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There is value in the techniques taught and there are also serious concerns about the methodology, marketing, and psychological safety of the course. It's messy to talk about because it's simultaneously problematic and can be helpful so participants tend to come out on a particular side. I'd encourage anyone considering purchasing/supporting the course to read this review from an ex-participant or DIY the course with the techniques here.

TLDR of the review

While Finders Course advertises itself as a scientific research protocol on awakening/enlightenment, it's more close to a wellness product sold by an online business (Willow Inc.).

It is a get-enlightened-quick scheme, that uses an appearance of science as a marketing tool, sells dubious forms of new-age spirituality (i.e. law of attraction, synchronicities), and adopt psychological conditioning in many forms to 1) attract customers 2) sell them an expensive product 3) convince them they reached some sort of spiritual awakening.

Many people come out of the course believing they have achieved some type of awakening, and while we can't deny that possibility, the main secret ingredient of Finders Course seems to be encouraging self-delusion. Most importantly, and as I'd try to demonstrate in the rest of the review, there seems to be a deliberate intent behind Finders Course to deceive people.

All FC alumni I interacted with seem to be honest believers, that end up even volunteering their free time to support the organization, unaware that they are supporting a scam. To them I extend my compassion.

Kaj, are you familiar with the idea of a plurality of enlightenments? Both in the sense of a difference in degree (à la the Theravadan 4 path model) and a difference in kind (à la Jack Kornfield's Enlightenments). Wondering what your take on it is and how this series is going to navigate that. I suspect this is one reason I've noticed meditation practitioners trending toward the term awakening rather than enlightenment.

Thanks for this podcast! I'm one of those people that primarily consume audio. Wanted to offer some encouragement, production quality definitely surpassed my expectations. Pleasure to listen to.

I'm not advocating trying for kenshō. You can't try for it in any useful way. That's not how it works. I honestly don't care whether I persuade anyone of its value, because it does not matter whether you try for it. Or rather, if it does matter, it does so by making you obsessed in a way that can actually block the seeing. So, there isn't really any good benefit to fighting with your analysis to try to persuade you of its value.

I understand where you are coming from. Efforting blocks realisation and kenshō doesn’t come from discursive thought - those are common traps. This is good advice for the experienced meditation practitioner. The practitioner that has already seen the benefit practice brings and has the momentum built up to carry them through difficult periods. Further effort and analysis blocks progress after a point.

The typical lesswronger is a beginner and needs the exact opposite advice. Kenshō needs to be advocated for because they need a reason to practice instead of doing something else. And they need to know that trying for it is useful so that they can establish the right discipline and mental habits.

Is it easy for you to sketch what the map you're referring to is?

Not OP, but I can describe the map he’s referring too. Jeffery Martin interviewed 1,200 enlightened individuals and found that while their reported experience was different, their descriptions of their new phenomenological experience fell into similar clusters or ‘locations’. There’s around 20-40 locations in all (he is vague about exactly how many there are) but Jeffery only talks about the first 4 because that’s where the vast majority of people spend their time and he believes talking about the later locations is dangerous. The project is a little sketchy but there's no one else doing what he's doing. People have noticed a resemblance between the locations and the Theravadan 4 path model but locations are typically temporary ‘states’ whereas paths are irreversable shifts.

The quick summary of the distinctive characteristics of each location are,

Location 1

  • Expansion of sense of self, connection to divine
  • Much less affected by ‘self’ thoughts
  • Distance from but still have positive and negative emotions
  • Deep peace but can be suppressed by triggered conditioning
  • Effects from perceptual triggers fall off quickly
  • Deep peace and beingness feels more real than anything previous
  • Trust in ‘how things are’
  • Personal history less relevant, memories less

Location 2

  • ‘Self’ thoughts continue to fade
  • Peace increasingly harder to suppress/conditioning fades
  • Shift towards increasingly positive emotions, until only very positive emotions remain
  • Intermediate levels of perceptual triggers increasingly fade
  • More likely to feel that there is a correct decision or path to take when presented with choices
  • Higher well-being than location one

Location 3

  • Only single positive emotion remains
  • Feels like a combination of universal compassion, love, joy, …
  • Higher well-being than location 2

Location 4

  • No sense of agency
  • No emotions
  • No ‘self’ thoughts
  • Perceptual triggers at their bare minimum
  • No sense of divine or universal consciousness
  • Life was simply unfolding and they were watching the process happen
  • Memory deficits/scheduled appointments, etc.
  • Highest well-being reported

The awakened community definitely needs more rationality and the rationality community could probably benefit from some Insight, so thank you for starting this conversation. Hopefully it's just the first step. For anyone interested r/streamentry is a mostly woo-free, friendly community for discussing this sort of thing.

A particularly useful and traditional guideline is to wait a year and a day before claiming an attainment and completely making up your mind. This is slippery stuff sometimes, and many states and stages can easily fool someone into thinking that they are something they are not.

Do you have a teacher? I ask for two reasons. Firstly a reputable teacher will be able to provide confirmation of your attainment. Secondly what you’re describing doesn’t sound like stream entry, it sounds like A&P. There’s typically a difficult period after this which can be brutal if you’re not expecting it and it’s extremely useful to have the support of a teacher who knows the territory to guide you through it. Whatever it turns out to be it sounds like it's reduced suffering considerably, so congratulations.

You linked to Rinzai Zen, is that the tradition in which you’ve been trained? The impression I get from your comments is that the “sudden enlightenment” paradigm is operating as a background assumption and that’s leading into conflict and unnecessary dead ends in some comment threads. The “I want cake”, “I’m giving you cake” thread is the best example of this. I think gradualism better maps onto reality, provides a better support for a daily practice and provides a better explanation of enlightenment as a concept. Gradual versus Sudden is an old debate (I'm not sure how familiar you are with it) and I don’t want to simply rehash that but I do want to point towards a few advantages that can help avoid the pitfalls I'm seeing here.

Telling people (rationalists in particular) that everything is already perfect or it doesn’t matter if they get “it” just annoys people. Gradualism provides a better framework for learning and leads to less frustration. Small steps are easier to take than a huge inferential gap. The success of The Mind Illuminated is testament to this.

Stream entry is a good example of the blurry line between sudden and gradual attainments. It’s seems like a discrete stage, you either are or you aren’t a stream enterer. Except there are many different definitions of what stream entry is and where you should place the dividing line. It’s better described as a spectrum with several significant shifts along it.

Great post! Some small formatting fixes that might help people searching this list.

'Exercise' the last section under 'Rest' isn't listed in the contents.

Two of the headings have non obvious renames for anyone doing a really quick skim. 'Expect to actually make progress' becomes 'Expect work to be effective' and 'Actually care about the task you're doing' becomes 'Increase the value of your task'.

The thinking here seems muddled.

  1. Ordinarily locus of control refers to events in the future, explanatory style refers to events in the past. Your last 3 examples refer to past events but you switch back and forth between past and future when you break down each example. Anxiety is uncertainty, you can't feel anxious about events in the past.

  2. Locus of control is about the degree of control you have over an outcome/event. Events are in themselves good or bad. How you feel about a future event is a consequence of whether or not that event is within your control and whether that event is good or bad. The way you've broken it down in your chart is it's your moods that are good or bad rather than the event itself. Your advice then seems to boil down to "choose to feel good about things all the time."

  3. The degree to which a future event is within your control is a fact about the world, not a choice that you make. Choosing to go from external to internal over whether the sun will rise tomorrow is a recipe for self delusion.

Can you talk a bit more on this? I'm curious to know how you imagine talking yourself into believing something you don't believe, like some kind of double-think. And it seems avoiding scary thoughts is not a habit a rationalist would want to encourage.

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