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babayada #56557 11/10/06 05:11 AM
Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 795

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 795
Last Christmas I bought a book on Bonpo Shamanism.

The author of the book was brought up in the Bonpo tradition, which from my perspective looks a lot like Tibetan Buddhism. The student learns under a master and his progress is checked by observable signs that lets the master know the student has achieved the required level of skill. From the descriptions, the curriculum seemed very methodical and systematic, something honed by many, many generations of practice, discovery, and correction. Something not unlike Western science.

Like the Dalai Lama, the author was familiar with Western thought and the scientific method. He thought that it was a good thing. He was aware that the views presented in his work were outside of what was considered realistic in Western terms. He knew that people thought his perceived reality was merely a collection of hallucinations. Yet, he said, one must go through training to be sensitive enough to perceive what he has learned to perceive, and in his experience what he was talking about was real and produced verifiable results.

Now, here I am, a 37 year old American, and I have had no truly supportable encounters with nature spirits. I do not consider my thoughts to have any sort of influence on the weather or events in the world. Sometimes I like to think I do, and sometimes I wonder. But my influence, if I do have any, can be considered extremely unreliable at best.

And on the other hand, here is a gentleman from another culture with a totally different upbringing. He has been through a rigorous form of mental, emotional, and spiritual training from a very young age. His book presents a very reasonable man who takes into consideration many factors surrounding the problems he discusses. He approaches them in a methodological fashion. It is apparent that he has been raised in a method that uses evidence in the world as well as in one's internal experience to mark progress or failure in any given endeavor.

Here is where this person (as well as others in his tradition) earns a great deal of my respect: he is able to make very fine distinctions about subjective experience. Whether or not one progresses with something like meditation is marked, depending on the activity, by very subtle changes in one's subjective experience. A master has to be able to question a student properly and discern fact from fiction, actual progress from fantasy. Where else can this be more tricky than in the realm of the human mind? Yet these people do this. And they also describe amazing and unbelievable feats as signs as meditational progress. For instance, one early meditation is designed to re-soften the fontanelle and ultimately open it. The test for success is putting a stalk of some kind of grass through the scalp and down through the opening in the skull! The student keeps the stalk in for a day or so as a mark of progress. Unbelievable, but this is what he claims with nonchalance. Some kind of trick? Not having observed this, I really cannot say.

If he and I were to talk, I would say to him, "Here is my problem: you have to be trained to perceive these things (spirits, subtle energies, et cetera). On the one hand, you may be right. And here I have no ability to make any sort of useful remarks or judgments about your proposals, because I am unable to see them for myself without years and years of rigorous training. On the other hand, your training may just be a form of group hypnosis. You see things that aren't there because you are trained to see them. Your perceptual apparatus has been conditioned in such a way that validates your training. So you live in a self-perpetuating illusion with a group of other people. Regarding this subject matter, there is no real way for me to know what is valid. If I take the blue pill, I'll never really know. But if I take the red pill, I may never really know but I will think that I do know, because my consciousness, my ability to tell otherwise, will have been changed by the red pill."

This, I think, is the reason why this stuff is such a hairy issue and, honestly, anyone can be wrong about it. It's only going to be verified for the goats when there is a goat that remains skeptical enough even though he's going through a process that changes what he perceives... moves him away from what he uses to typically verify the validity or invalidity of something. For the believers it's no problem. They can just believe in it, and it's no big deal. But for the goat, it's a painful prospect riddled with failure at best.

But perhaps the spirits that the Bonpo Shaman sees are real? Perhaps they aren't. I've played around and experimented with this sort of thing all my life. I haven't experienced anything that makes me want to get off the fence and go really far to either side of the camp. Though I lean strongly in the direction of the world view in which nature spirits are merely the products of fancy.

Last edited by babayada; 11/10/06 06:07 AM.
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

What you're seeing has been selected FOR rather than against.


It's amazing we've survived so long as a race as we have, really. If
we're selected for anything, it's to compete to the death for resources,
whether material or ideological. Irrational silliness abounds in the
world today, much more in certain parts of the world than others, but
everywhere, nonetheless.

I agree that forums such as this are relatively benign places where we can
exchange ideas and experiences, and over all, participating in this one
has been positive for me. I use to think that what I had to say may make
a difference, but now I'm content to resign myself to simply learning
tolerance and imperturbability from here. Not easy lessons, when some
persistently advocate the most irrational notions, and stubbornly stand by
them. To believe in silliness is one's right, but to then turn around and
insist that those who don't agree with their silliness are stubbornly
closed-minded and thus worthy of challenge ... well, ok, the universe
serves up yet another lesson of tolerance and imperturbability.

True, the average follower of something like Feng-Shui (or the likes) may
not be inclined to blow up buildings and such, but neither is the average
follower of Islam or any other religion. What bothers me is that
encouraging (and worse, selling) such beliefs is really a step backward
for us as a race. To really survive, we must consciously take hold of our
thought-processes and rigorously strip away all the non-sense. Sometimes,
"It just ain't so," and we should overcome our fears and see reality for what it is.
Otherwise, we just languor in the cesspool out of which we arose. I feel the
moral obligation to relentlessly counter those who purposely try to murder our
progress by stepping backward (and encouraging others to step backward) into
superstitions and irrationality. I'm heartened that at least one other of like-mind
exists here.

Anyway, I'm ready for more lessons in tolerance and imperturbability.

Faune #56559 11/10/06 03:33 PM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

HT You say we should view the universe as it is? How does one do that
when there is no real consensus about what the universe is, how it was
created/big bang or what? If all the scientists in the world can't agree
or don't know then I don't think it is currently possible.

There is a GREAT deal of scientific consensus about a LOT of things in the
natural world. If there were not, how could you be taking advantage of a
system which faithfully transmits your thoughts across miles and miles so
that everyone else who has access to this forum can read them? (Plus a
thousand other examples I can cite.) Science and its technological fruits
are based on things which can be replicated over and over again, and they
don't require anyone's beliefs at all ... they simply work whether you
believe it or not. Now, THAT's something I can appreciate.

Sure, I've said over and over again in this forum that while we know a
lot, we don't know much more. Hence the room for scientific debate,
counter-arguments, counter-experiments ... all of this is part of the
daily routine of science. We rigorously think and conduct experiments
regarding an issue, shaking it every which way, until all that remains is
something which can withstand scrutiny from every inquiry. The lack of
agreement at the forefront in science merely means we haven't finished
shaking these topics sufficiently yet. Cosmological issues are currently
hotly debated only because it's so difficult to gather the necessary data and
to interpret them properly. It is one of the frontier-topics in science.
But at least there is a tacit agreement that the argument
must be based on rational thinking and objective evidence. That's much
more than what the average mystic would permit.

And scientists never say, ok, what we have found is truth and this is
exactly the way things are. Rather, we say, ok, this is what is currently most
consistent with our best theory, and look, it explains all the objective
tests we have performed quite well, and it is able to make verifiable
predictions with convincing accuracy and precision. Moreover, we can use
what we learned to create/fix things which benefit (and often
revolutionize) society.

In the future, some new evidence may require a re-thinking of old theories
... science is always a work in progress. But the new theories which are
bound to arise do not invalidate the old ones ... they merely supersede
them in a larger context. For example, while Einstein's General
Relativity is a more complete theory of gravity than Newton's Classical
Theory, no terrestrial engineer in his right mind would use GR to perform
his routine calculations ... they are unnecessarily complex for the
day-to-day purposes at hand, even though they are technically more accurate.
Rather, Newton's approximation is plenty accurate, even for routine travel to
the Moon. Likewise, maybe some future theorist will figure out an even more
comprehensive theory than GR (which makes it compatible with
Quantum Mechanics, for example), but again, such a theory would not
invalidate GR or QM ... it would simply provide a broader context
wherein these theories can be appreciated from a broader perspective.

Speaking of Quantum Mechanics ... most new-age gurus have bent some of its
tenants waaay out of proportion to fit their Eastern mystic views.
Whenever I see some mystic referring to QM, I notice the hypocrisy ... on
the one hand, he uses (his mangling of) science to advance his agenda, but
then in the next breath he warns his followers to beware the
closed-minded scientist. Oi vey!

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

On the other hand, of course, (not so much here but generally) you
have thickheaded people who call themselves skeptics who are really just
incredibly dogmatic. They aren't interested in researching anything
they've been told or decided is quackery. They quickly form opinions
about things. They never apply any rigorous questioning or critique to
their own beliefs or thinking processes. I find these people incredibly
annoying. They style themselves as scientific but never perform any
experiments or tests on anything, least of all on their own notions.

I really hate to see entire areas labeled as bunk, which is sort of like
having a cognitive police line drawn around them. The police line means,
"Don't really think any more about this, just consider it hokum. Only
criticize it. No other kind of exploration is necessary or allowed." I
think that's crap.


While I appreciate the open-minded spirit in which you wrote this, I don't
agree 100%. Some things really ARE hokum, and, sure you can feel free to
play the open-minded inquirer and dish out your $299 per CD/DVD package to
prove to yourself that it is, but I'm past the point of willingly making
peddlers of hokum rich at my expense. Using a little reasoning about what
we know about how nature works, I can quickly slice through the majority
of the bunk and not be afraid to call it what it is: bunk. That's part of
the "predictive power" of science.

Let's take Feng Shui and this whole mangling of Qi as an example.
(Unfortunately, a very long thread which I had started in the FS forum to
rationally discuss its basis of validity had been unceremoniously deleted
by the admins for whatever reason, so I have to repeat myself here ...)

Feng Shui and Qi-based exercises/systems have their artistic/health
benefits ... I whole-heartedly agree, and I'm sure most rational,
reductionist scientists would agree. There's actually a lot of
scientific experimentation with Qi-based exercises/systems, and I'm sure
it will help us more deeply appreciate the mind/body connection. And, I'm
sure there are many rational explanations based upon human psychology
which one can offer for the aesthetic benefits of FS. All fine and good.

If it ended there, we would all be in agreement. But, no ... FS and Qi
proponents take it to the next level and start introducing all sorts of meta-physical
hokum. And people really believe the hokum! And they vigorously defend
it as true.

Look, if all the hokum around FS and Qi were really true, then China would
today be the most wealthy, most powerful, most healthy, most successful,
most lucky, in short, most PERFECT Heaven on Earth, because FS and Qi have
been practiced there for literally thousands of years. Rather, China's
history is filled with the most terrifying calamities, bloodshed, poverty,
famine, wars ... etc ... plagued by the same misfortunes which any other
group of people trying to survive had to overcome. I can see from the
historical evidence that FS and Qi has nothing to do with objective
reality besides the (admittedly valuable) measure of hope and balance that
it can provide to its practitioners. I don't need to buy into all that
hokum, because I'm smart enough to see the thousands of years of evidence
which already exists.

Look at the Boxer Revolution, and the generation of well-meaning
Qi-masters/monks that it slaughtered in one day. They believed
(irrationally) that Qi gave them paranormal, super-human abilities that
would protect them from those damned Western invaders' bullets and swords.
What more honorable use of Qi than to defend one's country and way of
life? Those monks and masters spent their entire lives mastering Qi.
Nevertheless, physics easily trumped belief-in-Qi that day, and Western
soldiers (who could care less about Qi but could pull a trigger and swing
a sword) easily wiped out a generation of otherwise good, but sadly
misguided souls ... all because of hokum.

It appears history is doomed to repeat itself over and over again, because
we are still finding our way back to hokum and conjuring up more and more
hokum. Worse, those of us who are not afraid of calling hokum for what it
is are regarded as closed-minded, arrogant and blind. Ok, that's fine.
We may not know everything, but we know enough not to expect Qi (or any other
metaphysical belief) to make bullets, swords, and their equivalents harmless,
or to effortlessly funnel love, wealth, health, success, and happiness into our laps.

Yes, an open-mind is important, but not if it so open that your brains start
falling out.

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 481

Joined: Jun 2004
Posts: 481
I really don't blame the administrator of the Feng Shui Forum for pulling your comments. They offered nothing constructive or even a better scientific way of doing things. Just, everything here is a bunch of Hokum, kind of attitude.

"Follow me down the path of true science and leave this false practice behind." Oh boy that really sounds like fun. How much does that cost again?

And thank you for trying to make me feel stupid for wanting to learn something new and maybe discovering something about myself that may be of help in improving my life. Even if it is only a little concept that Happiness is a tangible thing. Or that feeling safe can give one a whole new lease on life.

Maybe sometime in the far past I had very strong Faith that the path of Chi and learning the Way of the Tao was something that connected my mental and spiritual being with the very source of the Universe. Then while I was occupied with my studies some soldier came along and shot me with a bullet.

The soldier was only following orders. I did not hate him and I would forgive him because he knew no better. My Faith is still unshaken. The bullet thing was only a rock in the road, it doesn't prove much. Maybe I should duck next time:)

I also apologize that I cannot participate in Science as time doesn't allow me to, although I will most definately accept all the benefits it pours forth. Keep em coming.

Sometimes the question comes up about old Sages and the technics they use. Would they approve of technological improvements or new and different ways of doing things? The answer is: You Bet!

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 795

Joined: Apr 2002
Posts: 795

I am wary of rigorously eliminating all notions and activities that do not meet some criteria or other of being rational... which, despite your admissions concerning this or that questionable subject, is a point you repeatedly return to.

As a state or skill you are able to access at will, I think it's great. I loved the idea of mentats in Dune.

As a permanent state, I think that is a dangerously limiting approach. There is room in each life for a little madness, fantasy, and irrationality. I would go so far as to say that there has to be, because we're practically built for it. It's part of what makes us human. Not just romantically, but in actuality. And none of it necessitates violence. Such arguments are mirrored by arguments for eliminating passion from the human heart, because passion is the root of all violence. But that's fallacious. It's like hearing a woman singing on a rainy day and thinking that the raining causes the singing or the singing the raining. It's good for poetry, but bad for functioning in the world.

To use a clumsy over-generalization, we're not all left-brained. There's a whole other hemisphere there. I think you get my point.

What I am for is the development of the rational and critical capacities to a point where we know it a reliable personal resource. If someone understands your point of view yet chooses to diverge from it, then that is their choice and they will make it for their own reasons.

I do not see doing so as a step back. I honestly see it as a step forward--considering their powers of rationality are apt and that they can see the world (or any issue) rationally. I believe a completely rational human race ruled by verisimilitude to be a rather distorted, even frightening thing that may well be featured on a Twilight Zone episode.

This is not to say that I do not consider our rational capacities to be absolutely important. But their importance, to me, is part and parcel to them being in community with our other tendencies and modes of thought.

I'll give you an example from real life. Sometimes the best thing you can do is deny reality and be completely irrational.

If you get sick enough, or are involved in a horrible accident, you may be in a position where doctors will tell you and/or your loved ones that the game is up. That you should be written off. You're a goner. Your condition is irreparable, and you should just accept it.

Rationally, based on their informed opinions based on a life-time career of working with patients, they're telling you and your loved ones that you're screwed. They say that if you don't accept it, you're just hurting yourself and the ones you love, because they are going to have false hope and have that hope dashed... and do you really want to hurt the ones you love?

I can understand the point of view. I can understand the pessimism and cynicism that their careers can create in them, but sometimes these rational doctors are your worst enemy and the irrational person who choses to live in denial is your best friend.

Sometimes we are helpless, and we need someone in a corner who will fight for us, because we can't. At these times, having a friend or relative who is completely irrational and believes that you will recover is the greatest treasure in the world.

I know that this is a fact, because my parents had to do this for my brother, and if it weren't for them and their irrational beliefs and nagging at the doctors, a doctor may have lobotomized my brother while he was suffering from acute subdural hematoma.

They also wouldn't have fought for him each step of the way, when the doctors said he'd be a vegetable. Then they said he'd be bed ridden and massively retarded his whole life. Then that he wouldn't ever leave the wheel-chair.

He's not severely retarded. People who I tell I have a brain damaged brother are surprised when they talk to him, because he seems pretty normal to them. He walks with a cane.

So I know the power of being irrational. Sometimes it is appropriate.

I agree that other times it is a horrible thing. But the point is that it is something valuable and you've got to know how and when to use it.

Likewise, there are times when being rational is the worst thing you can do. Other times, it's the best.

The truth of the matter is, despite our best efforts, we do not know what the absolute truth is. Sometimes we think we are being realistic, but the highly unlikely, even the impossible (according to our current knowledge), may very well be possible. Sometimes we must err on the side of hope and fancy, because its all we have. It's either that or give up hope.

Sometimes giving up hope is the best option. I guess the trait I am appealing to here is wisdom, which is slightly different than rationality, although it can be said to be rational.

Last edited by babayada; 11/11/06 09:52 AM.
Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 257

Joined: Oct 2004
Posts: 257
Thanks for this Babayada,

It is a well balanced view and well put.

Whilst we appreciate what science has done for us we must also remember that much of what science has progressed has been because of the 'mystics'.
Artists, writers, musicians, poets have all presented us with their views and ideas which have often been light years ahead of science.

Leonardo Da Vinci (b1452) drew detailed plans of helicopters, aeroplanes,submarines and a host of other remarkable objects which have only been manifested by science and engineering in the last 100 years.

Aldous Huxley wrote his 'Brave New World' of test tube babies and clones in 1932 and guess what - science has followed but it has taken several decades
for them to catch up.

Then there is H G Wells and his stories of space and time travel - science is starting to get there.

I could go on and give a longer list but I think it is obvious that the visionaries
of this world have pointed humanity in directions which the people of their time thought were mad, foolish and ridiculous, much as Hartreefoch has labelled those of us who believe in the power of chi.

I make no apologies for my beliefs and maybe science will catch up sometime in the future.

Love and light

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

One of my perceptions of Science is a bunch of guys in lab coats slowly puttering around the american cancer society collecting $750,000 a year salary. What a great job of marketing. Now when I see money raising events for them I avoid them like the plague.

Gee - that's like saying "One of my perceptions of Mystics is a bunch of guys sitting lotus-style on flying carpets and selling $299 CD/DVD packages on how to achieve Nirvana by meditating. What a great job of marketing. Now, when I see enlightenment ads from them I avoid them like the plague."

One stereotype deserves another.

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

I really don't blame the administrator of the Feng Shui Forum for pulling your comments. They offered nothing constructive or even a better scientific way of doing things. Just, everything here is a bunch of Hokum, kind of attitude.

Actually, I disagree. We were making real progress in our discussion, and the only reason people were being offended was because I kept having to correct them for making incorrect statements. And then posters started to irrationally call me things like "energy vampire." And one poster started making a list of all my (rational) statements from other posts, and making it her mission to discredit me. It brought out the worst in some posters, but I always tried to be polite and considerate. I dunno ... truth is a spotlight, and some people can't stand being in the light.

Faune #56566 11/11/06 10:13 PM
Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

Joined: Oct 2001
Posts: 327

I could go on and give a longer list but I think it is obvious that the visionaries
of this world have pointed humanity in directions which the people of their time thought were mad, foolish and ridiculous, much as Hartreefoch has labelled those of us who believe in the power of chi.

There's also a much longer list of ideas which should remain permanently in the trash heap, but which clever marketers keep resurrecting because they appeal to human vanity, but do nothing to truly better our state of being. Keep following the path you are on, and you will come to this realization sooner or later.

If you've read my prior postings in other threads here, you'll know that I am myself an artist, musician, creative-writer, dreamer, and practitioner of meditation and Qi. Somehow you've stereotyped me as others have in this forum . That's ok. I'm not here to make any friends, just to follow my conscience in pointing out certain things which people like to forget, but things they would be wise to keep in mind.

Yes, there is power in Qi, but not THAT much power.

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