Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Dec 22, 2014.
I'm in. Thanks for letting me know.
I watched the first video about the course and I agree with a lot of what he said. In the Buddhist sutras there are different methods for different people and they understood that some methods work best for some people. This is also true in yoga. I found (during retreats at the Zen center, and taking classes at a Spiritualist church ) that having a structure is very helpful and that being part of a group is also helpful. Working on your own is much harder because it requires self-discipline and self-motivation. When you are working according to a plan and with other people it is much easier. When someone is telling you what to do and you are following along with a group of people it is much easier. To some extent peer pressure helps you to follow the rules, you want to impress other people, and also doing something with friends is more fun than doing it alone so that helps you to want to keep doing it. Mainstream society has so many messages that distract one from spiritual development that it is helpful to be among people who share an interest in it. A group provides cultural support to help you maintain interest and focus on development (like an immersion language course). (You can simulate this to some extent by reading a lot on the subject.)
In order to understand what his statements about the success rate of the class really mean, I would need a more detailed explanation of how he defines non-symbolic consciousness and persistent non-symbolic consciousness, and how he measures it. A lot of people find that meditation is helpful in dealing with stress and provides other psychological benefits, and it can change one's personality, but very few people report experiencing kensho on a continuous (24/7) basis. Based on what I've seen from his web site, it is hard to assess what the students have actually achieved. I wouldn't pay the money or commit to spending so much time on the class without a better understanding of what it is supposed to teach.
In another video he mentioned that non-symbolic consciousness can sometimes cause problems. I hope he tells people about that before they pay the money for the class since he asks participants not to drop out while the course is going on.
He also says the class is experimental research, so I hope he has a written policy on ethical treatment of humans in scientific experiments. For example, participants in the class might reveal personal information during the class and they should know how that information will be used and that their privacy will be protected.
The characteristics (locations) of PNSC are listed here:
There are four locations. Next question: what stage do the class participants reach?
I am also not clear if these are mystical (paranormal) experiences of altered states of consciousness or just psychological changes. For example, do any of these stages involve losing a sense of the distinction self and non-self or losing a sense of having a body? Oneness can be an opinion or feeling about how the universe works, but it can also be a direct experience/perception/observation of there not being any separation between self and non-self.
It would also be interesting to see some experimental controls comparing the finders course results to some different types of meditation retreats. If I understand the locations correctly 1 and 2 are pretty common for people who meditate a lot and the same meditators probably experience 3 and 4 occasionally.
What is needed to maintain PNSC? The course requires 2 or more hours a day of exercises. Is this level of commitment needed to maintain pnsc or once you get it can you stop the exercises?
What sort of life styles to his students who have attained PNSC lead? Are the living quiet retired lives or are they living busy stressful lives, commuting to work, dealing with difficult people, etc.? Is there a correlation between life style and level of attainment?
As I said in my previous comment, if I understand these stages correctly, I think these are reasonable claims for what most people can experience if they work at it. But I would add to that that many people who have not yet experienced them might think they are are more mystical than they really are.
The first video on the course web site says there are various techniques that can be used. I don't know what techniques he is referring to but based on how I understand the stages I think some of the techniques could be: yoga, tai chi, qi gong, Buddhist meditation, repetitive prayer such as the rosary, guided relaxation exercises, other types of relaxation exercises, observing nature (hunters sometimes experience meditative states while stalking prey over long periods of time), just living a simple, quiet unstressful life can work for some people. It can also help to have a philosophical reference that encompasses some of the concepts such as oneness, selflessness, etc.
If you think the PNSC course is expensive, you might be able to find an inexpensive program associated with a religious organization.
Different forms of Yoga include:
Different forms of Buddhist practices include
observing the breath
mindfulness in daily activities
meditating on the body
meditating on a corpse
meditating on philosophical truths
listening to a bell
the various aspects of the 8 fold path in addition to concentration and mindfulness
If I am understanding the stages he describes correctly, I would guess that some of the problems could include:
Some techniques can release a lot of suppressed negative emotions. Some people might not want to go through that.
Doing a lot of some techniques can make you feel like you are on tranquilizers, you can feel muddle headed. Also, the people around you might not understand what is happening to you.
Memory deficits can happen long before stage 4 if someone is doing a lot of a technique.
A feeling of detachment can be disconcerting when things that used to be important no longer are.
When one person in a relationship starts spiritual exploration and development and the other person doesn't, it can create problems in the relationship sometimes very serious problems.
You can start experiencing psychic phenomena which can be frightening if you or the people around you don't understand the phenomena.
Jeffery's claim is that:
1. he's done a lot of testing and detailed interviews with many "enlightened" people... i.e. people who have been identified by others within their group as being the most enlightened. He therefore claims that he has a good handle on what these very advanced "locations"/stages are.
2. a large percentage (he has the stats, but I don't remember) of his participants are achieving these advanced stages.
I'm not saying I can verify any of this, only that he's very clear and specific about his claim. I think I will defiantly know after I do it.
I think Jeffery Martin is working out his own definition of enlightenment - and that's fair since most systems have their own definition. I would be cautious in assuming that his definition is identical to buddhist awakening. Earlier I thought that the pnsc stages were similar to advanced stages in Buddhist development leading to awakening because (somewhere or other) he mentioned he had a student familiar with the he jhanas. But since I saw the power point slides, I am no longer sure about that. In the course video, he makes some statements about his students who were trying their whole life to get this and could only get it from him or could only get it consistently from his methods. To me that sounds like he is talking about very advanced states, but in the power point slides it looks to me like he is talking about what many people who meditate a lot experience. So, I would like to understand more about what those students experienced before and after the course.
I would also like to know more about how he found his study subjects. Are they similar to the people who participated in this research: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro01/web3/Farrenkopf.html
It seems to me the subjects studied in that research are beyond Martin's fourth location. If he is talking about the same people, or the same states of consciousness, then I am misunderstanding something.
Also, in the course video, and I don't remember the exact words but he says something like his methods lead to the end of suffering, which is a concept usually associated with Buddhist awakening. So, I am wondering if he believes that his students are attaining Buddhist awakening. But the word "suffering" in the original language doesn't mean exactly suffering, it means the "unsatisfactoriness of life". Even Buddha experienced pain and for example stayed in when he injured his foot. The subjects Martin is talking about are impossible to understand until they are experienced - so his students should be careful about their expectation about what the course offers.
I think the main question I have is: what does "advanced" mean in this case. To someone who never meditated before, Martin's four locations would seem truly amazing and wonderful. But that doesn't mean they are really advanced. Would the average person who has meditated regularly during his lifetime also think those four locations are unusual? If yes, then those locations would be truly advanced. Based on Martin's statements it seems that he believes the locations are truly advanced. But based on the power point slides defining the four location, I think many serious meditators, you can find lots of them at any Zen center, would not consider the first two locations advanced at all and would occasionally experience locations 3 and 4. I have no problem with Martin saying these locations can be attained and that he can help people attain them in a few weeks of intense practice. Where I am uncertain is that he has a unique method that can do it better and faster than anyone else. But... some people don't like to meditate or don't like the discipline of Zen centers, or don't have time for meditation retreats, etc so yes there is a possibility that for some people, he does have a system, that selects the right method for the individual and working with small groups of people, that can work where other systems fail.
This is one of the reason I am supportive of religion. Religious organizations and practices to have been a great help to me and I value what I got from them very highly. I understand the criticisms of religion but in my actual experience, religion has not been harmful to me but has been extremely helpful.
Jim, I hate to sound obtuse, but there is no best path except the path one is on. I don't believe any more that there is a best way (for myself) of thinking or living to switch into this other reality. Myself is all persuasive. Always striving to capture every moment as it's own. I know it definitely wants to be part of it's victory over itself.
great point... practical point. but it can be a bit of a Faustian gamble... maybe get in with the right group at the right time and it works, but maybe you don't
I knew what I was looking for from a group before I got involved. I read a large number of book on Buddhism before going to the Zen center and I also read a lot of books about mediums and energy healing before going to a Spiritualist church. Maybe that is a pattern that other people can use. I love to read and learn on my own, but there are some things I realized I couldn't do by myself and I found in religious organizations people who wanted to help me and didn't charge the high prices of for profit groups.
I could also point out a lot of good done by religious charities, but I am discussing my own experiences, so I will also add that as atheist Thomas Nagel, author of Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False wrote, "Defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude." I also feel a lot of gratitude to those who have published work on intelligent design. The vast majority of the work on intelligent design has been funded by Christian organizations.
I haven't discussed it much in the forums here but I also have also used some of the Christian forms of meditation involving repetitive prayer.
So I would say that for the "educated consumer" religion has a lot to offer. I am not trying to apologize for religion but by describing my own experiences, I hope to encourage some of the members here to have a more nuanced view of religion. They might not understand how religion can be helpful to those seeking to understand consciousness. There might be problems with organized religion, but there is truth to be found in it too.
The dude's web site is terrible. I can't even find out any information on how much the training is.
I had to give a name and e-mail address.
Cool. Thanks. I filled out his form, but I never heard back. That is a little steep for me.
If anyone wants to try Carmelite contemplative prayer, there is a daily podcast that guides you through a session:
The last Finders Course starts Saturday/ I received an email that there's a couple seats left. I had some difficulty loading the site but repeated attempts successful. http://finderscourse.com/
There's also a Library of publications to peruse. http://nonsymbolic.org/publications/
This is also how Zen Koan's are used.
Participants in the class are interviewed here:
Jeffery's PhD thesis is on line:
OK so I signed up for the Finders Course #4, which starts Saturday 1/10. It seems as if all the stars are aligned for this. I do have the delusion I've been put on a path right now. I recently changed jobs with less stress and less hours, so more free time. Finishing up with some minor health issues. Have coincidentally taken up meditation more seriously in the last 6 months and have the support of my spouse to go for it. I also tend to need structure to focus my energies and this course is definitely and rigorously structured. Jeffery is turning it over to an associated group after #4. So it will change somewhat. The requested price for me is $1,250 maybe 75. I believe Dr Martin when he says it's all been non-profit. No, it has cost him endless time and personal money to keep it going. There must be scads of people collating all the information. Since the middle of the week, I've been getting deluged with emails and spending hours online daily answering many types of psychological profile surveys. I also signed a confidentiality agreement, which goes both ways. All participants are clustered in support groups of 6. I have no personal expectations except from what's been revealed. I'll be spending a lot more time in contemplation and interacting with my team members. It looks like hours a day. From the surveys, I've answered, the Finders Course really wants to make sure I'm mentally stable. The overall goal is to imbue oneself into a mystical experience otherwise categorized into 4 locations. As far as I'm concerned there's no mystery here, no secret process. A request is being made, for the next 15 weeks, to deeply involve my psyche and time, into an endeavor, which may have a positive outcome on my sense of well being. After Alex posts the interview, your welcome to ask me how it's going.
What does the confidentiality agreement cover?
Separate names with a comma.