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Magick and The Powers

Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?

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It really would (seemingly) be simple to set up some demonstration of a siddhi power along with recording equipment and (relatively) neutral observers. The most parsimonious explanation of siddhi powers (to me) seems that one is primarily altering one's own sense of reality which becomes possible in jhana. It's plausible that others' perception of reality could be altered as well based on a strong belief system, but finding observers who are less observed and using recording equipment would seem to go a long way towards getting a better sense of what's going on here.

Why is this the spiritual elephant in the living room?

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/17/10 5:23 AM as a reply to Marcello Spinella.
Hi Marco,

My suggestion is to be wary of the tar-pit of reductionism.

The plan to verify the powers is a lot like scraping the pigment off a painting and making neat little heaps of yellow, red, brown, and green dust, only to point out that there is no little heap of "art dust".

Talking about the powers in terms of altered perception is just another way of talking about the powers, along with talking about them in terms of the list of siddhis in some old text, or talking about them in terms of photographic images or sound recordings. Talking about it is not the same as experiencing it.

If you feel the powers are an elephant in the living room, by all means, go ahead and play with them and get to experience them personally, instead of trying to shoehorn them onto some set of opinions regarding spiritual home decoration. emoticon

There are these experiences. Calling them "powers" is just a convenient way of talking about them. The elephant is made of opinions of what should or should not be. Any weight it has, you gave it in the first place.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/17/10 2:46 PM as a reply to Florian.
Aside from voicing agreement with the above, the only other advice I can give you is to check out kasina practice. I haven't found a modern book with good instructions on kasina practice, though Daniel talks about it briefly in MCTB and Kenneth gives some simple instructions over at Kenneth Folk Dharma.

The Vimuttimagga contains much more detailed instructions for kasina practice. That said, it is the inspiration for the more famous Visuddhimagga which explains how to use kasinas for extremely hard and solid jhana states, though the Visuddhimagga's instructions may take years to follow. Some people never reach those levels of stability, as extreme as they are. Personally, I find the Visuddhimagga insufferable, but some people like it. It's available on the same site as the Vimuttimagga, if you use the search box.

But really, I'd stick with the Vimuttimagga because its information is more accurate and useful IMO. It teaches a more moderate jhana state, stronger than described in the original Pali suttas or at Kenneth Folk Dharma, but that kind of stability is quite useful for exploring siddhi. Kasina instructions start on page 134, describing the earth kasina. The instructions are basically the same for all the kasinas. You'd probably find it easier to work with a color kasina, so instead of focusing on the solidity of earth and expanding that solidity, you would just focus on redness or yellowness or whiteness... and expand that sensation until it fills the mind. Then you're set to go to jhanaland!

So, if you choose to find out what can be found out about the siddhis, then the Vim, MCTB, DhO, and KFD are your places to go.

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/20/10 5:58 AM as a reply to Marcello Spinella.
Marc, there's heaps of people who investigate these things scientifically. Just takes a bit of Googling. Try this for starters: http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&Papers/papers/

If you want to have a go at siddhis yourself, read Patanjali's sutras (not all translations are equal, I have the book with the blue cover, can't remember the author but will look it up if you want). I'm pretty sure I can do one of the siddhis, but I can't prove it, and proof is what you want. Proving it to yourself is one option.

EDIT: also have a look at this. Apparently Discovery Channel did a doco on this boy and filmed him continuously over a number of days to see if he ate or moved. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ram_Bahadur_Bomjon It's just for interest really, not hard scientific proof.

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/21/10 1:27 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
I value your responses, but it doesn't answer the question. I'm a Cittamatrin (and Madhyamaka) by heart so I'm aware that what we call reality is a subjective construct, and so even "reality" investigated with scientific instruments is still a perceptual/mental construct. Daniel hits on this in MCTB.

Observing these phenomena doesn't mean that we have to get reductionistic about it. If someone demonstrated these powers publicly in a way that was observed by neutral observers. Seeing if they are mutually observed by people who not influenced by expectations would go a long way toward distinguishing these from only being a solo subjective experience to something that is more of a shared experience. If someone in a roomful of people drops acid and her reality drastically changes while no one else in the room notices, that's one thing. If she drops acid and everyone else in the room also sees the altered reality, that's different--reductionistic attempts at explanation notwithstanding.

The Sheldrake site is a little iffy. Those are fringe kinds of journals which makes they findings a little unreliable.

I'm not really interested in developing these myself. The ethical ramifications of having them are beyond me. Would I put on a cape and fight crime? How could I not?

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/21/10 3:58 PM as a reply to Marcello Spinella.
Marcello Spinella:
If someone in a roomful of people drops acid and her reality drastically changes while no one else in the room notices, that's one thing. If she drops acid and everyone else in the room also sees the altered reality, that's different--reductionistic attempts at explanation notwithstanding.


Well, here's an interesting recording of an acid-dropping experience (probably) which affects the sober onlooker. emoticon

What you'd like to see is a new law of nature. But the powers are expressed by means of the laws of nature. Forgive me for returning to my tired "art analogy" about reductionism - but art is not a property of the atoms used to make a work of art. Meaning is not a property of the pixels of your screen where you're reading this sentence. I can't manifest my message directly into your consciousness, I have to use what's available, language, writing, computers, networks, my ability to express myself coherently and with sufficiently correct grammar, your ability to read and comprehend, ...

The powers need a means of manifestation, too, for you to experience them. If the means of manifestation is a dream state, or an otherwise altered state of consciousness, the powers can manifest experiences of flying, swimming in the earth, visiting exotic abodes of existence and so on. If the means of manifestation is waking consciousness observing a gauge, your're setting tighter bounds on what the powers can manifest.

Yes, this sounds a bit disappointing: there is no "safe", consensus way of having the powers verified and pre-packged for you, i.e. added to generally accepted opinions of what should be possible. No, there is no Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Marcello Spinella:
I'm not really interested in developing these myself. The ethical ramifications of having them are beyond me. Would I put on a cape and fight crime? How could I not?


Are you fighting crime now, without the powers? How could you not? What kind of excuse is "I don't have supranormal powers" for not doing anything about crime?

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/21/10 8:55 PM as a reply to Marcello Spinella.
I would have thought science was a reasonable tool to use. But even if some startling piece of evidence on siddhis appeared, there's no way Nature or BMJ are going to run with it. They won't risk offending or losing their conservative subscribers. Such things are always going to appear in out-of-way journals.

But this is the way I see siddhis, and I'll use an extreme example: Let's say someone can walk on water, a priest. He does it a few times for his own amusement. Then someone sees him. Who is it that sees him? What sort of person? The average Joe in the street? No. Only a person who has total faith that such things are possible in the first place. The observer would have a Christian background, so that the expectation of someone being able to walk on water is heightened even moreso. Perhaps the observer has spent a month in contemplative prayer, visualising Jesus walking on water. Then the outward manifestation happens, he observes this priest walking on water. Even if the observer invited Joe along to see the next miracle, something would prevent Joe from seeing it. Either his car would break down, or he would be called to work, or ....whatever. Even if Joe made every attempt to see this miracle, something would get in the way and stop it happening. His lack of faith would ensure some real-world obstacle would crop up. Edit: so there are no neutral observers. Those who really believe, they get to see it, those who don't, don't. And in that regard, perhaps science is not such a reasonable tool to use afterall, because there will always be an observer effect. Even if an experiment is double- or triple-blinded, there's always the researcher with his expectations getting in the way.

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/22/10 10:24 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
hahaha @ rainbows

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/23/10 2:35 AM as a reply to Marcello Spinella.
Reposing marco's question, because i am curious and think it needs a more clear answer.
It is useful to have a reference point for comparison. Suppose someone first discovers a way for people to talk across oceans using radio waves, Now this phenomenon can be demonstrated to other people even if they dont know anything about electromagnetism and are sceptical about its truth. So, the question is can a phenomenon which was previously thought not possible be shown to be possible? This is what is surprising and would make a honest scientist abandon previous preconceptions and start studying it intensively.
Florian's point that currently acknowledged phenomenon include things of great beauty while being very important and true is, in this case, besides the point. The surprise that we are looking for is truths not fitting into our standard conceptions of what's possible. About the other point of the new phenomenon being expressed as a law is also right. After all our laws are nothing but distillations of what we perceive into compact symbolic forms. But the question is still unanswered, does the phenomenon under investigation require that our previous conceptions of the laws (or what is possible under those laws) require modifications?
The way I see it, possible answers to question are :
a) The pheonomenon can be fit into previous conceptions via explanations like simulations, hallucinations in the brain. This is still interesting (what kinds of limits are there and how can they be controlled?) but not a big surprise.
b) Phenomenon which cant be explained as above, I remember somewhere Daniel talking about precognition of an accident, This would be something of this type. Other phenonmenon include telepathy, reincarnation etc. Any repeatable experimental evidence for this, as Charles Tart claims to have, would be a big deal. There are major controversies in science about much smaller stuff.

Incidentally, the phenomenon can be demonstrated at the purely information level. There are programs which take a long numbers A give another long number B. But there is no feasible way to go back from B to A. This is the basis for lot of encryption including ensuring that what you type while using email sites isn't intercepted in between. So if someone trusted by sceptics, randomly wrote a very long A on apaper, calculated B, destroyed the papers and publicly annound B. Anyone who used psychic powers to obtain A, and put it into the computer to show that it indeed does lead to B would have a foolproof way of demonstrating paranormal powers without any need to convince third party onlookers.

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/26/10 2:35 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:
I would have thought science was a reasonable tool to use. But even if some startling piece of evidence on siddhis appeared, there's no way Nature or BMJ are going to run with it. They won't risk offending or losing their conservative subscribers. Such things are always going to appear in out-of-way journals..


If it's something that's reliably demonstrated again and again, it will become widely recognized in one way or another. There's no conspiracy to keep all this under wraps.

RE: Why doesn't anybody verify these powers?
Answer
7/26/10 3:19 PM as a reply to Marcello Spinella.
here is a thread about similar matters from not too long ago, which you might be interested to read if you have not already, and in which i make my own thoughts on the topic clear (which thoughts also address your question here).

tarin