A Meditation on Mystical Union Using System Dynamics


A system dynamics analysis of consciousness during a religious experience is presented. This analysis establishes a single scientific basis for the core of all major world religions. That is, at one level all religions are diverse, but at the deepest level all are shown to have the same structure and essence. This forms a general theory of religion: e pluribus unum. The theory is a formalized conceptual system built upon the following set of ideas:
  1. The essence of religion, called variously God, Allah, Brahman, The One, No Thing, Being or Ground of one's Being, etc., is experienced during the peak or unitive experience, known in the West, for example, as mystical union. Each culture has a name for this holy experience: born again, virgin birth, enlightenment, satori, wu-wei, nirvakalpa samadhi, fana, devekut, ecstasy, etc. During the peak or unitive experience one sounds the fundamental note of one's existence. It is an ecstatic experience of That which is timeless and unconditioned.
  2. The essence of science is its use of a testable formalized conceptual system to analyze and comprehend phenomena. For at least the past two-hundred years these testable formalized conceptual systems have usually employed differential equations.
  3. The driving force of the analysis is the new phenomenological method, Feedback Phenomenology, which incorporates Forrester-style system dynamics. Feedback Phenomenology is used to analyze the various aspects of my consciousness during the 10-hour purgative period immediately preceding the roughly 4 to 7 second experience of mystical union. Purgation also has various names in the mystical literature of various cultures: Dark night of the soul, refiner's fire, katharsis, overcoming either knots in the heart or samskaras or nafs or samsara or original sin, etc.
  4. The key result of the analysis is a flow diagram: a representation of the structure of my consciousness during purgation in the form of a multiloop nonlinear feedback system. This flow diagram, together with its mathematical model, can be used to accurately simulate, moment by moment, the various aspects of my consciousness during the purgative period. At present the model contains 38 aspects of consciousness or 38 variables. These are all operating simultaneously.
  5. Once Feedback Phenomenology has been used to accurately simulate the 38 simultaneously operating aspects of consciousness during purgation, then deep scientific insights and conjectures are obtained about the dynamics and the biological nature of consciousness during purgation and mystical union by working along the following lines of attack: Mystical union itself cannot be modeled or simulated, because it is noumenal, not phenomenal: the change in inner sense ceases in that state and hence the sense of inner time ceases also.
  6. The approach to a general theory of religion is by induction. The Feedback Phenomenological analysis uses the 38 simulations to describe the various aspects of my consciousness, moment by moment, over their 10-hour duration during this particular experience of purgation. Then, with the experience thus clarified by being laid out as a function of time in such minute detail, analysis of the model structure - together with the study of numerous quotes from the literature of the major world religions as they apply at key points in the 10-hour simulations - tends to indicate that the experience is the central experience of those religions. As the work proceeded, the above clarification of consciousness during purgation led to a theory of consciousness, a mathematical modeling and simulation of somatosensory-driven mental imagery which is the intentional object of subjective consciousness during purgation, a solution to Chalmers' hard problem, and from there to a link with neurobiology and cardiovascular physiology. Here was the beginning of a solid link between biology and religion. Then, it occurred to me that Feedback Phenomenology was performing a phenomenological reduction but was doing it in a simpler and a more formalized way than the methods of the German Phenomenological Movement. In addition Feedback Phenomenology appears to be able to bridge or synthesize the split that had opened up in that movement between the transcendental school (Husserl thesis) and what might be called the realist or empirical or physical or existential school (antithesis). As the study has developed in this way, there has emerged a growing conceptual coherence and confidence, what E.O. Wilson calls concilience, in the Feedback Phenomenological Method and this inductive approach to both a general theory of religion and an integration of science and religion. In addition, sections VII.c and VII.i suggest one of the first tests of the theory.
  7. The present results of the existential and transcendental reductions emerging from the phenomenological analysis of the religious experience are as follows:
This set of ideas and their results are isolating and clarifying the blessed essence of religion and providing the framework for future investigations in neurobiology, philosophy, phenomenology, psychology, anthropology, consciousness studies, and religion. It is also providing the scientific underpinnings for theologies and faith-identity patterns throughout the world. In parallel with this is the establishment of the context necessary for clarifying the meaning of life. I believe these kind of results will gradually lead to the tearing down of the firewall that now artificially walls off, on one side, the scientific and psychological cultures and, on the other side, the religious culture.

I. Introduction to the religious journey associated with my particular experience of mystical union.

Most religions were generated by a single individual who had one or more peak experiences. These religions gradually were conditioned and tamed by social forces, were compromised, and then degenerated into their present form - a form that poorly represents the greatness of their originators. The general theory of religion focuses on the generative aspect of religion by examining a specific peak experience.

You may ask: How are we to examine the peak experiences of either Moses, the sages of the Upanishads, Parmenides, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Ramakrishna, or other revered avatars and saints? My position is that many people have had a peak experience. Only a few of these people have been known and have had followers: After the peak experience some have become arhats or avatars; others - those who have attained steady wisdom - have become bodhisattvas (Buddhists), sthitaprajnas (Hindus), or saints; others have anonymously devoted themselves to community and, if they are recognized, are sometimes called a mensch (yiddish), a standup guy (USA slang), etc. Still, others are problematic and difficult to categorize. It would be wonderful to have an avatar or a saint or a mensch make a scientific analysis of his or her peak experience so we could base the general theory of religion on that analysis. Lacking that, the general theory will be based on an analysis of my own experience. I give the following credentials for such an undertaking:

  1. I have experienced mystical union.
  2. I have been immersed in religious thinking since 1962.
  3. I have never joined any religion.
I am not looking for any followers, nor do I want any. Rather, I want to share with others the present state of my ongoing search for the truth about religion. I also seek critique.

a) My particular religious journey.

There are four periods of my religious journey:
  1. The 5-year crisis period during which my life slowly became desperate enough that I was willing to open myself to God:
  2. This led to the 10-hour period when I was tested by God; when my heart was purified and fully opened:
  3. This led to the knowledge of God or Allah or Brahman or The One or the Ground of one's Being or No Thing, etc. during the noumenal peak experience:
  4. The Return: 'A rolling stone gathers no moss.'
    Here is my present understanding of the Return, based on my experiences since 1962:

As I look back on the journey now, roughly one-third or one-half way through the Return, the feature that stands out is my experience of purgation and mystical union in early April 1962. This experience occurred at the end of a one-week vacation taken after completing an intense, high-tech, engineering project. It should be noted that the religious journey thus far, including the crisis, its culmination in purgation and mystical union, and the ensuing Return up to this moment, has unfolded naturally: no psychedelic drugs, antipsychotic agents, or other drugs or herbs were involved, except cigarettes and coffee.

The following Table indicates the universality of the journey's crisis and culmination. It disaggregates Periods #1, #2, and #3 above into fourteen stages, showing the name given by mystics in various cultures for each of the stages. Stages 1 to 10 are a disaggregation of Period #1; Stage 11 represents Period #2; Stages 12 to 14 are a disaggregation of Period #3 and its immediate aftermath. Period #4 is not included. I am too involved in it at present to have the needed perspective. Rather, it is discussed in some detail in Section V.

The religious journey is a great adventure. The narrative in Section II below, entitled An Engineer's Story, gives the reader a sense of this journey. Here are a few underlying items to note about the journey:

  1. In my case the journey began with a tragedy in December 1957 when I was 25 years old. News of this tragedy left me in tears and slowly led to the collapse of the meaning and purpose of my life. I was then a mechanical engineer in the US aircraft and missile industry, just graduated from college and completing my first year of work.
  2. The collapse of meaning and purpose was followed by an increased sensitivity of my heart and its associated feelings. I began to think for myself: the beginning of responsibility; an awakening of a spiritual force or energy within me. These new qualities empowered me to begin a spiritual quest to attain a solid ground to stand on.
  3. From the beginning of the quest, grounding, freedom, integrity, trueness, purpose, and meaning have been central themes of the journey. Grounding, sometimes called the ground of one's being, was eventually attained in mystical union. Also, insights into freedom, integrity, and trueness were revealed in that state.
  4. After mystical union, love of God and steadfastness have slowly emerged to become protagonists underlying and interacting with the central themes.
  5. Fundamental to the Return is its function as a preparatory period for the pilgrim's trials during the last days and hours and moments of life.
  6. As for purpose and meaning: All of the work that is presented here, the probing into the past, the analysis of consciousness during the religious experience, etc., have been part of the long meditative journey needed to prepare me for such understanding.

b) Using system dynamics.

The key analytical tool I am using is Forrester-style system dynamics. It sharpens and deepens my discriminating faculty while I probe for purpose and meaning during the Return.

I have mainly concentrated on an analysis of my consciousness during Period #2, my 10-hour experience of purgation or dark night of the soul that just precedes the peak experience. This analysis is presented in Sections VI and VII below. In those Sections I use a system dynamics based phenomenological method I call Feedback Phenomenology to begin to open up an analytical understanding of consciousness, both core consciousness and extended consciousness. This is done by using techniques from system dynamics to recall and reflect on my consciousness during that experience, structure the recalled consciousness as a feedback system, and then mathematically model and simulate that consciousness from a first-person perspective. In the peak experience or mystical union of Period #3 only core consciousness is operating. Meditating on this analysis of purgation is leading me into a deep clarification of both the essence of religion and its generative aspect. The present results of this ongoing study are a formalized integration of science and religion, a mathematical theory of consciousness, a solution to Chalmers' hard problem, a method for mathematically modeling and simulating a somatosensory-driven mental image or metaphor and its associated intentionality, a simpler and more formalized procedure for performing a phenomenological reduction, the basis for a vast overarching research program in the neurosciences, and the basis for a God-centered university. I believe these kind of results will gradually lead to the tearing down of the firewall that now separates the scientific culture and the religious culture.

At present my analysis of the religious journey has two stages, a roughing out stage and a refining stage. The first covers the period between December 1984 and the Spring of 2000 during which I roughed out the analysis of the main elements of the journey and their implications and roughed out the analysis of the present system dynamics model of Period #2 or Purgation. This first stage goes quite deep in its attempt at exploring the profundity and greatness of religion. During the second stage, which began during the Spring of 2000, I am attempting to go still deeper and approach greater breadth and rigor by refining the system dynamics model of Period #2, developing a series of models for intrapsychic dynamics during Periods #1 through #4, and developing a system dynamics analysis for the entire journey - also covering Periods #1 through #4.

These system dynamics meditations on my religious life are not only aspects of the general theory of religion but are resulting in the alignment of my belief with Truth and my thinking with reality, thus deepening the unfoldment, unlocking my psyche, and preparing me for my final hours.

II. An Engineer's Story:

(The Engineer's Story (1) is a narrative of stages 3 to 14 of Table I. It is chapter 1 from my book, A Meditation on Mystical Union Using System Dynamics. Numbers refer to references or clarifying notes or essays.)

Worldly Life Spiraling into a Crisis

In July 1960 I was hired as an engineer by a dynamic MIT spinoff company engaged in intense research and development activity. This company was packed into a small building whose lights burned night and day on an otherwise dismal, treeless, industrial back street in Cambridge. It had only about ten engineers at the time but would grow over the next twenty years to be listed on the NY Stock Exchange. This band of men, poorly financed, was competing with the, then famous, General Electric Research Laboratory in a race to develop a promising new technology. There was a fire of creativity running through that small company at the time. It emanated mainly from our demonic chief engineer who was spearheading the development and, to a lesser extent, from the haughty, brilliant, young MIT professor who had originated the new technology and was the company founder and president. There were other firebrands there also.

I had been traveling in Europe and India during the previous two years and thought of myself as a big-time adventurer, but in reality I had been floundering since 1957 when a tragic event had occurred to someone very dear to me. Though I was a 28-year-old engineer with a specialization in great demand and had been a student of one of the founders of that specialization, emotionally I had become, in those three short years, like a teenage runaway. In this structurally weakened state I had become entangled with, and addicted to a wanton, dominant, experienced woman of 35. Back in college in the midwest I had been an hermetic, crew cut, student-athlete and had never come across a woman like her. Though she was street-smart there was a sensitivity and vulnerablity to her that I was only dimly aware of at the time. In addition to being addicted to her I had also become psychologically addicted to cigarette smoking. I was developing other degenerative character traits as well which, though minor at the time, held within them the seeds of destruction.

My desk was crowded into a small room with those of four other engineers. I was chain-smoking three packs per day of strong, unfiltered cigarettes, filling the room with smoke and, at times, a prolonged, fitful cough. I was trying to make an intense effort to concentrate in order to raise the level of my status but was hindered by dissipating habits that I could see were destroying me. My colleagues were young, bright, and versatile engineers. They wondered why management let this strange, ill-mannered, and arrogant person in the door. I felt out of place, put upon, and rejected. A promising career and vital health had sunk to this level. Perhaps I could have settled for mediocrity - slavery in one form or another - but to my mind I was in a battle for my life. (2)

The Crisis and a Supreme Effort to Save My Life

Sometimes, if one will only persist, certain defeat can be turned into victory. Locked in this battle for my life, as it seemed to me, I began to mount a supreme effort to straighten out my life. I was desperate. The state of mind I was in can be illustrated by Churchill's words and actions during the Spring of 1940. In his radio broadcast of May 19 during the invasion of France by Germany, he said:
"This is the most awe striking period in the long history of France and Britain. It is also beyond doubt the most sublime. Side by side, unaided except by their kith and kin in the great dominions and by the wide Empires which rest beneath their shield - side by side, the British and French peoples have advanced to rescue not only Europe but mankind from the foulest and most soul-destroying tyranny which has ever darkened and stained the pages of history. Behind them - behind us - behind the Armies and Fleets of Britain and France - gather a group of shattered States and bludgeoned races; the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians - upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must, as conquer we shall.

"Today is Trinity Sunday. Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and be in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the Will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be."

Such was my state of mind. Come what may, it was better to go down fighting than to accept the ultimate consequences of the present course of my life (3). I attempted and failed many times to stop smoking from March through August 1961. I was irritable and rather wild during withdrawal periods - often insulting people. At the same time my concentration was getting better and I was beginning to do some rather good work. The latter offset my wild behavior and kept me from being fired. I began to devote more of my free time to my work. In addition I found nutritional supplements helpful during withdrawal: wheat germ, brewer's yeast, and a nutritional product called Tiger's Milk. Exercises in hatha yoga, particularly sirsasana and sarvangasana were also helpful. I carried an inspirational book in my back pocket that I had signed out from the MIT library. At critical moments I prayed for help.

I tried with all my will to break off with the woman through the Spring and Summer of 1961 but my blessed heart would not be dominated by my will. I kept returning to her like a drug addict week after week. In the end my heart found the way to leave her:

One steamy Friday night in August my thoughts of her became particularly intense. The conflict between my desire for her and my integrity had become critical. I was in my apartment in the negro Blackstone Square area of the South End. Instead of driving over to her apartment, I decided to walk. She lived about two miles away near Egleston Square which at that time was on the border between the white and negro neighborhoods.

In walking along old Columbus Avenue, I found my heart and soul open to the sights and smells and sounds of the night: small-time gamblers milling around outside a barber shop; the pimp and the woman strolling down the broad sidewalk, he with his flashy suit and greased down hair, she with her dynamite smile and curvaceous body. The gospel song coming from somewhere:

"Down in my heart I do believe that
We will overcome some day." Carolina Hymn
Further up the avenue, the drug addict lying on the ground amid the litter of tin cans and broken glass; the smell of stale liquor and cigarette smoke wafting from an open door of a bar. The round woman coming out of the laundromat with her bundle of clothes and her soulful eyes - those soulful eyes, so deep - so different from the cold, hard eyes of technology.

Through all these scenes I past until I finally arrived and knocked at the door of the woman's apartment. She was dressed in a short pink nightgown which fell only to the top of her thigh. A wave of lust ran through my whole body. I laid down on the living room carpet on my back overwhelmed by the walk, the sights of the steamy hot night, and the passion that flowed through my body. My heart and my soul and my pores and my veins were open. My blood was pulsing in every part of my body. She mounted me with her pink nightgown as I lay there and writhed on me. This did not effect the subtler level of my mind and heart where my concentration had been focused during the walk. My openness and depth of feeling gave me a detachment where mind and soul lay passively, watchfully beneath the passions that she was stirring up. As she writhed on me, a power developed in this passivity and transformed my lust. Presently I got up, tried to excuse myself, and left. I never saw her again: my addiction to her had somehow vanished.

"He unto whom all desires enter
As waters into the sea,
Which, though ever being filled, is ever motionless,
Attains to peace,
But not he who hugs his desire."
Bhagavad Gita II:70
A month later in September I succeeded in stopping smoking permanently. Around October I came up with a novel design for my project. My spirit was on fire(4).

Arete: Competitive Pressure Forces Excellence Out into the Open

The level of competence of my competitors or peers was very high - in a few it had reached the level of Fire as has been mentioned. Though I was doing good work, my status was still low relative to my peers. Now with my novel design in the conceptual stage, I accepted the call to challenge these competitors in order to raise my status and prove my worth (5). The resulting intense effort carried on over a period of time eventually focused my concentration and brought a depth of analysis. This produced the innovations required to make the conceptual design workable. I believe, and this cannot be emphasized enough, that the strain of the effort would have led to a breakdown if I had not had at this stage, latent within me, a transcendent purpose (6) and a trust in God that it would be fulfilled. This transcendent purpose together with prayful concentration brought about a centering (7).

The intellectual strain was not the only strain involved. I was experiencing another strain that I sensed would be difficult to manage later when I would have to do the detailed designing and building of the device. This second kind of strain involved interaction with my co-workers. I would be required to interface with and coordinate the activities of a number of people - draftsmen, machinists, technicians, foremen - within a tight schedule. At the same time I would have to work out more of the theoretical underpinnings of the design. Underlying these activities was the baffling politics and power structure of my peers. Usually work like this should be done only by those who are well integrated into the organizational structure and have good informal communication and support systems. For a lone wolf with obviously few social and communication skills, in particular the lack of a subtle understanding of political games, it is utter folly. I was setting myself up to be crucified. By any rational standards I should have remained at my desk with my theoretical work. In my ignorance I was completely unaware of the difficult situation I was getting into, but I did sense a supreme struggle ahead.

To my mind this was the critical moment in my life. I felt in my bones that I had to do or die; that the issues in my life had finally been joined; that this struggle was the meaning of my life. The reason for this rare conviction was that I had, temporarily at least, achieved an alignment of a number of elements of my mind, as when a rackety complex machine is carefully adjusted by a skilled mechanic and begins to hum. At long last I was running true. At that point I trusted in God that He would not abandon me if only I be true (8).

Around that time I sensed a barrenness caused by the renunciation I had recently undergone. I needed a rootedness not only in the mind and spirit but in the heart and soul. I sensed that I had to dig deeper in my quest (9). At that time, early November 1961, I felt I should take a ten day vacation before embarking on my task.

"Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings without, and fears within
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!"

Transcendence and Grace

During this vacation I went to San Diego to see old acquaintances, arriving on Friday night. I took the inspirational book with me. Around Wednesday I left San Diego by bus and hitchiking seeking a place associated with the book. I found it very much by chance. It was a monastery far up in the foothills of the Santa Ana mountains (10). I approached the simple, Spanish style retreat in a state of adventure, openness, and hope. As I entered the gate, and before I met anyone, I felt as if I had entered an enchanted land. I found that the monastery was maintained by a monk and about five brothers. They allowed me to stay with them for a visit. My system went into a different mode during the course of that first day. My heart and mind fell into a state of peace that continued on and deepened during the three or four days that I stayed. I sensed a subtler level of thought and feeling. A subtler vibration within my heart was being energized. I was in a holy atmosphere (11). I was tempted to remain - as the sun was setting on Sunday night - but realized I must finish my project first.

I returned to Boston on the night flight out of San Diego and came to work late Monday morning with renewed energy and resolve: I would prove that I was a good engineer and then return.

I was now walking the razor's edge.

Concentrating again upon my work, there began - and developed over the next few months - a slow awakening of a subtler level of my heart from its lifelong slumber. This brought me slowly into an entirely new state: one which transcended the previous more primitive state. I found myself dealing with stress through prayer and tears. The tears, finally unlocked, soothed the deep sadness of my soul. They alleviated my withdrawal symptoms (12).

Also my ability to cope increased. This can be illustrated by Churchill again as taken from the notes of Major General E. L. Spears on May 31,1940 (13):

"At the meeting of the Supreme War Council in Paris during the evacuation of Dunkirk, Churchill reported to the French that 165,000 men had been evacuated including 10,000 wounded and 15,000 French. Reynaud, the French President of the Council, at once drew attention to the small number of French withdrawn. Weygand, the Chief of the French General Staff, chimed in 'But how many French? The French are being left behind!' His voice was high, querulous and aggressive.

"Churchill looked at him for a moment. The light had died out of his face, his fingers were playing a tune on the edge of the table; out came his lower lip as if he were going to retort, and I expected one of those sentences that hit like a blow, but his expression changed again. It was evident that he felt every indulgence must be shown to people so highly tried, undergoing so fearful an ordeal. He looked very sad, and as he spoke a wave of deep emotion swept from his heart to his eyes, where tears appeared not for the only time that afternoon. 'We are companions in misfortune', he said, 'there is nothing to be gained from recrimination over our common miseries.'

"The note he had struck was so true, went so deep, that a stillness fell over the room, something different from silence, it was like the hush that falls on men at the opening of a great national pageant. I imagine all thoughts were turned inwards, questioning whether each one was observing that precept. It was important in its results, for the note it struck was maintained throughout the meeting; goodwill, courtesy, and mutual generosity prevailed."

Only at this transcendent level, where coping skills of the heart were activated, could the quality of response of the lone wolf, without allies, be adequate to overcome the competitive pressure of his brilliant peers to hold him back and to overcome his own social awkwardness.

At this stage and during the ensuing months my heart and my brain were working in tandem. Coming out of work one evening, briefcase in hand, I began to weep as I caught sight of the November sunset. The old heartless life was in abeyance. Thinking went on constantly day and night until the project was completed. When the design seemed to be unworkable, all I had to do was walk the streets at night and the solution would come (14). At times I walked the Boston streets that winter without a coat, warmed only by the inner fire coursing my brain and body (4). Such was my state (15). Competition with my peers became a minor factor; dissipating habits were tossed off with ease one by one. I was now dealing with an awakening heart, tears, a transcendent purpose, prayer and openness, and concentration at a fiery level (12).

I felt this was my life at stake, the end of the line of my genes. I had to pull out all the stops. Centering myself in the openness of prayer at the eye of the storm, I seemed to gain control of the very pulse of life. The powerful winds of my spirit had been caught now by my sails; the rod of iron of my will was in my right hand ruddering me; and the waves of my emotions were dangerously whipping across my bow. As the great adventure proceeded I sensed an immense ocean within me, its deep, slow, surging waves powering my heart and soul (4) (16).

"Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!"
In these unfamiliar elements, with only God as my companion, the strings binding my heart began to come unloosened (17).

The Seeker of God then went to his salvation by way of the Refiner's Fire, the second stage of his purification.

The Heart Begins to Open

The purification resulting from renuciation came about by a supreme effort of the will and by Grace, but the second stage of the purification that followed proceeded passively. A force began to manifest itself in me and I could do nothing but pray. My will was powerless to effect this Force. It began in the following way:

I returned to Southern California at the end of March 1962 for another one week vacation after successfully completing the project. I was still running true. I was charged and in a state of openness. On this visit I went to another monastery run by the same Order of monks. Again I found myself in a holy atmosphere (11). I had a deeply restful, enchanting, profoundly moving week, many times bubbling over with mirth and on one occasion, hearing a beautiful piece of religious music, I was unable to contain a weeping which became a prolonged sobbing from the bottom of my heart.

Around noon on Sunday I left the monastery to return to Boston for work the next day. I was to take a cab to the Los Angeles airport and then a non-stop flight to Boston. I had plenty of time. The cab stand was about a half-mile away. I was walking down a hill with a small suitcase in my hand. As I walked reflectively and in peace down that hill in the warm and brilliant Southern California sun, my heart slowly began to feel full. My mind was drawn inward. In this mood I arrived at the cab stand. I told the driver my destination. He was a rather cool and playful young man in his early twenties. I noticed that I was very friendly and mirthful - quite unusual for me since I usually never spoke to cab drivers. During the ride I was joking and at times giggling and had a great time for the half hour drive to the airport. At one point the driver asked me if I had had a 'joint' before getting into the cab.

At the airport, however,the warmth or power in my heart began to deepen. I was sitting in the waiting area for the flight but found I could not stay seated. I got up and began to pace the floor of the waiting room. I was well dressed and groomed in a fine conservative suit. Perhaps it was a rather strange sight. The thought occurred to me I was on the verge of a heart attack, but I was only thirty and in good health so dismissed the idea.

The plane was quite full. I took my assigned seat by the window. After the plane circled LA and turned East, the Force in my heart began to get intense. My heart was opening!! There was a struggle going on in my heart. The Force was opening my heart and, because of my fear, my will was waging a losing battle to close it. The opening of my heart brought about a fear - indeed - a terror. At the same time I felt a degree of love for all, forgiveness, brotherhood and sisterhood for all.

I called for the stewardess. I told her something was wrong with my heart. She got me out to the first aid area and gave me oxygen, but it had no effect. She took me to the first class area where there were fewer passengers and I could be alone. The Force continued to try to open my heart and I was in a state of terror for fear I would die shortly. I kept getting up and walking to the drinking fountain to quench the fire in my breast. I must have drunk at least two gallons of water during the five and one-half hour flight.

A few times the stewardess came by to see how I was. Once she sat down next to me. She seemed quite curious about me. She was about 24 or 26. Under the ceiling spotlight I could see her features were delicate but her beauty had now passed its peak. There were the first signs of tension wrinkles around her eyes and mouth. Close up I could sense something about her that had gone cold and there was a sadness underneath her makeup. She was neglecting what I could see was a precious soul. In the course of our quiet conversation I told her, in a somewhat oracular way, 'Please leave this terrible job.' She asked me why I thought it was so terrible. I said, in effect, she was being paid to be pleasant and gay to the passengers even though her heart and soul didn't feel it any more. She needed an honest job. With my heart so open, I knew my intuition was sure and I could see these things clearly, quite in the same way that the lay of the land can be seen and understood better when standing at an elevated place. Under ordinary circumstances such a conversation would have set the stewardess' teeth on edge, but with my heart so open she seemed to sense my good will and took what I said to heart.

Nevertheless, when I arrived in Boston about 10:30pm, I was met by a rather serious airport state police officer. He was about 35 or 40 years old. He escorted me from the plane ahead of the others and led me to the airport shelter. Normally I was rather aloof from police officers, indeed I didn't like authority of any kind, but when the officer met me my heart was so open I felt all men were my brothers. As I walked aside of him to the shelter, I found myself putting my arm around his broad shoulders. I became aware of the gun at his holster but it made no difference to me. In the state of mind I was in, I felt toward him like toward an elder, beloved brother meeting me at the plane. I chatted with him and thanked him for his trouble and great courtesy and assistance. I told him I had just left a monastery and was overwhelmed by being in a crowd of people and that I would be alright once I got home. Besides being an optimistic prognosis to calm myself it also seemed to be an appropriate way of explaining my openness and feelings of brotherhood and also of avoiding being detained. Ordinarily this tough, no-nonsense police officer would have given me a difficult time but instead, like the stewardess, he seemed to sense the integrity of my feelings.

The Dark Night of the Soul: The Heart is Purified and Prepared for the Culminating Experience

I took a cab and arrived about 11pm at my South End lodgings. They consisted of two rooms on the second floor of an almost- deserted rooming house overlooking the extensive negro federal housing project near the Cathedral. The dull red brick buildings and barren clothes-lines at the edge of the project could be seen from my front window by the light of the street lamps. The window faced a large, tree-lined, but neglected, park called Blackstone Square. Next door was a Syrian Church with a domed roof overhung by a huge tree now bare of leaves. A light quietly emanating from the ornate glass window in the dome soothed my soul as I paced the rooms.

Finally I was alone. I lay down on my bed. I knew very little about the writings of the mystics at the time. I did not know that I was now entering the Refiner's Fire or the Dark Night of the Soul (18) that would purify my heart and make me fit for Union with God.

"But who may abide the day of His coming,
And who shall stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a Refiner's Fire." Malachi 3.2
The events in the cab and on the plane were the beginning but the Dark Night of the Soul began in earnest when I laid down on my bed. As I have said, the fire in the heart led to the opening of the heart. The heart continued to open slowly and inexorably, step by step, like a flower. As it did, it produced forgiveness - forgiveness of those I felt had wronged me, who had teased and mocked me. These vexations departed from my heart one by one as they came to my mind - like water drops from a lotus leaf. At the same time there came to my mind, one by one, things I had done which lay buried in my consciousness undermining my life. I prayed for the Lord to forgive me and He did so, one by one (19).

Simultaneous with this forgiveness was terror and joy. I was in terror of losing my life. The Fire or Force was opening my heart and I was naturally terrified since my heart had never been open that wide. Fear keeps the heart closed so if the heart is opened beyond its normal position it produces terror. To alleviate this terror I had to forgive. It allowed the heart to tolerate being opened at that degree of opening. As this proceeded, hatred slowly left my heart and it slowly became more purified.

Then the heart opened more. More terror. More sin and error came to my mind one by one and I asked the Lord to forgive me and He did so one by one. The terror lessened. The heart opened wider. More joy. More terror. More prayers. And as the heart opened ever wider my joy increased to ecstasy or rapture (20).

At the same time I was dealing with another aspect of the terror of losing my life: the dread or remorse that I would lose my worldly ties. I would die in this lonely place never to see my dear ones again. My worldly hopes and dreams would end here never to be fulfilled. Clinging to life, I begged the Lord, Oh save me. Let me live.

This Prayer of Salvation during such an emotional crisis deepened my attachment to God with Form. To confirm and permanently establish this attachment I made a Covenant with God with Form. Once this firm attachment was made I could remove myself from worldly attachments and all its associated complexities and my fears could more easily be borne (21). Only the most simple and fundamental structures of the mind-heart system were now being employed. This stabilized my mind and enabled my heart to continue the process of opening. It opened amidst joy, ecstasy, terror and anxiety while at the same time there was a fierce attention of my mind and being on that which was within.

The Great Silence

Gradually, then, over a period of about an hour this Refiner's Fire succeeded in bringing about an opening and purifying of my heart and bringing along with it peace to my conscience. As a result, my thinking process was able to rest. As this occurred, all of my mind - all of my being - was freed to focus on the present moment within where there existed the blessed open heart. In this undistracted, dramatic state my mind became one pointed. That was its natural, purified state. Then, suddenly, all action within me ceased (22). The pumping of my blood, the beating of my heart, the quivering or hum of my nerves (or perhaps the latter was my body shaking) ceased quite abruptly and I was left in a state of profound silence (23). I had crossed over to the Great Silence (24).

In that state I no longer felt the previous terror, joy, or anxiety. Instead I felt I had come into my True Home, where I was Free(21, 25). I had left the World and was in a state of Pure Being. In that state my mind could not think; it could only observe inwardly and record (26). I had no power to recall or analyze. All of my mind and being continued to focus on the present moment within during the transition into the Silence and at the Silence. In that state of mind and being, my system was satisfied that it had penetrated to the core. Its energy then ran out. It let go and I fell into a swoon, a deep and abiding sleep (27).

It was the silent night, the holy night.

Presently I awoke. It was daybreak. All was peace, bliss. Within me lapped the Living Waters: a serene, wave-like energy of such a subtle frequency that it was capable of flowing evenly throughout my head and body as if they were both made of one substance(4, 28). I was in such a state of peace and bliss, pervaded by a feeling of inner goodness, that the experience has led me to believe this is what is known as Heaven (29). My sincere and earnest search for the Truth during the previous five years had finally been satisfied (30). I no longer felt that I must seek the ground of my life, the base upon which to build a sound life. I felt I had found the Ground of My Being: the philosopher's stone, the Formless, the Timeless, the Unconditioned, Existence, Knowledge, Bliss (31).

This I now feel is God: no more, no less. Reflection on those blessed hours since April 1962 has led me to that conclusion (32).

III. The Dark Night of the Soul or Purgation: A more detailed phenomenological account of stage 11 or Period #2:

a) The iterative structure of Purgation:

The opening or unfoldment of my heart during what is known variously as the Dark Night (John of the Cross), Purgation (Malachi 3:3), Refiner's Fire (Malachi 3:2), or overcoming samsara (Suzuki 1959, p139) prepared me for mystical union. The various aspects of my consciousness associated with the opening and purification of my heart during stage 11 had a cyclical characteristic. This is described by means of the following iterative structure:

  1. An unfoldment force within the deepest part of my heart led to an opening of my heart.
  2. This initial opening produced rapture but gradually it also brought a psychic stress and fear of death as the opening heart began to encounter a resistance, perceived as a knot in the heart.
  3. The terror or psychic stress caused my mind to either conjure up or discover the following interpretation or explanation for the presence of the knot: Each knot in my heart had a one-to-one representation in my mind of a particular guilt, sin, error, or hatred.
  4. As the fear of death and stress mounted due to the opening heart working against that particular knot, my mind's analytical faculties quickly found and became aware of a particular attachment or impurity in the mind associated with that particular knot in the heart, be it a remembered sin, guilt, error, or a hatred.
  5. Because of the extreme stress I began to pray to a God whom I called the Lord.
  6. As the stress began to mount even further almost to the point of death in this Dark Night of the Soul, either of the following occurred:
  7. This success of prayer, in which a hate turned to love and in which I felt the presence of a forgiving God, encouraged dialogue to develop with this concept of God with Form: The Lord. This assisted my mind in letting go of the whole neurotic complex in my brain that connected to or centered around that particular knot in my heart. I attached myself instead to this concept of God, my Blessed Friend, the source of comfort. (Deuteronomy 4:29 and Matthew 22:37)
  8. Thus, my heart felt less stress and terror with that knot now untied and my mind became less complex. The mind was therefore a further step more stable and ran more true. I could rest in grateful companionship with The Lord. Moreover, with the knot now removed joy deepened a further step toward ecstasy or bliss and the focus of my mind on the present moment within became more pervading.

[It took about nine hours to go through steps 1 through 8 above for the first knot to be removed. Thereafter the eight step iteration or recursion looped relentlessly during a period of about an hour (see the one-hour unstable region of the simulation of purgation in Figure 1 below) until my heart was fully open; until it was purified or purged; until the twelve knots in the heart (I am using an initial value of twelve knots in the heart, but there could have been anywhere between seven to fifteen knots in the heart) had one by one been untied in this meditative way, and either the sin, guilt, hatred, and error in the mind associated with each knot had become uprooted; until a Covenant had been made; until only the most simple and fundamental structures within my mind-heart system were being employed; and there was a fierce and deepened attention of my mind and being on the God-infused present moment within.]

The algorithm above describes a phenomenon that is like labor before birth. That is, the Refiner's Fire is the labor before the birth of God realization. The purpose of this labor is to produce an opening. The opening force comes from deep within.

b) Figure 1: Simulation of the Dark Night of the Soul or Purgation: [This is a sixteen-hour (960 minute) simulation of stages 11 thru 13 of Table I. It is based on the system dynamics flow diagram of Figure 2 and its associated mathematical model.]

Timetable for the Purgation simulation above (estimates):

  1. 0 minute mark to the 60 minute mark: The simulation begins at noon Pacific time. It starts with the 15 minute walk to the cab stand, during which the heart began to open, and extends through to the arrival of the cab at the Los Angeles airport.
  2. 60 minute mark to the 120 minute mark: The one-hour wait at the airport.
  3. 120 minute mark to the 450 minute mark: The flight from LA to Boston, leaving LA at about 2:00pm and arriving at Logan airport around 10:30pm Eastern time.
  4. 450 minute mark to the 555 minute mark: The trip from the airport to my apartment plus about one-hour of preliminaries - thinking, pacing the floor, etc. - before lying down on my bed.
  5. 555 minute mark to the 615 minute mark: The unstable period during which the 12 KnotsInHeart are purged.
  6. Mystical union, lasting anywhere between 4 to 7 seconds, occurred around the 617 minute mark.
  7. 617 minute mark to the 960 minute mark: Deep sleep.
  8. Awaken to the divine state at the 960 minute mark.

IV. Mystical Union: A more detailed account of stage 12 or Period #3:

Toward the end of the Dark Night (see Stage 11), during the one or two minute period extending from the removal of the last knot from my heart to the experience of mystical union, my mind rapidly became completely absorbed with the God-infused present moment within and my heart continued to open. Psychic stress, fear of death, and prayer due to fear were rapidly disappearing and their intense energies were becoming transformed into a force powering a supreme inner attention and absorption. Then, quite abruptly, a cessation of all inner sense or movement occurred for a period estimated to be between four to seven seconds, during which I was in the state of mystical union.

In mystical union the following occur:

V. The Return: my religious journey after mystical union:

In the following I summarize only the preliminary phases of my Return: the first two phases and the beginning of the third phase. After that I will have to pass through further phases: 'The heart is slow to learn.'

a) Phase 1: A general search for orientation. (1962 - 1989)

  1. The dilemma:
    The twenty-two years between 1962 to 1984 following mystical union were spent floundering, but I don't believe I was wasting my time. Primarily, I was beginning to learn how to listen to what Westerners call the Lord or Hindus call the buddhi or some psychologists call the Self. In addition I was widening the range of my experience, learning about my strengths and inadequacies, and searching for my vocation or karma or 'right livelihood.' The pressing issues during this phase were:
  2. I dealt with the dilemma in the following way in my general search for orientation (I am only giving external details here):

b) Phase 2: Finding and then practicing my vocation or karma or 'right livelihood.' (1984 - present)

  1. The dilemma:
    Phase I had brought me to the state where I was living in two worlds. This was mainly due to having taken a permanent position as a research engineer: During the day my mind was fully absorbed in my engineering analysis and the business of functioning in an organization. The evenings and weekends were devoted to the continuing problem of integrating the religious experience into my life and philosophy. My energies were split. At the deepest level of my mind, instinctively, I knew that under these circumstances I would never be able to crack the code!
  2. Finding my vocation:
    I found my vocation by integrating these two worlds: engineering analysis and religious experience.
  3. My strategy for coupling my work or vocation with the activities of the intellectual, psychological, scientific, and religious communities:

c) Phase 3: Praxis: Toward the solution to the identity crisis and the integration of psychology and religion. (tentative)

I use the word praxis here to mean the art or science for deepening one's religious life. The key to successful praxis is solving the identity crisis. To do this, the religious seeker (i.e. the seeker of integrity, authenticity, freedom, truth, and love) harmoniously integrates the following three inner aspects:
  1. The parts of oneself:
  2. The self:
  3. The Deep Self: This is one's essence - one's inner, stable, unchanging, unconditioned, and timeless Ground or Divine Energy, called variously God, Brahman, Allah, No Thing, Being or Ground of one's Being, Jehovah, The Father, core self, etc.
The Identity Crisis is solved for all practical purposes in IFST when one purifies and deepens one's religious life to the point where one is comfortable allowing one's self to lead or take control or coordinate an intrapsychic balance and depolarization of the various parts. However, I think this practical or action oriented solution to the Identity Crisis will not satisfy the seeker's transcendental yearnings for the Ultimate, eventually driving him or her forward toward a deeper solution to the Identity Crisis in the knowledge of the Deep Self in mystical union. The parts and the self work together as two; the Deep Self is the One.
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
Hear Oh Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
Moses (Deuteronomy 6:4)

d) Phase 4: Living the religious life. (This phase is the heart of the Return. In my case this phase is still undeveloped.)

VI. Feedback Phenomenology.

a) Introduction:

Feedback Phenomenology is a formalized, recursive or iterative 9-step method for performing a phenomenological reduction. This leads to both the eidetic reduction and the existential or physical reduction. In addition it is a methodology used both to understand and to extend the limits of human reasoning. It does this by using feedback and other system dynamics techniques to scientifically and mathematically examine the complex system structure and dynamics of the mind and consciousness. Its application appears to be limited to the examination of a past, acute, emotional, subjective experience.

It should be noted here that the system dynamics aspect of Feedback Phenomenology serves a bootstrapping function. A system dynamics analysis can never do full justice to the subtlety of a poetic idea, a religious experience, etc. Rather, Feedback Phenomenology's strategy in using system dynamics as a bootstrapping operation is to get the structure of consciousness for an experience. This structure serves as a map of consciousness during the experience, because Forrester's system dynamics methods geometrize differential equations. It should be noted that the structure of consciousness obtained from the bootstrapping operation, though not perfect, must still be able to at least accurately simulate consciousness minute by minute during the experience, but preferably it should be able to simulate consciousness second by second, at least during key periods of the experience.

With this structure in place the Feedback Phenomenology methodology then asks the user's mind to focus on each element of the map or structure, while at the same time always being aware of the entire map or total structure. This focuses the analyst's mind so that thought about the experience can proceed to a subtler and deeper level. From this the phenomenologist's mind advances toward both the eidetic reduction and the existential or physical reduction the analyst is searching for.

This is not a trivial accomplishment: Analysis of consciousness is the beginning of philosophy, as not only Husserl has held, but Descartes, Kant, and various sages and schools of thought from Asia and other corners of the world. This powerful method of Feedback Phenomenology, presented in detail here for the first time, provides a telescope or microscope for recalling, observing, and mathematically analyzing the changing horizon of one's own consciousness. In addition this new science enables the scientific world to measure subjective mental processes for the first time. Simultaneously, hovering cognitive neuroscientists, cardiovascular physiologists, and neurobiologists can then gather and move in to convert the resulting map of consciousness from a first-person perspective into its biological correlates seen from a third-person perspective. This technical breakthrough is a new science.

b) Choosing the experience to analyze:

Before beginning the recursive or iterative Feedback Phenomenology procedure shown below the analyst must choose an experience to analyze that was acute or crucial and has the following characteristics:
  1. It is your own experience.
  2. It is experienced subjectively or inwardly without interaction with the environment.
  3. It is the deepest experience you have had. The deeper one's experience, the simpler is one's consciousness during the experience and, hence, the easier it is to perform the Feedback Phenomenological analysis.
  4. It is of great meaning to you, because the procedure must be sustained for a number of years.
  5. It resides permanently in memory.

c) The eidetic reduction and the existential reduction:

If the experience chosen is of great meaning to the analyst, there is always going on during the analysis - whether consciously or unconsciously - an effort to intuit the essence of the experience and to lay down the existential or physical correlates of consciousness. It is the underlying aim of the recursion and its driving force. That is: the eidetic reduction and the existential reduction are going on constantly in the mind of the analyst throughout the recursion. The results, in the case of the eidetic reduction, are called 'intuition of essences' or the 'transcendent elements' of the experience. The results, in the case of the physical or existential reduction are called the biological, physiological, and neural correlates. When the analyst is satisfied with the results, the force driving the recursion or iteration ceases.

d) The Feedback Phenomenology procedure: The steps of the recursion or iteration:

The 9-step recursion that follows loops relentlessly over a period of years. Steps 1 to 8 are the phenomenological analysis steps; step 9 is the eidetic and physical reductions. To illustrate this recursive method of Feedback Phenomenology, the links below illustrate its application to the religious experience called purgation or dark night of the soul.
  1. Recall from episodic memory various aspects of consciousness or subjectivity during the experience. This recall is greatly aided by a technique for organizing the recall, termed system dynamics causal loop diagramming. This technique helps one to see the elements of the recall as sequences of cause and effect, structured as a set of positive and negative feedback loops.
  2. Write a narrative of the experience. For my example of purgation, see An Engineer's Story, particularly the section, The Heart Begins to Open, and the sections that follow it.
  3. Use other techniques from system dynamics - such as stocks and flows together with one of the system dynamics software packages, such as STELLA - to convert the causal loop diagram of step #1 into a system dynamics flow diagram. In the process of choosing the state variables or stocks of the flow diagram for a subjective experience, it is important to determine the intentionality of the experience. The intentionality of a subjective experience is about a mental image and is modeled using state variables or stocks.
  4. Establish mathematical relationships between adjacent variables in the model (e.g., As an example from the model of purgation, the intensity of the variable WilledAttention is dependent on the intensity of the variable FearOfDeath). The flow diagram together with the mathematical relationships between the adjacent variables form a multiloop nonlinear feedback system.
  5. Use the resulting mathematical model and STELLA to simulate the model's variables. For example, there are 38 variables in the model of purgation at present, most of which represent an aspects of consciousness during the ten-hour experience. One can use STELLA or any of the other software packages to display the simulations of sets of variables side-by-side on graphs to get a moment-to-moment view of various aspects of consciousness as a function of time throughout the experience.
  6. The recall of the actual experience is called the reference mode. When the simulations of step 5 and the reference mode don't match, fine tune the model structure, adjust constants in the equations, and manipulate table functions. This is done recursively, recalling at subtler and subtler levels until the sets of simulations accurately match the reference mode, moment-by-moment over its duration.
  7. Focus on each element of the flow diagram developed in steps 3 through 6, while at the same time always being aware of the entire flow diagram or map or total structure. This focuses the analyst's mind so that thought about the experience can proceed to a subtler and deeper level.
  8. Study relevant literature and scientific papers to gain both perspective and depth of insight about the various aspects of consciousness shown in the flow diagram or map of consciousness.
  9. The reduction: The transcendental reduction and the existential reduction.

e) Some comments on the recursion of steps 1 to 9 above:

  1. During the above recursion the analyst both recursively analyzes the experience (phenemenological analysis of steps 1 to 8) and recursively meditates on that analysis of the experience (eidetic and existential reductions of step 9) over a period of years until the reductions are satisfied.
  2. This recursive process is augmented by insights from the study in step 8 and limited by the following qualities of the analyst:
  3. The key to the phenomenological analysis aspects of the recursion (steps 1 to 8) is Forrester's fifth principle of system dynamics. This principle has been given some recent scientific support by the neurophilosopher and theoretical neuroscientist, David Chalmers.

VII. Applying Feedback Phenomenology to analyze purgation or Dark Night.

a) Figure 2: The system dynamics model or flow diagram for purgation or Dark Night:

Since December 1984 I have been simultaneously developing and applying the eight-step Feedback Phenomenology method to examine the system structure and dynamics of my consciousness during the religious crisis. The focus is on a ten-hour experience of the dark night of the soul or purgation, which immediately preceded mystical union. The present system dynamics model of purgation, is shown in Figure 2 above. It gives the best flow diagram structure so far for my consciousness during purgation. Its associated mathematical model can be used to generate simulations of various aspects of my consciousness. At present the model has seven differential equations, five of which are nonlinear, and 38 variables. The latter include variables for somatosensory-driven mental imagery or metaphorical thinking, fear, attention, working memory retention time, prayer intensity, forgiveness, etc. This opens the way for science to be deeply integrated with the sacred experiences of religion.

(Much progress still must be made. Any system dynamicist will note that there are at least two missing stocks or state variables at the center of the diagram in Figure 2. The reason is that during the period when I was developing Figure 2 - December 1984 to December 1994 - I was unable to discern these very subjective and personal stocks, because my heart refused to recognize that the mental image or archetype they represented could be objectified using a stock. Therefore, I temporarily innovated the central region of the flow diagram shown in Figure 2 in such a way that it would allow me to accurately simulate a reference mode that I am able to recall very intimately. The innovation for filling in for the missing stocks was mainly to manipulate the shape of the two table functions, FearDeathDueToKnot and PsychicStress, and then, in addition, fine tune constants and other table functions until the accurate reference mode was produced. In late November 2000, after six intense years of study - aided by the temporarily innovated flow diagram in Figure 2 - I finally gained the perspective to identify the nature of the two missing stocks: Just as KnotsInHeart and HeartOpenness together represent a mental image, the two missing stocks will be representing a second mental image. Since then I have begun reconstructing the new diagram for Figure 2, but it will take some time before I can develop and then post the results of this new diagram and its associated mathematical model. The reference mode, and hence the simulations, should remain the same.)

The architecture of the model:

The architecture of the model of the dark night of the soul, shown in Figure 2, incorporates a quickly operating (milleseconds to seconds) parallel processing cognitive mechanism, imbedded within a relatively slow system (seconds to months) that is embodied. The former, sometimes called the computational mind, originates in the thalamocortical system; the latter, called the phenomenological mind, originates in the limbic-brain stem system and neurocirculatory system.

My representation for that part of my consciousness that is correlated with the limbic-brain stem and neurocirculatory system is shown in the lower half of the model in Figure 2. It includes the variables associated with mental imagery or metaphor, such as KnotsInHeart, TruenessOfMind, FearDeathDueToKnot, and the set of feedback loops associated with HeartOpenness. The cognitive mechanism is located in the upper part of the model, above the semicircle that includes KnotOriginInsight, RetentionTime, and CognitiveAbilityFactor. Communication between these two sectors of the model is provided by transducers or transition variables like Prayer and Attention. Tentative definitions of each of these elements are given by the 38 equation mathematical model. The constants in the equations and the table functions have been tuned to give an accurate simulation of the 10-hour Dark Night or purgative stage that just precedes the culmination in mystical union. (See step 6 of the Feedback Phenomenological procedure.)

Dynamics of the Dark Night:

Under normal conditions there is little change in the input to the cognitive mechanism from the deeply embodied or heart-centered part of the mind. That is because in my normal life HeartOpenness was stable at 5%of maximum possible openness and there were a stable set of twelve KnotsInHeart. However, at the beginning (Time = 0) of the Dark Night or purgation, this deeply embodied part of my mind underwent a change, perhaps a bifurcation, in such a way that OpeningPressure jumped from its NormalOpening Pressure of 5% all the way up to 80%. This is reflected by the fact that I have programmed AdditionalOpeningPressure to go from 0 to 75% at Time = 0.

Keep in mind that the model of the 10-hour experience of purgation in Figure 2 is only one sector of what will eventually be a larger model of the entire 5-year crisis. Therefore, the step input from AdditionalOpeningPressure, while it physically comes from inside the mystic, model-wise it comes from a projected, but not yet modeled, adjacent sector outside the boundaries of the model shown in Figure 2. This step input in Figure 2 caused limbic-brain stem variables, such as HeartOpenness, PsychicStress, FearDeathDueToKnot, KnotsInHeart and the like, to change or become dynamic, all coordinated by way of the feedback structure.

KnotsInHeart, HeartOpenness, and the three memories in the cognitive mechanism mathematically are called state variables. In system dynamics they are called stocks. Each of them has the characteristic of accumulation in the same way as a bathtub accumulates water. Example: 'How open is the heart at this moment?' is analogous to 'How full of water is the bathtub now?'. ForgivenessResponse, HeartUnfoldmentRate, and PrimaryInformationProcessingRate are examples of rates. In system dynamics, they act like either the bathtub inlet faucets or outlet drains. The arrows indicate causation. For example, the arrows coming from PrayerTrueness and PrayerIntensity and pointing at PrayerQuality indicate that the first two variables determine the value of PrayerQuality at any time. As a result, the following tentative definition of PrayerQuality is based on the mathematical model:

PrayerQuality = 0.5*(PrayerTrueness + PrayerIntensity)

When PrayerQuality reached 100%, which is the 'forgiveness threshold', the ForgivenessResponse was triggered and one KnotInHeart was removed in a ratchet-like fashion. Action then shifted to a negative feedback loop: PsychicStress decreased rapidly, causing the HeartUnfoldmentRate valve to open. This caused HeartOpenness to fill or open further, causing PsychicStress to rise again. As a result FearDeathDueToKnot, PrayerIntensity, and WillfulAttention rose. Because of the rise in WilledAttention, action then shifted to another negative feedback loop concerned with problem solving: The PrimaryInformationProcessingRate in the cognitive mechanism rose, leading to a rise in KnotOriginInsight. This insight concerned the problem of the origin of the knot. This led to a rise in PrayerTrueness and the PrayerQuality until the latter reached the 'forgiveness threshold' and then the ForgivenessResponse was triggered again. Then, a new knot cycle began.

At the end of this Dark Night all twelve knots had been removed from my heart, the heart was open, and AttentionalFocus rose with NaturalAttention. The rise in NaturalAttention results from a pure, knot-free heart (KnotsInHeart = 0) that caused TruenessOfMind to go into an exponential rise. Then a cessation occurred and I found myself in mystical union. This is indicated when the value of the output variable, ReadinessForUnion, goes off to infinity.

b) Figure 3: Two-minute simulation of four of the 38 aspects of consciousness during the Dark Night of the Soul or purgation: [It is based on the system dynamics flow diagram of Figure 2 and its associated mathematical model.]

(This simulation focuses in on a two-minute period of the one-hour unstable region that was shown in Figure 1.)

Figure 3 above shows a simulation of an intense two-minute period of the Dark Night of the Soul or purgation during which the 5th, 4th, and 3rd knots in the heart are purged.

For example, the 4th from the last knot is removed at the 607.84 minute mark as shown by curve 1. Then begins the 3rd from last knot period, a 47 second period from the 607.84 to the 608.63 minute mark, during which curve 4, FearDeathDueToKnot, rises accompanied by what Kierkegaard called 'fear and trembling'. This fear and trembling leads to intense and insightful prayer. The intensity is that of a drowning man crying out for help; the insightfulness is a gradual recognition that the source of the particular knot is a particular sin, hatred or guilt.

At the end of this 47 second period, just before the removal of the 3rd from last knot at the 608.63 minute mark, is the culminating point of the 3rd knot removal period when, in fear and trembling, the mystic-to-be accepts in the depths of his heart the deep insight into his sin, hatred, or guilt. This is what is needed to bring PrayerQuality (curve 2) to 100%, the forgiveness threshold, and triggered the ForgivenessResponse and removal of the 3rd from last knot at the 608.63 minute mark.

Then FearDeathDueToKnot drops suddenly from 87.2% of maximum all the way down to around 1% of maximum. At that point there is extreme thankfulness to the Lord, accompanied by rapture. This extreme thankfulness comes about because the blessed Lord has answered his prayer, granted Forgiveness, and saved him from death.

"Forgetful of myself,
My head reclined on my Beloved,
The world was gone
And all my cares at rest,
Forgotten all my grief among the lilies."
(from the 'Dark Night' by John of the Cross).
Then the 2nd or next to last knot period begins, as the cycle repeats itself. Meanwhile, TruenessOfMind (curve 3) is rising inexorably as the knots are purged, leading eventually to mystical union after the last knot is removed.

For more detail, please see the complete narrative of the crisis at Section II.

c) Neurological underpinnings of the model:

The flow diagram model of my consciousness during purgation, shown above at Figure 2, has two sectors. Each of these first-person consciousness sectors has characteristics that will indicate to neuroscientists their underlying neurobiological correlates. At present, a rank amateur like myself will have to make the following first pass at a neurobiological explanation of these sectors. It would be wonderful if, instead, a neurophilosopher like Antonio R. Damasio could make the analysis, but the truth is, any undergraduate student in the neurosciences could help me improve the analysis than I am making below. Please send email.
  1. The variables in the lower sector represent somatosensory-driven mental imagery or metaphor. These variables represent the feeling that the heart is opening against a restriction or knot. These restrictions to the opening of the heart cause stress. When stress is rapidly rising to high levels, anxiety or fear of the unknown and fear of death develops. This leads to prayer. Ten hours later at the end of the dark night all restrictions or knots have been released through forgiveness and the heart is fully open; all stress, fear, and anxiety have vanished. What could be the neural and biological correlates of this sequence that underlies the changing horizon of consciousness during this 10-hours experience of purgation?
  2. The upper sector of the model represents thought processing with my cognitive mechanism, including variables such as processing rate, working memory, and retention time in working memory. These have their neural correlates in the thalamocortical system. Work by cognitive neuroscientists on the cognitive mechanism over the past few decades could be incorporated into the model, expanding the complexity and detail of this sector.
  3. Intermediate between these two sectors, bringing about an integration and coordination between them, are the variables, prayer intensity and attention or attentional processing. According to LaBerge, 'The two subcortical structures that have been most strongly implicated as mechanisms that modulate attentional processing are the superior colliculus and the thalmus.'
  4. At present, purgation or dark night of the soul appears to me - keeping in mind my limited neurobiological background - to be associated with some sort of eruption in the neurocirculatory system, centered around the heart and from there to its neural connections with the amygdala. Then, the fear arising from the amygdala drove a number of regions of my mind associated with imagination to generate, first, a somatosensory-driven mental image and then a line of thought associated with this mental image that soothed and stabilized my fears as I traversed the 10-hour purgation experience.
  5. Another conjecture concerns blood flow in the vascular network. During stress and emotion hormones [chemicals, peptides] are released. These hormones could increase cardiac output, dilate blood vessels, increase blood pressure, and increase oxygenization of the lungs. This would allow the cardiovascular system to greatly increase its ability to irrigate the organism with nutrients, remove debris, and, hence, to function optimally. This would have the purpose of preparing the organism and its nervous system for the experience of mystical union.

d) Mathematically modeling mental imagery or metaphor: The handling of somatosensory-driven mental imagery and intentionality by Feedback Phenomenology for the model of purgation:

  1. How somatosensory mental imagery or metaphor appears in the mind:
  2. Feedback Phenomenology, intentionality, and the mathematical modeling of mental imagery or metaphor:
    A key idea in Feedback Phenomenology is that the changing state of the core of the mental imagery or metaphor can be represented mathematically by state variables. In Forrester-style system dynamics, which underlies Feedback Phenomenology, state variables are represented by what are called stocks. For example, the one changing mental image central to my consciousness during purgation is disaggregated into two changing stocks, HeartOpenness and KnotsInHeart. The intentionality of subjective consciousness during purgation was about this mental imagery or metaphor. That is, the stocks HeartOpenness and KnotsInHeart together represent the intentional object. Therefore when using Feedback Phenomenology to model subjective experience, one should look to the object of the intentionality when selecting the state variables or stocks.
  3. The relationship of problem solving to the arousal of subjective consciousness:
    Further reflections on the experience of purgation reveal that subjective consciousness and its associated thought, emotion, and somatosensory mental imagery or metaphor arose in my mind in response to a problem. For purgation my pressing initial problem was: What has caused this arousal in my heart? (I did not know yet, and would not know until 39 years later, that the arousal was a combination of contractions and inhibitions in sets of my heart muscles.) In great anxiety I asked myself: How long will it last? Will it ever end? Am I going to die? Without these problems the stress, fear, and anxiety components of my consciousness would not have arisen. My state of mind would have remained relatively unconscious and problem free.
  4. Purgation's critical fork in the road to mystical union: The relationship of problem solving to the stabilization of the anxious and overstressed mind.
    By creating the scenario and its associated changing mental image in such a way that it could be intimately correlated with the movements of my heart muscles, my imagination had provided me with the solid structure that I needed. With that structure in hand my mind was no longer overwhelmed by the moment to moment dynamics. My mind was freed up enough so that I could focus on the essential content of purgation, which was in the form of the following iterative sequence: Perhaps, the mental image and the scenario, together with the grace of the Lord in granting me forgiveness, led me to the way toward mystical union rather than the way toward a negative psychotic episode.
  5. Further clarification of what I mean by somatosensory mental imagery or metaphor:
    At present the term mental image is used in two ways in the scientific literature: visual and somatosensory mental imagery. Somatosensory mental image, as discussed above, may not be familiar to most scientists and intellectuals as yet. So to further explain how I think it is used by the mind during an acute experience, I illustrate it in 'The Heart Begins to Open' section - and the two sections that follow it - in An Engineer's Story. This is the narrative of my religious crisis and its culmination in purgation and mystical union.

e) Solution to Chalmers' hard problem

I believe my work is now getting very close to solving Chalmers' hard problem in the emerging field of consciousness studies. The key result to examine is Figure 2, the flow diagram for purgation. It gives the structure of consciousness during purgation. Presently, I am trying to get the neural and physiological correlate for this flow diagram. That would solve the 'hard problem'. The state variables are shown in Figure 2 as rectangles. The two state variables, KnotsInHeart and HeartOpenness, represent what Antonio R. Damasio calls somatosensory mental imagery. Their somatosensory nature was explained by C. S. Sherrington (see Section VII d1 above). The variables for fear and stress in Figure 2 have correlates associated with the amygdala, as Joseph LeDoux has shown. In addition there are projections from the amygdala to the vagus nerve. These projections would serve as correlates for the connections between the fear/stress region and the heart region in Figure 2.

The above paragraph, together with the discussions in Sections VII.c and VII.d above, is a beginning attempt on the road toward laying down the correlates for Figure 2 and thus solving the 'hard problem'. I now need high caliber analysis of Figure 2 through collaboration with a team of scientists composed of cognitive neuroscientists, physiologists, and others in allied fields in order to arrive at a refined and thorough scientific solution to the 'hard problem'.

f) Illustrating concepts from the Phenomenological Movement in Germany by means of the Feedback Phenomenological analysis of purgation:

(The Phenomenological Movement terminology is shown in bold.)
  1. Consciousness is always directed toward a noema. The noema can be either an external object or an internal mental image. Husserl called this directedness the intentionality of consciousness. In Feedback Phenomenology the various features of the noema are modeled using state variables (stocks). For example, for the subjective experience of purgation, the noema is mental imagery or metaphor in the form of an opening heart whose unfolding is restricted by the presence of knots. This particular imagery has two features and, hence, is modeled using two state variables, KnotsInHeart and HeartOpenness.
  2. The noema is filled in with evidence or hyle. For the example of purgation, the coordination between stress, fear of death, prayer, forgiveness, and thought via the workings of the cognitive mechanism fill in and authenticate the depth of consciousness associated with the noema's features, KnotsInHeart and HeartOpenness. The fact that this hyle is present indicates dynamic mental imagery or metaphor, rather than static mental imagery or metaphor. Dynamic mental imagery is prompted by an inner perception and is conditioned by its corresponding underlying dynamic neurobiological feedback. Such circuitry is associated with the cognitive mechanism, the limbic brainstem system, and the neurocirculatory system.
  3. All the detail of the model - including the variables, the connectors, the mathematical model, the simulations of the changing horizons of consciousness, and the determination of the neural correlates of the model - are what Husserl called the results of the phenomenological reduction. This reduction is accomplished by means of steps 1 to 8 of the recursion of Feedback Phenomenology.
  4. Phenomenology aims at understanding both the transcendental elements and the existential or physical elements in our experience. Both are intuited or determined during step 9 of the recursive procedure of Feedback Phenomenology When both the intuition of essences and the determination of the physical or existential correlates of consciousness are completed, the recursion ends. Intuition of essences is what Husserl called the eidetic reduction. For purgation, some important transcendental elements intuited during the eidetic reduction are given at Section VIII. The determination of some of the existential or physical elements resulting from the reduction are shown in Section VII at items c, d, and e.

g) The relationship of consciousness during purgation to consciousness during mystical union:

When the period of purification and opening of my heart was completed at the end of purgation, deep subcortical areas of my nervous system appear to have unlocked, giving me access to the core self, the holy ground of Being during mystical union. This statement, which goes to the sacred heart of religion, illustrates the problems scientists and theologians will ultimately have in making a profound integration of science and religion. I have avoided the problem for the time being by focusing the lens of Feedback Phenomenology on the ten-hour experience of purgation, from its very beginning right up to the moment of its transition into mystical union. Feedback Phenomenology cannot deal with mystical union itself, because in that state both inner sense and inner time cease, but rare insights about mystical union can be obtained by meditating on consciousness at the moment of transition.

At the moment when my consciousness passed through the sudden transition from purgation to mystical union, mental imagery or metaphor suddenly vanished along with inner sense and the sense of inner time. Also, thought, sensibility, imagination, and the ability to will recall all cease. The eyelids are closed in mystical union. One is experiencing what the Japanese Zen Buddhists call No Thing: a timeless and unconditioned state, without mental imagery, metaphor, or thought. Simultaneously, the Zen Buddhist is experiencing Enlightenment: an experience with the characteristics of a supreme integrity, a supreme freedom, a supreme bliss, and a profound grounding in Being and Truth within. Notice that none of the latter characteristics is a 'thing'. Satori is a combination of No Thing and Enlightenment. This also holds for mystical union, fana, nirvakalpa samadhi, etc.

The analysis of purgation is in the realm of science and mystical union is pure religion. The transition between those two states has been described in various ways:

  1. from phenomenon to noumenon.
  2. from the world of appearance which is the world of science to the world of things in themselves.
  3. from the world of space, time, and the categories or universal concepts (like unity, plurality, totality, causality, and action/reaction, etc.) to the real world which exists beyond the limitations caused by the forms of the mind - like space, time, and the categories.

My position is that the Feedback Phenomenological analysis of the 10-hour experience of purgation is the clearest and most detailed analysis that has yet been made of this central experience of religion: the transition from purgation to mystical union, from phenomenon to noumenon. Hence, this detail, shown in Sections VI and VII, is the long-sought raw material for thought about the integration of science and religion and the nature of reality.

The aim of my thought is to use the above raw material to bring about the "resolution of the greatest spiritual problem of the modern world, the conflict between religion and the philosophy of naturalism implicit in science."

h) Conjecture concerning various behavioral scenarios of the mystic:

Mathematicians could analyze the nonlinear differential equations developed for purgation to reveal the various possible behavioral scenarios of the mystic. Here are two approaches:
  1. Make a phase portrait of purgation and from it find the region of the portrait where the system is attracted to the state of mystical union. If the attractor is Liapunov stable, this may mean that the experiencer becomes an avatar or arhat, remaining within the basin of attraction in an orbit near the attractor or fixed point. Then, determine how certain variables of the model (and the relationship between these variables) contribute to the stability of the fixed point or attractor. One can then make an analysis to determine the range of the set of variables that would produce an avatar or arhat. Phase portraits that show the mystic's behavior traversing regions outside the basin of attraction would be of interest to some psychologists, religiously oriented social workers, and anthropologists - particularly if a limit cycle or unstable spiral exists in the region outside of the basin of attraction or if the fixed point is unstable. Behavioral scenarios that traverse regions outside the basin of attraction may produce the behavioral category of saint or bodhisattvas or other behavioral scenarios that are problematic and difficult to categorize. These phase portrait analyses could give insights into the incredible phenomena of avatars or arhats, but explaining in detail the other more complex categories with such an analysis will obviously be extremely difficult.
  2. Examine the conjecture that the removal of knots during Purgation has the effect of a catalyst, leading to a phase transition and the emergence of the self organized state of mystical union.

i) Testing the model:

Although the model was developed strictly from my Feedback Phenomenological analysis of consciousness, the indications of the feedback patterns of the biological correlates of consciousness during a stressful situation could give insights to neurobiologists now studying neurobiological feedback circuitry during stress. For example, perhaps a test of the bidirectionality described in Section VII.c.1 above could be performed using a drug to increase heart activity and blood flowrate while employing neuroimaging to monitor neural activity in the brain and neurocirculatory system. (Author's note: I don't believe that any drug could cause purgation and mystical union to occur, but there may be a drug that can uncover bidirectionality in the stress circuitry by the above process.)

VIII. Transcendental Elements: The metaphysical, psychological, and religious breakthrough produced by the eidetic reduction. Cracking the code.


Below is a summary of the insights [the transcendental elements] my mind has arrived at, primarily through the Feedback Phenomenological analysis of the experience of purgation, shown in Sections VI and VII. These insights are still tentative. They are only the present results of the eidetic reduction. Nevertheless, it was toward insights like these that my mind has been directed ever since I began this study in 1984, indeed, ever since I began the search in December 1957.

It might be well to note here that there is a difference between the revelation obtained during the experience of mystical union and the understanding that results from the phenomenological analysis of purgation. The peak experience or mystical union reveals knowledge of God, reveals the ego ideal, and gives groundedness to the seeker. It is the revealing of the essence of freedom, trueness, groundedness, knowledge, and love that are inherent in the unsurpassable Greatness within. For example, the experience of trueness during mystical union is experienced as a sudden transformation in a formerly rackety complex machine that has been carefully adjusted by a skilled mechanic and begins to humm or run true. The mystic carries the memory of the ego ideal with him for the remainder of his life. He or she feels that that search is over. On the other hand, understanding the peak experience is the aim of the phenomenological reduction of purgation leading to mystical union. The reduction ceases when the analyst senses the transcendental and existential elements give certainty and meaning to the mystic's life. However, unlike the finality and certitude of the above revelations during mystical union, the search for certitude, meaning, and finality by means of the understanding never ceases. The aim is rather to get closer and closer to a true understanding in all of its depth and breadth.

Kant called the former a determining judgment; the latter a reflecting judgment. In the former, I am in possession of the universal experienced during mystical union (God and the ego ideal) and am subsuming a case under it (i.e., I am attempting to live my life with the universal always in mind and heart.). In the latter I have a phenomenological analysis of my particular experience of purgation leading to mystical union and am considering it under the hypothesis of the universal. In this way I am striving for certainty, meaning, and finality. Both the determining judgment and the reflecting judgment are needed to produce the man or woman of steady wisdom.

Transcendental Elements.

a) Metaphysics/Ontology/Epistemology or Theory of Knowledge.

(As of November 24,2000, these particular transcendental elements - what I had called Metaphysics/Ontology/Epistemology or Theory of Knowledge - have been undergoing deep revision. However, the set of insights as they existed at that time can be accessed at this link.)

b) The passive nature of God: Insights into the Essence or Ground of our life.

Focusing on the transition from purgation to mystical union gives powerful insights: During purgation my imagination produced mental imagery or metaphor and an emergence of an archetype when I really needed it. These products of my imagination played a central role in stabilizing my mind during the experience of purgation. However, they suddenly ceased functioning at the moment of cessation in mystical union. The fact that God was experienced then, after those two aspects of the imagination had shut down, conflicts with the present position of both the scientific community and the Western psychological community. The Western psychological community's extensive study of the mind has convinced them that God is a product of the imagination. My position is that we must go deeper: The experience of God originates at a much deeper level:

During mystical union inner sense ceases and inner time stands still. Simultaneously, one has an ecstatic experience of merger with the essence of one's inner self or inner Being. This timeless essence or Immensity or Ground cannot be conditioned, either by society or authorities or by anything else. The ecstatic experience of this Ground, occurring after purgation when my heart had been purified and fully opened, is an experience of an unsurpassable Greatness that fully satisfied my desperate search for groundedness.

Immediately after, when I came down from mystical union and ordinary consciousness partially returned, I was in a heavenly state. This state is called bhava by the Hindus and 'the Peace that passeth all understanding' or 'Beulah land' or heaven by Protestant mystics. It is a state of supreme bliss.

Later, when I had returned to ordinary consciousness, I searched my mind and language for a name for the formless and unsurpassable Greatness experienced in mystical union. This search for a name developed gradually over many years, like one slowly arousing from sleep. Because I was born and raised in the United States and English is my native language, the only name I could find that satisfied my heart and mind was the word, God, the name my precious mother spoke to me about when I was a boy.

If I had been born and raised in a Hindu culture, the name I would have chosen would have been Brahman; If I had been born and raised in a Muslim culture, the name would have been Allah; If I had been born and raised in a Japanese Buddhist culture, the name would have been No Thing; etc.

c) The active nature of God: Insights into the Source of our motivation, the Goal of our motivation, and the structure of the game of life.

There is something driving us to trueness, to freedom, to integrity, to grounding, and to love, but we never seem to attain it. Whatever trueness, freedom, integrity, grounding, or love we attain, we sense it is not enough. We need more.

In my case I was only satisfied after having experienced mystical union. It was in mystical union that I experienced ultimate trueness, freedom, integrity, grounding, and love. At that point I felt my search was over. I was finally satisfied. Therefore, it was this goal that I had been driven to, unconsciously. This goal is hidden from us. It is unconscious: It is silently and wordlessly informing us: 'Come to the state of ultimate freedom, trueness, integrity, grounding, and love.'

From the point of view of intentionality, our lives are about reaching this state of ultimate freedom, trueness, integrity, grounding, and love. That is, in our daily lives ultimate trueness, freedom, integrity, grounding, and love are the unconscious intentionality of our conscious lives. This unconscious intentionality is rooted, in turn, in some sort of unconscious Life Force.

With this insight I had cracked the code and the way was open to knowing the structure and meaning underlying the dance or game of life: to knowing what drives the dance of our lives.

d) The essence of faith.

Sometimes, desperate people - when their backs are to the wall facing defeat, death, and/or disintegration - make a miraculous recovery. Examples are found among warriors, businessmen, athletes, people on their death bed, prisoners, former addicts of one kind or another, etc. Do you remember the people of London during the Battle of Britain? Do you remember the people of Grand Forks, North Dakota during the Red River flood of 1997? Do you remember the night Archie Moore came back from a terrific beating in the first round to defeat a powerful Canadian boxer? An Engineer's Story is a narrative that details one person's experience of this mode or capability, including the desperate circumstances that brought it about.

All such people are knowers of a greatness within that has enabled them to function in these situations in a mode far more profound, powerful, and skilled than their ordinary abilities. This human capability probably evolved during the desperate battle conditions of our earliest hominid ancestors. This capability is always available to human beings. To know this is the essence of faith.

IX. Miscellaneous Items.

Arlen Wolpert
MS (Mechanical Engineering)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
(Draft of March 2,2001)