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March 24, 2010

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I love this blog! Some of the best, most meaningful reading (to me) lately is found here.

Hey Brian, check out Stanley Sobottka's take on the quantum physics/nonduality thingy:

http://faculty.virginia.edu/consciousness/

It's relevant to this topic. It seems quite a few quantum physicists have come to some kind of "enlightenment" or "awakening" (or whatever we call it on a Thursday) through their work. Lots of quibbling about what to label it though.

Suzanne, thanks for sharing the link. I'll take a look at Sobottka's PowerPoint presentation. Consciousness is a mystery, like much of quantum physics. Question is, does one mystery help to explain the other? Can Mystery + Mystery = Understanding? I'm inclined to believe that we still end up with mystery, but maybe this guy will help change my mind.

Mystery + Mystery + Stop Tying To Figure It Out And Just Live = Who Cares?

The only thing this lot do is to try peddle their mystical ramblings as somehow being aligned with specific and accurate science, while it plainly is not.

However, chopra is typical of these new=age mystics who does not have the slightest clue about quantum mechanics, which takes years of training and reflection to properly grasp. I think it was Feynman who said if you think you have understood quantum mechanics, you have not understood quantum mechanics.

Instead these lay fools cherry pick superficial properties and adapt it to suit their specific worldview.

I have no idea why these guys continue to try and backup their theories with science, why not simple pose their own theories with their own evidence.

Its the same as these guru quacks claiming science of the soul, and their followers who simply imbibe what their teachers say without a modicum of questioning or understanding.

The thing about relativity, which i find so amazing is that the space and time appear to be relative and potentially malleable. However, if i understand relativity, there there is an absolute, i.e. light, which nothing can travel faster than.

Let's consider Shermer and Chopra as bullshit machines. (so am I - it's just the pot calling the kettle black).
So here's Deepak, a smart young Asian Indian who is intelligent enough to obtain an M.D. and practice endocrinology. Along the way, he is victimized by his own neurology into thinking that he has extraordinary insight into the human condition. Sincerely wants to help people and makes a huge fortune dispensing his ideas without having to purchase malpractice insurance. He is (or maybe was) intelligent enough to endure the rigors of coming to understand quantum physics, but why bother?

Then there is this Michael Shermer guy, (who I know zilch about) but apparently was akin to a three-seed-in-the-spirit bible-thumping true believer - when his own neurology changed and he decided that he was getting nowhere fast with the cut-and-dried approach to reality. Now he figures he can serve humanity by espousing ideas that he himself scarcely understands.
Ideas such as there is no legitimate correspondence between metaphysics and quantum physics.

My own bullshit theory is that metaphysics and quantum physics are two methods of trying to deal with reality - which cannot be dealt with, but only experienced. Metaphysics might possibly make it easier to tolerate the injustices which are part of living. Quantum physics might eventually enable fantastic advances in nanotechnology that will make life exciting and wonderful and incredibly lengthy for a privileged sector of humanity. But nothing can override the obvious observation that everything is temporary, no matter how long it endures.

If this is a race, then Deepak Chopra has long since been at the finish line, reclining in an easy chair with his feet up on an ottoman, puffing on a big Cuban stogie with a snifter of brandy in his hand, waiting for Shermer to appear. With a great big smile.

If success is measured by the amount of bullshit that anyone can utter, then it is probably true that Deepak has a great big snifter in his hand.

However, for the more skeptical amongst us who prefer to grade everyone#s bullshit according to objective evidence, Deepak is still very much way behind with all the other mystics and believers whom are differentiated from the scientists in a key crucial aspect, the lack of demonstratable objective evidence to support their theories.

So while there may remain all these insights into reality, just as the nutcase in the madhouse whose convinced himself he is the messiah, he may well be right, afterall all anything is possible, but its highly improbable that he is. It is far more probably that he is deluded by his mind and the reason being primarily that their is no objective evidence to support his claims, irrespective of anyone's experience.

So in short Deepak can espouse away on his theories of black-hole holistic vortices comprising the human body ad infinitum, just as Lord OkiDokie can espouse the power of the Yoni and sell millions of dollas worth of self-help crud and laugh all the way to the bank - but as the saying goes you can fool some of the ppl some of the time but not all of the ppl all of the time.

It is unlikely that anyone who follows up on Chopra's suggestions or entertains his ideas will experience success or happiness as a result.
It is dead certain that disallowing Chopra's ideas because of Shermer's assertion that those ideas are invalid due to a lack of correspondence between the pragmatic nature of mathematics and statistics and the flighty platitudes of nondual philosophy will get you - nowhere. And there you will stay, until you disappear into ignominy, along with everyone else.

We are all in this together, and there is no way out. Chopra's speculations and a quantum physicist's mathematical probabilities avail not at all.

who decides what is unlikely and what is dead certain, there are very few dead certainties at all, and Shermer's assertions at least have evidence behind them than Chopra;s.

nothing wrong with ignominy, its a damn sight more honorable than charlatans disseminating bulldust and bending minds to for their own ego or filthy lucre lust.

this fool actually believes he can heal ppl with all his twiddle twaddle when he does not have the faintest clue about quantum theory, not the foggiest.

but what i cannot understand about these mystics, is why on one hand they decry science and the scientific method, and yet in the same breath actually try use science, or their version of it, to lend gravitas to their theories.

Its the same as these guru quacks claiming science of the soul, and their followers who simply imbibe what their teachers say without a modicum of questioning or understanding.

But all "guru quacks" and their "science" can't be so readily labeled and dismissed. The case can certainly be made their followers are credulous or naive or obsessional. But mystics
have always claimed there is a spiritual realm that is subject to a different set of laws and dynamics and a "science" to validate these assertions. Without following the mystic's discipline, the claims can't be dis-proven. No doubt this is fertile ground for quackery. But, no matter how facile the judgment, you can't pigeon-hole them all as quacks spouting mumbojumbo. You really don't know for sure. There can be a thousand fakes for each genuine item.

"You really don't know for sure. There can be a thousand fakes for each genuine item."

Sure, neither do I really know whether there is a God or Santa Clause, but science is different in that it can be understood, it is not mystical, so when some quack stands up and mixes his particular blend of quackery with science, those who actually understand the science can see through it an eyeblink.

I have no problem with a mystics personal belief or supposed knowledgge, but it is not scientific knowledge in that there is not a single iota of objective evidence to support any of their claims.

There is no way of seperating the genuine item from the thousand fakes, each follower believes their guru is the real item.
Moreover, many mystical teachings and experiences seem to be considered personal and sacred and not discussable - which of course is totally different to science that lays everything open for public scrutiny.

I have no problem with a mystics personal belief or supposed knowledgge, but it is not scientific knowledge in that there is not a single iota of objective evidence to support any of their claims.

Absolutely but worth a qualification that there may be evidence in the super-physical realm and no less a science to validate the mystic's claims. There's a ton of supercilious huffiness about "gurus" nowadays and the statement "these guru quacks claiming science of the soul" seemed overly general to me when I responded. Maybe I overreacted.

There is no way of seperating the genuine item from the thousand fakes, each follower believes their guru is the real item.

I agree especially if they're making claims about being the "One True Way". But, with all its wonderful achievements, we tend to deify modern science in much the same way in my opinion. Consider the absolute scorn for anything that's "mystical"... we start humming the "Twilight Zone" theme.

Moreover, many mystical teachings and experiences seem to be considered personal and sacred and not discussable - which of course is totally different to science that lays everything open for public scrutiny.

Historically, there's justification when you
consider mankind's persecution. But, I also suspect mystical teachings seem personal (and almost secretive at times) because mystics insist each person validating evidence for himself with meditative discipline. That seems very reasonable and scientific; otherwise, the fakes and uninformed grow by leaps and bounds. Even the open, public scrutiny provided by modern physical science, demands a certain pedigree and background to be taken seriously.

"...seemed overly general to me when I responded. Maybe I overreacted."

nope, you probably correctly picked up on my invective. i get very irritated by ppl who claim to know things, for which it is impossible to verify and whom are spreading misleading information. At best they are ignorant, at worst they are fakes and charlatans out for money or fame.

"we tend to deify modern science"

I have really tried to see this argument from the opposite viewpoint, but most scientists are well aware of the limitations of their science. They acknowledge the limits of their theories. Instead when these new-age mystics (like Deepak) get pinned down on science (the very pseudo-science they have misused), they then default to ad hominem attacks on scientists in general, as being 'fundamentalists'.

This is completely wrong, science by its very method has models (theories) that are constantly changing and updated in line with the available evidence. More generally, scientists do not start wars or blow themselves up or start wierd cults doing everything their master guru commands.

"...because mystics insist each person validating evidence for himself with meditative discipline. That seems very reasonable and scientific.."

It is reasonable, but it is not scientific. Ppl are free to believe whatever they want, but it is not correct to make a scientific claim devoid of objective evidence and which cannot be publically scrutinised to see whether it is true.

I very much agree with George. Merely because these so-called 'mystics' claim the supposed evidence can be derived via subjective meditation experiences... well that is not science or scientific at all.

Here is something that may help... it is "Ten Warning Signs of a Potentially Unsafe CULT", from Rick Ross http://www.rickross.com

* Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group-leader [or guru]:

1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.

2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.

3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an
independently audited financial statement.

4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe,
evil conspiracies and persecutions.

5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in
leaving, negative or even evil.

6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar
pattern of grievances.

7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.

8. Followers feel they can never be "good enough".

9. The group-leader [or guru] is always right.

10. The group-leader [or guru] is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

-----------------------------------

* Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe
group-leader [or guru]:

1. Extreme obsessiveness regarding the group-leader [or guru] resulting in the exclusion of almost every practical consideration.

2. Individual identity, the group, the leader [or guru] and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused -- as that person's involvement with the group-leader [or guru] continues and deepens.

3. Whenever the group-leader [or guru] is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".

4. Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and
mannerisms, cloning of the group-leader [or guru] in personal behavior.

5. Dependency upon the group-leader for problem solving, solutions, and
definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think
independently or analyze situations without group-leader [or guru] involvement.

6. Hyperactivity centered on the group-leader [or guru] agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.

7. A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.

8. Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an
interest in the group-leader [or guru].

9. Anything the group-leader [or guru] does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.

10. Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.

-----------------------------------

* Ten signs of a safe group-leader [or guru]:

1. A safe group-leader [or guru] will answer your questions without becoming judgmental and punitive.

2. A safe group-leader [or guru] will disclose information such as finances and often offer an independently audited financial statement regarding budget and
expenses. Safe groups and leaders [or gurus] will tell you more than you want to know.

3. A safe group-leader [or guru] is often democratic, sharing decision making and encouraging accountability and oversight.

4. A safe group-leader [or guru] may have disgruntled former followers, but will not vilify, excommunicate and forbid others from associating with them.

5. A safe group-leader [or guru] will not have a paper trail of overwhelmingly negative records, books, articles and statements about them.

6. A safe group-leader [or guru] will encourage family communication, community interaction and existing friendships and not feel threatened.

7. A safe group-leader [or guru] will recognize reasonable boundaries and limitations when dealing with others.

8. A safe group-leader [or guru] will encourage critical thinking, individual autonomy and feelings of self-esteem.

9. A safe group-leader [or guru] will admit failings and mistakes and accept constructive criticism and advice.

10. A safe group-leader [or guru] will not be the only source of knowledge and learning excluding everyone else, but value dialogue and the free exchange of ideas.


"...because mystics insist each person validating evidence for himself with meditative discipline. That seems very reasonable and scientific.."

It is reasonable, but it is not scientific. Ppl are free to believe whatever they want, but it is not correct to make a scientific claim devoid of objective evidence and which cannot be publically scrutinised to see whether it is true.

I'd have to argue that mystics' claims are objective and open to scrutiny though. Reality in a super-physical realm can't possibly be grasped by the physical senses nor parsed for a thesis publication. And, for whatever reason, mystics do not engage in public displays of miraculous powers or esoteric knowledge to provide proof. Understandable in view of history's persecution of those who have. Even "real scientists" get careful when extremists and bigotry rule. Only someone following a meditative discipline can verify or disprove their claims. And mystics would cite the repeatability and consistency of their own written accounts of that reality as evidence of a methodology as rigorous as any in the physical sciences. Arguably, they're more public as well, since no pedigree or lab or grant money is needed to begin research.

scientists do not start wars or blow themselves up or start wierd cults doing everything their master guru commands.

Hm.. I think demographics may account for that. If there are more scientists, I'd bet history could match up a mad scientist for every deranged guru. Not that you couldn't buy a scientist today -- even with a half-way decent rep -- for just about any kooky theory you'd like to espouse.

Of course mysticism teems with fakery and frauds. And critics accurately cite the inconsistency in mystics' accounts (even
though I suspect mystics would struggle to shoehorn hints of a non-physical reality into an inadequate language medium). Social workers rightfully beseech the unwary about the very real dangers of cults and mind control. No argument at all.

There's no dissonance between mysticism and science in my opinion. And I don't know if there's a legit mystic or mystical path. But, if there is , I believe there's a true science at its core. And I think the "thousand fakes" could still be obscuring and tainting the "genuine item".

deepak has choosen a field to first overcome his own weaknesses,then became popular because of IQ and using old indian wisdom.he himself is not realised as others indian seers .mimimum he should know how ramakrishna met with keshav sen .

"I'd have to argue that mystics' claims are objective and open to scrutiny.."

Well, I'd struggle to follow that arguement. Meditation can only ever be a subjective experience so I'm not sure how one arrives at objective evidence.

Many ppl may claim to have the same subjective experience, but there is no way of validating this or what each person is experiencing or more importantly if what each person is experiencing is anything other than a creation of the human mind.

Put simply objective evidence allows one to prove the existence of a physical world that exists independent of the human mind, i.e. the universe.

There is simply no objective evidence to support a supra-physical realm. Such a realm may indeed exist, anything is possible as is Santa Clause, but science is not the method of insight to get there so i am not sure why certain mystics insist on cherry-picking some aspects of science, while decrying others.

"And mystics would cite the repeatability and consistency of their own written accounts of that reality as evidence of a methodology as rigorous as any in the physical sciences."

Well clearly it is not as widely repeatable since there is a reason for mysticism not being accepted by the mainstream as a method of insight into reality. More generally though, it definitely is not as repeatable since mystic followers repeat the experiment without getting the results, an example of which is the author of this site with more than 30 years of RS experience. Also it is not rigorous in a scientific sense of making accurate precise predictions open to scrutiny by all, since its very name implies its origins that deal with 'mystery', and where such experience are never clearly described, even by those that attempt to do so. At best, the language used to describe the experience is vague metaphor, often beautiful poetry, the antithesis of a rigorous precise descriptive structure.

As for the dogmatic nature of science, I am saying that the scientific method by its very nature rebels against man's disposition towards dogmatism, since like any good detective, proper science merely follows the evidence. He/she is a skeptic equipped with critical skills to evaluate which theory fits the available evidence. This is why proper scientists do not start wars, because they are not dogmatic, they dont claim to know The Truth, The One or any other Absolute. Its a constant process of disovery and refinement.

Ditto to all of George's points and comments above.


George, good comment. I'd add that the supposed "repeatability and consistency" of mystical experiences is anything but. I've read a whole lot of descriptions of these experiences, and they come in all sorts of varieties. For example, some people claim they've perceived higher regions of reality, while others see this world through a different vision.

"For example, some people claim they've perceived higher regions of reality, while others see this world through a different vision."

Yeah, but so what? Big deal. Who cares?

This region of reality, and this vision, is enough.


I'd add that the supposed "repeatability and consistency" of mystical experiences is anything but. I've read a whole lot of descriptions of these experience
s, and they come in all sorts of varieties...

Yes, but the description isn't the experience itself. How could mystics easily shoehorn experiences of the non-physical realm into language. What lexicon could they use. However eloquent or poetic, the best metaphoric approximation would almost certainly be a joke. A fairy tale for children who don't understand. The diversity of mystical description in these circumstances is unsurprising.

But, language's inadequacies can't be a reason to invalidate the possibility of a non-physical realm or genuine mystical experiences. Or to dismissively declare mystic discipline as "non-science". Fault the obvious fakes or commentators dabbling in a quantum physics they don't understand. But, to characterize mysticism as purely subjective, inconsistent, unrepeatable, a mere quirk of "brain chemistry" seems like pseudo-science itself.

Perhaps very few successfully follow the mystic discipline. Or suffer disappointment after struggling without enlightenment. Maybe,
exposing quacks just spills over a bit into bashing mysticism in general. That doesn't mean all mystics are quacks; mystic experience, bogus; and mystic discipline, totally "unscientific".

It is irrelevant to this issue that "the description isn't the experience itself".

Its not about how well "experiences of the non-physical realm" are put "into language", even if such a "non-physical realm" actually exists... which is somewhat doubtful.

No one is trying to "invalidate the possibility of a non-physical realm or genuine mystical experiences". But there simply is no corroboratable evidence.

Mysticism is NOT science. It may produce various subjective experiences, but that is still not science.

Mysticism is in fact "purely subjective, inconsistent, unrepeatable", and quite possibly "a mere quirk of brain chemistry". There simply is no science involved in mystical experiences.

There is no way of knowing that "very few successfully follow the mystic discipline".

Struggle and disappointment does not necessarily mean a lack of disciple. And there is no common agreement regarding the nature of so-called "enlightenment", and which actually shows many signs of being nothing more than a myth.

If you don't like "bashing mysticism", then come up with some solid evidence that mysticism works and is anything more than an illusion. Until then, so-called "mystic discipline" is "totally unscientific".


"How could mystics easily shoehorn experiences of the non-physical realm into language."

Correct, i dont believe they could and for this reason it is not a science and should not be confused with or supported by science which aims for accurate description and prediction of phenomenon, not for hazy metaphor.

"But, language's inadequacies can't be a reason to invalidate the possibility of a non-physical realm"

I agree with this, but that is not what i take umbrage with. What i have a problem with is why some mystics or mystical traditions seem to try to pass themselves off as being a science or supported by a science, when they are not. The imprecise expression of the phenomemon they observe, the subjectivity thereof and its questionable repeatability - make it totally seperate from science, which is concerned with the physical realm.

My bashing is aimed at mystics who want to pass their system off as a science, not to mystics in general. However, you of course raise a fundamental point which is how do you validate between a genuine mystic and a quack? Again, its subjective. Even if i believe there is possibly something to mysticism, what exactly would you propose to be the criteria for a genuine mystic?

It is irrelevant to this issue that "the description isn't the experience itself".

Not really. Several different eye-witness accounts of an event doesn't mean the event
didn't occur or the accounts were delusional.
The suggestion that mystics claims are all over the place and are inconsistent doesn't invalidate their reality. Describing the reality may be tenaciously difficult.

Its not about how well "experiences of the non-physical realm" are put "into language", even if such a "non-physical realm" actually exists... which is somewhat doubtful.

If the counter-point against mystics' claim of scientific consistency is that their accounts "all over the place", then it is, at least partly, about language.

No one is trying to "invalidate the possibility of a non-physical realm or genuine mystical experiences". But there simply is no corroboratable evidence.

The mystics claim their discipline can and does provide corroboration when properly followed. You don't have any evidence either way.

Mysticism is NOT science. It may produce various subjective experiences, but that is still not science.

Mysticism is in fact "purely subjective, inconsistent, unrepeatable", and quite possibly "a mere quirk of brain chemistry". There simply is no science involved in mystical experiences.

Sigh. I can't imagine a more doctrinaire set of statements. You could be right despite all
counterpoint but that certainty doesn't seem
at all congruent with awareness of the limits
of "science" or openness to other possibilities.

There is no way of knowing that "very few successfully follow the mystic discipline".

Again, there's no way of knowing that "none
successfully follow the mystic discipline" either.

Struggle and disappointment does not necessarily mean a lack of disciple.

I never said it did.

And there is no common agreement regarding the nature of so-called "enlightenment", and which actually shows many signs of being nothing more than a myth.

I never suggested what enlightenment is or isn't. I can well imagine someone conjuring up their own idea of what "enlightenment" is though and then blaming the discipline when they fail to find it.


If you don't like "bashing mysticism", then come up with some solid evidence that mysticism works and is anything more than an illusion.

I'm only uncomfortable with the rigid assertions that the mystics' methodology isn't at all scientific and can't be proven. Why they say...? Because it doesn't conform to mainstream scientific format; or its descriptions of reality are all over the place; or it's clearly not repeatable -- someone tried it for 'x' years, got weary, and decided it's bogus. Case closed.

I'll try to be open and respectful of all the possibilities as well.

NW said: "Several different eye-witness accounts of an event doesn't mean the event didn't occur or the accounts were delusional."

-- Thats not the point. It doesn't matter whether or not an experience may have occured. It is still an entirely subjective and solitary experience... one which is unique to the individual who experienced it.

"The suggestion that mystics claims are all over the place and are inconsistent doesn't invalidate their reality."

-- Experiences are just that... mere experiences. Just because someone has an experience, that does not then make it "reality".

"If the counter-point against mystics' claim of scientific consistency is that their accounts "all over the place", then it is, at least partly, about language."

-- I never said that it is about language, you did. Its not about language. Its about evidence and proof. If no objective evidence is there, then it is not scientific.

"The mystics claim their discipline can and does provide corroboration when properly followed."

-- That is incorrect. There exists no corroboratable evidence yet. A mere solitary subjective experience is not at all the same as objective evidence which can be corrobated by others.

"You don't have any evidence either way."

-- The burden of proof rests entirely upon those making the claim. You are making a claim, but you have no proof.

"that certainty doesn't seem at all congruent with awareness of the limits of "science" or openness to other possibilities."

-- If you have substantial evidence and objective proof, then by all means, present it.

[Struggle and disappointment does not necessarily mean a lack of discipline.]

"I never said it did."

-- No, you implied that it (disappointment) did indeed indicate a lack of properly following the discipline.

"I never suggested what enlightenment is or isn't."

-- You said "enlightenment". That is sufficient evidence that you consider it to be real.... and you did not indicate or qualify it otherwise.

"I can well imagine someone conjuring up their own idea of what "enlightenment" is though and then blaming the discipline when they fail to find it."

-- I don't have any ideas regarding "enlightenment", but apparently you do. This so-called "enlightenment" is all a myth imo.

"I'm only uncomfortable with the rigid assertions that the mystics' methodology isn't at all scientific and can't be proven."

-- But their methodology is not scientific and cannot be proven. Otherwise, present the science and the proof.

"it doesn't conform to mainstream scientific format"

-- It does not conform to scientific procedure. Period.

"or it's clearly not repeatable"

-- Correct, it is not repeatable. No two mystical experiences are objective, nor are they identical.

"someone tried it for 'x' years, got weary, and decided it's bogus."

-- Well how long is long enough?? Is 30 years not long enough? If not, then why not, and how long? Sant mat does not say how long. If no results (no evidence) are forthcoming after 10, 20, or 30 years, then there must need be very serious doubts, and rightfully so. But this is also precisely why it is not scientific. It is entirely based upon mere faith alone, not upon results.


NW, having just written tonight's blog post, I'll continue with that theme in this response to your comments.

You seem to be assuming that mystical experience involves a contact or connection with some objectively real higher reality. As other commenters have noted, there is no evidence of this.

So why not make a different assumption: mystical experiences are of an expanded sense of self. I hesitate to call this a "higher" self. Let's just say, an "expanded" self -- one which usually isn't part of our everyday awareness.

This hypothesis explains why spiritual and mystical experiences are so widely varied. People are widely different. This hypothesis also explains why no demonstrable evidence of higher regions of reality ever has been shown to exist. There aren't any higher realms, only the natural world of which we're currently aware.


My bashing is aimed at mystics who want to pass their system off as a science, not to mystics in general. However, you of course raise a fundamental point which is how do you validate between a genuine mystic and a quack? Again, its subjective. Even if i believe there is possibly something to mysticism, what exactly would you propose to be the criteria for a genuine mystic?

Seriously... I have no idea who's a genuine mystic. Of course, the BS meter goes off if I hear certain keywords ('One True Way', 'quick
results', 'guaranteed satisfaction') but the meter is mostly visceral. Someone or some idea doesn't feel quite right.



So why not make a different assumption: mystical experiences are of an expanded sense of self. I hesitate to call this a "higher" self. Let's just say, an "expanded" self -- one which usually isn't part of our everyday awareness.

Sure, why not... But, you could alternatively postulate a self that's quintessentially a soul wrapped in gooey layers of mind-stuff. The soul-self experiences a transcendent reality if it somehow does a Houdini to escape the physical dimension. A case could be made for either "mind/soul amalgam" or "expanded self".

This hypothesis explains why spiritual and mystical experiences are so widely varied. People are widely different. This hypothesis also explains why no demonstrable evidence of higher regions of reality ever has been shown to exist. There aren't any higher realms, only the natural world of which we're currently aware.

That seems reasonable too. But, those who pick "Door No. 2" could argue that there's no easy way for a soul-self to describe the transcendent reality or adduce any demonstrable evidence. Therefore, you only find wildly variant metaphor.. depending on era/language/culture/background.

But anyone crazy enough to wander behind "Door No. 2" is likely imperiling their "soul"... or maybe it's the "expanded self"... in a dangerous sea. They should immediately do penance in the "Church of the Churchless" and wash this subjective nonsense right out of their system... :)

Tao wrote...Well how long is long enough?? Is 30 years not long enough? If not, then why not, and how long? Sant mat does not say how long. If no results (no evidence) are forthcoming after 10, 20, or 30 years, then there must need be very serious doubts, and rightfully so. But this is also precisely why it is not scientific. It is entirely based upon mere faith alone, not upon results.

Just fyi the answer to this Q by Charan Singh was that there are no failures in Sant Mat, and further this is a new answer in reply to a question by Gurinder Singh published in a recent newsletter by RSSB.
"If a satsangi has not had any inner experiences after forty years on the path, it might simply be due to laziness."


NW, when you say that two alternatives are equally plausible, (1) mystical experiences happen via the mind/brain and (2) mystical experiences happen via a release of the soul from mind/brain, you're engaging in a common reasoning error.

Namely, that a lack of evidence showing something isn't true is as persuasive as evidence showing something is true. But when you say that "a case can be made" for (1) or (2), the cases are anywhere near equivalent.

There's plenty of evidence that humans have a physical mind/brain. There's essentially zero evidence of "a soul wrapped in gooey layers of mind stuff," as you put it. Sure, anything is possible. The moon could be made of green cheese under the layer of minerals that we're currently aware of.

Respect for reality -- and even "God," if God is considered to be ultimate reality -- demands that we honor what actually exists outside of our imagination. Otherwise we're going to elevate our puny personal beliefs about what might be, or what we wish was true, much higher than they deserve to be placed.

Sure, it's important to be open to fresh hypotheses about the cosmos. However, what is known to be true needs to be the base from which we venture into realms of mystery. We know that humans have a mind/brain. This is the foundation of consciousness and awareness.

To posit something beyond this, a soul or whatever, is an abstraction, a concept, an imagination. Nothing wrong with this, just as there is nothing wrong with poetry, fiction, art, and other creative mental endeavors. We just need to keep in mind the difference between what is real outside of our head, and what we conjure up inside our psyche.

Comment posted by Juan (in response to tAo):

"Juthe answer to this Q by Charan Singh was that there are no failures in Sant Mat"

-- that doesn't answer my question, or anything for that matter. i asked: "how long is long enough?" ...meaning (reasonably), how long must one meditate in order to achieve the results (reaching sach khand) that RS claims? merely saying that there are "no failures" doesn't say how long. "no failures" could mean just about anything... even lifetimes. thats evasive, not to mention being an utterly ridiculous proposition.

"and further this is a new answer in reply to a question by Gurinder Singh published in a recent newsletter by RSSB." ... "If a satsangi has not had any inner experiences after forty years on the path, it might simply be due to laziness."

-- that is a most asinine and outrageous and absurd response imaginable, imo. it has the gaul to blame the practioner for spending "forty years" of his life doing RS meditation. this is the kind of irresponsible cult mind-control that RSSB and Gurinder Singh are blatantly guilty of. because spending forty years doing RS meditation without any resonable results casts very serious doubts upon RS, not upon the practioner. This comment more or less proves that the current RS master is arrogantly evasive and devious, and therfore fraudulent. anyone who wastes a moment of their life believing in this kind of individual and his sick cultic mind-control garbage, is a damn fool... and they deserve to be suckered and cheated and manipulated and drained by a cult guru con-artist.


Note that this "NW" is not me, the "Nw" that has posted on Brian's Hinessight before.

And I don't agree with the mystical realm at all. I am 100% for scientific proof.

Nw


There's plenty of evidence that humans have a physical mind/brain. There's essentially zero evidence of "a soul wrapped in gooey layers of mind stuff," as you put it. Sure, anything is possible. The moon could be made of green cheese under the layer of minerals that we're currently aware of.

But, your theory of "expanded mind" is just as speculative if you're trying to explain human awareness/consciousness/thought. What is "subconscious mind" other than a handy tag for events/behaviors which aren't understood. It's psychology's "green cheese" somewhere in the mind/brain's center. Or maybe it oozes out to the periphery.

Respect for reality -- and even "God," if God is considered to be ultimate reality -- demands that we honor what actually exists outside of our imagination. Otherwise we're going to elevate our puny personal beliefs about what might be, or what we wish was true, much higher than they deserve to be placed.

But what actually exists outside of our imagination can be a chimera as well. How often does logic stub its toes. Or scientific fact become fiction as further evidence is uncovered. Our imagination or sixth sense - however vague, subtle, and unsubstantiated - can be beneficial rather than a "puny personal belief" based on wishful thinking.

The linchpin of sanity and progress is openness to whatever evidence we continue to uncover. True scientific discovery has to be an iterative process. Both physical reality and imaginative/intuitive creativity play key parts.

We know that humans have a mind/brain. This is the foundation of consciousness and awareness. To posit something beyond this, a soul or whatever, is an abstraction, a concept, an imagination... We just need to keep in mind the difference between what is real outside of our head, and what we conjure up inside our psyche.

And imagination has helped science extrapolate from known facts to theories that became further advancements. Why, in an uncharted area which science still only guesses about, can't someone use his imagination to posit a soul and a transcendent reality. Most scientists have a sense of awe and humility about the unknown. I'm sure they'd be loathe to place any bets on "expanded mind" vs. "soul".

Scientists can still exercise their imagination and then parse "outside reality" from what the psyche "conjures up" too. They at least remain open as evidence unfolds. I suspect mystics can and do also... iteratively finding out what's real while tossing out what's false.

Whatever our leanings, hopefully, we all remain open.

"Why, in an uncharted area which science still only guesses about, can't someone use his imagination to posit a soul and a transcendent reality."

There is no scientific evidence for a soul. In reality, there is only matter and energy. So where does this soul exist? Where does transcendent reality exist? How can one detect this soul or transcendent reality? What demonstratable influence on reality are the souls of billions of deaceased people having right now? Other than in the memory of the living (which is actually the memory of their physical self)?

The only mysteries I find interesting are ones such as, how is gravity transmitted between solid bodies?

Nw, I note that you changed the subject from "lack of evidence" to "imagination." I never said that imagination was a bad thing, or wasn't important in both science and everyday life. Naturally, imagination can lead us toward truth.

But then our intuition, imagination, and hunches have to be tested against reality, because there is a difference between subjectivity and objectivity. Both are real. They are real in different ways, though. My subjective reality, such as a dream or thought, is only real for me; an objective reality is real for others as well.

Regarding the subconscious or unconscious, neuroscientists can "see" it in operation through brain scanning machines. I wrote about this recently in discussing the "hidden brain." In a similar sense, scientists can "see" gravity through its evident effects, even though it isn't visible to the senses.

Thus there's a large difference between a notion of an immaterial soul whose effects are unnoticeable, and other forces of nature such as unconscious mental processes and gravity.

I never said that imagination was a bad thing, or wasn't important in both science and everyday life. Naturally, imagination can lead us toward truth.

No, you didn't say imagination was bad but there was no mention of its benefit either. I only see: "Respect for reality... demands that we honor what actually exists outside of our imagination.". That's what got me going.

But then our intuition, imagination, and hunches have to be tested against reality, because there is a difference between subjectivity and objectivity. Both are real. They are real in different ways, though. My subjective reality, such as a dream or thought, is only real for me; an objective reality is real for others as well.

That's why I mentioned the iterative process of constantly re-evaluating as more evidence is gathered. I think we've covered this as well as the subjectivity of mystic accounts. But how could the mystics' claims of transcendent reality squeeze through the rabbit-hole of language and intellect into the objective proof we know and love. Yet mystics argue that reality can be known via a specific discipline and isn't some subjective fantasy at all.

Regarding the subconscious or unconscious, neuroscientists can "see" it in operation through brain scanning...scientists "see" gravity through its evident effects, even though it isn't visible to the senses.
Thus there's a large difference between a notion of an immaterial soul whose effects are unnoticeable, and other forces of nature such as unconscious mental processes and gravity.

Yet for all our technology, there's no real understanding of mind, dreams, ESP, creativity, intelligence, hallucinations, etc. We're forever at the periphery trying to peer in. Each answer leads to another question. Even the miracles of technology have brought us no closer to answering the eternal questions of who we are, where we came from ... nor alleviating the existential angst of war, death, hatred.

In so many ways, regardless of our path or discipline, we've stepped through the "Looking Glass" into a world where crazy logic rules and awakening from the dream is the only escape.

Nw, I'm curious: what is the "dream," and what is "awakening"? And how would someone be able to tell the difference between them, assuming these two states of actually exist? (I'm not speaking of ordinary sleep/awakening obviously, but of some hypothesized "enlightened" state.)

Regarding the "rabbit hole of language and intellect," the distinction between subjective and objective experience isn't the special province of mystics. It's common to everybody. When I taste a strawberry, and then try to describe my experience, it isn't possible to capture my subjectivity in objective language that can be understood by others.

Ditto with art, music, sex, enjoying nature, and so many other aspects of human life. There always is a distinction between immediate experience and expressed descriptions of experience. So there's no reason to single out supposed mystical experience as a special case.

Everybody finds it difficult to express something inner in outer language. After waking up, I frequently try to describe a dream that I had to my wife. I almost always end up saying, "This is sort of what happened, but not really."

So ineffability isn't any sort of proof of mysticism. Ineffability is ubiquitous in human experience.

I'm curious: what is the "dream," and what is "awakening"? And how would someone be able to tell the difference between them, assuming these two states of actually exist? (I'm not speaking of ordinary sleep/awakening obviously, but of some hypothesized "enlightened" state.)

I think Alice's phantasmagorical journey through the Looking Glass is a very apt metaphor for the topsy-turvy, unsettling world we live in. Considering existential angst and the enduring questions, all unanswered, waking up to find it was all a bad dream seems appealing too... (And, no, I'm not peddling some path or hypothesizing "enlightenment" whatever that is).

Ditto with art, music, sex, enjoying nature, and so many other aspects of human life. There always is a distinction between immediate experience and expressed descriptions of experience. So there's no reason to single out supposed mystical experience as a special case... So ineffability isn't any sort of proof of mysticism. Ineffability is ubiquitous in human experience.

I agree... but there was no claim that "ineffability was proof of mysticism". I do think however conveying a transcendent reality would likely be harder than describing how a strawberry tastes. Someone might call a strawberry a cross "between an apple and a watermelon". A crude approximation but at least synthesized from other known items. But transcendent reality might not be comparable, even superficially, to anything in physical reality.

And, in my opinion, some mystical paths are much harder to dismiss as just another subjective, unproven, likely delusional experience. Their disciplines usually involve rigorous, years-long training of mindfulness and certain strict codes of behavior. It's hard to lump that kind of rigor with a quack's $150 dollar course promising Nirvana in 6 weeks.

All mystic claims could be proven delusional in the end of course. Perhaps not though. And, maybe, like Alice, some do, on some level, "awaken" from a bad dream.

NW, you might be right. I just have trouble believing that life is a bad dream. This implies that someone or some force created a difference between (1) life as we know it, which is a "bad dream," and (2) some hidden or non-obvious awakened state.

Preferable, in my opinion, is to view life as capable of being lived in various ways: more skillfully and less skillfully. This makes it comparable to any other sort of skill. People can dance more skillfully or less skillfully, for example. Same with golf, playing bridge, and lots of other activities.

This is a naturalistic approach that is completely compatible with the sciences. It makes more sense, and is much more testable, than hypothesizing that some people have realized a mystical or transcendent state of a higher consciousness.

Nw (original user of this username on my HinesSight blog), a belated acknowledgement that you aren't the same person who has been leaving comments as "Nw" or "NW" on this blog. I was pretty sure of that, since like you said, you're not mystically inclined and like scientific proofs -- quite different from the attitude of the other "Nw."

"Nw" ... you aren't the same person who has been leaving comments as "Nw" or "NW" on this blog.

Hm, I've left comments as "NW" -- never "Nw".

But, to avoid confusion and any distress to "Nw" -- a church elder and clearly a staunch upholder of the faith -- I'll comment now only as "Dungeness".

I was pretty sure of that, since like you said, you're not mystically inclined and like scientific proofs -- quite different from the attitude of the other "Nw."

Yup, there's always an infidel or two in the pews. But, I like science too...

Dungeness, you did leave at least one comment as "Nw." It's still up on this post. The original "Nw" has never left a comment on this blog, so far as I know. He comments on my other blog, so can't be considered a "church elder." But I'm sure he appreciates the compliment.

Dungeness, you did leave at least one comment as "Nw." It's still up on this post. The original "Nw" has never left a comment on this blog, so far as I know.

Not to flog the blog with identity issues, but the original "Nw" did post twice in this "Deepak" thread on Apr 3/4. You mis-attributed to "Nw" in your comment that begins: "Nw, I'm curious, what is the dream..."

He comments on my other blog, so can't be considered a "church elder." But I'm sure he appreciates the compliment.

Ah, hopefully he will. (Some of us are at the age being called an "elder" has a bad ring though)

I can't believe anyone buys this guy's BS, but maybe that's partly because I've gotten a formal education in physics and half my family is Hindu.

Speaking of which... Michael Shermer is someone who I respect greatly, but he is NOT a physicist. He is an adjunct professor of economics and a writer for Scientific American as well as the editor-in-chief of Skeptic, the publication of the The Skeptic Society, which he founded. Maybe if you did a little background research on claims before you made a judgment on them, you wouldn't be so easily taken in by people like Chopra in the future.

As for people above who are claiming that "metaphysics and quantum physics are all equal, maaaan," how the hell do you think your computer is working? Without knowledge of quantum mechanics, you couldn't build your computer any more than you could make a suit of armor without knowledge of blacksmithing. I've never seen any visible results done from Chopra or any other hokum pseudo-quantum "spiritualist."

Another thing that people need to realize is that religio-spiritual entrepreneurs are a dime a dozen in India (it's India's second largest industry, I swear). The only difference is that all these people have to do to Hindus is claim to be the avatar (incarnation) of a god or goddess. Chopra, and others like him, had to appeal to a sushi-eating, latte-chugging anti-religion but pro-spiritualism crowd, and the way they could penetrate this market was by appealing to these people's conceit that they put their faith in "science" and not religion. Fortunately for these peddlers of faux-mysticism, their clientele wouldn't know what real science is if it lit them with a Bunsen burner.

And what the hell is a "quantum physicist," anyway? Considering that almost every field of physics (aside from nonlinear dynamics and other small niche fields) is based largely on quantum mechanics, I always have to scratch my head at that.

I suppose I could call a chemist a "bond chemist" or a psychologist a "mental psychologist," but I think that's a little redundant...

Dom, I too have wondered about the notion of a "quantum physicist." Like you said, quantum mechanics is so integral to all of physics, seemingly nobody could be a physicist without being familiar with quantum phenomena.

But that's the way the scientist was introduced, as a "quantum physicist." Watching the video clip over again, I notice that he replied with "yes, i'm a theoretical physicist." So I suppose I should have used those words in the title of the post.

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