Let’s retrace our steps, so we’re clear about where we are:

–We decided that enlightenment was a problem of the criterion-type situation and that we would have to select some intuitive starting point, and bootstrap-improve our understanding of both aim and process as we went.

–We decided that one of the existing traditions was a bad starting point, as we would always be unsure if those methods of practice would lead us deeper into mere conformity with the worldview of the tradition, rather than authentic experience.

–Instead, we opted for the simplest possible model of something that would function as a model, or, at least, an instructive metaphor for enlightenment. We choose the process of penetrating simple optical illusions, liek the necker cube, or the rabbitduck, for this.

–We analysed that process into three parts, and proceeded to focus on the first; i.e., the release of mental tension.

–mental tension appears to be analogous to being in the grasp of a simple optical illusion, insofar as incomplete mental pictures of states of affairs take the place of ambiguous images like the rabbitduck. Tension arises from being unable to sort out the ambiguity latent in these pictures (sometimes, many, many, nested and/or branching layers of such pictures). The tension is released when we acquire enough information to discard competing interpretations.

–The process of mental tension itself appears to arise from the mind attempting to simulate something that feels like physical tension, but isn’t. This subjective illusion often fools other parts of the body-mind into creating various unpleasant side effects (e.g. urgency, agitation, physical stress)

–The incomplete mental pictures leading to mental tension draw us in to begin with because they have a personally-compelling nature: they are pictures of us, of states of affairs that we believe we could inhabit.  We create these pictures as a way of dealing with the ambiguity of our everyday experience, but this process, at least in the way we normally do it, usually only leads us deeper into tension-creating ambiguity. At best, we seem to acquire just enough information to cut away some branches of our tree of incomplete images, leaving us free to compulsively generate yet more incomplete images. We don’t seem to ever acquire any qualitatively different information that would resolve tension is any lasting way.

In light of the above, it seems like there’s several avenues we could focus on:

1. What makes these incomplete images personally involving to begin with? Why is an ambiguous picture of ourselves in some state of affairs more inherently compelling than, say, a necker cube?
2. Controlling the proliferation of incomplete pictures seems as if it would control our buildup of mental tension. What makes these images proliferate for us in the way that they do? Is this preventable? Is preventing it even desirable, or would it compromise our thinking abilities?
3. Is there some higher-quality meta-information that would allow us to discard competing interpretations more efficiently, when we’ve already generated them?
4. If, as we suggested, the phenomena of mental tension is actually the mind adopting a certain pattern of activity that creates a subjective illusion of tension, is it possible to bypass this internal illusion partially or completely, without compromising  our  information-processing capabilities?


3 thoughts on “Getting More Enlightened: Following the Thread

  1. There is no such thing as enlightenment. I’ve been doing insight meditation for around ten years, and I have nothing to show for it — not in any profound sense, just in the normal, waste-of-time sense.

    I’ve been throwing some of the best years of my life away doing this stuff, and it. Doesn’t. Work.

    So now I’m going to devote my life to living in the most shallow, un-enlightened way possible, i.e. focus on money, pussy and drugs, and fuck everything else.

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