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Don 2 Leisel

Oct 29, 1995 00:39 AM
by Don DeGracia

Hi Leisel:

Thanks for all your comments in this discussion. I'm going to go through all 3
of your letters that I have here and answer them all in this letter.

<it's only occult until
someone figures out what makes it tick, then it becomes known & no
longer occult.>

This is a critical idea, one that is essential to understanding the evolution of
human thinking. It is also something I bank on.

< some early
biofeedback researchers, I think it was the Greenes, once took some
measurements of a cooperating yogi>

There are a handful of studies along such lines. And they clearly show that
yogis have conscious control over things that most of us do not, such as
controling their heart rates. I don't know why such studies have not had more
of an impact, especially in my field, which is physiology. I suspect, in large
part because no one teaches about these studies. There are new technologies
today that could expand on these earlier studies, such as using PET scans on
brain activity. I'm not aware of anyone doing this currently, though I advocate
it in my writings.

<What you wrote re non-linear equations is just enough. At least now I
understand what they're talking about>

I'm glad the explanation was helpful. Its important to realize that this kind
of discussion gets into the "nuts and bolts" of what science is and how it works
and, IMO, is much more important to understand that a lot of the philosophical
hoopla that most people dwell on.

<It's just
beyond me.>

Unfortunately, math gets a bad rap. I think it depends on how well you are
taught it because math is actually very simple. Like science, math is meant to
simplify things, not obscure them. The fact that most people don't appreciate
this is a tribute to how poor our educational system is.

<I'm sorry your book didn't get past the TPH editors. Please don't let
that keep you from expressing your ideas.>

Thanks for the encouragement! I really don't intend to let TPH's rejection hold
me back. I'm sure I will eventually find an audience for my ideas. More and
more scientists are open to these kinds of ideas, and there are a number of us
who communicate out here on internet specifically about these kinds of topics.

<I live in a Sr. Citizen's
apt. complex, with services....>

Thanks for sharing a little bit about yourself and your life. It helps a lot in
getting to know you.

<Love your conversation.>

Well, Leisel, I'd say its your conversation too!

<Don, I was wondering whether you're familiar with the work of Eric

A friend of mine who lives in San Fransico met Eric a couple years ago. They
only spoke briefly but I gather he is still doing the biofeedback stuff or at
least lecturing about it.

I'm not very familair with his work, but thanks for bringing his name up. I am
aware that he has worked with Dora Kunz.

Thanks for sharing about your essay. It reflects perfectly the point I was
making, and even generalizes on it a bit. I was thinking specifically about how
philosophers will take the latest scientific information and develop
philosophical ideas from them. Your example is even more general in that it
illustrates how the social attitudes and customs affect science, and in this
case, medicine.

<& thought it showed very graphically how our thoughts, or philosophies,
influenced our lives, & made Karma, but Bill Metzger didn't agree with me.>

Yeah, its unfortunate this piece didn't get into print. For one thing, it
really shows how to apply theosophical ideas in a very practical manner. I
wonder if sometimes, some theosophists, for some reason or another, disdain
having theosophical ideas used this way, as if it belittles the ideas to apply
them to "secular" circumstances. Anyway, I sure don't think like this and I
agree with you fully. You are exactly right that this is one way of supporting
the contentions about the nature of karma and illustrating karmic principles in
action. Maybe its not dramatic or mystical enough for some folks, what with no
talk of reincarnation or any other such trappings?

Anyway, I think your ideas are wonderful. Thank you for sharing them.

<I'm all for "validating our beliefs through experience." >

Yes, that is clear from the material you shared. You may want to consider
posting your article here on BUDS. I'd like to read it.

Anyway, this idea of "validating our beliefs through experience." is a tricky
one. For, on one hand, we first need some kind of idea by which to understand
experience in the first place. But, on the other hand, it is too easy to
believe in ideas that have nothing to do with our immediate experience. This is
something I address in my OBE book by saying that one needs to have a balance
between theory and practice. On the theory side, the important dictum is "be
informed", which means to understand as much about a thing as it possible, and
not to close your mind to alternative ways to look at something (and also, not
to dogmatically get caught up in any particular set of beliefs). But, the study
of theory must be balanced by practical application. It is my opinion that
theory without practical application is not as good as theories that lead to
practical consequences. And again, the important point is to keep a healthy
balance between theory and practice. This is just another example of the
yin/yang principle in action.

And its not even validating our beliefs as much as its the need to really test
them. Some beliefs can be tested easier than others. But as I said already,
its a matter of creativity as to coming up with ways to test ideas that
otherwise seem intractable to testing.

<I wonder whether you yourself have already come up with
some new methods>

I've come up with a few new things, some of which I don't make public. Mostly
though, I've tried "old" things and found them to work, such as, for example,
learning how to astral project, or using yogic methods of purifying my mind and
emotions. This stuff is readily available to all, but the crux is seeing how to
*apply* it to ones immediate experience and take it out of the realm of talk or
theory. Theosophists talk of the astral plane, but how many have made the
effort to go there?

<You were hoping that the TS would play a constructive role & help guide
scientists as
they ... explore new regions of consciousness. I hope you'll find that support.>

Thanks. I don't worry too much tho. Its all so tangled and complicated that
the best I can do is keep pumping along. Where it will lead, I have no idea,
but then again, it doesn't matter. Whether the ideas I advocate are ever
accepted by the TS, is not anything to bank on for me. What is clear though is
that knowledge is moving in a certain direction. Many things are inevitable at
this point. Its all just a matter of time. The mental plane is ever pregnant
and pouring its contents into this physical plane. I am only another vehicle of
this process. If it isn't me, then it will be someone else. It is all quite
inevitable. If others don't see this inevitability right now, then they will
see it when it manifests as actuality over the next few decades.

< I was just thinking that there were
other theosophical scientists who were inspired by theosophical
thinking. Besant/Leadbeater's "Occult Chemistry", and Jinarajadasa's "First
Principles of Theosophy" come to mind.>

Yes, I am familiar with Dr. Phillips work with Occult Chemisty. I too study
avidly the Occult Chemistry material and have recently come up with a theory of
how Besant and Leadbeater may have actually seem these images. It is a theory
much different than Leadbeater's contention of an "etheric tube" that magnifies
vision. My theory is related to what is now known about how the brain operates.
What is nice is that my view doesn not contradict Leadbeater's, it provides an
alternative view from Leadbeaters.

<The physical brain I read in some theosophical lit is considered a
vehicle, & not the originator of what it produces.>

There is so much known now about the brain, that clinging to such ideas no
longer makes sense. The theosophical ideas are too simple in light of current
knowledge about the brain. For over 200 years, people have been studying the
brain and much is known about it. And today, there are marvelous new
technolgies, like PET scanners and CT scanners, that allow us to watch the
living brain in action. If the TS wants to keep its ideas respectable to
thinking people then they are going to have to modify them to deal with new

Of course, this line of thought applies to details. There are many elements of
the "big picture" which theosophical teachings continue to have great validity.
However, the idea that the brain is a vehicle of the soul needs to be revised
and expanded.

 Furthermore, by going through this excercise, one develops a much deeper
appreciation of what their soul is and how it relates to our physical existence.
The old idea of the brain being a vehicle is too nebulous. It is, in my
opinion, only a starting point for deeper exploration. Furthermore, and even
more importantly to me than mere intellectual critisisms is the fact that
people's needs are different now. People need explanations with substance,
explanations that can affect their life and outlook and give them greater
control of the factors that make up their existence. The world has gotten
smarter, and these old Victorian, 19th century formulations that fill
Theosophical thinking are not as relevant today. Yet, the essence of the ideas
is still relevant, it just has to be put in a form relevant for post-modern

You know, its interesting to dwell on this because John Algeo makes comments in
his AT article that I never even address in my original posting that got this
whole conversation started. And his statements illustrate many of the points I
am making here. Let me quote John and then elaborate on what I mean:

John said:

"A factor that science does not consider, and cannot consider by its rules, is
that variously called the "soul" or "spirit" or "self". We all have a sense of
self-identity. Where is that sense centered? It is not in the consciousness.
We have a sense of self apart from the brain and apart from any states of
consciousness or unconsciousness we may happen to be in..."

This quote is, in my opinion, much hot air. It is lacking in substance
completely. It is woefully inaccurate. There are a number of angles I could
take to support my claims and I will mention a few, particularly those that
illustrate what I said above.

Lets start with the less important criticisms and work our way up.

First, John is sloppy in his terms here. What does he mean by "sense of self"?
Yes, we all have a sense of self-identity, which is the center of our waking
personality, and this is now known to be located in the functions of the frontal
lobes of the brain. It has been known for over a century that if damage occurs
in the frontal lobes, then the person's sense of self is radically altered.
Furthermore, there are many drugs available that can alter brain function and
severly alter the sense of self. Thus, it is clear that our sense of self
identity is critically dependant upon brain function.

Now, John may object and say something to the effect "this is not what I meant
by sense of self. You are refering to the waking personality and I am talking
about something else - the soul or spirit". And my responce is: well please
explain what you mean and be precise with your terminology.

Second line of criticism: John says we have a sense of self independent of our
state of consciousness or unconsciousness. This flys in the face of what I say
about ideas having relevance to our experience. Our experience consists of our
immediate conscious awareness. How can one know anything outside of our
conscious awareness? Thus, if whatever John is talking about is outside of our
consciousness *and* our unconscious, then how can we ever know it? John is
describing something of which we can have no experience at all, and this simply
makes no sense.

No, the simple point is, an educated person will read what John wrote, see all
the flaws in it, and likely just ignore him or think what he says makes no
sense. For what he says has nothing to do with our immediate and direct
experience. Cleary we all have a sense of self, of who we are and what makes us
unique as indivduals. *This* sense of self science has studied in great detail
and has lots to say about.

Now, I know where John is coming from. He is attempting to describe the
transcendental aspects of our consciousness. This too is something scientists
have a lot to say about. A psycholgist named Abraham Maslow defined a branch of
psychology known as transpersonal psychology, which speaks of "peak experiences"
when people go beyond their terrestrial personality and get a glimpse of a
greater consciousness of which they are a part. LSD researchers have described
this kind of thing again and again. The idea that there is some greater
consciousness of which our normal personality is a part is no longer an idea
exclusive to theosophy. It may have been in 1875, but it is not now.
Throughout this century, people have studied these transcedental aspects of our
psychology and it is definately a topic of scientific inquiry, even if it isn't
mainstream or widely publicized.

Furthermore, and what disturbs me the most is that ONE CAN DIRECTLY EXPERIENCE
ELSE. John's statements would not lead one to this realization. Having this
experience is not simply thinking a thought or imaging it to be so. It is a
real and direct experience that can be achieved by any number of means. And
once one has the experience, one is altered profoundly. There is a vast
literature of this kind of thing, variously called the "mystical experience",
"satori", "nirvana", "seeing god", or what have you.

I could go on, but I won't. Hopefully my point is clear. The ideas John
expresses are out of date and they are not relevant to people's experience.
Even more than trying to be up-to-date, its critical to be relevant. What good
is an idea if it can't do something for people?

I will close here.

Take care!


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