Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Comment author: ChristianKl 21 February 2017 08:02:22PM 0 points [-]

The same goes when it comes to 'the dark night of the soul' concept and its author.

It's not a concept with a single author. It's a concept that was first used in Christian medieval theology. In the context where I have seen it, it was repurposed for what happens to some people who practice a lot of Buddhist meditation and an LW comment from http://lesswrong.com/lw/5h9/meditation_insight_and_rationality_part_1_of_3/42b2 was likely the first time I came across it. I used it in the past to talk with other rationalists about meditation who don't necessarily share a meditative tradition with me and the fact that people from different traditions can relate to it gives it substance in my mind.

Comment author: Erfeyah 22 February 2017 08:25:02AM *  0 points [-]

Thank you for the link. That was a clearer definition of the dark night. I also skimmed Ingram's book. I am following a different approach. Again here are my thoughts without trying to imply certainty.

Although I meditate I would never follow extensive exercises of the ones described in ingrams book. Instead I exercise patience and work on the more mundane fundamentals as indicated. There are clear warnings in traditional material not to choose exercises on what we think it is interesting or induce mystical experiences as the result is a type of spiritual vanity in which the experience is used for self inflation. In that light I would see the dark night of the soul not as something to push through but as a sign that I am following the wrong path. Unfortunately, people that reach this stage are probably too invested to admit that they have been following the wrong path for so many years. It is easier for the self to push through and avoid the pain of realising it's true stage of development.

People can find plenty of material in the work of idries shah if they can deal with someone that tells them not to do all these things that are emotionally or intellectually exciting. It is at least easy to observe that starting a quest to be freed from the self by choosing exercises through the self could not possibly work.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 21 February 2017 07:00:39PM 0 points [-]

Ah, no worries! I agree that what I am doing has already been invented in some form or another (see NLP). I take it as a given that what I'm writing here may already be articulated by other people in a much more informative way.

My general goals here are to illustrate what I believe, and if people see connections to existing concepts, I'm happy if they point out "hey, lifelonglearner, this idea is already a thing in the form of concept X!", because then I can read more on it.

Comment author: Erfeyah 21 February 2017 07:22:36PM 0 points [-]

My general goals here are to illustrate what I believe, and if people see connections to existing concepts, I'm happy if they point out "hey, lifelonglearner, this idea is already a thing in the form of concept X!", because then I can read more on it.

I think that is a great use of humility! I am attempting to do the same :)

Comment author: lifelonglearner 21 February 2017 02:28:55PM 0 points [-]

Hmmm, I think that meta-level thinking = 1 form of an operating system.

I think that operating system = the sorts of mental concepts you believe are atomic, the things which make up your internal picture of your mind.

Other potential operating systems:

  • Your feelings as a data trove, where all your feelings form an important part of your worldvliew

  • Resolve as a worldview, which is very Nietzschean in nature and focused on human determination and Actually Trying.

  • The sorts of paradigms used in meditation, where you're focused on awareness of your bodily sensations and are trying to cultivate a general sense of "this is where I am" and other things I'm more unfamiliar with.

Now my claim is that none of the paradigms (i.e. "operating systems") are incorrect, but rather, they can all be useful abstractions for thinking about how your mind works, and using each one as a basis for creating "rationality techniques" can source skills that look very different from one another.

Comment author: Erfeyah 21 February 2017 06:34:53PM *  0 points [-]

Ok, I have to switch gears a bit. I will try to get into a mode of not arguing towards something but just telling you my thoughts as they are; as an experiment in communication. If you find this unhelpful feel free to ignore my comment!

I see what you are saying and I am wondering; what am I arguing about? Our exchange gives me a sense of being vague. As if we are not communicating properly and there isn't a clear focus on what we are talking about. I think this might be because of the vagueness of my original criticism. After some reflection on my previous comments, and reading some of your links, I can express my disagreement as:

Articulating concepts is obviously useful. But this has been done by people for centuries. There are a few possibilities:

[1] No culture has in the past reach the level of understanding we have at the moment so this is the time to create new concepts that would allow us to understand humans. By us I mean me and you in this discussions.

[2] The material is out there and is constantly maintained by the people that have the knowledge.

It seems that in my belief system I have reached the conclusion that [2] is the case.

(If you are getting 'evangelist' alert I assure you this is not going to happen. Also to reiterate: I am not religious)

So, to sum up. It is my belief that you are trying to reinvent the wheel here. I am aware that stating something like that without offering solutions and material is kind of a shitty argument. But hey, now you know something about what I really think...

Comment author: ChristianKl 21 February 2017 12:53:50PM 0 points [-]

Following exercises and old formulations without guidance can be, at best, just providing emotional and intellectual stimulation and at worst, as dangerous as trying different medicine based on personal preference.

When I talk about knowledge that comes from Danis Bois, I do have personal guidance from people who have their 10,000 hours.

As far as the term "the dark night of the soul" goes, it's not a Bois term but a term used by people from quite different backgrounds.

It's one thing not to take a medicine on personal preference. It's another thing that when you take a nootropic for which there's little academic research out there and you have the people who have empiric experience with the nootropics warning you of possible states that are associated with it.

Comment author: Erfeyah 21 February 2017 05:58:34PM *  0 points [-]

When I talk about knowledge that comes from Danis Bois, I do have personal guidance from people who have their 10,000 hours.

I don't believe that the 10,000 hours rule bears any relevance on judging the suitability of people in these areas. But I can not pretend to have the right or the ability to judge Danis Bois' as I know nothing about him. The same goes when it comes to 'the dark night of the soul' concept and its author.

It's one thing not to take a medicine on personal preference. It's another thing that when you take a nootropic for which there's little academic research out there and you have the people who have empiric experience with the nootropics warning you of possible states that are associated with it.

Yes of course. I guess it all depends on the quality of advice we get from people. Which depends on their level of attainment. For which our judgement depends on our assumptions on what constitutes 'attainment'. Which is not necessarily what in reality constitutes attainment. Which only the people that have attained know. That is, If attainment is possible at all.

This is a really complex discussion that would require an extensive exposition of our belief systems and which would throw this comment thread completely off topic. Maybe another time :)

Comment author: ChristianKl 21 February 2017 10:10:41AM 0 points [-]

I can't find much info on Bois. You could present his argument in your own words.

Yes, there's little information that's published in English.

There are patterns that arise when teaching for decades and seeing different students develop different problems. There empiric experience that dealing in a certain way with those problems is helpful.

I am not following Gendlin either but from what I am reading what he is describing as 'felt sense' is listening for emotions, moods and bodily sensations in general. I never had any issues to integrate all these without the 'felt sense' concept.

It seems like you do have conceptualization as "listening for emotions", "listenening for moods" and "listening for bodily sensations". The fact that you separate emotions from moods here shows that you do have more categories than a lot of people.

I don't understand the 'dark night of the soul' problem.

That might well be true, that you don't understand the problem or haven't been exposed to people who suffer from it. That doesn't mean that it isn't an issue for many people who spent a lot of time meditating and making the experiences that come along with it.

Comment author: Erfeyah 21 February 2017 11:52:35AM 0 points [-]

It seems like you do have conceptualization as "listening for emotions", "listening for moods" and "listening for bodily sensations". The fact that you separate emotions from moods here shows that you do have more categories than a lot of people.

That is fair. I will have to ponder further if it is at all possible to have no conceptualisation. Thanks!

That might well be true, that you don't understand the problem or haven't been exposed to people who suffer from it. That doesn't mean that it isn't an issue for many people who spent a lot of time meditating and making the experiences that come along with it.

Yes, of course. I will tell you my thought process on reading about it in the interest of transparency. My first impression is that there seems to be truth in the writing. Since I have a belief, based on experience, in the existence of certain states it seems to me that the author is possibly genuine ( in contrast to being the product of a cult formation ). But the metaphors he is using do not resonate with me. Furthermore, I then refer to the teachings that warn of not following material that was intended for a different time and people. Exercises and formulations, they warn, are always presented in the forms of the current culture and prescribed according to the state of the student. Following exercises and old formulations without guidance can be, at best, just providing emotional and intellectual stimulation and at worst, as dangerous as trying different medicine based on personal preference.

These are some of my thoughts.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 20 February 2017 07:07:09PM 0 points [-]

I was referring to the identification of the operating system with the internal dialogue that I see in the article. But you are making a further point.

Sorry if I gave that impression. I don't equate operating system to internal dialogue, FWIW.

Comment author: Erfeyah 21 February 2017 11:33:00AM 0 points [-]

Yes, I must have gotten the wrong impression. Would you say it is fair of me to say that you are putting emphasis on the internal dialogue, as you refer to it, when you talk about 'thinking about thinking'?

Maybe I can try to articulate better what gives me the impression of us talking from different perspectives. I feel that you are putting emphasis on thinking in a meta level when I consider even more important going out of thought itself to get an even better view of the human mind. That is not to say that thinking should stop or that meta thinking is not really useful. It is just my view that for people like me (us?), who are obsessed with rational analysis to the point of using it as a source of pleasure here in LW, taking long breaks from intellectual analysis is essential.

Comment author: ChristianKl 20 February 2017 03:42:40PM 0 points [-]

Not sure where you got that conclusion from.

It's a conclusion that comes from the work of Danis Bois. Danis Bois is interesting because he spends decades teaching meditation (among others things). From position of being a sought-after teacher he started going to university to study education and later became a professor at a university in Portugal.

Maybe Piaget (if his observation is correct) was referring to child development where conceptualisation is essential.

A child deal with new concepts for which it doesn't have preexisting concepts. It's quite possible to live as an adult without

Destabilisation happens if the belief system has assigned certainty to unknowns when it shouldn't have and has built a self image, social relations, opinions, outlooks, moral rules etc. on the unstable foundation.

If you have someone who had no conceptualization of what Gendlin calls the felt sense and starts having the related experience a lot of their self image might be open for adaptation.

Beforehand they might have thought of themselves as their heads but that concept get's challenged through the new way of being in relationship with the body.

With the example of Gendlin's Focusing I'm not sure whether you get those experiences without conceptualization but adopting new conceptualization is important for actually deeply integrating the concepts.

With advanced meditation, there's usually the point of perceptions coming up that do require new conceptualization. In the absence, there are problems like what's called "the dark night of the soul".

Comment author: Erfeyah 20 February 2017 04:48:31PM 0 points [-]

It's a conclusion that comes from the work of Danis Bois.

I can't find much info on Bois. You could present his argument in your own words.

If you have someone who had no conceptualization of what Gendlin calls the felt sense and starts having the related experience a lot of their self image might be open for adaptation.

I am not following Gendlin either but from what I am reading what he is describing as 'felt sense' is listening for emotions, moods and bodily sensations in general. I never had any issues to integrate all these without the 'felt sense' concept.

Beforehand they might have thought of themselves as their heads but that concept get's challenged through the new way of being in relationship with the body.

I don't doubt that people that have not given any thought or practice on what it is to be a human could benefit from using concepts to ease their transition (I explained in the previous post). I just think that after a certain amount of refinement of your belief system destabilisation is not an issue.

With advanced meditation, there's usually the point of perceptions coming up that do require new conceptualization. In the absence, there are problems like what's called "the dark night of the soul".

I don't doubt the importance of conceptualisation. I am just suggesting being careful about generalising into saying that it is always needed.

I don't understand the 'dark night of the soul' problem.

Comment author: ChristianKl 19 February 2017 07:47:01AM 1 point [-]

By looking, listening, touching etc. in a meditative state of concentration, the mind will naturally process the input and discover more and more nuanced patterns and subtleties.

You can discover new perceptions during meditation but it's good to find names and ways to conceptualize for them. If you don't do that it can be mentally destabilizing.

In Pierget's states of learning you are at accommodation but you don't go to equilibration.

Learning new categories for conceptualization in a way that they become native categories unfortunately takes more time than a 4-day workshop and as such the focus on teaching powerful individual techniques that CFAR does doesn't go deep into it. It's not as easy to demostrate.

If you however actually do practice Gendlin's Focusing a lot, that technique will lead to the acquisition of new categories that will reach the state of equilibration.

Comment author: Erfeyah 20 February 2017 02:37:18PM 0 points [-]

You can discover new perceptions during meditation but it's good to find names and ways to conceptualize for them. If you don't do that it can be mentally destabilizing. In Pierget's states of learning you are at accommodation but you don't go to equilibration.

Not sure where you got that conclusion from. Maybe Piaget (if his observation is correct) was referring to child development where conceptualisation is essential.

A sufficiently flexible belief system does not destabilize with new perceptions. Destabilisation happens if the belief system has assigned certainty to unknowns when it shouldn't have and has built a self image, social relations, opinions, outlooks, moral rules etc. on the unstable foundation. If someone needs conceptualisation, for every new perception, on fear of destabilisation, I would recommend re-examining base assumptions.

Comment author: lifelonglearner 18 February 2017 10:05:17PM 0 points [-]

I've done some mindfulness mediation, but I haven't made it into a consistent practice. I was trying to compress the sorts of potential health benefits, general life improvements etc. into a black box of "reasons" (which otherwise might have spiraled into its own discussion) with the capital "Reasons".

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 10:17:14PM 0 points [-]

Ah sorry. Didn't get it :)

Comment author: ChristianKl 18 February 2017 07:54:33PM *  0 points [-]

If, for example, you are acting through [3], walking around having only (to the extent it is possible) direct perceptual representations in your mind and no internal dialogue, would you say that you are acting without an operating system?

You are still acting with an operating system. What you perceive depends a lot on your mental categories. You can change what you perceive by learning new categories.

Phonemes in foreign language are interesting. For most native German speakers 'cap' and 'cab' and 'believe' and 'belief' sound the same. Normal acquisition of a foreign language in adulthood doesn't give you the ability to make this distinction. On the other hand I have programmed an Android App that can teach the ability to distinguish the sounds.

The phoneme example is quite simple and easy to explain but the same goes also for more complex categorizations. I learn my anatomy to be able to better perceive human anatomy and this is a standard way of developing finer perceptive skill in the form of bodywork that I am learning.

Comment author: Erfeyah 18 February 2017 08:55:00PM *  0 points [-]

You are still acting with an operating system. What you perceive depends a lot on your mental categories. You can change what you perceive by learning new categories.

I was referring to the identification of the operating system with the internal dialogue that I see in the article. But you are making a further point.

It is true that our perception can be refined by the acquisition of new mental categories. If these categories are presented to us in the form of words then we have to correctly perceive them in our environment. These words are the means by which other people communicate to us what they have discovered through their senses. Our own refinement has to be experiential using their words as a map/guideline. The first person that discovers new refinements though may do it in a different way. By looking, listening, touching etc. in a meditative state of concentration, the mind will naturally process the input and discover more and more nuanced patterns and subtleties. The result can be formulated in intellectual terms and then fed back to the process (I am simplifying a more fluid and complex process here).

View more: Next