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Pure consciousness: scientific exploration of meditation techniques

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This paper will explore the integration of elements of traditional Eastern meditative procedures with modern objective scientific methodologies. In contrast to the introspective methods usually relied on in modern Western treatments of consciousness, the Eastern procedures in question have the possible advantage of being the products of centuries of effort to develop systematic first-person exploratory methodologies. But since these methodologies developed outside of the context of our traditions of science, their reported results of course cannot simply be taken at face value. Nevertheless, aspects of their internal logic and putative results appear to be cross-culturally congruent, despite great differences of metaphysical frameworks and social milieux. Thus examining them and their effects in the context of modern scientific methodologies and criteria may well prove useful to us in our own task of developing a significant science of consciousness. In the paper we will accordingly describe some common methodological features and claimed results found in several major Eastern meditative traditions, discuss conceptual and methodological problems they raise, review some relevant scientific research on contemporary meditating subjects, and suggest some implications for the scientific study of consciousness. In particular, it will be suggested that the existing meditation-related research already indicates that Eastern varieties of meditative procedures should prove to be a useful component of any future science of consciousness.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23284-2025, USA.

Publication date: February 1, 1999


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