Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment process

Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.

Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Bobo » Tue May 10, 2011 7:10 am

David Quinn wrote:
Bobo wrote:
David Quinn wrote:How can you describe everything that has ever happened and will ever happen?

There is essentially nothing to describe.


How can you experience everything that has happened and will happen?

The experience of it must be something.
There is nothing to describe only if there is no experience of it.

We are always experiencing it. There is never a moment when we are not experiencing it. But, numbskulls that we are, we like to overlay the experience of it with false concepts and imaginings, on account of our desire to seek and grasp hold of certainty or enlightenment within a particular experience. That's when we lose sight of it.

-


If your meaning is that the experience of it is ever the same, everything that has happened and will happen is always, then there would be no 'moment'. There are moments because they are not 'it', and 'it' is not.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Sphere70 » Tue May 10, 2011 11:51 am

David,

When you block out the existence of your ego, just block it out. When you deceive others, just deceive them.


You have an erroneous view of the Ego. Let me address it.

The Ego is the Source, Impersonal Consciousness, identified with a particular body/mind organism as a separate entity with a sense of personal doer ship. But every Ego is connected to the Source, and when you realize – Realize! (non-academically) – that this identification with the body/mind organism is what causes suffering, then identification consequently, and quite naturally, turns introspectively towards the base (the Source/The I Am/Impersonal Consciousness/Truth and so on) which will untie the knot of the Ego (= identification with the Body/Mind) slowly or directly. As an effect there is no sense of doer ship, only witnessing.
The body/mind organism can/will react as earlier – the body is a reactive organism after all – but there is no identifier with these reactions so there is no Ego, instead you are witnessing these events like anything else without the faulty idea that you can or should intervene – instead there is witnessing, “you” being that witness – this is to be the ‘I Am’, this is being/identifying with Impersonal Consciousness (the Truth/Absolute/Infinite) operating through a particular body without the fog of the Ego which happens, again, when this Impersonal Consciousness/Void/Infinite/Absolute indentifies with the body/mind. This is the definition of Ego.

You seem have this idea that all these reactions programmed into the body/mind organism has to cease into tranquility and non-existence. These are New Age beliefs and at the same time an orthodox, slightly Christian, idea of the Ego – fruitless and mistaken.

I don't think UG did much of the camel and lion thing. He just tried to become a child (thus, ending up as a limited child) without picking up the wisdom and knowledge and levels of consciousness that come with going through the camel and lion stages.


Have you read the biography about him written by Mahesh Bhatt? If you believe what’s written there then you would see how this is false.

Anyway, we don’t have to dabble about U.G. specifically, it’s not important. I mean, you think he’s dishonest / I think he’s honest, you think he’s a cartoon / a think he’s a funny bastard - in style with how I imagine this guy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linji) -, and so on...

But I have a sense that the true reason you don’t like him is because he attacks the very thing you put meaning and importance to – thought as a means to Enlightenment. So your critical paper about him seems like a defense of your identifications more than anything else – and this is then the mechanics of a true Ego.

Just to clarify, when I repetitively use concepts like Absolute/Source/Truth/I Am/Void/God/Infinite/Impersonal Consciousness, and shifting them around, I just do this to show that I believe these to be symbols of the same '[i]no - thing'
[/i]
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Sphere70 » Tue May 10, 2011 1:09 pm

Jupiviv,

This statement contradicts itself. If he didn't have any insight, then he remained ignorant, and couldn't make any statement about whether he was in his natural state or his artificial state, and all the rest.


There is no One to have any insight or to be ignorant - this is the point. Only in relative sense can this be true, but who has interest in that?

None of my insights have come from reading anything, or listening to anyone. They've all come from my own reasoning.


Don't take it so literal. With 'Academic' I mean someone who actually and truly believe and identify with thoughts and the particular thoughts that get labeled 'insightful' - he thinks it's his insights! He thinks he thinks those thoughts - and now, he is going to think more important thoughts addressing more important issues, and he will be a suffering man - but a great suffering man - who thought his way up to a height, and looks down on other thoughtless thoughts and thinkers, and he pities them for not thinking his insightful and important thoughts that He (!) thinks. Ho ho!
The Academic is he! The Scholar is he! The Thinker, oh yes, is he!

There is both thought and doing where I live, and they are all "actual", since they can't be any other way.


This was just a hint to the state when the loosening of identification with 'thought' and 'doing' occurs. Of course they're actual, but the impact on the functionality as a body in terms of identification as the doer/thinker is a 'living' difference. It was with this in mind that I used 'actual'.

Their insight was genuine, unlike that of Krishna, so they had every right to consider that insight valuable


I don't have to explain, again, where the error is in 'considering' and 'valuing' insight. Relatively - have fun and play this game. But be humble enough to realize that it's no better or worse than 'valuing' and 'considering' the thoughts of women (and men in Otto's case) and their protein-filled curves.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby jupiviv » Tue May 10, 2011 3:05 pm

Sphere70 wrote:There is no One to have any insight or to be ignorant - this is the point. Only in relative sense can this be true, but who has interest in that?


If this is true only in the relative sense, then it's not true in the absolute sense, and therefore there may be people who have insight and are ignorant.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Wed May 11, 2011 1:58 am

jupiviv wrote: How did the people who defined "perceive" or "consciousness" know what I meant by them?

They don't and also shouldn't care which shape you bend words to make your contradictory statements seem straight again.

Perception is often defined as sensory awareness, i.e, seeing, hearing etc., and that is what I meant by the whale perceiving the woman as a fish.

You said earlier that consciousness is awareness of things. But now "sensory awareness" of a fish suggests to you merely unconsciousness. If "sensory awareness" means anything at all (and I doubt it), it's something like the ability to receive and differentiate sensory stimuli. Why would there be any fundamental difference between the differentiation here or the one you claim is consciousness. There's absolutely no reason to suggest a fundamental difference.

don't understand what you mean by "contrasting for the senses".

Differentiating between the various sensor stimuli or their levels.

Where there are appearances, there also appears to be mind.

Yes, mind is a thing, therefore it can appear. But there is not just one mind, and a particular mind cannot be aware of itself, for the reason that an eye cannot see itself.

This all depends on how you want to define "mind". It seems to me you keep mixing scientific or neurological approaches with philosophical ones in a way that is often confusing. And then you add personal definitions at times you feel there's one needed. It's all good and well but that way there's no healthy discussion possible. Ever. Clever!
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby cousinbasil » Wed May 11, 2011 4:06 am

DVR wrote:If "sensory awareness" means anything at all (and I doubt it), it's something like the ability to receive and differentiate sensory stimuli. Why would there be any fundamental difference between the differentiation here or the one you claim is consciousness. There's absolutely no reason to suggest a fundamental difference.

It's pretty close to the definition of sentience.

Usually when I find myself agreeing with Diebert it is because I am misunderstanding him, but I do think he is right here, jupiviv.

You seem to have difficulty distinguishing between a rock falling down a hill, two pieces of fruit on a table, and mammals with large brains. While I would not expect a whale to write a symphony or win a Nobel prize, I have difficulty believing its complex auditory exchanges and intricate group behavior are devoid of rudimentary consciousness. If that word bothers you because you imagine it to be some philosophical property only available to certain humans, we can say sentience or awareness.

No need to be defensive because your compatriots revere cows. Just look at animal behavior and think of the simplest explanation for what you see. There is clearly more of a quantitative than qualitative difference between Koko and, say, a human child. At least such a conclusion is consistent with the 95% DNA and common evolutionary ancestors both share.

I think only if you concede the likenesses can you truly zero in on whatever it is that makes humans unique and superior.

Have you ever owned a pet, jupiviv? If the only dogs you have experienced are mangy curs slinking around Calcutta, I think you would be surprised by how they behave in a domestic setting. Unless you are willing to call most human behavior Pavlovian, you cannot relegate all canine behavior to being examples of purely mechanical response.

But something tells me that even though you may be very fond of your niece, it would only be when you are having a particularly good day that you would concede she is a conscious being, either, picture phone notwithstanding.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Diebert van Rhijn » Wed May 11, 2011 4:46 am

cousinbasil wrote:I think only if you concede the likenesses can you truly zero in on whatever it is that makes humans unique and superior.?

Since we're briefly in some agreeable planetary alignment: quick! What do you think makes humans unique and/or "superior" if it's not a gift of consciousness? The amount of it? Their oversized extended phenotype? Their losing themselves in it? It's a good question nevertheless.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby cousinbasil » Wed May 11, 2011 5:49 am

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
cousinbasil wrote:I think only if you concede the likenesses can you truly zero in on whatever it is that makes humans unique and superior.?

Since we're briefly in some agreeable planetary alignment: quick! What do you think makes humans unique and/or "superior" if it's not a gift of consciousness? The amount of it? Their oversized extended phenotype? Their losing themselves in it? It's a good question nevertheless.

I have not read much Dawkins, but if I have the extended phenotype concept right, the environmental effects he would have one consider are a result of genetic activity. That is, one can consider an anthill as an expression of ant genes as much as any morphological expression of ant ( as opposed to another insect, say) genes that physically makes an ant an ant and not a bee, for example. Its genotype is different, which causes the phenotype to be different, through which its environment is uniquely altered. By unique, I do not mean that all anthills are alike, but they are not spider webs and while some spiders may burrow, they never build a thing one might mistake for an anthill.

One thing that immediately strikes me as evidence of both the difference and superiority of the human species - and this is just sticking with the EP notion - is that the mechanisms by which the human environment is changed is not the same over time. The human genome may be largely the same as it was 5000 years ago, and its morphological phenotype not much changed, but the EP is drastically different so as to be almost unrecognizable. While a spider web is still a spider web, for example.

It would be interesting if a group of chimps could be taught to sign and then released into an isolated natural environment and see how much if any signing persists to future generations, and if this causes any noticeable change in how their EP would differ from that of their cousins in the wild.

I am just sticking with your suggestion of EP differences, but I'm not sure that will answer your question. Obviously, while I have said I think a whale, among other advanced mammals, exhibits signs of awareness if not consciousness, I am not proposing they have the ability to think abstractly. And whatever one's idea of what a soul is, one cannot consider that any other species than human can have a spiritual existence or awareness. In other words, while "Why Cats Paint" may be fun to debate, it is likely not to be for the same reason(s) people paint. (And it is not likely to be because they have a sense of "aesthetics" as this website implies.)
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Tomas » Wed May 11, 2011 9:08 am

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
jupiviv wrote: How did the people who defined "perceive" or "consciousness" know what I meant by them?

They don't and also shouldn't care which shape you bend words to make your contradictory statements seem straight again.

You walked straightaway into that one, Jup.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Sphere70 » Wed May 11, 2011 9:25 am

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
cousinbasil wrote:I think only if you concede the likenesses can you truly zero in on whatever it is that makes humans unique and superior.?

Since we're briefly in some agreeable planetary alignment: quick! What do you think makes humans unique and/or "superior" if it's not a gift of consciousness? The amount of it? Their oversized extended phenotype? Their losing themselves in it? It's a good question nevertheless.


I think it's just that the human body is a more complex creation than the rest of the animals, and can therefore 'experience' itself in a greater way. Different kind of light bulbs filtering the same electricity (consciousness). Our bulb is damn advanced though and can experience great strengths of pleasure and pain, and produces thinking and feeling in different varieties - and it has even fooled itself and created an entity within the entity called the self that now claims these events that obviously is the electricity working through this specific bulb.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby cousinbasil » Wed May 11, 2011 12:55 pm

Sphere70 wrote:Our bulb is damn advanced though and can experience great strengths of pleasure and pain, and produces thinking and feeling in different varieties - and it has even fooled itself and created an entity within the entity called the self that now claims these events that obviously is the electricity working through this specific bulb.

The part I put in bold is where any philosophy which denies the existence of the self loses me. A delusion is not the same thing as an illusion. One has to be practical. Identify delusions, and thereby eradicate them, yes, but denying that one's own self exists? How is it possible to identify that a duality between an inner world and an outer world exists without positing the agency which has made this identification? That the self exists and experiences the reality it does is an illusion, not a delusion. The illusion comes from having a corporeal body, the thing upon which we are coiled. To say that the self does not exist is itself a delusion, an attempt to avoid all the pain of being alive. Not that das Ich is one thing. But so what? It doesn't have to lend itself to easy - or any - definition in order for it to exist. Upon further analysis, nothing is any one thing.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby jupiviv » Wed May 11, 2011 1:24 pm

Diebert van Rhijn wrote:
jupiviv wrote:How did the people who defined "perceive" or "consciousness" know what I meant by them?
They don't and also shouldn't care which shape you bend words to make your contradictory statements seem straight again.


You are the one making contradictory statements, my friend. You still haven't explained why you think the whale shows any sign of consciousness. You're using words like "memory", "recognition" and "perception" without knowing what you mean by them. I'm not bending any words, because I've defined what I mean by them. Your whole argument, on the other hand, is based on unclear and therefore twisted definitions of various words.

If "sensory awareness" means anything at all (and I doubt it), it's something like the ability to receive and differentiate sensory stimuli.


Only consciousness can actually conceive of the sensory stimuli as distinguished things, and then decide to react in a reasoned manner towards them(if it intends to react at all.) That is the awareness I'm talking about. The whale did not seem to have that kind of awareness. If you think it did, then you should provide stronger evidence than simply saying "it did."

This all depends on how you want to define "mind". It seems to me you keep mixing scientific or neurological approaches with philosophical ones in a way that is often confusing. And then you add personal definitions at times you feel there's one needed.


That's the real problem with this discussion. You've no idea what I'm talking about, because you refuse to understand my definitions. All of my definitions are personal, even though they may be similar to other definitions, whether philosophical or scientific. They couldn't possibly be other than personal. As for my definition of "mind", how exactly is it a mixture of philosophical and scientific definitions?
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Sphere70 » Wed May 11, 2011 1:42 pm

The part I put in bold is where any philosophy which denies the existence of the self loses me. A delusion is not the same thing as an illusion. One has to be practical. Identify delusions, and thereby eradicate them, yes, but denying that one's own self exists? How is it possible to identify that a duality between an inner world and an outer world exists without positing the agency which has made this identification? That the self exists and experiences the reality it does is an illusion, not a delusion. The illusion comes from having a corporeal body, the thing upon which we are coiled. To say that the self does not exist is itself a delusion, an attempt to avoid all the pain of being alive. Not that das Ich is one thing. But so what? It doesn't have to lend itself to easy - or any - definition in order for it to exist. Upon further analysis, nothing is any one thing.


Ok, I agree with you to some extent. The self exist, yes, and I relate to it now when writing this sentence. I experience it as the gravity-point in my body, somewhere between the forehead and the throat. It's a taste - if you know what I mean? This I call the truest subjective-point. But is it me, really? I would say so in the relative sense - this is the point that I relate to in speech, that attaches itself to thoughts and feelings - that strives.
This is what I mean when I say 'my body' (the 'my' being this sensation in this body). When I 'feel' most conscious and alive this area is the measurement.
But even this 'taste' is just a chemical of the body, no? When I'm sleeping it's gone. When I awake it is there - therefore I intuitively call the 14 or-so hours of being awake 'life'. So this 'taste' of life I call the self, and I do not yet deny its existence. But is it real? Why is it real? It is gone/dormant 8 hours a day. And also, I can perceive it when awake, I can talk about it - then I cannot be it? But what I know is that this point is the truest point in my own definition of subjectivity.

So no, I don't deny the existence of self, I just believe that it is deluded - that this point which I see as the ground of identification - identifies itself with its vehicle (the body) - and suffering begins. But I am not the body, and I am not the taste of this sensation - dependent on this body.
So what am I? Whatever I say will be wrong.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby cousinbasil » Wed May 11, 2011 2:42 pm

Sphere70 wrote:So what am I? Whatever I say will be wrong.

Not really. You did say this:
But I am not the body, and I am not the taste of this sensation - dependent on this body.

And that's not wrong. You will argue that it is easy to say what I am not, but if one tries to answer what I am, then the answer always seems to sound wrong.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Sphere70 » Wed May 11, 2011 3:11 pm

cousinbasil wrote:
Sphere70 wrote:So what am I? Whatever I say will be wrong.

Not really. You did say this:
But I am not the body, and I am not the taste of this sensation - dependent on this body.

And that's not wrong. You will argue that it is easy to say what I am not, but if one tries to answer what I am, then the answer always seems to sound wrong.


Yes, exactly. To say what I am never fits. To say what I am not aligns. So in silence I am. In words I am not. But even this is saying to much.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby guest_of_logic » Wed May 18, 2011 2:38 am

[Being limited to 3 links per post, I've included some as notes - simply replace the [dot]s with actual dots]

I recently posted on KIR a review and critique of Jed McKenna's first two books, and given the similar theme of this Steven Norquist talk, I'm interested in doing something similar for it.

As in my review of Jed's books, I begin with the core question: this was a talk about enlightenment, so what exactly is enlightenment according to Steven Norquist? He doesn't, as Jed does, use any nifty phrases like "abiding non-dual awareness" or "truth realisation", nor does he claim, as Jed does, that it can't be described in positive terms. Instead, he describes it in simple, experiential terms, which, from my perspective, is far more helpful than Jed's approach, after which, as I concluded in my review, one is left with the impression that Jed simply has nothing substantial to say about enlightenment, and that as such his claim to enlightenment is only self-aggrandisement.

Steven's essential claim is that the process of enlightenment is one of "dissolution" at the end of which one's "self" quite literally dies. I've transcribed the relevant parts of his talk in which he describes the key events and nature of his enlightenment (words and phrases that I didn't hear clearly enough to fully identify I've simply guessed at, following them with a question mark and placing them in square brackets). He relates at about 23m23s that he was reading Ken Wilbur, coming across in particular Ken's thought that "ordinary consciousness IS enlightened consciousness". This thought struck him as being very significant, so he put the book down and began staring at a piece of paper on his desk. He describes what happened next at about 24m00s:

"So I'm staring at this paper, and as I'm staring at that paper thinking about ordinary consciousness being ultimate consciousness, suddenly a profound shock occurred - I suddenly disappeared: I was completely gone. All there was was a paper laying on the table - no one was observing it. There was just [a?] paper. There wasn't Steve here looking at paper there. There wasn't like, 'Oh I'm one with the paper' - there was none of that. It was - there was just a piece of paper there [but?] nobody's observing it - nobody is seeing that paper, yet it is shining with intense presence. That was my first shock. Now of course, you know, it faded after that."

This first experience, he explains, was followed, with his intent, by others, which occurred more and more commonly, until he relates at about 25m50s:

"[F]inally, that was it. There was simply - it was gone. There was no more me observing anything: there was only existence, shining with intense radiance, clarity, precision - but no one present to observe it. No one existing that could ever know all of this. There never was anybody to ever know this. I was not [there?], there was no I to know anything. There never is a person or a being or a lifeform either here or on any planet that has ever known that the universe exists. The universe exists without an observer. This was the nature of reality that I came to know, but truly I did not come to know anything, and I realised at the moment of this recognition that I had known [some of this?], seen always the way it has been. How could I have not seen this? But yet I had always seen it, it had always been there. This is the paradox of awakening, is that it is known in the moment of knowing it that it has always been known. There has never been a deception. No one has ever been deceived. All people have always been enlightened yet there has never been a single person existing that has ever been enlightened, and truly, there are no people in existence."

As I asked of Jed's description, I ask again here: what are to make of this? My initial reaction to it was that it is, on the face of it, absurd - Steven Norquist claiming that Steven Norquist does not exist; a self claiming that it is not a self: self-denial in the most literal sense of the phrase. I had a similar reaction to a descriptive piece that Nat (going by "Unidian" on this forum) admitted in the Jed thread on KIR was his own. I was reluctant to tell Nat point blank, "What you've written is literally self-contradictory and thus nonsensical", and instead granted him the benefit of the doubt that he had had some kind of meaningful experience that he had simply failed to convey in understandable words.

It became clear to me in that thread (the Jed thread on KIR as linked to in the introduction of this post), as I explained in several posts in it (#11, #13, and the clarifying #14), that the problem was one of definitions: that from my perspective, consciousness and self are concomitant, and that anyone (i.e. including both Nat and Steven) denying one (the self) whilst admitting the other (consciousness) must be using a different definition of one or both of those words than I am.

It's implicit in both of their descriptions that they were conscious during these experiences given that they both possess the ability to recall them and do not express or imply any notion of actually being unconscious during the recollected events. It seems, then, that they are not talking about an absence of consciousness. It took a little pondering to work out what, then, they might actually mean by the non-existence of the self during those experiences, but I finally have an idea of it might be: I think that what they both experienced was an absence of the sense of self; of that feeling of "I am"; of the feeling of subjectivity, of being an observer looking out at the world. Now, personally, I can't imagine what that experience might feel like, and I'm doubtful that it's even possible, but both Nat and Steven claim to have had it, so for the sake of discussion I'll accept their claims. Again personally, I'm inclined to be skeptical that such an experience is a particularly beneficial thing: an absence of the sense/feeling/subjectivity of self could easily be seen as dysfunctional, and indeed one word that occurred to me along these lines is "dissociation".

According to its Wikipedia article, one symptom of dissociation is depersonalisation, which the article at that link defines as "a malfunction or anomaly of the mechanism by which an individual has self-awareness. It is a feeling of watching oneself act, while having no control over a situation". This seems to be pretty accurate a description of Steven's experience - he even says somewhere something like (paraphrased from memory), "I am no longer Steven Norquist living his life, I am now the experience of Steven Norquist living his life".

The article continues: 'It can be considered desirable, such as in the use of recreational drugs [to which we can apparently add "or certain spiritual pursuits" --Laird], but it usually refers to the severe form found in anxiety and, in the most intense cases, panic attacks'. What comes next though is particularly interesting: 'Sufferers feel they have changed, and the world has become less real, vague, dreamlike, or lacking in significance. It can be a disturbing experience, since many feel that, indeed, they are living in a "dream"'. Compare this with (paraphrased) Jed's "life has no meaning" and "enlightenment is waking up from the dream", and with Steven's description of upheaval in the wake of the experience. It's possible that Jed has had exactly the same experience as Steven but simply failed to describe it as clearly as Steven, and it's also possible that both experiences conform to the definition of "depersonalisation".

Also interesting in that article is the link[1] to the Wikipedia article on depersonalisation disorder (DPD), in which that disorder is described as (links removed) "a dissociative disorder in which the sufferer is affected by persistent or recurrent feelings of depersonalization and/or derealization. Diagnostic criteria include persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from one's mental processes or body". Further down are listed[2] the diagnostic criteria for DPD, which I invite the reader to compare with Steven's description of enlightenment. A Google search[3] reveals that I am not the first person to make the comparison between so-called enlightenment and DPD.

[1] en[dot]wikipedia[dot]org/wiki/Depersonalization_disorder
[2] en[dot]wikipedia[dot]org/wiki/Depersonalization_disorder#DSM-IV-TR_criteria
[3] www[dot]google[dot]com/search?q=depersonalisation%20disorder%20enlightenment

Now, I am by no means a supporter of psychiatry, and I by no means support without major qualification the practice of diagnosing behaviours with a potentially spiritual basis instead as psychiatric disorders, but I do think that it's interesting that experiences of this type can be viewed in different ways, some with positive implications and others with negative implications: that one man's enlightenment might be another man's disorder. Steven acknowledges that there might be negative perspectives on what has happened to him, and even warns people that it is not for everybody, and that the risks need to be weighed against the rewards. In Steven's favour against the interpretation of his state as a "disorder" is that apparently he didn't arrive at it through any trauma or any otherwise negative psychological events, and that he values it to the extent that he wouldn't trade it for anything.

So, the question remains: disorder or not, is this enlightenment? I'm not well-studied enough in the enlightenment traditions to answer that question definitively, not to mention that enlightenment isn't described very clearly in conceptual terms; the best that I can do is to simply point to the Wikipedia article[4] on anatta, Buddhism's notion of no-self, and suggest that it's possible that what it refers to is what Steven describes. I won't bloat this post by discussing this further or quoting from that article. Instead, I'll examine Steven's claims independently of the issue of whether he's enlightened, and pose a few questions.

[4] en[dot]wikipedia[dot]org/wiki/Anatta

I'll start with the apparently paradoxical nature of his claims, as epitomised in the quote above - recall, "All people have always been enlightened yet there has never been a single person existing that has ever been enlightened, and truly, there are no people in existence" - and, also from his talk, along similar lines: "The ego must go but yet the ego has never existed". Frankly, I'm not inclined to grant these paradoxes any meaning: they strike me more properly as simple and gross contradictions. Even assuming I've interpreted his "death of the ego" as a loss of the sense/feeling/subjectivity of self, how could one then say that this self "has never existed"? Clearly he experienced it prior to his "dissolution": how can he then deny after that point that it once existed? What sense does it make to transcend and be liberated from something that doesn't exist? If there is truly nothing and no one to be liberated, then what meaning is there in liberation?

Some other questions that I'd like to put to Steven along these lines are: if people don't really exist then why do you talk to them as if they really do? What is it that you are seeking to awaken if there is no real person to awaken? How can you talk to people about enlightenment if there are no people to enlighten in the first place? How can that which does not exist die?

Steven says, "So, each person must look within themselves and determine the cost. Obviously the less a person already has in their life, perhaps, the more easy it is to make the decision to approach that, but the more a person has - much more difficult". Now, cost implies some sort of valuation post-enlightenment, but supposedly post-enlightenment there is no self remaining to be subject to value. He also talks about personal preferences changing post-enlightenment - that you may no longer like to do things that you once liked - but, again, preferences imply a self which is subject to those preferences. Along similar lines he talks about "reconstructing" your life after enlightenment: in all of these instances he speaks as though there is some self which either values, prefers or can have its life reconstructed. This is in blatant contradiction to his claim that post-enlightenment there is no self. Paradoxical? Only in the second sense of that word: flat-out self-contradictory. The best I can make of it is that he is equivocating on the definition of "self" - using for one meaning some conscious referent for the word "I", and for the other meaning the sense/feeling/subjectivity of self.

Another question I'd like to ask Steven, particularly given that I'm posting this to GF, is whether post-enlightenment he feels any emotions. His position here seems again to be equivocal. On the one hand he talks about enlightenment as though it were beyond the poles of pain/suffering and happiness/joy/bliss: "There can never be pain or suffering. There is only endless existence, perfection", and "Happiness is a feeling you feel when the truth is not known. When the truth is known, there is emptiness, which is a million times beyond joy, happiness, bliss". On the other hand he talks about the possibility that post-enlightenment one might "hate" their spouse, and in his introduction he talks about checking out his hotel room and saying to himself, "This is cool", as though he were experiencing some kind of personal satisfaction. This issue could do with some clarification, as could the question: does he experience physical pain?

His metaphysic also suggests further questions. In the following two quotes he equates existence and consciousness ["you know"s etc removed]:

"Now, one of the things that people have a problem grasping is the nature of existence-awareness. Our natural assumption on what consciousness is is it's a perception. 'I can see that book. I'm a person staring at a book. That's what consciousness is. Awareness is something being aware of something.' Something, whether it's disembodied consciousness or the universal mind going 'Oh there's a book', whatever it is - that's what we think consciousness is. That's not what it is. Awareness is not something being aware of something. Awareness and existence are one. The very act of existence is consciousness. There is nothing aware of anything. The act of existence is consciousness. Awareness and existence are one. It is nothing aware of something, but nothing is aware. In order to experience that, all that's required is complete destruction. But then once that destruction occurs you realise there was never anything to destroy."

"Existence and consciousness are one. This is just the way the universe is. There is nothing to be discovered on the other side. There is simply silence and matter moving spontaneously but yet perfectly."

I'll ignore here the "paradox" implied by "there was never anything to destroy", as I've already dealt with that. What concerns me more is this notion of existence and consciousness being identical. It would seem that the implication is that nothing exists outside of consciousness, and yet in the second quote we see reference to "matter" which is "moving spontaneously but yet perfectly". Is this matter outside of consciousness or inside it? Exactly what is the relationship between matter and consciousness-existence? I can see two possibilities: (1) that matter is "internal" to consciousness-existence, or at least synonymous with it, and (2) that matter is "external" to consciousness-existence, perhaps comprising the material out of which consciousness-existence is built.

Now (1) seems to reduce his metaphysic to strong solipsism, which I don't believe he actually maintains, so we can probably dismiss that possibility, and (2) seems to suggest that there is an existence that is not consciousness (i.e. the matter out of which consciousness is built), which contradicts his claim that consciousness and existence are synonymous. Neither option seems to work well for him.

Putting that aside, here's another question for Steven: has there ever been a time in the universe when there was no consciousness (e.g. assuming he is a believer in evolution by natural selection, then prior to any life-forms having evolved)? If so, given that he sees existence and consciousness as synonymous, are we to infer that there was no existence at that time? If so, where's the sense in that - surely this is a redefinition of the word "existence"? If not, then how can existence and consciousness be identical given then that existence can exist without consciousness?

One final question I'd ask along these lines and which might clarify Steven's metaphysic is: what is the relationship between bodies/brains and consciousness? Does he believe that consciousness emerges out of the neurological workings of the brain, or does he believe that the brain is instead created/imagined by consciousness, or something else?

Steven's claim to enlightenment raises a lot of unanswered questions, and his paradoxes seem to be paradoxical not in the sense of being meaningful indicators of truth but rather in the sense of being self-contradictory and nonsensical. The question as to whether he really is enlightened (whatever that might actually mean) is open in my mind; I'm not convinced, though, that what he experiences is desirable rather than dysfunctional, and he even seems to agree that at least for some people, although not for him, it would be an undesirable experience.
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Re: Steven Norquist - Audio lecture on his enlightenment pro

Postby Dennis Mahar » Wed May 18, 2011 10:32 am

Laird,
ordinary consciousness IS enlightened consciousness


If you would like to come to know and reside in the experience of 'ordinary consciousness', then there is something you can do to access it.

Sit comfortably in a straight back chair a metre and a half across from a full length mirror and just be there with yourself, looking at yourself.
Persist with this activity for at least 20 minutes per session each and every day and even better for longer periods and more than once a day.
It works if you work it.
Bless you.
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