Before we get started, tomorrow is our monthly half-day zazen in Culver City at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Come for any portion you like. We go from 9:30am till around 3:30pm. Show up early, show up late, leave in the middle, we don’t care. But it’s more fun with more people, so show up! We also do a fine, fancy Zen service in the morning.

Here’s an email I received recently:

Hi Brad
When you spoke about Gudo Wafu Nishijima’s death you mentioned:
“The night he died (when I did not yet know he was dead) he showed up in a dream and mildly criticized me for trying to do too many things. He said I should just stick to teaching Zen.” I was just wondering if you had any further thoughts on this event. It seems to me it would be a profoundly important and astounding occurrence – the night your teach died he appeared to you in a dream, without you knowing he had died. Do you place much significance on this?

I must not. Because up till I got this email I had forgotten I even wrote this. If I think back upon it now I can recall having the dream, but not much more than that. I can’t recall if I saw him in the dream or if it was more vague than that. I can’t remember if anything else happened in the dream. I don’t even remember how I reacted in the dream.

I don’t believe in the paranormal. I do believe there are things out there in the world that we don’t yet have adequate explanations for. I read a book about UFOs a couple of years ago that got me believing there really are a lot of unexplained sightings of flying objects that appear to be intelligently guided. But I don’t feel like speculating about what they might be does any real good, except for providing a certain amount of fun entertainment. It doesn’t solve anything, though.

Which is how I feel about things like seeing dead people in dreams. I’ve met my dead mom in dreams too. Dogen sometimes refers to weird dreams he’s had that seemed prophetic. So I can see how a sensible and rational person can also have a certain degree of … what shall I call it? … Maybe faith? OK. Faith in such things.

But Dogen doesn’t go on from his recollections of his own odd dreams to speculating about their origins, or trying to decipher their meanings or, especially, trying to present them as evidence that he possesses some kind of special powers. And neither do I.

As far as I’m concerned, maybe – maaaayyyybe – that was Nishijima himself sending me a message from the Afterlife. I would not be so bold as to completely discount the possibility. But I also know I have a fairly good idea what Nishijima might say to me if he saw me now, and what he said in that dream fits well within the range of things I’d expect him to say. There’s nothing especially compelling in that dream to make me believe it had to be a message from Nishijima’s ghost. The timing is a little interesting, but that doesn’t mean it has to be him.

As for the message itself, I find it worth considering. It’s probably better to dedicate your life fully to a single purpose and Buddhism is a good one. Then again, I already feel like I do that. But there’s no sense trying to measure up to any of the many, many ideas there are about what a life fully dedicated to Buddhism ought to look like. No one could possibly satisfy them all.

Let’s stay on topic, though. The question is; Do I attach significance to the fact that my teacher showed up in a dream the night he died but before I knew he died?

Well, I don’t chalk it up to pure coincidence, nor do I think it has to mean something profound.

The reason is simple. If I were to start attaching great significance to the event, where would that lead me? I could start speculating about the Afterlife. I could spin this event along with the times I saw my mom in dreams and a few other things into an elaborate theory of where we go when we die. But that doesn’t seem like a very constructive use of my time.

I also could spin it into a fascinating story of how I must possess some kind of supernormal ability to connect with the dead. In Los Angeles I could probably make good money on that. But that’s not really the kind of thing I want to dedicate myself to. I think it would get kind of sleazy pretty quickly. I’d end up having to make shit up and I wouldn’t feel good about it.

I could sit and ponder what it means, but I’ve already done that.

In the end, I just don’t see any compelling reason to get too hung up on it.

Look. I’m not immune to the lure of trying to know what might happen after death. It’s just that I’ve looked into some of the best accounts available on the subject already and even the very best of that stuff is pretty much a load of barely grounded speculation. If I want barely grounded speculation I can find that in Star Trek, which is lots more interesting than anything I’ve ever read or watched about the Afterlife. To me, it’s as easy as that.

–   –   –

(Hey! Check out the new FAQ section for frequently asked questions!)


July 8-12, 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada 5-DAY RETREAT at HOLLYHOCK RETREAT CENTER

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany LECTURE

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT


Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website,

* * *

I speculate that if you send me a donation I’ll be able to pay my rent this month. Your contributions really help me a lot. Thank you very much!

111 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin June 5, 2015 at 6:15 pm |

    Well, once again you demonstrate why you’re my favorite living Zen teacher.

    When I was a baby Zen student, I had a couple of odd experiences while sitting, like the time I found myself sitting comfortably 500 feet up in the air looking down at my home. A real live out of body experience.

    The next day I saw my teacher and asked him about it, and he said, “that’s nice, but that’s not meditation. If it happens again, come back to watching your breathing and it will go away.”

    And sure enough, when it happened again, I went back to watching my breathing, and it went away and never happened again.

    Depending on if you read Theravada or Mahayana, Buddha had a list of 10 or 14 questions that he said were just unproductive to talk about. One of them was what happens after you die. Worrying about it is unskillful; it doesn’t lead to liberation from suffering.

  2. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin June 5, 2015 at 6:17 pm |

    Oh, and I hadn’t heard that Nishijima-sensei had died. Sympathies.

  3. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 5, 2015 at 7:55 pm |

    Chas, that’s how Robert Monroe learned how to get back into his body (“Far Journeys”)- a feeling for the breath, he said, brought him back every time (he had some difficulties until he discovered this).

    Last night I dreamt I was performing at an open mike; I didn’t know what to play, so I just started and played. I’m not that good at improvising, but it went well, and I felt good about it. Put the guitar away, and headed out on the street, where I remembered I was supposed to meet my mother. There she was, she saw me first and we headed off. She was wearing something white, I think, which she never did.

    I consider the dreams with members of my family especially significant, even if I don’t know why; they’re all gone, and I am left to wonder. Who was it who said people die, but that doesn’t mean the relationship is over. True!

    ‘In 2005 I sat down and started to write, as I had many times before, with no clear idea about what I was going to say. I wrote about Moshe Feldenkrais and his three exercises for getting up out of a chair, I wrote about Ida Rolfe’s agonist/antagonist explanation of ligamentous support, and I wrote about John Upledger and the reciprocal innervation he felt while lying in an isolation tank. I explained at least to myself how the movement of breath and the shape of the spine could necessitate activity in the body, and even generate that activity involuntarily through the moment-to-moment sense of place connected with the occurrence of consciousness.

    When I picked up the pen again, I wrote a short piece for a friend about waking up. Three days after I finished the piece, I had a dream where Kobun came walking up to me as I was sitting at a cafe table reading a newspaper; he was in his robes, carrying a short stick. I told him I had new shoes; he said nothing, but he smiled with a big grin. I looked at the newspaper, and wondered what I could tell him that was new. I thought about what I had written, and I thought to myself “Kobun wouldn’t want to hear about that”, but I started to recall what I had written and to feel my sense of place. I woke up, and as I realized what had happened, I regretted not telling Kobun what I had written.’

    Now I’m writing about how the “the movement of breath and the shape of the spine” can bring forward the senses. And how’s that working out for me, you might ask-

  4. Harlan
    Harlan June 6, 2015 at 12:59 am |


    “But I don’t feel like speculating about what they might be does any real good, except for providing a certain amount of fun entertainment. It doesn’t solve anything, though.”

    I totally agree. It’s the same thing with me and god talk. People can thrill themselves silly on the subject. That’s fine, knock yourselves out. I just have no interest in speculating about it.. I think the word defines what’s unknowable.

  5. Michel
    Michel June 6, 2015 at 4:47 am |

    Here I’d want to put my grain of salt.
    Once upon a time, the criteria for declaring a person dead was breath. A person that non longer breathed was declared dead.
    But then, some people who had stopped breathing were interred and woke up in their graves and, years later, it was found they had tried to get out.
    In order to prevent this, one of the techniques was for the undertaker to bite one of the deceased toes, hence the french name “croque-mort”.
    Then with the advances of medicine, it was decided that death was when the heart stopped beating. But that didn’t keep people from being interred alive.
    Lately, the new thing is a flat ECG. But even that doesn’t stop someone from waking up in a drawer at the Morgue.
    Those definitions are necessary by juridical and medical standards. (An important judgment was pronounced this week about a man, Vincent Lambert, who was involved in a road accident in 2008 and maintained in life ever since. The wife and a number of brothers and sisters want him disconnected, but the parents have opposed this by all means. The European Court of Human Rights has declared that the medical aggressive treatment had to stop.)
    But all that doesn’t mean that we KNOW when life stops.

    Other than this, it is obvious that telepathy and rebirth cannot be scientific things, because they would need, for that, to be reproducible. They are not. At least, not at will. But the chain of coincidences is enough to forbid putting them aside without any further thought.

    My brother in law, who is a Druze, (that is, they do believe in reincarnation) told me, when he was sure enough I wouldn’t laugh at him, that his little sister, as soon as she could walk, was always trying to escape the house. When she could talk, she said she wanted back to her family. And she named the village which was 6 km away. Later, when she was bigger, they brought her there, she met her “old family” and that was it.

    For my part, I had a few experiences of, for instance visiting my sister’s appartment, 5000 km away, when she bought it. As it was a period in which I wrote my dreams down, I could document it.

    All this tells me that it is quite possible that Nishijima mentally visited Brad at the moment of his death. Thought is not constrained by the laws of Newtonian physic. Others have lived the same things, and I kind of remember that even Brad’s mother did the same the night she died. The accounts of such events are unnumbered.

    Yet, after all this, my only conclusion is that Brad is right: all this is of no importance upon our lives. They are, I think, situated more at the junction of our emotional lives that anything else. Giving them too much importance is a loss of time.

    1. mika
      mika June 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm |

      You know, while the methods and reasons for proclaiming someone dead have evolved over time, these days when someone is proclaimed dead in a modern hospital in a developed nation you can be pretty sure they are really just that – dead. The exception is when someone made a lousy job and made a mistake in taking the proper readings and measurements for the proclamation.

        1. mika
          mika June 9, 2015 at 12:25 am |

          Most of the cases listed here demonstrate exactly what I wrote, that someone made a lousy job in taking the proper readings before proclaiming their patient dead: “The problem is that even some doctors don’t quite know what death is and rely solely on the absence of a heartbeat and respiration, according to the research.” If you take and EEG and EKG and both show a flat line there’s no coming back from that. That being said, when the absence of a heartbeat and respiration continue for a long enough time, death is certain.

  6. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 6, 2015 at 8:04 am |

    A Sufi Shaykh once told me that dreams are only significant (if they ARE significant) when they occur, that people tend to hang on to them and read all kinds of new meanings into them long after the fact.

    Isn’t that true for everything? We have experiences, let’s say like Chas described up there on top. It may impact our lives in one way or another, or not so much.

    Most of the “problems” people have depend on their relationship to past events, and their expectation that future events will measure up or surpass these experiences. Life, then, isn’t so much an accumulation of experiences as it is “what have you done lately?”

    Maybe, just maybe, a more “sane” approach would be to accept whatever is happening moment by moment with as little comparison/judgement as possible, relinquishing the illusion of control. The dream (or whatever) is recalled, you read whatever you want into it, and that is that.

  7. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 6, 2015 at 9:09 am |

    I just like seeing my family, and my teachers, again in dreams. Also, I am encouraged in what I do by their appearance, especially in connection with analogies for my writing- at least, that’s how I interpret the events in the dreams I describe above.

    I accept that the folks in my dreams are more about me than about the folks themselves. At the same time, it feels like some of them represent certain archetypes in my life, and all I can do is bow to what they represent. Some people in waking life make me feel that way too.

    Doubtless that’s the secret of every really successful grister in the U.S. of A., that, and having a few good schills; you have to be able to tap into an archetypal image that someone has, and if you do, then the bottle of castor oil becomes truly miraculous (as medicine, and as shoe polish too).

    Bite that piece o’ eight; bite them toes:

    1. Mumbles
      Mumbles June 6, 2015 at 3:14 pm |

      Gahan Wilson!?! That’s a blast from the past… Why only this afternoon, whilst looking for an obscure title on Alchemy, I ran across two old comic books, American Splendor #5 and Weirdo #3. Harvey’s stuff holds up better than the Crumb antho, IMO.

      1. Alan Sailer
        Alan Sailer June 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm |

        I’m pretty sure the cartoon Mark linked to is B. Kliban. I’m a fan of Gahan Wilson so I recognize his work…


        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles June 6, 2015 at 8:23 pm |

          Oh yeah, I remember him & yer right, his “Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head and Other Drawings” is around here somewhere…

  8. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. June 6, 2015 at 10:48 am |

    Just vision itself, seen now through the eyes, is quite a mystery. Look at all the details! Watch the thoughts reacting, assigning significance. I guess I’ll make a sign if I can’t see.

  9. mika
    mika June 6, 2015 at 12:22 pm |

    Regarding that book on UFOs, you might want to take another take on it’s authenticity:

    And regarding the “interesting timing” of the dream, being a well read person that you are I’m sure you are aware that the modern science on human psychology and cognition offers a perfectly valid explanation of it. That is, the human mind is very keen on attaching meaning to things and so it’s much more likely that you’ll remember a pure coincidence like this than any averagely random dream about living (or dead) folks.

  10. Michel
    Michel June 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm |

    “Bite that piece o’ eight”

    Totally off topic/ Piece of eight (piastra de ocho) was the name given to the main silver coin of Spain for many centuries, coin that became the prototype of its german and american imitations (the Joachimsthaler, abbreviated as Thaler, and hence the Dollar (a misprononciation of Thaler).
    The Mexican accountants who listed the quantities sent to Spain started by using an abbreviation consisting of a P and an 8, which then evolved into a vertically barred 8. This P8, barred, evolved into an S (barred). Later, a second bar was added.

  11. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 6, 2015 at 2:43 pm |

    Zen Master Brad’s brain sometimes runs a Nishijima simulation program that has been programmed into it.
    Zen Master Brad’s brain sometimes runs a Mom simulation program that has been programmed into it.
    Zen Master Brad’s brain frequently runs a Zen Master Brad simulation program that has been programmed into it.
    Some people’s brains run UFO, ghost, and god simulation programs that have been programmed into them.
    No supernatural mysteries to see here. Move along. Back to your cushions.

    As for the Druze who claimed that his little sister remembered her “previous life,” that guy lied. Estimated probability that he lied: approximately 100%.

    1. chasrmartin
      chasrmartin June 8, 2015 at 7:53 pm |

      Faith can be a wonderful thing.

      (I actually agree with you in the main. But 100 percent? That’s not science.)

    2. mika
      mika June 9, 2015 at 12:30 am |

      I don’t think he necessarily lied in the sense of telling a fabricated story intentionally. It may just be that he assigned more meaning and backstory to little coincidences or similarities than there were and because of his natural inclination to believe in reincarnation made the connection. Another just as likely possibility is that his memory simply failed and invented meaning where there originally was none. The human memory is in no way a reliable record of past events and memories are bound to be rewritten every time you think about them, so after a while what you “remember” and what actually happened years ago may not have much at all to do with each other.

  12. Fred
    Fred June 6, 2015 at 5:22 pm |

    “All things leave and all things arrive right here. This being so, one plants twining vines and gets entangled in twining vines. This is the characteristic of unsurpassable enlightenment. Just as enlightenment is limitless, sentient beings are limitless and unsurpassable. Just as cages and snares are limitless, emancipation from them is limitless. The actualization of the fundamental point is: “I grant you thirty blows.” This is the actualization of expressing the dream within a dream.”

  13. Cygni
    Cygni June 6, 2015 at 9:37 pm |

    There are a lot of strange beliefs out there. The idea that people are simulations running on brains/computers seems among the wackier. I find the notion of some form of continuity of consciousness beyond death easier to swallow than the transhumanist hope of uploading my mind onto a mainframe or superintelligent AI’s becoming sentient and taking over the planet. Perhaps the Buddha’s mind didn’t cease when he died 25 centuries ago.

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon June 7, 2015 at 4:22 am |

      I did not write that “people are (nothing more than) simulations running on brains/computers.”
      I wrote that brains sometimes run simulations of people, places, and things that may or may not actually “exist in reality”. Sometimes we call those simulations “dreams” or “fantasies” or “imagination.”

      “I find the notion of some form of continuity of consciousness beyond death easier to swallow…”
      You are free to swallow whatever you want, but there is no evidence, absolutely zero, of consciousness occurring in the absence of a living, material brain.

      1. The Grand Canyon
        The Grand Canyon June 7, 2015 at 5:34 am |

        I will even take it one step further:
        Not only do brains sometimes run simulations with varying degrees of accuracy based on previously collected data, a conscious brain also continuously constructs a simulation of its environment (otherwise known as “reality” or “the world”) based on the limited data that is immediately acquired by the senses, combined with previously collected data.

      2. Cygni
        Cygni June 9, 2015 at 10:15 pm |

        Sorry there Grand Canyon, it wasn’t my intention to speak for your views on people. You might enjoy the discussions on this site.
        I like this quote from Chogyam Trunpga – “When your mind functions, it usually does so in a very biased way. But this is not viewed as particularly problematic. What is important is that when your mind functions in the phenomenal world, the operation of basic cognitive systems is taking place. That is the real magic. The magic actually happens when there is a cognitive mind operating. From this point of view, the subsidiary or offshoot of that basic cognition is not particularly important. It is seen as part of the same process. So the whole world, the entire universe, is highly magical. The burning quality of fire is very magical. The solidness of the earth is very magical. The blueness of the sky is very magical. Even the neurosis of your own nature is very magical. Nothing is rejected, but everything is seen as the realistic world.”

  14. Michel
    Michel June 6, 2015 at 11:35 pm |

    Well, the Druze believe in reincarnation, so it’s no wonder that if anything that looks like it appears, they won’t freak out.

    I suppose the Scottish boy is a liar too.

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara June 7, 2015 at 6:20 am |

      Hi Michel, I’ve seen that video before, and I saw no good evidence of metempsychosis.

      The biggest challenge for any small child is to ensure the support, attention and admiration of its parents and caregivers. This is the primary survival skill of a human infant: to be precisely attuned to his mother’s emotional responses and needs.

      If an intelligent child sees that his mother is naive, and that she also needs some sign that her child is ‘special’, to boost her own low self-image – then it is perfectly natural that he will create some magical story about his own origins. Even more so if there is some question about his paternity, for example.

      The Scottish kid is a beautiful, sweet, innocent little liar.

      A similar mechanism works when the Tibetans are picking their reincarnated lamas. An infant who can read the subtle desires and body language of adults can easily choose the correct beads and bell that belonged to his previous ‘incarnation’. It’s a successful system: this way, they choose kids who are naturally skilled social manipulators, and good at acting a role – ideal skills for religious leaders.

      1. The Grand Canyon
        The Grand Canyon June 7, 2015 at 3:09 pm |

        I posted a link to the Wikipedia article about the McMartin Preschool trial that was deleted for some reason. Maybe the most relevant portions will be allowed.
        “Several hundred children were then interviewed by the Children’s Institute International, a Los Angeles abuse therapy clinic run by Kee MacFarlane. The interviewing techniques used during investigations of the allegations were highly suggestive and invited children to pretend or speculate about supposed events. By spring of 1984, it was claimed that 360 children had been abused.”
        “Later research demonstrated that the methods of questioning used on the children were extremely suggestive, leading to false accusations. Others believe that the questioning itself may have led to false memory syndrome among the children who were questioned.”
        “The trial lasted seven years and cost $15 million, the longest and most expensive criminal case in the history of the United States legal system, and ultimately resulted in no convictions.”

  15. Jundotreeleaf
    Jundotreeleaf June 7, 2015 at 2:47 am |

    Hi Brad,

    I am sorry that you did not accept the invitation to come speak and lead Zazen at Treeleaf, or respond to the good wishes of our community members who wrote you. It’s a shame I feel, but I want you to know that you are always welcome and would be an honored guest if you came. You have a standing invitation.

    Perhaps I might offer that the Buddha, if he spoke for anything, taught peace, friendship, reconciliation, release of ancient grudges and past history. One must not cling to anger or old resentments, feelings of having been wronged and jealousies. We should not be so wrapped in our own self-perceived egos, fame and name that we cannot stoop down to humble ourselves. Buddhists should not be hard hearted, and should let all hard feelings float away, like water under a bridge. Whatever people feel, it is just a viewpoint. It is all just thoughts, and passed time. I do not think that we can be angry, grudge-filled and unwilling to nurture peace and still call what we are “Buddhist teachers”. To do otherwise is to be like a supposed fireman who is actually an arsonist!

    Perhaps I am just naive, but I will (like a ghost who sometimes appears to offer an open hand even if slapped away) to continue to offer my hand and an open Zafu whenever I can in the years to come.

    Gassho, Jundo

    1. Fred Jr.
      Fred Jr. June 7, 2015 at 6:48 am |

      One must not cling to anger or old resentments, feelings of having been wronged and jealousies. We should not be so wrapped in our own self-perceived egos, fame and name that we cannot stoop down to humble ourselves. Buddhists should not be hard hearted, and should let all hard feelings float away, like water under a bridge. Whatever people feel, it is just a viewpoint. It is all just thoughts, and passed time. I do not think that we can be angry, grudge-filled and unwilling to nurture peace and still call what we are “Buddhist teachers”.

      Isn’t one of the criteria for suffering: “Not getting what we want”?

      Now let those hard(core zen) feelings float away, like water under a bridge…

    2. mika
      mika June 9, 2015 at 12:38 am |

      Hi Jundo,

      as a former treeleafer may I offer a suggestion here that your standing invitations might be better received if you didn’t follow them with – frankly a bit patronizing – admonishments about what someone should or should not feel or think?

      Just speaking from my own perspective, if I had chosen to not be in touch with someone, I would react very differently if 1) they send me a message in private telling me they’d want to get in touch again or 2) if they sent the said message in public or yet again 3) if they followed that message with words that smack of a little holier-than-thou attitude telling me if I don’t get in touch it’s because I’m holding a grudge and am not authentic in what I do.

      Just my 2 eurocents worth, something to meditate upon for your future correspondences with the bradlians.

    3. mika
      mika June 9, 2015 at 12:45 am |

      Secondly, if it seems to you that Brad clearly wants to have nothing to do with yours truly, perhaps you might give the issue a rest? Constant nagging and begging is not exactly going to help with someone coming around who doesn’t want to.

      If you still feel that you genuinely want to stay in contact with Brad, put a mark on your calendar to contact him once a year with a genuine straight-from-the-heart (but short! see my previous post) message – in private. And for the rest of the year leave him alone. Don’t even touch his posts or dealings in your own blog or this.

      Some things take time and for different people the time necessary is different. Just because you have let things go (which, considering your constant posting here, I’m not so sure you have) doesn’t mean Brad has. Give the man the time he needs and let him do it in peace. Or, as Fred suggested, accept that you can’t always have what you want and let the stream flow.

      1. Jundotreeleaf
        Jundotreeleaf June 9, 2015 at 5:07 am |

        Hi Mika,

        Thank you for your perspective. I believe that there are times to work privately for peace and reconciliation, times to speak out publicly for peace and reconciliation.

        Gassho, Jundo

  16. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 7, 2015 at 4:51 am |

    “Hume first explains the principle of evidence: the only way that we can judge between two empirical claims is by weighing the evidence. The degree to which we believe one claim over another is proportional to the degree by which the evidence for one outweighs the evidence for the other.”

  17. anon 108
    anon 108 June 7, 2015 at 5:43 am |

    UFOs? I’m in.

    I’ve never seen a UFO (thought I might have once – doesn’t count), but I have been fascinated by the subject for lots of years. I’ve watched and listened to lots of youtube UFO stuff – most of which is crap IMHO – and read a few articles. I’ve also read Leslie Kean’s book. A very good book it is.

    Sure, any witness, including a pilot, can mistake one thing for another. Witnesses – particularly ‘fleeting glimpse’ witnesses – are notoriously unreliable. But pilots, commercial and military, are trained to recognise other aircraft and are presumably more familiar with unusual cloud formations and atmospheric stuff than the average Joe. Like other military personnel and like police officers, their credibility and careers are at risk should they even mention an encounter with a UFO, at least in some parts of the world. So it makes sense for me not to dismiss their accounts simply on the basis that ‘It can’t be true’.

    There have been SO many reports from these otherwise responsible, nothing-to-gain people, a few supported by solid radar returns, of encounters lasting a lot longer than a minute ot two with apparently intelligently-controlled flying machines displaying ‘impossible’ manoeuvres that the debunker’s “witnesses are unreliable” argument just doesn’t cut it. Something is going on. And that’s interesting to me.

    But that’s not what Brad’s post is about. He’s not saying ‘the paranormal’ exists or does not exist, or suggesting what this or that paranormal experience might or might not *really* be. He’s saying something about our desire to attach meaning to unusual experiences (or to reject them as meaningless) and questioning the tendency to allow speculation to harden into a ‘true believer’ or a ‘hardcore sceptic’ position. I’m glad he’s saying it.

    BTW, the Zeta Reticulans are in fact fallen angels. Brad knows this. He’s just not allowed to disclose it…yet.

    1. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer June 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm |

      anon 108,

      Have you seen the XKCD cartoon about UFO/etc sightings?

      Even though it’s a cartoon it addresses a question any UFO believer should consider.

      Basically, if you get better data collection (more good cameras) and more evidence doesn’t show up (more good pictures of UFOs) then the phenomenon probably doesn’t exist.


      1. mika
        mika June 9, 2015 at 12:50 am |

        That xckd is almost spot on, as they usually are. But I can tell from my personal experience that carrying a camera (ie. a smartphone) with you almost all the time is by no means a guarantee you can capture a fascinating even on it if said even is brief enough.

  18. anon 108
    anon 108 June 7, 2015 at 6:05 am |


    The “Click to Edit” thing is useful. Thanks.

    “Comments must have more than 60 characters” – not so much.

  19. Harlan
    Harlan June 7, 2015 at 6:59 am |

    Yes, something Is going on.. And it’s human imagination. People see things they don’t understand and they try to frame them as something they think they do. Being a hardcore skeptic about Some things is actually very sensible. Like UFOs for instance. Or the stability of some Internet Sangha leaders.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 7, 2015 at 7:21 am |

      “People see things they don’t understand and they try to frame them as something they think they do.”

      You mean like “It was an alien spaceship”? Or “It was the ghost of my Aunt Nellie”? Well some people interpret what they’ve seen that way. And who knows, they might be right. But there are also many cases of people seeing things they don’t understand and not understanding them.

      “Accepting every UFO claim uncritically or rejecting every claim automatically would be equally unjustified. And quite possibly, equally harmful.” – from the article mika linked.

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 June 7, 2015 at 7:46 am |

        …Or, Harlan, were you referring to the hardcore sceptic position: “Anyone who’s seen something I don’t understand must have seen something I do understand.”

      2. Mumbles
        Mumbles June 7, 2015 at 8:14 am |

        My good friend (and 626 bandmate) Bill G. formed the band Big Dipper in Boston in the late 1980’s around the whole UFO mythos…

        I’ve had several close encounters myself (an older sister is convinced our “family” has been followed for generations as a “study” by some “higher intelligence” from another galaxy or “level of being”or something) in high school and after that, the last about 10 years ago; all too long to relate here, or at least I don’t feel like it. As I said above here experiences come and go, enjoy (or suffer) them in the moment…and like Harlan says, imagination, along with Grand Canyon’s statement:

        “Not only do brains sometimes run simulations with varying degrees of accuracy based on previously collected data, a conscious brain also continuously constructs a simulation of its environment (otherwise known as “reality” or “the world”) based on the limited data that is immediately acquired by the senses, combined with previously collected data.”

        Means anything is possible in the dream within the dream within the…

        1. Fred
          Fred June 7, 2015 at 8:26 am |

          Yes, the experiments in the past 50 years showed that people experience their own particular model of reality, ie., a simulation, and not reality itself. That was a
          given in the study of the psychology of consciousness.

          For Dogen the delusion and enlightenment were intertwined.

          1. Fred Jr.
            Fred Jr. June 7, 2015 at 8:39 am |

            Hey Dad,

            Check out how long Bosons last:


            If the consciousness and the particle co-arise, and this is where contact and clinging begin (the first domino), then we’re all pretty loopy aren’t we?

          2. Mumbles
            Mumbles June 7, 2015 at 10:17 am |

            “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

            ”• William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

      3. Cygni
        Cygni June 8, 2015 at 8:18 pm |

        Plug for my Aunt Nellie’s new book, Ghost of the Southern Cross.

  20. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. June 7, 2015 at 7:20 am |

    We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all. ~Kalu Rinpoche

    Which parts aren’t real?

  21. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. June 7, 2015 at 7:53 am |

    It sounds like an alibi, gassho, leaving the scene of the crime.

  22. Fred Jr.
    Fred Jr. June 7, 2015 at 9:38 am |

    Oh shoot. I posted a bunch of comments then deleted them. Sorry for wasting your time.

  23. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 7, 2015 at 10:33 am |

    I met this guy once aboard a flying carpet, or saucer, or somethinger-ether. An Alchemical Wizard…

  24. Harlan
    Harlan June 7, 2015 at 12:52 pm |

    Hi 108, I can’t comment at any length right now. My phone is haunted or something.

  25. woken
    woken June 7, 2015 at 3:02 pm |

    This sort of thing happens a lot more in Japan,and maybe asia, where the psychic umbilical chord between people is more intense. For example, the last time I was in Japan, I had a vivid dream where my teacher was remonstrating about one particular aspect of teaching I had not understood. The moment I woke, the phone rang and t was my teacher, telling me that he had sent some literature to my house concerning some of his issues regarding teachings. But, like Brad said, it’s best not to dwell on this stuff: It’s just stuff that happens, Otherwise, one can go the way of aum shinrinko or any one of the numerous cults in Japan. On a related note: If Tibetan Buddhists have evidence of reincarnation, the way they claim, then they should make it available to scientific scrutiny: Hiding it is profoundly immoral and contributes massively to human suffering.

  26. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 7, 2015 at 3:33 pm |

    I liked what I could stand to listen to of Abbot Muho, recorded live on Jundo’s site. Seemed like there were some technical difficulties and I stopped listening after awhile. I was however inspired to sit, and I’m sure that’s the effect that Jundo strives for, in his internet sangha.

    Having listened to the Air Force guys and techs talk about funny lights over the silos, and batteries of missiles going off-line while the lights were overhead, both here and in the former U.S.S.R., I think I have to believe something moves in and out of our time occasionally with the appearance of an aircraft making impossible maneuvers. I don’t have to believe it’s from another galaxy, or full of aliens; might be humans making use of Einstein’s theory as reworked by Godel, doing a little time-travel. The probes, that’s just for fun… 😉

    Having heard the stories of kids who remember details they were not otherwise exposed to, and realizing that’s there’s an office tracking such cases in the many hundreds, I do believe there is something that can be communicated even after death. Also a few good ghost stories that seem to confirm this. Maybe there’s an element of radio in our minds, I don’t know; I’m trying to stay open.

    As to Brad’s dream, starting from the supposition that Gudo in the dream represents a part of Brad, then there’s a strong message there from a part of Brad to the rest of Brad. I can’t discount that some of this might have come through from the cosmic radio; it might be Brad’s subconscious talking to Brad with the form of Gudo, and the whole experience set off by an unconscious recognition of Gudo’s death.

    Gautama was very big on the cosmic radio, gave instructions on how to set it up.

    Tuning across the dial, we have:

  27. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 7, 2015 at 3:39 pm |

    For Brad, who must be careful that he not pursue too many things, and that each comment have at least sexy character:

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 7, 2015 at 4:57 pm |

      That’s funny.

      would have done. But no, I gotta do this and this and this. Why?

  28. Conrad
    Conrad June 7, 2015 at 6:50 pm |

    I get the whole “these matters are not important thing”. But you have to remember, the Buddha was teaching in a time when people were obsessed with this stuff. When religious life – and most everything was a form of religious life back then – consisted of ritual prayers to both Gods and dead relatives for intercession in one’s life. The Brahman priesthood in charge of such things had a stranglehold monopoly on all of that, and told vast superstitious tales of the Gods and the afterlife to convince people to keep coming to them to mediate these intercessions, as if they were entirely necessary to the continuation of life on earth. A big part of the the Buddha’s teaching work was to destroy all that, and give people some basic freedom to consider their existential reality apart from all those beliefs.

    So naturally the Buddha taught that such questions were unprofitable speculation which we should avoid. It makes perfect sense given the culture he lived in to do that. But our culture simply doesn’t have those problems. Aside from the kind of religious fundamentalists who think Buddhism is heresy or evil or simply deluded anyway, out culture is dominated by materialism, both of the scientific and consumer variety. Most people don’t think about the reality of non-material things, or give them much importance if they do. Even people who have such experiences, like Brad, don’t give them any importance. But what happens as a result of that? Often, they simply fall back into the cultural default of materialism. They think they are living in a material world, and that the Buddha’s teaching is compatible with materialistic ideas about the world. Well, it isn’t. If one takes a materialistic approach to Buddhism, it just becomes another therapeutic philosophy for improving one’s life, relaxing, get “one with stuff”, where the stuff one gets one with is other material stuff. And believe me, that’s even more popular in Los Angeles than psychics who talk to the dead.

    So I think there’s actually some value for spiritual aspirants in our culture to do some basic thinking about, and even investigation of, these kinds of psychic experiences and phenomena, just to be reminded that the world isn’t material in nature, it’s psychic, it’s spiritual, it’s transcendental. Not to sell people on your latest technology of immortal bliss so that you can live like a king with devoted followers sucking up to your miraculous ass all day, but just to get a “lay of the land” so to speak. To know basically what kind of world we are actually living in, rather than merely believing the cultural default that materialism rules and everything else is bullshit.

    To that end, I’d recommend various readings along those lines, the works of Stevenson, Monroe, Weiss, Newton, and quite a few others, who have tried to study and investigate these things with some kind of scientific approach. Their findings aren’t random speculation, but they aren’t hard science either. They don’t give all the answers, and they don’t pretend to. But they can help break the spell of materialism at least. And that’s not nothing in our day and age.

    1. Shodo
      Shodo June 8, 2015 at 10:11 am |

      “When we speak of immaterial things, we are speaking of something that has no physical substance. Now, if you think about this, everything we know to exist has physical properties. Your arm, leg, mind, blood, teeth, tongue, and everything else are physical. They are in the form of your physical body. Your brain can’t work without physical/material processes of chemistry and electricity. Electricity can’t work without the physical electrons. A windmill can’t work without the physical air that passes across its blades. Everything we know to exist is physical.”

      “Throughout history…
      *E V E R Y* mystery…
      *E V E R* solved…
      Has turned out to be…

      …Not magic.”

      1. Jinzang
        Jinzang June 8, 2015 at 12:45 pm |

        What a strange thing to say. What is the physical substance that the laws of science are made of? Or mathematics?

        1. Shodo
          Shodo June 8, 2015 at 1:16 pm |

          The laws of science are how we describe physical reality…
          Same with mathematics.

          To suggest that since these things are conceptual tools, THEREFORE non-material things are real in some physical sense, sort-of makes me think your thoughts have gone off the rails a bit.

          Are you making one of those “math isn’t physical, therefore we all have souls” kind of arguments…? 😉

          1. Jinzang
            Jinzang June 8, 2015 at 1:31 pm |

            If they are merely conceptual tools, then they are subjective and at best only describe phenomena and do not explain them. That is, there is no answer to the question why does X behave the way it does? It just does, no reason. And so, no reason to believe it will continue to behave that way. Which is absurd.

          2. Shodo
            Shodo June 8, 2015 at 1:59 pm |

            “If they are merely conceptual tools, then they are subjective and at best only describe phenomena and do not explain them.”

            The description of things in science has explanatory power… and yes that is subjective.

            “And so, no reason to believe it will continue to behave that way.”

            Yes, that is the position of science. No objective truth to be found.

            “Which is absurd.”

            LOL Huh?!? 😀

          3. The Grand Canyon
            The Grand Canyon June 8, 2015 at 2:43 pm |

            But science still fails to explain homeopathy.
            Checkmate, scientists.

          4. Jinzang
            Jinzang June 8, 2015 at 3:27 pm |

            A description and explanation are as different as chalk and cheese. A descriptions follows from the phenomena. The phenomena follow from their explanation.

            “Yes, that is the position of science. No objective truth to be found.”

            You must never spoken to a scientist. If told a scientist there is no objective truth to be found, they would look at you like you were nuts.

          5. Shodo
            Shodo June 8, 2015 at 6:01 pm |

            “You must never spoken to a scientist. If told a scientist there is no objective truth to be found, they would look at you like you were nuts.”

            Oh REALLY? 🙂
            Hold the presses, looks like you have solved the problem of induction!

            Could you please give me an example of an “objective truth” in science? One we are 100% certain we know everything about and that will never change forever into the future. (and no, math does not count. 😉 )

            Or are you talking about a truth where you used a technique that arrived at an answer that was completely free from your biases?

            I know you don’t believe me, but objectivity is kind-of a problem. At best, scientists will say “this is what the preponderance of the evidence reveils and we are 99.999999999% sure we are correct… but you never know…”

      2. Conrad
        Conrad June 9, 2015 at 4:34 am |

        Shodo, I’d suggest that the opposite is the case: that no one has ever experienced a physical world, or a physical body, and that nothing we are made of can ever be called truly “physical”.

        After all, even our experience of the “physical” is a psychic one. Even if we begin with all the assumptions of materialism, including the notion that the brain is the source of our conscious awareness, we quickly discover that we never have any experience of this material world. Our senses merely transmit information, through the nerves, to the brain, where that information is somehow assembled and put together to form a field of awareness in which “experience” happens. That means we never actually experience the physical world, we experience a reconstructed virtual reality world put together in the brain. And that’s all we ever experience. The physical world is always at an impossible remove. We can never even say for sure that such a physical world even exists, since we are never “there”.

        And where is this psychic “place” where we experience the world? We can’t say. Even to say it is located in the brain is to forget that we have no actual experience of a brain. That too is merely something we experience in our awareness. So materialism is simply a solipsistic illusion that can never be found, because our experience is always a psychic one of awareness.

        That’s why some schools of Buddhism focus on awareness rather than on material experience. Dzogchen, for example, focuses on an investigation of our own primordial awareness, recognizing that every experience we have arises within this field of awareness, and that we should look into that directly, since we are this awareness. It’s the only thing we have any direct experience of, as a matter of fact. And that’s why the understanding of emptiness is so important in Buddhism. We can begin to recognize that not only are all material “things” empty, because they only exist as psychic phenomena to us, but that this primordial awareness in which they appear is itself empty.

        1. Shodo
          Shodo June 9, 2015 at 6:50 am |

          Mostly what I think you are addressing is what I was saying above about objective truth. Science acknowledges this, that is why it’s answers are tentative.

          But everything else… I dunno.

          “So materialism is simply a solipsistic illusion that can never be found, because our experience is always a psychic one of awareness.”

          You are going a bit Deepak Chopra here… which is easy to do when speaking in generalities.
          Could you provide a specific example?
          Your experience of reality through the filter of your -physical- mind does not mean the sun is any less hot, or that water doesn’t boil at 100 degrees Celsius at sea level, or that you cannot breathe in the vacuum of space.

          And what do you mean by “emptiness”…?

          1. Conrad
            Conrad June 9, 2015 at 10:12 am |

            It’s not Deepak Chopra I’m working from, it’s Hinduism and Buddhism. Copra riffs off these ideas as well, but I don’t have any affinity for him otherwise. I think he gets a fair amount of it wrong even, or just babbles.

            But as you say, it’s also just science, and even science acknowledges the “hard problem” of consciousness. It tends to ignore it, however, because it really has no way to deal with it. And I don’t object to that. Science is a discipline, not a universalism. It works by excluding, separating, and breaking things down into pieces and parts. That’s it’s strength. But it consequently has a lot of weaknesses when it tries to put everything back together. You end up with a Frankenstein monster that scares the children. And even kills them without quite meaning to.

            I’m not sure why you need a specific example. Everything is an example of this. Everything we know or observe or experience is known in the mind-space of awareness. Even science is done there. Even every machine we built to collect data eventually puts that data into our mind. That’s where we experience science. That’s where our theories of science are generated. That’s where the math is done. Even a computer is merely an extension of our minds, appearing in our minds, communicating to parts of our minds that we think we have separated out from the other parts. Calling one side of the mind “objective” and the other part “subjective” is an artificial division of our experience. That won’t change the boiling point of water, but it will change how we experience water.

          2. Conrad
            Conrad June 9, 2015 at 10:19 am |

            oh, and by “emptiness”, I mean that our awareness has no intrinsic content to it. All is constantly changing, in motion, transmuting and transforming, with no permanence, and no inherent structure to it. Inside and outside, subjective and objective, are empty constructs. We could say that awareness is itself the only constant, but even then, there’s no “there” there. Awareness is primordial and yet free of any structure we might impose upon it, any form or concept.

          3. Shodo
            Shodo June 9, 2015 at 11:15 am |

            The Hard Problem of Consciousness does not impede science from understanding our world… There is an “out there” we can understand, imperfectly, bit by bit.

            And as far as emptiness, Shunyata in Buddhism doesn’t mean there is nothing out there as far as the eye can see… Shunyata is a specific sort of emptiness – emptiness of essential self.

            So what that means is that EVERYTHING exists, EVERYTHING in the whole phenomenal universe is real, because the only real things,are things that are empty of a unchanging essence.

          4. Conrad
            Conrad June 9, 2015 at 11:51 am |

            Actually, the hard problem of consciousness does prevent science from understanding more than an aspect of our world. It doesn’t allow it to understand the most essential feature of it, which is our own awareness of the world. After all, what world could we even say exists if we don’t have any awareness of it? But science can’t answer the question of what this awareness is or where it comes from. So that’s a huge gaping hole at the center of its “vision” of reality. So science focuses on what it can answer, which are all peripheral questions, not central ones.

            As for the reality of arising phenomena, I didn’t say they were unreal, so I don’t know where you’re getting that from. Maybe you’re insecure about that matter and projecting just a little? I didn’t say that nothing exists, only that there is nothing which permanently exists as some kind of underlying structure to reality. All is impermanent. That’s what “lack of essential self” means.

          5. Shodo
            Shodo June 9, 2015 at 12:25 pm |

            “Actually, the hard problem of consciousness does prevent science from understanding more than an aspect of our world. It doesn’t allow it to understand the most essential feature of it, which is our own awareness of the world.”

            Then what you said above was empty words: “Most people don’t think about the reality of non-material things…”

            If you aren’t using science to do this… what are you using to look at the reality of non-material things?
            … does your method, whatever it is, escape the problem of hard consciousness…?

            “I’m not sure why you need a specific example. Everything is an example of this. Everything we know or observe or experience is known in the mind-space of awareness.”

            Humor me. 😉

            “As for the reality of arising phenomena, I didn’t say they were unreal”

            Fair enough… to my ears you were giving the old “all is illusion” nihilistic version of emptiness that westerners fall prey to, glad to hear that’s not the case.

          6. Conrad
            Conrad June 9, 2015 at 4:17 pm |

            “Then what you said above was empty words: “Most people don’t think about the reality of non-material things…”

            No, because people don’t think about these things much at all. The general state of humanity is one of being asleep, unconscious, and vulnerable to all kinds of messaging from culture, religion, society, etc. Materialism is indeed rampant, and is a result of this unconsciousness, which does not inspect its own awareness or acknowledge the psychic nature of our moment-to-moment existence. Science has even contributed mightily to that, by excluding our own consciousness from the field of “real things”. Current scientific thinking on consciousness is that it’s merely an emergent phenomena, but it never quite describes what it emerges from, and how. But there’s no mechanism for even detecting the existence of consciousness. The only evidence for it is literally self-evident, not objectively evident. So it can’t be verified by science. Nor can it be falsified. By Popper’s definition, it can’t be science at all.

            “If you aren’t using science to do this… what are you using to look at the reality of non-material things?
            … does your method, whatever it is, escape the problem of hard consciousness…?”

            It’s called the direct method – awareness inspecting awareness. Not really very hard to do, since we are awareness to begin with. That’s very different than science, which works from the principle of the separation between subject and object. If both subject and object are noticed to be appearing in the same field of awareness, it implies a different kind of inspection. Rather than using the methods of “science” – meaning separation – it uses the methods of “symbolism”, which means pulling things together. That’s why religion is filled with symbols of all kinds. These represent efforts to pull together a coherent vision of experience, rather than separating experience out.

            As for “unreality”, science would tend to say that symbolism is unreal. But religion would say that separation is unreal. Hinduism, for example, is famous for its concept of “maya”, the notion that the world is illusory. But it’s not commonly understood that Hinduism’s definition of “unreal” is not “not existing”, but rather “impermanent and changing”. To the Hindu, anything that changes and is impermanent is unreal. It is still existing, but not for long before it changes into something else. Only that which is permanent and unchanging is real. And only the Transcndental Self (Paramatman) is permanent and unchanging. Jivatman, the personal self, the ordinary consciousness of mind and body, is not real either. But it is bigger than the material self. The five koshas, you know? Even so, only its source and substance is real, not the koshas themselves, because only its source is permanent and unchanging. Yet that source is not a “thing”, it is Brahman, the formless reality. So it too is “empty” at its core. Brahman is pure awareness, without a subject or object. And that is verifiable by direct inspection, but not by subjective or objective means. If you take the trouble to make that inspection of course. And it can be a lot of trouble.

          7. Conrad
            Conrad June 9, 2015 at 4:36 pm |

            Oh, as to examples? Well, I suppose a good one would be the work Newton and Weiss have done on reincarnation and afterlife memories. Both were practicing psychiatrists, medical doctors working to help emotionally disturbed people. Both began using hypnosis in their work to delve into the parts of the minds of their patients that were resisting treatment. Their intent was merely to help unlocked closed spaces in the psyche to help remember past episodes of trauma or difficulty whose unconscious patterns were being repeated by their patients and causing them suffering. They had no religious orientation or any interest in the subject of reincarnation or an afterlife. Both were essentially scientific agnostics.

            Their hypnotic methods did not use suggestion to implant any kind of memories, because that was not their agenda. They were only interested in helping their patients. Their methods proved fruitful, in regressing patients to childhood states of mind and memory, in which they could recall things that had happened to them in the past. That was useful in their treatment of patients. But a strange thing began to happen in both their cases. At times, the hypnotic regressions would go past the point of birth, and regress to memories of a different life. At first, they assumed these were more like inner dream states and fantasies. they didn’t assume that there was any “reality” to them other than the sort of reality dreams represent. But as therapists, that didn’t dismiss them as having no value, because dreams can be very valuable in therapy, as a way of revealing the structure of the individual’s unconsciousness. So they used them in that manner, to help patients recognize these deeper patterns. And in the course of that, they began to realize that what their patients were reporting were perhaps not unreal at all, but represents memories of real lifetimes.

            I recall Weiss’ first book focused on a single patient of his, in which these memories were even researched and found to correspond to some real people. And in the course of the therapy, not only did the patient get better, but Weiss himself found that he was implicated. It’s a long story, I won’t repeat it here. But the point is that these memories of “past lives”, while not verifiable as such in an objective manner (any amount of coincidence can be claimed as just that), they do have powerful meanings to people, and bringing them out can have important therapeutic uses that really can help people. If you haven’t read their books, they are worth looking at.

            Both of them took this work much further, recording and classifying these memories. Others have done similar things. Newton even began regressing people to the time “between lives”, to pull out memories of the after-life, or before-life if you wish. He found some remarkable consistencies in the descriptions people gave, regardless of their backgrounds or religious orientation, and often what came out differed completely from those things. Christians had past life memories that their own Church doesn’t believe in. Atheists had these memories as well. And while Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation, their memories of such things differ in important ways from many of the tenets of those faiths.

            So that would be an example of something that most scientists would consider not worth even looking at or taking seriously as “real”, because they see it as merely a brain phenomena rather than a function of a larger psychic reality. But if one looks at it in the larger manner, as a series of psychic apparitions that can be brought together as a coherent whole, its value emerges in the individual’s own psychic health. And that has real value to human beings.

          8. Shodo
            Shodo June 10, 2015 at 7:17 am |

            Conrad said:
            “It’s called the direct method — awareness inspecting awareness. Not really very hard to do, since we are awareness to begin with.”

            Umm… what is that, exactly?
            Looking at stuff and thinking about it?
            Thinking about symbology?

            You are right, what you are describing is an example of something that most scientists would consider not worth even looking at or taking seriously.
            What you are describing is no pathway to understanding the world, or even understanding some “psychic reality”.

            Your path has no understanding, no discoveries, at least not in any way that can be tested… no independent verification, or replication. You can’t falsify anything.
            It does nothing except explain “brain phenomenon” with daydreams… or something indistinguishable from daydreams.
            It’s not superior by any metric I’m afraid

            If I am wrong, please provide a *specific* example showing so… and please demonstrate how your example is superior to the scientific method.

          9. Shodo
            Shodo June 10, 2015 at 10:12 am |

            Here is a useful tool… “The Crackpot Index”.
            “A simple method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics.”

            It works for all sorts of Woo, not just physics-woo. It works for Reincarnation, climate change denial, intelligent design… it’s pretty funny too. 😉


          10. Shodo
            Shodo June 10, 2015 at 10:21 am |

            Also, it’s good to know the difference between real science, and pseudoscience.

            Here is an excellent primer.


          11. Conrad
            Conrad June 11, 2015 at 4:40 am |

            The proper methodology for studying the psyche is art, not science. Go to a museum some day, and you will see many examples of what I’m talking about. Then see if a scientist can do that.

          12. Shodo
            Shodo June 11, 2015 at 5:56 am |

            “The proper methodology for studying the psyche is art, not science.”

            That’s no study.
            You study your “psyche” with only art and get… more art.

            Pretty? Maybe. Understanding? No.

          13. Conrad
            Conrad June 11, 2015 at 2:06 pm |

            Clearly you don’t understand art if you think its only purpose is to look pretty.

          14. Shodo
            Shodo June 11, 2015 at 6:21 pm |

            “Clearly you don’t understand art if you think its only purpose is to look pretty.”

            Whatever it’s purpose is, it not going to tell you anything about the psyche… Or anything at all in particular.
            Maybe the artist could tell you what its about… but with 20 different viewers you will get 20 different viewpoints – It’s not a science and explains nothing.
            What it is is art appreciation… and a chance to dust off your thesaurus skills. 😉


          15. Conrad
            Conrad June 12, 2015 at 4:24 am |

            Of course art is not science. That’s exactly the point. There are very important aspects of life that science can’t even begin to address. Science does some thing quite well. Others it fails miserably at. Just as you are failing miserably to understand art.

          16. Cygni
            Cygni June 12, 2015 at 12:35 pm |

            I’d recommend reading Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics by Vic Mansfield. Here is an amusing excerpt…

            …as scientists and Buddhists are aware, subjective first-person accounts present difficulties. The following story from the Zen tradition nicely illustrates the difficulty of first-person accounts. “Our schoolmaster used to take a nap every afternoon,” related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. “We children asked him why he did it and he told us: ‘I go to dreamland to meet the old sages just as Confucius did.’ When Confucius slept, he would dream of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them. “It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our schoolmaster scolded us. ‘We went to dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did,’ we explained. ‘What was the message from those sages?’ our schoolmaster demanded. One of us replied: ‘We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow.’” Here we not only see quick-witted and insolent students but recognition of the difficulties inherent in first-person accounts. If someone claims to have a profound meditation experience, whether communicating with ancient sages or experiencing the mind of clear light, unlike a scientific content, it is difficult to verify, in the sense in which a scientist uses the term. On the other hand, it really does not take a great deal of sensitivity to appreciate a truly quiet mind, even when you don’t have one.

          17. Shodo
            Shodo June 13, 2015 at 7:40 am |

            “Of course art is not science. That’s exactly the point.”

            This has not been your point this entire time Conrad, just your current position after losing ground on your views in this conversation.

            I think the main problem is that you don’t like, (or don’t know how,) to concede an argument.

            “Just as you are failing miserably to understand art.”

            Funny thing about “art”…
            You don’t have the necessary skill set to determine for whether or not another person “understands art” – nobody does.
            You seem to think that your understanding of art is some objective truth out there, when really you are failing to recognize for what it actually *IS*: just your opinion. 😉

          18. Conrad
            Conrad June 14, 2015 at 6:54 am |

            And as The Big Lebowski would say, “that’s just your opinion, man.”

            Which again, is just my point. You’re not in a position to tell me that my opinion of you is just my opinion. You’re constantly looking for that objective position in which you can say that subjectivity is unreal. And failing to find it. Because there is no such place. At least, in my opinion.

  29. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid June 8, 2015 at 8:20 am |

    This world is mostly a nightmare but we hide it from our minds.

    When we read horrible news, we are like the protagonist in Blue Velvet, peering at the computer screen, analogous to the closet door in that film, with the illusion of distance and safety. The fact of the matter is “Chaos reigns”, yet people continue to throw children into this hell.

    There is nothing beautiful about human civilization, history, and so forth. The best thing mankind was good at was making each other’s lives miserable and dancing around non-existent tunes. It just so happens now we’re making life miserable for other lifeforms and the environment.

    Don’t have kids. Be an antinatalist and stop feeding a feel good Zen message.

    One has to question when the Aum Shinrikyo really begins and ends.

  30. SamsaricHelicoid
    SamsaricHelicoid June 8, 2015 at 8:23 am |

    I had a vision similar to Emil Cioran every morning:

    “I’m simply an accident. Why take it all so seriously?” – Emile M. Cioran

  31. Zafu
    Zafu June 8, 2015 at 10:04 am |

    The Brahman priesthood in charge of such things had a stranglehold monopoly on all of that, and told vast superstitious tales of the Gods and the afterlife to convince people to keep coming to them to mediate these intercessions, as if they were entirely necessary to the continuation of life on earth.
    ~ Conrad

    Hiya Conrad,

    The Brahman provided meaning, essentially. Religious leaders or teachers, such as Brad, do essentially the same thing today.

    But our culture simply doesn’t have those problems.

    What exactly are the problems that you’re talking about?

    If one takes a materialistic approach to Buddhism, it just becomes another therapeutic philosophy for improving one’s life, relaxing, get “one with stuff”, where the stuff one gets one with is other material stuff.

    It doesn’t matter what philosophical approach you take with any religion, what you get is the same: meaning.

    Have you ceased to suffer? In the very least the practice has been meaningful, I’m sure.

    1. Conrad
      Conrad June 9, 2015 at 4:53 am |

      Zafu, “meaning” has no meaning without a reference point and a definition. So if one is to construct a meaning, one must have a world of some kind to refer to, and a series of defined experiences that are “meaningful”. Materialism tries to do that, but I would argue that it fails, because it constructs a world that only exists in the mind. It claims that world exists in the material brain, and that it’s a true reflection of the real, material world, but it can never find any such world, because that’s not how we live or experience anything, ever. Materialism can only separate itself from its own psychic nature, and that inevitably produces a collapse into “meaninglessness”.

      That’s why it’s important to have some basic grasp that the nature of life is spiritual, not material. We are fundamentally an awareness, not fundamentally a material “thing”. Our meanings are themselves constructs within awareness. Even the material world is a construct in awareness. So if we are to find intrinsic meaning, we must recognize the nature of the world we actually live in, the psychic space, in which we live. That it’s not materialistic in nature, but a plastic psychic realm, in which even the material “things” we experience are like solid waking dreams rather than the fluid ones we experience at night.

      That’s why death and the afterlife and spiritual experience are important things to consider. We find out that we are not human beings who have spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

      “What exactly are the problems that you’re talking about?”

      We don’t live in a culture run by a parochial Brahmin priesthood with a stranglehold on what is permitted to be believed that promulgates all sorts of notions about the afterlife and the soul and so on, that just so happens to require that we put that priesthood in charge. We live in a global capitalist culture run by a scientific-economic priesthood with a stranglehold on what is permitted for us to believe in that promulgates a materialistic ideology which ignores or denies any reality to things like the afterlife or spirituality, and that just so happens to require that we put its priests in charge. So the problem with our culture, the choke-point if you will, is very different than it was in the time of the Buddha.

      1. Zafu
        Zafu June 9, 2015 at 9:33 am |

        We live in a global capitalist culture run by a scientific-economic priesthood with a stranglehold on what is permitted for us to believe in that promulgates a materialistic ideology which ignores or denies any reality to things like the afterlife or spirituality, and that just so happens to require that we put its priests in charge.

        You say “we live in…” I live in the US. Where the hell do you live?

        1. Conrad
          Conrad June 9, 2015 at 10:22 am |

          Then you live in the capital and driving nation of global capitalism. Haven’t you noticed?

          I live in the US also.

          1. Zafu
            Zafu June 9, 2015 at 11:01 am |

            Well, being an American citizen you should know that it’s not permitted for you to believe in superstitious stuff. I’m going to report you now, so start running.

          2. Conrad
            Conrad June 9, 2015 at 4:37 pm |

            It’s permitted, but only if it contributes to the GNP. No lazy hippies will be tolerated. And the revolution will not be televised.

          3. Zafu
            Zafu June 11, 2015 at 9:51 am |

            Your silly superstitions obviously don’t contribute to the GNP, Conrad. But there still may be time to get away if you leave NOW! They will be knocking on your door at any moment.

          4. Conrad
            Conrad June 11, 2015 at 2:04 pm |

            So you really don’t see the US as being a materialistic culture?

            (People don’t have to knock at your door or round people up when they have television and the Internet to sneak straight inside and propagandize the materialist message almost non-stop)

          5. Zafu
            Zafu June 11, 2015 at 4:31 pm |

            The 2015 Pew Religious Landscape survey reported that as of 2014, 22.8% of the American population is religiously unaffiliated, atheists made up 3.1% and agnostics made up 4% of the US population.

            Oh wait a sec, it looks like you’re in the majority, Conrad. If you hear someone knocking at the door uninvited, no worries, it’s probably just Jehovah’s Witnesses.

          6. Conrad
            Conrad June 11, 2015 at 5:20 pm |

            Most Christians in this country are materialists. Even doctrinally so. They may pay lip service to some spiritual notions, but they live as materialistic consumers trying to have a good life in the here and now.

            We’re not living in the middle ages any more. Haven’t you noticed?

          7. Zafu
            Zafu June 12, 2015 at 7:51 pm |

            Just like a silly superstitious religious nut to go around shitting on other religions.

          8. Conrad
            Conrad June 12, 2015 at 9:38 pm |

            How is stating a simple fact about what many Christians both believe and how they live “shitting on other religions”? And how does that make me a silly superstitious nut?

            Do you even know anything about Christianity? How it presumes that Jesus was raised from the dead in his physical form, and sits in the physical form even now at the right hand of God in heaven? That many, even most Christians consider the physical universe to be the only reality, made by God, and redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice? That there is no dualism between the physical body and the soul? That they consider gnostic beliefs in such a dualism to be heresy?

            The Christian heaven was originally thought to lie just outside the orb of the planets, as an actual physical place in the sky, where Jesus rose to after his resurrection. How they reconcile that with astronomy I can’t really say, but many retain the idea that heaven is a physical, objective reality. Mormons (who consider themselves to be Christians), for example, believe that God resides in a physical planet named Kolob in another star system.

            So yes, much of Christianity, even doctrinally, is materialistic. And of course many modern Christians are also highly materialistic in the economic sense as well, as you can probably see just by looking around at how they live.

            Another example would be the doctrine of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. They fought wars over this doctrine, which states that the Eucharist wafer literally turns into the blood and flesh of Christ when it is blessed by the priest, even if scientific observation might say otherwise. It’s a material fact, they believe, and it’s only the limitations of science which fails to see this.

  32. anon 108
    anon 108 June 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm |

    Hi Alan Salier,

    You wrote: “Basically, if you get better data collection (more good cameras) and more evidence doesn’t show up (more good pictures of UFOs) then the phenomenon probably doesn’t exist.”

    There are very many pictures of UFOs. Trouble is, if they’re hand-held blurry pictures people say “Why are they always blurry?”. If they’re super clear pictures people say “They look like models.” Also, I don’t dismiss the accounts of people like the very qualified, credible (because not a ‘true believer’) ex-Minister of Defence employee Nick Pope who had had what he insists was a clear-as-day photo of a UFO on his office wall siezed and hidden away by higher-ups.

    I said I’d been interested in this stuff for a long time, I didn’t say I’d always believed it. For a long time I dismissed it as patently daft. But given the stuff I’ve read and the witnesses I’ve seen interviewed – witnesses my instincts (what else have I to go on?) tell me are honest witnesses – I’ve come to believe, on a balance of probabilities, that this stuff isn’t ALL the result of mis-ID, hallucination or over-active imagination.

    In the end, like Brad, I don’t know what the UFO phenomenon is, but there is for sure a phenomenon. So until I see something undeniably ‘real’ myself, UFOs remain an entertainment – one of the more entertaining entertainments available these days.

    Have you checked out Leslie kean’s book, linked by Brad? Or…this film is a very well put together intro to some of the cases she deals with:

    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon June 8, 2015 at 2:40 pm |

      Maybe UFOs are temporary containers for the souls of dead people that are waiting to reincarnate.
      Killed two silly birds with one stone. That leaves me with one extra stone for the witches.

      1. mtto
        mtto June 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm |

        Don’t start thinking you’re clever; you just re-invented Scientology.

    2. Alan Sailer
      Alan Sailer June 8, 2015 at 3:35 pm |

      Anon 108,

      The evidence remains second hand and non-testable. All the books and YouTube videos in the world won’t change that fact.

      I am not saying that “if it didn’t happen to me it didn’t happen”. Just because I don’t accept the evidence doesn’t mean UFOs don’t exist. I just happen to agree with Carl Sagan that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

      The final word for me is that if the whole UFO thing was proven true it would not make any significant difference to my day to day life. Sure, it would be entertaining to know there was other life in the universe, but I’m pretty darn sure that I’d still need to go to work, feed the cat, figure out what to have for dinner and sit staring at a wall for part of every day.

      It’s very similar to the whole enlightenment scam. Seeing the truth about reality doesn’t wash the dirty dishes in the sink.


      1. anon 108
        anon 108 June 8, 2015 at 4:07 pm |

        It’s very similar to the whole enlightenment scam. Seeing the truth about reality doesn’t wash the dirty dishes in the sink.


        BTW, I don’t dismiss the possibility of visitations from ‘other’ beings from…somewhere. Why not? The current word on the way the Universe works is unlikely to be the final word. It never has been.

        But the UFO witnesses and advocates who impress me the most are those who don’t automatically assume UFOs are indicative of “other life in the Universe”. There are other possible explanations -not least that we, the people (or some of us), have developed technology beyond what’s revealed in Jane’s Defence Weekly.

  33. anon 108
    anon 108 June 8, 2015 at 4:39 pm |

    – – And even if all UFO reports are the result of misidentification, imagination, hallucination – that is also interesting to me.

    In the words of former 5-star Admiral of the Fleet Peter (Lord) Hill-Norton, a former Chief of Defence Staff, commenting on the 1980 Rendlesham Forest incident (just outside the Bentwaters/Woodbridge USAF base in the UK) in 1997 correspondence to previous Minister of State for Defence, Lord Gilbert:

    “My position both privately and publicly expressed over the last dozen years or more, is that there are only two possibilities, either:

    a. An intrusion into our Air Space and a landing by unidentified craft took place at Rendlesham, as described.


    b. The Deputy Commander of an operational, nuclear armed, US Air Force Base in England, and a large number of his enlisted men, were either hallucinating or lying.

    Either of these simply must be “of interest to the Ministry of Defence”, which has been repeatedly denied, in precisely those terms.”

    Here is his Lordship, quoting himself: (40 secs)

    1. mika
      mika June 9, 2015 at 1:04 am |

      Considering how much words have been spent on Roswell incident, when it was “just” a secret military experiment ( I have to say I’m a “bit” skeptical of any and all other UFO stories that claim anything besides unidentified visual sightings. Even claiming to have seen objects is dubious.

      Did you know that many UFO sightings were caused by then still secret US air force planes that flew higher and faster than anything built before? They flew so high that light would reflect off their hull and could be seen from places where it had already gone dark, thus creating the illusion of a bright object moving in impossible places.

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 June 9, 2015 at 3:16 am |

        Hi Mika,

        Roswell happened a long time ago. Most direct witnesses are dead. No physical evidence survives (apparently) and the alien body thing has been so contaminated by hoaxes and seems so unlikely to me that I don’t much bother with it. Roswell is not my favourite UFO case.

        But just because the US government, many years later, said they initially lied about weather balloon debris to cover up the highly secret Project Mogul doesn’t make it so. Roswell enthusiasts have raised a number of problems with the Mogul account which I can’t be bothered to check. There are far better cases, better documented and attested, than Roswell.

        And yes, I did know that many – up to 95%, say sober UFOlogists – of reported UFO sightings are misidentified aircraft, meteors, planets, clouds, lanterns, flares &c. That still doesn’t account for the 5% of genuinely intriguing cases (see previously linked book and film).

        Of course if you start from the position that what’s being reported simply isn’t possible, you’re likely to reach the conclusion that it simply couldn’t have happened.

    2. mika
      mika June 9, 2015 at 1:09 am |

      The main events from the Rendlesham incident sound, to me, nothing special and certainly not anything to warrant the Admiral’s convinction that something had landed there or that several people hallucinated:

      The claim of an unknown craft was made by a single sergeant and at a later time. At the time of the incident it was not mentioned at all and was not corroborated by anyone else. Even a deputy chief of a military base may misidentify astronomical events especially in circumstances such as this, if they are in the mind to find or see extraordinary events or even UFOs.

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 June 9, 2015 at 3:45 am |

        Re Rendlesham:

        Yes, Deputy base commander Colonel Halt’s ‘Strange Lights’ memorandum wasn’t submitted until a week or so after the event, when his boss returned to base. But his contemporaneously taped notes, which include the voices of other colleagues also witnessing a craft shining a beam at the ground – in addition to seeing strange lights moving through, and hovering in, the forest (don’t tell me it was a lighthouse beam) – I find compelling. I also find Jim Penniston’s contemporaneous notebook compelling (with or without the ‘binary code’). It includes, referring to the take off and disappearance of the landed, symbol-engraved craft: “Speed- Impossible” (triple underlined). He was accompanied at the time, you’ll recall, by John Burroughs and initially by Security police officer Edward Cabansag.

        True, the tape and notebook didn’t surface till years later, but FWIW, I don’t believe they were hoaxed. I mean – why would you bother? Halt and Penniston have said they’d be happy to have them date-tested. No one’s taken them up on the offer.

        The incident was considered significant enough to have been reported, at the time, to the civilian UK police who attended and took photographs of the ‘landing site’ referred to by Penniston and Burroughs. Radiation reading were also taken by British Defence Intelligence: “Significantly [8 times] above background”.

        Something sufficiently unusual happened at Rendlesham over the three nights 26-29th December that, despite differences in accounts, the men involved – a number of them, responsible for the security of THE largest nuclear-armed base in Europe at the time – stick by their ridiculous story to this day. So: These men are either telling the truth, hallucinating (all at the same time), or lying.

        Re UFOs in general: I’m not saying it’s all true. I’m not saying most of it’s true. I’m saying there’s SO much compelling testimony – and some real corroborating evidence – from regular people who never expected or wanted to get involved in the flying saucer business that I think there may be something other than mis-identification of the otherwise familiar to it. Your mileage clearly varies.

  34. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 10, 2015 at 8:37 pm |

    My last sighting: Sitting on the trunk of a car on a very dark road out in the middle of the country, many many miles from any small town or city, a clear night sky full of stars, the Milky Way highly visible… I said, hey, isn’t that one star WAY brighter than the rest? She said well, YEAH! Just then it moved a little, then it zigged, it zagged, and then it SHOT across the sky faster than anything earthly and disappeared. “She” became my wife, and 10 years later when I asked if she remembered that whole episode she says no. I do.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 11, 2015 at 2:55 am |

      We’ve never met, John. You may be a liar, exaggerator, hallucinator, mistaker… I’m choosing to believe you – believe you saw something real (fed up with quote marks), that is.

  35. Zafu
    Zafu June 13, 2015 at 9:59 am |

    no dualism between the physical body and the soul

    So for Christians who believe this, when the body dies the soul dies? You’re an idiot, Conrad.

  36. otaku00
    otaku00 June 17, 2015 at 7:14 am |

    I believe I have an even better story, and it is about Joshu Sasaki Roshi. It is, by the way, no joke. Normally when strange or exciting dreams occur that might have a meaning I am curious to find out. E.g. when a certain woman appears and we become intimate but she is not known to me by her face, I try to remember that face and during the day watch out for someone looking like her (unsuccessfully so far). It is just a nice game. When however the face is known to me, I may try to find out if this person is really interested in me or the like.

    Anyway, sometimes I write down the time of my dream if a person very far away from me seems to be concerned, to verify if at that certain point was happening to him/her.

    About ten days after the death of Joshu Sasaki, I found out that he had died at the same time when I had one of those dreams out of nowhere which I had written down (I needed to do some math considering the different time zones). In the dream I helped an animal to life that seemed to be Sasaki. It was so funny and surprising that I could not forget it. I have never dreamt of him before or after.

    Now you have to know that I was not a disciple of Sasaki, I never even met him, only had my very first sesshin with an Ossho in his lineage (which I left quickly after a profound kensho and having written an adequate poem). I just found what Sasaki said in terms of Zen profound. That’s all. Of course I had to rethink: How likely would my dream and Sasaki’s death coincide? I also remembered then that one of the lines that I have repeated in discussions about animals is that they are enlightened. So …

    I guess this was simply the way Sasaki made me his successor … 😉

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