought in Learning
PREREQUISITES OF CURRENT HUMAN THOUGHT PATTERNS:
Without a verbal language thought may not exist or exist in a way vastly different than we can currently comprehend. Written language assists in associative memory and an imaginative re-construction of “past” memories. When memories fall outside immediate personal experiences it is referred to as history. Belief often springs from the recording of mutual so-called “past” experiences or histories. All of human thought in our current stage of development is linked associatively. Associative thought is a binary linking of one thought with another. The legacy of associative thought is predicated on memory, without which identity is severely disabled and may even be obliterated. As you might surmise memory and time are linked within the context of an unfolding present moment. Within the context of associative thought the Western Mind presents two different sets of logic: deductive and inductive. A sense that is not connected to a specific biological function that is necessary for comprehension and memory is attention. Vision for example is connected to the eye and interpreted in our neo-cortex. Attention and memory cannot exist without the other. Nevertheless attention is a key process that aids in thinking, but there is no “Attention” organ that acts as an intermediary (like the eye) to the neo-cortex. Attention utilizes many perceptual inputs – from eyes, ears etc. and are organized as a continuum of unfolding memories.
[Note – the “past” doesn’t exist in the “past” it only exists as memories in the present. The “past” is a construct of language and time, which are inventions to manage life efficiently.]
Within the context of associative thinking is deductive and inductive logic or reasoning. Deductive logic follows from a premise seeking truth. A statement can be logical but not true:
- The police wear dark blue clothing.
- That woman is wearing dark blue clothing.
- Therefore that woman is a policewoman.
The logic is valid but the premise is not specific enough to illicit truth therefore the argument is unsound.
- Doctors at ERs wear white lab coats, carry stethoscopes and talk to a patients about medical diagnoses.
- That woman in the ER wearing a white lab coat with a stethoscope is talking with a patient about a medical diagnosis.
- Therefore that woman is a doctor.
The logic is valid the premise is specific enough to illicit truth therefore the argument is sound.
Traditionally inductive logic observes data within a field and draws conclusions based on that data. In a revised definition of inductive logic the results may be proved as false based on some premises. Results of inductive logic are probable and are thought of as “strong” or “weak”. If they are ‘strong” they are either cogent or uncogent. If they are weak they are uncogent.
“Learn for the sake of learning!”
A teacher of mind was fond of saying.
In other words:
Learning is its own reward.
When learning arises from an on-going thirst to know and renew, then the process of continuous learning becomes an aim belonging to infinity. Aims are goals that can be repeated endlessly without being completely fulfilled and are inherent rewards. A goal has a beginning, middle and end. Goals belong to a finite world and could be about learning a skill where instruction is primary for example. Goals under the rubric of learning are not about “knowing” or connecting with people of knowledge but are about learning with a small “l” often learning by rote. Learning with an aim in the process of eternity in the moment is a creative leap that is self-renewing. When goals are connected to aims they help support continuous learning. Infinity learning is “learning for the sake of learning”. Learning is fueled by play and curiosity, which aid in the work.
Both finite and infinite learning are necessary for navigating our world. For the purposes of this exposition I am excluding most finite and infinite learning that does not pertain to transformation processes.
Infinite learning has many qualities that originate with childhood pre-language skills. Children when brought into a room without toys begin to play reflecting the facile and developing application of curiosity and invention. Below are some of the qualities of infinite learning:
- Beginner’s Mind
- Answers that lead to more questions
When infinite learning is applied to truth seeking or a quest for truth a certain kind of knowledge is sought. In the past when a seeker read a book by a person of knowledge they would seek out the author to study with him or her, as in the time honored tradition of student-teacher. In our current time this is rarely true because of the volume of books published and the self-proclamation of the author as an expert. An expert may seem like a person of knowledge but if they are promoting it, it is usually not the case. A teacher can only teach a student when the student enters the relationship with “beginner’s mind”. If a student has too much information or has a bravado that purports to have more or as much knowledge as the teacher then the relationship won’t work. Students and teachers must have a “good fit”.
Here are some guidelines to learning when in search of truth:
- A good first step in reading a book that speaks to “knowing” is to test this knowing on one’s own experience. Do you trust the source of the knowing? If so then the knowing may be accepted or temporary accepted until more evidence is gathered. Can you verify it? If you cannot, use your intuition to choose whether to discard it or put it aside until more information or experience is gathered.
- There is no final or permanent knowing. All knowing is subject to change based on an array of variables including changes in your perspective.
- Cross-reference what you have learned in two ways: 1. Compare information within the same system or the same “teaching” with one another; and 2. Use your intuition along with your common sense to verify the information or bit of knowledge that you’re examining.
- Cultivate and practice a compassionate and neutral witness within without indulging in “likes’ or “dislikes”. Work to avoid theorizing. Theorizing takes you out of the present into worlds of imaginative speculation, illusion and fantasy.
- Begin to utilize your intuition with your rational mind. Besides cross-referencing, intuition can go straight to a truth without “rational steps”. Later as you exercise the intuitive muscle you may open to a deeper method of exploration or utilizing somatic or “body” knowing.
- Use the action questions of “how” and “what”.
5.1 – Banish “why” questions from your vocabulary. Why questions are about ultimate answers. “Why” questions linger in a transcendental higher consciousness state which cannot be accessed at the beginning or middle of the journey towards truth. Why questions are intellectual traps that keep us cycling in a “cognitive only” understanding, which is ultimately limited due to its continuous circular focus. Avoid re-wording “why” questions into “how” questions.
5.2 – “How” questions and “What” questions are inexorably linked. Knowing “how” could result in endlessly doing something without purpose unless you know “what” you are doing.
5.3 – “How” questions belong to the practical and are instructional. “What” questions initially belongs to the theoretical and meaning. If I know how to do something and what purpose I am doing it there is a completion process thus closing a loop.
- Growing in knowledge is never completed. Even if you cannot grasp where a fragment of specific or partial knowledge belongs in a bigger picture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to expand yourself to meet its challenge. Beware of theorizing about partial knowledge – this can lead to imaginative fantasy and illusory beliefs.
- Sharing what you have learned with others is valuable because it grows with interpersonal interactions. Teaching what you have learned when done from “beginner’s mind” exponentially increases new learning in both teacher and student. 
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines attention:
a : the act or state of applying the mind to something Our attention was on the game. You should pay attention to what she says.
b : a condition of readiness for such attention involving especially a selective narrowing or focusing of consciousness and receptivity. Students, do I have your attention?
: observation, notice; especially : consideration with a view to action, a problem requiring prompt attention
Attention is an action of the mind, the will, of short sets of time linked by memory and strung together along the lines of binary association. When our attention is said to wander does this not break the bonds of a focusing of consciousness on a topic or line of reasoning through tangential and/or straying thoughts? When attention becomes focused we can follow the rigors of a logical deductive discourse or gather evidence to make an on-going argument with inductive reasoning to make a strong cogent conclusion.
Modern culture and primary education does little to support the cultivation and the skill of focusing attention. Understanding attention is a building block towards free thinking, superior reasoning, mastery and higher consciousness. Elementary through secondary education the word “attention” connotes a harsh disciplinary action or punishment delivered by teachers to students. Modern culture through the tech of smart phones, tablets, laptops, chats, social media and internet searches contributes to shattering attention spans in order to condition students into consumers under Predatory Capitalistic models of behavior. A vicious cycle occurs for developing attention spans into smaller diffuse focused packets and thus destroying opportunities for critical thinking, free thought and creativity.
Building attention is not an easy task even under the best of circumstances. Consumer (or predatory) capitalism is about dividing and pulling attention with lures of immediate gratification whether that be the allure of sexuality, sensual imagery, solving puzzles and mysteries, or the greed / lust to know more. The Internet as playground is a good example of attention reducing stimuli to manipulate and shorten attention along the paths of tangential thinking. This kind of conditioning is designed to hook the user / viewer into buying stuff. Maybe the reason you started an Internet search is lost by the time you’ve allowed your attention to dissolve into whims pulled by desire down the rabbit hole.
When I was in college my housemate gave me a book to read that she thought would be exciting for me. It wasn’t. The writer made it nearly impossible to read the book – very loosely – a science fiction novel, but it was more an allegory than anything else. He wrote paragraphs in long run-on sentences. My fascination with the book was supposed to whet my appetite to go to group meetings of this “cultish” group. It became clear that she wasn’t going to leave me in peace until I went to her group where I could then tell her I wasn’t interested.
Of course as you might have guessed I became interested. I had to wade through prejudices I had about the “spiritual”. I was invited to listen as this book I had previously tried to read was read aloud. I was called to read some aloud too. It tended to confirm my suspicions that the people there seemed insane. When I thought the group was winding down there was one more part of the session that changed my mind about the meetings.
Later I discovered that reading these paragraphs long run-on sentences that strained my comprehension of the material at the very least stretched the capacity of my attention and increased my ability to concentrate. The book was written by G. I. Gurdjieff and was called “Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson”.
I learned how to focus and shift attention. I read many books on spiritualism, Sufis, and the Gurdjieff Work. I learned through experiences and through books that attention was the first building block to higher consciousness. Although there is no such thing as multitasking it is possible to shift attention rapidly from one focus to another. The rapid shifting of attention gives the illusion to the person that they are multitasking when they are not engaged in doing something that is impossible. This harks back to binary – associative thinking.
All of us are trained to reason and rely on mind or cognitive activities to the exclusion of emotive and somatic processes. We know (cognitively) that we have emotions and that we have a physical body but we objectively identify them intellectually rather than acknowledge and explore these emotive and somatic sensations. The ego / cognitive self believes that it exists in a certain way so that it obscures emotional and somatic elements that it doesn’t want to acknowledge so that illusions can be created to view so-called reality. The ego engages in deductive logic looking for what it believes itself to be both positive (to grandiosity for example) and negative (to fears and depressive emotions) states. Beliefs that are personal, generational, cultural, genetic, and species oriented float in an unconscious realm where ego seeks to find truth. The truth that is discovered is transitory and impermanent. Ego must continue a life-long search that becomes fruitless. Ego proves what it believes based on fears, prejudices, biases, and so on.
Attention is the key to finding a place in our self that may become a semi-permanent steward in a continuing quest for learning, effective struggle, help and surrender/sacrifice. The Steward is close to the core of our being and helps ego find an enduring peace and a compassionate neutrality instead of the temporary gratification that is never sufficient.
The use of attention is essential to learning, effective struggle, help, and surrender/sacrifice of which memory is the binding force. Memory is a content and process oriented sensation. The content of memories are obvious and basic to identity: “I remember my name.” “I remember who I am based on…” The process of memory is time, which has been conveniently defined and invented as linear: past, present and future.
- Transformation by J.G Bennett p. 27-60, published by The Claymont Society for Continuous Education copyright 1978.
- Transformation by J.G Bennett p. 32-33, published by The Claymont Society for Continuous Education copyright 1978.
- for further reading: Fields of Perception – belief and attention
- for further reading: We are the Matrix and The Wider Consciousness
- for further reading: A Primer – Autogenic Training
Next in the Series is:
Learning and Transformation: Struggle Part 2 of 4