Dr. Donald DeGracia, NIH Medical Scientist Talks Yoga and Consciousness |388|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Sep 4, 2018.

  1. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Thanks for this, Don. Oh, and before I forget, let me echo dpdownsouth's appreciation of your generosity in making your books available online for free. I've downloaded them all, as well as Leeuw's book, and hope to plough through them in the near future. At the moment, I'm only at the beginning of The Yogic View Of Consciousness and have dipped into van der Leeuw's book, The Conquest Of Illusion. I'm new to this stuff: I've been very much taken by Bernardo Kastrup's version of Idealism over the past few years. Your work -- at first glance anyway -- seems somewhat different and I don't know what to make of it yet, though I am reading it with an open mind.

    I suppose we fear the loss of individuality because this side of the bindu, it's all we've ever known and it's very difficult to think in different terms. But thinking about it now, on the other side of the bindu, I suppose in a sense we could actually become God or Brahman; we don't really have anything to lose unless it be the sense of being one amongst many, or a part of that multiplicity that is the overriding impression on this side.

    It seems reasonable to assume that most of us don't get to the other side in our (apparent) lives. So then there's the question of whether or not we reincarnate and continue to do so until we do. And what about when we all do? Then one assumes that we are all God/Brahman, and -- what then? Does it all start over again, or what? I can't help getting over the feeling that there's some kind of purpose to it all, but maybe that's all part of the condition of being an apparent sentient entity on this side of the bindu. Maybe there's no purpose, just the fact of being?

    I don't know, I'll have to think more about it and maybe something will crystallise out for me...
     
  2. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I believe your work is related to AI, is that correct?

    I think it would be great to have a thread on AI, because it seems to be predicated on the theory that the brain simply must operate analogously to a computer - which is at the very heart of materialism. I feel that the question about whether self-driving cars are or are not feasible is going to come to a head really soon - and I know what I think will happen, though there may be a certain amount of fudge involved.

    For example, as I understand it, the plan originally was to sell cars with auto-assist, so that it would drive until it got 'worried' whereupon it would ask a human for help. The problem with this is:

    a) Who wants a self-drive car that needs you to be alert at any moment to take over if things get difficult.

    b) People can't concentrate in a passive role like that, and simply fall asleep or daydream.

    c) Taking over when things are already going wrong is nearly impossible. When we learn to drive, the instructor is communicating with the learner about the road hazards, he isn't just jumping in cold to fix something.

    There are also suggestions that self-drives would only operate on motorways (freeways) - maybe equipped with some extra electronic signals. It is obviously much easier to drive down a motorway, but the real point is that complicated situations still happen though less often, but when they do, they are far more dangerous.

    So maybe after umpteen billions have been wasted on this project, it will fail. I wonder if that will give a boost to alternative ideas of consciousness.

    Hardly anyone seems to mention that AI became a super-hot topic in the 1980's, but then fizzled spectacularly. Has there been enough progress since then to expect a different outcome this time?

    Another important question is how to define AI. It seems to me that one definition might be the ability to tackle open-ended problems.

    David
     
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  3. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Don,

    I am a bit concerned about the question as to whether the evidence that we have does support the Yogic idea of the bindu, and a merging of consciousness into the source after death.

    I mean, we seem to have a lot of NDE evidence suggesting that people close to death have meaningful discussions with their loved ones, and people report death bed visions in which they are beckoned by a loved one into the afterlife.

    We also have some very good evidence that some mediums do exactly what they claim.

    Finally, we have Stevenson's evidence that reincarnation happens.

    None of these phenomena seem to be really comfortably consistent with Yogic ideas, even though they can probably be bent into shape in some way or other.

    I was impressed over time by Alex's sceptical guests, in that they could duck and weave to hold to their materialistic positions. Take for example, Dr. G.M. Woerlee, who seemed to consider there was nothing interesting in NDE's!

    This made me realise that it was awfully important to respect what evidence we have, and not to twist it out of recognition.

    David
     
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  4. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    My understanding after hastily looking through some of Don's material from his website, etc, is that the merging doesn't necessarily happen after death. I think that passing through the last bindu and merging with the absolute is a special thing that happens through the yoga practices.

    I believe in the further chapters of his Yogic View of Consciousness book, he mentions there are several bindus, and, I presume, several levels between our familiar, day-to-day experience of the phenomenal world and the absolute. So, presumably, dead folk may be hanging out in some of those other levels. And he does mention reincarnation, though I don't think he dwells on it much. I haven't looked through his material very thoroughly, and I'm not remembering everything exactly right, so take my comments here with a shaker of salt.
     
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  5. dpdownsouth

    dpdownsouth Member

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    This is a wonderful thought.
    Ditto.
    Yeah, I know. But this is exactly the idea I'm railing against (or trying to). Not because I find it particularly unsettling or anything.... but I'm convinced that just because something is parsimonious and conceptually very tight..... doesn't mean it's necessarily true! :) I must look into the Bindus, thanks for the tip-off.
    Me too. For one thing, I'm constantly amazed at the cosmos's penchant for holism and its drive (attraction) towards novelty, complexity, coherence, and transcendence (wholes transcend the sum of their parts, sometimes creatively). This is present absolutely everywhere we look and, to me, feels more like a purposeful process than an endless cycling between two poles. Still, the process may be, in some way, the point.... but drives do suggest a goal.
    This reminds me a bit of Rick Strassman and his famous DMT study. Rick was a Zen dude. So was expecting the DMT experience to lead to a unitary consciousness / bliss / void state of some sort. To his great surprise, this is not what was happened. What happened was a world populated by 'entities' that didn't fit the standard Zen (or hallucination) model. This gave him much to ponder re: his spiritual practice and led to tension between himself and his Zen community. Strassman eventually ditched the Zen and got back to his Jewish roots. He felt it a better fit for understanding the DMT revelations.

    His spiritual philosophy hit a wall of DMT experience.

    Here's a vid. of Strassman outlining his religious model of psychedelic experience and extended consciousness realms.......



    Not that I'm suggesting the good Dr. DeGracia is going to hit a wall with his philosophy! The counterpoints just rhymed with Strassman's story.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
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  6. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    I will try to check more thoroughly through DeGracia's material, but I think he does in some ways address these issues.

    I know in some of my experiences with some Western version of Eastern practice, I was taught that in some Eastern traditions the Siddhis (psychic powers, psi experiences, etc) were considered to be distractions. It was acknowledged that they do happen, but that they are not ultimately worth pursuing or getting caught up in. I believe that in some traditions, they can be seen as siren songs. Very wonderful in some respects, but not ultimately "nourishing" in the long run.

    I wouldn't commit to either at this point, because I don't know enough about anything, and I haven't had powerful enough experiences . . . but I have been enjoying taking some of the ideas that came out this episode for a "test drive."

    Edit: I edited to clarify what specific ideas I was responding to, and to fix a typo in my own part.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
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  7. Wormwood

    Wormwood Member

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    Nice post, but it doesn’t take into consideration what I would think to be the strongest evidence against this idea, which the reincarnation evidence. Unless, of course, the contention is that this “merger” occurs (potentially) after a number of lifetimes or incarnations or spiritual experiences etc.
     
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  8. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Idries Shah (who wrote many books on Sufism) was very much of this opinion. He reckoned that attraction to psychic powers was the cause of many a truth seeker's failing to achieve enlightenment. He also thought such powers could only be used really effectively after enlightenment -- not that by any means all enlightened people are gifted with them. I've had a few spiritual experiences, but can't say for sure I've ever had a psychic experience. It seems to me that they aren't necessary and it's wise not to go chasing after them. At best they're probably a distraction, and at worst probably an active hindrance.
     
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  9. Michael Patterson

    Michael Patterson New

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    This is such an important matter. As humans we are drawn to belonging, and we are deeply happy when we are immersed in some kind of community. But we also cherish the notion of individuality - which essentially refers to separation, and that is unfortunate, because what it really relates to is distinction or particularisation.

    Being in human physical form also creates the illusion of separation. It is obvious that on a physical level I am very separate from my neighbour. But when we factor in the psychological, cultural and spiritual dimensions the physical element is neither the absolute nor determining factor.

    Enter politics and commercial interests where that illusion of separation is handy. Its the old 'divide and conquer' rule at play. It may be that the illusion of the separate self is the cause of suffering in the Buddhist sense. But it is the cause of profit and power also.

    The Absolute exists beyond time and space. It is not about obliterating what has happened in time and space.The roots of our evolution belong to us as essential attributes' and what we loose is not them, but the illusions of separation. That which is, is and cannot be diminished.

    Some argue that reincarnation is not serial or sequential one after the other lives, but a chain of lives expressing a totality of being. Here is the paradox - that union with the absolute has already happened (in that realm of beyond time and space). That to which we aspire is done, and yet we cannot but aspire to it, so that it can be done. If you imagine the chain of being as a string of pearls of infinite length, and each pearl represents a 'life', the only thing that 'moves' is the locus of awareness.

    Our sense of self is absolutely conditioned by a number of factors, including the fact of biological being, which requires a form of consciousness that is particular to being a biological agent in a physical world. When we cease to inhabit a biological body we do not need that form of consciousness any more and it will cease to function or be of use. In so far as our sense of self in bound up in identification with that biological being, it will be 'lost' to our locus of awareness. But this is normal. If you are a football player you do not want to behave the same on and off the field.

    There is a huge difference between the loss of self as an intrinsic sense of being, the loss of self as an illusion of separation, and the loss of self as a form of circumstantial identity. The sense of loss of individuality we fear is grounded in the illusion of separation and of circumstantial identity, and it is natural and proper to fear that loss. But that is not the ground of our being, and were we to be in touch with that there would be no fear - because there is no loss.

    This kind of stuff is difficult and head hurting. It is our nature to apply linear notions to a non-linear state. I know I was confused for over 30 years. All I can say is that you get over it and beyond it, eventually. Just let go - but that's harder than it sounds.
     
  10. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    To me, the strongest argument against this idea has to do with the beginnings of consciousness--it shifts the mystery from what is the origin of the universe to what is the origin of consciousness.

    And also, if the universe is only in the mind, what was the status of the manifest universe before there were human minds?


    Thanks for mentioning that, Michael. I think it speaks to one of the main challenges of making sense of the varieties of mystical experiences. As much as folks like to talk about the perennial philosophy, there are a lot of teachings and experiences that contradict each other. I came across a book recently that was highly critical of the idea of the perennial philosophy, I will have to try to find that again.

    I think it would be useful for somebody (I will do it if I can make the time) to copy/paste a brief snip from DeGracia/Leeuw on the levels of consciousness that "exist" between our "normal" consiousness and the absolute. I believe they leave a lot of room for reincarnation, psychic, psi, NDE, etc.
     
  11. Dan_LastName

    Dan_LastName Member

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    I was thinking about this DeGracia material.

    I'm most comfortable coming away with the idea that consciousness is real and the manifest world is real in a different way. Folks who believe that the difference between the two is very minor would be closer to materialist/physicalists. Folks who believe the difference is major would be closer to idealists. I like sliding scales. ;)
     
  12. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Actually I did mention reincarnation!

    David
     
  13. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi dpdownsouth

    Actually, I address DMT in the book, as well as salvia and LSD. I found someone's description of an extreme DMT/LSD experience that fit perfectly with the yogic model of the bindu. Even to the point of using the word "black hole" to describe being pulled through the bindu. Pretty amazing actually.

    In fact, understanding the nature of the psychedelic experiences is one of the motivations for exploring the yogic view of consciousness. In my opinion, it provides the most comprehensive framework to account for these kinds of experiences. And please don't forget, it's not my philosophy, it's my interpretation of Yogic teachings.

    Best wishes,

    Don
     
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  14. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi Dan

    Yes, that is my understanding as well...that these experiences are "distractions" and that is exactly what I explain in Yogic View. I very much compare psychedelic experiences to shiddhis. Not only are they "spiritual junk food" as you allude to, but I tend to use the word "delusion" in their connection, and believe I said so even in the interview. If our physical life is maya, then the inner experiences are maya to the nth degree.

    So yes, seems we are reading similar material.

    Best wishes!

    Don
     
  15. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi Wormwood

    You have to better understand the idea. It offers an explanation of how we get to the "after death" state, so it is perfectly consistent with ideas of reincarnation. Don't forget, yoga comes from Hindu thought, which is also where reincarnation comes from, so it only makes sense they would be consistent with each other.

    Best wishes,

    Don
     
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  16. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    All I can say to what you wrote above is: yes. -Don
     
  17. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi Michael

    The whole issue I quoted above is captured in the yogic teachings about the kleshas. That is, the kleshas explain where apparent individuality comes from.

    I try to explore it in the book by stressing that in this life, our nature is 100% relative. Which is to say, we are not individuals, but elements in an ever changing network of relative relationships. It is an illusion to believe that we are separate from everything else in any sense at all. We rely upon the entire rest of existence to define our apparent individuality. We need to eat things that are not us. The world we perceive with our senses comes from what seems to be not us. It is a matter of degree. From the vantage of the Absolute, there is only one undivided wholeness and unity of Being. Going from the deepest layers to this, the most outer layer of manifestation, there is a veiling of the unity, but not an elimination of it. The unity becomes hidden in a shadow, metaphorically speaking. This shadow hiding the unity is avidya.. the lack of seeing (i.e. viddie this viddie that from Clockwork Orange, Ver..."to see" in Spanish... the origin of "video" in English....).

    It is very deep as you allude, our need to belong, that is. I discuss it in Yogic View. I talk about it in terms of the Rhythm of Creation, of how the Absolute always seeks to draw us back into that state. It is the basis of all relationships. It is, in fact, inescapable. We can only be more or less conscious of it as the main factor in our existence. The need to belong to anything, at any level, is an expression of the Absolute pulling us back into it.

    Our deep sense of individuality also has the same root and is the mirror image of the need to belong to something. This is what we were discussing about about the Solipsism of the Absolute. The "I", the "me", IS the Absolute. IT is the only true individuality. It is the eternal "I". And IT is the source of our Being. As such, we partake of its individuality. But this individuality is part of our spirituality. It is not our personality, not our biology, not our social position. All of these are shadows cast over the true individuality of Being of which each thing is a facet.

    So, our need to belong to a collective and our need to be an individual are grounded in the same fact: that we, and all of Manifestation, is an emanation of the Absolute.

    Best wishes, Michael.

    Don
     
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  18. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi Michael

    Thanks for getting all the books! I hope you keep your sanity after reading all of them! LOL! (seriously, just joking!!). I addressed the issue of group vs. individual above so won't repeat here. But I will add that yes, reincarnation continues until we recognize what is going on, and even continues for a while after we recognize what is going on. And by what is going on, I mean truly understanding how we are manifestations of the Rhythm of Creation, as van der Leeuw calls it. Reincarnation continues until all the samskaras we've generated are used up. Samskaras are, for lack of a better term, spiritual momentum. They are our desires, both conscious and unconscious, that keep us moving, that keep us producing gunas, vibrations. And, as every action has its opposite reaction, things keep going until the source of the movements is ended. This is why yoga is the silencing of the mind. Chitta vritti nirodha. Super important concept! Super important!

    Best wishes,

    Don
     
  19. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Hi David

    I agree with the sentiment you express. There was been one technical development in AI called "deep networks". These are multilayered neural nets and are used for all kinds of things nowadays, like data mining, photo classification, and even underlie how the Jeopardy-playing computer Watson work. But the deep nets are not a fundamental new idea, they are just a quantitatively greater form of what was there before.

    In some ways the brain is analogous to computers, but computers will never be able to do what the brain does, which is serve as a conduit for consciousness to express itself in the physical world.

    You are overall completely correct to recognize the hype that surrounds AI. There will never be "artificial consciousness". People that talk about that idea are ignorant. But what there are is patterns, patterns of energy, and when it comes to interacting with and manipulating patterns of energy, that is what our technology is all about. That is one of the functions of our brain, it is what our bodies do. It is what the planets and stars do. So there will always be analogies between our technology and brains. But in the final analysis it will always be just hype and overinflated promises until our culture recognizes the nonphysical aspects of Manifestation.

    Best wishes,

    Don
     
  20. Don DeGracia

    Don DeGracia New

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    Consciousness has no beginning. Time is a product of our minds. But consciousness transcends our minds. Time is the illusion. Eternity has no beginning or end. I perhaps sound like an idiot saying these things. I suggest you read van der Leeuw's book. I am only trying to convey ideas I learned from him and he says it all way better than I do.
     
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