Mike Renzulli

The Virtues of Enlightened Self Interest

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I came across the article by an author who is a Buddhist philosopher. While I think he tends to mix his points and doesn't seem to know very much about Objectivism, he does heavily draw from Ayn Rand to make his case. I don't know if I agree with him but I can see where he is coming from.

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I came across the article by an author who is a Buddhist philosopher. While I think he tends to mix his points and doesn't seem to know very much about Objectivism, he does heavily draw from Ayn Rand to make his case. I don't know if I agree with him but I can see where he is coming from.

https://www.facebook...ss/305350019855

I decided not to read this--for now. I'm waiting or your agree/disagree.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Joshua Zader had this to say about the article:

I suspect most Objectivists, and especially those who don’t have any background in Eastern teachings, will choke hard on his transrational comments. I mean, once you’ve found the value of reason, who wants to listen to someone talk about the indivisibly whole Over-Soul?

Yet, for those of us who’ve found value in the writings of teachers like Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti — and the sense of personal liberation that comes from adopting a psychological perspective that is somewhat “outside” the self without renouncing the self in any way — there is something eerily powerful about reading Yasuhiko’s words.

It is this: It’s rare to encounter someone who can understand and embrace both worlds — and especially while actively appreciating, even loving, Rand’s perspective so fully.

I don't have a background in Eastern philosophy or belief systems in order to better understand what the author is talking about. In some sense I am glad the author speaks glowingly of Ayn Rand and embraces individualism yet he also seems to want to have his cake and eat it too when it comes to the cosmic consciousness he speaks of.

I am not saying the author is collectivist but his essay seems to have smatterings of such logic. That doesn't sit well with me.

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Brant, the only part you need to read is this:

Objectivist or positivist thinkers would deny the existence or the cognitive validity of spiritual illumination and transrational dimensions. There is a substantial amount of evidence, however, in the world throughout recorded history, to compel a rational person to remain open for such a possibility. In fact, not to do so is irrational and against the spirit of science.

Shayne

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Brant, the only part you need to read is this:

Objectivist or positivist thinkers would deny the existence or the cognitive validity of spiritual illumination and transrational dimensions. There is a substantial amount of evidence, however, in the world throughout recorded history, to compel a rational person to remain open for such a possibility. In fact, not to do so is irrational and against the spirit of science.

Shayne

Sam Harris has a similar view.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Nathaniel Branden had many extensive discussions with ‘transpersonalist’ Ken Wilber on this and related topics, and both he and Wilber clearly profited greatly from the exchange. Branden rejected many of Wilber’s conclusions, but gained enormous insight as well. Branden commented on his discussions with Wilber in Honoring the Self:

“. . .While I am unable to agree with many of Wilber’s conclusions, especially his views concerning ‘unity consciousness’ as I understand them, I feel admiration for the extraordinary feats of integration he has achieved.. .

“Of course it can be argued—and in personal conversations Wilber has agreed with me on this issue—that even on the transpersonal perspective we never truly go ‘beyond self-actualization’; we merely move up to higher levels of self-actualization than are normally discussed in Western psychology. As consciousness continues to evolve in the direction of optimal functioning, letting go of inappropriate attachments and discovering unrecognized powers, is it not the self that is evolving and thus actualizing these latent potentialities?” (p. 144-5)

If you have not already read Honoring the Self, you may find a number of Branden's insights illuminating, particularly with respect to the issue of mind-body dualism.

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Brant, the only part you need to read is this:

Objectivist or positivist thinkers would deny the existence or the cognitive validity of spiritual illumination and transrational dimensions. There is a substantial amount of evidence, however, in the world throughout recorded history, to compel a rational person to remain open for such a possibility. In fact, not to do so is irrational and against the spirit of science.

Shayne

Okay. When it comes through the door I'll test it with "many instruments."

--Brant

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Interesting! I will have to get out my copy of Honoring the Self and re-read it.

Nathaniel Branden had many extensive discussions with ‘transpersonalist’ Ken Wilber on this and related topics, and both he and Wilber clearly profited greatly from the exchange. Branden rejected many of Wilber’s conclusions, but gained enormous insight as well. Branden commented on his discussions with Wilber in Honoring the Self:

“. . .While I am unable to agree with many of Wilber’s conclusions, especially his views concerning ‘unity consciousness’ as I understand them, I feel admiration for the extraordinary feats of integration he has achieved.. .

“Of course it can be argued—and in personal conversations Wilber has agreed with me on this issue—that even on the transpersonal perspective we never truly go ‘beyond self-actualization’; we merely move up to higher levels of self-actualization than are normally discussed in Western psychology. As consciousness continues to evolve in the direction of optimal functioning, letting go of inappropriate attachments and discovering unrecognized powers, is it not the self that is evolving and thus actualizing these latent potentialities?” (p. 144-5)

If you have not already read Honoring the Self, you may find a number of Branden's insights illuminating, particularly with respect to the issue of mind-body dualism.

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Mike,

I’m not a member of facebook, so I couldn’t read the article you referenced.

The link below will take you to Ken Wilber’s perspective on his exchange with Branden. I haven’t purchased these recordings, so I don’t know for sure how good they are, but the summaries give you a sense of the enormous value both thinkers gained from their many discussions.

Atlas Evolved: The Life and Loves of Nathaniel Branden

“Nathaniel Branden is an old friend of mine—ever since he asked to meet with me in 1984 to answer the question, "What does Buddha have that Zorba the Greek doesn't?" (I replied something like constancy of realization, not just occasional dancing.) But Nathaniel in general, at that time, was wary of the transpersonal position, yet he seemed to find my writing fairly convincing, and so we were always going at it in some sort of very friendly debate.
Nathaniel, of course, had been Ayn Rand's primary promoter (and lover) for several decades (John Galt, in Atlas Shrugged, was modeled largely after him), although he later came to feel her approach too violently cut off emotions, and so he developed what he called a "biocentric approach," returning feelings to their appropriate and significant place.
The following interview is typical of our talks together—I think you will find it illuminating, clear, fascinating, and often compelling. I always had a very special place for Nathaniel in my heart, even though we remained in some ways on opposite sides of the transpersonal street. But I admired him enormously—and still do. I hope you find the following as much fun as I did." - Ken Wilber

And here is an interview with Nathaniel Branden available from LearnOutLoud:

The Higher Reaches of Self-Esteem

But as Nathaniel points out, "One has to be very precise here, because people who learned a little bit about this development were very quick to assume that I had become 'spiritual' in other ways which I was not." In fact, most "paranormal" experiences can still fit within an Objectivist framework so long as you expand the kind of objects you consider for empirical evidence, and in many ways this is exactly what Nathaniel did.

While the objective content of Nathaniel's experience continued to unfold into new territory, the subjective self that experienced that content was deepening as well. He notes that even as early as The Psychology of Self-Esteem that he referred to ego in terms such as "the unifying center of consciousness," which was a precursor to his "moving very specifically in the directions of 'witness' consciousness" in later years.

Of course, there are always going to be skeptics who will reject this kind of ‘higher’ perspective as “mystical.”. Many years ago, Branden gave week-end seminars devoted to helping participants get in touch with what he called “the higher self”—i.e., that part of your awareness which sees more clearly than the self as normally experienced day-to-day. I found this approach very helpful in my own life. However, I made the mistake of asking Edith Packer about it at one of her Jefferson School lectures, and she replied that I was obviously not in what Objectivists like to call “full focus.”

In fact, I am convinced that the opposite is true. One simply cannot maintain the lucid clarity of the ‘higher self’’ perspective all of the time. The stress of daily life makes that virtually impossible. But one can attain that serene level of consciousness in quiet moments, and doing so can help one make much better decisions and enrich life immeasurably.

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Brant, the only part you need to read is this:

Objectivist or positivist thinkers would deny the existence or the cognitive validity of spiritual illumination and transrational dimensions. There is a substantial amount of evidence, however, in the world throughout recorded history, to compel a rational person to remain open for such a possibility. In fact, not to do so is irrational and against the spirit of science.

There is a substantial amount of evidence, however, in the world throughout recorded history, to compel a rational person to remain open for such a possibility. In fact, not to do so is irrational and against the spirit of science.

Does he say what kind of 'evidence' that is? Before rational persons are compelled by evidence, they would first want to examine whether what is called 'evidence' qualifies as such.

Edited by Xray

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Does he say what kind of 'evidence' that is? Before rational persons are compelled by evidence, they would first want to examine whether what is called 'evidence' qualifies as such.

He's obnoxiously irrational, a snake oil salesman using the language of reason to peddle unreason.

Shayne

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Does he say what kind of 'evidence' that is? Before rational persons are compelled by evidence, they would first want to examine whether what is called 'evidence' qualifies as such.

Nathaniel Branden makes some important comments on this issue in The Art of Living Consciously. These comments should be clarifying for anyone who might wonder if Branden was being “soft on mysticism” in his exchanges with Ken Wilber. The following quotation is from the chapter “Consciousness and Spirituality”:

Since, today, any focus on spirituality leads us inevitably to the claims of mysticism, let us consider mysticism's basic assertion: that the natural evolution of consciousness is toward a spiritual breakthrough that liberates mind the from the chains of logic and reason and achieves a superior, more reliable vision of reality.

Never mind that the contradictions it proclaims do total violence to consciousness itself. Never mind that such contradictions undercut the concept of reality at the deepest possible level. Never mind that the entire structure of human understanding rests on grasping the concept of identity as inherent in existence itself. (We saw all this in chapter 1). Never mind that many of the claims of mysticism are, in the literal sense, conceptually unintelligible and thus meaningless (in the same sense that the statement "in my new enlightenment I see that all squares are round” is unintelligible; internal contradictions collapse meaningfulness).

Let us set these objections aside for the moment. And let us ask: why should we believe the mystics’ claims? On what grounds? Why should we even continue the discussion?

To this inquiry, (Ken) Wilber mounts an interesting answer…

[Please refer to the book for the details of Wilber’s argument.]

. . . [Here] is a central point for the thesis – a person who is unable or unwilling to trace the scientist’s steps is unqualified to pronounce judgment on the scientist’s conclusions. Or, on a more primitive level, if I look out the window and say it's raining, and you refuse to look out the window while insisting it is not raining – your qualification to hold an opinion in this matter is not equal to mine. (Think of the men who, while claiming superior knowledge based on their religious beliefs, refused to look through Galileo's telescope.)

I will only say that this argument is correct – until and unless the scientist leaves the sphere of pure science and experimental data and begins offering metaphysical interpretations of the data that a nonscientist is entitled to challenge on logical grounds alone, as philosophers often do.. . .

I said that the battle cry of reason is "Integrate!" What I found especially fascinating in the justification offered for the knowledge claims of mysticism is that at every step the appeal is to reason and observation. The entire thesis is a long exercise in attempted logical integration, full of "becauses" and "therefores." And in the end, what is the justification offered for accepting the mystic’s insights? In essence, the argument is this: Since all knowledge is built on taking specific actions, making observations, grasping the meaning or implications of those observations, checking one's conclusions with the community of competently trained colleagues – and since this is the basic pattern of science and equally the basic pattern of mysticism – then mystical insights that follow the required actions, observations, and cognitive grasping and are shared and confirmed by the community of one's peers are legitimately proclaimed knowledge. In other words, it is reasonable to accept the truth of such insights. Reason is still considered to be the final arbiter. "It is logical to accept these non-logical, non-rational insights because. . ."

That I regard the argument as fallacious is not my point here. My point is that, if one argues at all, there is no escape from using and counting on the very faculty mystics profess to have evolved "beyond." And this is the ultimate dilemma of anyone who is too conscientious simply to proclaim "It's true because I feel it."

We may not always arrive at our insights by a process of reason, but reason is the means by which we ultimately verify them – by what is sometimes called "reality testing" – that is, integrating them into the rest of our knowledge and observations without contradiction. An appreciation of this truth is an essential element of what I mean by living consciously.

The Art of Living Consciously, pp. 202-211

NOTE: These are only excerpts. Please read the book for the full context of Branden’s remarks.

It seems clear that Branden brings what might be called a skeptical viewpoint to the claims of mystics. At the same time, he has found something of genuine value in some of their insights regarding the achievement of higher levels of self-actualization. By taking a scientific approach to those insights, he was able to distinguish the legitimate claims from the snake oil.

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