Are traditional methods of spiritual enlightenment such as Zen, Buddist, etc accepted by psychologists as valid ways of further understanding the workings of consciousness, Or is it considered too subjective, and different from the scientific method to be of use.

Many scientists have argued that ancient introspection like Zen is too unscientific to be used in psychology, while others argue it is important, as its the only way to further our understanding of consciousness.

Is spiritual enlightenment accepted by psychologists universally at this time(2015) to be a valid, scientific way of understanding consciousness

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    $\begingroup$ Could you please define what "truths" you expect revealed? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Jul 12, 2015 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 When I say truth, I mean a realistic experience as opposed to a delusional one. This includes that our mind(awareness) is in fact separated and beyond the brain, and in unity with the world, some enlightened people have told me that they have experienced fulfillment, and have gone so far as to say they have experienced what death may feel like. This is because when ego death occurs, it is the same experience that occurs in a real death. In modern scientific understandings, our consciousness being beyond the brain seems incompatible. Thanks Seanny $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Jul 13, 2015 at 3:30
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    $\begingroup$ So this question is kind of broad, because it breaks down into a bunch of separate questions. Is the mind separate from the brain? To what degree is our consciousness united with the world? Is death the same thing as ego death? These are actually questions in philosophy of mind that are frequently debated and may have been discussed somewhere on this site. $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Jul 13, 2015 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Seanny, I meant to ask a question about if ancient methods of introspection were accepted as scientifically valid ways of performing psychological studies(so finding truths in the world like what behaviourist studies do) I understand the other questions are too much, they were just questions I was interested in $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Jul 16, 2015 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ So I'm not asking is the mind connected to the brain, I'm asking is spiritual enlightenment accepted as a way to answer that question etc. I've edited the question $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Jul 16, 2015 at 14:04

3 Answers 3


I was just wondering how realistic this video was: youtube.com/watch?v=Bsyplaii9p4 – tristo

I find the presenter's style very long-winded but I understand precisely what he is talking about. The phrase that struck me most was when he said "... when the psyche dissolves ... what is left is the truth itself". This mirrors my own experience precisely. My own metaphor at the time was that I was vacuuming away all the surface layers until what was left was ...

Actually it's difficult to finish that sentence because I want to write "All that was left was nothing and everything."

I think it is worth mentioning that during the process, I went through a stage when I understood exactly what a Japanese haiku is. It is in a way an expression of the true self - an awareness that what is inside is really outside.

One statement that he made was complete bullshit in my opinion: He came up with a number. He said it takes 1,000 hours or more to achieve enlightenment. My reply is that maybe it took him that long but that a realisation happens in an instant. You just need the right trigger. In rare cases it just takes someone to say the right thing at the right moment. I don't want to appear to advertise enlightenment intensives, however they are designed to achieve the result in just a few days of intense self-questioning. It worked for me. If I remember correctly, my retreat lasted four days and I had half a dozen experiences of varying lengths from a couple of seconds to about twenty minutes. The two-second one was the most powerful and that was the one I backed out of sharpish because it felt like I'd never be able to get out of it again. It was the start of a journey into the unknown that I was scared to continue with. Nevertheless, immediately afterwards, I rolled on the floor laughing for several minutes just from the limited amount that I had seen.

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    $\begingroup$ Why did you break up your answer into three seperate answers? Could you please amalgamate them? $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Jul 13, 2015 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 - Thanks for your comment. I'm still a relative newbie here. I haven't learned the conventions for how to do things. Could you point me to an SE rule that deals with this? I'd be grateful. My reasoning was that I would end up with an incredibly long answer that might put people off. I know that in my case I tend to feel like that about long posts. Also it seemed to me that these were new questions and so deserved new answers. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2015 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ I can't point you to a specific rule here (and the justification of "this is how we've always done things" isn't very convincing), so I've asked a moderator to help me out. (: $\endgroup$
    – Seanny123
    Jul 13, 2015 at 12:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 - Great - I'll look forward to finding out what he or she has to say. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2015 at 12:22
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome chasly! Start by taking a look at what exactly a Q&A site is by referring to the help section, to understand how it is different from forums. The format is one question, and each posted answer needs to be able to stand on its own and answer the full posted original (or updated) question. The main problem here is the original question was too broad, and the Q&A format is ill-equipped to handle with that. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Jul 13, 2015 at 12:52

I do have a question though, once you have an awakening, and realize as others have said, that you are in the matrix, aren't you aware of this fact forever? So how can you be not enlightened anymore, but you once were.

Question by tristo in a comment to my previous answer

  1. I'm not sure about the matrix analogy because in the movie they simply replace 'reality' with 'real reality'. This new reality differs in detail from the first but not in nature. It is just one level of illusion down. Illusion hasn't been stripped away altogether.

  2. How can you be enlightened only for a short while? Here's an example:

I stub my toe on a rock. I know intense pain; it's real; it's right now. A month later I can remember what happened but I am no longer experiencing pain, I'm just remembering it. It's precisely the same with a short-term enlightenment experience.

  1. This highlights the impossibility of communicating the experience. There are some scientifically documented individuals who are born without a sense of pain. How could we tell such a person what pain is like? We couldn't. On the other hand two people who have experienced pain can communicate with each other about it because they have it in common. Two people who have experienced an awakening can similarly discuss it because they both know what they are talking about from their own experience.

I hope this goes some way towards providing an answer.

P.S. I can accept that some people could be permanently in that state. As I mentioned, I chickened out of staying in it or going even deeper - it was both joyful and scary. Nevertheless what I experienced was immensely powerful.


I can speak from personal experience. I have been on an enlightenment intensive. I could give a very detailed description of the progression I went through. However it is quite impossible to explain the state of 'knowing' that one achieves.

In normal life we experience the world through sensation and we have beliefs about what we haven't sensed. The sense of knowing is quite different. It is not a strong belief, it is not faith, it is absolute knowledge.

You may ask what does someone know in this state. In my case I knew my oneness with the universe. What does that mean? It is not an intellectual understanding, it is an experience of being the universe rather than being part of it. There is no way to explain it.

By the way, although I remember what it was like, as I write I am not in that state. I do however know that is attainable again if I so wish.

The state is as far from being delusional as it is possible to be.

I don't think that psychology could even remotely deal with it because psychology is an intellectual discipline dealing with evidence. The state of enlightenment (or whatever you want to call it) is neither intellectual nor does it require evidence.

For me the state lasted for a few minutes at a time. I was scared to allow myself to go deeper and I pulled back. One day I may go on another such retreat and allow myself to experience it fully.

Note that this experience is available to pretty much anyone. I can't remember who ran the course I went on, it was a long time ago, however you can find enlightenment intensives online.

By the way I have a science and maths background. I am pragmatic by nature and very down-to-earth. I do not subscribe to airy-fairy new age type beliefs. I am also an agnostic. An enlightenment experience is not dreamlike or wishy-washy, it gave me the most clarity that I have experienced in my life.

I recommend it to anyone.

(Please feel free to ask me any questions)

P.S. I guess that the nearest that science could come to this would be to brain scan someone who was experiencing the state. I'm sure it would be entirely possible and, I think, very interesting. I would be fascinated to know which brain areas were doing what.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Chasly, it seems very realistic to me because everyone who has had an enlightenment all describe the experience very consistently. I am currently doing meditations on it, I was just wondering how realistic this video was: youtube.com/watch?v=Bsyplaii9p4 $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Jul 13, 2015 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ As everyone who has had enlightenment all recount being in unity with the universe(Even though language cannot describe the experience accurately), and Leo(in the video) constantly reminds me in his videos that it isnt a belief but an experience, this is very consistent with what you are saying, so I have some confidence in it. if it is an experience that is repeatable by multiple people, it should be as plausible as a scientifically proven law, because science is also based on empirical evidence. $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Jul 13, 2015 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ I do have a question though, once you have an awakening, and realize as others have said, that you are in the matrix, aren't you aware of this fact forever? So how can you be not enlightened anymore, but you once were? $\endgroup$
    – tristo
    Jul 13, 2015 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ You raise some important points. I think it will be best if I answer them separately. I hope this is in line with how SE works. It may take me some time because I feel I could write a book! However I shall resist the temptation and return now and again to add replies. $\endgroup$ Jul 13, 2015 at 10:34

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