The madman and the genius
Why not test your IQ?I believe I also got some insight into what the ingredients are that go into creating a clinically psychotic mind (a mind that looses its ability to keep in touch with a relative, socioculturally sanctioned consensus reality), because to be totally honest, I had some glimpses of that within myself, and I was probably going down that road if it wasn't for a sequence of very fortunate events.
In short, I believe that the psychotic mind is just the end result of spiralling down that dysfunctional feedback loop: unresolved trauma, paired with a hyperactive mind and a neurotic personality (negative internal attribution style, introversion, excessive rumination, anxious attachment style etc.), excacerbated by external stressors (substances, life events), and an escape into an idiosyncratic and mentally constructed world. The mind reacts to the aforementioned conditions by dissociating itself from the "normal" types of cognitive patterns that otherwise ground you in an emotionally embodied and socially aware consciousness of reciprocal collective understanding, and instead ventures into an abstract and vaguely defined mentalscape with loosely defined concepts and arbitrary semantic connections.
They say it's hard to distinguish genius from madness. I say that madness is when the hyperconnectivity and isolation of one's semantic content exceeds its sociocultural bearing capacity; that one corrupts one's ability to mediate between one's own semantic structures and the common semantic structures held by other people in the local environment, and this usually happens like I said in a runaway chain reaction that eventually terminates in a psychotic break. In milder cases, it goes by names like magical thinking or thought disorder. Now, what is so genius about the genius is that instead of retreating into his own fantasy world, he holds consensus reality in one hand and the hyper-creative, non-linear mental space in the other, and the result is a beautiful synthesis – a bridging of the two worlds – which is able to inspire and innovate.
Relative vs. Absolute – Purpose
"Only insane people have a purpose" - SadhguruThe relative is dual. The Absolute is non-dual.
Duality is comprised of two parts that make up a whole (e.g. hot-cold, up-down, big-small).
From the relative perspective, duality is two. From The Absolute perspective, duality is one.
From the relative perspective, you can choose between many different purposes. From The Absolute perspective, there is only one purpose, which also means there is no purpose.
There is only U ;)
Five-step visualized deconstruction of a finite universe1. If the universe is finite (not infinite), there must be a border that limits and contains the universe:
( U )
2. However, if we assume that the universe contains everything that exists, it must also contain that which exists on the other side of that border:
U( U )U
3. If you say that there doesn't exist anything on the other side of that border, then that other side is not limited by any border, and therefore that other side must be infinite, because there is nothing that limits it:
...UUU( U )UUU...
4. If instead any other side of any border is always limited by another border, there has to be an infinite amount of borders:
...(U(U(U( U )U)U)U)...
5. Therefore, the universe has to be infinite either way, with or without borders, because the universe is all of it:
U = ( U ) + U( U )U + ...UUU( U )UUU... + ...(U(U(U( U )U)U)U)...
In reality, the border is only something you draw in your mind. There are no borders in reality. There is only U
What is Enlightenment?
Are animals enlightened?Yes, they have less psychological suffering, more peace, presence, less mental anguish, but they are not enlightened. As far as we know, they don't have awakenings, their state doesn't change, and there is no spiritual progression. Maybe this will be studied in the future and we'll have maps for animal spirituality as well. However, our current maps of enlightenment are limited to humans, and I haven't heard of anyone who was born enlightened.
Even if it was technically possible to be born enlightened, it would just be too extremely rare to matter to anyone. There are always exceptions to a rule, but the utility of the rule isn't defined by its exceptions. I think the progression component is a pretty useful way of defining enlightenment. The very reason why it's such a hot issue in the first place is because it's a sought-after thing that very few people have accomplished. In that sense, enlightenment isn't as much of a quality as an activity.
However, you can also make qualitative definitions of enlightenment that would still exclude animals, namely the idea that it's synonymous with what I like to call "non-dual baseline awareness", where "non-dual baseline" is defined by a lack of self-referential thoughts ~95% of the time (5% attributable to hypoglycemia). Now, the crucial point is that what I just mentioned only applies to humans. I will explain why that is:
Firstly, the concept of "baseline" implies that the potential for self-referential thoughts is always there (the underlying mental faculties never disappeared), and sometimes they may even reappear from time to time. Secondly, many self-proclaimed enlightened humans (who I believe to fall under the aforementioned criteria) still claim to be able to deploy thought as a means to an end ("non-self-referential thought").
In other words, enlightenment in this case would be "non-dual baseline awareness" + "the ability to think in order to plan or solve problems". So for an animal to be enlightened in this case, they would need to 1. have no self-referential thoughts and 2. have an ability to think (which isn't so clear). If you instead say that they're just innately unable to form any thoughts at all, that would distinguish them from all other "formally recognized" enlightened beings.
Then you have special cases where some enlightened people claim to have lost all forms of thought all together. Now, does that make them an animal? Well, even if they lack the subjective experience of solving problems using mental representations (through visual imagery or internalized verbal reasoning), they still display the same abilities as someone who does that. In other words, they can still pass as someone who is able to think to solve problems. Then the definition becomes more or less tautological in respect to the question: no self-referential thoughts + display of human behavior, i.e. only humans can be enlightened
In summary, it's most useful in my opinion to define enlightenment or an enlightened being as "a selfless, thinking being" (or atleast one that displays the behavior of such a being), the qualities of which is partially accessible on a continuum facilitated by spiritual practice, eventually reaching a maximum and stabilizing around a baseline.
I also want to make it clear that I've been mostly referring to the most basic type of enlightenment in various maps ("600s" — Ramaji; "Valley of unity" — Sufism; "the Absolute within the Relative" — Five Ranks of Tozan; "Sixth Zen Bull" — 10 Zen Ox herding pictures; "4th Stage" — Patanjali' Yoga Sutras; "4th stage" (Sattvapati) — Advaita Vedanta. https://www.realizedbygrace.org/levels-of-consciousness?lightbox=dataItem-jlvwww23. However, the no-thought state mentioned in the 6th paragraph is usually considered a much later stage depending on the map.
Science and psychic powers
Scientific evidence for psychic powersA big reason why many people doubt the existence of psychic powers is due to the fact that you can earn one million dollars if you're able to demonstrate it under a set of experimental conditions (James Randi's challenge) and so far nobody has been able to complete it. Is this really a good reason to say that psychic powers don't exist? Now, what I'm going to claim is that you don't have to go outside the paradigm of conventional scientific methodology in order to understand why this doesn't necessarily have to be the case.
When it comes to observing behavior in a scientific context, there is a distinction between observing a phenomena in its organic environment and observing it in an experimental situation. This is a huge methodological issue in fields like social psychology. In the experimental approach, you create an artificial environment where you can isolate different causal factors, but you can never be sure if you've demonstrated a causal relationship outside of that artificial environment. This is especially true when you're dealing with complex things like mental phenomenas and social dynamics.
There are many reasons to believe that the functioning of subtle behaviors like psychic powers are highly sensitive to specific conditions, both in the external environment and within the psychic's own mind. It's a well-established fact that once you put a person in an experimental setting, you're impacting the normal functioning of that person. Therefore, the inverse of the statement in the previous paragraph is also true: just because you can't demonstrate a causal relationship in an experimental environment does not mean it cannot exist outside of that environment.
If you're still in doubt, you can also venture a bit outside the realm of conventional thought and more into the spiritual realm (this is also just based on my opinion). I think that psychic powers work similarily to how more normal intuitional insights seem to work, in the sense that from the perspective of the person having them, it doesn't feel like "you" created the intuition, but rather that it simply "came to you". It's like this piece of information you were given is not really just about you specifically, but that it's a part of something greater than yourself. You can also describe this as a plan, a natural unfolding, the creative evolutionary impulse of the universe, or God. From this perspective, trying to prove the existence of psychic powers in an experiment for you to win a million dollars seems rather silly. Why should the universe care about you doing that? In what way is that a part of the plan?
I also think that once your intention is to further your own survival through these lower motivational forces (recognition, fame, greed), this naturally closes you off to these higher intuitional domains. When you're operating from these lower aspects, you're messing with your connection to the greater flow of the universe. Just imagine the difference between a mind that is at ease with itself and a mind that is fuelled by egoic desire. These more subtle aspects aren't allowed to bubble up if your mind is constantly filled with all this noise from impulsive thoughts, desires and fears.
Let me know what you think. I would appreciate if you could primarily talk about your personal experiences rather than some belief you have. Have you ever experienced psychic powers or any subtle intuitional experiences? Please share
Meditation and memory reconsolidation
Mindblowing insight I hadI had an insight when reading about memory consolidation and PTSD treatment methods, and how it relates to the progression of one's meditation ability and the decrease in self-referential thoughts.
It has been established that memories exist in a fragile state during recall in a process called "reconsolidation", which means that memories that are being recalled are always prone to being changed or even erased. This has been used to treat people with PTSD by giving them a drug that blocks the stress response (not MDMA in this case, but the mechanism is much the same) and having them recall their traumatic experience. When they recall their memory without experiencing the stressful emotional component, the memory will be reconsolidated in this new emotional context, effectively changing it, which has been shown to reduce the severity of their flashbacks.
Now, what does this have to do with meditation? Well, I've meditated for probably 1000 hours and I've been able to notice a progression over time and how it unfolds. What I'm claiming is that the process of recycling thoughts in meditation is similar to the stress-blocking drug treatment for PTSD. This is because you're essentially doing a technique that induces a calm state while continuously experiencing the same thoughts over and over and eventually changing the emotional relationship to each thought.
"But meditation doesn't make me calm at all?". Well, naturally the source of calm goes hand-in-hand with low self-referential thoughts (psychological calm), but even if the number of thoughts were to stay the same, the technique is also inherently calming on a physiological level (be it focusing on the breath, releasing bodily tensions etc.). The technique usually works to decrease thoughts in the moment, but the question is how exactly does it do this more successfully over time? More specifically, are there any potential mechanistic explanations other than the simplistic "practice makes perfect"? This is my claim.
How exactly does it work? Well, when you're in this calm state, you will have some thoughts entering your mind (obviously). These thoughts are synonymous with a spontaneous recall of a certain memory, and this memory will have to be reconsolidated in this calmer setting. Even if you feel like you don't have a calm mind, your thoughts will always be accompanied by an underlying sense of physiological calm, and the accompanying emotion will therefore be dampened or recontextualized to at least a tiny degree. It might not be true in every moment, but on average, this effect will make itself prominent and starts having an impact over time.
When you do this consistently (over days, weeks, months and years), you can start to see how this can radically change how your mind processes memories, thoughts, emotions etc. What also happens as the thoughts start to feel less threatening, you'll be more able to grapple with the actual problems behind why they even feel threatening in the first place, and eventually the thoughts will have no reason to come back. This "fixing" aspect is in many ways completely automatic (sometimes the excess emotional load is the only problem), but it might also involve taking actions in the external world or just seeing things from a new perspective.
For sure, the thoughts themselves can still cause you to feel a certain way, but as your practice deepens, you'll attain the ability to simply witness the thoughts without reacting to them the same way, and the reconsolidation effect will at this point start to increase exponentially. You'll notice how being mentally calm, clear and present are all synonymous with eachother, and how a silent mind and a healthy body are two sides of the same coin.
This I believe is at least one mechanism behind how self-referential thoughts seem to decrease as you keep meditating (or at least one way to conceptualize it). Meditation is essentially a type of long-format self-therapy. This can also serve as motivation for people who feel they're struggling with an unruly mind and believe they're not seeing any results. According to this theory, just the mere action of consistently putting yourself in a state free of mental distractions, that is just marginally calmer compared to your normal state, will slowly but surely give you the upper hand given consistent daily practice.
The Holy Trinity
My philosophy class is uselessI'm also taking a course in philosophy as we speak, and I think it's fascinating to read about how Christianity evolved from the very beginning and its ties to Platonism, Aristotle etc.. Something I find very interesting is how St. Augustin (354-430) introduced the concept of "faith", which is essentially how they started separating God from human experience (traditional monotheism).
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) made the distinction between dogmatic truths, theological/philosophical truths and scientific truths. He argues that since there are certain aspects of God that you can't have any knowledge about (the "dogmas", like the Holy Trinity), you must have faith in order to believe in it. This is of course the most classic misinterpretation of Jesus' teachings if you're a fan of non-duality.
In non-duality, there is no separation between God and his creation, and the Holy Trinity (the nature of God) can be understood through direct experience. It can also be translated across different metaphysical traditions:
Christianity — the Father + Son + the Holy Ghost.
Hinduism — Brahman + Shiva + Shakti.
Aristotle — "The unmoved mover" + form + matter.
Non-duality — The Absolute + potentiality (emptiness, static being) + actuality (energy, dynamic being) (or The Absolute + the relative).
It's also fun to read about the pre-Socratic philosophers and their version of non-duality (Parmenides, Heraclitus) and similar insights later on (Descartes, Spinoza). Reading about very old philosophers in general is a big mindfuck, because it's so hard to imagine how they truly perceived the world and what they really meant by their theories. There are so many modern presuppositions you have to set aside in order to even begin to sympathize (for example the concept of "substance"). It's impossible in a way, because all of that shapes your perception. It's a great exercise in imagination.
Why have I created a reality in which animals kill and eat other animals?
Why have I created a reality in which animals kill and eat other animals?You call it nihilism because it seems meaningless for you, but I want you to notice how it can only be meaningless from a human survival perspective; a perspective which only sees meaning in the perpetuation of its own agenda. What is really meaningless about an infinitely complex dance of trillions of molecular machines, interacting with eachother and rearranging themselves and their environment in an ineffable display of creativity?
When I say "just a bunch of cells", I don't mean to be reductionistic or to subtract meaning from the equation. What I'm really saying is "but what about the cells?". The mistake would be to look at the phenomena of "animal" from a gross surface level view and forget the immense density of stuff happening at the micro and meta-macro levels. The mistake would be to not see the vast web of relationships in reality and how each part is dependent on the other. There is an absolute necessity in everything being just as it is, right now and forever. It's a perfect design.
Drugs and happiness
Eastern philosophy says happiness is inside you and not outside how is it true?You can also look at this from the perspective of neuropharmacology. The mind-body system generally downregulates the effect of exogenous stimuli (things coming from the outside) in order to maintain homeostasis (balance between internal and external).
For example, taking a drug that releases excess dopamine (say amphetamine) downregulates the body's own production of dopamine in order to reduce the excess dopamine signalling, leading to what is called "dependence". When you stop taking the drug and the duration is over, you'll have less dopaminergic activity in the areas that were previously experiencing excessive stimulation (come-down, withdrawal).
If we assume that dopamine plays a role in happiness, then you haven't actually "received" happiness from the outside by taking the drug. You've only traded short-term increase in dopamine for a long-term decrease, and you've also traded away your own ability to regulate dopamine signalling. You've only made your happiness more dependent on fleeting conditions (which are also progressively fleeting, because over time you need to take more of the same drug for the same effect, approaching infinity).
More importantly, your ability to be flexible in your functioning; to be alert and activitated in one moment, and calm and relaxed in another, diminishes. There is a selective numbing effect, because the drug only borrows the body's own mechanisms and resources in order to have an effect. You don't gain anything in the long run; you only externalize your own internal control and decrease dynamic responsivity. The changes are not self-consistent, and there is no potential for growth on its own, only degeneration.
To maintain a steady source of happiness, you want to "upregulate the regulatory capacity of the system". Instead of introducing more stimuli from exogenous sources, you increase your endogenous ability to respond to those stimuli. You work with the ebbs and flows of homeostasis by promoting resilience and stability. It's a long-term growth mindset and is the essence of spirituality and holistic health.
You start by looking at the base of the system and work bottom-up, being aware of natural cycles, systematically eliminating dysfunctional behaviors and promoting growth (get enough sleep, physical exercise, remove dietary poisons, eliminate mental trauma, train mental alertness etc.).
From this point of view, unhappiness simply stems from your own inability to regulate your own system. That is essentially the same as saying that happiness comes from within.
This forum summed up
I've noticed the quality of consciousness on this forum is decreasingI see that many here think they are enlightened already and share what worked for them. I like that, but maybe none of them are enlightened, or a few are, or all are. And sometimes Leo chime in and say something like "you guys haven't even seen God's tits yet, keep going", and they will be like "but Leo, I'm nothing! There is no one here to keep going", and then they just agree to disagree