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Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?

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Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? sawfoot _ 7/2/13 7:35 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Bruno Loff 7/2/13 3:20 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? sawfoot _ 7/2/13 5:38 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Bruno Loff 7/2/13 6:28 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? sawfoot _ 7/2/13 8:41 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Bruno Loff 7/2/13 5:21 PM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? . Jake . 7/2/13 1:39 PM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? sawfoot _ 7/4/13 4:47 PM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Daniel M. Ingram 7/5/13 4:53 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Bailey . 7/5/13 7:08 PM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? sawfoot _ 7/7/13 4:50 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Daniel M. Ingram 7/7/13 6:19 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Bailey . 7/2/13 8:08 PM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Jonathan Marks 7/5/13 5:28 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Change A. 7/7/13 8:26 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? M N 7/7/13 3:03 PM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? sawfoot _ 7/11/13 9:17 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? M N 7/11/13 9:52 AM
RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter? Nikolai . 7/11/13 10:26 AM
There is a warning in the beginning of MCTB:

"A brief note of caution here: occasionally, when people begin to
really get into spirituality, they may get a bit fascinated with it and may
forget some of the useful relative wisdom they have learned from
before. Caught up in “ultimate wisdom” and their “spiritual quest,” they
can sometimes abandon conventional wisdom and other aspects of their
“former life” to a degree that may not be very wise…"

Observation of these forums show that it is common to see conventional wisdom being rejected. Daniel himself has written about the powers (and his own experience of them) in a way that appears he would be happy to admit he has rejected conventional wisdom in thinking about them. By conventional wisdom I am taking to mean a scientific materialist worldview.

The common theme is the privileging of experience over conventional wisdom. For example, you might see someone write they didn't think reincarnation was true, but they/their friends/a position of authority had this really compelling past life experience, therefore there are now convinced that reincarnation is "real".

So I have been struggling with understanding this kind of reasoning and where it leads to.

An analogy is the case of observing a visual illusion, for example, the classic muller lyer illusion where two lines appear to be different lengths. Your subjective experience of the lines is that they are different lengths, but if you get a ruler out and measure them you find they are the same. If the case of the powers and Magick though reality testing is sometimes more difficult, it seems akin to saying that because your subjective experience is "real" then the world is that way - the lines appear different therefore they are different.

There are various reasons why individuals might over privilege the knowledge they gain from personal experience, but one conclusion I have drawn from posters on the forum and from Daniel is it appears linked to an assumption that the path of insight leads one to be able to discern "reality as it really is", or see "ultimate reality". In MCTB ultimate reality is equated with your sensate experience, but at times Daniel seems to extend the term to be more than that. Now "reality" is a tricky word, and I can see a response that might bring in quantum physics or say there is no such thing as objective etc… which is why I bring up the muller lyer example - you have the reality of your subjective experience and the reality of the macro level testable and measurable state of the world. Conventional wisdom is that the lines are the same length.

Ultimately, I do have a question to ask Daniel and forum members:

If your goal is to reduce suffering, and you do a practice which leads you to erroneous beliefs about the state of the world, does it matter? Does release of dukkha override wisdom?

It is a question I sometimes ask myself when I meet the occasional fervent but happy Christian and think is it better to be happy and clueless or clued up and miserable?

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 3:20 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
If your goal is to reduce suffering, and you do a practice which leads you to erroneous beliefs about the state of the world, does it matter? Does release of dukkha override wisdom?

It is a question I sometimes ask myself when I meet the occasional fervent but happy Christian and think is it better to be happy and clueless or clued up and miserable?


(1) A distinct feature of all religions I know is the worldview that the follower has access to some form of ultimate reality, privileged access to "the way things really are," or some variation thereof. This feature is so fundamental to religion that it could practically serve as a definition of the term.

(2) If, furthermore, engaging in religious practices makes you high, then the pleasure can feel like a perfect justification of your beliefs. "I am feeling better than other people, so what I believe in must be true."

(3) The only reason you insist on "realism" or "materialism" is because of your own mental conditioning anyway --- rigor of thought is part training, part habit, part pleasure (e.g. the pleasure of truly rigorous discovery, as it happens in some sciences), and part pain (e.g. the shame of being led by unjustified beliefs, and seeing the mess it got you into).

A lot of me being "rigorous" or "rational," for instance, is still left-overs from my education. It could be said, I am basically still trying to please my father. Something similar may be the case for you.

(4) Rigorous thought seems to be essential if you're trying to systematically control the world (e.g. by building airplanes), and that is why it survived and is so mainstream these days, but in contexts where this is not the goal, other kinds of thought become dominant. Besides, rigorous thought is context-dependant, for instance many perfectly able scientists are highly superstitious when it comes to their personal lives.

Given all of the above, the question arises: To whom "does it matter"?

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 5:38 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Rationality and materialism is a belief system like any other religion, and in that sense is in competition with other belief systems. But the rationalist/conventional thinker works on the assumption that modern science has come up with the best system we have for discriminating between the truth or falsity of beliefs - though nothing can ultimately be proven to be ultimately true, some beliefs appear more probable than others, due to the weight of evidence at a point in time for them. Yes, individual scientists are humans and therefore fallible, but less fallible in groups, and as time progresses the theories get better. And science is not just about control. You can only systematically control the world by understanding it. If you don't understand something then you compromise the ability to control it and your airplanes fall from the sky.

And so my point is that when you have conflict between your subjective experience of reality and conventional reality there are methods that have been shown to be pretty successful for resolving that conflict and determing which is a better/more probable/more accurate description of the state of the world.

Whom does it matter? The question of how to live one's life is not a question for science, but for religion and philosophy. And for various reasons I might decide that understanding the world is a guiding principle for that context - that it is "good" to be rigorous and rational, though this might not make me happy. Whereas an alternative strategy might be to maximise happiness, and die happy in the delusional belief that I will find a place in heaven or be reincarnated in some lovely realm. But partly why I ask this question on the forums is that insight traditions appear to work on the assumption that understanding reality and the truth of things leads to happiness. This is in keeping with many (if not all) religions as you point out, but seems more prevalent in buddhism and insight traditions in particular, compared with, for example, Christianity, which places a greater emphasis on faith.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 6:28 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Whereas an alternative strategy might be to maximise happiness, and die happy in the delusional belief that I will find a place in heaven or be reincarnated in some lovely realm.


This is not a possible strategy. That you describe it in the way you do means that you already took a specific path (I first wrote "made your choice" but that's not really accurate).

An alternative strategy, say, is to finally realize that God our lord does exist, and learn to see Him and His Love in all things.

My point is that this is never delusional, not from its own point of view. It is actually possible to experience God, and have a Relationship with Him, and see angels, and all that (from my current p.o.v.) crap. And the way this seems to work is that if you go down that route, it will make itself to be self-consistent, as there is no such thing as passive observation: your perception works to explain and transform your world according to your point of view. Hence my question: to whom does it matter? To one who has taken the path you (so externally) describe, it is those who do not see what he sees who are deluded.

This god-believing version of you might have asked instead:

If your goal is to exert power over the world in order to satisfy His will, and hence you learn science and engineering which might lead you to questioning your faith in Him and rejecting your True Self (hence becoming deluded), does it matter?


Personally speaking, I find the question of what leads to what much more interesting than what is true and what is false. Science and engineering can lead to airplanes. Praying in a dark cave can lead to powerful visions. Meditating on loving-kindness can lead to a sense of purpose. Intense moment-to-moment introspection can lead to the sense that everything is in perpetual motion. Psychologized introspection can lead to interesting personal narratives about why you act and feel the way you do.

With regards to powers, which you call delusional, I would say: Deep concentration practices can lead you to experience "powers"... are these powers true? false? Again a more interesting question is "what do the powers, as experiences, lead to?"

For instance, taking ecstasy can make you more friendly and uninhibited. Is this friendliness and inhibition true? false? Again a more interesting question is "what does this friendliness and inhibition lead to?"

Etc... I somehow associate this way of questioning to the word "pragmatism." I am not sure I am being accurate in the use of the term. Either way, I find it a much preferable attitude than the old "true vs false" debate.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 8:41 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
"there is no such thing as passive observation: your perception works to explain and transform your world according to your point of view."


Yes, those with the delusional beliefs don't think they are delusional, they think everyone else who doesn't share their belief systems is delusional. But my point in the last post was that although I would agree with your statement in an absolute sense, some perspectives are more passive than others, some perceptions and closer to the true state of the world than others; we have means of determining which beliefs appear to be more likely than others. Which is why by the standards of conventional reality we can ascribe some beliefs as being delusional.

So I think I missed your point about "whom" originally. And a short answer - I think it does matter if you are delusional in the eyes of conventional wisdom if you have a goal to minimise the suffering of others as well as your own. Which is also part of the reason I raise these questions - in that IMHO rejection of conventional wisdom will compromise the potential impact of the pragmatic dharma movement.


If your goal is to exert power over the world in order to satisfy His will, and hence you learn science and engineering which might lead you to questioning your faith in Him and rejecting your True Self (hence becoming deluded), does it matter?


This is a bit of a mind bender so instead of trying to answer I will reformulate the original idea:

Based on a prior belief (the purpose of life is to maximise happiness/minimise suffering), I believe that achieving true knowledge of the nature of reality will achieve that goal. I achieve false knowledge of the nature of the world (though I don't realise that), but it makes me happy. Is that ok?


So I guess it comes down to what is more important: truth (knowledge of close approximation to the state of the world) or happiness? You can have happiness without truth, and truth without happiness. Of course, it would be nice to have a bit of both…

Honing in on practical issues of "does it matter" - to what extent do you have to believe these practices give special insight to reality for them to work? How important is faith and desire for them to bring about results? Should you think about the teachings of the Buddha purely as a practical means to reduce/eliminate suffering and see them as having no greater ontological status, such as that you can think of the 3 characteristics as not having some special status as universal truths about human existence and the universe, but just as beliefs (which mould your experiences to match them) to get about certain results?


"I find the question of what leads to what much more interesting than what is true and what is false."


I am not sure how you can remove questions of true of false from an interested investigation of the question of "what it leads to" - if I want to know what these experiences lead to then I would want to document them, understand what causes them, understand the mechanisms, replicate them, make predictions and so forth.

But you seem to give your answer to the question, in that it doesn't matter if your beliefs are delusional or not, what really matters is what it leads to (e.g. friendliness, inhibition, happiness, enlightenment etc…)

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 1:39 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Sawfoot, I think it is worth reflecting on your presumptions that:

1) 'conventional wisdom' equals scientific materialism (i.e., not even all scientists would agree with that)

2) 'the dho' rejects conventional wisdom instead relying on experience (i.e., this is a big generalization)

... for starters. That said, you are raising some interesting questions.

One response for me, perhaps in line with Bruno's comments about pragmatism (and Bruno I think that is a vaild formulation of classical pragmatism), is to point out the difference between *kinds* of truth claims. You appear to be presuming what is called a correspondence theory of truth in which truth resides in the correspondence between a representation (or model) and some sort of actuality which is being modeled/represented. A phenomenological critique of this theory of truth points out that representations and models by their very nature are radically different from phenomena which they purport to represent; the map is not the territory. Correspondence is not the issue, but rather, the consequences of applying a model, what sorts of behaviors or results the model facilitates. (In pragmatist terms: a model is useful to the extent that it predicts how to get from one experience to another experience consistently).

For example, is a topographical map True, no matter how accurately it corresponds with the territory, if one is employing it to determine political boundaries? Is a political map True, no matter how accurately it corresponds with the territory, if one is using it for surveying? Rather, isn't the very usefulness of each kind of map dependant on what it leaves out as much if not more than what it 'represents'?

Well all of our concepts, whether 'scientific' or otherwise, appear to have this nature as representations/models. Namely, they do not have a static Truth relationship with Actual Realities (or lack thereof) but rather can only be assessed in the context of specific activities. Every concept, model or description is only "true", from a pragmatic-phenomenological perspective, insofar as it "works". They can only be assessed within the context of the behaviors or results they are supposed to facilitate. Now, notice, this version of truth is not simply saying 'if you believe in something it shapes your experience'. That could be relevant, depending on the context; but this version of 'truth' works equally well for things like physics and biology etc.

What do you think?

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 5:21 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
"there is no such thing as passive observation: your perception works to explain and transform your world according to your point of view."


Yes, those with the delusional beliefs don't think they are delusional, they think everyone else who doesn't share their belief systems is delusional. But my point in the last post was that although I would agree with your statement in an absolute sense, some perspectives are more passive than others, some perceptions and closer to the true state of the world than others; we have means of determining which beliefs appear to be more likely than others. Which is why by the standards of conventional reality we can ascribe some beliefs as being delusional.

So I think I missed your point about "whom" originally. And a short answer - I think it does matter if you are delusional in the eyes of conventional wisdom if you have a goal to minimise the suffering of others as well as your own. Which is also part of the reason I raise these questions - in that IMHO rejection of conventional wisdom will compromise the potential impact of the pragmatic dharma movement.



I think conventional wisdom does generally hold that "being deluded" is bad. But I also think that conventional wisdom has little consensus about what being deluded actually means. For instance, many people believe in god, and many do not. Conventional wisdom is often completely at odds with a rigorous scientific perspective. The large majority of opinions are formed from general sensitivity, before any kind of rigorous method has been applied to determine their accuracy, and hence before there is enough evidence (this sentence I just wrote is an example). This holds also for conventional opinions.

That some perceptions are closer to the true state of the world is a commonly-held view. Typically in the form "my beliefs are more correct than other people's". Again, what that true state of the world might actually be is not at all consensual. And this is nothing dramatic in itself: different people have different experiences, it is natural they see things differently.

sawfoot _:


If your goal is to exert power over the world in order to satisfy His will, and hence you learn science and engineering which might lead you to questioning your faith in Him and rejecting your True Self (hence becoming deluded), does it matter?


This is a bit of a mind bender so instead of trying to answer I will reformulate the original idea:


OK, I hope I have at least conveyed my maiden point: that someone who follows a religious path is, in your opinion, deluded, has no bearing whatsoever on that person's opinion on that matter. In fact, part of following that path could include believing you are the one who is deluded.

The reason I wrote the sentence is to illustrate to you, by a sort of mirroring effect, how your question would be viewed by such a person.

sawfoot _:


Based on a prior belief (the purpose of life is to maximise happiness/minimise suffering), I believe that achieving true knowledge of the nature of reality will achieve that goal. I achieve false knowledge of the nature of the world (though I don't realise that), but it makes me happy. Is that ok?



Again the point is, OK to whom? In the condition which you describe, it would be just fine. From the perspective you currently hold, looking onto your "hypothetical future self," it is a terrible outcome. Because of this, you are likely to strive so that such a delusional state never occurs... to the best of your ability.

And that is the best you can hope to do! Because there is no external correct-perspective-granting-ghost that will ever correct you if you stray off into la-la-land.

However, I personally have benefitted from asking my friends what they thought. And their opinion has informed my choices, sometimes very profoundly, including the dropping of an entire system of practices I was engaged in ('actualism,' if you want to look it up), and sometimes not at all, e.g. I will soon do a long term retreat, pretty much against the opinions of almost all my friends.

Also, with time, you start to learn a few tricks. For instance, believing "I finally got it" is, for me, a good indication that I am actually straying into delusion. If I have the urge to speak to others and "spread the word," that seems to suggest that I have something at stake in the matter and am much more likely to have little evidence to back my beliefs. Etc... I learn these as I go along.

sawfoot _:

(1) Honing in on practical issues of "does it matter" - to what extent do you have to believe these practices give special insight to reality for them to work? How important is faith and desire for them to bring about results? (2) Should you think about the teachings of the Buddha purely as a practical means to reduce/eliminate suffering and see them as having no greater ontological status, such as that you can think of the 3 characteristics as not having some special status as universal truths about human existence and the universe, but just as beliefs (which mould your experiences to match them) to get about certain results?


(1) I would say... you need to have at least some belief in the practice otherwise you won't do it. I don't know if anyone has ever tried to get a "non-believer" to practice meditation, e.g. by paying him a salary, but I doubt it --- besides the fact that money doesn't fall off trees, how could we possibly assess if he is doing it right?

(2) That is my preference, actually. I found no advantage, so far, to include all the mystical and cultural-based mumbo-jumbo. However, I take the same attitude towards, e.g., powers (for instance I have dabbled into pragmatical magick).

After a recent brush with religion (the 'actualism' phase I mentioned, which is not mystical at all, and only religious per the definition I have earlier in this post), one could say I am trying as fervently as possible not to do it again.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/2/13 8:08 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
One of the fundaments of dhamma is that the practice is non-sectarian, the same benefits will be accrued by anyone walking the path. Adherence to any belief is not relevant, you will find enlightened people in ALL religions.

Here’s an enlightened Christian. She continues to teach school and raise a family even after her enlightenment.

Bernadette

in fact you might even be able to attend a small retreat with her.

Anyway.. stick to Christiany and also give the path a chance ( taking a retreat). If it does nothing for you, toss it, no worries.

-d

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/4/13 4:47 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Thanks for the thoughtful replies everyone, greatly appreciated.


Jake

1) 'conventional wisdom' equals scientific materialism (i.e., not even all scientists would agree with that)

That is my own interpretation, yes, which may not be shared by others.

2) 'the dho' rejects conventional wisdom instead relying on experience (i.e., this is a big generalization)

This is a generalization about one factor which seems to explain why a subset of members appear to reject conventional wisdom. This subset may be relatively small, and I don't wish to imply that its reflective of the DhO as a whole.

I don't really want to get much into the philosophical discussion about what truth is (though maybe it cannot be avoided), and while the perspective on truth you highlight seems reasonable it also has a whiff of philosophical sophistry to create a version of truth that suits a particular purpose. But even so, in the case of Magick or powers or psychic phenomena, it would seem that despite a lot of confirmation bias believers would have to admit that Magick isn't that reliable, it can be "hard" in certain contexts (e.g. with other people present). Psychics don't always get it right. Ghosts don't always appear etc…So in that sense, the powers et al. don't really "work" most of time. So pragmatically speaking, they do not lead to great models of reality.

Bruno

I don't have much to add, as you make some excellent points.

About the practical issues, yes, one needs to be convinced of the practical benefits to do it (e.g. it will make them happy/solve all their problems etc), but I was interested in whether you need to believe that the insights you get are "real" to get the benefits (and not just wishful thinking or warping of reality to match your beliefs). But I am not sure if that is a coherent question, as you point out. Here the illusion analogy doesn't hold so well, as with illusions you can know how the illusion works, but can't help seeing it, but with delusion you can't know the delusion is a delusion.

Ah yes, actualism. When I first got into the DhO it seemed quite virulent - I was a bit confused - so you can actually get enlightened in your lifetime, but there is an even better enlightenment +1? Made me think that the search never ends…

Blue

Interesting lady. I would like to read her book. Seems very Buddhist for a Christian (as noted on the wiki page).

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/5/13 4:53 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
When I speak of "abandoning conventional wisdom" in MCTB, you will note that it is not in relation to the powers nor in relationship to anything related to a scientific materialist worldview, but instead what I had in mind was numerous people who I witnessed believing things that are basically not obviously helpful when instead their "old" beliefs might have suited various situations much more nicely.

I was actually thinking of very down-to-earth things, such as people suddenly believing things like:

making money was inherently bad

that one must become a monastic to make progress in meditation

that one couldn't be in a relationship and pursue meditation

that one couldn't have sex and pursue meditation

that one had to give up things that were fun to pursue meditation

that one had to be very strict and hard on one's self to pursue the life of meditation

that meditation would solve all their problems

that one had to be very religious and into spiritual trappings to pursue meditation

that one had to eat some very special diet to pursue meditation

that being really harsh to other people who were not as spiritual as they had suddenly become was a good idea

that one must suddenly convert everyone one knew to Buddhism or whatever

that one must not hang out with one's non-Buddhist friends in order to be good people, etc.

In short, I saw lots and lots of people really messing up their lives based on strange, erroneous "spiritual" ideals when good-old common sense and moderation in radical beliefs would have done them a lot better most of the time.

I actually think that, for certain pursuits, scientific materialism is a fine and functional worldview.

For other pursuits more unusual points of view may be useful.

Consider even small deviations from the "scientific materialist worldview" that occur in numerous relatively ordinary contexts, such as basically all the social sciences, regarding which the application of, say, a strict Newtonian or Quantum-mechanical framework might be totally inappropriate from any pragmatic point of view.

To whom are you referring when you say that some reject conventional wisdom? You can name names: it will not only be ok here, as this place is about real people having real conversations about real things, hopefully, but will make this so much more concrete and workable, where as now it lives in the world of vague innuendo, which lacks basic efficiency and efficacy.

I personally reject the notion that I, for one, reject conventional wisdom in any obvious context where conventional wisdom applies well and would truly enjoy debating any such notion, but perhaps I am missing something here and would gain wisdom from having that view challenged.

Do you have a specific example of someone from this small but unnamed cabal of wisdom-rejectors who have run into real trouble due to their mis-applied frameworks? In short, where does the rubber meet the road here?

As to Actualism: you are right: when it showed up here there was some serious chaos, and, in fact, it was one of the things that lead to the First Great Schism of the DhO in which some of the sister fora split off, though since then the chaos has nearly vanished, though Actualist-inspired concepts still show up here at times and sometimes something useful comes from them, it seems. Was the virulence Actualism itself, the people promoting it, the people reacting to it, or some co-emergent property that only showed up as a meta-phenomena when certain elements combined? I can't be certain I know, though I am thankful that chaos is behind us, at least for the moment.

Daniel

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/5/13 5:28 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
There is a warning in the beginning of MCTB:

"A brief note of caution here: occasionally, when people begin to
really get into spirituality, they may get a bit fascinated with it and may
forget some of the useful relative wisdom they have learned from
before. Caught up in “ultimate wisdom” and their “spiritual quest,” they
can sometimes abandon conventional wisdom and other aspects of their
“former life” to a degree that may not be very wise…"

Observation of these forums show that it is common to see conventional wisdom being rejected. Daniel himself has written about the powers (and his own experience of them) in a way that appears he would be happy to admit he has rejected conventional wisdom in thinking about them. By conventional wisdom I am taking to mean a scientific materialist worldview.


I was originally agreeing with you until I saw that you meant "conventional wisdom" as materialist reductionism. My observation is that members of the DhO tend to reject normal "mainstream" solution to problems (exercise, working on social skills, connecting deeper with loved ones) that cause unhappiness. For example if people at your job are being unreasonable, the standard solution is to confront them and iron out the issue. Instead members of the DhO might recommend performing certain meditations (like metta), which might be helpful in relieving one's own anger, but ultimately will not solve the problem.



The common theme is the privileging of experience over conventional wisdom. For example, you might see someone write they didn't think reincarnation was true, but they/their friends/a position of authority had this really compelling past life experience, therefore there are now convinced that reincarnation is "real".

So I have been struggling with understanding this kind of reasoning and where it leads to.

An analogy is the case of observing a visual illusion, for example, the classic muller lyer illusion where two lines appear to be different lengths. Your subjective experience of the lines is that they are different lengths, but if you get a ruler out and measure them you find they are the same. If the case of the powers and Magick though reality testing is sometimes more difficult, it seems akin to saying that because your subjective experience is "real" then the world is that way - the lines appear different therefore they are different.

There are various reasons why individuals might over privilege the knowledge they gain from personal experience, but one conclusion I have drawn from posters on the forum and from Daniel is it appears linked to an assumption that the path of insight leads one to be able to discern "reality as it really is", or see "ultimate reality". In MCTB ultimate reality is equated with your sensate experience, but at times Daniel seems to extend the term to be more than that. Now "reality" is a tricky word, and I can see a response that might bring in quantum physics or say there is no such thing as objective etc… which is why I bring up the muller lyer example - you have the reality of your subjective experience and the reality of the macro level testable and measurable state of the world. Conventional wisdom is that the lines are the same length.



I see.



Ultimately, I do have a question to ask Daniel and forum members:

If your goal is to reduce suffering, and you do a practice which leads you to erroneous beliefs about the state of the world, does it matter? Does release of dukkha override wisdom?



As long as, standard common sense, and conventional wisdom (things like: "If put a glass on a table, I can expect it to be there in the next five minutes.") are not rejected. Then why should speculative philosophy be an issue?

The other issue that I see is that spirituality and speculative philosophy are two different things, spirituality is all about conscientiousness, heedfulness, duty, self-cultivation and hard work. Speculative philosophy (which has no place in my life), is kind of like the opposite.

Edit: Well not the opposite, the point is it's useless. There comes a point in spirituality where speculative philosophy, along with its concomitant doubts are entirely abandoned. These types of fetters no longer occupy the mind.



It is a question I sometimes ask myself when I meet the occasional fervent but happy Christian and think is it better to be happy and clueless or clued up and miserable?



I actually became a Christian and still consider myself one, perhaps I'm just deluded, XD.

Edit: Actually when I became a Christian I didn't subscribe to any Christian dogma (I also consider myself a Buddhist and Taoist), rather I merely resonated very strongly with Paul's words on "dying to the law" and "being reborn in the body of Christ" etc. As a result I'm much happier, after having experienced a rebirth. The odd thing is that my happiness is not supported by any bizarre beliefs. Rather it is a feeling of having died and come back to life. It's a feeling of having accomplished a work.

Thus I don't believe in a Christian after-life, heaven, second coming, damnation of sinners or any of that.

The layer of feelings seems deeper than the layer of thought.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/5/13 7:08 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I was actually thinking of very down-to-earth things, such as people suddenly believing things like:

making money was inherently bad

that one must become a monastic to make progress in meditation

that one couldn't be in a relationship and pursue meditation

that one couldn't have sex and pursue meditation

that one had to give up things that were fun to pursue meditation

that one had to be very strict and hard on one's self to pursue the life of meditation

that meditation would solve all their problems

that one had to be very religious and into spiritual trappings to pursue meditation

that one had to eat some very special diet to pursue meditation

that being really harsh to other people who were not as spiritual as they had suddenly become was a good idea

that one must suddenly convert everyone one knew to Buddhism or whatever

that one must not hang out with one's non-Buddhist friends in order to be good people, etc.

In short, I saw lots and lots of people really messing up their lives based on strange, erroneous "spiritual" ideals when good-old common sense and moderation in radical beliefs would have done them a lot better most of the time.

I actually think that, for certain pursuits, scientific materialism is a fine and functional worldview.

For other pursuits more unusual points of view may be useful.


+1 perfect

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/7/13 4:50 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
When I speak of "abandoning conventional wisdom" in MCTB, you will note that it is not in relation to the powers nor in relationship to anything related to a scientific materialist worldview, but instead what I had in mind was numerous people who I witnessed believing things that are basically not obviously helpful when instead their "old" beliefs might have suited various situations much more nicely.

I actually think that, for certain pursuits, scientific materialism is a fine and functional worldview.

For other pursuits more unusual points of view may be useful.


The crux for you (and some other posters) in answering the question of "does it matter?" is pragmatics. Whatever works. What I am continuing to appreciate about what makes the DhO a special place is that it really fulfils what "pragmatic dharma" means. Anything goes, as long as it works. Stuff that works (like mahasi noting) gets a lot of air time, but other approaches that aren't so effective don't get much attention. And science doesn't get that much focus here. There is a science sub category but not a lot of posts (though I suspect it might not have been around for that long). This doesn't mean that forum members tend to reject a scientific worldview. Instead, it probably more reflects that scientific approaches to spirituality (at least right now) don't have a whole lot of offer in terms of helping people on the path (though I suspect that will change in time).

Maybe I might have been better off titled this post rejection of science/materialism/rationalism rather conventional wisdom. But then again, maybe not. You appear to be saying it is ok to reject conventional wisdom:
a. In situations where conventional wisdom doesn't apply well (in your opinion)
b. When it leads to harmful consequences

A few issues here. As raised in the earlier posts, then if you are deluded you don't know you are deluded, and it seems problematic to say you can throw away the rule book whenever you have decided the rulebook doesn't apply.

And as befitting someone who takes a scientific materialist worldview, I don't see situations where we would want discard that worldview when we want to understand what is happening in our minds and in the world. Why not apply a scientific materialist worldview to spirituality? It has been remarkably successful in other fields, and as a product of human brains I don't see spirituality as being any different. That worldview would hold that the behaviour of social groups is a result of neuronal activity in brains rather than the force of some magical spiritual energy that "inhabits" brains, as dualists might believe. Yes it is true that quantum physics is not an useful mode of explanation for the behaviour of individuals, which is due to the level of explanation required, but together the different levels of explanation can fit together in a coherent framework. We don't need to postulate a separate new level of explanation of some magical realm or dimension filled with qi/energy, ghosts, angels, and fairies. And I am not suggesting that folk psychological constructs raised by Johnathon Marks such as conscientiousness, heedfulness, duty, self-cultivation and hard work aren't useful as descriptions of behaviour, but that we have a framework in which such constructs can be understood in that coherent framework.

To whom are you referring when you say that some reject conventional wisdom? You can name names: it will not only be ok here, as this place is about real people having real conversations about real things, hopefully, but will make this so much more concrete and workable, where as now it lives in the world of vague innuendo, which lacks basic efficiency and efficacy.

I personally reject the notion that I, for one, reject conventional wisdom in any obvious context where conventional wisdom applies well and would truly enjoy debating any such notion, but perhaps I am missing something here and would gain wisdom from having that view challenged.

Do you have a specific example of someone from this small but unnamed cabal of wisdom-rejectors who have run into real trouble due to their mis-applied frameworks?


I saw a recent post from "hermetically sealed" about demonic possession. And it made me very thankful that most of us live in a world where a scientific worldview makes us think such as things are ridiculous.

In other parts of the world people aren't so lucky:

In April 2008, in Kinshasa, the police arrested 14 suspected victims (of penis snatching) and sorcerers accused of using black magic or witchcraft to steal (make disappear) or shrink men's penises to extort cash for cure, amid a wave of panic.[75] Arrests were made in an effort to avoid bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 alleged penis snatchers were beaten to death by mobs.[76] While it is easy for modern people to dismiss such reports, Uchenna Okeja argues that a belief system in which such magical practices are deemed possible offer many benefits to Africans who hold them. For example, the belief that a sorcerer has "stolen" a man's penis functions as an anxiety-reduction mechanism for men suffering from impotence while simultaneously providing an explanation that is consistent with African cultural beliefs rather than appealing to Western scientific notions that are tainted by the history of colonialism (at least for many Africans).[77]
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft#Africa>


In these cases, those involved are actually following conventional wisdom of their society, and as argued by the person cited the magical beliefs can "work". But would you rather live in the world where we have rational scientific accounts of magic and witchcraft, or one in which in you can decide those certain circumstances where those rational accounts don't apply?

While these forums don't lend themselves to detailed case studies to try and meet your challenge of where irrational beliefs lead people to problems, I can raise the case study of the poster named Daniel M. Ingram as a particular concrete example, despite the get out clause "in any obvious context where conventional applies well". As I have argued above, to understand the causes of events and how the world works, then conventional wisdom (AKA a scientific worldview) seems to me useful pretty much all the time.

From what I have read, I think it is fair to say you have got really caught up in spirituality (along with Magick, powers and the like) and are more than a bit fascinated with it.

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/4309442

You describe putting yourself in a state where you read everything you can about these experiences, really really want to have these experiences, and try really hard to get them, meditate really hard (and put yourself your mind in a very unusual state) and then you have these experiences. Regarding these experiences: "Sometimes I have felt them, sometimes heard them, sometimes seen them as clearly as I could see anything else" . An example might be "
being able to put my "ghost-hand" through a wall with all awareness and sensation perception then embodied in that rather than my usual body" or "send fantastic blasts of bright light that looked like the blasts from the backpacks of Ghost Busters down through the floor and up into candles to make them move". Your account seems exactly like a case of saying "well, it seemed real to me, ergo, it is real" - the lines are different lengths = I was able to control light with my mind. Needless to say, the scientific worldview/conventional wisdom account of these experiences is that you were hallucinating - "the absence of a stimulus which has qualities of real perception". That you can't control light with your mind is as common sense to me that "If put a glass on a table, I can expect it to be there in the next five minutes."

In answer to the question of whether this has led you to real trouble, while I can't say for sure, the answer is probably not. I would guess you have spent a lot of time exploring these phenomena where perhaps your talents might have been better spent elsewhere - you tend to read a lot of warnings out there by wise Buddhists not to deliberately cultivate powers as you can side tracked. But on the positive side, interpretation of strange experiences as evidence that you have gained special powers could be very encouraging, allaying doubt, and reaffirming your belief in the practice, which might give you a helpful boost along the difficult spiritual path, ultimately benefiting your practice.

So if it doesn't harm anyone, doesn't lead you to mess up your life, and can actually help you to become a happier person, then surely it is ok to reject conventional wisdom and scientific accounts of phenomena? It depends on your goals. Personally I am just as (if not more) interested in the "how it works" question than "if it works" (and getting results) question. And as I said, while science right now isn't that much practical help for the spiritual path, I think that will change in time, and all the irrational belief systems surrounding spirituality will interfere with that progress.

RE: actualism, while its popularity was presumably down to a number of factors, and the practices must "work" to a certain extent, I would say it was primarily down to a deep seated desire in humans for "freedom", for happiness, for the end of suffering. Despite Richard being a somewhat dubious character with signs of what normally might be classified as mental illness, people believed in what he was saying because they wanted to.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/7/13 6:19 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
@sawfoot: Care to talk about this all sometime?

Skype: daniel m ingram without the spaces.

Daniel

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/7/13 8:26 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
Ultimately, I do have a question to ask Daniel and forum members:

If your goal is to reduce suffering, and you do a practice which leads you to erroneous beliefs about the state of the world, does it matter? Does release of dukkha override wisdom?

It is a question I sometimes ask myself when I meet the occasional fervent but happy Christian and think is it better to be happy and clueless or clued up and miserable?


No, release of dukkha doesn't override wisdom and I think that my practice does not lead me to erroneous beliefs. I didn't use to believe in re-incarnation but then after reading Omega Point's posts now I think that I don't know, it may be possible or it may not be. I can see that a belief in re-incarnation can help in reduction of suffering. I even tried to believe in it but I could not. I even tried to be religious so that I could be happy but I could not. I think people like us simply can't believe in such things. And for people who do, they can't leave their believes behind.

Still I have found Buddhist practices to be very helpful in reduction of suffering.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/7/13 3:03 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Hi!

So... some random points:

-Not buying into a materialistic paradigm
--is perfectly normal
--is not unreasonable
--does not make you 1)stupid 2)delusional 3)disfunctional

-99% (or even more) of the decisions I make in everyday living is not influenced by buying or not into a materialistic paradigm, so no, I wouldn't say it matters

-Sometimes I have the feeling that people think that powers would somehow mean that science get it all wrong; however, truth is that the existence of powers does not threaten science at all, because
--their existence does not mean that everything that we know is wrong, but just that there is something that we do not fully understand yet, wich is not so much of a big deal IMO
--the true mark of science is the methodology that you use to gain knowledge, not the object of investigation

Ok... that's all that comes to my mind at this moment... bye!

EDIT

Something else:

-there is no compelling argument proving that materialism is "right"; the only one is "It has never been disproven in my experience"; wich means that if you come across things that seems not to explained by that paradigm is perfectly ok to challange it, and if you don't and you keep believing in it despite something that does not fit so much is ok, and if you don't run into them, there is no reason to go around saying that thoose who do are somehow delusional

-most of thoose who fall into the content oftheir magickal experiences do that because they are compelling, and standard answer to that is that if something is compelling doesn't mean it's true; fun enought, I'll argue that most of thoose who support materialism do that mostly because the unenlightned condition makes compelling tha feeling that there is a material external reality, wich means that the main difference between the two is just the specific content that you end up buying.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/11/13 9:17 AM as a reply to M N.

Change A.

I was reading an article today about how success in psychotherapy was linked to belief in God, but the link appeared to be like this: those that believed in God were more likely to believe the psychotherapy would work, and the more the likely you are to believe that psychotherapy works, the more likely it does work. So belief helps.

You do illustrate my point in that in cases of things like reincarnation, people tend to overvalue their own experience and that of others (like authority figure Omega point, for example).

Mario

-Not buying into a materialistic paradigm
--is perfectly normal
--is not unreasonable
--does not make you 1)stupid 2)delusional 3)disfunctional

-99% (or even more) of the decisions I make in everyday living is not influenced by buying or not into a materialistic paradigm, so no, I wouldn't say it matters


Sure, though I suspect the number is a lot less than 99%. But let me take another tack, based on what I said at the end of my last post.

Consider sports science. These days it is a field that is really growing and flourishing, by applying scientific principles to the maximisation of human performance. Before sports science was popular, people were capable of amazing sporting feats and trained in useful ways, though not always understanding why a particular training technique were more successful than others. What I am suggesting is that you don't have to live your life as a materialist to be happy and make progress on a spiritual path, but the application of the materialist framework to understanding spiritual phenomena will ultimately help us to maximise success in that sphere (and reduce suffering), and so discarding conventional explanations will be bad in the long term.

-Sometimes I have the feeling that people think that powers would somehow mean that science get it all wrong; however, truth is that the existence of powers does not threaten science at all, because
--their existence does not mean that everything that we know is wrong, but just that there is something that we do not fully understand yet, wich is not so much of a big deal IMO
--the true mark of science is the methodology that you use to gain knowledge, not the object of investigation


At the very least, the powers do exist, in that there is a phenomenon (people's experiences of the powers) to explain. But I agree that I don't see a threat to science. Firstly because (as I see it) the data to be explained can reasonably be understood with the materialistic scientific framework, and if there was new strong data that needed explaining then ultimately this would have to be explained within the framework, potentially leading to revision of our current theories, as you suggest.

-most of thoose who fall into the content oftheir magickal experiences do that because they are compelling, and standard answer to that is that if something is compelling doesn't mean it's true; fun enought, I'll argue that most of thoose who support materialism do that mostly because the unenlightned condition makes compelling tha feeling that there is a material external reality, wich means that the main difference between the two is just the specific content that you end up buying.


I would like to think that people support materialism do so because it is the best account of the available evidence we have, evidence that is collated by societies working towards understanding that evidence.


there is no reason to go around saying that those who do are somehow delusional


Is it wrong to call religious beliefs delusional? There has been a lot of discussion out there about this issue, particularly due to Dawkins book "The God Delusion". But of course I don't think you in particular are delusional Mario *-)!


Daniel

That might be a more efficient form of communication. I hope I didn't get carried away with all that talk of penis snatching. I would gladly talk to you in person but might be in a while as I am heading off on retreat.

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/11/13 9:52 AM as a reply to sawfoot _.
Mario

-Not buying into a materialistic paradigm
--is perfectly normal
--is not unreasonable
--does not make you 1)stupid 2)delusional 3)disfunctional

-99% (or even more) of the decisions I make in everyday living is not influenced by buying or not into a materialistic paradigm, so no, I wouldn't say it matters


Sure, though I suspect the number is a lot less than 99%


In a way, every decision is somehow influenced, since everything is interconnected; my point was that, for daily stuff, that really doesn't matter, unless you are really into it.

I would like to think that people support materialism do so because it is the best account of the available evidence we have, evidence that is collated by societies working towards understanding that evidence


They are the scientific model, wich as of this moment happen to fit for most part the materialistic framework.
One of the major things that I have against materialism is that it gives no explanation for the very basic fact that we are self aware, the best we can do is finding correlations between neural activities and phenomena arising in consciousness, wich is completely different from implying a cause/effect relationship between material stuff and the existence of consciousness. There is no model that we have that predicts the existence of consciousness out of neurological activity. In other word, we have self awareness that is not explained at all, wich means, the materialistic framework is missing something very relevant about what's going on.

the application of the materialist framework to understanding spiritual phenomena will ultimately help us to maximise success in that sphere

Well, there are examples where that is totally correct, i.e. breathing stuff that are clearly related to the material world; however, in general I'm not a big fan of redutionist attempts... it would be cool to know what are the results that came out from DhOers fMRIs... anyone knows anything?

RE: Rejection of conventional wisdom in the DhO: Does it matter?
Answer
7/11/13 10:26 AM as a reply to M N.
Mario Nistri:
Mario

-Not buying into a materialistic paradigm
--is perfectly normal
--is not unreasonable
--does not make you 1)stupid 2)delusional 3)disfunctional

-99% (or even more) of the decisions I make in everyday living is not influenced by buying or not into a materialistic paradigm, so no, I wouldn't say it matters


Sure, though I suspect the number is a lot less than 99%


In a way, every decision is somehow influenced, since everything is interconnected; my point was that, for daily stuff, that really doesn't matter, unless you are really into it.

I would like to think that people support materialism do so because it is the best account of the available evidence we have, evidence that is collated by societies working towards understanding that evidence


They are the scientific model, wich as of this moment happen to fit for most part the materialistic framework.
One of the major things that I have against materialism is that it gives no explanation for the very basic fact that we are self aware, the best we can do is finding correlations between neural activities and phenomena arising in consciousness, wich is completely different from implying a cause/effect relationship between material stuff and the existence of consciousness. There is no model that we have that predicts the existence of consciousness out of neurological activity. In other word, we have self awareness that is not explained at all, wich means, the materialistic framework is missing something very relevant about what's going on.

the application of the materialist framework to understanding spiritual phenomena will ultimately help us to maximise success in that sphere

Well, there are examples where that is totally correct, i.e. breathing stuff that are clearly related to the material world; however, in general I'm not a big fan of redutionist attempts... it would be cool to know what are the results that came out from DhOers fMRIs... anyone knows anything?


Here are the two studies and fmri results that some dhoers and other pragmatic dharma yogis participated in as 'experienced meditators' at yale university in 2011.

http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/11/22/1112029108.abstract

http://evanthompsondotme.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/1-s2-0-s1053811913005247-main.pdf

Nick

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