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Open Thread: July 2010

An example of what I consider strong evidence: a person who had their brain imaged by an fMRI while performing some set of relatively simple mental tasks both before and after experiencing a PCE had radically different results.

It is indeed a strong neurological evidence. It is a pity that Richard have denied all requests to take a brain scan for reasons pertaining to personal preference (he was more interested in the experiential/practical inclinations to be happy/harmless). Recent actually free people may have different preferences (Trent - a member of DhO that is actually free - is on record saying that he would be willing to undergo such tests if he is fully told what it is about, and if he appraises it to be safe).

A neurological study still will not give a full picture of a PCE. The scientists have not been able to locate the identity/self anywhere in the brain, let alone detect its absence. Nor do I have any ideas as to the way measuring/detecting the subjective experience of sensuous delight (that is the quality of a PCE). As far as I can tell, the only sort of things to be gleaned from a brain scan is the (significant) presence/absence of feelings/emotions, the sort of things that Richard writes about when he reports his ongoing experience: no wide-eyed staring, no increase in heart-beat, no rapid breathing, no adrenaline-tensed muscle tone, no sweaty palms, no blood draining from the face, no dry mouth, no cortisol-induced heightened awareness.

And if you can't provide such evidence, well, alas.

Ok. I have no doubt that empirical evidence can dispel the last intellectual excuse to take something new to human experience seriously (which is why I have come to favor the idea of taking a brain scan); however, so far at least, actualists' primary motivation seems to be either the (memory of a) PCE or a curiosity to experiment with a method to have just more fun in life.

I have made an effort to read the material there in hopes of better comprehending your claims, but the process is too painful for me to get very far, and this is part of the reason why I'm not taking you seriously.

There have been several complains about not only the website, but also the way of its presentation (Richard's prose-style have lead many to see himself as egoist/prick, for instance). I too have made a rather hasty/brief initial post here, which perhaps added to all sorts of incorrect impressions (religious, cultic). What you said about the website - along with the incorrect impressions from even the freethinkers - further confirms my view that the way the content is presented (along with the inaccessibility of layout) in the AF website is not the ideal. I first took note of this when reading Daniel Ingram's notes on PCE, which is simple and straight to the point. (Of course, I have nothing to criticize against much of the content of what is said in the AF website).

To be clear, I am referring to the website's poorly-designed navigation

Harmanjit once wrote a consolidation of essential content from the AF website here which is perhaps useful for an introduction.

Open Thread: July 2010

Wow... a cult formed

Ha, and where is the evidence for that? Is it too much to ask for evidence in a forum pertaining to human rationality?

[...] to actively seek neurological dysfunction.

Sorry, there seems to be a misunderstanding. I should have perhaps written clearly; psychiatry being a field dealing with dysfunctional peoples (i.e., dysfunctional identities involved with feelings) the psychiatrist who diagnosed Richard of course had to label (without choice) his sensuous / non-affective ongoing mode of experience in psychiatric terms (whose normal meaning pertaining to identities-with-feelings do not apply to a person with no identity/feelngs).

Open Thread: July 2010

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

I located this page http://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Affective_death_spiral This process creates theories that are believed for their own sake and organizations that exist solely to perpetuate themselves, especially when combined with the social dynamics of groupthink.

It is worth pointing out that an Actual Freedom is not a "theory" let alone something to bolster one's "beliefs" upon (and let alone forming an identity around it). Richard is the first actually free person; and others who have personally seen him verified (to an extent possible) the absence of affective reactions (followed by carefree interactions, for instance). Richard himself was once diagnosed by a psychiatrist who reported the following conditions (abeit in psychiatric terms):

  1. ‘depersonalisation’ (selflessness ... the absence of an entity that is called ego and Soul or self and Self).
  2. ‘alexithymia’ (the absence of the affective faculty ... no emotions, passions or calentures whatsoever).
  3. ‘derealisation’ (the condition of having lost one’s grip on reality ... the ‘real world’ is nowhere to be found).
  4. ‘anhedonia’ (the inability to affectively feel pleasure ... no hormonal secretions means hedonism is not possible).

And several other actually free people too have reported similar experiences (total absence of the affective faculty), confirmed by their friends, relatives and daily experiences.

Above all, everyone who experienced a PCE was able to verify it for themselves.

It is indeed possible that Richard and others are deluded, but with the increasing number of people getting actually free, and the increasing ease of living/interactions one can find meanwhile (till the first PCE), it is hard to see how this is a delusion.

That said, personal experiences (such as an Actual Freedom) can ultimately only be verified by one's own conscious experience, which is an ongoing gaiety/ease in everyday life and interactions marked by lesser and lesser affective biases.

Open Thread: July 2010

You came here to convince people to adopt Actualism (it seems). So, actually convince me.

You're way off the mark. I am not intending to convince/convert anyone to Actualism; there is no group/belief-system/cult here (outside the human imagination, anyways).

I'm posting about Actualism here in LW (which presumably was never mentioned before) simply in the spirit of sharing information and possibly engaging in mutually-interesting discussion with other fellow freethinkers.

Why should I pay more attention to you and your alleged non-cult than I do to someone else's alleged non-cult?

As it is your life you are living with - and I am only posting here in the spirit of sharing - then what you do with it is completely up to you.

Arguments based on the teachings of your alleged non-cult are worthlessly circular, because you're trying to convince me that such claims should have worth in the first place.

I can't help but think that this is getting as absurd as a 19th century person responding to Darwin's claims on evolution as follows: *Arguments based on the teachings of your alleged non-cult cult are worthlessly circular, because you're trying to convince me that such claims should have worth in the first place"

But all is not lost; how do you reconcile your probabilistic non-factual belief on cultic nature of an organization that does not actually exist with what I wrote above (which is copy-pasted below for your convenience)?

Here's a hint: the fact that the AF method is primarily about investigation of one's own feelings/beliefs and how they cause malice/sorrow in oneself and others should automatically imply that phenomena such as groupthink, affective death spiral, dogmatic identification, belonging-to-a-group and so on are completely unproductive to its very thesis/goal.

Open Thread: July 2010

I make no claims about whether or not your group is actually a cult, only that I believe it to be very likely.

Ok. Again my response is similar: if a fellow being being is to discover a remarkable way of living completely rid of sorrow/malice, and promulgates his discovery for the benefit of others (much like the sharing of a technological invention, for instance) ... and if someone is to call the discoverer, his discovery and a few of those experimenting with his method as a cultic organization, then the burden of proof lies on the shoulder of this someone, does it not?

Here's a hint: the fact that the AF method is primarily about investigation of one's own feelings/beliefs and how they cause malice/sorrow in oneself and others should automatically imply that phenomena such as groupthink, affective death spiral, dogmatic identification, belonging-to-a-group and so on are completely unproductive to its very thesis/goal.

If this is not helpful, perhaps you could glean further details from the Frequently Flogged Misconception page.

Open Thread: July 2010

Having woken up to reality itself, as [Richard] sees it, he starts a website or two, and after more than a decade, he has gathered a very small nucleus of people who also find meaning in the particular theory and practice which he espouses.

Two things:

  • The reality that you speak of is referred to as actuality (the sensory experience, minus the affect) in the AF lingo; where the word 'reality' is used to refer to the affective inner reality (the emotive cloud surrounding the actual sensations).

  • The 'meaning' that you speak is found only in a PCE or other lesser forms of experiences (feeling good/carefree/etc). There is no meaning in "theory" (AF is not a theory; it is a repeatable/verifyable condition). And the only meaning of the "method" is to facilitate more and more felicitous experiences leading to PCEs.

Ingram wrote with a clarity and confidence suggesting that he really knew what he was talking about

Indeed he did. I too was (intellectually) aware of the spiritual experience that he was referring to, which is in a word called "acceptance" of things as they are.

But when I see his posts now on Dharma Overground, he sounds very confused.

"very confused", eh? How on earth can what he wrote so clearly, especially the following extract, sound like an expression of high confusion?

[Daniel] One of the interesting things about arahatship is that is conveys this fantastic clarity about that particular form of unclarity, once one has a proper contrast between it and the PCE, and having gone back and forth probably 100 times in the last 4 months between the two, I think I get the two pretty well at this point, though there may yet be surprises and fine points, and I suspect there are.

Well, I would say that [the possibility of completely eradicating the root of all misery/mayhem of the world] is completely (100%) bullshit - as are your references to "24x7 sensuous delight". You do not achieve that just by getting rid of "malice and sorrow" -

The word malice and sorrow refers to the feelings, and not unfortunate life situations (such as losing a large portion of one's financial wealth).

The 'sensual delight' I speak of is an inherent quality of PCE - sensuous experience bereft of identity/feelings.

[...] unless we are using the word "delight" in some innovative sense that would include, say, having your face torn off by a chimpanzee, to name just one disgusting example that I ran across recently of what can happen to a person in this world.

Physical pain is not extirpated in an actual freedom; for otherwise one could sit on a hot stove and still not know that one's bum is on fire. What is extirpated is the affective reaction to this physical pain.

Richard, and other actually free people, have spoken of this delight being uninterrupted even in the presence of physical pain.

AF [is] nothing more than a sort of post-anti-metaphysical rational-emotive therapy.

Yet Rational emotive bevariour theraphy does not eliminate the feelings and identity. Further to the point, here is a gem about REBT from Wikipedia: Much of what we call emotion is nothing more nor less than a certain kind — a biased, prejudiced, or strongly evaluative kind — of thought. - which perhaps explains why it doesn't go that deeper. (Mr LeDoux's studies shows clearly the feelings come prior to thought; evidenced from the fast neural connections to the amygdala, compared to those to the neo-cortex)

The other critical observation I would want to make is that the idea of getting rid of negative feelings and having only positive feelings I think is, again, bullshit.

I have no idea as to where you got this information from. What the AF method suggests is to increase the moments of felitious feelings, and minimize the 'good' (trusting/loving) and 'bad' (hateful/fearful) feelings ... so as to facilitate a PCE to arise (only in a PCE there are no feelings/identity). Until then - and like Daniel too suggests - the idea is to imitate it in one's affective sphere.

[...] That sort of rational hedonism might even be combined with some of the LW methods.

Being there no feelings to begin with, the condition of PCE has got nothing to do with hedonism at all.

But please don't kid us or yourself that something like AF is the key to frickin' world utopia.

No, not at all. I know perfectly well that I am the only person I can change. Global peace and harmoney (what you call as 'world utopia') is of course only possible when each and every one of us uproots the cause of sorrow/malice (i.e., a sufficient number of people get actually free as to stir the motivation in others)

Well, if everyone adopted Nazism the world would be a lot happier, too.

It is beyond me as to what relation you see between the condition of living without sorrow/malice and nazism.

Open Thread: July 2010

Calling something "Non-spiritual" doesn't make it not a religion.

And calling something 'religious' makes it so? You said "the LWer concludes that this message amounts to religious spam or close to that." And I responded with a question "what is the factual basis for such a conclusion?". Don't you think it would be a much more fruitful discussion if we sticked to the facts instead of intuitions/impressions/guesses/probabilities?

Human cognitive biases and other issues make it almost impossible for humans to judge anything about our own cognitive structures.

Yet what I originally claimed is a rather simple and obvious fact, based on common sense and experience, about bucketing our experience into sensations, thoughts and feelings, and not "judging about our cognitive structures". There really is nothing to our experience outside sensations, thoughts and feelings.

And to claim that t there are no experiments needed is to essentially adopt an anti-scientific viewpoint.

Indeed there can be no experiments to verify the nature of subjective experience. Experiments can only arrive at the physical correlates (such as nerve pathways), but never at the subjective content itself. In the level of brain, it all comes down to neurons; yet, when we say "I sense ..." or "I think ..." or "I feel ..." we are distinctly referring to sensations, thoughts and feelings.

As to the difference between "enlightenment" and "actual freedom" I don't see one.

The very passage you are responding to contains this: "not enlightement (where feelings are still in existent)" implying that in an actual freedom, feelings are non-existent. It is beyond me how you failed to see that.

Open Thread: July 2010

Hi - I will respond briefly to the various points you raised further below, but first:

What is the value of such a person - to the world, to the readers of this website?

It seems that my post was not written carefully, and led some to mistake it for religious spam. I've been visiting LW for a while, and practicing actualism (AF) for more than year. The value of the AF method (not person) personally to me is increased well-being / light-heartedness / carefreeness without having to believe in a God or some other metaphysical concept. I have virtually no belief system; Actualism is an -ism like tour-ism, not the -ism in philosophy. That said, the value to the reader of this forum focused on human rationality is of course a challenge (food for thought) to our widely held perception about feelings/emotions (eg: life without feelings is barren and sterile) and, even more, their relationship to all the sorrow and malice which forms the basis for many scientific endeavours; studies related to stress, for instance.

It is quite simple: in a PCE, one's sense of identity and feelings temporarily vanish, leaving only sensations and thoughts, thereby paving wave for a magical sensuosity that is engendered by everyday events.

Now onto your specific points:

one may reasonably question the judgment of "Richard" when he says that he thinks he is the first in history to achieve his particular flavor of liberation. This really is a mark against his wisdom. He would be far more plausible if he was saying, what I have was probably achieved by some of the many figures who came before me

The reason he doesn't say "what I have was probably achieved by others before me" is simply that his experience is different. If you go through his personal history article, he writes about his several-month reading of all peoples experiences before arriving at the conclusion that his experience is unique. And for the rest of us, it shouldn't be difficult to understand as in an Actual Freedom - feelings are non-existent (everyone who've had a PCE confirms this), whereas in any form of spiritual Enlightenment known to us, feelings not only continue to exist but often transmorgify into the divine feelings of Love/Compassion. In the CRO, you will find several discussion related to this titled "Actualism is not new" and "The actualism method is not unique".

I will start by comparing him to U.G. Krishnamurti. [...] Richard seems to say that many of the forms of higher truth or deeper reality that have been associated with spirituality are phantoms

Yes, phantom as in "something apparently sensed but having no physical reality". Precisely, what he is saying is that - the states of mind experienced by Enlightened people are fuelled by instinctual passions / feelings, and as such have no basis on the actual/physical world. Even though hormonal/chemical substances are actual, the feelings they give rise to are considered to be non-actual (emergent phenomena would be another way to put it, but with the added factor of 'imagination' to it).

Richard does say that achieving his particular state of purged consciousness is a universalizable formula for almost perpetual peace of mind.

Purged of the identity and feelings. In other words, a Pure Consciousness Experience. Those who have not had a PCE, can think it of as a sensuous delight.

As for 'universalizable formuala', the method promulgated by Richard and other actually free people is indeed repeatable (verifyable on one's own) and thus satisfies the scientific method.

You say "Richard gets a minus for overrating the value of his product". If a PCE results in 24x7 sensuous delight marked by no sorrow/malice (as feelings no longer arise), how could it be anything but enabling perpetual (until the death of the body) peace of mind?

Richard has admirers rather than skeptics around him - no-one who is going to tell him anything different.

Have you read the CRO page? If so, you wouldn't be making this remark. There were (and still are) far too many objections during the time he promulgated his method (10 years).

Is [what Richard says] anything greater than you would get from, say, flipping through a compilation of remarks by the Dalai Lama

As already mentioned, spiritual attainments ends in a delusion (Love/Compassion) and never uproots the root of sorrow/malice itself. Attained Zen Buddhist, for instance, are known to get sorrowful -- spirituality transcends suffering (in a metaphysical realm, perhaps), but never eliminates it.

What Richard is saying is that one can completely (100%) eradicate the root the all misery/mayhem of the world.

Does the private happiness of that person (Richard) stem from factors like [...]

If I may interject - Richard's happiness does not stem from the factors you mention below. It is a 24x7 sensuous delight (marked by no affective feelings) not dependent on any life situation.

(i) they're old and have given up on many of the things that both please and torment a younger person, like sexuality, and

Richard, and other actually free people, have not given up on the various physical pleasures/comforts of life. You may want to read his journal entry on sex.

[...] (ii) they have some special material and social arrangement (like living on a commune with a few devoted friends and admirers who handle many of the practicalities of daily life and liaising with the outside world) which is not readily imitated by the suffering masses!

Until recently Richard was living alone. He have had companions; mingles with people ... does things that normal human beings do.

If you're interested, may I suggest two articles: 180 Degress Opposite briefly mentions the various differences from spirituality, and Attentiveness and Sensuousnesds and Appercetiveness describes the quality of the condition of PCE/AF.

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