Why Psychology is so out of touch with the real you!!

Why Psychology is so out of touch with the real you!!

As a green eighteen year old I went to university to study Social Psychology. I was scared of the amount of statistics involved and switched over to Social Anthropology. In many ways in those halcyon days of 1968 I was very privileged, but found myself on the receiving end of tortuous theories – all insisting I was an epiphenomenon of society. Deep down I was convinced this was not true, especially after I took LSD, blinked twice, and realised everything was one thing, and I was the knower. It is gobsmacking just how confusing the world of philosophy, psychotherapy, and psychology is – because almost none of the practitioners have known they were looking through mental shackles.

The following is a brilliant account of science by a contemporary of mine who studied physics at Cambridge but went on to lose his mental shackles as a Buddhist monk: Ajahn Brahm

Buddhism, the only real science.

I used to be a scientist. I did Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University, hanging out in the same building as the later-to-be-famous Professor Stephen Hawking. I became disillusioned with such science when, as an insider, I saw how dogmatic some scientists could be. A dogma, according to the dictionary, is an arrogant declaration of an opinion.This was a fitting description of the science that I saw in the labs of Cambridge. Science had lost its sense of humility. Egotistical opinion prevailed over the impartial search for Truth. My favourite aphorism from that time was: “The eminence of a great scientist, is measured by the length of time that they OBSTRUCT PROGRESS in their field”! To understand real science, one can go back to one of its founding fathers, the English philosopher Francis Bacon (1561 – 1628). He established the framework on which science was to progress, namely “the greater force of the negative instance”.This meant that, having proposed a theory to explain some natural phenomenon, then one should try one’s best to disprove it! One should test the theory with challenging experiments. One must put it on trial with rigorous argument.When a flaw appears in the theory, only then does science advance. A new discovery has been made enabling the theory to be adjusted and refined. This fundamental and original methodology of science understood that it is impossible to prove anything with absolute certainty. One can only disprove with absolute certainty.For example, how can one prove the basic law of gravity that “what goes up comes down, eventually”? One may throw objects up one million times and see them fall one million times. But that still does not prove “what goes up comes down”.For NASA might then ‘throw’ a Saturn rocket up into space to explore Mars, and that never comes down to earth again. One negative instance is enough to disprove the theory with absolute certainty.Some misguided scientists maintain the theory that there is no rebirth, that this stream of consciousness is incapable of returning to a successive human existence. All one needs to disprove this theory, according to science, is to find one instance of rebirth, just one!Professor Ian Stevenson, as some of you would know, has already demonstrated many instances of rebirth. The theory of no rebirth has been disproved. Rebirth is now a scientific fact!Modern science gives a low priority to any efforts to disprove its pet theories. There is too much vested interest in power, prestige and research grants. A courageous commitment to truth takes too many scientists out of their comfort zone.Scientists are, for the most part, brainwashed by their education and their in-group conferences to see the world in a very narrow, microscopic, way. The very worst scientists are those who behave like eccentric evangelists, claiming that they alone have the whole truth, and then demanding the right to impose their views on everyone else.Ordinary people know so little about science that they can hardly even understand the jargon.Yet, if they read in a newspaper or magazine “a scientist says that?”, then they automatically take it to be true. Compare this to our reaction when we read in the same journal “a politician says that?”! Why do scientists have such unchallenged credibility?Perhaps it is because the language and ritual of science has become so far removed from the common people, that scientists have become today’s revered and mystical priesthood.Dressed in their ceremonial white lab coats, chanting incomprehensible mumbo jumbo about multi-dimensional fractal parallel universes, and performing magical rituals that transubstantiate metal and plastic into TVs and computers, these modern day alchemists are so awesome we’ll believe anything they say. Elitist science, as once was the Pope, is now infallible.Some know better. Much of what I learnt 30 years ago has now been proved wrong. There are, fortunately, many scientists with integrity and humility who affirm that science is, at best, a work still in progress.They know that science can only suggest a truth, but can never claim a truth. I was once told by a Buddhist G.P. that, on his first day at a medical school in Sydney, the famous Professor, head of the Medical School, began his welcoming address by stating “Half of what we are going to teach you in the next few years is wrong. Our problem is that we do not know which half it is!” Those were the words of a real scientist.Some evangelical scientists would do well to reflect on the (amended) old saying “Scientists rush in where angels fear to tread” and stop pontificating about the nature of the mind, happiness and even Nirvana. Neurologists are especially prone to such neuroses (Neurosis: an undue adherence to unrealistic ideas of things).They are claiming that the mind, awareness and will, is now adequately explained by activity in the brain. This theory was disproved over 20 years ago by Prof. Lorber’s discovery of the student at Sheffield University with an IQ of 126, a First Class degree in mathematics, but with virtually no brain (Science, Vol. 210, 12 Dec 1980)!More recently, it was disproved by Prof. Pim Van Lommel, who demonstrated the existence of consciousness activity after clinical death, i.e. when all brain activity has ceased (Lancet, Vol. 358, 15 December 2001, p 2039).Although there may be correlation between a measurable activity in part of the brain and a mental impression, such co-occurrence doesn’t always imply that one is the cause of the other. For instance, some years ago, research showed a clear correlation between cigarette smoking and the non-occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.It was not that smoking cigarettes somehow caused immunity from Alzheimer’s, as much as the tobacco companies might have wished, it was only that many smokers did not live long enough to get Alzheimer’s disease!Thus a co-incidence of two phenomena, even when repeated, does not mean that one phenomenon is the cause of the other. To claim that activity in the brain causes awareness, or mind, is plainly unscientific.Buddhism is more scientific than modern science. Like science, Buddhism is based on verifiable cause-and-effect relationships. But unlike science, Buddhism challenges with thoroughness every belief.The famous Kalama Sutta of Buddhism states that one cannot believe fully in “what one is taught, tradition, hearsay, scripture, logic, inference, appearance, agreement with established opinion, the seeming competence of a teacher, or even in one’s own teacher”.How many scientists are as rigorous in their thinking as this? Buddhism challenges everything, including logic.It is worth noting that Quantum Theory appeared quite illogical, even to such great scientists as Einstein, when it was first proposed. It is yet to be disproved. Logic is only as reliable as the assumptions on which it is based. Buddhism trusts only clear and objective experience.Clear experience occurs when one’s measuring instruments, one’s senses, are bright and undisturbed. In Buddhism, this happens when the hindrances of sloth-and-torpor and restlessness-and-remorse are both overcome. Objective experience is that which is free from all bias.In Buddhism, the three types of bias are desire, ill will and sceptical doubt. Desire makes one see only what one wants to see, it bends the truth to fit one’s preferences. Ill will makes one blind to whatever is disturbing or disconcerting to one’s views and it distorts the truth by denial.Sceptical doubt stubbornly refuses to accept those truths, like rebirth, that are plainly valid but which fall outside of one’s comforting worldview.In summary, clear and objective experience only happens when the Buddhist ‘Five Hindrances’ have been overcome. Only then can one trust the data arriving through one’s senses.Because scientists are not free of these five hindrances, they are rarely clear and objective. It is common, for example, for scientists to ignore annoying data, which do not fit their cherished theories, or else confine such evidence to oblivion by filing it away as an ‘anomaly’.Even most Buddhists aren’t clear and objective. One has to have recent experience of Jhana to effectively put aside these five hindrances (according to the Nalakapana Sutta , Majjhima No. 68). So only accomplished meditators can claim to be real scientists, that is, clear and objective.Science claims to rely not only on clear and objective observation, but also on measurement. But what is measurement in science? To measure something, according to the pure science of Quantum Theory, is to collapse the Schroedinger Wave Equation through an act of observation.Moreover, the “un-collapsed” form of the Schroedinger Wave Equation, that is before any measurement is made, is, perhaps, science’s most perfect description of the world.That description is weird! Reality, according to pure science, does not consist of well-ordered matter with precise massed, energies and positions in space, all just waiting to be measured. Reality is the broadest of smudges of all possibilities, only some being more probable than others.Even basic ‘measurable’ qualities as ‘alive’ or ‘dead’ have been demonstrated by science to be invalid sometimes. In the notorious ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’ thought experiment, Prof. Schroedinger’s cat was ingeniously placed in a real situation where it was neither dead nor alive, where such measurements became meaningless. Reality, according to Quantum Theory, is beyond measurements. Measuring disturbs reality, it never describes it perfectly.It was Heisenberg’s famous ‘Uncertainty Principle’ that showed the inevitable error between the real Quantum world and the measured world of pseudo-science.Anyway, how can anyone measure the measurer, the mind? At a recent seminar on Science and Religion, at which I was a speaker, a Catholic in the audience bravely announced that whenever she looks through a telescope at the stars, she feels uncomfortable because her religion is threatened.I commented that whenever a scientist looks the other way round through a telescope, to observe the one who is watching, then they feel uncomfortable because their science is threatened by what is doing the seeing! So what is doing the seeing, what is this mind that eludes modern science?A Grade-One teacher once asked her class “What is the biggest thing in the world?” One little girl answered “My daddy”. A little boy said “An elephant”, since he’d recently been to the zoo. Another girl suggested “A mountain”.The six-year-old daughter of a close friend of mine replied, “My eye is the biggest thing in the world”! The class stopped. Even the teacher didn’t understand her answer. So the little philosopher explained “Well, my eye can see her daddy, an elephant, and a mountain too. It can also see so much else. If all of that can fit into my eye, then my eye must be the biggest thing in the world.” Brilliant!However, she was not quite right. The mind can see everything that one’s eye can see, and it can also imagine so much more. It can also hear, smell, taste and touch, as well as think. In fact, everything that can be known can fit into the mind. Therefore, the mind must be the biggest thing in the world. Science’s mistake is obvious now. The mind is not in the brain, nor in the body. The brain, the body and the rest of the world, are in the mind!Mind is the sixth sense in Buddhism, it is that which encompasses the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, and transcends them with its own domain. It corresponds loosely to Aristotle’s “common sense” that is distinct from the five senses.Indeed, ancient Greek philosophy, from where science is said to have its origins, taught six senses just like Buddhism. Somewhere along the historical journey of European thinking, they lost their mind! Or, as Aristotle would put it, they somehow discarded their “common sense”! And thus we got science. We got materialism without any heart. One can accurately say that Buddhism is science that has kept its heart, and which hasn’t lost its mind!Thus Buddhism is not a belief system. It is a science founded on objective observation, i.e. meditation, ever careful not to disturb the reality through imposing artificial measurements, and it is evidently repeatable.People have been re-creating the experimental conditions, known as establishing the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, for over twenty-six centuries now, much longer than science. And those renowned Professors of Meditation, the male and female Arahants, have all arrived at the same conclusion as the Buddha.They verified the timeless Law of Dhamma, otherwise known as Buddhism. So Buddhism is the only real science, and I’m happy to say that I’m still a scientist at heart, only a much better scientist than I ever could have been at Cambridge.Courtesy: Buddhist Society of Western Australia.”

In this world of the spiritually blind…

After Shakyamuni’s enlightenment, his first words were to someone called Upaka, to whom he said ‘In this world of the spiritually blind I go to Benares to bang the drum of the deathless.’  All of us – all humans – as we grow from infancy look in the mirrror of our parents, and take on board pictures of who they are and who we believe we are in relation to them. Rather like going to the opticians for an eye test, we end up with many lenses colouring our vision without even knowing it, we just take it for granted. Read More

What is the Mind ??

Nisargadatta Maharaj was an Indian guru who died in 1981. His book ‘I am that’ is one of the great spiritual classics – as you will see there is a pure Mind, which can only be found when we stop identifying with all the junk we think is me…Does internal family systems therapy draw on this pure Mind ? Well it can help to begin to align ourself with the power of knowing, of tuning into the felt sense of the body, of knowing what it is to step back and be the knowing, of being able to recognise trains of thought, and see them rather than be lost into them…Our culture is lost into the situation of the five blind men and the elephant and not knowing what is real….Maharaj is a good guide… Read More

Is psychology wrong-headed?

I did an online course on ‘Buddhism and Modern Psychology’, and found it useful to write an essay for the course on just how wrong-headed evolutionary psychologists appear to be. I studied Social Anthropology years ago and was equally stunned at how little access it gave to the mysteries of the human heart. The human sciences (including psychotherapy, philosophy, sociology and academic psychology) wrestle with studying the human mind and desperately try to pin it down with a myriad of theories. What they do not understand – which the Buddha did – is that we can only penetrate the Mind by trusting the principle of awareness. Read More

The world as love in action..

I just loved this quote from Nisargadatta Maharaj – a beedi wallah in Bombay – who was extrordinarly incisive:
“Someone asks:
What can truth or reality gain by all our practice?
He uses truth and love interchangeably.  He says:
“Nothing whatsoever, of course.  But it is in the nature of
truth or love, cosmic consciousness, whatever you want to call it, to
express itself, to affirm itself, to overcome difficulties Read More

The Five Blind Men and the Elephant

What is all the turbulence and argument going on all over the world (I am thinking of the USA and the UK as I write)?  Why are people so desperately trying to impose their opinion on others?

Growing up as I did in the England of the 1950’s there was a sense (admittedly one I found stifling) of a collective agreement, of society adhering to a set of assumptions. Just as England is the only country that does not have its name on our stamps – because we invented them – so we have a similar relationship to England.

In this way there was an implicit sense of lining up behind certain codes which could not easily be spelt out Read More

The Touchstone (By RL Stevenson)

This is a wonderful story by RLS – it points to the clear mirror of the heart we all possess but which is usualy covered over with images and pictures accumulated around a  sense of a seperate ‘me’.

“THE King was a man that stood well before the world; his smile was sweet as clover, but his soul withinsides was as little as a pea. He had two sons; and the younger son was a boy after his heart, but the elder was one whom he feared. It befell one morning that the drum sounded in the dun before it was yet day Read More

Learning to bear the beams of love….

William Blake writes that “we are put on earth a little space,. That we may learn to bear the beams of love…”
I have had times in meditation when the blinkers of the ‘mind-forged manacles’ (another quote from Blake)  fall away, and felt like a sinner welcomed into heaven, hardly able to believe my luck. This love is always there but we get so wrapped up in our sense of a seperate ‘me’ who believes the world is out there and antithetical to us, that we rarely experience grace. Read More

‘God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer….”

In this time of an almost complete lack of leadership in the UK, I found myself listening to Robert Kennedy’s speeches : he is marvellously articulate; he quoted these words on the day of Martin Luther King’s assassination, from his favourite poet, Aeschylus: “God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
It takes a lot of humility and courage to realise that we suffer because we are looking at the world through a viewpoint we experience as ‘me’ Read More

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The Natural Mind

Nearly all of us are lost in the stories that go on in our minds. Mindfulness is the capacity to step back and begin to deconstruct the movie: to see it without reacting. If we do this patiently, honestly and courageously, we begin to see thoughts are only real because we invest our attention in them. They come and go, like waves, and disapear by themselves if we don’t hold onto them. The real Mind cannot be found – just because we are it. We create an image of ourself which is constantly on the run – running away and running after. If we have the courage to face our fear and not invest in blind hope, we may be fortunate enough to be the knowing. Then we may find, as the 12th century Chan master Hongzhi Zhenjue writes:
“Silent and still, abiding in itself; just like this—in suchness, it is apart from conditioning, where luminosity is vast and spacious, without any [emotional] dust—directly [the self] is thoroughly relinquished. Arriving at this fundamental place, one realizes that it is not something newly acquired. From the ancient home before the great kalpa, (aeons) there has been utter clarity without any obscurations; in its liveliness and readiness, it shines alone. Though it is like this, it is not realized without enacting it. (engaging it in practice) Precisely in the process of enacting it, the direct teaching is to not give rise to a single thing, not to allow a speck of dust to cover it. In this great rest where [vexations are] dried up and frozen, there is vast and penetrating understanding. If this resting cannot thoroughly exhaust [vexations] and one wishes to reach the realm beyond birth and death, there can be no such place! Just directly penetrate through. One will then resolve [this matter] thoroughly without the dust of conceptual thinking.  Being pure, there are no conditioning speculations. Take a backward step and open your grasping hands. Thoroughly resolve this matter. Then, your ability to put forth light and respond to the world will be appropriate—merging with myriad objects, just right, on all occasions.”