Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Comments by mattcolborn

Showing 3 of 3 comments.

  • Hi —
    My understanding is that TED instigated the guidelines as a result of a response by some very vociferous skeptics to talks by Rupert Sheldrake and Graeme Hancock in 2013, questioning materialism. See this link:


    See also Craig Weiler’s book ‘Psi Wars.’

    During the course of this dispute, TED tried to demarcate the difference between science and pseudoscience. Doing this they ran into the problem that has dogged philosophers of science for a very long time: despite many claims to the contrary, there are no consistent, agreed criteria for doing this in a universal, satisfactory way.

    Currently, we’re living in an era of VERY entrenched factions who would basically like to see the destruction of what they see as their rivals. We’re also living in a post-truth era, so those who support reason and science are basically circling their wagons for understandable reasons. (i.e. rampant censorship in federal science programs, etc.)

    The danger is that in doing so, supporters of science will become more dogmatic and less tolerant of dissent. IMO we need something like a science court to negotiate disputes like this. Conventional approaches, peer review and popular advocacy don’t seem adequate in controversial fields like mental health.

  • Hi — Thanks for this. I have a copy of Alan Wallace’s book, I’ll look this up. (It’s a very useful guide).

    RE: Saccharine versions of meditation. I think that practises that suggest you need to empty your mind and just think happy thoughts derive more from things like Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science movement than the buddhist traditions with which I’m (relatively) familiar. Barbara Ehrenreich provides some caustic critiques of these approaches in her book ‘Bright sided.’ I’m afraid that such mindlessly positive approaches do not work for me either!

  • As an experiencer of depression and a meditator, none of the above effects surprises me (although I’d note the cultural bias in lumping paranormal experiences and beliefs in with negative delusional states).

    Meditation can be a very powerful tool so it’s not surprising that negative experiences occur as well as positive. My sense from reading buddhist sources is that having the ego dissolve or seem to dissociate can indeed be frightening and disorientating.

    I think that one big reason why mental health and other medical practitioners downplay or ignore negative effects is that they underestimate the power of these techniques, and see it in shallow terms as a stress reliever. (One reason for this problem is a blanket refusal to take the traditional sources, and alternative, transpersonal models of consciousness seriously.)

    However, a cursory glance at the traditional sources make it clear that the goal is a profound transformation of one’s consciousness and the induction of very different states of consciousness. This means that it’s important to attend to what those sources have to say.