Depression: an obstacle to learning LO11218

jack hirschfeld (
Mon, 2 Dec 1996 00:50:50 -0500

Replying to LO11210 --

Julian Macnamara quotes my comment:

>Jack notes that:
>>Some of us have learned through observation, contemplation and practice
>>that if you don't bob your head and do your dance you might get a kernal
>>of corn when you peck, but it won't be the same as if you had.

...and then asks:
>Jack, this is an interesting observation. I wonder if you could develop this
>theme a little bit more?

Julian, I'm not so sure I can "develop" this theme in a way that would fit
into our ongoing conversation here. The basic idea is simple: Some
components of knowledge (I would contend the most critical components,
which make it "knowledge") cannot be expressed, in my opinion, in words.

Not only does language not convey the meaning, but in my opinion the
evolution of language has developed into modes of verbal behavior which
can be obstacles to knowing. I think of knowledge as being accessible in
numerous ways, and I am thinking here of that knowledge which arises from
practices aimed at altering how we think we know things. Often, these are
ritualistic. My experiences with a number of practices - call them
spiritual exercises if you like - have led me to believe that useful
practices emerge naturally, and that all the practices that people have
developed over millennia have their origins in first learnings which are
part of the our biology (like speech itself!).

Consider Skinner's pigeons. It's clear from the experimental data that
pigeons could be taught a number of routines by controlling how and when
any given action yielded a reward. What do we know from this? Only that
people can engineer behavior by controlling patterns of reinforcement.
When the pigeons develop a ritual dance of their own, independent of the
reinforced routines, Skinner thinks that they have accidentally associated
some other behavior with OUR reward system, and become "superstitious".
Maybe so. But how do we know this?

What we DO know - those of us who consciously seek practices that will
release us from our social conditioning and enable knowledge of a
different kind - is that rituals like the ones pigeons perform have
enriched our experience of everyday existence. We're not sure how the
practices get us there, although it's pretty clear that different rituals
can get you to the same place. (When a particular set of practices is
believed to be THE way, you have a sect with a dogma. But things don't
have to turn out that way.)

While it's true that no two people can observe the same
event/phenomenon/artifact in exactly the same way, a state exists (here
language is an enabler) of agreed observation. Unfortunately, although I
can tell you that another state exists in which I also see the same thing
ENTIRELY DIFFERENTLY as a consequence of some practices I have use to work
on my consciousness, there is no way I can tell you what it is I see, or
how I got there. I can only say, try such-and-such a practice ("the Tao
which can be spoken is not the Tao").

...and since I can't publish a paper about it in Nature or The Lancet
(words failing me), "science" denies its existence.


Jack Hirschfeld What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you get up and walk out on me?

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