This is not a laughing matter....
It's getting late.
~ Thanks to a TAT member who wishes to remain anonymous.
How Does the Brain Generate Experience?
"The past quarter of a century has witnessed numerous advances in neuroscience, such as neuroimaging and non-invasive electrical brain stimulation in humans, and optogenetics in animals (the highly selective activation of neurons using laser light, see Fennon et al., 2011).
"If we believe that 'minds are what brains do' (Minsky, 1988), we might expect this to lead to improved treatment of mental health problems.
"Yet arguably, the only appreciable impact of neuroscience research on routing mental health practice has been in the use of animal models to develop new drugs, which has yielded few new treatments in this field over the past decade.
"This disconnect between modern neuroscience research and mental health practice partly reflects the unresolved 'hard' problem of consciousness: How does the brain generate consciousness?
"Mapping between activity in neurons or circuits and subjective experience remains a huge conceptual, indeed philosophical, challenge.
"Good science (including clinical science) requires reliable measurement, and neuroscience deals with what can be measured objectively at the level of the brain.
"In animals, neuroscience measurements and manipulations can be causally related to behaviour, but experience can only be inferred indirectly; human studies have attempted to link brain function to subjective experience measured using self-report, but for ethical reasons these studies are largely correlational.
"More broadly, we lack a generally accepted neuroscientific explanation of how brains make minds (though there have been some attempts, e.g. Craig, 2009)."
~ From "What Has Neuroscience Ever Done for Us?" by Jonathan Roiser (winner of the British Psychological Society's Spearman Medal 2013). Source: Brain in the News, Vol. 22 No. 4 April 2015, The Dana Foundation, www.Dana.org/.
Does the brain generate experience?
If so, how does one explain the reported experiences of people who recall witnessing activity in an operating room from above, including observing their inert bodies lying on the operating table, during a period where medical devices recorded no electrical activity in their brains the accuracy of which, including things such as mismatched socks on a surgeon who came into the room during that period, was later verified by hospital personnel?
Do "brains make minds?"
If we look at our own first-person testimony about experience, how do we account for where the experience "pictures" (sights, sounds, feelings, etc.) appear? All we know directly is that we experience. The whys and wherefores are merely conjectural.
Can we rely on third-person testimony about our experience? We're conscious, and all that we "know" or witness are objects in our consciousness: thoughts and feelings, perceptions and conceptions, including "other people."
Suppose we were able to witness the images of our brain activity as they're produced while we're in an MRI machine: How could we conclude whether the electrical activity of the brain was causing our experience or whether our experience was causing the brain activity?
What do you know for sure?
Comments? Please .
TAT Meeting News
Register here for the TAT Fall Gathering, The Search for True Identity, which unfolds Friday-Monday, September 4-7, 2015.
Local Group News
Update from the Greensburg, PA self-inquiry group:
We've had a lull recently in our Greensburg meetings. I've decided to hold the Self-Inquiry Group meetings every other Saturday instead of every week. It seems things were getting a bit stale as we've been meeting every week since I started the group nine years ago. We're lacking dynamism right now and perhaps that's my fault because I've made it a routine without putting 100 percent into it. I'm thinking our group might become more motivated if we meet every other week instead of having the weekly meetings. Also I heard that some former regulars wanted something other than my "TAT Approach" and got infatuated with a teacher they found on the "Buddha at the Gas Pump" website. Now they are doing their own thing, causing the numbers to drop. ~
Update from the Raleigh, NC Triangle Inquiry Group:
We have established a set of "ground rules" for our group in Raleigh that we only read if there are new visitors in the meeting. In brief the rules state that there is no cross talk or casual conversation once the meeting starts. If someone shares, the focus of the group is on them and the questions are aimed at aiding them in their self inquiry and any obstacles they are dealing with. We also state that confidentiality is respected and anything shared remains in the room. We also remind each other if there is silence in the room to be present to it and allow it to continue until someone is moved to share. There has been a little pushback by some that the new format is too structured, but we have agreed to try it for a while. ~
Update from the San Francisco Bay area self-inquiry group:
We met a couple of weeks ago, and devoted the meeting to Harding exercises. Two people skyped in and three showed up in the flesh. Finding skype less intrusive that I did at first, so will likely offer that as an option for the next meeting, as well.
The topic for our Saturday, August 29th meeting of the Hollow Reed group stemmed from a texting session with a friend from Florida, which he ended by saying, "If you need to invest energy in it and can't rest in it it's not real." This struck me as a succinct guide to enlightenment; a signpost on the Way.
What prevents us from "resting in it" (i.e. letting go)?
If we have to remind ourselves over and over to let go (or be aware, be present, be in the Now), are we just investing more energy in an unreal state?
Does it take an intense application of energy to reach a place of effortlessness and reality?
Is our perception of investing energy an illusion?
A password-protected section of the website is available for TAT members. The area contains information on product discounts for members as well as a substantial amount of helpful and historical information, including audio recordings, Newsletter archives, Retrospect archives, policies, conference proceedings, business meeting notes, photographs, and suggestions for ways to help.
The audio recordings of the presenters at the April TAT Intensive are now available for downloading.
us if you have questions about the members-only area, or refer to your most recent TAT newsletter for log-in information.
Amazon and eBay
Let your Amazon purchases raise money for TAT!
An easy way to contribute to TAT is to click one of our Amazon links. Next time you want to make any purchase on Amazon, simply visit the TAT Press webpage and click any of the Amazon links. It doesn't matter what you purchase, TAT will receive from 4 to 6% of the purchase price of the item. It costs you nothing extra, and helps TAT. Try it now.
Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is the latest of TAT's books to be converted to the Kindle ebook format. All of the TAT Press books are now available on Amazon in a digital format.
TAT has registered with the eBay Giving Works program. You can list an item there and select TAT to receive a portion of your sale. Check out our Giving Works page on eBay. Click on the "For sellers" link on the left side of that page for details.
There's more background information in the TAT Homing Ground section below.
Your Contributions to TAT News
TAT founder Richard Rose believed that working with others accelerates our retreat from untruth. He also felt that such efforts were most effective when applied with discernment, meaning working with others on the rungs of the ladder closest to our own. The TAT News section is for TAT members to communicate about work they've been doing with or for other members and friends. Please your "ladder work" news.
A dog is a man's best friend.
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
We're hoping to present humor created by TAT members and friends here. Please your written or graphic creations. Exact sources are necessary for other submissions, since we need to make sure they're either in the public domain or that we have permission to use them.
The reason men don't know the law of life is because they're afraid to look Eternity in the face.
This is a 6-minute video of Oliver Sacks with a patient.
"Perhaps a tangentially related piece for the forum. From watching this, you could either be moved by the mystery and wonder of the human being, or by its machine-like nature. ~ Shawn N.
PS from Shawn: You may recall my fondness for Oliver Sacks, but now I find his time has come: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/opinion/oliver-sacks-on-learning-he-has-terminal-cancer.html?_r=1
In a Washington Post story I was reading this morning, "The Danger Journalists Face" by Dana Milbank, this quote jumped off the page for me.
The story was about an event honoring journalists killed in the past year and being inducted into a Journalist Memorial at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.
Steven Sotloff was held as a hostage by barbarians in Iraq, and undoubtedly was subjected to mock executions prior to his beheading. This was a practice designed to create uncertainty in the victim and even some calmness when the real event came in order to facilitate the filming production, maximize propaganda value etc.
Anyway, Milbank writes:
The parents of Sotloff read from a note from him, smuggled home to them by a released captive. "Everyone has two lives," he wrote. "The second one begins when you realize you only have one."
~ Bob C.
Please your thoughts on these items.
A reader wrote that what would make the Forum more interesting would be:
Hearing from people who are searching and have questions instead of those providing endless advice and "answers." What challenges they are facing. What their doubts and questions are. How they perceive their path is going. What they are doing in their lives. Where they think they will end up. Etc. etc.
Can you help make the Forum more interesting?
The Forum staff solicited feedback on TAT Press's seventh book, A Handyman's Common Sense Guide to Spiritual Seeking published in 2013.
From Todd W:
From the many pictures throughout the book, it is obvious that the author is an actual handyman. Why is this important? I think it provides a different role model for spiritual seeking; teachers don't have to come from India or from exotic Zen monasteries, they can be your neighbor up on the ladder helping you fix a leak.
What's refreshing and ultimately so readable is the absence of pretension. That's not to say that the author doesn't have conviction (actually quite the opposite), but the tone is casual and empathetic and feels like a conversation you might have on a Sunday afternoon with a good friend.
The common sense aspect is what I find most valuable, especially chapter 3. The chapter is less than 20 pages, yet is filled with enough practical wisdom, that if taken to heart, would prepare a seeker sufficiently to find real answers.
Overall, A Handyman's Common Sense Guide To Spiritual Seeking is concise, direct, personal and ultimately a satisfactory experience for those people a little confused about the ways and means to discover the Truths about life and death.
From Phil F:
Sharing his personal insights and realizations in a very down-to-earth manner. His perspectives are that of both a seeker and a finder told in a very intense and sometimes humorous way. One gets the feeling of being "inside the head" of the author with his common man's prose describing steps taken and obstacles faced off the beaten path of spiritual discovery. This is a valuable resource for all who are looking for a very practical yet inspired approach.
From Wyatt W:
This is a no holds barred tome to the quest for meaning that lies at the heart of every man. From personal experience, Dave de-mystifies what ultimately sits at the core of all the world's spiritual traditions and makes it something anyone can relate to. Along the way, he provides advice and inspiration that came out of his personal path to completion. A worthy read for any soul that feels the pull toward a final answer.
Amazon.com review from "Tailor Made":
Just the way I like my spiritual reading short and to the point. One might say this common sense advice is too common sense and not esoteric enough, yet I find Weimer's admonitions and advice need repeating and reinforcing in my life.
From Eric C:
I'll share with you, dear reader, that I know personally the author of this slender volume. Reading the Handyman's Guide is very much like sitting down and talking with the book's author. When he exhorts you to jump in and face your fears, I feel David's encouragement.
The Schwerpunkt [focal point] of the first chapter: "Leaning back in a swivel chair, this fully-formed sentence appeared in my mind: Either do something or throw all these books away in the morning. It was apparent that I would be a hypocrite if I continued to only talk about metaphysical seeking. The Truth may exist, but all I had was what I'd read or heard. I sensed a door of opportunity had opened and it was closing fast."
David's preface consists of 8 words: "I write from a position of existential certainty." When he writes "I have become something other than a coward," I feel he is communicating from one man to another, and this simple description of his accomplishment bears profound meaning. It is important to know whether one's spiritual guide has "made the trip," and that you will have to judge for yourself. However for me the real value of this book is the author's encouragement. Encouragement through sharing of hard-won life experience and clear writing which speaks to the reader's inner man and asks: "Is there unfinished business here, or not?"
From Vince L:
Don't let the brevity (100 pages) of this book fool you. Its brief pages are jam-packed with valuable tips on how to go about one's own spiritual search, based upon the author's own struggles during his years of seeking. The book is not merely inspirational, though it is immensely so. More importantly, Dave Weimer has drawn upon his years of spiritual seeking to produce a work that will both provoke and challenge the honesty of anyone who has pretenses of being a spiritual seeker. It is obvious that is what he wanted to do when he wrote this book, and, in my opinion, he has succeeded.
The author's writing style is "to the point," easy to read, clear, straightforward. His sincerity and intensity comes through as he shares with the reader his personal discoveries, insights, and epiphanies, along with the many tidbits of wisdom he has acquired during the course of his spiritual search. And as the title of the book implies, the author is trying to inspire the reader to take a practical handyman's approach to the spiritual search. He aims to encourage the reader to find "what works," practically, through trial and error, as well as by finding what best suits the individual seeker. The author does not claim there is a cookie cutter approach to the spiritual search. He acknowledges that not everything that worked for him will work for others, but rather one must learn to know their own "geography," a term he used in the book to describe his own approach.
Although there is no cookie cutter approach to the spiritual search, the author makes it clear that for everyone who claims to be a spiritual seeker one must make a total commitment, apply the effort and be honest with oneself or else "one is lost." The spiritual search must become the top priority whereby one makes it his or her career. The author explains why finding an ultimate answer to one's existence is more important than anything else.
Among the book's chapters there is a section on "just starting" where the author provides advice on how to overcome various fears and make the first step. In chapter III the author lists 21 things he wished he told himself when he was younger. He shares some of his own personal journal notes in another chapter.
A Handyman's Common Sense Guide to Spiritual Seeking is a reference book that the spiritual seeker can go back to over and over again. It will provide encouragement during periods of despair when the search seems futile. The author describes how he experienced those periods but came through them. You will be caught up in his enthusiasm every time you read its short but potent chapters.
From Jason S:
David Weimer's A Handyman's Common Sense Guide to Spiritual Seeking is written in simple prose, and can be read in one sitting or used as a reference guide when the need or inspiration arises. He sets the tone early for readers with bold and inviting statements: "I'm writing this Guide for desperate people" and "Enlightenment may not exist. It certainly does not exist for you if you are still seeking fulfillment and meaning; it's a tale told by others."
My first encounter with Weimer's book was in a period of deep questioning as to how I should proceed in my personal and spiritual life, and he offered his encouragement on trusting oneself and striking out on one's own way if one was called to do so. Much of his experience struck a personal cord, and his straight talk about action and facing fear is sound advice for anyone asking themselves who they are and whether or not they can find that which they are seeking. He explicitly states "the contents of this guide may speak to you if you find yourself drawn to your own personal unknown."
He discusses personal responsibility as advocated to him by West Virginian Zen style leader Richard Rose and the importance of having priorities and using them to make choices for oneself. He goes on to talk about the need to salvage energy from unnecessary distractions and diversions: "You focus your undivided attention on your top priority and get proportional results." and "Anyone infected with a need for a permanent solution to their temporary problem (life) should seek it. If you really want it, search for your ultimate now, no matter how old you are."
I recommend A Handyman's Common Sense Guide to Spiritual Seeking for anyone and everyone who is on the spiritual path and is looking for simple guidelines as to how they can find the Answer to their questions. He gives us the courage to listen to the small voice inside of ourselves, and advocates that we venture off into the unknown. He provides meaningful tips to those who are ready to hear them and will inspire you to take another step on your own journey.
Thank you to David, for taking the time to write this book and being willing to share his experience with us.
Please send us your brief reviews or feedback on something that stood out for you in the TAT Press book Beyond Relativity: Transcending the Split Between Knower & Known for next month's Reader Commentary.
Other Reader Feedback
In response to the video "Does Consciousness Need a Brain?" from Shankar V:
If we say that a thing exists, that existence must be coupled with consciousness, that is, it should itself know its own existence. It should not need the evidence or help of any other thing either to know its existence or to prove its existence. For, existence and the knowledge of existing are not two different things.
Thus, consciousness without existence is not at all consciousness. Existence without consciousness is not at all existence. The knowledge that we slept is the evidence of our existence at that time. Do we have to ask others to know whether we slept or not? Since it is we alone who have the knowledge that we have slept, does not this very knowledge prove that we did exist in our deep sleep? When our existence and consciousness in deep sleep is thus undeniable, if our body and world also had such an undeniable existence and consciousness, why do they (body and world) need the evidence of others to prove their existence during our deep sleep? Because the evidence of others is needed to prove that our body and world exist during deep sleep, is it not clear that their existence is not self-evident? Since we know that an existence without consciousness is no existence at all, and since the knowledge that the body and world exist in deep sleep is not self-evident, we can positively assert that the existence of body and the world is false.
If the existence of body is false, how does the brain, which is part of the body, exist? The brain has no existence at all. So how can consciousness need a brain?
What I actually am must be something I experience at all times. Not something I experience temporarily. I experience myself during sleep and do not experience my ego and body. So I am nothing other than consciousness because I experience myself at all times and I exist at all times as existence consciousness bliss.
Shankar included a link to a talk by Rupert Spira titled The New Science of Consciousness, in which Spira said the following:
Everybody in this room is aware that they are conscious.... Whatever it is that is aware that we are conscious must itself have two qualities: one, it must be present; and two, it must be aware. What would that be? Consciousness. That's what consciousness is: that which is present and aware.... In the simple experience that each of us is now having, the simple experience that I am aware, right there is the experience of consciousness knowing its own being.
Q: Any reaction?
Richard Rose described a spiritual path as living one's life aimed at finding the meaning of that life. Did you find anything relevant to your life or search in this month's Forum issue?
Ben Rainey at Oil Creek (PA) State Park; photo by Leah Marmo
We like hearing from you! Please your comments, suggestions, inquiries, and submissions.
The Path to Truth, or Reality or Essence
The path to Truth, or Reality or Essence is very simple:
It requires a Selfish man, an individualist not afraid of the annihilation of Individualism, a fearless man not afraid of powers within him that are much greater than himself, and a man of suicidal relentlessness once his commitment is given.
All that is necessary to find the Truth is an unconditional commitment not putting a time on the commitment nor a greater value on any other desires or fears. If a person sincerely makes a commitment he automatically becomes a vector in a sure direction.
But if we wish to see the commitment become an Absolute result in this lifetime, we must be conscious of our limited time, and of ways and means to expedite the realization. All energies must give priority to the vector. Every hour must be used in a way to expedite the success.
So that as soon as the general commitment is made, we should immediately commit our energies which are generally used for anger or pleasure so that transmutation will bring Intuition.
The voice of Intuition will be our most valuable teacher. It will furnish all future planning for the campaign. But do not rest. Make violent efforts but do not disturb the sleepers.
~ From an endpaper of The Direct-Mind Experience, by Richard Rose
"Do all things for the sake of a higher power, and it will correctly guide your every step." ~ Richard Rose correspondence
Do you have a favorite quote from Richard Rose? Please it along with how you'd prefer to be identified.
Update from Shawn Nevins
THE CHALLENGE: An anonymous member has pledged a $5600 donation if we raise a matching $5600 by the November TAT meeting. If we meet that challenge, our 75% target is reached, and we will form a search committee and begin looking in earnest for a property.
Yet some still ask: Why? How will this benefit me? What's the purpose if there is not a resident teacher? I think these questions are a failure on my part to explain the vision for our Homing Ground.
The Vipassana/Insight meditation groups offer a model in this regard. The Insight Meditation Community of Washington D.C., for example, has over fifty teachers connected with it. A number of teachers offer retreats. This is a very robust model in which an organization is not tied to a single teacher. In fact, it is already the model with which TAT operates, and is in line with Rose's vision that TAT would be an "umbrella" organization through which many people would exchange ideas. So, while there may not be one resident teacher in our immediate plans, there are many teachers who would use such a facility for shorter or longer periods of time. For example, Bob Fergeson has expressed interest in being at the retreat center during the winter months.
IMAGINE THIS: You take a week off work in January and head to TAT's cabin. Reading, meditating, a review of your past year, getting perspective, making plans. At the end of the week, you take a day to meet with Bob, and talk over your thoughts and plans.
Or this: A week long retreat with Art Ticknor, or Bart Marshall, or Paul Constant.
Or even this: You find yourself at a stage of life where you want an extended time away. Months perhaps. You sign on for a stint as caretaker of TAT's retreat center.
LET'S MAKE THIS HAPPEN: We have till November 21st to meet the challenge. To invest in the "Homing Ground" project, mail a check made out to the TAT Foundation (for instructions on mailing a check, please ).
Or you can use PayPal (though we lose 2.2% of your gift to PayPal fees) by choosing the "Make a Donation" button below. TAT is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational organization and qualifies to receive tax-deductible contributions.
I thank each of you who have donated and pledged and look forward to the day we set foot on our new home site.
What's This All About?
For over 35 years, the TAT Foundation met on Richard Rose's farm, where he and the members created "a spot on earth upon which to meet. A homing ground...." TAT meetings, group retreats, and solitary retreats were a regular part of life at the ashram. Rose's desire to help others and to bring people together in a meditative surrounding, influenced two generations of spiritual seekers. Rose's farm was a sanctuary for many years, and a crucible. He once said it was like the desertwhere you go to meet God.
In 2011, Rose's heir decided to use the property for another purpose, and TAT's lease was not renewed. We have since rented facilities for our four quarterly meetings. Yet, the desire to provide a greater service has been a frequent topic. Our dream is to create once again a space that encourages honesty, provides a crucible for spiritual development, and produces the next generation of spiritual seekers and finders.
To that end, TAT is raising $250,000 to find a new home. We envision a semi-rural facility, close to a university town, with a meeting hall seating up to 70 participants, kitchen and bath facilities, and a room for a live-in caretaker. Additionally, the facility would have one cabin for solitary retreats. Ideally, the property would border public lands to provide a buffer of quiet and solitude, and have enough acreage to allow for additional cabins, sleeping quarters, and facilities over time. A resident teacher, week-long retreats and intensives, public events and other activities are planned.
Did you enjoy the Forum? Then buy the book!
Beyond Mind, Beyond Death is available at Amazon.com.
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