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Plavan N Mentation by Form

Plavan N Mentation by Form

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Published by MikeSufi
Gurdjieff's teaching
Gurdjieff's teaching

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Published by: MikeSufi on Jul 06, 2008
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Plavan N.Go
Working with Arrows: a Linguistic Guide to Active Mentation
Substantially revised on: 2003-10-21Buddhism is the first religion which brought this message to the world: thatyour religions, your philosophies, are more grounded in your linguisticpatterns than in anything else. And if you can understand your languagebetter, you will be able to understand your inner processes better. He[Buddha] was the first linguist, and his insight is tremendously meaningful.(Osho,
The Discipline of Transcendence
, Vol. 1, #10)
In the beginning of "Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, " Gurdjieff says that anyone whowishes to be a conscious thinker has to know that a man is capable of two types of mentation:"mentation by thought" and "mentation by form." Further he says that the exact meaning of allwriting has to be grasped by both types of mentation.Linguists today are aware of this second type of mentation and associates it with generalpatterns of perception shared by all human beings and also by animals to a certain extent.Linguists call them "semantic structures" even though this naming is narrow and misleading. Asemantic structure is not only semantic but also indicative of the geometrical configuration of our world perception, where "forms" (nouns) can exist only in their relationship with a certaintype of action (verb):I --(Touch)--> YouYou --(Watch)--> MeNouns such as "I" and "You" are labels that can be replaced by the mental pictures of "I" and"You". Verbs such as "touch" and "watch" point to our sensation-based memory of corresponding actions. Thus we can say that "mentation by form" is essentially a nonverbaltask even though it can be assisted by the use of words as labels and pointers.When we make a statement about a definite perception, the following process takes place:Objective reality -(1)-> Perceived reality -(2)-> Verbally-formulated realityWhen someone else tries to understand the statement, the process is reversed: the listener infers the geometrical structure of the speaker's perception by analyzing the statement.With this acknowledgment of "mentation by form," a new branch of linguistics was born that isno more a boring study of grammatical rules. In this new branch of linguistics, linguists studythe laws that govern the structure of our perception along with the grammatical rulesapplicable to the conversion of that structure into a sentence structure (Arrow 2 above).These studies also reveal the common limitations and errors of our mind that restrict thequality of the two reality-conversion processes (Arrows 1 and 2 above). In fact, theconventional way of using an arrow as shown below for describing a perception includes aserious error that linguists today are aware of:I --> the observed phenomenonSince Ouspensky chose this way of using an arrow when he described the "division of attention" as the characteristic feature of self-remembering, I will discuss about it in the
second half of this essay after showing you a different way of using arrows for describingperceptions adopted by linguists today.About 15 years ago, I was professionally involved in activities in this field, daily conducting thepaid exercise of converting sentences (mentation by thought) into structures of perception(mentation by form) and vice versa. This exercise substantially changed the way I think, read,write, listen and speak; helped in my career as a translator and writer; and more recentlyshaped my unique way of using language in conducting a joint exploration of our true naturein a group format. This essay provides you with minimum information required for conductinga similar exercise.
Linguistics and "Mentation by Form"
According to this information, it was customary in long-past centuries onEarth for every man bold enough to aspire to the right to be considered byothers and to consider himself a "conscious thinker" to be instructed, whilestill in the early years of his responsible existence, that man has two kinds of mentation one kind, mentation by thought, expressed by words alwayspossessing a relative meaning, and another kind, proper to all animals aswell as to man, which I would call "mentation by form."(Gurdjieff,
Beelzebubs Tales to His Grandson
, p. 15)The linguistic study of "mentation by form" and its relationship with "mentation by thought"started about 20 years after Gurdjieffs death. Two linguists are known to have built thefoundation of these studies: Noam Chomsky and Charles Fillmore. Chomsky studied therelationship between language and mind while Fillmore established the "case grammar"theory. The case grammar theory enabled linguists to determine the geometrical structure of corresponding perception by analyzing a sentence in terms of verb-noun relationships."Mentation by form" is the process of perception that precedes verbal formulation. "Mentationby form" can be assisted effectively or ineffectively by the use of words as labels, pointers,and holders of attention. Nevertheless, "mentation by form" can be conducted without relyingon or being constrained by grammatical rules. It is essentially a nonverbal task that dependsmore on our spatial awareness, movement awareness, relationship awareness, and self-awareness than on our linguistic proficiency."Mentation by thought," on the other hand, corresponds to mental processes that involvelanguage, which has much less capability for representing our potentially multi-dimensionalperception of reality. The quality of "mentation by thought" depends on its connection with"mentation by form." Without this connection, thinking degenerates into "associations."In the last few decades, studies in this field were actively conducted by developers of NaturalLanguage Processing (NLP) and machine translation methodologies. They have found thatour languages are too subjective and idiosyncratic to be handled effectively as they are by acomputer, and therefore looked for a way to convert our natural language into a moreuniversal format. From 1988 to 1989, I was involved in activities in this field as a professionallinguist supporting the development of a Japanese-English translation system at a major computer manufacturer in Japan.In the field of machine translation, the phrase-to-phrase conversion method proved to besuccessful only between languages that have identical grammatical structures. To effectivelytranslate Japanese into English, it was found to be necessary to rely on "mentation by form"as had been predicted by Gurdjieff:
The second kind of mentation, that is, "mentation by form" through which, bythe way, the exact meaning of all writing should be perceived and thenassimilated . . . (ibid, p. 15)The machine translation system developed by my former colleagues converts a Japanesesentence into a semantic structure (geometrical model of the corresponding perception) andthen generates an English sentence out of it. In these processes, words disappear into a formof perception and then reappear from that form of perception.This method of translation, though handicapped by the limited ability of language in fullyrepresenting the geometrical structure of our perception, was theoretically proved to be quiteeffective. Thus, the toughest problem in translation was found to be the mismatch of conceptsconveyed by words in different languages rather than the difference of grammatical structuresbetween different languages. For example, the machine translation between English andFrench has reached a level of refinement satisfactory for practical use while the machinetranslation between English and Japanese is still of very poor quality. The main reason for thishandicap is not the difference of grammatical structures but the mismatch of the meaningsand concepts attached to words in the two different language systems. This problem is lesslikely to happen between two languages that share many words with common roots.The second kind of mentation, that is, "mentation by form" through which, bythe way, the exact meaning of all writing should be perceived and thenassimilated after conscious confrontation with information previously acquiredis determined in people by the conditions of geographical locality, climate,time, and in general the whole environment in which they have arisen and inwhich their existence has flowed up to adulthood.Thus, in the brains of people of different races living in different geographicallocalities under different conditions, there arise in regard to one and the samething or idea quite different independent forms, which during the flow of associations evoke in their being a definite sensation giving rise to a definitepicturing, and this picturing is expressed by some word or other that servesonly for its outer subjective expression.That is why each word for the same thing or idea almost always acquires for people of different geographical localities and races a quite specific andentirely different so to say "inner content."(ibid, pp. 15-16)When there is no pressing need for communication as we face reality with clear awareness,"mentation by form" depends less on language. Verbal formulations can follow but will notprecede "mentation by form." In this sense, Zen masters' insistence on "thinking withoutwords" is not entirely absurd. Similarly, when Gurdjieff uses the word "thinking", it may notnecessarily mean a verbal activity. Particularly in the context of some inner exercisesassociated with Gurdjieff, like the one coupled with his last Movement, it is hardly possible toconnect the word "thinking" with an activity that involves verbal formulation.Nevertheless, if we aspire to be a "conscious thinker," we must maintain a stream of "mentation by form" while we are involved with words while thinking, reading, speaking, andwriting. More specifically, it is a demand to maintain the spatial awareness of the conceptualuniverse we are paying attention to, along with the awareness of our current focus and theplace of subjectivity.
Movements and Objects: Basic Constituents of Perceived Reality

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