We know shockingly little about one of the most important human phenomena
People are currently looking toward science for guidance on how to live, and it is confirming all the same lessons that religion touted for millennia. Materialism is weird. There are aspects of our existence, especially our connections to one another, that science may never explain.
Since I started entertaining the idea that magic exists, my life has become exponentially better. If you figure it out on your own, youre much more secure in your beliefs. Theres no one size fits all for psychology, philosophy, or spirituality. Why else would we have 36 flavors of Christianity?
There are people working on exactly this. See researchers trying to obtain this data:
Some courses are already available:
This is a great write up--and I liked the possible directions/ issues map for future inquiry! I’ve been having similar conversations with people in religious studies/ contemplative studies for a while now. The reasons I can see for why we aren’t doing more research into spiritual awakening (however we might define that), are several (besides the materialist positivist science paradigm which took over for our full reality paradigm, as already mentioned).
First, within the humanities/ religious studies there’s still a lot of anxiety about being taken seriously as a discipline and therefore not slipping into theology/ magic, even though there are a lot of practitioners in these fields. Add to this legitimate debates about method, theory, etc., and we stand as a house divided. Secondly, the humanities, despite having the lion’s share of students in most institutions (yes, even more than engineering, last I checked), are woefully underfunded. Most professors don’t have million dollar grants either, so simply spinning up serious big studies with sophisticated data collection, access to fancy equipment etc, is not feasible without collaborating with science folks. Which brings me to my third point, which is that collaborating with science folks usually means playing by their disciplinary rules, which often tries to cut up things like “phenomenology” and “nuanced context” into neat little boxes that allow us to measure very discrete, very specific things. This works well for taking MRIs of the brains of Tibetan monks, for example, but a lot less so when you want to work out the messy “path up the mountain” you mentioned. And that’s just 3 interrelated factors.
That said, things aren’t hopeless and if nothing else, the widespread cultural interest in contemplative practices is driving some much needed change, too. My hope is that interdisciplinary work that breaks down the barriers between knowledge silos will eventually become the norm.
Anyway, I hope you get lots and lots of funding!! This is timely and long overdue work :)
Some research is being done here https://fundamentalwellbeing.foundation/
Awakening has come to me slowly and the result is more time in The Zero Point as described by Joe Vitale. I am starting to share my journey over at My Weird and Wonderful Life. I think when I started it was harder, I believe the veil is thinning and it is easier for people to get there. I love what you are doing here in this exploration.
I am in Canada and a good example happened for me with the whole truck rally to Ottawa that was going on during the vid shutdowns. I had friends on either side of the debate. There was a big rally with big rigs loud and proud going down the main street in our city to the parliament buildings.
I described myself as sitting on the boulevard with friends on either side of the debate streaming by on both sides, while I hung back in my comfy lawn chair, with umbrella, sunglasses, sipping a cold beverage in observation mode.
Come with us, friends on one side would say, we are marching on Ottawa to protest our freedom. Come with us, friends with masks on the other side said, we are tired of these unwashed who won't get vaccinated, honk their loud horns, and keep us awake at night.
Me, I was at peace in the middle, not taking sides, just watching the opposing parades, listening, pondering, finding interesting things in both arguments with zero desire to participate in one side or the other.
The Zero Point is where I sat, not joining one extreme or the other, just watching people in this free country use their free will to express opposing feelings on the matter.
What's my point... I don't know anymore. Just that awakening has to come to each person in their own way. We can study it and map all the paths to the peace on the mountain, but each person is going to need their free will to find their way there.
Dr. Joe Dispenza was (or is) working with Heartmath doing some work studying the effects of meditation with Heart Rate Variance. But, yeah, there’s not a lot of real study. I wish people would study it further, and also allow the use of psychedelics. That it’s illegal is insane to me.
If it's not specifically meditation, there are the four (I think!) Yogas: Raja, Dhyana, Bhakti and Karma (meditation, philosophy, devotion and work respectively) which are suggested as being appropriate for people who's temperaments and dispositions differ according to dharmic traditions. If that's any good to you
I know exactly what you mean , on personal experience from different perspectives (Harvard PhD in social science turned jungian psychonaut Tarot researcher), and have some answers that would be fun to discuss.
While prescriptive processes chafe at my love of independent exploration, I do not imagine a road map or several would have a negative impact unless it was tied to oppressing spiritual freedom. Trust is a big factor, both in therapy and in meditation. The ability to surrender takes practice.
This was an excellent read. I’ve super been interested in the Vipassana movement recently, thanks mostly to Yuval Noah Harari. The most interesting thing to me is how tangible the awareness of awakening is when viewed in someone else. It is a desirable level of clarity, and knowing that it is real and attainable is inspiring.
Reference states are very useful they just have a lot of taboo because institutions have provided a path they have liked people to walk first, but if you see in Buddhism advanced practitioners who follow tantric teachings like karmamudra are given a huge freedom to choose mediums for accelerating themselves not limited by any of the but are careful not to reveal or share to not put the whole institutions credibility at stake because the institution reminds the individual it still is in an imperfect world filled with politics.
Have you come across the research of Jeffery Martin and co.? They are studying many of the problems you listed in this article. Check this out for a start: https://nonsymbolic.org/PNSE-Article.pdf
There's also Andrew Newberg, MD (author of How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain) and of course Shinzen and Jay Sanguinetti, who you already mentioned. I would also add Richie Davidson whose book Altered Traits is a great summary of the research on long-term meditators.
Interesting Article. To be honest, I am not suprprised about how less research is done about this topic. I feel like "spiritual awakening" was not even known as a coherent subject until very recently. There was no data that it could be more than halizunations or religious believes.
Meditation & Yoga was in my austrian childhood perceived as something that crazy hippies do. It is amazing that we are finally opening to this research. Also unfortunately, it is now very hype driven (hypes about mindfulness meditation only)
Also even many deep traditions are not aggreeing with the value and methods of ego-deconstruction. Some teachers see them as distracting (Eg. Soto Zen), some encourage them, some say you should only visit them or travel the axis of deconstruction for intuitive understanding. I feel even pragmatic dharma is only in the beginning of its journey.
Also one last point: there are "awakening states", that are not deconstructive nondual but more Meaning Soaked Numinous Super Saiyan States (see "immortal sky god" from chapman). And probably millions of other (orthogonal?) leashless freedom & awakening states?
I would also like to see your comments on this post (which describes the several types of posturally-related spiritual awakening): https://eharding.substack.com/p/the-seven-body-composition-types
I am in favor of more people being awakened, but fair warning- for many people, spiritual awakening is going to resemble the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
There's something called Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM).
They are devices help you manage diabetes with fewer fingerstick tests. Merely sensors just under your skin measures your glucose levels 24/7 plus transmitter sending results to a wearable or phone.
Imagine this but for monitoring brain(waves). Continuous brainwave monitoring (CBM).
Once we have this, the middle part from the base to the very top, we would slowly come to realize how some of us either by design or pure accident, go from the base to the top of the spiritual awakening path.
My hypothesis is that everybody needs different metaphors/ rituals, etc so no two paths look identical even though certain abstract patterns, principles recur.
The effectiveness of some of these rituals, metaphors, will fluctuate over time. They most probably get increasingly less effective the higher up the mountain we go. Some get more effective over time, because there's a pre-requisite we need to unlock first before they start to kick in.