/ Rupert Spira teachings of non-duality

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Pefa 03 Oct 2019

The essence of ultimate reality explained from someone who speaks from that place, to that place, in each of us.

https://non-duality.rupertspira.com/read/the_true_nature_of_experience

A few short videos of his which are very interesting but don't listen to these when you are very tired as his cosy fireside voice will tuck you in warmly and snuggly. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwmsFubaoz4

' Everyone and everything is an expression of an infinite and indivisible whole'.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va4bXUM1M8Q

'The isness of all things is the screen of consciousness' 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6id-iLt5eE

' The infinite cannot experience the finite as the infinite'

Thoughts or non-thoughts? 

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Lusk 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Excellent, should help my insomnia

I'll stick with watching Limmy on Netflix, thanks.

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cpowell 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

I got about 2mins into him explaining that cause and effect in the world is not real before giving up as it was a load of nosense, however upon reflection, I'm not sure if that was the reason why I stopped watching....

Cheers

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DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Thoughts or non-thoughts? 

Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?

Post edited at 18:48
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john arran 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

"What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

I needn't have bothered.

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DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

I just googled him. If I wanted words of wisdom from a potter Grayson Perry would be my first choice.

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In reply to Pefa:

Have a go on 'how mumbo jumbo' conquered the world' by Francis Wheen, an entertaining read 

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Gordon Stainforth 03 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

> "What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

The first sentence makes Descartes' key point very badly (he much more cleverly concentrated on thought), but leaves us with the perennial crucial problem of mind-body duality; the second is absolutely meaningless. As you warned, a waste of time.

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DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

If you genuinely believe that stuff it was brave of you to post it on here. You've been on here long enough to know it wouldn't gain much approval.

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keith-ratcliffe 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Thanks but I think I will stick to listening to The Orb instead.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MOxUzm_0Do

Post edited at 19:49
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Lusk 03 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

Haha, you know Pefa, she's not a shy woman!

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Stichtplate 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> The essence of ultimate reality explained from someone who speaks from that place

That place being his arse apparently. Can you imagine being trapped in a lift with someone totally at one with themselves, who knew only happiness?

Shit the bed! I’d rather be trapped in a lift with a flatulent vegan cross-fitter.

😂

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thommi 03 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

For well spoken philosophy that actually makes sense, you can't beat Alan Watts 👍

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Timmd 03 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

> "What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

> I needn't have bothered.

It's a funny one, infrequently, I find myself feeling entirely at peace and secure within myself and the world, and a sense of 'pure being and knowing' fairly closely sums up how I feel at those times, though 'a sense of secure stillness' probably fits too. 

I think people like him are trying to put into words that which is very subjective, and which might be given a different name by whoever experiences it, meaning that charlatans and genuine people can be hard to tell apart, and the profound and the incomprehensible could be too. I dunno really, speaking for myself I just try not to think too much so that my mind doesn't go round in circles. Seeing thoughts as clouds which drift past is a helpful analogy.

For myself, I'm hoping that as I follow my zigzag path towards (hopefully) being more fulfilled, these infrequent moments might become more frequent. I'm not surprised at all that charlatans exist who lead group sessions where they sit and look peaceful and speak in vague terms, hopefully there's a milder level of hell where they're confronted with each other and drive one another mad.

Post edited at 21:38
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Timmd 03 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

I should probably add that I don't believe I'm especially enlightened or 'knowing' by the way.

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Timmd 03 Oct 2019
In reply to JJ Krammerhead III:

> Have a go on 'how mumbo jumbo' conquered the world' by Francis Wheen, an entertaining read 

A brother was funny on discovering that pet reiki exists, started talking about the fairies at the bottom of his garden needing crystal healing.

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freeflyer 03 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Truly, having a teacher who inspires you is a marvellous thing

My favourite teacher, when she was given her life task (to teach and help others), confessed that she couldn't possibly take that on as she felt totally incapable of any such thing, and begged to be given absolutely anything else. Her mentor said gently, "you will do for others what you would never be able to do for yourself".

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DaveHK 03 Oct 2019
In reply to freeflyer:

>  Her mentor said gently, "you will do for others what you would never be able to do for yourself".

Is this about licking elbows?

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tom_in_edinburgh 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Thoughts or non-thoughts? 

My experience of 30 years designing electronics and writing software is that if something is hard to understand it is almost certainly wrong and even if it is easy to understand it will probably be wrong until it has had the f*ck tested out of it.

Therefore, my operating assumption is that philosophical statements which are written in a language with poorly defined semantics like English, are extremely hard to understand and impossible to test against the physical world have almost no chance of being correct.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

https://non-duality.rupertspira.com/about/non-duality/

A more in depth passage. 

Post edited at 01:56
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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to tom_in_edinburgh:

Thoughts as in rational thoughts and non-thoughts as in spontaneous insights or realizations.

I was playing with words, it's the content of what is there I am interested in not how it's dressed up. 

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malk 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> ' Everyone and everything is an expression of an infinite and indivisible whole'.

David Bohm talks about that here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDKB7GcHNac

(link to film 'Art Meets Science & Spirituality in a Changing Economy' looks interesting)

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> The first sentence makes Descartes' key point very badly (he much more cleverly concentrated on thought), but leaves us with the perennial crucial problem of mind-body duality; the second is absolutely meaningless. As you warned, a waste of time.

How so? 

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Sceptical would have been an understatement but I clicked your link anyway in the hope of a surprise.

> "What else can we know for certain from experience about our self? ‘I’ am aware of thoughts, sensations and perceptions but am not made out of a thought, sensation or perception. ‘I’ am made out of pure being and knowing."

What are we left with when we strip those away ? 

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

> Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?

See my answer above on thoughts and non-thoughts where you can gain insights from rational thinking (thoughts) and alternatively insights which arise spontaneously in meditative states where the mind is still, non-thinking (non-thoughts) 

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Have you tried not thinking defensively but thinking critically?

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Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> The essence of ultimate reality explained from someone who speaks from that place, to that place, in each of us.

What is "the essence of ultimate reality" and where is "that place"?

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

What are we left with when we strip those away? 

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> What are we left with when we strip those away? 

Nonsense.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> What is "the essence of ultimate reality"

Pure awareness, knowing, consciousness which has timeless qualities of vast space,ultimate truth, being part of the whole universe in fact being the whole universe, complete peace, unending love and consequently joy. It is difficult to describe and those words (and indeed in any words as it is formless) do not do it justice but it is "that place", that you know already and when experienced it's as if you are back to the true you that has been hidden. 

When some of these people who have a great deal of experience of this tell us about it then it can make a connection with the same part in us all. 

Spiro is helpful as he is direct and speaks in an easy to understand way that is suited to intellectual westerners and more importantly to the modern age where we don't have any needs to fawn over deities or worship this or that. In fact we demand spiritual matters to be more rational, scientific, secular even and he speaks in this language whilst taking the words of other wise sages through the ages who also spoke from this place of infinity from within us. 

Post edited at 14:10
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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Nonsense.

Yes although I would frame it as non-sense which leaves us with what? 

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Well apparently it's "pure being and knowing".

The former is axiomatic and the latter is either meaningless without the sensory context you've denied it, or is fundamentally unknowable. Neither is in any way helpful. Hence nonsense. About as useful as saying 'my being exists in a different universe'.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Well apparently it's "pure being and knowing".

There are many ways to describe this see my reply to Eric above. 

> The former is axiomatic and the latter is either meaningless without the sensory context you've denied it, or is fundamentally unknowable. Neither is in any way helpful. Hence nonsense. About as useful as saying 'my being exists in a different universe'."

Let me get this right, you are questioning that we cannot experience when we do not experience" sensory context", of thoughts or feelings from the five senses ie " non-sense"? 

Post edited at 14:33
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In reply to Pefa:

I got sacked for using flashy philosophical wordplay.

Called my boss a Kant

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Have you tried not thinking defensively but thinking critically?

Have you tried not thinking? 

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Philip 04 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

> Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?

When you buy a curly wurly, are you buying the chocolate or the holes? Or an aero, the chocolate or the bubbles? To hear more send £50 to my PayPal.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Philip:

There is no requirement to have money in order to look inward deeply and with focus as it is one activity that is completely free and thus available to the billionaire and the homeless person equally. 

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to malk:

That was interesting thanks. 

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

If you read what I wrote more carefully you'll find that I said something very different.

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Timmd 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Nonsense.

I think what she's aiming at, might the awareness we have when we are in a state of being 'without thought', when our minds are still and we're aware of that but not thinking about anything. Some people call it mindfulness, or meditative, or whatever it is, but that's my take on what she's alluding to. 

I read a Zen Buddhism thing, where it was asking the reader to imagine oneself sitting in an assembly or similar, and trying to concentrate on the person talking at the front, while being distracted by other things happening and back ground noises, and it asked the reader which part of the mind it is, which is being aware of trying to concentrate and to steer their focus towards the person at the front and away from the distractions. 

Edit: To be honest, I'm slightly confused by what Pefa posted, but I'm glad it reminded me of the above Zen Buddhism thing.

Post edited at 16:37
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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

The best Zen Buddhist type things I've read have painted a picture of the unknowable and coloured it a pleasant shade. I'd go so far as to accept that there may be real world benefits to some from contemplating and believing such unknowable things, so I'm not averse to the ideas per se.

Most imitators seem to use the same words but without taking care that they put them in a meaningful order, ending up with the kind of rubbish we see in the OP's link.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> If you read what I wrote more carefully you'll find that I said something very different.

I was referring specifically to - 

> the latter is either meaningless without the sensory context you've denied it

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

Yes I know you were.

Here's a clue: was I referring to experiencing or knowing?

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

What is this unknowable you speak of and what makes you think Spira is an imitator and what specifically is rubbish in this OP? 

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> What is this unknowable you speak of ...?

That which is not possible to be known. A good example would be whether the multiverse theory of quantum mechanics is true. Another example would be what I'll have for breakfast tomorrow.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

Was it the frustrated climber in the drawing room with a No 11 hex? 

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> That which is not possible to be known. A good example would be whether the multiverse theory of quantum mechanics is true. Another example would be what I'll have for breakfast tomorrow.

In the context of your previous post not in general or was that what " The best Zen Buddhist type things I've read" referred to? 

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john arran 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

> Was it the frustrated climber in the drawing room with a No 11 hex? 

Now you're getting close!

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

Don't be shy in asking me what you don't understand. 

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Timmd 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> The best Zen Buddhist type things I've read have painted a picture of the unknowable and coloured it a pleasant shade. I'd go so far as to accept that there may be real world benefits to some from contemplating and believing such unknowable things, so I'm not averse to the ideas per se.

Yes. a while ago I had a thought, that all people are possibly looking for when it comes to meditation or drugs or adrenaline sports- or whatever it is, is a state which is as close to childhood as possible, which is when one is most fully absorbed in the moment, and not preoccupied by distractions in the way that adults can be. We apply different kinds of meaning to things, myself included, but I think that's at the root of things, which doesn't invalidate how profound these different things can feel. 

Post edited at 17:22
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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

No its nothing to do with childhood Tim that's nostalgia you are thinking of. Have a look at the videos I posted in the OP and you will understand without me having to explain everything that is already there and which is explained much better than I can. 

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to john arran:

> Now you're getting close!

I know, but that's not my fault and you know that.

Cludo was fun when a child. 

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Timmd 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa: I'm talking about being in a frame of mind which is 'without worry or distaction', whenever we're absorbed in something which puts everything else out of our minds, on a certain level - that's something akin to how most of us experience childhood if we're lucky. As I say, I'm not undermining how profound certain things can be though, I just suddenly looked at the different things adult humans find meaning in, and they all seem to be things in which one is fully absorbed without distraction. I'll admit it's fairly simplistic, and I don't insist it's 'an absolute truth', it's just something which struck me suddenly.

Post edited at 17:36
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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Timmd:

Yes so you are talking about mindfulness when we are doing things which is great but only if you have first experienced pure consciousness or awareness stripped bare.

To use a Spira analogy the actor John Smith thinks he is King Lear like we think we are separate from this infinite pure awareness or ultimate reality in Buddhist terms.

Now John Smith must go back on an inward path to experience himself as John Smith (ultimate reality/pure awareness) then when he goes back to play Hamlet he does not think he is Hamlet he knows he is the infinite ultimate reality being Hamlet.

So being mindful is correct but when you have realised the ultimate reality first. 

There are different ways to achieve this profound experience I am told but deep focused and long meditation practices are what worked and continue to work for me.

Edit, Although I must add Spira has guided meditations which closely investigate what the experience of awareness is through sensory inputs that dont involve deep states of meditation. 

Post edited at 17:59
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Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

> Why do these people always express themselves so poorly? 

> Is it because they know and exploit the fact that many people confuse the incomprehensible with the profound?


Possibly.

"The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."

http://www.public-library.uk/ebooks/72/30.pdf

Politics and the English Language, George Orwell.

Or possibly because the author has no clear idea of what they are trying to say, it is therefore impossible to say it clearly.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

What do you have difficulty understanding? 

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Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

How ultimate reality can be a place.

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> How ultimate reality can be a place.

As it is something formless it isn't really a place as such but it is pure awareness experienced without the five senses and thought.

It is so hard to describe as it is empty yet with qualities of knowing and the other points I described to you earlier. 

Post edited at 19:31
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Eric9Points 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Pefa:

What particular qualities of knowing?

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Pefa 04 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

Not qualities of knowing as in different qualities of knowing but the qualities of knowing and the other qualities I mentioned. The knowing or awareness is what we are.There are no parts to it as it is empty but when you experience it you experience the real pure you,untainted beyond all duality 

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Jon Stewart 09 Oct 2019
In reply to the thread:

Here's a different view on essentially the same thing (it's Sam Harris, that won't surprise some people...).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1cnR9rfk6I

I agree with Sam that the idea of "being a self" doesn't make any sense scientifically. What we are is a load of cells, some of them neurons, and the activity of those neurons creates the feeling - or illusion - of being a self. The neurons could, though, be doing something else, like being asleep or creating an experience that doesn't involve the feeling of being a self.

Through meditation, it is possible to train the neurons into generating this self-less experience (something similar can happen under the influence of psychedelic drugs, too), and apparently it's a really profound (/trippy) experience when it happens. People meditate for years and never have that experience, but those who do tend to interpret it in all kinds of "I have seen the ultimate reality" ways that lead to them into making all kinds of nonsensical claims about the world, as we see in the OP.

Which is just to say these people aren't talking about nothing, making up something that just doesn't exist. I strongly believe that they're talking about something that can and does happen in the brain, but they're interpreting it in a way which throws the whole baby of rational thinking out with the bathwater of the illusion of the self.

Post edited at 11:24
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aln 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Eric9Points:

> How ultimate reality can be a place.

Is that place the Ingleston Exhibition Centre? I'm sure I experienced this ultimate reality thing in there about 4.30am one weekend in 1991. 

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Dave Garnett 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Which is just to say these people aren't talking about nothing, making up something that just doesn't exist. I strongly believe that they're talking about something that can and does happen in the brain, but they're interpreting it in a way which throws the whole baby of rational thinking out with the bathwater of the illusion of the self.

Yes, something like that.

I'm just glad that there's someone sensible like you who has the energy to engage at all with this kind of... unfocused thinking.  I wouldn't know where to start.

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Jon Stewart 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I wouldn't know where to start.

A brilliant place to start is The Self Illusion by the lovely psychologist Bruce Hood. This doesn't go anywhere near the trippy ego-loss/meditation stuff, but arrives at a similar conclusion through conventional scientific inquiry.

https://www.worldofbooks.com/en-gb/books/bruce-hood/self-illusion/GOR005019007?keyword=&gclid=Cj0KCQjwivbsBRDsARIsADyISJ8-mVsfpFC92RAU1rsM7bEmJOP5GLPLfpjMBW-c58S371rFyQdWVoMaAvAjEALw_wcB

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdBdsqSF-bg

Sam Harris, as explained in the link, is keen on both neuroscience and meditation as ways of exploring the self, free will, and related philosophical questions, from a rationalist standpoint. His short book 'Free Will' doesn't take long to read, but can take a long time to digest if you're wedded to the ideas of the self and free will. Obviously not everyone agree with this worldview, but I think the argument is compelling.

https://www.google.com/search?q=sam+harris+free+will&rlz=1C1CHBF_enGB770GB770&sxsrf=ACYBGNTySzIiHcYR0EzRCE_34ASbxCCCgw:1570620952510&source=lnms&tbm=shop&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj30s3_io_lAhXUQkEAHSusDOYQ_AUIEygC&biw=1282&bih=591#spd=15818738742776580864

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Dave Garnett 09 Oct 2019
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> A brilliant place to start is The Self Illusion by the lovely psychologist Bruce Hood.

I was being a bit flippant actually, but, as always, you've set a good example...  

I will do some reading, although I did get a bit distracted by the philosophers vs sophists / mathematics vs science stuff in the Sam Harris Delusion blurb.  I've heard some of Bruce Hood's arguments and they seem sound to me, as well as the premise being intuitively obvious.  

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Pefa 21:09 Sun
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Here's a different view on essentially the same thing (it's Sam Harris, that won't surprise some people...).

> I agree with Sam that the idea of "being a self" doesn't make any sense scientifically. What we are is a load of cells, some of them neurons, and the activity of those neurons creates the feeling - or illusion - of being a self. The neurons could, though, be doing something else, like being asleep or creating an experience that doesn't involve the feeling of being a self.

> Through meditation, it is possible to train the neurons into generating this self-less experience

When you meditate are you training to generate a self-less experience or are you experiencing being without all the objective experiences that happen all the time? By saying we do it for such and such reason only is not accurate as we do it to find what is there when we do it without trying to attain some state which is already determined, like a self-less experience. That is unscientific. We strip away everything until we experience what is left. 

> (something similar can happen under the influence of psychedelic drugs, too), and apparently it's a really profound (/trippy) experience when it happens.

And most run around having a laugh when tripping. 

>People meditate for years and never have that experience,

Similar to a trip most people need some guidance to achieve a spiritual experience when meditating or tripping but some don't, for some it has happened under completely different circumstances to others. 

> but those who do tend to interpret it in all kinds of "I have seen the ultimate reality" ways that lead to them into making all kinds of nonsensical claims about the world, as we see in the OP.

> Which is just to say these people aren't talking about nothing, making up something that just doesn't exist. I strongly believe that they're talking about something that can and does happen in the brain, but they're interpreting it in a way which throws the whole baby of rational thinking out with the bathwater of the illusion of the self.

So what are they experiencing? You are telling us that people who experience and have experienced spiritual or ultimate reality and everything that goes with it are mistaken. Why do you think that and how are they mistaken? 

Ps. I didn't realise there were any other new replies to this or I would have responded much sooner. 

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Pefa 21:22 Sun
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> I'm just glad that there's someone sensible like you who has the energy to engage at all with this kind of... unfocused thinking.  I wouldn't know where to start.

But it is precisely unfocused thinking that clouds reality and focused attention that unclouds it. 

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Pefa 21:53 Sun
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Through meditation, it is possible to train the neurons into generating this self-less experience (something similar can happen under the influence of psychedelic drugs, too), and apparently it's a really profound (/trippy) experience when it happens. People meditate for years and never have that experience, but those who do tend to interpret it in all kinds of "I have seen the ultimate reality" ways that lead to them into making all kinds of nonsensical claims about the world, as we see in the OP.

What we have here is science catching up with the 2500 year old teachings of Guatama Buddha and all the other people who have experienced ultimate reality. Now some neuroscientists are confirming what Buddha stated 2500 years ago in that there is no separate self. But they "throw out", everything else because it doesn't fit what they want or cannot cope with. 

Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

Maybe it will take science another 2000 years to catch up with the other extensive experiences of thousands of other people who directly experienced what the Buddha has.

Ps. I totally get that you will not know something until you know it or experience it and only when you do will you then know. 

Post edited at 22:05
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Jon Stewart 21:57 Sun
In reply to Pefa:

> When you meditate are you training to generate a self-less experience or are you experiencing being without all the objective experiences that happen all the time? By saying we do it for such and such reason only is not accurate as we do it to find what is there when we do it without trying to attain some state which is already determined, like a self-less experience. That is unscientific. We strip away everything until we experience what is left. 

When I meditate I am merely giving myself the space to notice what my consciousness is like. Without meditation, I'm just constantly lost in thought, without realising that I'm lost in thought. Through meditation I can observe what consciousness is like, what thoughts are, how they arise and disappear and are caused by brain processes rather than being authored by "me". If there is an "aim" it's to gain a bit more control of attention - this can be helpful if you're being dragged into some sort of rage (or whatever) by your thoughts, if you can deliberately disengage attention from thoughts, then you can stop yourself descending into some all-consuming quagmire of negative emotion. 

I don't really think meditation is much of a therapy for depression and/or anxiety, because when these mental states dominate, all motivation and ability to meditate evaporate. But maybe regular practice makes one less susceptible to depression and anxiety - I think there may be evidence to support this.

I am interested in the idea of the self-less experience. I am intellectually convinced that the self is an illusion, one that evolution endowed us with for good reason. I don't think I've experienced the profound state of selflessness - although I can see that there isn't "space" within my consciousness for a thinker in addition to the thoughts. But maybe that is "selflessness"?

> And most run around having a laugh when tripping. 

True! Tripping can be a laugh with friends and in that setting won't generate the 'ego loss' experience that might occur if you lie in the dark by yourself, tripping balls (which doesn't sound like so much of a laugh, but I'm sure it's fascinating all the same). FWIW, I like a fairly low dose of psychedelics with some really good art.

> So what are they experiencing? You are telling us that people who experience and have experienced spiritual or ultimate reality and everything that goes with it are mistaken. Why do you think that and how are they mistaken? 

What I think is that when people talk about "ultimate reality" they're massively over-egging the pudding. There's no getting around the facts of the universe: we're creatures made of atoms that were forged in dying stars, and we evolved brains that work by neurons interacting through electro-chemical signalling. It's a profound mystery how that electro-chemical signalling generates consciousness, but one way or another, it does. *That* is, as far as we know, the ultimate reality: physical reality.

There simply isn't any first-person experience that can reveal any more truth about the universe than this. To believe that a first person experience can shed more light on the nature of the reality than the shared, comparative, consistent experience of many conscious people is to simply throw rationality out of the window. Truth isn't about how something feels, it's about explanatory value and consistency with objective reality. I have no doubt that a profound experience through meditation can dissolve one's sense of separateness from other entities; but I don't see any reason to believe any claims about the nature of reality - e.g. that all physical objects are actually *made of* consciousness - made purely on the basis of such first person experience.

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Jon Stewart 22:06 Sun
In reply to Pefa:

> What we have here is science catching up with the 2500 year old teachings of Guatama Buddha and all the other people who have experienced ultimate reality. Now some neuroscientists are confirming what Buddha stated 2500 years ago in that there is no separate self. But they "throw out", everything else because it doesn't fit what they want or cannot cope with. 

Maybe they throw out crap like reincarnation because there are no good reasons to believe it's true. It has exactly the same value as the Christian God and Jesus' party tricks: it's made up.

> Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

I don't think science had anything to say about the self - except to throw doubt on the idea recently.

> Maybe it will take science another 2000 years to catch up with the other extensive experiences of thousands of other people who directly experienced what the Buddha has. 

Maybe in 2000 years science will conclude that actually, the Koran is the literal word of god. But I doubt it!

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Pefa 22:33 Sun
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> There simply isn't any first-person experience that can reveal any more truth about the universe than this. To believe that a first person experience can shed more light on the nature of the reality than the shared, comparative, consistent experience of many conscious people is to simply throw rationality out of the window.

No one is denying that on the relative level all that is what we experience. 

> Truth isn't about how something feels, it's about explanatory value and consistency with objective reality.

What feeling do you mean? 

> I have no doubt that a profound experience through meditation can dissolve one's sense of separateness from other entities; but I don't see any reason to believe any claims about the nature of reality - e.g. that all physical objects are actually *made of* consciousness - made purely on the basis of such first person experience.

I get that we must not believe any old theories postulated by others and expect to blindly accept them. And it is a big claim that I to am trying to get my head around having never heard it until a few months previously. However from the position of ultimate reality it does make sense as all we are is pure consciousness and when you experience this you don't " feel", self-less, you experience that which is beyond mind. You are out of mind (no not like that lol) and experience you as everything and that everything is a few things - infinite, eternal, pure love(not a feeling but a being), empty, timeless, gender less, stainless, beyond all objects. So from ultimate reality relative reality is a play of ultimate reality. 

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Pefa 23:15 Sun
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> Maybe they throw out crap like reincarnation because there are no good reasons to believe it's true. It has exactly the same value as the Christian God and Jesus' party tricks: it's made up.

That's a point I too would have up until a year ago stated just like you have but since then I have heard from different people that a thought is a reincarnation. An arising of an object in pure awareness. Now I totally agree with the scientific angle you are coming from with respect to all the gods and dogmas and ridiculous matters religions have thrown at us and asked us to believe and subsequently proven patently wrong. I think there is however a credible argument for various genuinely spiritual people(Through the ages) who have reached the stage where they must tell what they have experienced to others but then covered it in metaphorical language that is acceptable or understandable to the spiritual level of a particular culture and age in which they find themselves in order best to help the people in that particular time.Then over millennia the real message gets buried in the literal. 

> I don't think science had anything to say about the self - except to throw doubt on the idea recently.

So before recently they had no doubt. 

> Maybe in 2000 years science will conclude that actually, the Koran is the literal word of god. But I doubt it!

Or that there is no self like they have recently discovered and some of those who experimented their entire lives with looking inward already knew, 2500 years ago. 

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DaveHK 07:58 Mon
In reply to Pefa:

> Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

This notion that 'science tells us' shows a pretty limited understanding of what science is. Science is a body of different ideas not a single thing. You also seem to be advancing the notion that 'science' changing its mind about stuff is a weakness whereas it is actually one of its great strengths.

> I have heard from different people that a thought is a reincarnation. 

Let's be honest, this thing you're talking about is whatever you want it to be isn't it? It's a place but not a place, a thing but not a thing etc. For that reason, it's not falsifiable in any way which renders any discussion about it rather futile.

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cb294 09:38 Mon
In reply to Pefa:

> What we have here is science catching up with the 2500 year old teachings of Guatama Buddha and all the other people who have experienced ultimate reality. Now some neuroscientists are confirming what Buddha stated 2500 years ago in that there is no separate self. But they "throw out", everything else because it doesn't fit what they want or cannot cope with. 

The difference is in the method. Science is different from astrology and other such disciplines because it works. So Buddha or any other old sage may have stumbled upon something that by chance is true (or can with copious amounts of good will be interpreted as such), but there is no reason to trust it. Science makes claims in a much more careful manner, always ready to be superseded by evidence.

> Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

Of course there is a self, but it is an emergent state of the electrical and hormonal interactions of our neurons. It has evolved that way because it offered selective advantage: It can make sense to think of "I" when protecting one's genetic interests. Other solutions are possible (worker bees...)

Other than that, I just have to laugh at reincarnation. Being reborn as an animal is an option? Statistics tells you that you will come back as krill, a soil nematode or, if lucky, an ant for the next few billion turns...

Alternatively, if reincarnation were limited to humans the numbers simply don't work out, not enough souls going round to support our current population explosion. Anyway, I am wondering why those that claim remembering former lives always are reincarnations of Charlemagne or Genghis Khan, never Jenny the pox ridden prostitute from Soho (stolen from Dara O'Briain, IIRC)

CB

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Dave Garnett 09:53 Mon
In reply to Pefa:

> But it is precisely unfocused thinking that clouds reality and focused attention that unclouds it. 

(a) Only if it's focused on something real.

(b) Insofar as meditation works it's because it allows the subconscious to figure things out before finally (if you are lucky) sending a confirmatory note up to the conscious.

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dunc56 10:03 Mon
In reply to john arran:

> Have you tried not thinking defensively but thinking critically?

That is almost not fair in its rapier-like slash. 

Ouch. 

Nail and head. 

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Pefa 17:28 Mon
In reply to DaveHK:

> > Well a few years ago science was telling us that of course there is a self and don't be so silly.

> This notion that 'science tells us' shows a pretty limited understanding of what science is. Science is a body of different ideas not a single thing. You also seem to be advancing the notion that 'science' changing its mind about stuff is a weakness whereas it is actually one of its great strengths.

If neuroscientists have now stated new findings where they say there is now not a self then it only goes to say that before that they thought there was a self or didn't know if there was a self. Where am I saying science changing its mind is somehow " a weakness"? I'm not but I am saying that many scientists are very quick to dismiss some things and call them nonsense and then forget they say that when they discover they were wrong. 

> > I have heard from different people that a thought is a reincarnation. 

> Let's be honest, this thing you're talking about is whatever you want it to be isn't it? It's a place but not a place, a thing but not a thing etc. For that reason, it's not falsifiable in any way which renders any discussion about it rather futile.

Where has anyone said its a place but not a place or thing but not a thing? 

No. If pure awareness is between thoughts as it cannot be thoughts then anything arising from pure awareness is a manifestation of pure awareness from the view of pure awareness so it follows that all manifestation from that place is a reincarnation. 

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DaveHK 17:35 Mon
In reply to Pefa:

> Where has anyone said its a place but not a place or thing but not a thing? 

You referred to it as a place and when someone asked you about that you said it wasn't a place as such. You've continually used self contradictory language in describing whatever it is you're trying to describe.

> pure awareness is between thoughts as it cannot be thoughts then anything arising from pure awareness is a manifestation of pure awareness from the view of pure awareness so it follows that all manifestation from that place is a reincarnation. 

This is quite literally gobbledegook. 

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wercat 17:52 Mon
In reply to Pefa:

I thought ultimate reality was about a kind of piton, did you not realise that?

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Pefa 18:08 Mon
In reply to cb294:

> The difference is in the method. Science is different from astrology and other such disciplines because it works. So Buddha or any other old sage may have stumbled upon something that by chance is true (or can with copious amounts of good will be interpreted as such), but there is no reason to trust it. Science makes claims in a much more careful manner, always ready to be superseded by evidence.

I think you do a massive disservice to ancient old sages who devoted their entire lives not just a 9 to 5 scientist's workday to studying what we are which is slightly different to "stumbling around". If scientists say there is no-self then why should we believe them? Where is their proof? Where was the Buddhas proof when he stated this 2500 years ago after many hours of self enquiry the scientist would ask? If you have a general consensus through 3000 years of people who worked intensively on self enquiry that come to similar conclusions but call them by different names and the same conclusions are verifiable to others using the same techniques today then surely that is a scientific method. 

> Of course there is a self, but it is an emergent state of the electrical and hormonal interactions of our neurons. It has evolved that way because it offered selective advantage: It can make sense to think of "I" when protecting one's genetic interests. Other solutions are possible (worker bees...)

Yes at the relative level no one says otherwise. 

> Other than that, I just have to laugh at reincarnation. Being reborn as an animal is an option? Statistics tells you that you will come back as krill, a soil nematode or, if lucky, an ant for the next few billion turns...

> Alternatively, if reincarnation were limited to humans the numbers simply don't work out, not enough souls going round to support our current population explosion. Anyway, I am wondering why those that claim remembering former lives always are reincarnations of Charlemagne or Genghis Khan, never Jenny the pox ridden prostitute from Soho (stolen from Dara O'Briain, IIRC)

I would be lying if I said I know about reincarnation as in karma dictating whether you come back to Samsara in a karmic cycle of births and rebirths tbh.That was the en vogue spiritual orthodoxy before and during the time of Siddhartha Gautama so I don't know if he just went along with that or not. From personal experience in ultimate reality there is no self and it is definitely free from karma so I don't see what part of the I can continue after death to then be reborn. Perhaps though there are matters I have yet to discover on that issue. 

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Pefa 18:12 Mon
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> (a) Only if it's focused on something real.

Is awareness not real? 

> (b) Insofar as meditation works it's because it allows the subconscious to figure things out before finally (if you are lucky) sending a confirmatory note up to the conscious.

What is the subconscious? 

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Pefa 18:30 Mon
In reply to DaveHK:

> You referred to it as a place and when someone asked you about that you said it wasn't a place as such.

Forgive me as it is very difficult to describe the indescribable as the Japanese Zen Buddhists would say if you can describe ultimate reality then that is not it.Im doing my best. 

> You've continually used self contradictory language in describing whatever it is you're trying to describe.

Show me where. 

> > pure awareness is between thoughts as it cannot be thoughts then anything arising from pure awareness is a manifestation of pure awareness from the view of pure awareness so it follows that all manifestation from that place is a reincarnation. 

> This is quite literally gobbledegook. 

No it makes complete sense. A thought is a manifestation, an object, so it is not pure awareness or knowing but arises from pure awareness. 

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In reply to Pefa:

Just to ask one question: what do you mean by 'pureness' here, as opposed to 'impure awareness'? Wherein lies, and whence comes, this 'purity' in a way that makes it reliably so?

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Pefa 20:14 Mon
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Just to ask one question: what do you mean by 'pureness' here, as opposed to 'impure awareness'? Wherein lies, and whence comes, this 'purity' in a way that makes it reliably so?

I am using the word pure to try an indicate a level of awareness that you cannot go beyond, you know? You have reached the end its not dual as in pure and unpure but complete would perhaps be a better description or perhaps the word pure is extraneous altogether.

Sometimes it is helpful to others to add things in order to get your point across and that is the communication I am attempting and probably failing to get across. I might have attained certain insights and spiritual experience but that doesn't automatically make you into a Jon Stewart*.

Edit- * Meaning someone who is quite brilliant at communicating. 

Post edited at 20:16
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In reply to Pefa:

> I am using the word pure to try an indicate a level of awareness that you cannot go beyond, you know?

OK, that seems fair enough, though I don't quite know how one knows when one's got there, and there's nothing to tell us that our awareness might be quite poor and corrupted.

>You have reached the end its not dual as in pure and unpure but complete would perhaps be a better description or perhaps the word pure is extraneous altogether.

Again, how does one know it's 'complete' in any useful sense? I'm glad you're now suggesting that the word 'pure' is not really helpful, and probably redundant.

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Pefa 20:40 Mon
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> OK, that seems fair enough, though I don't quite know how one knows when one's got there, and there's nothing to tell us that our awareness might be quite poor and corrupted.

> > You have reached the end its not dual as in pure and unpure but complete would perhaps be a better description or perhaps the word pure is extraneous altogether.

> Again, how does one know it's 'complete' in any useful sense? I'm glad you're now suggesting that the word 'pure' is not really helpful, and probably redundant.

It is a word I have added which I thought might be useful but it is probably not used by enlightened people. 

I have described it (as best I could) I think twice in this thread already as the unmistakable experience of the ultimate reality which is just a lifting of all the objects that cover it up and is what each of us is at this very moment. It is unmistakable as you go through stages or deeper levels or whatever label you want to put on them before you reach this last one which opens out so much more than those before. 

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In reply to Pefa:

Again, I'd ask: how do you know when you'v reached 'the last level'? If you've gone through all these (apparent) ever deeper levels, how do you know there isn't still another deeper one?

Overall, I'm not at all sure how productive this kind of rarified intellectual discussion is.

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Pefa 20:58 Mon
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Again, I'd ask: how do you know when you'v reached 'the last level'? If you've gone through all these (apparent) ever deeper levels, how do you know there isn't still another deeper one?

Good question, I don't but I have never went beyond that and there is a knowing that you are there, at the source, this is it. You are everything and everything is you. There is much more to it as  I've described twice upthread and Im pretty sure you can't go beyond the essence of what we are. 

> Overall, I'm not at all sure how productive this kind of rarified intellectual discussion is.

Productive in what way? 

Post edited at 20:59
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In reply to Pefa:

> Productive in what way? 

= Do we learn anything meaningful or useful from it? Does it enlarge our understanding?

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Pefa 21:21 Mon
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> = Do we learn anything meaningful or useful from it? Does it enlarge our understanding?

Presuming you experience this real you which is connected to and a part of everyone and every little life then you would not treat others as separate from you in the way that we currently do.This realisation would change the entire world from wars, to inequality to treatment of all life which would be the biggest transformation for the better the world has seen since.... I duno the invention of medicines and surgery perhaps but I suspect it would be the greatest transformation the world has ever seen. 

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In reply to Pefa:

When you understand God in the sense of this profound loss of distance, separation, and otherness, that can be experienced through meditation, then Jesus' great commandment is clearly about losing your sense of self and the great transformation that comes with it.

"The Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

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Pefa 22:51 Mon
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Yes i used to be a virulent atheist who thought Christians seen God as a person in the Sky which isn't really very credible. Since then however I have come to realise that God is just another name for our true spiritual state which is called other names by other spiritual teachers. 

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In reply to Pefa:

I'm sufficiently agnostic, non-atheist to think that there is some kind of spiritual level/dimension to life, and that this becomes most apparent with intuitions that go far beyond any scientific evidence - e.g. that gut feeling one can have that some situation is bad/wrong when there's very little to go on ... which later proves to be spectacularly correct. It's as if one taps into something deeper and broader in those situations. Quite rare, but they do happen. BUT (huge but this): we always have to be so careful not to fall into what Ruskin called the 'pathetic fallacy' - of thinking we're a lot more in tune with nature than we actually are. Probably best now called something like the 'symbiotic fallacy'. The kernel of Ruskin's point was that we can all too easily fall into the trap of thinking we're more important than we are, including being unusually in tune with/at one with nature, when all we're really doing is playing out some kind of 'closer to God/Nature than thou' fantasy.

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In reply to Pefa:

Well, to me God is either the indivisible universal consciousness that our apparent self forms a part of, or he is the creator of it all. Either way, what difference does it make for our relationship with him and those around us?

What I would say though is that those other spiritual teachers may have been given partial revelations but Jesus Christ is the full revelation so people seeking spiritual truth should look to his message above all others.

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In reply to cumbria mammoth:

Another naughty question from Gordon. Why, when talking about God, do you say 'him' and 'he'? It's particularly curious when most of the earliest peoples on our planet had this extraordinary God-as-gendered fallacy the other way round, and saw all their most important Gods as goddesses?

The idea of 'God' having a gender, let alone a sex-life, is obviously ridiculous. All these peculiar anthropomorphic concepts making the notion of God ever the more ridiculous (when it starts from quite a reasonable position).

Post edited at 23:33
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Pefa 23:51 Mon
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

You say you are aware if a spiritual side to life well I wish I could say the same because for many years I rejected any notion of a spiritual side to existence. In fact if someone had told me three years ago that I would have put a like and agreed with the post CM put a wee while ago then I would have told them they were crazy. 

I'm not aware of Ruskin so I was relieved when I seen your summary of his meaning. Would it be fair to say his "closer to God/Nature than thou", statement means- I'm closer to God than you in an egotistical way?

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In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

It's just cultural isn't it. Rightly or wrongly it would sound unusual in our culture to use she or it, you would only use those terms to make a point.

Re your post to Pefa, I'd 100% agree. The avoidance of falling into the trap of thinking we're more important than we are, including thinking that we are more godly than others even where outwardly we have done good deeds, is the major point of Jesus' teaching. 

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Allovesclimbin 23:53 Mon
In reply to Pefa:

Mmmmm. 
Typical thread for a prolonged spell of bad weather. This is similar *allegedly* to what climbing was like as a student , with plenty of mind altering substances and people thinking they were talking profound truths .....mmmmm. 

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Pefa 23:54 Mon
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> Well, to me God is either the indivisible universal consciousness that our apparent self forms a part of, or he is the creator of it all. Either way, what difference does it make for our relationship with him and those around us?

Oh it doesn't but as Spira stated in one of the above videos we are finite creations of the infinite. 

> What I would say though is that those other spiritual teachers may have been given partial revelations but Jesus Christ is the full revelation so people seeking spiritual truth should look to his message above all others.

Could it not be that these teachers had the same realizations and are spreading the same message but using different ways to do that? 

Edit-From Jina Vardhamana Mahavira to Vedic teachers to Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed to Moses to Lao Tzu to all the other spiritual teachers did they all not say we are all one and spread teachings of compassion and love in different ways? I'm talking about the actual spiritual teachers/prophets not the doctrines. 

Post edited at 00:06
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Pefa 00:15 Tue
In reply to Allovesclimbin:

Lol. The trouble with substances is you are smashed and poisoned whilst having a brief glimpse at an enlightening experience if you are lucky, but to do it fully bright eyed and bushy tailed is completely different and yes It's dark early, windy and rainy so no better time to take full advantage of that and meditate. 

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Jon Stewart 09:13 Tue
In reply to Pefa:

> Edit- * Meaning someone who is quite brilliant at communicating. 

Thanks! That's one of the nicest things anyone's said to me on UKC It's worth knowing that I'm mainly repeating things other people have said.

Last night I wrote a really detailed reply that tried to answer your questions and tried to give an argument for physicalism rather than idealism. But my laptop has this thing where if it gets a knock (even pressing a key too emphatically) the bastard crashes. Ah well.

The general gist was that I would watch out for the tricks that people like Spira employ. Consciousness is a very difficult phenomenon to describe, because it has a different way of existing to everything else: first person rather than third person ontology, as John Searle explains in his delightful way here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oYk7fMmfIw

I really recommend watching a lot of these videos, because Kuhn interviews all manner of different people with completely different positions on the big philosophical questions without introducing any agenda of his own. I think he's even given the mic to Deepak Chopra (and obviously not managed to get him to utter an iota of sense).

What Spira is doing is exploiting the difficulty in pinning down the nature of consciousness and its relationship the physical world, and using this as a "gap" into which he inserts enormous claims about reality that just don't make any sense.

The main reason his claims don't make any sense is that he uses really big, really crucial terms like "infinite consciousness" that literally don't mean anything. There is no definition of that term. He isn't making an argument for idealism (consciousness being the fundamental "substance" from which the physical world is made), he's taking idealism as a doctrine. A big problem I have with him is that the tone he employs is one of carefully explaining difficult ideas to people who are struggling to grasp them; but the reason we're struggling to grasp them is that what he's saying doesn't make sense. He's using mystical terms that have no definitions and relying on assumptions or axioms that we have no reason to believe in (e.g. "unlimited mind is pure consciousness"). The tone he uses is constructed to make us, the audience, feel like it's *our* fault we don't understand, rather than his fault for talking total bollocks.

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cb294 09:42 Tue
In reply to Pefa:

No I don't do the old sages a disservice. Their thinking and feeling has no corroboration, very much unlike science, where any discovery is embedded in a context of knowledge and a consistent model of a real world out there (RWOT): I could not do my work as a biologist without relying on the insights of chemists and physicists, whose findings describe the same world, if at different levels. Philosophers, for thousands of years, pulled their insights out of their collective arses. There is no derived technology or alternatively, non-technological progress (like e.g. in pure mathematics) to prove that they have successfully captured an aspect of the RWOT. 

Just postulating the existence of, say, chakras or the meridians of TCM does not make it so.

With respect to the self "not existing", I actually think that you are misunderstanding the current debate in neuroscience. Clearly, dualism, as still entertained as a hypothesis well into the 20th century, is dead: There is no consciousness or soul that, like software, runs on the hardware of our brains. Instead, it is clear that the experience of the self is, like so many other mental states, emerging from the complexity of the zillions of connections and activity states in the human brain. Of course, disentangling this complexity is extremely difficult and will take time, but the progress biology has made so far in understanding the foundations of consciousness and the self far exceed what philosophers and sages and in particular charlatans like Freud and other psychoanalysts have ever achieved. 

Of course, as these guys say, there are both conscious and unconscious layers to our self perception and actions (and a simple animal may only have the latter), but their interplay is not as simple as one may intuitively think. The best example for this is experiments where probands are asked to respond to some stimulus that they have to consciously process (e.g. categorizing words popping up on a screen and pushing buttons with either legs or arms, accordingly). It is easy to generate conditions under which the command to the motor regions actually precedes the processing in regions of our neocortex involved in conscious processing of the input. This also works with stimuli that have emotional connotations.

A simpler but conceptually related phenomenon is sight: What we think we see in our visual field does not represent the input our eyes and optical cortex actually receive at any given moment, even accounting for real time signal processing in the retina. Instead, what we think we see is a construct where the brain assembles a virtual image or even film over time. This can be easily shown using optical illusions, which is actually a misleading term, as these are simply conditions/inputs under which the construction of the virtual image becomes unreliable or even wrong. The easiest is to suddenly look at your watch: The first step of the second hand will always seem to take much longer than the subsequent ticks. This is simply your processing catching up, generating virtual film with a ticking hand (whereas previously, when your watch may even have been in your field of view at the end of the hand, that level of detail was not include in the periphery of the virtual image assembled by our brain). We would, nevertheless, not say that we actually do not see. Instead, the process of seeing is simply more complex than thought, even if it will be magnitudes less complex than self awareness.

However, there is plenty of progress being made there as well.

And anyway, from where do you get the idea that scientists work 9-5? 

CB

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Dave Garnett 09:57 Tue
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> A big problem I have with him is that the tone he employs is one of carefully explaining difficult ideas to people who are struggling to grasp them; but the reason we're struggling to grasp them is that what he's saying doesn't make sense. He's using mystical terms that have no definitions and relying on assumptions or axioms that we have no reason to believe in (e.g. "unlimited mind is pure consciousness"). The tone he uses is constructed to make us, the audience, feel like it's *our* fault we don't understand, rather than his fault for talking total bollocks.

Very well put.  It's by no means restricted to this subject but, of course, it's particularly easy to do it with concepts that are largely untestable.  I take a pretty hard line about any untestable hypothesis but anyone is free to come up with a model if they feel it's useful (whilst accepting that it's wrong).  Useful models should at least have some predictive value.  Deliberate use of vague, abstruse or grandiose language, especially from a self-publicist, is always a danger sign.

It took me a long time to gain the confidence to believe that if I couldn't understand a theory (or, indeed, real experimental results), no matter how many times I went through it, then there was something wrong.  At the very least, an important element had been left out (often confounding evidence) and, just occasionally, it was just all nonsense.   

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Jon Stewart 10:18 Tue
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> It took me a long time to gain the confidence to believe that if I couldn't understand a theory (or, indeed, real experimental results), no matter how many times I went through it, then there was something wrong.  At the very least, an important element had been left out (often confounding evidence) and, just occasionally, it was just all nonsense.   

Totally agree. This was the conclusion I came to when I tried to read Dan Dennett's abysmal and grandiosely entitled, "Consciousness Explained", sometimes referred to as "Consciousness Ignored". I've spent a fair bit of time studying the relevant psychology and neuroscience (and to a lesser degree philosophy), and I couldn't make sense of his reasons for the ridiculous proposition that consciousness doesn't really exist. He's ostensibly trying to convince people without the scientific background, so he should have an easy job with me...something is most definitely fishy there!

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Jon Stewart 10:48 Tue
In reply to cb294:

> Philosophers, for thousands of years, pulled their insights out of their collective arses.

True. They're not great at coming up with answers, but they are good at working out what the most interesting questions about reality are.

> With respect to the self "not existing", I actually think that you are misunderstanding the current debate in neuroscience...Instead, it is clear that the experience of the self is, like so many other mental states, emerging from the complexity of the zillions of connections and activity states in the human brain.

There's a bit more to the idea that the self is an illusion: it's not just about the neuroscience. From first person experience you can "crack through" the illusion of being a self with free will; on close examination, the concepts of free will and the self seem to fall apart. The scientific view of the brain as an evolved machine is consistent with this philosophical position, but is only one strand of the argument. Personally, I'm fine with that, but it is a big deal philosophically and for the way we organise our society. It is far from accepted that free will is an illusion and that moral responsibility is inconsistent with a scientific understanding of reality!

> Of course, as these guys say, there are both conscious and unconscious layers to our self perception and actions (and a simple animal may only have the latter), but their interplay is not as simple as one may intuitively think...A simpler but conceptually related phenomenon is sight...

> However, there is plenty of progress being made there as well.

It feels to me like you're glossing over the "Hard Problem" of consciousness there. There is a radical explanatory gap in the neuroscience of consciousness. It is helpful, but in no way sufficient, to correlate brain activity to conscious experiences. We have made no progress on *how* and *why* those brain processes result in an internal, subjective experience.

As a physicalist, not wanting to introduce any magic souls or whatever into my description of reality, I'm left with some rather unappealing options:

1. Radical Physicalism/Identity Theory. Consciousness literally *is* the activity of neurons and there's nothing to explain. This is basically saying that consciousness doesn't exist, so it's obviously wrong as I disprove it with every waking moment

2. Radical Emergence. Somehow, consciousness with its first-person ontology, emerges from brain process which have objective/third person ontology. The brain does something so special that it brings about something which has its own unique way of existing. That's not easy to swallow, but it is actually my preferred position.

3. Panpsychism/Idealism. Consciousness is fundamental to the structure of the physical world (either in it everywhere, or is the fundamental stuff at the bottom). If you can't swallow radical emergence, then it's this kind of trippy stuff I'm afraid. I'm much happier to rule out Radical Physicalism than panpsychism, personally.

Here's a banging argument deriving panpsychism from the phsysicalist starting point:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3lgaiVWKGY

Philosophers aren't going to find answers to these questions - but they're usefully reminding scientists not to ignore them!

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cb294 11:42 Tue
In reply to Jon Stewart:

Thanks for the video, I will watch it later but think I know the gist of the argument. I don't think (and neither do maybe half of neurobiologists) that the "hard problem" exists at all. Technically hard, of course, but not conceptually hard. I have no problem believing that any process sufficiently complex to generate consciousness has internal feedback, checksumming and cross-matching mechanisms (which is essentially what qualia can be thought of). Consciousness could be likened to some supervisory or meta level, where the mental process in its entirety makes sure it runs correctly. Of course we don't know yet how this is implemented mechanistically, but IMO we are slowly getting there. This is close to your option 2.

Admittedly, as yet this is all guesswork or, if you will, belief on my part. However, support comes from two lines of argument. The first is good old Occam's razor: All other mental processes like abstract thought or sensory perception are purely physical and emergent properties of our brains' complexity. Why would consciousness and self perception be any different? No need to invoke other mechanisms or concepts.

The second hunch or clue is intuitive for me as a biologist: We see graded emergence of multiple aspects of self awareness appearing all over the animal kingdom: Examples include self recognition and recognition of alteration in rodents, whales, birds, and primates, evidence for theories of minds in birds and primates and presumably whales, empathy in rodents and information/memory processing involving clear correlates of sleeping and dreaming (a large part of the discussion about unconscious contributions to the self) as far down the evolutionary tree as fruit flies. 

Finally, the technological progress made in recent years is staggering. Who would have thought 20 years ago that it is technically possibly to implant, edit, fake, or delete specific memories in mice? Granted, such experiments are still constrained in their scope, but they do get more sophisticated.

CB

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Jon Stewart 12:13 Tue
In reply to cb294:

> Thanks for the video, I will watch it later but think I know the gist of the argument. I don't think (and neither do maybe half of neurobiologists) that the "hard problem" exists at all. Technically hard, of course, but not conceptually hard. I have no problem believing that any process sufficiently complex to generate consciousness has internal feedback, checksumming and cross-matching mechanisms (which is essentially what qualia can be thought of).

I can intuitively agree that the internal feedback etc mechanisms might be necessary for consciousness, but see no way of showing that they're sufficient.

> Consciousness could be likened to some supervisory or meta level, where the mental process in its entirety makes sure it runs correctly. Of course we don't know yet how this is implemented mechanistically, but IMO we are slowly getting there. This is close to your option 2.

That sounds a bit like Granziano's "attention schema" idea, which is a great solution to how to make a computer look like it's conscious, but totally ignores the problem of qualia. I think the challenge for neuroscience is to come up with a convincing explanation of *how* brain activity results in conscious states. What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for generating consciousness?

> Admittedly, as yet this is all guesswork or, if you will, belief on my part. However, support comes from two lines of argument. The first is good old Occam's razor: All other mental processes like abstract thought or sensory perception are purely physical and emergent properties of our brains' complexity. Why would consciousness and self perception be any different? No need to invoke other mechanisms or concepts.

I don't think I follow. How have you decoupled sensory perception from consciousness?

> The second hunch or clue is intuitive for me as a biologist: We see graded emergence of multiple aspects of self awareness appearing all over the animal kingdom

I think consciousness must be something that a fruit fly has a bit of, but a monkey has a lot of. I don't see that as helpful though. If anything, it starts leading down a panpsychist path! Or, less trippily, towards Tononi's Integrated Information theory - which could possibly be an account of my option 2 "radical emergence". 

> Finally, the technological progress made in recent years is staggering.

Absolutely, I think it's a mystery that can be cracked. In much the same way we once thought that life was some kind magical mysterious substance or property, I think consciousness will be shown to be a result of physical processes. I just think there's currently a profound explanatory gap, the "hard problem" is real.

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Pefa 16:57 Tue
In reply to Jon Stewart:

> It's worth knowing that I'm mainly repeating things other people have said.

We know that's only partly true but it's good to see you are humble as well.

Thanks for the video but I must say I expected more than ' we don't know' and 'if we could', so tbh it didn't really help explain consciousness from a materialist point of view at all except to say we wish we could recreate it and what we speculate that it is.

The trouble is that you are looking at Spira's views as if he is writing a scientific hypothesis which you then critique from a materialist viewpoint as unscientific, mystical and therefor fraudulent which goes on to say that he is deliberately bamboozling or conning people.

The trouble with that is Spira's views come from spiritual experiences not one's you can set up in a lab and he does not anywhere at any point say differently.

All your physicists, biologists, chemists in fact all scientists do not have a clue what consciousness is, plain and simple and their speculations about it are just that even after 200 years or so of Science, splitting the atom, putting someone on the moon etc etc the greatest scientists still haven't a clue.

Yet you and cb294 are so quick to completely dismiss the work of those who actually study consciousness and even call them conmen. Could it be that science has reached its limitations with the purely materialist outlook and as we see it has no answers and that is what prompts such a severe reaction by scientific or materialist minded people to attack genuine truth seekers for going to places that by definition materialism cannot go?

Cb294 - (RWOT) what of the (RWIT)?

You guys are completely dismissing all the realizations of great spiritual teachers by basically saying they are either deluded, mistaken, conmen or some such. You are denying that the millions of people who have real spiritual experiences of ultimate reality/the infinite/consciousness/God's being are all wrong or mistaken or deluded or even charlatans because you and your scientists don't have a clue about consciousness.

And you can dress it all up in a myriad of fancy (and quite impressive I must say) scientific terms but that is the reality. Now I'm not patronisingly saying materialists are conmen, deluded or obviously wrong like you do to people who go where you are restricted from by your own closed minds and strict religious adherence to a materialist dogma but for starters in the interest of a civil debate I think you all would make yourselves look more credible if you didn't react like crazed scientific fundamentalists when people who do venture down these paths state their findings.

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cb294 17:54 Tue
In reply to Pefa:

Hi Pefa,

I had hoped I was debating quite civilly, but apologies if I come across too harsh. 

My issue with the philosophers and psychoanalysts (and the faithful of any religion) is that anything they claim is uncorroborated. There is no intrinsic authority in the venerable age of any tradition, and anecdotes or experiences do not count either.

In science, every theory comes with a markup that tells you its limits. Most of what we have is so called effective theories, stuff that works for a certain set of circumstances but which we know, for some reason or other, not be the whole truth, and our main effort is to bang our heads against these limits to find more generally valid theories. The only thing that can tell you that you are on the right path with your explanation of the world (what we in science call a theory) is its predictive power.

In that sense, the scientific idea of the RWOT, materialism, essentially anything that differs between the end of the middle ages and today, has acquired a huge heap of corroboration. What we know about physics or biology has already been used for the rational design of technology and medicine many times over. The materialist world view just works.

None of this can be said for religion or traditional philosophy. Any prediction derived from religion, say for the day of rapture, has been a dramatic failure. Neither is there any piece of philosophical technology.

As for the RWIT, my argument would be that it is entirely part of the RWOT. Spiritual (for the lack of a better term) experiences are no less real than everyday sensory experiences, which are generated by our brains by filtering and editing sensory inputs. As I used as an example above, what we "see" is very different from the input our eyes receive. Our visual experience is a processed, virtual information feed that is read out both consciously and (most of it, actually) unconsciously.

Spiritual experiences are simply our brains getting confused by a different activation state of our brains, whether induced by meditation or drugs or anything else that allows us to mess around with the interplay of the multiple inputs into our self perception.

The results are generally weird, hard to interpret, or confusing, but they are "real" experiences in the same sense that our vision is "real". The reason for this is that our minds, including our self awareness, are machines and routines for making sense of things, both external and internal: What is happening, and how does this affect me, and how do I react? This is what our brains were selected for in evolution. Screw this program up, and you end up with a rubbish in, rubbish out situation.

What spiritual experiences or drug trips do NOT reflect are any deep and fundamental but normally masked truths, insights into some other realm, or access to non-RWOT levels of the world.

This does not mean that such experiences cannot be calming, focussing, or enjoyable, all of which will justify to different extents, say, yoga, meditation, or religious prayer and rituals as tools for making our lives more pleasant.

CB

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john arran 18:04 Tue
In reply to Pefa:

> The trouble with that is Spira's views come from spiritual experiences not one's you can set up in a lab and he does not anywhere at any point say differently.

Then the only thing he can say with any degree of conviction is that he experiences things.

He can describe those "spiritual experiences" any way he chooses and people are then free to make of his descriptions what they wish, including whether to class their own spiritual, drug-induced or even mundane experiences as being the same or similar.

But literally any and every attempt made to interpret, explain or extrapolate from those "spiritual experiences" in a way that is genuinely accessible to others requires him to communicate in a common language with those other people. And the common language we as people have developed to explain our world is Reason. So unless he is able to portray his ideas using this common language of reason, using terms and reference points that are based in and derived from observable reality, he may as well be describing purple to a room of blind people.

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In reply to Pefa:

> Could it not be that these teachers had the same realizations and are spreading the same message but using different ways to do that? 

> Edit-From Jina Vardhamana Mahavira to Vedic teachers to Buddha to Jesus to Mohammed to Moses to Lao Tzu to all the other spiritual teachers did they all not say we are all one and spread teachings of compassion and love in different ways? I'm talking about the actual spiritual teachers/prophets not the doctrines. 

To a great extent yes, but Jesus says that he is God. It doesn't stack up for him to be a mad man puffed up with pride. He has the clarity to discover and communicate the truest philosophy mankind has ever known and he demonstrates the spiritual enlightenment that results in the loss of ego, just as he teaches. I believe he is telling the truth.

So, there can be no harm with seeking help from people who have spiritual knowledge but there are differences in the teachings and, since we have the word of God in the 4 gospels, Jesus' own words are the ultimate guide.

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Pefa 00:22 Wed
In reply to cumbria mammoth:

> To a great extent yes, but Jesus says that he is God. It doesn't stack up for him to be a mad man puffed up with pride.

I couldn't agree more with that but could god be this same experience of ultimate reality that every well known and not so well known seeker has also experienced? You see the realizations and insights that occur when experiencing this place where there are no thoughts are all the same,as are the other descriptions.

This tells me it's the same experience but interpreted differently in each time, culture, location, tradition and told by whoever had the experience in a way that best suits the time, culture, location and traditions. 

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Pefa 02:24 Wed
In reply to cb294:

Hi cb the dismissiveness directed toward this issue and me is similar to the arrogance I once showed toward those who believe in a God. So I fully understand the materialist view and you guys are very gentle compared to how I used to react to non-materialists I can tell you. 

Your first point addresses lack of corroboration for; let's call them spiritual experiences which means you can't measure it or see it under control conditions. We know that 2500 years ago and before some people developed techniques too study consciousness and after great effort and time discovered what is left when the thoughts, body sensations and all sensory input are left behind. Since then innumerable people have used the same techniques and confirm the same results which is corroboration. The fact that not everyone does achieve the same results is no fault of the method or the results. 

> 'The materialist world view just works.'... 'None of this can be said for religion or traditional philosophy.' 

If I could be more specific and repeat myself :if mankind were to take the actual teachings of those who have reached spiritual enlightenment then all wars would have been inconceivable as would killing 600 million battery chickens a year, destroying the earths ecosystems and species and generally treating each other as if we are against each other with all the attendant pain, suffering and misery. You see looking outward we are fooled into thinking we are separate when we are not this is what science and materialism tells us which justifies all horrific behaviour. So to say the discoveries of those who looked inward don't work is wrong. 

> 'Neither is there any piece of philosophical technology.' 

​​​​​​Meditation,teachings,sangas,satsangs...

> 'Spiritual experiences are simply our brains getting confused by a different activation state of our brains, whether induced by meditation or drugs or anything else that allows us to mess around with the interplay of the multiple inputs into our self perception.'

Can you prove that massive statement please? (obviously it applies to various drugs but I'm not talking about them) You want scientific proof from me so it's only fair you give that to me. In spiritual states there is complete absence of confusion it is pure knowing, and that knowing knows and experiences that which can only be experienced and when all is stripped away you are left with the most mind-blowing experience you can ever have that is consistent with the reports of innumerable people through the ages.

As I said at the start I was once a rabid materialist so I totally get your logic and rational thinking as well as agreeing with it  but i can look at the non-objective world logically also as I don't see why we should limit ourselves to just the material and dismiss everything we don't yet understand . Don't get me wrong the only reason I'm not totally on your side as a full materialist is because a spiritual experience happened to me out of the blue otherwise I would be giving all spiritual folk like me a hard time. 

Post edited at 02:30
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