Chapter 11



The obligation to give is no less important. If we understand this, we should also know how men come to exchange things with each other. We merely point out a few facts. To refuse to give, or to fail to invite, is -- like refusing to accept -- the equivalent of a declaration of war; it is a refusal of friendship and intercourse. Again, one gives because one is forced to do so, because the recipient has a sort of proprietary right over everything which belongs to the donor. This is expressed and conceived as a sort of spiritual bond.

Marcel Mauss, The Gift

We have seen in the last chapter that the internal organization of the human nervous system is creodized in the course of enculturation, and is socially manipulated via symbolism. We have also seen that symbolic attributions will range in maturity from that of a child to that of the most developed adult. Most people on the planet, embroiled as they are in the natural social attitude, are subject to the tacit attributions, typifications and projects that condition social relationships in every society. Most people fail to exercise the reductions that might free them from the bonds of their cultural view and lead to more creative self-expression and more fluid (even transcendental) social relationships. Implied by social phenomenology is the possibility of transcendence of social conditioning and culture -- transcendence in the dual sense of experiencing outside the creodic boundaries of social conditioning, and knowing beyond any particular level of socially sanctioned maturation. (1)

In this chapter I want to demonstrate the possibility, recognition and significance of transcendence in a social neurophenomenological perspective. I will do this by merging two frames of reference: the sociology of exchange and the neurophenomenology of love and benevolence. I wish to explore the tantalizing question raised by Marcel Mauss concerning the connection between spirit and gift, for I believe that therein lies a key to understanding how the biologically natural and bipolar processes of individualization and socialization are balanced so as to make society possible. What makes this exercise particularly challenging is that all too often theories of exchange are thoroughly materialistic and thus miss the greater psychological and cosmological significance of giving. Even where psychological processes are addressed, they are usually a rationalist psychology of decision-making. However, when exchange and giving are considered from the perspective of mature contemplation, it is possible to see their full implications for an understanding of human social life and its transcendental possibilities. To this end I will combine the data from the social anthropology of exchange with the neurophenomenology of love and giving as encountered in western and eastern spiritual traditions. I will first define love and exchange in such a way that their respective frames of reference may be compared, and then discuss their interaction in the individual and the society, as well as their neuropsychological underpinnings.


The experience of love is a fundamental ingredient to all traditions of spiritual development. I am not speaking here of ego-love -- a positive affect directed at an object that "I" desire -- but rather a more basic and all inclusive kind of love. Erich Fromm makes this distinction nicely in his book, The Art of Loving:

Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not towards one "object" of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty. In fact, they even believe that it is a proof of the intensity of their love when they do not love anybody except the "loved" person. ...Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object -- and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else, "I love you," I must be able to say, "I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself."

(1962: 38)

I am concerned here with the experience of love as unconditional beneficence toward, and connection with, one's fellow humans, as well as with other beings and the rest of the world. As real as this experience is, and as fundamental as it is to the human condition, incorporating a neurophenomenology of love into scientific explanations of economic behavior may seem to be incongruous, even fatuous, despite attempts by some economic anthropologists like Marshall Sahlins (1965) to include in their theories the psychological dimensions of exchange. Ashley Montagu notes:

It is curious that while so much has been written on love by poets, playwrights, philosophers, and theologians, social and behavioral scientists should have paid so little attention to so important a subject. The mention of the word in such quarters still seems to cause the kind of embarrassment that the word "sex" used to produce, not so many years ago, in "respectable" circles. Most social and behavioral scientists still tend to shy away from the subject, although there have always been some outstanding exceptions.

(1975: 1)

Of course, the heavy commitment of anthropology and the other social sciences to the positivist rendition of science required methods of observation and strategies of theory building that effectively inhibited inclusion of such supposedly "airy-fairy" data as the phenomenology of love, even when the evidence abounds of the importance of the subject to a more complete understanding of exchange.


The great French anthropologist, Marcel Mauss, in his Essai sur le don (published in 1969 in English under the title The Gift ) defined the essential structure of social exchange. Recognizing that the giving of gifts among people is a cultural universal, a practice common to all people of all cultures and all times, he reasoned that the act of giving must perform some crucial function, both for the society as a whole, and within the psychology of society's members. As an inherent structuralist, Mauss saw beneath the surface details of giving. He knew that humans will give a dizzying variety of things, ranging from money to houses, from food to land, from songs to services, from tokens to prayers, and from goats to people themselves. What is given seems to vary endlessly. Why things are given is another matter altogether. Mauss showed that gifts are given to establish and maintain social bonds through mutual obligation. I give something to you, and you are obliged to give something to me. This orientation toward mutual giving and taking is reminiscent of the Weberian view of social action and relationship recounted in the last chapter.

Claude Levi-Strauss (1969), Mauss' most famous student, subsequently argued that such institutions as marriage exist for the purpose of linking otherwise distinct and potentially quarrelsome kindred together into cooperative networks. Marriage is, in most societies, a type of exchange between groups. If my daughter or sister becomes your wife or in-law, I am obliged to provide you with certain goods and services, and you are reciprocally obliged to give to me. In Schutz's terms, our giving and taking become conditioned by typifications established in and SYMBOLIZED by marriage. Furthermore, if we have a falling out, we are less likely to resort to extreme measures (like blood feud) to resolve our conflict. The marriage exchange may actually be a SYMBOLIC formality, as in the exotic case of the Nayar of southern India where matrilineal groups are linked through a formalized "marriage" of their members which may or may not be initially consummated and which never entails the couples living together, although later on the "husband" may become one of his "wife's" many lovers (Gough 1961).

According to Marshall Sahlins (1965), there are three types of exchange: Generalized exchange occurs when there is giving with no expectation of immediate or equivalent return. Parties to the transaction do not weigh-up the reciprocal value of gifts given and received. Rather, there is giving in response either to the dictates of tradition, or to the recognition of need. Balanced exchange involves giving with an expectation of relatively immediate and equivalent return, but without a profit motive. Concern is with the equality of reciprocity, of give and take, and not with getting the better of the other guy. Negative exchange is giving with an eye to making a profit. Each party is interested in coming out ahead in the deal.

It is well to imagine these three "types" of exchange as being three points on a continuum of human interaction from generalized exchange at one pole and negative exchange at the other with balanced exchange somewhere in the middle (Laughlin 1974b). The factors determining the location of a particular exchange on the continuum involve the psychology of the parties to the exchange. If the focus of consciousness is primarily upon close face-to-face relationship, cooperation and the continuity of the social bond, the giving will tend toward the generalized pole, but if the focus is more upon maximizing return to the giver -- greed, if you will -- then the transaction will tend toward the negative pole.

It is not surprising that in human societies there is a correlation between type of giving and the social and geographical proximity of exchange partners. The closer the parties are socially and residentially, the more likely that their giving will be toward the generalized pole. Neighbors loan and give to each other more freely than do strangers, most Christmas gifts are given between family members, etc. We also know that the incidence of each type of giving will vary in response to stress (Laughlin and Brady 1978). People under conditions of severe deprivation may first become more cooperative under the aegis of social norms. Later, if the deprivation continues, people may reverse their cooperation and become increasingly more stingy until, in a real pinch, generalized giving is limited to those with whom one has close face-to-face relationships (i.e., the immediate family, neighbors). There are even exceptional cases in which societies have been so beset by deprivation that generalized exchange virtually disappears within the family (Turnbull 1972).

Such cases of extreme selfishness and hoarding are notable precisely because they are so rare and seem to violate our sense of what it means to be human. Despite the fact that we in North America tend to get more niggardly under conditions of severe economic recession, it is nonetheless very human to give, and to give is to be human in the most fundamental sense of the term. The sharing aspect of humanity is reflected in the fact that most societies place constraints upon how far a person may go in serving self at the expense of the commonweal. For instance, one of the common impediments to the spread of entrepreneurship among non-industrial societies has been the deep-seated suspicion of, and taboo against hoarding sufficient wealth required to "build capital."

Gifts to the Gods.

Lest I inadvertently perpetuate an overly materialistic conception of exchange, it is well to note that much exchange encountered by anthropologists takes the form of "sacrifice," offerings and alms given by the living to gods, the dead, or some class of individuals conceived to be cosmologically auspicious (e.g., the clergy or the poor). Although he admitted that his speculations were tentative and based upon partial data, Mauss nonetheless makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the connection between this kind of giving and the seemingly more mundane kind mentioned above (Mauss 1969: 12). He explains the connection by viewing humans as a blend of corporeal existence and spirit. Living humans embody the spirits of the dead and other supernatural entities in their own beings. This is reflected by practices where living people bear the names of supernatural entities and dead ancestors, or where people enact the dead or the gods in masked ritual (Mauss 1969: 13). Wealth is conceived in such societies as actually owned by supernatural beings, and to "sacrifice" or offer is but giving up to the gods what is rightfully theirs in the expectation that the gods will look favorably upon humans and return the gifts with even greater abundance (Mauss 1969: 14). Giving to the gods, in other words, simulates the generosity expected by the gods. Furthermore, the gods look favorably upon alms giving, for humans are thereby transforming offerings into a redistribution of divine wealth to the poor and other auspicious classes (Mauss 1969: 15).

Socially Sanctioned Exchange.

Socially sanctioned exchange is one of society's most potent mechanisms for counterbalancing the potentially involutional effects of the empirical ego; that is, the set of adaptive creodes developed by every individual to protect its organism. I am again using the term "ego" in the Husserlian sense (rather than the Freudian) as the way the organism views itself, its position in the world, its goals, wants and needs, as well as its routine means of satisfying these. As such, the ego is self -serving. Ego is of course produced within the greater field of intentional processes, and thus is goal-directed, maximizes means to ends, and acts to fulfill its own expectations. Ego protects the integrity of the organism so that the organism is safe enough in the world to grow and mature. If it remained unconstrained by society, the tendency of the empirical ego would be to take, rather than to give, particularly under conditions of stress. This is because ego is developmentally motivated by, and is fundamentally a product of, fear (fear of individual dissolution, non-existence, death) and desire (desire for continued existence, well-being, nurturance). The basic imperative driving the initial formation of the empirical ego is to find food without becoming food.

The formation of the ego is thus a natural, biologically "wired-in" process, the rudimentary forms of which are to be found in other animals -- what Earl Count (1973) calls the "vertebrate ego." Throughout the thousands of millennia of our evolution as a complex social species, the empirical ego no doubt emerged and developed its constituent adaptive functions within the greater context of a social adaptive strategy. Therefore, there must always have existed a sort of tension between the pressures selecting for a more advanced, self-serving ego and for a more advanced, other-serving sociability (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1972). If the self-serving forces of ego were not counterbalanced by some means, society would be quite impossible. I am not just imagining such a situation. All one has to do is compare the way of life of a minimally social animal (like the red fox) with that of a highly social animal (like the wolf; see Fox 1975). Altruistic behavior is virtually absent among the former and is quite advanced among the latter.

Exchange As Ritual.

One way that society counterbalances the involutional tendencies of egos is by commanding of its members "you must give under such-and-such conditions." Giving often occurs in the institutional context of ritual, and by participating in the rituals of exchange, one embodies to one extent or another the structure of the gift -- perhaps even the spirit of the gift -- and the ramifications of that structure radiate out into other domains of life and experience beyond the strict confines of the ritual. Ritual itself is a form of communication that has evolved among innumerable species to facilitate the coordination of social cognition and activity (d'Aquili et al. 1979). It is a process that involves coordination of physiological and neurocognitive structures within each participant (Laughlin 1989b, Laughlin et al. 1986), and between participants (Chapple 1970). The ritual aspects within which giving in traditional society is frequently embedded operate to coordinate the affect of members in such a way as it increases sociability (love, if you will) and decreases ego-centeredness.

The "Gimme" Society.

A serious problem we face in modern society is that there exists ample encouragement for the growth of the involutional empirical ego, but a dearth of those social rituals requisite to coordinating a balance between give and take in social intercourse. Compared with the lives of many other peoples on the planet, we live in a "gimme" society -- we live in a society that gives full vent to our desires. We exalt the individual and individual needs, and we downplay the commonweal. This attitude and its attendant views and affects are requisite to the kind of economy and bureaucratic political structure that we have constructed. This emphasis upon need gratification amounts to an overbalanced focus on negative exchange (Sahlins' term) appropriate in any traditional society only to young children and transactions with strangers. As Seligman (1975), among others, has noted, our socialization conditions us to an inordinate sense of helplessness which manifests itself in a perpetual state of fear and desire-driven activity in service of the involutional and self-serving empirical ego.

To put this a bit simplistically, but not in the least cynically, we live in a society full of adult infants whose attention is perpetually focused upon personal and psychological survival. Perhaps this is the point to be drawn from the story attributed to Charles DeGaulle. As a youth, DeGaulle asked his aging priest if he had learned anything after hearing confessions for fifty years. "Yes," replied the old priest, "there's no such thing as a grownup." It seems obvious to me that the deplorable state of our world economy is due largely to the synergistic effects of everyone taking as much as they can, while giving as little as possible in return. In common parlance, the root cause of much of the world's misery is greed.

It is not so much my intention to condemn this state of affairs as it is to ascertain the structure underlying it. And I believe that the key to understanding this structure is the tension between that place in each being that produces the self-serving empirical ego and that place that produces other-serving sociability. Most of us are products of a gimme culture. We are encumbered in our personal growth by egos born of frustrated desires and fearful, even traumatizing stress. Our egos have typically developed in response to extraordinary pressures for achievement, personal identity and social acceptance. As a consequence, we are taught to equate dependency feelings and sexual desire with love and mature social intercourse. And because we perceive the world through conceptual and affective filters commensurate with overbalanced ego-centeredness, we do not experience the remarkable release that comes with the onset of undifferentiated beneficence, the beneficence that is the true and mature love. We are perhaps unable to appreciate the significance of that state of consciousness in its compensatory role as mediator between ego and sociability.


Our Euroamerican enculturation ill prepares us as explorers to confront a great irony apparent in the serious study of eastern mystical traditions. As Jung repeatedly emphasized, our upbringing concentrates upon developing discrete empirical egos, whereas eastern descriptions of transcendental consciousness extol the essential egolessness of that experience. Thus, in order to approach eastern mysticism as transpersonalists and phenomenologists, we must seek a state of self-knowledge that would appear to be the exact opposite of the gimme-oriented celebration of the ego so rampant in the modern western world.

As Fromm notes (1962: 81), the full realization of love requires sustained and intense concentration. Small wonder that meditation upon love is so central to many of the world's spiritual traditions (e.g., see Johnston 1978 on the Christian mystical tradition). This point will be quite obvious to any Buddhist who has seriously meditated upon the four Brahma Viharas, or "Devine Abodes;" the four being undifferentiated love toward all beings ( metta ), compassion toward other beings' struggles ( karuna ), gladness at other beings' successes ( mudita ), and equanimity ( upekkha; see Vajiranana 1962, or Buddhaghosa 1964). Using a number of techniques, meditators are led to experience a state of love which they then project outwards to infinity. This loving "energy" may be experienced as a feeling of connection between the self and all beings in an undifferentiated field of benevolence. While in this state, the meditator is instructed to concentrate upon the suffering of beings of every kind and description. This effort leads in due course to the realization of compassion; that is, to the intuitive and empirical generalization (Dilthey's categorical understanding) that it is the nature of life to struggle and suffer.

The meditator is also instructed to meditate upon the development (growth, unfoldment, progress, success) of all beings. In turn, this practice likewise produces the realization of a sympathetic gladness or joy at the inherent development of all beings. Finally, as the work on love, compassion and sympathy matures, the meditator gains the realization of equanimity in the face of all phenomena arising in consciousness. This "higher" state is antithetical to ego-centered reactivity in response to phenomena.

The most auspicious state of consciousness for phenomenological exploration in the Buddhist tradition is held to be one of love-filled equanimity, and so far as I am able to ascertain, this is also the case for all fully developed spiritual paths. A major reason for this, I suppose, is that the initiate eventually learns that while in a state of love, fear and greed do not, indeed cannot arise. Love tends to eliminate fear, and as a consequence, the love-filled meditator will more likely "go with" whatever novel experiences arise, rather than react to or reject them. Therefore, we can reason on phenomenological grounds that human consciousness may range in its states along a continuum with fear/desire-driven/reactive and involutional ego-consciousness at one pole, and love-filled, equanimitous consciousness at the other pole. We can further reason that the consciousness of most people in most societies will fall (most of the time) somewhere in the middle between these extremes; in the range we might call "traditional benevolence."

The magnitude of traditional benevolence characteristic of an individual or a group will vary from time to time, depending upon a number of factors, including the appropriate response to circumstances, stress, social role being played, social expectations, pressures and sanction, rituals involved, and intensity of self-awareness. Yet society, as we have seen, has a great stake in controlling the range of states of consciousness and benevolence of its members. Society and socialization are so structured that few members fall below the level of traditional benevolence requisite for minimal social cooperation. Once again, this is the reason why so much emphasis is placed in traditional societies upon mutual obligation.

Of course, socially sanctioned cooperation and giving can fail to reinforce solidarity at times, as seems to have occurred among the Ik and other groups confronting severe deprivation (Laughlin and Brady 1978). And even at the best of times, the more common forms of ritualized exchange are limited in their capacity to evoke anything like the full-on state of love and beneficence noted earlier for many mystical traditions. Mauss was cognizant of the relations between giving among people and giving to the devine. Yet his descriptions of various cultural interpretations of this relation are presented in the most concrete manner. Whether or not participants in cosmological and mythological exchange rituals actually come to experience "higher" states of consciousness is a question not easily answered, and certainly was not a question entertained by the sources available to Mauss. It is nonetheless clear from a study of mysticism is that human consciousness permeated by a total state of love will give spontaneously out of intrinsic compassion and does not require a conditioned state of obligation. As one sage put it, "Love and do as you will."

It would also be inaccurate to say that ritual exchange replaces love in any sense. It may do, of course. People can and do merely go through the motions. But in most ethnographic cases it makes sense to think of ritual exchange as a field of activity that is conducive to the evocation of love, even though that love is limited and perhaps object-related. I am referring to the spirit of the gift; the "spiritual bond" to which Mauss alludes in the epigraph to this chapter. All else being equal, exchange of the more generalized kind may be interpreted as a mechanism for evoking and channelling love-energized beneficence and bonding. This mechanism reflects at the level of social action the mutual feedback that exists between action and affect in the neurocognitive processing of group members. That is, one may give out of a state of love, or one may give one's way into a state of love.


The mutual intercausality between love and giving is clearly acknowledged in both western and eastern mystical traditions, and especially in Buddhist psychology. Sacrifice in these traditions is not merely a transformation upon obligatory exchange, although it may well be carried out at a solely mundane level of social routine. Rather, there is the understanding that higher states of consciousness may be realized in the act of giving.

Gift and Giving in Hindu Tradition.

At least by the times of the ancient Hintu vedas, human beings had come to know that there is a transcendent aspect to giving. The story is told in the Raghuvamsa of the king, Raghu, who once he had conquered all of his enemies, carried out the high ceremony of Visvajit during which he gave away all of his wealth. According to the text, "...the acquisition of the noble-minded men is only for giving away, just like (the water of the) cloud" (Kalidasa 1977: 91-92). The text goes on to describe the boons that accord to one of such a generous disposition, including reconciliation with the very kings he has just conquered and who end up prostrating themselves freely at Raghu's feet.

In a similar vein, the Katha Upanishad tells the story of a young man named Nachiketas who saw that his father was giving only his least prized possessions away during a sacrificial ceremony with an eye only for gaining merit (Mascaro 1965: 55). Nachiketas suggests to his father that he, himself, be given up in sacrifice. His father becomes angry and gives Nachiketas to Death. It is in dialogue with Death that unconstrained giving is seen to be associated with wisdom and craving for and amassing wealth associated with foolishness. Wealth is seen as impermanent and Death as the final goal. Thus the wise give all in order to see the truth of immortality. (2)

The Yoga of Giving.

The dana yoga, or yoga of giving -- that is, the technique of attaining spiritual maturity through giving -- is a difficult path to follow, and requires special qualities in a practitioner for anything like full realization to be attained. And there are many versions of giving yoga in eastern teachings. For our present purposes we may consider the practice as passing through six initiatory stages of realization:

1. Embracing the Spirit of the Gift. The practice begins with the realization that one is ego-bound and off-balance in the direction of self-serving greed. The necessity to reverse this tendency in favor of growth and greater self-awareness is recognized and there arises the intention to do whatever is required to attain this goal. Awareness increases of the actual dynamics of consciousness producing giving. One becomes aware that even when giving one's real intent is often to receive. This self-awareness approximates the performance of the special phenomenological reduction of the social "natural attitude" described in the last chapter. Moreover, this social dynamic also approximates negative reciprocity in Sahlins' terms.

2. Projected Need vs. Real Need. The realization occurs that in order to give with giving, rather than receiving, in mind, one must be able to recognize the real need of the other person. This requires awareness of ones own projections, a further refinement of the reduction vis a vis social action (see last chapter). The balance remains in favor of receiving over real giving, but awareness is growing of the dynamics of giving and taking.

3. Balancing Giving and Taking. One strives to balance giving and taking. One realizes that the ego still requires its fair share, but the emphasis in practice is on pushing the limits of giving so that at the very least one intuits one is giving as much as taking. At this point the yoga approximates balanced exchange in the sociological sense. The profit motive has been lost and the mind is more interested in equalizing the flow between self and world. Realization of this enhanced flow is often accompanied by an increase in joy and a "loosening up" of ones interactions with people.

4. More Giving Than Taking. The work at this point is to tip the balance in favor of giving over receiving. Interaction with people and the world more approximates generalized exchange in the sociological sense. There is more giving than receiving, yet one is aware that the ego still requires something in return. One has become "more open to the world" and has realized that negative mind states can be dissolved by fluid giving.

5. Giving with Giving as Sole Reward. The practice of giving leads eventually to the realization that giving is its own reward. One discovers that the mindstate that has developed as a consequence of the yoga is far more valuable than any conceivable reward received from outside the being, material or otherwise. Free giving is associated with great joy and bliss, a child-like, free-swinging interaction with the world and may produce the insightful experience of cosmic totality: that to give to any being is to give to oneself. The practitioner realizes that "it all comes back" and that the energy requisite to giving is virtually unlimited; the giver experiences a kind of "second wind" where a new and seemingly boundless source of energy is tapped. This stage of the yoga, of course, has transcended the prescribed, ritualized giving of the sort we have discussed as generalized exchange. This is a state of joyful and relatively projection-free exchange toward the realization of which many gift rituals are pointing. This is the realization of the spirit of the gift in Mauss' terms.

6. Auspicious Giving. This stage marks the refinement of the wisdom of the gift. Giving becomes mature and directed at auspicious ends -- ends that are productive of growth and healing in ourselves and in other beings. This is the kind of wisdom one senses in real teachers and healers. The giving is abundant and skilfully placed.


There are several issues of relevance to a neurophenomenology of love and exchange that shed further light on the social influences upon the constitution of experience as discussed in the last chapter.

Fear and the Limits of Realization.

As noted earlier, the empirical ego is a creature of fear and desire, and develops within the greater neurocognitive field to serve the interests of the organism. Yet, as we have also seen, fear and love are antithetical impulses. As yogic adepts and mystics in various traditions have recorded, it is impossible for fear to arise in a state of full-blown love. Likewise, it is difficult to love in any intense sense while terrified, or even anxious. And each pole has its motoric concommitants. Responses to the world energized out of fear tend to serve self and not the commonweal, whereas responses energized out of love and compassion tend to serve all. Fear is the greatest single block to realization of advanced insights in dana yoga, or in any other phenomenology for that matter. Yet persistence in dana yoga practice or other comparable disciplines inevitably reduces fear. We may thus argue that the universality of socially sanctioned and ritualized exchange is partially explained by the causal relationships on the one hand between love, benevolent cognition, and the act of giving, and on the other hand between fear, self-serving cognition, and the act of taking.

Neurobiology and Altruism.

We may further argue that the causal relationship between affect (either fear or love) and action (either taking or giving) is a biological one involving a genetic predisposition in the organization of neurocognitive, autonomic and neuroendocrine systems among higher social mammals. Because this organization is structurally similar among such mammals, the explanation linking ritualized exchange and affect may well prove to apply to ritual activities among non-human animals. One example is the curious "gift" ritual among wolves. The leader of a wolf pack "will seize some food item or an interesting object such as a bone or a piece of caribou skin and parade with it before the entire pack; then he will approach the pack, drop the object, and leave it. The entire pack briefly investigates the 'gift' and then ignores it" (Fox 1974: 39). Another example is the chimpanzee meat-exchange ritual (see Teleki 1973: 146; for further examples, see d'Aquili, Laughlin and McManus 1979: Chapter 3).

Flow, Totality, and the Spirit of the Gift .

But more important to the thesis of this book is the importance of affect to an exploration of consciousness and the development and application of a neurophenomenology. By love I am referring to that affective state that inclines the individual to "let go" into experience, to "get with it," to explore the unknown unfettered by fear, and to seek experiences that expand awareness and transcend empirical ego-bound entrainments. This is the affect that feeds a fluid, metanoic state of being and a motivation that is requisite to playful and exploratory activity in the world that "opens up" that world to a greater range of experience. It is significant, is it not, that the two characteristics most commonly associated with descriptions of "higher" states of consciousness are flow and non-duality .

The experience of flow, (Turner 1979: 154; see also Csikskentmihalyi 1975) -- associated with jhana, samadhi , or "absorption" to use Buddhist terms (Chapter 5) -- is one of unconstrained movement of energy through consciousness, and a non-dualistic sense of connectedness with the object intended by consciousness. This is precisely the phase of consciousness that results from the earnest practice of dana yoga and one characterized by a loss of ego boundaries. To respond solely out of empirical ego is by definition to respond in a non-flowing way, and out of fear and desire relative to an object with which there is little sense of connectedness.

As we have seen, the experience of flow is paired with the experience of non-duality. The affirmation of a vital cosmology requires flow, for a cosmology is an unfragmented whole made up of microcosms within microcosms, all of which reproduce within their natures the greater nature of the macrocosm. Vital cosmologies do not arise from mere speculation or deduction, but are directly experienced to be true by human beings in a state of love. In a sense, the dana yoga is a series of rites of passage into the full realization of totality (Chang 1971: 12).

This "cosmic consciousness" arises only when the empirical ego-ridden, experiential barriers dissolve between the being and the world. Yet neurophenomenologically speaking, we must understand that this is a play staged within the brain of the individual. Any barriers we experience to connectedness are actually operating between bits of tissue mediating the cognized environment of the being. If I hate an object, that object is constituted within my sensorium, so that part of myself hates another part of myself. Of course actions taken out of hatred may have repercussions on the operational environment beyond my being, and these may well feed back into my perception. Likewise, if I am in a state of love toward the world, I am loving my sensorial-self, even if actions taken in that state of love have repercussions in the operational environment. Thus the sense of either fragmentation or totality I experience is first and foremost a sense of fragmentation or wholeness of my being.


1. 1.Sheila Richardson and I (Laughlin and Richardson 1986) applied this perspective to an extrapolation of the future evolutionary development of human consciousness.

2. 2.As far back as the Rgvedas -- perhaps as long ago as 3,000 B.C. -- the association of giving with wisdom and hoarding with ignorance is clearly expressed (see Radhakrishnan and Moore 1957: 29-30).