Psychonetics: A nerd's toolset to work with mind and perception

136 points2
FeepingCreature7 hours ago

The basic structure of this seems to match my experience.

> This experience can be perceived as the "normal" mind turning off and another mind awakening. This "other mind" does not think serially with words. Instead, it thinks dimensionally, with mental sensations of pure meanings.

An important note is that it is, imo, not the case that the "conscious mind" shuts off and an "unconscious mind" begins operating; rather, the unconscious mind is always the one doing the work, and the conscious overlay is more akin to a debugger pausing, stepping and querying its operation.

A good exercise for verbal thinkers that I've found, is to try and think a thought out loud, then interrupt yourself before actually mentally verbalizing it, but still keep the thought at the forefront of your mind. This allows you to examine the "pre-verbal form" of the thought.

edit: I've also found that a good way to get rid of intrusive visual thoughts is to do the opposite of their planar deconcentration exercise, basically embedding my observing perspective completely in my vision, leaving no "space" for imagination.

edit: POSSIBLY IMPORTANT INSIGHT that I've just had. Why is there a sense of "I exist/I have control" to begin with? Well, with our imagination, we can move our center of perception somewhere or sometime else. When we do that, the center of our perception diverges from our actual current body. In this state, consciousness cannot command actions at the point of perception, so there has to be a sense of "I do not exist here/I cannot perform actions here", in order to differentiate the state of imagining a fictional center of attention from living in the moment. That sense is precisely the quale of existence.

fjabre13 minutes ago

You have touched on some very old knowledge found in Hindu and Buddhist texts.

You do not exist in the same frame of reference as the objects you perceive. You are fixed while the objects perceived are subject to spacetime.

The sense of existence is all that you are. Free will and control over external environment are only apparent. It is us who claims we are the ones performing actions even though we can never prove it.

Who is that claims he is the owner of thoughts and actions?

plutonorm5 hours ago

I agree the unconscious is the one delivering the 'stuff'. If you know anything about neural networks, you may have come across an autoencoder. This is what I think is happening as information gets passed into the conscious mind. We are aware of the shifting patterns of non verbal thought within our mind, when we pay attention, this is viewing the compressed output of the inner mind - just as the second stage of an autoencoder views the compressed output of its first stage.

The unconscious is unconscious because it's machinations are not directly recorded into memory and so we cannot self reflect upon them. But of course in the moment that part of our mind is conscious just as we are, it's just that that consciousness cannot be recalled.

So this article is calling for the shutting down of the fore mind so that we can better listen to and interpret the output of the subconscious. And further to start to think in terms of the same non verbal architecture that the subconscious moves with.

It is also apparent to me that this matches with the MBTI personality classification system. Sensing types rely upon machinations within the fore mind, logic, verbal translations of inner thought - whereas the intuitives listen directly to the unconscious. I'm an intuitive and when solving a problem I will often simply wait for the answer to arrive.

BoppreH1 hour ago

  Psychonetics originated from academic research[1] and appears to employ scientific criteria and methodology (such as [27, 28]) in many aspects.
That's a lot of qualifiers.

So it originated (but may not have continued) from academic (but not necessarily peer reviewed) research, and appears (but may not actually) employ scientific criteria and methodology in many (but not all) aspects.

I hope it's just unfortunate writing, but I can't help but take it as a pseudoscience red flag.

jonnydubowsky4 hours ago

This practice has similarities to Rudolf Steiner's Six Exercises for Basic Esoteric Development. I've been practicing at least a few of these, nearly every day for most of my adult life. I've found them to be a great help.

My 2 favorites are:

The Control of Will Choose a simple action to perform each day at a time you select. It should be something you do not ordinarily do; it can even be a little odd. Then make it a duty to perform this action at that time each day.

Rudolf Steiner gives the example of watering a flower each day at a certain time. As you progress, additional tasks can be added at other times.

This exercise is as hard as it is simple and takes a very strong intention to complete. To start you might think of it as you think of a dentist's appointment - you do not want to be late. It can be helpful to mark your success or failure on the calendar each day. If you completely forget at the time, but remember later, do it then and try to do better the next day.

My other favorite isn't on this list, but is a related practice:

Draw the same plant or tree every day for 5 minutes. This offers incredible insight into the observation of small changes taking place as part of the change in seasons.

greenail1 hour ago

Preface: I've been fascinated with cults since I read "a piece of blue sky" about L. Ron Hubbard and scientology. I'm reading "The private life of chairman mao" now. I've only skimmed the article but...

With the right leader this could make a great cult!

HamburgerEmoji7 hours ago

Hmm. I want to like this. Something is making me uneasy, though. It seems like some of what is here is partial reinvention and tweaking of stuff that goes back at least to the earliest days of Buddhism. It reminds me a lot of the method known to westerners as "Mahasi noting", so I was surprised not to see it mentioned.

Each time I was inclined to be encouraged by something like "distractions are welcomed", I'd be worried again soon after at mentions of controlling things. It's OK to go against thousands of years of tradition if you want, but it seems worrisome if you do it without mentioning the prior art and explaining what's wrong with it.

dvh19907 hours ago

You get uneasy because this is written in a very ego/control driven way. I get the feel from the text that the individual who wrote it is interested in dominion over himself and perhaps others.

This is diametrically opposite to how Buddhist/Hindu texts sounds and feel. And I think the way those aforementioned religions approach the subject of personal practice is healthier for both the individual and the world

joeberon1 hour ago

Honestly as a Buddhist, I find perennialism and the western approach to Buddhism to be offensive and degrading to the religion. Many such people even claim that traditional Buddhist lineages are "backwards" and "for stupid people". The pushing of secularists into Buddhist spaces is a huge issue and invalidating traditional Buddhist voices in the west.

The worst part is that the Buddha even specifically spoke out against many of the points secularists rely on, for example he spoke out extensively against the idea that death is the end. People who believed that were called annihilationists. However people approaching Buddhism in a secular way choose to ignore this, because they think their secular worldview is basic, immutable, and "obvious". Not accepting that the whole Buddhist project contradicts that, they try and suppress Asian voices and spaces, and instead support spaces that already agree with their preconceptions. It is just another form of colonialism, and I really don't like it.

itisit27 minutes ago

Sorry, this comes across as surprisingly dogmatic and sanctimonious for someone who identifies as Buddhist. Religion can be used in any way people fancy. It goes without saying, but there is no right/pure/true way to practice a religion, especially considering their imaginative basis.

joeberon18 minutes ago

Why would it be surprising? Buddhism is a pretty dogmatic religion. Literally the first of the Buddha's eight fold path is Right View, which means "you should believe in rebirth, believe in life after death, believe in karma, etc." He said that the first step is to have the correct dogmatic opinion. He actually said it is the forerunner to the path and by far the most important element.

Once again, the idea that Buddhism would somehow be less dogmatic than other religions is a Western projection onto Buddhism. As far as religions go, Buddhism is pretty dogmatic and prescribes a very specific worldview. The difference is that it actually gives you the tools to verify those things if you wish, at least if you feel up for it.

itisit13 minutes ago
Kheyas7 hours ago

You can study the tradition separately. This is one of those tools that can become a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. If someone doesn't study the universe before getting into this he is most likely to use it the wrong way. It's important to appreciate the universe from outside the individual perspective. But you can't stop people from doing anything. Just like you couldn't stop people from building the atomic bomb. We need to experience and learn.

Tradition, in my opinion, is people being one-sided towards the right side of the brain - focusing only on experience and not logic. To the point where mysticism is the only way to explain anything. Both sides need to be integrated.

dr_dshiv7 hours ago

It is nice to see attempts at rationally integrating mystical experiences. That mystical experiences occur and have value is clear. The mystical and perennial philosophy (“all is one”) is not too far from rational thinking.

dvh19907 hours ago

This isn't very different from existing forms of meditation, but the scientific/secular focus here changes things.

If done for science and the discovery of truth, this practice could be a great way to bring old-school spirituality into modernity.

If, however, this is practiced for the acquisition of power, I can see how it can lead to psychosis.

selfhoster115 hours ago

My intuition is that changing how the mind works in any significant way will destabilise it, long term or even worse. Techniques that mess with it, either psychologically or using drugs, are not sustainable. Using such techniques to correct a mind that's already out of balance isn't something I've got a problem with, but altering a healthy/typical mind is to be avoided.

qwerty4561274 hours ago

It's definitely good to always remember this cautious idea, yet sticking entirely to it seems equivalent to "don't ever go to gym and lift any weights". People around do all sorts of things which are rather far from the stable point to where their bodies rest naturally and get all sorts of semi-sustainable benefits. A human can actually use brains some good ways most people don't know about. Your brain is a machine you should develop some degree of control over rather than leave it to drive itself chaotically based on external and unintentional internal stimuli alone. E.g. it is possible to develop some degree of effortless stress-free emotion control, learning to take your feelings and ideas critically is also very important. E.g. feeling anger doesn't necessarily mean the other person is wicked or have actually done anything bad at all, feeling depressed doesn't imply everything is bad, you can feel debilitating panic without actual danger, appetite is just loosely correlated to actual need to eat, it is possible and good for health to switch (by your will alone) to feeling gratitude from feeling annoyed. Most people are not aware of this but they should be. Also "normal" mind is a sleeping mind, occasionally you sort of "wake up" for a moment and find the time has passed as if it never was so you didn't live it for to full extent.

throwanem4 hours ago

This is a reasonable intuition, but consider the same statement in the context of physical exercise:

> Using such techniques to correct a [body] that's already out of balance isn't something I've got a problem with, but altering a healthy/typical [body] is to be avoided.

Of course there exists dangerous excess in both cases. You can exercise yourself to death, or ruin your health with horse testosterone. But that overindulgence can do harm doesn't automatically indict a daily hour of cardio, or even HIIT and a bit of protein powder or whatever.

edit: Granted, some of the stuff in this "psychonetics" book seems a bit nonsense. But some of it certainly isn't.

For example: What it systematizes apparently for the sake of systematism as "(VM.PDA) Planar Deconcentration of Attention (PDA)" is just a very highflown and rather silly description of something I learned from a great-uncle as one of a hunter's techniques for easily noticing movement. The way he put it was not to look at anything, but just look, and eventually I got the hang of it.

I don't hunt, or at least not with a rifle, but I do regularly use the technique in wildlife photography, and it's extremely helpful and not at all as complicated or esoteric as Kusakov would seem to prefer. Too, Uncle Bram seemed perfectly sane when I knew him as a child, and I'm likewise not aware of any particular harm the use of this mental technique has inflicted on me.

I wouldn't make the same assertion for everything in here, or even claim that anything in here is useful other than by coincidence, but there is at least one thing in here I can vouch for, albeit again preferably without all the nonsense with which Kusakov hedges it around. So if nothing else he's no worse off than a broken clock, I suppose.

heavenlyblue3 hours ago

> My intuition is that changing how the mind works in any significant way will destabilise it, long term or even worse. Techniques that mess with it, either psychologically or using drugs, are not sustainable.

Your intuition from what experience exactly? What makes you think your mind is stable naturally? What makes you think that even if you're sure your mind is stable, that it's not left in it's local minima of abilities?

trutannus2 hours ago

>What makes you think that even if you're sure your mind is stable, that it's not left in it's local minima of abilities?

I don't think anybody needs to justify to anyone else why they don't want to tamper with their mind. This is by definition a subjective topic. If this person's intuition is that tampering with their mind will destabilize it, that's legitimate. Nobody is in a place to question someone's intuitions about their own mind. Other minds are alien experiences -- unknowable. Not everyone can, wants to, or needs to push their consciousness to the theoretical idea maximum of its capacity as defined by another fully isolated subject. It's deeply irresponsible for anyone to suggest, or aggressively advocate, otherwise.

dr_dshiv7 hours ago

“The model was simple. An individual performs some arithmetic calculation, such as subtracting 17 from 10000. Then, 17 again from the result and again. At some point, he is administered nitrous oxide and sees a hallucinatory image. His task is to continue the calculation.”

daralthus6 hours ago

Perhaps a note about grounding techniques form psychology should be added here, as many of the exercises may cause anxiety or even psychosis.

If you happen to feel uneasy try this:

Look around and take a mental inventory of things around you: "This is a lamp. This is a table. This is a room..."