Samadhi and Gnosis
 
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 Anonymous
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12/06/2009 4:41 pm  

93
I’ve been discussing Will and how one ‘realises’ it and integrates it on another thread, and wondered if anyone else had a few thoughts about this idea of ‘realisation’ (in the Buddhist sense), in relation to samadhi and gnosis, particularly. Some of my practices (and non-practices) could be described as Dzogchen, informed by the Yungdrung Bon tradition, and I frequently jump between ideas of samadhi and gnosis when describing the moment of the realisation of oneness within one’s magical, spiritual, meditation and non-meditation practices, etc. I know, etymologically speaking, we could probably split hairs (and will!), but I just wondered what your personal experiences and ideas were in this area, and if you are aware of Crowley discussing the similarities and differences. I am sure he must have mentioned something in ‘Magic Without Tears’, and I’ll have another look.
93 93/93
Frater FR


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 Anonymous
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12/06/2009 4:57 pm  

*Magick Without Tears - ha ha ha! Sorry!... 😳


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Tiger
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12/06/2009 6:13 pm  

I am interested in such things
maybe this is of interest

" For the rational mind indeed reasoneth, but never attaineth unto Understanding; but the Seer is of them that understand."

The Cry of the 11th Aethyr, The Equinox Volume 1 Number 5 pg90

"And he says: O thou that art so dull of understanding, when wilt thou begin to annihilate thyself in the mysteries of the Aethyrs? For all that thou thinkest is but thy thought; and as there is no god in the ultimate shrine, so there is no I in thine own Cosmos.

They that have said this are of them that understood. And all men have misinterpreted it, even as thou didst misinterpret it. He says more: I cannot catch it properly, but it seems to be to the effect that the true God is equally in all the shrines, and the true I in all the parts of the body and soul."

The Cry of the 5th Aethyr, The Equinox Volume 1 Number 5 pg130


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Los
 Los
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12/06/2009 9:51 pm  

Any time we start splitting hairs about these things, we're just getting tangled up in systems of labeling experiences. I think what's important is that these experiences -- as Tiger's second quote indicates -- reveal the illusory nature of the "ego" and "self." Being able to see through the ego can help one in the practical process of doing one's will.

In doing so, it's important that reason is not abandoned, but that it assumes its proper place...its function is essentially to assist the manifestation of the will by clearing out the restrictions that "ego" throws in its path.


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 Anonymous
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12/06/2009 10:03 pm  
"Los" wrote:
Any time we start splitting hairs about these things, we're just getting tangled up in systems of labeling experiences. I think what's important is that these experiences -- as Tiger's second quote indicates -- reveal the illusory nature of the "ego" and "self." Being able to see through the ego can help one in the practical process of doing one's will.

In doing so, it's important that reason is not abandoned, but that it assumes its proper place...its function is essentially to assist the manifestation of the will by clearing out the restrictions that "ego" throws in its path.

I am curious about your actual experience with Samadhi, Los, if I may ask?


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Los
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13/06/2009 2:31 am  
"Camlion" wrote:
I am curious about your actual experience with Samadhi, Los, if I may ask?

I've had a number of strong and unusual experiences while meditating. I don't like categorizing them because they don't lend themselves well to rational analysis.

I certainly have had the feeling that a Buddhist once famously requested from a hot dog vendor: "one with everything."


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 Anonymous
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13/06/2009 3:27 am  
"Los" wrote:
"Camlion" wrote:
I am curious about your actual experience with Samadhi, Los, if I may ask?

I've had a number of strong and unusual experiences while meditating. I don't like categorizing them because they don't lend themselves well to rational analysis.

I certainly have had the feeling that a Buddhist once famously requested from a hot dog vendor: "one with everything."

I believe that know that hot dog vender, too. 🙂

I wonder how it is that Samadhi can reasonably be identified as not lending itself at all well to rational analysis and set aside as such? Also, is this phenomena unique in that respect or might there be a category of such experiences? Interesting stuff to consider, I think.


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Patriarch156
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13/06/2009 4:32 am  
"Los" wrote:
"Camlion" wrote:
I am curious about your actual experience with Samadhi, Los, if I may ask?

I've had a number of strong and unusual experiences while meditating. I don't like categorizing them because they don't lend themselves well to rational analysis.

I certainly have had the feeling that a Buddhist once famously requested from a hot dog vendor: "one with everything."

And yet we may now independently verify these experiences by the marvels of modern science and now why and how this phenomenon happens from a neuropsychological point of view, so we do know that it is both worthwhile and usefull categorizing these experiences and analyzing them rationally.

There is s also from a purely phenomenological point of view slightly off with your description of it as a feeling and a number of strong and unusual experiences while meditating. It simply doesn't sound like the real thing. Impossible to say for more sure of course without actually seeing your diary and to test independently without enlisting you in an experiment done by the likes of Andrew Newberg, but consider me highly skeptical of your claims.

Quite frankly, phenomenologically to me it sounds like you are describing masturbation to my sex and it reminds me of when Thelemites describe the experience of Knowledge and Conversation in terms that seems more like the Vision of Adonai than the real thing.


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 Anonymous
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13/06/2009 5:09 am  

Great points Kjetil, it is when the student thinks he is a Master that the real work has begun because in reality he has barely become the Neophyte. This was the downfall of Frater Achad, mistaking Binah of Malkuth for Binah of Binah, so to speak using the As Above, so Below paradigm. 9 times out of 10 it seems most self proclaimed Adepts & masters have made this very same mistake and it has led to more confusion than the confusion about Black Brother/Black Lodge/Black Magician and intermingling it with conspiracy theory. LOL


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Los
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13/06/2009 6:37 am  
"Camlion" wrote:
I believe that know that hot dog vender, too. 🙂

Of course, just because we *feel* one with everything doesn't mean that we *are* one with everything. ("None" might be closer to the situation)

"Camlion" wrote:
I wonder how it is that Samadhi can reasonably be identified as not lending itself at all well to rational analysis and set aside as such?
"Patriarch156" wrote:
And yet we may now independently verify these experiences by the marvels of modern science and now why and how this phenomenon happens from a neuropsychological point of view, so we do know that it is both worthwhile and usefull categorizing these experiences and analyzing them rationally.

I agree that the subjective experience of these...let's call them "trances" or something...can be difficult to describe and might well vary from person to person. It might be a little hasty of me to say that they "don't lend themselves to rational analysis," as I've obviously analyzed them to some extent (i.e. I'm at least able to conclude that they "reveal the ego is illusory"...although that isn't exactly news). I think "don't lend themselves to easy categorization" is more accurate.

But in the sense that they can be studied from the perspective of neurology, they can certainly be analyzed rationally. I'm not familiar enough with studies on the subject. Anyone have some data to report?

Now, I've always thought of Dzogchen as something more of a maintained state of awareness rather than a single experience or trance. What I've read about it strikes me as somewhat similar to Mahasatipatthana, which is *very* useful in dispensing with the sensation of the ego and cleansing the perceptions of the emotions that cloud them.


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 Anonymous
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13/06/2009 6:50 pm  

Yes, I think that it is very important that we refrain from drawing premature conclusions about things prior to sufficient personal experience of them. It is that simple. A good intellectual grasp of the superficial characteristics of a given thing is not the same at all. This is a not a true grasp but only a glimmer of a glimpse. It is as the analogy to sex given above by Patriarch156, Los, which I used some time ago in discussing these matters with your uncle Erwin.

One sees more and more now people even going so far as to draw such conclusions unqualified by personal experience, write them down and 'vanity publish' them for all to read. The trouble with this is that the particular community with an interest in such matters has grown to be quite sophisticated and rich with actual personal experience over these past years. What was a purely theoretical field is now a much more practical matter. When someone with very limited actual experience, even someone with an obviously keen mind, puts an "8=3" after their name and sets about lecturing the better informed community in question, well, the effort is going to be immediately dismissed as a ridiculous waste of everyone's time.


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Los
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14/06/2009 6:42 am  
"Camlion" wrote:
it is very important that we refrain from drawing premature conclusions about things prior to sufficient personal experience of them.

I'm going to disagree. There are plenty of things that I know even though I have no direct experience of them.

For example, I know that Asia exists. I've never been there, but I can evaulate the claim "Asia exists" in the same way as I can evaluate every claim -- by looking at evidence. And from the evidence available to me, it's undeniable that there is an Asia. [my usual caveat: "know" means "very, very likely to be true"]

In fact, it's rather ludicrous to suggest that we shouldn't draw conclusions about things until we have personal experience of them -- the entire reason that we have bodies of experts and peer-reviewed fields of study is that they enable one single person to know a hell of a lot without having to acquire "personal experience" of everything.

Further, someone with lots of "personal experience" who poorly reasons out a conclusion on the basis of that experience may actually know much, much less than someone with very little experience. If I visit you dressed up as Santa Claus every night, you will have a hell of a lot of personal experience of Santa Claus -- yet, if you poorly reason out a conclusion on the basis of that experience ("Santa Claus is real!"), you'll know a lot less about the world than someone who has never met Santa at all.

To actually address the OP, I'm going to note that Crowley says the etymology of Samadhi is "Union with God" and that the term is applied to different kinds of mystical states. Meanwhile, "Gnosis" means "knowledge" -- supposedly a kind of super secret knowledge accessible through mysterious means, such as trance states.

In reality, trance states are a bad source of "knowledge" about anything, except maybe the feeling of the states themselves. And "Union with God"-- depending on what you mean by it -- is a colorful description of the experience of some of these trance states.


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Patriarch156
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14/06/2009 1:41 pm  

Los, I have already referred you to one such person indulging in research into this subject matter. I even gave an link to an article in a different thread where he looked into how glossolalia affected the brain.

In any case, to begin with may I suggest that you check out Newberg's seminal work Why God won't go away? Despite that his and his fellow authors comparative religion section is not very good, the rest of the book is. It explains the neuropsychological underpinnings of the socalled religious experience (which like it or not Crowley was pretty much clear about what constituted and did not refer to many such socalled trances), in terms actually which confirm Crowley's basic hypothesis behind ritual and meditation.

"Los" wrote:
In reality, trance states are a bad source of "knowledge" about anything, except maybe the feeling of the states themselves. And "Union with God"-- depending on what you mean by it -- is a colorful description of the experience of some of these trance states.

I suggest you read a bit more about this subject from an academic point of view, since science would not really agree witth you on your second assertion.

As for your first assertion about knowledge, perhaps it is because it is not knowledge in the conventional sense of the term that these experiences are supposed to confer?

To me it seems that you have grown so attatched to Thelema and Crowley that you still want to continue using the nomenclature and system while fundamentally disagreeing with it. Which is fine of course, Crowley himself like most people are inspired by things and synthesize it into a wholly new system of variable originality depending on their own Genius.

I do think you are doing yourself a disfavor by attributing your own ideas, wonderfull as they may be, to that of Crowley, when it is rather clear that he disagrees with you on such technical and fundamental matters as the will, ontology, epistemology, what type of "knowledge matters" and so on.

But again this is a common enough legitimization strategy among religious discourse. Attributing ones own findings as either a continuation or the revelation of earlier thought that grants greater religious and consequently political capital than standing on ones own legs. Among people who move within the Thelemic Community, it is rather natural if predictable that the focus of this "ancestral worship" is transferred to Crowley himself.


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 5:57 pm  

The Buddha stressed the importance of insight meditation to go hand in hand with practise of the dhyana, because even after an experience with the highest dhyana state we still return to ego consciousness, as warts and all as that is. We may return with a unique new perspective that changes our outlook in fundemental ways - and we may no longer believe in the reality of the ego, but we haven't actually gotten rid of the ego. It can seem that way for a time though, so it's a very dangerous flashpoint in a persons career imo, as the ego can try and co-opt the new perception as being something it has somehow achieved or is responsible for. That's when people start having delusions of grandeur and generally being very silly. They'll declare themselves masters, mess around with the siddhi's (which only worsens the delusions), and behave atrociously because 'nothing really matters', and generally they show little ability to be able to distingish between what is the ego consciousness and what is the true Will. Developing the ability to distinguish the two and manifest the latter takes a lot of time, patience and effort, and ultimately I don't think it's possible to fully accomplish unless you've been through the abyss.

Now this all relates to a very old argument that actually resulted in a war and the destruction of a Buddhist school in China. One school thought that enlightenment was the result of attaining the highest dhyana, while another disagreed and said enlightenment came from slow and steady progress - paying attention and doing the work *here* - in the world, and not only from experiencing the highest dhyana. It's my opinion that the later school were talking about developing the ability to distinguish between the ego consciousness and the Will and manifest the later.


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 6:21 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"Camlion" wrote:
it is very important that we refrain from drawing premature conclusions about things prior to sufficient personal experience of them.

I'm going to disagree. There are plenty of things that I know even though I have no direct experience of them.

For example, I know that Asia exists. I've never been there, but I can evaulate the claim "Asia exists" in the same way as I can evaluate every claim -- by looking at evidence. And from the evidence available to me, it's undeniable that there is an Asia. [my usual caveat: "know" means "very, very likely to be true"]

In fact, it's rather ludicrous to suggest that we shouldn't draw conclusions about things until we have personal experience of them -- the entire reason that we have bodies of experts and peer-reviewed fields of study is that they enable one single person to know a hell of a lot without having to acquire "personal experience" of everything.

Further, someone with lots of "personal experience" who poorly reasons out a conclusion on the basis of that experience may actually know much, much less than someone with very little experience. If I visit you dressed up as Santa Claus every night, you will have a hell of a lot of personal experience of Santa Claus -- yet, if you poorly reason out a conclusion on the basis of that experience ("Santa Claus is real!"), you'll know a lot less about the world than someone who has never met Santa at all.

To actually address the OP, I'm going to note that Crowley says the etymology of Samadhi is "Union with God" and that the term is applied to different kinds of mystical states. Meanwhile, "Gnosis" means "knowledge" -- supposedly a kind of super secret knowledge accessible through mysterious means, such as trance states.

In reality, trance states are a bad source of "knowledge" about anything, except maybe the feeling of the states themselves. And "Union with God"-- depending on what you mean by it -- is a colorful description of the experience of some of these trance states.

The only thing that I need add to the very generous, polite and patient reply of Patriarch156, Los, is that I was obviously not talking about Asia or Santa Claus in my post above. This thread is titled "Samadhi and Gnosis," neither of which can be fully apprehended or understood by reference to the experience of others, but only by personal first hand experience. (I suppose that it is my own fault for failing to repeat the title of the thread within my post, thus leaving open an opportunity for distraction and diversion techniques.)

These attempts at using obsfucation to overwhelm a discussion are rarely effective unless the writer has the particular personality pathology that lends itself to ceaselessly ram them down the throats of the other participants until they retire in exasperation. This is a 'quality' that you are fortunate in lacking yourself, and one hopes that you will not become afflicted with it through association and admiration of those so afflicted. Capiche?


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 6:40 pm  

Camlion - you're quite the Italian mother hen today! :-)))

There's really no need to be so defensive. If Erwin or anyone else presents their idea's in an overtly confrontational way, and/or stoop to the usual round of obfustication, omission and all the little tricks we're so familiar with, then it's not your problem - it's thiers. Anyone paying proper attention will notice. Ignore these petty distractions, just as you would ignore an insult and debate anything of value left in the post. Some of these tactics are just goads to the self image, and the only person who can choose to consciously act or not act to defend the self image is you, as part of your practise. I'm just bringing it up because you seem a little sensitive to these things, and I have enough respect for you to think that you'll take my comments in the spirit intended - just trying to be helpful to someone I generally hold in high esteem. 🙂


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Proteus
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14/06/2009 6:42 pm  

I've had a number of strong and unusual experiences while meditating.

I'm surprised that you meditate, Los. Given what I understand your beliefs to be based on these threads, I can't see what you would possibly get out of meditation.

How do you trust the 'result' of your meditation if it is always rationalized away as illusion? Seems like a waste of time. Or is your version of meditation simply 'thinking'?

John


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 6:46 pm  
"Patriarch156" wrote:
To me it seems that you have grown so attatched to Thelema and Crowley that you still want to continue using the nomenclature and system while fundamentally disagreeing with it.

This begs the question, "Why call it 'Thelema' or identify it with Aleister Crowley at all, why not give it a new title free of associations contradictory to one's own new set of ideas?" I can only surmise that in doing this, the honest thing, that one would lose the benefits of a free ride on the coattails of ideas already possessed of a certain degree of popularity and interest. For example, if one were not calling one's new ideas 'Thelema,' one could not promote them on this website, the home of the Aleister Crowley Society. I am certainly not denying that there is a great deal of latitude in identifying something with 'Thelema' or with Aleister Crowley, but this latitude is not infinite. If it were, than the value of Thelema and the works of Aleister Crowley would be rendered meaningless.


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 8:03 pm  

Thank you all for your thoughtful, insightful and very revealing responses. Again, it makes me glad that such a forum exists. This is an extremely difficult subject (samadhi/gnosis) and the words ‘can of worms’ and ‘kettle of fish’ spring to mind.

Maybe I should have started this thread off with a statement rather than a question, something like – there is no difference between ‘knowledge of God’ (gnosis) from ‘union with God’ (samadhi), but that would have been dull. For me they must be the same. There are different aspects of samadhi, or rather, it is perceived to manifest in different ways, but again, one must Realise this and Integrate All into the One. (Sorry about the schoolmarmish use of capitals, but you know what I am getting at.)

Like all such spiritual and metaphysical experiences, it seems impossible to approach or describe them fully through language, but I think this is ok. I think that language is one of the best tools that we have at our disposal and that it is too easy to lock experiences off, ‘beyond’ language, etc. We must bring the ‘beyond’ into our discourse, our language, and demonstrate that it was already there. We could interpret this ‘beyond’ as death, death of meaning as we know it and the ‘ego’ or centred subjectivity. Surely bringing this beyond back into language is what integration is all about? Well, it is for me...

I find the idea of samadhi or gnosis as a ‘trance’ quite bizarre, but interesting. It reminds me of the Scottish word ‘dwam’ that is used by an outside observer (one not party to the experience) to describe the moment when someone stares into the middle distance, zones out, then returns. Then again, maybe the idea of going in order to come (‘I’m going to come’), in relation to a glimpse of samadhi, is quite appealing? Žižek, after Lacan, once said that ‘sex is just masturbation with someone else in the room, and I am not sure any claim to legitimacy or genuineness of experience (as more real or vital) can instantaneously confer primacy or truth to the statement. Maybe my masturbation is better than your sex, etc?

‘True’ masters demonstrate and ‘pass on’ the state to each other and others through transmission, but then again, the state can also be self-arising, which we must not forget. Gnostics kiss and pass it on (we are told), Dzogchenpas transmit it through what I call the ‘mystical head-butt’, and I like the similarity (I apologise in advance for the over-simplification!) - the idea of mirroring each other, self and other, dissolved in the moment of unity. It’s also quite humorous to note that in Glasgow, Scotland, headbutting someone is called a ‘Glasgow kiss’. 🙂

Kisses all round.


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Los
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14/06/2009 10:05 pm  
"Camlion" wrote:
This begs the question, "Why call it 'Thelema' or identify it with Aleister Crowley at all

Because I'm discussing the spiritual philosophy that derives largely from the Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley's commentaries thereupon, and a series of other texts known collectively as the "Thelemic Holy Books." The word for this spiritual philosophy -- which centers upon the human will -- is the Greek word for will, Thelema.

I've heard it often remarked that Crowley is not the be-all and end-all of Thelema, that Crowley could be wrong about things, and that there is a need to "evolve" beyond, uh, "Crowleyanity" (for lack of a better word). Okay, then.

If you think that any ideas I've presented are wrong, then that is a matter for discussion. Luckily, we happen to be on a discussion board. Discussions would be awfully boring if everyone agreed with everyone else. So, in the interest of discussion, I invite you to explain why I am wrong and to demonstrate -- with examples and illustrations, preferably -- why I am wrong.

I was obviously not talking about Asia or Santa Claus in my post above.

Right, but they were examples I was using to illustrate my two main points: 1) that knowledge does not always depend on personal experience, and 2) that unless personal experience is properly interpreted, such experience can yield *less* knoweldge, rather than more.

Those two points -- which I was using the examples to illustrate -- are in direct response to your post.

If you believe that either of those two claims are in error, please demonstrate, using examples if possible.

"Patriarch156" wrote:
I suggest you read a bit more about this subject from an academic point of view, since science would not really agree witth you on your second assertion.

First, thanks for the references earlier in your post. Second, which assertion is it that is not supported by science? Can you give us a brief synopsis of what scientific evidence does say about it and why I'm wrong?

"alrah" wrote:
Now this all relates to a very old argument that actually resulted in a war and the destruction of a Buddhist school in China. One school thought that enlightenment was the result of attaining the highest dhyana, while another disagreed and said enlightenment came from slow and steady progress - paying attention and doing the work *here* - in the world, and not only from experiencing the highest dhyana. It's my opinion that the later school were talking about developing the ability to distinguish between the ego consciousness and the Will and manifest the later.

Now that's interesting. I think the second school you describe is definitely on the right track -- primarily because, as you say, that kind of idea of "enlightenment" can be of practical use in discovering and carrying out your true will.

"Proteus" wrote:
I'm surprised that you meditate, Los. Given what I understand your beliefs to be based on these threads, I can't see what you would possibly get out of meditation.

You'll find out I'm full of surprises. I also regularly practice a few of Crowley's rituals and have tried my hand at several systems of magick, including Enochian.

It's not so much a question of "getting something" out of meditation. One should ideally meditate like one does everything else -- without "lust of result," doing it for the sake of doing it. The primary "result" of meditation, seen from this perspective, is the practice of meditation itself, the heightened awareness of reality, the experience of perceiving things without the ego as much as is possible.

To this end, employing the Mahasatipatthana meditation during one's daily life is especially useful.

How do you trust the 'result' of your meditation if it is always rationalized away as illusion?

It's not an illusion. Experiences are real...it's the theories of the universe that we build on the basis of those experiences that might not always be correct.

I might sometimes experience meditation as a feeling of being "one with everything" -- it doesn't mean that I actually *am* one with everything or that there's some super secret "reality" beyond this one that I'm contacting.

To jump to that conclusion would be a misapplication of reason; it would be allowing the rational mind to lead you astray by forming a false conclusion.


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Patriarch156
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14/06/2009 10:20 pm  
"Los" wrote:
First, thanks for the references earlier in your post. Second, which assertion is it that is not supported by science? Can you give us a brief synopsis of what scientific evidence does say about it and why I'm wrong?

You only made two assertions that I quoted, but here goes anyway, here is the assertion: "And "Union with God"-- depending on what you mean by it -- is a colorful description of the experience of some of these trance states."

Since we were talking about samadhi and it's relation to union with God that limits as pointed out by Camlion the meanings of this term. In fact as the research of Newberg and others has found not only is this a specific trance state, not "some of these trance states," and we now know why and how it happens. To simplify since you seem unable to look this up yourself: the OAA area which locates yourself in time and space shuts down due to either lack of signals (happens because of meditation systematically stops these signals by keeping the sensory perceptions of the body, the mind etc. perfectly still) and too much signals (happens withn ecstatic prayer or for that matter in Crowley's language ritual sends too many signals). Your mind then has no choice but to perceive itself as endless in both time and space.

This experience is then clothed in the cultural matrix and personal genius of the one experiencing it and leads to a complete reevaluation of his life and being: in fact it is one of the very few instances that our personality as adults are this plastic and has research also has shown repeated experience with this leads to permanent change in your brain (i.e. to use information processing theory as an analogue, your new software then rewrires and is solodified in the hardware), which is also one of the few instances of this being able to happen in adult persons.


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Los
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14/06/2009 10:59 pm  

To simplify since you seem unable to look this up yourself

There's no reason to get snippy. I just asked you to clearly state and explain your position. Now it's nice and clear to everyone reading this thread. Thank you.

What you've posted is extremely interesting, but I'm still not sure exactly which aspects of my assertion you disagree with. You write:

This experience is then clothed in the cultural matrix and personal genius of the one experiencing it and leads to a complete reevaluation of his life and being

By "clothing of the experience in a cultural matrix," I assume you mean that people will tend to experience the state in terms of symbols familiar to them in their culture. For example, a Christian might experience it as a feeling of "being one with Christ" and that a Hindu might experience it as a feeling of "dancing with Shiva" or something like that.

That's all well and good, but that's precisely what I meant by "union with God" being "a colorful description" of this state (and perhaps it is just one, not several states, as I perhaps mistakenly asserted).

A Christian who feels like he is one with Christ isn't *really* one with Christ -- that's just what it "feels like." And calling it a "union with Christ" is no more than a colorful description of that physiological process you described. That was the point of that assertion of mine.


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Patriarch156
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14/06/2009 11:16 pm  
"Los" wrote:
I'm still not sure exactly which aspects of my assertion you disagree with.

My point about the disagrement was as you seem to realize yourself in your reply a reference to your claim that it was several trance states. But since you decided to play and describe in more detail about your meaning of the word "collorful."

"Los" wrote:
A Christian who feels like he is one with Christ isn't *really* one with Christ -- that's just what it "feels like." And calling it a "union with Christ" is no more than a colorful description of that physiological process you described. That was the point of that assertion of mine.

No you would then be loosing in the eyes of science an vital and extremely important part of the experience. It is not merely a collorfull description, it is a description of how the experiencer experiences it.

Your description of it would be akin to viewing someone who described how the death of his child made him depressed as a collorfull description of how there has happened certain neurochemical changes in his brain.

In fact the way these things manifest is regarded as highly interesting and integral part of the experience itself by most of those studying the phenomenon, certainly by Newberg.


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Patriarch156
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14/06/2009 11:17 pm  
"Los" wrote:
I'm still not sure exactly which aspects of my assertion you disagree with.

My point about the disagrement was as you seem to realize yourself in your reply a reference to your claim that it was several trance states. But since you decided to play and describe in more detail about your meaning of the word "collorful."

"Los" wrote:
A Christian who feels like he is one with Christ isn't *really* one with Christ -- that's just what it "feels like." And calling it a "union with Christ" is no more than a colorful description of that physiological process you described. That was the point of that assertion of mine.

No you would then be loosing in the eyes of science an vital and extremely important part of the experience. It is not merely a collorfull description, it is a description of how the experiencer experiences it.

Your description of it would be akin to viewing someone who described how the death of his child made him depressed as a collorfull description of how there has happened certain neurochemical changes in his brain.

In fact the way these things manifest is regarded as highly interesting and integral part of the experience itself by most of those studying the phenomenon, certainly by Newberg.


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 11:45 pm  
"Los" wrote:
"Camlion" wrote:
This begs the question, "Why call it 'Thelema' or identify it with Aleister Crowley at all

Because I'm discussing the spiritual philosophy that derives largely from the Book of the Law, Aleister Crowley's commentaries thereupon, and a series of other texts known collectively as the "Thelemic Holy Books." The word for this spiritual philosophy -- which centers upon the human will -- is the Greek word for will, Thelema.

Beginning with your first paragraph seems logical, Los: You now use the term "spiritual." This seems quite strange coming you, based upon what you have written previously, and rather forced and unnatural for you - almost as if you were suddenly trying to add a little bit of "aim of religion" to your usual imbalance toward "method of science."

What does this word "spiritual" mean to you? Or, as you would usually put it, where is the evidence that such a thing exists? Or is it experiential? Or what?


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 Anonymous
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14/06/2009 11:53 pm  
"Patriarch156" wrote:
This experience is then clothed in the cultural matrix and personal genius of the one experiencing it and leads to a complete reevaluation of his life and being: in fact it is one of the very few instances that our personality as adults are this plastic and has research also has shown repeated experience with this leads to permanent change in your brain (i.e. to use information processing theory as an analogue, your new software then rewrires and is solodified in the hardware), which is also one of the few instances of this being able to happen in adult persons.

Since you have boldly asserted that this and similar research "confirm Crowley's basic hypothesis behind ritual and meditation":

1. Is your assertion that, as your above summary suggests, the effect of Samadhi is to alter the "personality"? If so, please provide some support for the assertion that this is the effect inherent in "Crowley's basis hypothesis behind ritual and meditation".

2. Do your researchers provide any support for Crowley's actual claims at to the effects of such practices, such as that they can be used to "gain...some superhuman power", or to gain a type of authority which "the mass of mankind is always ready to be swayed by", or that they become "freed from all the petty hindrances which prevent the normal man from carrying out his projects", to employ some examples from Book Four? In other words, does this research which you claim "confirm Crowley's basic hypothesis behind ritual and meditation" provide any evidence that such "permanent change in your brain" actually have some tangible beneficial effect that is qualitatively dissimilar to changes which might arise with any other significant life event or with the mere passage of time, or have any tangible beneficial effect at all, for that matter?

Since you're so keen on what you believe to be Crowley's own ideas, let's not forget that he said (quite correctly): "We may dismiss, then, the physiological question. It throws no light on the main problem, which is the value of the testimony of the experience." While your attempts to enlist what you call "science" as an ally are no doubt well-meaning, I think you're getting a little over-excited and quite a long way ahead of yourself when you make the claim that this type of research "confirm Crowley's basic hypothesis behind ritual and meditation", especially when Crowley dismisses the very physiological question you're discussing as essentially irrelevant. What you are doing when you make this kind of claim is - ironically - "attributing your own ideas, wonderfull as they may be, to that of Crowley." And don't get me wrong - this type of research may well be valuable, and I certainly wouldn't want to discourage it, but it really doesn't do what you seem to believe it does.

So far, even if we accept your quoted research as valid - which is an awfully long way from being a foregone conclusion - the only thing you have presented is that a particular type of practice produces a "permanent change in your brain", the type of which change is unspecified other than it involving a really rather vague concept of "a complete reevaluation of [one's] life and being." There are many, many different types of experience which could produce a "reevaluation" of this kind, such as a serious accident, having children, flying into space, and an extended hostage experience to name but a few. Many of these "reevaluations" can be positively detrimental to the wellbeing of the individual, and the ultimate effect seems to hinge to a large extent on how any given individual responds to those experiences, which puts the intrinsic value of any one type of experience in and of itself in grave question. You can look at how various different types of religious believers respond very differently to presumably similar religious experiences if you need evidence of this. The difference with occultists, for instance, is that they are generally alone in claiming to be developing some kind of superhuman abilities and knowledge as a result of their own particular "reevaluations".

In short, while I applaud your sincerity, your enthusiasm, and the conviction with which you present your unique ideas, if you actually do want to enlist the aid of "science" in support of the claims that are often made - including by Crowley - with respect to this type of practice or to this type of experience, you're going to have to do a hell of a lot better than this, because merely demonstrating that meditation can lead to some significant experiences - which any experienced meditator would not need pointing out to them in the first place - doesn't get you anywhere close to doing that, and amounts to little more than barking up the wrong tree as far as Crowley's own ideas go. As Crowley said, it's the value of the experience which is the important question - and one which cannot be separated from the question of how any given individual interprets that experience, since this can tip the balance between it being a positive one or a detrimental one - not the physical question of how it may be generated or what the "neurological underpinnings" are. Demonstrating the phenomena of "significant experiences" isn't even half the question - you have to address the "so what?" element if you want to actually do what you're trying to do.


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Patriarch156
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15/06/2009 12:42 am  

Erwin, you seem to have read a great deal of phantastic things into my posts so I will leave you to sort those things out for yourself and only point out the following:

i. I have not brought up any supernatural powers etc. I was mentioning the basic hypothesis by Crowley that these experiences had a physiological component and that meditation works by quieting the mind and ritual enflaming it.

As far as this goes I might direct you to Liber H.H.H.:

"Two are the methods of becoming God: the Upright and the averse. Let the Mind become as a flame, or as a well of still water."

He writes elsewhere about how mastering asana will lead to that "the body may be trusted to send him no message that might disturb his mind" and that "[t]he ultimate idea of Meditation being to still the mind, it may be considered a useful preliminary to still consciousness of all the functions of the body." As far as the physiological grounding of the experience goes:

"Now, Samadhi, whatever it is, is at least a state of mind exactly as are deep through, anger, sleep, intoxication and melancholia. Very good. Any state of mind is accompanied by corresponding states of the body. [...]
The mystic gasps with horror, but we really can't worry about him. It is he that is blaspheming nature by postulating discontinuity in her processes. Admit that Samadhi is sui generis and back come the whole discarded humbug of the supernatural."

As noted the research of Newberg and others shows that these two methods the upright and the averse indeed are the two that leads to this experience.

ii. I suggest you read up a bit about on research on the plasticity of the brain and consequently personality. The religious experience are one of the few ways that this can happen and yes it is in a very dissimilar way to other life-experiences.

Beyond this I have no interest in demonstrating to you that the windmills you are battling remains entirely in your phantasy.


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Los
 Los
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15/06/2009 4:05 am  
"Patriarch156" wrote:
It is not merely a collorfull description, it is a description of how the experiencer experiences it.

I think we're just using language slightly differently. I accept that the person who experiences it really experiences it like that.

The only point I'm making is that such an experience does not prove that the thing experienced is real, give the person "knowledge" that the thing experienced is real, or make it any more likely that the thing experienced is real.

So, for example, a person could really and truly experience (what feels like) a union with Shiva...but this experience doesn't prove that Shiva exists, doesn't provide "knowledge" that Shiva exists, or make it any more likely that Shiva is real.

"Camlion" wrote:
What does this word "spiritual" mean to you?

"Spiritual" here means "of or pertaining to the human spirit," and by "human spirit," I mean the sum total of an individual's qualities (most especially the non-physical qualities, though they obviously depend on the physical), which is exactly what Thelema addresses (to give you a point of reference, Nietzsche uses the words "spirit" and "soul" all the time, and he most certainly did not believe in the supernatural).

Now back to where we were: if you think any of my points in that post are in error, please indicate why and illustrate with explanations and examples.


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Patriarch156
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15/06/2009 5:12 am  
"Los" wrote:
The only point I'm making is that such an experience does not prove that the thing experienced is real, give the person "knowledge" that the thing experienced is real, or make it any more likely that the thing experienced is real.

And my point is that experience is an integral part of the phenomenon itself. Your other questions are concerned with ontology and epistemology and largely irrelevant to this whole discussion and the topic of an ongoing debate within the philosophy of science for some time now with no clear conclusion so far or in sight in the nearby future.

Personally I tend to end up with the one Popper landed on. That we simply can not know what is true or not and as he points out in Conjectures and Refutations we can't even know what is not true (falisfied), but we can declare something as a convenient truth or pragmatic truth in the sense that our efforts so far has not managed to falsify in a pragmatic sense the risky hypothesis.

While I do appreciate that you both feel and claim that you can know what is true and what is not, I am not sure how you can make such an assertions and demonstrate it. If you were able to I am reasonably certain that a Nobel's Price would be accorded you as it is a rather striking and outlandish claim of the same tall order that the ones that the Randi Foundation deals with. Since extraordinary claims demands extraordinary proof, I tend to be skeptical of such claims.

This is not of course an invitation to Feyerabend's anything goes philosophy of science, but there are shades of gray between these two extremes (I can know what reality is and it's ultimate truth and anything goes) don't you think? If not I suggest you demonstrate your claims to people who are able to verify them as above.

So, for example, a person could really and truly experience (what feels like) a union with Shiva...but this experience doesn't prove that Shiva exists, doesn't provide "knowledge" that Shiva exists, or make it any more likely that Shiva is real.

You seem to be morbidly preoccupied with the reality of these deities, but you have made no attempt at defining what you mean by Shiva or even existence or reality.

If you ask me personally whether or not I believe that there exists an actual deity called Shiva in the sense most conventional people would think about existence and deities, then I would say probably not. But I would not really know for sure, nor am I really certain that we can know for sure.

To me it seems like an unscientific (i.e. non-empirical) statement and as such is a philosophical one, which again depends on what axioms and so on you work from.

If they had however said that praying to Shiva will give me 6 goldcoins tomorrow, that is of course an empirical question, but again even if confirmed by empirical testing, does not really address the existence of this deity in any fundamental manner.


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Los
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15/06/2009 6:22 am  

Hi Patriarch156,

Thanks for the response. I see exactly where you're coming from -- the problem is that we seem to be using different definitions of knowledge.

"Patriarch156" wrote:
While I do appreciate that you both feel and claim that you can know what is true and what is not, I am not sure how you can make such an assertions and demonstrate it. [...] I would not really know for sure, nor am I really certain that we can know for sure.

I don't make claims about certainty, absolute knowledge or knowing things "for sure" to some mythical 100% degree of accuracy. I'm concerned with practical knowledge. To me, to "know" something means to believe it is "very, very likely to be true." (so likely to be true that doubting it would rise to the level of absurdity)

For example, I can't know "for sure" that gravity is going to keep working tomorrow, but I believe it to be so incredibly likely that I am quite comfortable saying that I know that gravity will be working tomorrow.

Similarly, I can't know "for sure" that there are no transdimensional pink unicorns, but I believe the claim that they exist to be so incredibly unlikely that I am quite comfortable saying that I know trandimensional pink unicorns don't exist.

You seem to be morbidly preoccupied with the reality of these deities

I would say that I'm preoccupied with good examples. We all know -- in the sense that I use the term -- that there is no Shiva or Jesus or Krishna, as those beings are typically defined. Yet millions of people claim to "know" that they are real because of "personal experience."

I'd say those examples are absolutely relevant to the conversation. If personal experience can lead to such wildly false conclusions, I'd say we should be very careful lest we fall into the same trap.


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Patriarch156
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15/06/2009 2:01 pm  
"Los" wrote:
Thanks for the response. I see exactly where you're coming from -- the problem is that we seem to be using different definitions of knowledge.

Re. knowledge with a different definition: Not as far as I can see, which you should know with my reference to Popper and Feyerabend.

You seem to be declaring two contradictory things at the same time: I am not an egotist, I just don't care about other people or as you say it: I don't believe in the ultimate truth, I just believe that I can with confidence (that matters philosophicall) what is true and what is not.

It is my contention that you can not and it is a contention I share with most philosophers of science, including that great philosopher of science Popper. In fact about the only ones asserting anything else are Randroids, who would also disagree with Popper and most philosophers of science that you also can't know what is not true.

What remains then is a pragmatic truth, but that is a truth that by definition does not say anything about the true reality behind everything. It only says something about what we hold to be true because it is useful (in the sense defined by modern science obviously, not new age nutjobs).

But this is a philosophical assertion and rational and logical as it is, it is not the only way to approach ontology and epistemology.

I'm concerned with practical knowledge. To me, to "know" something means to believe it is "very, very likely to be true." (so likely to be true that doubting it would rise to the level of absurdity)

While the first assertion is philosophically valid, the latter (about absurdity) remains undemonstrated. As I have told you, if you actually could demonstrate this you would likely receive the Nobel's Prize as it is an extremely bold claim. If not it is merely rhetorical flourish and demagoguery (which is fine and the way things usually are done if we are to believe Feyerabend, but let's call a spade for a spade).

For example, I can't know "for sure" that gravity is going to keep working tomorrow, but I believe it to be so incredibly likely that I am quite comfortable saying that I know that gravity will be working tomorrow.

Yes I am too, I am also comfortable declaring that I do not believe in the existence, historical or otherwise of the character Jesus Christ. I am comfortable declaring a great deal of things. But the way you express it, this would be a knowledge of the same Order as one who believes that Jesus Christ not only exists but also will talk with him tomorrow, just like he does every day.

Similarly, I can't know "for sure" that there are no transdimensional pink unicorns, but I believe the claim that they exist to be so incredibly unlikely that I am quite comfortable saying that I know trandimensional pink unicorns don't exist.

This is not similar at all as it is a statement of non-existence rather than the repeatability of an event due to it's universal occurrence. But again you can be comfortable declaring them to not exist, just as those who have witnessed them can be comfortable declaring them to exist. While I do agree with you, the above assertion rests on any number of suppressed premises and axiomatic approach to the universe. In short it is a philosophical question since you can't prove a negative.

I'd say those examples are absolutely relevant to the conversation. If personal experience can lead to such wildly false conclusions, I'd say we should be very careful lest we fall into the same trap.

Yes but as I have informed you, the only one who are leaping to wildly false conclusions are you, since you are declaring that you can know for certain that these beings do not exist. You simply can not as it is not an empirical question but a philosophical one. You can however be sure that they have not been demonstated to exist by the criterias of modern science, but going from there to that they do not exist would be a philosophical statement and not the only one available for rational people.

While I sympathize since I tend to largely operate from the same philosophical worldview as yourself, it is not a given that this philosophical statement of what constitutes reality and how we can know it is necessarily true. For me it is a pragmatic matter: since the ultimate reality is irrelevant, by using this we remove superfluous and overtly complex theories in favor of more simple ones that explains the same amount of phenomena which makes sense from a mathematic sense of simplicity and we regularly get pragmatic results in the form of marvels of engineering, health benefits, more controllable economy and the like. So for me it matters nothing if our knowledge gained by empirical science does not constitute any truth in the real sense of the word at all.

But others are not so haphazard with concepts as truth as me, and so they tend to disregard such pragmaticism and with good reason. Not feeling comfortable as Popper were to abandon the quest for truth in favor of pragmaticism, they think that there is such a truth out there to be discovered and that they are discovering it.

That their attempts has failed at convincing philosophers that it is possible doesn't change that they may construct an entirely rational and logical set pf philosophy around these entities and as such their point of view would be valid from a philosophical stance provided that it is rational and logical (in the sense that it attempts to construct logically and coherently a system and that it's conclusions follows from it's premises).

Nor does it change the fact that the opposite side have also failed convincing philosophers of the inherent validity of their point of view when they assert a view that is closer to the one that I believe we both adhere to.

Your problem seems to be that you recognize the inherent pragmaticism behind your truth but want to overstep it's reach by declaring that you can confidently declare with validity that they are wrong in any real sense of the word. Why not be content with acknowledging that according to Popperian science their claims remains unscientific and as such not the concern for science but philosophy and that while one may construct any number of coherent and logical philosophies, none of them have approached the success of the western world's application of the scientific paradigm.

You seem to basically be upset that not everyone shares your particular point of view on what constitutes important things in life. While I do agree with you I also readily acknowledge that others do not and have an inherent right to hold views that I consider to be wrong.


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Los
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15/06/2009 7:16 pm  

You seem to be declaring two contradictory things at the same time [...] I don't believe in the ultimate truth, I just believe that I can with confidence (that matters philosophicall) what is true and what is not.

There is a reality. I'm not sure if we can ever know "for certain" anything about it, but we can be justified -- by means of evidence -- in believing that particular things about it are likely to be true.

When there is a great deal of evidence, and the belief seems very, very likely to be true, I feel comfortable labeling that belief "knowledge." The point at which that labeling happens might be different for different people on particular issues, but it's similar enough for nearly all issues that it doesn't matter for our purposes in this discussion.

I'm not interested in discussing any other kind of knowledge because any other kind of knowledge is either imaginary or useless. If anyone disagrees, feel free to demonstrate with concrete examples.

since you are declaring that you can know for certain that these beings do not exist.

No, I am not declaring that.

But the way you express it, this would be a knowledge of the same Order as one who believes that Jesus Christ not only exists but also will talk with him tomorrow, just like he does every day.

Sure. A nutjob who has the delusion of talking to an invisible man every day probably would know that he will have that delusion tomorrow. But the claim I'm interested in is not "I will talk to Jesus tomorrow," but the claim "I know Jesus is real because I have personal experience of him."

It's a good claim for us to discuss because it's obviously false and it's an example of "personal experience" leading to falsehood, not truth.

I don't "know for certain" that Jesus doesn't exist. But I also don't "know for certain" that invisible fairies don't wake me up every morning by dancing on my face.

The amount of evidence for both of those claims -- Jesus and face-dancing fairies -- is the same: zero. I'm fine saying that I know they don't exist and that I am willing to change my position when I am presented with evidence.

I suppose I could go around qualifying everything I say, and instead of saying, "I know this," I could always say, "I know this is likely to be true to the best of my abilities given the evidence available to me at the time and taking into account that I could always be wrong and that future evidence may force me to reconsider this position." But it's just silly to talk with that level of precision, especially since I treat all of those statements as implicitly understood in every claim of knowledge.

While I do agree with you I also readily acknowledge that others do not and have an inherent right to hold views that I consider to be wrong.

Of course other people can -- and certainly do -- hold views that I consider wrong. I've never claimed they don't have "an inherent right" (?) to hold these views, and I certainly hope I haven't implied it.

This is a discussion board. It shouldn't be surprising that people are going to discuss things on a discussion board. And discussion involves people with different opinions -- who each think the other wrong about their views on reality -- explaining and defending why they think they're right.

I'm not "upset" that people don't share my view -- I'm engaging in a discussion on a discussion board. If someone doesn't agree with me, then let's discuss it. Everyone, please feel free to explain why I'm wrong with the two claims I made earlier in this thread: 1) that personal experience isn't always necessary for knowledge, and 2) that personal experience, if it is not properly analyzed by reason, can actually lead to less knowledge, not more. And if you're going to disagree, please provide concrete examples.


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 Anonymous
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16/06/2009 1:16 am  
"Patriarch156" wrote:
I have not brought up any supernatural powers etc. I was mentioning the basic hypothesis by Crowley that these experiences had a physiological component and that meditation works by quieting the mind and ritual enflaming it.

This is not Crowley's "basic hypothesis". In fact, the idea that "meditation works by quieting the mind and ritual enflaming it" isn't any kind of hypothesis at all - it's merely a statement of a rather obvious fact, along the same sort of lines as the statement "fish swim". Exactly what "works" means in this context is a whole other kettle of fish, on the other hand, and that's precisely what you are completely glossing over in your enthusiasm to legitimise your religious practices, something you've regularly accused others of doing lately. You've focussed on the trivial and self-evident fact that, for instance, the method of meditation is "quieting the mind", and you've neglected to address the actual issue at hand which is precisely what "meditation works" is supposed to mean. You merely assume that "meditation works" means what you want it to mean, and you apparently expect everyone else to accept this just on the basis of your say-so. Now, trust me when I say that I know perfectly well that there are a lot of people around who will indeed lap up a lot of very peculiar and outrageous things if you say them with enough conviction, but this approach simply isn't going to work with someone who actually looks at what you're saying and subjects it to scrutiny.

What Crowley's "basic hypothesis" was is this context is this: "the main idea is that the Infinite, Absolute, God, the Oversoul, or whatever you may prefer to call it, is always present; but veiled or masked by the thoughts of the mind, just as one cannot hear a heart-beat in a noisy city...Then to obtain knowledge of That, it is only necessary to still all thoughts." Earlier in his career he attributed the development of "superhuman powers" and the like to knowledge of this "Absolute", and later in his career he pretty much stopped doing that, for rather obvious reasons. Superhuman powers or not, you simply cannot sensibly extricate the nature of the "result" from the "basic hypothesis", because any such hypothesis has two parts: do this, and then that happens. You can't remove one of those two parts and still be left with a "hypothesis". Evidently so, because by trying to do this, you've made a number of elementary mistakes.

Firstly, by failing to focus on the the result, you've failed to follow yet another tenet of your own advice, by imposing your own "wonderfull ideas" onto Crowley. You talk of the "socalled religious experience" and assert that "like it or not Crowley was pretty much clear about what constituted and did not refer to many such socalled trances", and you then go on to say that it is "a specific trance state". Yet, a quick glance at Book Four will tell us that Crowley thought "there are many kinds of Samadhi", of which "the obvious results are different". He described his "nothingness with twinkles" vision as "a samadhi". In Magick Without Tears he states that "there are certain types of Samadhi during the exercise of which these memories [of 'previous incarnations'] appear spontaneously, without warning of any kind", and also describes samadhi as a word which "conveniently groups the higher types of vision". He often talks about a "species of Samadhi". So, your assertion that samadhi is "a specific trance state" may well be a "wonderfull idea", but it is your idea, and not Crowley's. You've also (repeatedly, now) asserted that Crowley's hypothesis entailed the idea "these experiences had a physiological component" when I've already shown you that Crowley said that "we may dismiss, then, the physiological question. It throws no light on the main problem." Again, what you are claiming to be Crowley's hypothesis - "wonderfull" though it may be - is, in fact, your "hypothesis".

Secondly, by failing to focus on the result you've simply assumed that what these researchers are talking about is the same thing that Crowley was. As your pal Newberg quite correctly states in another study, "confounding problems with this study include the fact that the subjective sense reported during glossolalia is difficult to measure". Your assertion that this research "confirm Crowley's basic hypothesis behind ritual and meditation" implies not only that meditation brings about some result, but that it brings about the specific result (which as you can see from the above, actually turns out to be "results" with an "s" on the end, despite your claims to the contrary) that Crowley was talking about. What evidence do we have of this? Nobody is getting into their brains and seeing what they are experiencing, so where is the evidence coming from? Personal testimony? There has been personal testimony of various trance states for thousands of years, so what exactly do you think that this research is "confirming"? That personal testimony can be "confirmed" by...more personal testimony? Hardly compelling, is it? All the research you have summarised really does is appear to show that activity in a certain area of the brain can be triggered by certain practices. This is a long, long way away from "confirm[ing] Crowley's basic hypothesis behind ritual and meditation", but that's not the answer you want to come to, so it isn't the answer you actually do come to.

Finally, as I've already said, by completely ignoring the question of the value of these experiences - which is the single most fundamental part of Crowley's "basic hypothesis", regardless of what your own "basic hypothesis" is - you completely remove any possibility of "confirming" anything at all about occult practices, because that's what the whole thing comes down to. Yet, in your enthusiasm, you believe that this has indeed been confirmed. It hasn't. However much you'd like to convince people that I've "read a great deal of phantastic things into my posts", the simple fact remains that the fundamental claim you have made just is not supported by the evidence you have presented. Not even close. What you're doing is inappropriately extending an ultimately irrelevant piece of evidence to cover all manner of other claims which are not supported by it.

It's becoming a common trend to try to legitimise occult and other religious practices by this kind of well-intentioned but misguided appeal to "science". It's particularly easy to fall prey to this type of error when the research in question appears to confirm something which you'd very much like to be true. In this case you've taken some neurological research which I'm sure is very interesting to some neuroscientists, and then by deliberately glossing over the actual experience in question and merely assuming it to be the one you'd like it to be, by completely ignoring the key issue which is the actual value of these experiences and not the experiences themselves, and by imposing some of your own "wonderfull ideas" onto Crowley, you've managed to convince yourself that this research "confirms" what you believe to be the "basic hypothesis" behind your own religious practices. In reality, the research in question doesn't come anywhere close to even beginning to confirm such a thing and this type of research never will, because it simply doesn't address the relevant questions. You yourself have criticised others in the past for inappropriately using scientific studies in support of their occult claims when those scientific studies actually do not support those claims at all, so that's now a third piece of your own advice you've failed to follow.

It's a really good idea to get into the habit of being a little more discriminating in examining what you think is actually going on, because it's really easy to let your own desires for a particular state of affairs get in the way of an objective assessment of what actually is going on.

"Patriarch156" wrote:
I suggest you read up a bit about on research on the plasticity of the brain and consequently personality. The religious experience are one of the few ways that this can happen and yes it is in a very dissimilar way to other life-experiences.

Having a board with six-inch nails sticking out of it repeated smashed into your skull will also produce a change in personality that is "very dissimilar...to other life-experiences", but yet again, so what? One type of reaction to a "life-experience" will produce a "very dissimilar" result to another type of reaction to a "life-experience". If the purpose of occult practices was merely to produce "dissimilar" experiences then you might have a point, but as I've already said, you're just barking up the wrong tree with this one.

Neither do you have to "read up a bit about on research", either - anybody who has experienced significant life-events, and anybody who's been alive for a significant period of time, for that matter, will already be aware of how significant events can have significant and long-lasting changes on the consciousness. Reading more accounts of personal testimony really shouldn't alter that. In the case of "religious experiences" in particular, a far better approach would be to go out and actually get some of them, and then you'd know exactly how such experiences affect you and your personality. If you want to compare and understand how "dissimilar" one experience is to another, then this is one of those occasions where acquiring direct experience of the things under question is a more effective approach than reading some studies about it, because no amount of listening to some clown prattling on about how some experience mysteriously changed him is going to convey much relevant information to you. If you're deciding how significant various types of experience are to you solely by reference to how significant some researcher tells you it ought to be, then you're probably going to want to reconsider your approach to that question at some point in the future.

Crowley asserted that particular types of experience will produce particular types of result, and I've already told you what some of them are. Now it might be convenient for you to claim that "dissimilar" by definition means the type of result discussed by Crowley because that enables you to believe that this research does indeed "confirm" what you want it confirm, but unfortunately it's just a false claim.

Where, for instance, is your evidence that this "complete reevaluation of his life and being" necessarily results in an evaluation that is actually more correct, or more useful, or more beneficial, than the "evaluation" the subject had in the first place? Personal testimony again? It's hardly a shocker that people are going to claim that they are smarter and wiser after a particular experience, since people generally don't like to believe "no, I'm much dumber now than I was previously." And that's even if you do have such evidence, which I doubt in this case. Such a change is fundamental to Crowley's "basic hypothesis", after all. If you're going to make bold claims such as "science would not really agree witth you" then you really have to consider this type of thing, because if you don't then "science" really isn't saying what you tell yourself that it is. You have to consider what the research actually is telling you as opposed to sloppily considering what you'd merely like it to be telling you.

As I said, I'm sure you sincerely believe that research like this is providing some measure of legitimacy to your occult practices and that your presentation is well-meaning, but you're allowing your preferences to interfere with your judgment, which is never a great idea. Particularly when you're dealing with something which you'd very much like to be true, it would behoove you to be especially skeptical about exactly what information you are legitimately able to extract from a particular piece of research as it applies to your own hypotheses.

"Patriarch156" wrote:
Beyond this I have no interest in demonstrating to you that the windmills you are battling remains entirely in your phantasy.

I'm not surprised. It's much easier to deal with relevant criticism if you dismiss it as "windmills" and "phantasy". In fact, it's a common strategy for religious legitimisation, yet again. No religious believer has any interest in actually examining their religious beliefs, because to do so carries the risk of inconvenient facts upsetting their pet theories about the universe and about their own religion. If doing this makes you feel better, then knock yourself out - don't let me stop you, by all means.


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 Anonymous
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16/06/2009 1:45 am  
"Patriarch156" wrote:
While I do appreciate that you both feel and claim that you can know what is true and what is not, I am not sure how you can make such an assertions and demonstrate it. If you were able to I am reasonably certain that a Nobel's Price would be accorded you as it is a rather striking and outlandish claim of the same tall order that the ones that the Randi Foundation deals with. Since extraordinary claims demands extraordinary proof, I tend to be skeptical of such claims.

This type of confusion results from misapplying the worst kind of philosophical platitudes which are routinely spouted in newage, occult and religious circles, probably as a deliberate attempt to prevent followers from perceiving some of the more obviously and outrageously false claims propagated in such circles.

For some reason, when this question of "reality" comes up, people insist on getting into extended discussions about metaphysics, and insist that in order to claim something is "real" you need to have some kind of infinite chain of supported claims going back to some ultimate metaphysical truth. But you just don't.

All that is really needed is to take a little step back and clear your head from the murky fog of self-imposed occult distraction. For instance, take your statement that "you both feel and claim that you can know what is true and what is not, I am not sure how you can make such an assertions and demonstrate it." The idea that being able to distinguish what is true from what it false is some impossibly fantastic claim involves an inordinate amount of deliberate self-obfuscation.

We've already had many examples of this type in recent threads. If you pick up a cup of coffee, you know it's true that you just picked it up. If you sit back and imagine a pinkish elephant with gold stripes trampling your rose bushes, you know it's not true that a pinking elephant with gold stripes just trampled your rose bushes. Knowing what is true and what is not is, in the vast majority of cases, an absolutely trivial exercise. You really do have to deliberately confuse yourself with philosophy in order to fail to notice this.

Now, here's where people really get confused. When you make a statement such as "I know it's true that I just picked up a coffee cup", it simply is not necessary to extend an infinite chain of inferences back to some ultimate metaphysical reality in order to support that statement. Whether or not that coffee cup is "physically there" or whether the entire universe is merely some kind of wild illusion is absolutely irrelevant to that claim. It is easy - trivially easy - to distinguish things which are actually going on and things which you are merely imagining, and whether "actually going on" implies actual physical existence, or whether it implies the solidity of the objects in question, or whether it implies any number of other metaphysical concerns, is absolutely irrelevant, and none of these considerations are required to be inherent in the claim that it is "true". All that is necessary is to distinguish between those things that are imaginary, and those things that are non-imaginary. The latter group we term "real", regardless of what the actual metaphysical nature of the elements in that group might be. This simple observation which accords with how you actually behave in everyday life is a long way from being deserving of a Nobel prize.

As I've said before, we can extend a similar observation to Crowley's absurd claim that "Knowledge is, moreover, an impossible conception. All propositions come ultimately back to 'A is A'." This would be true if knowledge actually were gained as a result of some kind of formal logical extrapolation from a priori truths that could demonstrate themselves, but this just isn't how knowledge is formed. One can only get to this ridiculous conclusion by insisting that knowledge is formed in some way other than the way in which it actually is, and in exactly the same way one can only come to the conclusion that distinguishing between truth and falsity is an impossibly wild and "extraordinary" claim by insisting that "truth" means something other than what it actually does mean in day-to-day life. Studying the philosophy of science and metaphysics is fine as an avenue of investigation in itself, but when it starts confusing you as utterly as this then you know it's time to take a break.

If anybody needed evidence that occultism, rather than being a process of revealing what is hidden, is actually a process of horribly and willfully obscuring a large variety of very plain and obvious facts, there it is.


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 Anonymous
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16/06/2009 2:21 am  
"Erwin" wrote:
It's particularly easy to fall prey to this type of error when the research in question appears to confirm something which you'd very much like to be true.

An interesting thing about Neil Stephenson's book Anathem was that he coined a catchy phrase for the above phenomenon. "Diax's Rake" was what he called it (and the history behind who Diax was, or why he hit people with a rake, is not necessary to go into): "Never believe a thing simply because you want it to be true." But by giving this kind of confirmation bias a memorable name (in a similar way as we have "Occam's Razor"), it helps keep it fresh in the mind.

A quick web search also locates other obscure terms for this such as "Morton's demon" and the "Semmelweis reflex." But they say that it's easier to remember things with strange names... in my mind, it'll always be the Rake! 🙂


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Azidonis
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16/06/2009 5:21 am  

93,

Interesting thread!

"Nothingness, with twinkles! But what twinkles!

Samadhi has also been described to me, vaguely, as, "It was like all of the lights went off at once!"

To continue the wonderful quoting spree, when I asked a person about Meditation practices many years ago he replied, "I don't know. I just sit on my ass and close my eyes."

93 93/93


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 Anonymous
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16/06/2009 8:23 am  
"Erwin" wrote:
This type of confusion results from misapplying the worst kind of philosophical platitudes which are routinely spouted in newage, occult and religious circles, probably as a deliberate attempt to prevent followers from perceiving some of the more obviously and outrageously false claims propagated in such circles.

.....

If anybody needed evidence that occultism, rather than being a process of revealing what is hidden, is actually a process of horribly and willfully obscuring a large variety of very plain and obvious facts, there it is.

Rotflmao! Oh come on Erwin. There's no conspiracy here. No one is 'deliberately attempting to prevent *followers* from perceiving' - well, anything! I think the beer must have been talking there:-)

*hands out coffee*

I know it can be frustrating if you let it, but these are just people with a modicum of intelligence who are exploring philosophical questions to see if those avenues leads them to understand Thelema. It doesn't, but people make mistakes when they're learning, so give a little with them., ya daftie. 😀


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 Anonymous
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16/06/2009 11:43 am  

I am glad that we are almost getting back to the topic of the thread. Shouldn't we start another thread about the relationship between subject/object, or rather how/if we can separate subjective from objective judgements of reality, and how these can then be relayed to another person? Or maybe a 'fight club' room for those hoping to knock seven bells out of each other?...


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Azidonis
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16/06/2009 6:14 pm  
"FraterFR" wrote:
Shouldn't we start another thread about the relationship between subject/object, or rather how/if we can separate subjective from objective judgements of reality, and how these can then be relayed to another person?

93,

I'm not the archive guru or anything. Some people have the desire and ability to pull up extremely old threads in seconds it seems, and I'm not one of them. It seems I do recall having an extremely long thread on subjectivity/objectivity at one point. Perhaps it could do to be brought up again, or maybe its better that some are just reminded of its existence, whether they know it to be true or just takes our words for it...

93 93/93


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 Anonymous
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17/06/2009 5:20 pm  
"Erwin" wrote:
Since you're so keen on what you believe to be Crowley's own ideas, let's not forget that he said (quite correctly): "We may dismiss, then, the physiological question. It throws no light on the main problem, which is the value of the testimony of the experience."

If I may butt in here for a moment, this selective quoting of Crowley at cross-purposes in debate is problematic, as always. A more 'holistic' approach to his work gives a much more balanced and accurate view if it. At any rate, I believe that had Crowley been aware in his day of any suggestion of progress toward scientific evidence for a physiological relationship between Samadhi and changes to the brain, he would have been very excited by it, rather than dismissing the general idea as he may have when such information was not available to him. In other words, it would have served his purpose in the rehabilitation of magick and mysticism, so he would have eagerly taken advantage of the opportunity.


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18/06/2009 12:38 am  
"Camlion" wrote:
If I may butt in here for a moment, this selective quoting of Crowley at cross-purposes in debate is problematic, as always. A more 'holistic' approach to his work gives a much more balanced and accurate view if it. At any rate, I believe that had Crowley been aware in his day of any suggestion of progress toward scientific evidence for a physiological relationship between Samadhi and changes to the brain, he would have been very excited by it, rather than dismissing the general idea as he may have when such information was not available to him. In other words, it would have served his purpose in the rehabilitation of magick and mysticism, so he would have eagerly taken advantage of the opportunity.

I completely fail to see any value whatsoever in speculating what Crowley may or may not have been excited by. If "selective quoting of Crowley at cross-purposes in debate is problematic", then argument by "well, Crowley would have liked it!" is only ever going to be more so.

However, he wasn't "dismissing the general idea" because "such information was not available to him", but because it is, indeed, completely irrelevant to his purpose. As he said quite clearly, what's actually physically causing the experience is unimportant - it's the value of the experience which is at issue. The "basic hypothesis" at issue is not whether or not samadhi exists, or that something in particular causes it, but that it has particular beneficial effects, whether that is the granting of "superhuman powers" or something else. No amount of knowing what changes in the brain are associated with samadhi, and no amount of knowing how those changes physically occur, is ever going to add anything to that hypothesis, with the exception of possibly adding a few more lumps of dirt to the already enormous mountain of evidence against the idea that there's something supernatural going on.

The simple fact that there is a "physiological relationship between Samadhi and changes to the brain" is obvious to anybody who is not deluded by tales of the supernatural and who is prepared, for the sake of convenience, to reduce any changes in consciousness to "changes in the brain", so even evidence about that would be of zero value to any practitioner, although it may well be of great interest to neuroscientists, as I said. The only time such research would ever be of any value to a practitioner would be in the event it indicated an easier method of generating the experience, whether through the application of drugs, electrodes to the head, anal probes, or whatever else. Until that happens, such research has no value to the practitioner other than as general diversionary interest, and even if it does happen it's still not going to "confirm" anything that Crowley said. Certainly to start claiming that "science would disagree" with someone on the subject of samadhi, and to start claiming that Crowley's hypotheses have been "confirmed" by "science" by quoting utterly tangential research such as this is an absurd misuse of it.


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Azidonis
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18/06/2009 6:25 am  

93,

It would be interesting if, in time, science developed a "Samadhi Machine"...

93 93/93


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 Anonymous
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18/06/2009 6:46 pm  

93

Ha ha! A Samadhi Machine - love that idea. I am sure someone is working on one as we speak. The thing is, according to sutra, samadhi manifests in many different ways, so I am not sure if machine-induced samadhi, or that gained through anal probing, drugs or electrodes would necessarily qualify as Nirvikalpa. What do you think? Am I just being precious or trying to put limitations on the experience?

I have often heared people talking about drugs as a way of 'aiding gnosis', etc, and I think this is possible to a certain extent. From another perspective, drugs, anal and brain probes would be a distraction. Maybe they help give one a very tiny glimpse of the state that one one day hopes to acheive and remain in. I think the idea of remaining in the state after experiencing the fundamental nature of mind, where there is no separation, no perception of non-dualistic Being, is the key of course. And even if this separation does appear to arise again, it too is perceived as illusory.

I think another kind of problem can arise when people 'make too much' of the sammadhi experience. It can itself create an illusory this/that, where I am now versus where I went or want to be or go. There is no integration of both states into Nothingness. But the crisis that the glimpse of the fundamental state gives can be useful, if only to question everything that one previously took to be real or Reality.

Another thing - I was just wondering how you relate samadhi to the Ain, Ain Soph and Ain Soph Aur?

93 93/93

PS - Going to have a look at 'Magick Without Tears' where I am sure Crowley talks about the state BEYOND samadhi.


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 Anonymous
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18/06/2009 7:21 pm  

The quote from MWT:

"It is not merely easy, it is natural, not merely natural, but inevitable, for anyone who has experienced "Samadhi" (this word
conveniently groups the higher types of vision) to regard normal life as "illusion" by comparison with this state in which all problems are
resolved, all doubts driven out, all limitations abolished.

But even beyond Atmadarshana comes the experience called Sivadarshana, in which this Atman (or Brahman), this limit-destroying
Universe, is itself abolished and annihilated."

- I think this is the quote I was looking for in relation to the above post. Will keep looking...


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Proteus
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19/06/2009 12:31 am  

Ha ha! A Samadhi Machine - love that idea. I am sure someone is working on one as we speak.

About half the people I know have a samadhi machine. And yes, I am sure someone is 'working' on one as we speak. I wish I was...

John


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empiricus
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19/06/2009 12:46 am  

93,

A better 'machine' than the one we all have couldn't be invented!

All the best,

93 93/93


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 Anonymous
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19/06/2009 1:50 am  

FraterFR,
Yes drugs, LSD and other powerful hallucinogens in particular, can sometimes "aid gnosis" but, when the drug's effects wear off you are only left with a memory of the gnosis/trances, or whatever the experience (heck, the drugs may even lessen the memory). So I agree that while they may help initially, in the end you, under the guidance of your H.G.A of course, have to accomplish these things without the drugs for the experience to have any real and lasting impact, IMHO.

I agree empiricus! I don't want any help from some electronic device. Imagine some cyborg magickian before a group ritual "Hey wait! Don't start yet, I have to turn on real quick!" with wires hanging out from underneath his robes, attached to some battery hiddden in the altar. 😆


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Azidonis
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26/06/2009 8:24 am  
"N.O.X" wrote:
FraterFR,
Yes drugs, LSD and other powerful hallucinogens in particular, can sometimes "aid gnosis" but, when the drug's effects wear off you are only left with a memory of the gnosis/trances, or whatever the experience (heck, the drugs may even lessen the memory). So I agree that while they may help initially, in the end you, under the guidance of your H.G.A of course, have to accomplish these things without the drugs for the experience to have any real and lasting impact, IMHO.

I agree empiricus! I don't want any help from some electronic device. Imagine some cyborg magickian before a group ritual "Hey wait! Don't start yet, I have to turn on real quick!" with wires hanging out from underneath his robes, attached to some battery hiddden in the altar. 😆

LOL


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gurugeorge
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26/06/2009 7:27 pm  
"FraterFR" wrote:
93
I’ve been discussing Will and how one ‘realises’ it and integrates it on another thread, and wondered if anyone else had a few thoughts about this idea of ‘realisation’ (in the Buddhist sense), in relation to samadhi and gnosis, particularly. Some of my practices (and non-practices) could be described as Dzogchen, informed by the Yungdrung Bon tradition, and I frequently jump between ideas of samadhi and gnosis when describing the moment of the realisation of oneness within one’s magical, spiritual, meditation and non-meditation practices, etc. I know, etymologically speaking, we could probably split hairs (and will!), but I just wondered what your personal experiences and ideas were in this area, and if you are aware of Crowley discussing the similarities and differences. I am sure he must have mentioned something in ‘Magic Without Tears’, and I’ll have another look.
93 93/93
Frater FR

I'm aware that some Dzogchen translations translate Jnana (or rather, the equivalent Tibetan term, which I can't remember offhand) as "Gnosis", but I wonder whether this isn't perhaps obscurum per obscuris?

I suppose it depends on whether one's interest is in keeping traditions and methods distinct (not mushing them all together into a cargo-cultey, New Agey kind of thing) or in something like "Perennial Philosophy", or seeing what's common in all religions/mysticisms.

As someone who's a firm believer in the scientific method (which I take to be roughly the Popperian method of testing ideas to destruction, both conceptually and experimentally), I would tend to say that there is something common to all religions/mysticisms, and it's a physiological (brain fart) type of thing, as recent experiments seem to be showing. I don't think you can find the commonality of Philosophia Perennis from the philosophical side - as it were by sifting and refining all the various terms from all the various traditions - if only because a lot of the philosophy attached to religion is two or three times removed from the experiences of those people who originally had the experiences that made them charismatic and capable of attracting followers.

I also tend to think that the classic terms in religion and philosophy were originally more "robust", often the terms of uneducated folk who happened to have these experiences that made them into "religious geniuses" (in Crowley's sense). Simple terms - like "you will KNOW". Did the Christian who used that kind of phrase intend some precise, philosophically perspicuous term? I doubt it. (Same with a term like the Tibetan "Rigpa", which AFAIK simply translated means something like "common sense" - but an interesting tale hangs there, for those who have read Peter Kingsley, and a roundabout route back to the term "Nous"!)

Looking at it from the physiological angle, I think there are at least two major types of experience in mysticism: loss of the ordinary sense of self, and the Unitive experience (or "oceanic" experience, as I think it's sometimes called). The latter seems to tie in with the recent experimental observations about the "time-space nodule" in the brain that Patriarch156 was talking about, the former seems to be more tied to the whole complex of self-representation (by "self" here I mean body/brain, i.e. the body's representation of itself, both in a pre-linguistic sense, and mediated linguistically/socially); it's "averse" version would be Depersonalization.

These two "experiences" sometimes go together, but needn't necessarily. (I put "experience" in scare quotes because of course "you" are not there "having" the experience. Something is going on, but "you" as you ordinarily understand yourself, are not present "having" it, in any sense.)

Now here's the tricky part, as I see it. Is the Unitive experience, combined with the loss of ordinary self-sense (let's call this two-sided coin "Samadhi"), a cognitive state (worthy of being called "Gnosis")? I don't see any reason why it couldn't be: whatever physiological state you are in when you taste the sweetness of sugar, the fact that there's a physiological (brain) state involved doesn't negate the truth of "sugar is sweet" coming out of your mouth. The "source" of a bit of knowledge, where it comes from, where it "originates", is irrelevant to its truth (this is Popper again).

But: all knowledge, strictly so-called, is discursive knowledge, knowledge you can put into words and symbols, knowledge you can share, (proposed) knowledge that can be publicly tested. The mere having of a physiological state is not in itself a discursive phenomenon, not in itself a symbol-string that could be a piece of knowledge that's publicly passed around. (Another way of saying it: if it can't be publicly tested, then it's not knowledge, "knowledge" as an ordinary-language term presupposes a publicly shared world.)

But: some say that Gnosis is a kind of "simply being" that is also a kind of knowing. One of the most interesting philosophers of mysticism, Robert C K Forman, takes this view. I presume that this view also has the sanction of tradition, at least in Western philosophy, going back to Parmenides (or rather, Parmenides as understood by the Western philosophical tradition, which may have misunderstood him). This is reflected down to modern philosophy in such concepts as "knowledge by acquaintance" (that you know something when you directly experience it).

I'm not really sure myself. My current thought is just this: although there is no symbolic content in the state of Samadhi itself, when one "comes out" of it, one is sometimes moved to utter symbol strings like I am not, but the Universe is my Self (my personal favourite, by a Zen guy called Shih Tou). Curiously, although that is psychologically false if spoken by the body possessed by an ordinary sense of self, it would be true of the body not-so-possessed, with its boundary-lost mind, if it uttered it.

But in that sense, it's actually the Universe ("focussed" - as it were - on the individual body-mind) that would be uttering it, in which case it would be Absolute Truth. (In fact it's even plain scientific truth, since there is no place for "self" or "mind", as distinct from matter, in science.)

But then again, curiously, even if the self-possessed body-mind says it, and it's false psychologically in relation to that self-possessed body-mind, metaphysicall speaking, IT'S STILL ABSOLUTE TRUTH. Whether the "haver" is present or not.

So at the end of the day, such a phrase is a piece of Gnosis, knowledge, whichever way you look at it.

Summat like that, anyway.


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Azidonis
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12/05/2010 7:11 am  

Thread necromancy!


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