Dr. Charles Tart
Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,
Lecture 5, Part 5 of 18 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.
CTT: Now once in a while, the transpersonal does get through to us. So one way to grow is to hope to have an overwhelming transpersonal experience that will force a new way of looking at reality on you, that’s going to be such a revelation that – wham! – it’s got your attention, and you feel a need to try to center your life around it, to live in accordance with that.
Probably the most certain way to induce that – more certain than all the usual mystical paths – is to have a near-death experience (NDE). Most people who have a near-death experience find their life tremendously changed. They’ve been talking with God for a while. Even the atheists. They have an especially hard time when they’ve been talking with God in terms of reconciling what they are experiencing with their belief system….. 😉
The trouble is, the near– part is very tricky! So it’s not a method I recommend at all.
Most people who get that close to death don’t tell you about a fantastic transpersonal experience. They get buried. So you don’t want to go that way. If life pushes you that way – okay. C’est la vie. But the more gradual spiritual paths are attempts to induce transpersonal experiences that can break through. That’s one of the routes.
The other route is what you might call the noise reduction route. The quieting down of the cocktail party so there’s going on in your head to give you chance to “hear” those higher kinds of things, and that’s what the mindfulness techniques do. That’s what certain kinds of psychotherapy do. They try to produce space between your thoughts and feelings and images, so that you can hear more subtle kinds of things
That’s the thing we’ve been focusing on. None of the stuff I teach in the mindfulness course really has anything to do with directly trying to induce transpersonal experiences, per se. It has an indirect effect of making it more likely that such an experience might happen because it cuts that noise level way down. That’s where we’re focusing. But if the higher experiences come, learn from them.
Student: I was wondering if your concept of noise here is analogous to Gurdjieff’s concept of the number of forces that are acting in a particular plane, or realm. He advocates cutting the number of forces by half, making the material world less dense. I’m looking for the connection to that thought.
CTT: You can make that connection if you want. It’s interesting, but I didn’t make it.
CTT: Gurdjieff’s idea of the number of laws acting at various levels and all that – that always struck me as intellectually interesting, but something I would have no idea of how to find out whether it was true or false.
I mean, it’s true in a general, psychological sense. The more neurotic you are, the more restrictions there are on your experience and behavior. The more laws you’re limited by, in a sense. But whether these are specific laws – you know, whether there’s a book somewhere that states what these particular laws are and that they divide strictly by halves or – I don’t know, and I don’t know how to figure it out.
So if you find that sort of stuff useful to help you move along, great. But I don’t know what to make of it. Sometimes I think Gurdjieff made it all up to get Ouspensky, who was so compulsively intellectual, off his back!
You know, Ouspensky was such an intellectual. Oh, he wanted everything explained in precise intellectual terms, and sometimes I think this laws and forces stuff was a sop Gurdjieff threw to Ouspensky…..but probably not. Probably he thought this was the real stuff……. and maybe it is.
Student: My impression in reading it is that he was creating a symbolic representation of an individual, just like you alluded to in answering my question.
CTT: Yeah. It’s certainly true psychologically, that the more neurotic and conditioned you are, the more laws restrict your behavior, even if they’re nonspecific. Well, they’re specific for you. You may be conditioned in a certain, specific way that, say, closed doors make you nervous. That puts a restriction on your ability to use rooms in an efficient, comfortable kind of fashion. When you have some therapeutic insight into what’s behind that, and kind of let go of that mechanism, it’s like you gained another degree of freedom, because now closed doors don’t bother you.
Student: Whew. Thank God he opened that!
So that’s the little review I wanted to give you. Okay? We’ve been working with the three boxes in the left and upper part. The fourth one is there. We hear more about the fourth one in other kinds of courses. If any of you take the altered states course next quarter, we’ll be talking some about altered states that have some things to do with these higher sorts of things, but I’m functioning as a “noise reducer teacher” in this particular class.